manipulation

A Modest Proposal


a-modest-proposalReading time: 68 seconds  .  .  .

There was a time when we Americans believed in the strength, resiliency and the fortitude of each of us. We took responsibility for ourselves and didn’t look to others to solve our problems. We were proud and independent.

Then things started to go awry.

The Sixteenth Amendment (ratified in 1913) authorized a federal income tax and that was the beginning of a non-stop grab at the wallets of honest Americans. Then the Great Depression came along and offered the perfect opportunity for bleeding heart liberals to suck dry the wealth of we self-reliant Americans. The feds used pictures of people in breadlines to increase taxes on hard working Americans and give it to poor people. Then there was an Old Age tax, as though anyone needed the government to tell them to put something away for a rainy day.  And the government gave money to widows and orphans and anybody with a sob story. And then it started paying for people’s medical care. And public television. And support for opera. Opera!

Things have gone way too far and government has stuck its nose into everybody’s business, so it’s time to turn things around, to go back to what made this country great.

It’s time to eliminate all government programs except for national defense. Correspondingly, we’ll eliminate all the taxes we collect for all those giveaway programs and instead allow strong, resilient, independent Americans to stand proud again. All those lazy people who have had their hands in the pockets of the rest of us can deal with the consequences of their decisions.

Getting the government out of where it doesn’t belong will be easy. For example, meat producers that make foods that kill people with salmonella will lose their customers, so the market will take care of policing that. Who needs the USDA? Same thing with medicines – the market will police that, too, so who needs the FDA?

There are lots of benefits to doing this, like the way we’ll end the population problems of our inner cities because those people won’t have food or medical care. And fewer people means lower oil consumption so we will end our dependence on foreign oil. Illegal immigration will end, because those lawbreakers would starve if they came here. And those other countries to which we are currently sending foreign aid can just take care of themselves and stop expecting us to be responsible for them.

Really, now, this just isn’t that difficult a problem to solve. A simple and modest proposal like this should slip right through our Congress.

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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 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Certainty of Infallibility


Reading time: 73 seconds  .  .  .

I’m not from Louisiana and I don’t follow politics there, so the first time I knew of Gov. Bobby Jindal was when I watched the Republican response on February 24, 2009 to President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress.  I was powerfully impressed by Jindal’s brainless droning of Republican talking points, like opposition to President Obama’s economic stimulus plan without even a hint at what government might do to help the country out of our national economic meltdown.

More astonishing than anything was his citing of Hurricane Katrina as the show piece to warn against government solutions.  This is the city in Jindals’ own state that suffered more than any other because of the incompetence of the Bush administration and its inept leadership of FEMA (“Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job“).  One more time: The prior administration had done a total pratfall, causing millions of people to suffer.  Jindal tried to get Americans to believe that this was clear evidence that government shouldn’t be a part of the solution to any of our major challenges.  Let us say that my opinion of Jindal at that moment was less than favorable.  Clearly, he was a tool.

Fast forward a few years to just past the 2012 election.  Things didn’t go well for Republicans and Jindal was one of the out-front Republican explainers, saying, “We have to stop being the stupid party.”   Is it possible he meant that the Republicans had to stop denying science?  That they should stop attacking people for being intelligent?  That they should stop flagrantly lying?  “We have to stop insulting the intelligence of voters,” he said.  He sure looked like a brave guy saying those things and was anything but a tool in those moments.

Then the Republican party slapped him down and he morphed back into a Republican talking points tool.  He reverted to the dishonest, ignorant, insulting, inflammatory talk for which the GOP has made itself known for decades.  Like the RNC talking points, Jindal tries to make it sound like the Republicans have the certainty of infallibility and all we have to do is give all  power to them and all will be right with the world.

There is a pleasing comfort in being certain of one’s infallibility.  It makes the discomfort of uncertainty disappear and choices are simple..  There’s just one thing: life is not simple or certain.  When anyone invokes infallibility, they are being fundamentally divisive and destructive and they are doing exactly what Jindal warned against during his brief moment of good sense.  They are being the stupid party and they are insulting you.

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


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Propaganda


Editorial note: Before anyone goes hyperbolic, imagining that this is a comparison of anyone today to the Nazis, get that it isn’t.  The issue is propaganda, and you need to be clear about what that means to you.

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I recently visited the Field Museum in Chicago to see the exhibit, “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda.” It is a special production of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and this visit was my second time reviewing the material.  I came away with a shocking realization.

The Nazis were early masters of manipulation through words and images and they managed to cow an entire nation into support of or, at the very least, indifference to their aggression and brutality.  The exhibit is about how they went about messaging that.

First, some basics about propaganda from the exhibit.

Propaganda:
 
  •      –  Uses truths, half-truths or lies
  •      –  Omits information selectively
  •      –  Simplifies complex issues or ideas
  •      –  Plays on emotions
  •      –  Advertises a cause
  •      –  Attacks opponents
  •      –  Targets [tailors its message to individual] desired audiences

A fine point about the propaganda of attacking opponents is the accusation that opponents are the ones doing the terrible things that the propagandist attempts to create.  For example, the Nazis falsely accused the Jews of trying to gain world domination.  They claimed that the German people were the poor victims of this fictitious attempt, leaving Germany the only option of all-out war to stop the takeover.  Bear in mind that this claim was made while  Hitler was leading Germany in a quest to dominate the world for 1,000 years (“Deutschland Uber Alles”).  That kind of claim allowed citizens to feel justified in supporting German atrocities.  That is to say, the propaganda of attacking the opponent  by accusation worked.

