money in politics

Action Alert – TODAY!

Senate LogoReading time – 19 seconds .  .  .

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) has sponsored a bill to amend the Constitution and has 37 co-sponsors. His bill will overturn corporate rights and begin to get democracy killing big money out of our politics and start us on the road to solving the complex problems that are keeping you from getting what you want. The bill is in committee and is scheduled for debate and a vote on the language of the bill on Wednesday, June 18. The members of the committee need your voice to ensure that they offer an amendment to the full senate that actually makes for positive change we need.

Go to the MoveToAmend.org website here and just follow the instructions. Fast and simple. Make some calls, per their instructions.

I know the frustration and reasonable belief that this won’t change anything, but I assure you that doing nothing is certain not to make things better. So set aside your skepticism for just a few minutes and do this now, because you want this mess of stagnation fixed for you, for your children and for your grandchildren.

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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 offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

Tiananmen Square and the U.S.

Tank Man 2

Tank Man waiting to confront tanks – look carefully. Photo Terril Yue Jones

Reading time – 62 seconds  .  .  . 

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars published a stunning article by Terril Yue Jones, Associated Press correspondent in China in 1989, entitled Tiananmen Square at 25 that has a shocking message for us as we continue down our slippery slope from one person, one vote.

By now you’ve heard the reports of the complete vanishing of information from the Chinese people of the protests for reform by hundreds of thousands of Chinese in their April through June, 1989 demonstrations. Those born since that time have no knowledge that anything happened then. The Communist leaders want it that way so that they stay in power. (Funny how people in power will do amazing things to stay in power.)

In addition to censoring all information about the events in Tiananmen Square, the government made certain it would retain control by buying off the people with the opportunity for upward mobility – things like an apartment or a car – and the ever-present threat of harm.

Jones reported a conversation he had just a few years ago with a worker from Hunan province about the 1989 events in Tiananmen, who told him, “If I don’t steal, swindle or kill, no one will bother me.” Jones commented,

“It’s that kind of disinterested focus on self that Chinese authorities have very effectively fostered in the years since the uprising at Tiananmen Square. Yes, the economic and social improvements for which workers, teachers and other citizens agitated in 1989 — from increased salaries and home ownership to social and economic rights — have largely been accomplished, giving rise to a massive middle class. But it’s those masses in the middle class and below who see the yawning wealth gap between themselves and China’s legions of millionaires.”

How eerily similar that sounds to America today.

Americans are afraid of losing whatever they have been able to retain and so keep their heads down to avoid harm. As a result we have that same “yawning wealth gap” between we the people and the Big Money controllers of our country.

One can’t help but wonder how bad will things have to become for people – millions of Americans – to stand up and, like Howard Beale in the movie Network, say, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Perhaps it will require an American Tank Man.

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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 offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

You’ll Koch On This – Chapter 2

Reading time – 41 seconds

The city of Nashville, TN is expecting major growth over the next 20 years, including the expansion of its population by about a million people. To help deal with current congestion and to get ahead of the coming glut of cars on Nashville area roads, the city is proposing a 7.1 mile bus line with a dedicated highway lane in order to reduce commute times and the frustration of everyone. What could be bad about that?

Apparently, the Koch brothers can find something bad about it. They are major supporters of Americans for Prosperity (hmmm, for which Americans’ prosperity might that be?) and that organization is working to ban the proposed bus line. They have named any number of brainlessly dumb reasons for that, but they have put their money muscle into action. That’s probably a good idea for them, because more buses means fewer cars and that might ding the profits of Koch Industries – especially if the disease of public transportation spreads to other cities and fossil fuel consumption is curtailed.

That is a bit like opposition to solar power. Sometimes the solar panels on the roofs of houses produce more electricity than is consumed. That results in the electric meter running backward, a reasonable financial credit for the homeowners. The Kochs are fighting that, too. They don’t like incentives for clean renewable energy. It’s bad for their fossil fuel business.

In these cases and in the case presented in You’ll Koch On This – Chapter 1, the Kochs are acting in their short term self-interest and in each case the interests of the rest of the American people are at risk. Screwing public workers and screwing the air we breathe is just fine with them.

Getting past that myopic vision requires thinking that goes beyond the life expectancy of the Koch brothers and any of the billionaires who fight progress to keep their claws dug into their very profitable status quo.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with self-interest. Our job, though, is to understand the unbridled greed that is harming us in a thousand ways, to wake up and take action to stop the economic bullying being done by the few at the expense of your lungs, your wallet and the planet you live on.

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

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

Breakfast With an Old Friend

Reading time – 52 seconds  .  .  . 

