money in politics

Doing More of What Doesn’t Work


Colin PowellReading time – 79 seconds  .  .  .

General Colin Powell is one of our most decorated soldiers and a most respected American. He is also a student and has learned a thing or two along the way, some of which were learned at the cost of the blood and the suffering of many.

The Powell Doctrine presents a series of questions, all of which must be answered affirmatively before U.S. combat troops are deployed. These questions are:

  1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  7. Is the action supported by the American people?
  8. Do we have genuine broad international support?

Note that Powell has amended these questions to include the use of every tool and resource available to achieve decisive military victory, minimum U.S. casualties and the rapid ending the conflict, should military force be employed. The Powell Doctrine is broadly supported by our military because it makes sense.

These questions are straightforward and clearly many of them would have been answered in the negative prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, had the Powell Doctrine been considered. That escapade, though, is over. Now we are faced with a different dilemma in Iraq.

There is sense to the statement, “You broke it, you bought it,” and we surely did break Iraq. There is sense to the claim that an Islamic caliphate stretching across the entire Middle East may become a clear and present danger to the security of the United States. And there is sense in having concern for the safety of ordinary people in the region, this because of the brutal and barbarian tactics of the ISIS fanatics.

All of that is true, but:

1.   It is not yet clear that a vital U.S. national security interest is threatened.

2.   We do not have a clear attainable objective.

5.   There is no plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement.

7.   The action is not supported by the American people.

8.   We do not have genuine broad international support.

If we cannot meet these five (and maybe more) of the eight criteria, all of which must be met in order to decide to go to war, then why in the world would we re-engage militarily in Iraq?

We have now sent 300 advisers to Iraq. What if they aren’t enough to accomplish whatever it is the advisers are supposed to do? Regardless of the number we send, doing more of what doesn’t work won’t make it work. We should have learned that lesson after incrementally increasing troops deployed to Viet Nam to over half a million. Doing more of what didn’t work served to produce thousands more dead troops and hundreds of thousands more dead Vietnamese. And perhaps it produced one other thing.

Truty, Justice and the American WayHow come we seem to be in nearly perpetual war? We would love to believe it is to maintain national security and for truth, justice and the American way (cue George Reeves in his Superman suit, arms akimbo, standing in front of a waving American flag). Instead, let’s try reality: Follow the money.

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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.

What To Do About Arrogance & Indifference


Reading time – 73 seconds  .  .  .

In his stunning article in the June, 2014 The Atlantic exploring the issue of reparations for our American treatment of slaves and the effects on their descendents, Ta-Nehisi Coates quotes a Chicago Tribune editorial from 1891 that addresses this same issue:

“They have been taught to labor. They have been taught Christian civilization, and to speak the noble English language instead of some African gibberish. The account is square with the ex-slaves.”

Every point in that passage carries the stink of arrogance and of self-serving indifference to the ongoing pain caused to others.  Arrogance and indifference, though, did not end with the 19th century.

97% of climate scientists tell us that the stuffing of Earth’s atmosphere with carbon dioxide and methane will result in a rise in sea level of at least 3 feet within the next 85 years.  Couple that with the fact that South Florida (Miami, Palm Beach, etc.) sits roughly 5 feet above sea level and you can see that it won’t take a very big wave to submerge the entire lower half of the state. All it takes is to have passed 8th grade science class to understand this and a 97% margin should be enough expert opinion to persuade all of us (and especially Floridians) that we have a severe problem on the very near-term horizon, but arrogance and indifference rule the day.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) declared on ABC’s “This Week” that, “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.” And InsideClimateNews.org reported, “During the past three years, [Florida Republican] Gov. [Rick} Scott, a climate skeptic allied with fossil fuel companies, has led a systematic unraveling of nearly all the climate policies passed under his predecessor [Gov. Charlie] Crist” (italics added). Gotta wonder if these guys missed 8th grade science class.

Let’s see, we have a Florida senator who has presidential ambitions and who doesn’t want to alienate his base of knuckle dragging Luddites, so he sucks up to them by denying reality – he is just that important to himself. And we have a Florida governor linked to the fossil fuel industry, so he blinds himself to our inevitable and disastrous future in order to help his fossilized buddies, who likely help him.

These officials were elected to serve the very people who will lose everything as the ocean swallows their homes. Many will drown, as the tides rise and storms become ever more severe and catastrophically Katrina the state.

It seems that the short-term political self-interests of these politicians is far more important to them than the soon-to-be dire fate of their people. Clearly, their self-interests are steeped in arrogance and indifference.

So it is throughout the political world for issue after issue. It is no different than the arrogance and indifference of the Chicago Tribune a century and a quarter ago.

It is not just Floridians who better get to the polls and vote these self-serving people out of office. The tide is already up over 9 inches and it’s rising on every one of us every day, both metaphorically and literally.

By the way, lower Manhattan has about the same elevation above sea level as South Florida. So does Los Angeles.

Mayday PACWant to know what you can do about it? Vote the arrogant ones out of office and replace them with reformers. Watch this.

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

Pale Blue Dot


Reading time – 39 seconds

Because ginormous money influence in our politics is the mother of all of our political dysfunction, I usually focus my energy on that. There are specific issues of vast and lasting importance to us individually and collectively, though, and sometimes there is impetus to stick a toe in specific waters.

Such is the case due to a recent posting by my futurist pal David Houle. He puts as much energy into divining the future as you put into your primary area of focus. Interestingly, this recent posting had a retro nerd flavor.

Carl Sagan was a Cornell University professor of astronomy and a marvelous translator for the masses of the science of the cosmos. Notably, he was acutely aware of our planetary smallness in this unimaginably vast universe, as well as the quite unusual place in it that we hold.

97% of climatologists (not TV weather guessers) tell us that the Earth is warming at an alarming rate, that there will be severe consequences and that we human beings are contributing mightily to hard boiling ourselves. And that connects to Houle and Sagan.

Have a look at David Houle’s offering – it’s just 4 minutes of video – and get that we are all stuck here and that there is no place to go when we’ve made much of the Earth uninhabitable. We are now crafting that hostile world for our children and grandchildren, all so that the Kochs, Exxon, BP, Big Coal, T. Boone Pickens and others in fossil fuel businesses can make more money today.

Is that okay with you? No? Well, what are you going to do about it?

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

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.

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