In response to President Obama’s State of the Union address this year, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) made a quick reply, emphasizing the need for jobs for Americans.  There is truth to that claim.  However, in the same breath he accused the President of being ineffective at creating the conditions to promote jobs, asking the question, “Where are the jobs, Mr. President?”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) gave the formal Tea Party response to the President’s speech and asked exactly the same question, “Where are the jobs, Mr. President?”  Interesting, that they used exactly the same words.  I wonder how that happened.

Now, that’s pretty good propaganda, accusing their opponent, President Obama, of poor performance regarding job creation.  There’s just one thing: President Obama has promoted job creation with ideas for infrastructure work, hiring incentives and several jobs bills.  Nearly every one has been shot down by – guess who – John Boehner and Rand Paul using the propaganda of attacking opponents by accusation.

President Obama has repeatedly promoted comprehensive immigration reform.  When that wasn’t possible he proposed bite-sized pieces (e.g. The Dream Act).  Now Republican leadership is blaming the President for the lack of immigration reform, this even as John Boehner has blocked any action on this issue yet again.  Once again, the propaganda of attacking opponents by accusation rears its ugly head.

In Nazi Germany propaganda helped to incrementally take away rights, property, freedom and the lives of the “undesirables,” the Jews, the Communists, the gypsies and others.  Hmmm, incrementally taking away rights  .  .  .  that sounds disturbingly familiar.

Republican state legislatures and governors are crusading to create voter ID laws in over 30 states.  They claim that their purpose is to stop the epidemic of voter fraud that plagues and pollutes our elections.  And they say that people have to show ID to get on an airplane, so why not when they vote?

They have successfully created a boogeyman for we good people to fear and hate, those who are cheating our voting system. That plays effectively on our emotions.  And that propaganda uses half-truths and lies quite effectively.  But let’s look at the truth.

Investigation after investigation has shown that voter fraud is infinitesimal, bordering on non-existent.

Of course, it is true that we all have to show a government issued picture ID to get on an airplane.  On the other hand, air travel is not a Constitutionally guaranteed right.  Voting is.  The comparison is nothing more than the propaganda of selective information and playing on emotions.

Clearly, voter suppression laws are being attempted for reasons other than to stop non-existent voter fraud.  And it has been amply demonstrated that such laws will overwhelmingly restrict the voting of poor people, minorities, the young and the elderly, all of whom but the elderly vote mostly for Democrats.

Now who do you suppose would benefit from restricting voting as these Republican controlled legislatures are attempting to do?

Actually, that’s the kind of question to ask about any of these and dozens of other propaganda-laced issues.  As always, stick to the advice of Deep Throat: “Follow the money” to find out who  benefits.

And dig through the layers, because stopping at identifying the politicians who benefit from such manipulation gives the big kahunas a free pass.  Ask who doles out cash to those legislative beneficiaries?  What do they get out of rigging the system by manipulating you with propaganda?  And to whom do those people answer and how do they benefit from the half-truths and lies?

My shocking realization following the museum visit was about how pervasive propaganda is, how it has become slicker over the years but the basics haven’t changed.  Don’t imagine for a moment that propaganda became a thing of the past with the demise of Nazi Germany and later of the Soviet Union.  It’s being played on you every day.

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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 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Right Way to Turn Left


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Hollering


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Imagine . . .


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

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

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

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

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

What an odd dream I had.

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


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

This Is For You If You’re Unemployed


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! (while you still can)


The Trans Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) has a name that sounds all friendly and cozy.  Shockingly, it is exactly that – friendly and cozy, but only to the huge money power brokers.  It is not nearly as friendly and cozy to you.  In fact, you’re about to get knifed in the back.

Here is a link to a website with information about what it could mean.  The appearance of this site is a bit bombastic, but the facts are there and you won’t like any of them.

TPP is an international trade agreement that is nearing completion of negotiations.  It blatantly circumvents our Constitutional checks and balances and even our sovereignty.  It will affect food safety, job off-shoring, financial regulation and more.  And, as bad as that sounds, it isn’t the worst.

The worst is that this is being negotiated in secret.  Not even our Congress knows what is going on.  And the “worse” story gets even worse from there.

Our Congress is being asked to “Fast-Track” the TPP when it is up for a vote.  What that means is that our Congress, the folks who are supposed to scratch chins and deliberate before taking action, will be asked to approve the TPP WITHOUT EVEN READING IT!

If you think your representative and senators ought to have the details first, as well as the time to consider and debate the merits of such a potentially cataclysmic piece of legislation before voting on it, then you better take action to defeat Fast-Track RIGHT NOW.  Here is how you do it.

If you are a social network user, please join the “Stop Fast Track Now Thunderclap” immediately.
If you can make a phone call to your member of Congress, click here.
If you prefer to send an email, use this letter as a starting point and contact your Representative via this link.

  • Does this sound hyperbolic?  Well, that’s exactly how you’ll feel when your job gets shipped away, the banksters get away with more fraud and phony foreclosures, and we’ve locked ourselves into an agreement where we need the approval of 17 other countries in order to protect you and the rest of our citizens.
  • Take action now.
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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 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

A Little Self-Disclosure


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One person can make a difference.  I’m in.  How about you?

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


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Neighbors and Lives


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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