He lives in Santa Barbara, so of course our catch-up conversation included discussion about the homicides at UCSB – he lives just 3 miles from where the murders took place. He’s a bright and inquisitive guy and he asked me what I think the core issue about gun violence is and I could not come up with one; I came up with a list and he added more. Before blaming everything in the NRA, consider this:

  1. There are many deeply patriotic people who read the Second Amendment as an absolute right to gun ownership and they are very vocal about it. While you may disagree with them, just understand the depth of honest passion others have.
  2. We as a nation have never treated mental illness with the same depth of view or finances as we have for people with obvious physical ailments, so often people don’t get the help they need. Back in my CEO days there was an insurance cap of $10,000 coverage for mental health – lifetime limit!
  3. We have severe limits on involuntary hospitalization, which often leaves mentally ill people on the streets and suffering. Some of them go on to make others suffer. It is probably right that we make it hard for anyone to be locked up without their consent, so this is a gnarly issue.
  4. The determination of whether someone is mentally incompetent is often relegated to the police who do not have the skills for the task.
  5. We have a violent national culture compared to other first world countries, there is almost one gun in private ownership per citizen in the United States and having a gun available makes impulsive murder easy.
  6. Big money doesn’t want any curtailment of firearms ownership because any limitation is bad for business. And that is more important to them than six dead kids in Santa Barbara.
  7. We have a political system that requires candidates to raise enormous sums of money to get and stay elected, which means that they become beholden to big money contributors. This is a bi-partisan issue because that’s the way the game is played and that means that most legislators don’t want to vote against big money interests, including that of the arms manufacturers. Distasteful as it is to write these words, getting and staying elected is more important to some of these folks than six dead kids in Santa Barbara.
  8. The NRA is at least a twofold problem. First, they are the lobbying arm of the gun industry, so they are all about maximizing gun sales and twisting congressional arms to make that happen. Second, they like their own power and will do whatever it takes to retain it, so they twist those congressional arms even harder. And all of that is more important to them than six dead kids in Santa Barbara.
  9. Firearms are manufactured in many states and legislators don’t want jobs to disappear from their districts because that might cause them to lose their next election, so they vote against gun safety legislation. That is to say, legislators keeping their jobs is more important to them than six dead kids in Santa Barbara.
  • There are so many simple, common sense things we can do to begin to reduce gun deaths in America, like:
  •     – Universal background checks for the sale or transfer of any firearm
  •     – Laws that prevent convicted violent criminals and mentally unstable people from purchasing, owning or possessing a firearm
  •     – Mandatory trigger locks
  •     – A total ban on assault rifles and other strictly military hardware

None of these – not even all of these – will stop all gun murders in the US. But they will begin to stop the carnage and some of our kids will lose the bulls eye that is now on their backs. Tragically, none of these things has happened because of the dreadful numbered list above. Not even after Sandy Hook Elementary School.

This list is just what came to mind during an informal conversation with a friend. What are we missing in this complex issue?

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

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

O’, The Irony!

Irony

Reading time – 111 seconds  .  .  .

In my Money, Politics & Democracy presentations I’m careful to avoid any of the demonizing of individuals that is sadly so common in our politics. Instead, I focus on the dysfunctional system that forces good people to compromise themselves. The engine of that is the insanely high cost to run a political campaign, driven primarily by the crazy high cost of television advertising.

Over $10 million was spent in the Illinois 10th Congressional District race of 2012. That was for one House seat for just two years and represents only the money spent by the campaigns. Between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown over $80 million was spent for that Massachusetts Senate seat. In 2012 over $2 billion was spent in the presidential race and over $10 billion was spent in total for all federal elections.

The message in that is that to get elected and stay elected, people have to do fundraising continuously. As much as 50% of politicians’ time in office is spent grubbing for dollars for the next election. Further, small contributions won’t get the job done, so they have to suck up to the big bucks donors. And that leaves them beholden to those big funders.

SuperPACs are funded by already crazy wealthy people and corporations. They spend their money primarily on negative television advertising and, generally speaking, it is pretty effective. The result is that our democracy is held hostage to the big funders of political campaigns and SuperPACs.

The only way to change that and reclaim democracy – rule by [all] the people – is to enact a 28th Amendment to the Constitution that will do two things: first, allow for the regulation of money in our politics; second, make it clear that corporations are not people, nor should they necessarily have all of the rights of people and that the rights of corporations may be outlined and limited by government. The only way that amendment will get passed is for us to elect legislators who will make that happen.

Senator Tom Udall (D – NM) has proposed such an amendment and expects that there will be a vote in the Senate. Of course, we don’t know whether it will pass with the necessary 2/3 majority – it might – but prospects for it to even be put up for a vote in the House seem dim, considering the obstacle mentality of House leadership. Clearly, it will require a bunch of reformer types to be in Congress to get this done. That is where Lawrence Lessig comes in.

Lessig is one of the clearest thinkers about the issue of big money stealing our democracy and I recommend any of his YouTube (here’s one) or TED (here’s one) videos. Now, though, he has identified that to make change it is necessary to play the political game and get a little dirty, to wallow in some of the same mud we want to eliminate in order to effect reform. O’, the irony of that!

To that end – to get big money out of our politics – he is organizing a SuperPAC to help to elect reformer types who will get that amendment to happen. Take a look at his video about this and watch all 5 minutes – see what you think of what he is doing.

I strongly recommend giving your full consideration to the dreadful state of our democracy – which is just this side of a full oligarchy (rule by the wealthy few) – and then take appropriate action. Just thinking about this issue isn’t enough. We – you and I – must take action.

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

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

Upcoming Calendar

Reading time – 21 seconds  .  .  .

About a year ago it became clear to me that, while 4 out of 5 Americans who knew about the catastrophic Citizens United case wanted it reversed, too few of us knew about it. Education, it became obvious, is a must if we are to turn the country back in the right direction. And because I do keynote speeches and workshops with a focus on leadership in my day job, I took it upon myself to put together a presentation for the purpose of educating and motivating people to take action.

The program is entitled Money, Politics & Democracy and I’ve delivered it around Chicagoland and also in the St. Louis area. The comments have been strongly positive and I’m wanting to reach out to others, so if you have a venue where a speaker delivering a strictly NON-PARTISAN message to restore some sanity into our government, please connect me to that venue. And no, I don’t charge for doing these presentations. Like this blog, it is about making a difference.

Want to find out what it’s all about? Here are a couple of upcoming public presentations:

I will be presenting to NorthWest Suburban Organizing For America (NWSOFA) at 7:00PM on Tuesday, April 22. Here is a link to information on the session.

The next public session will be at the DuPage Coffeehouse on May 7 starting at 7:00PM. Information for my presentation isn’t up on their website yet, so click on this link for a PDF with program information.

Will you be there? Drop me a line so that we’re sure to connect.

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

The Almost Perfect Dumb-pocalypse

Reading time – 54 seconds  .  .  .

For decades we have had a most efficient, self-reinforcing cycle in our politics of incrementally allowing more and more money into our political infrastructure. As we did that, the Big Money Interests gained incrementally more influence over our laws, our bureaucracy and our courts to drive ever-larger piles of cash into the hands of those same Big Money Interests. That has made it easier for them to throw even more cash into the political infrastructure, which has driven more legislation and correspondingly more cash to the Big Money Interests.

That cycle is the destruction of our democracy (origin: Greek “demos” – the people; “kratia” – power, rule), because it takes power away from the people. The Big  Money Interests simply focus on themselves and all that cash and they lubricate the machinery of elections and government for their hand-picked politicians, so our politicians do the bidding of the Big Money Interests. That means that our legislators are not focused on the needs of ordinary Americans, so our problems have become worse.

Maybe you think that the murders at Fort Hood and Sandy Hook Elementary School are problems.

Maybe you think that your spouse being unable to secure full time employment is a problem.

Maybe you think that oil spills and toxic fracking chemicals leaked into our fresh water supplies is a problem.

Maybe you think that preventing Americans from voting is a problem.

You’re right – those are problems. And our Big Money influenced politics is the reason these issues continue to get worse.

The Citizens United case allowed unlimited and undisclosed corporate and individual money to flood our election process. Now the McCutcheon decision has unleashed nearly unlimited personal funds for direct campaign contributions, so we have The Almost Perfect Dumb-pocalypse. All that is needed to make it The Perfect Dumb-pocalypse is another airhead Supreme Court decision that takes the stops off the maximum donation to a single candidate in a single election.

Coke bottle glassesBut that may not happen, because our Supreme Court thinks that unlimited donations to a single candidate might look like bribery. Actually, it’s the only thing the Court thinks of as political bribery. Maybe we should give new eyeglasses to those on the 5 side of all those democracy killing, hope and trust destroying 5-4 decisions so that the Supremes can begin to see reality more clearly.

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

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

Stupi-geddon

When you elect politicians who focus solely on staying elected, they curry favor with rich people.

When politicians curry favor with rich people, they get lots of money.

When politicians get lots of money, they do really stupid stuff.

When politicians do really stupid stuff, the people suffer and America becomes weaker.

When the people suffer and America becomes weaker, we have Stupi-geddon.

When we have Stupi-geddon, government belongs to the highest bidders.

When government belongs to the highest bidders, we’ve lost America.

Don’t lose America.

Vote for politicians who will amend the Constitution to allow for regulation of money in politics.

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

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

How Can We Reach Them?

Just back from presenting a Money, Politics & Democracy program in downstate Illinois and the same thing became obvious once again.

My program is always well received, yet most of the people who turn out for events like mine are already believers.  And while their attending gives me the opportunity to provide motivation for their taking action to make a difference and begin to change the terrible influence of big money on our politics and our democracy, we’re not reaching enough new people.  And if we are to change the trajectory of America and get it to match our vision of what America can be, we have to reach an enormous number of new people.

This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, nor is it radical left or radical right.  It is an American issue and dealing with it properly will require a lot of Americans.  What can we do so that people get the unvarnished truth of what is going on and why it is happening?  Once they know, they invariably want to create change and the necessary steps are right in front of us.  All we need is for a lot of us to move in that direction.

How can we reach those who don’t yet know?

One of the ways is for you to ask those you know to have a look at this blog series, to subscribe and to comment on the blogs.  Go ahead and do that.

Beyond that, what ideas do you have?  Jot them in the Comments section below and help us all to figure this out.

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

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

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

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