political stupidity

The Playground

Reading time – 47 seconds  .  .  . 

Boy, was I wrong.

I grew up the same way everyone did. I was a kid. Adults were bigger. They were in charge. They knew stuff. They were really good at making a serious face. Parenthetically, as I write these words, I now wonder why I ever wanted to become like them.

In any event, they were the models. Be like this. Don’t be like that. This is how adults behave and it is a bunch different from the way children behave. Grow up.

So I did. We all did.

Except for one thing. As Al Capp, creator of the L’il Abner comics, frequently wrote in his offerings, “It is immediately obvious to the most casual observer,” that adults aren’t so different from children.

When I was 10 years old I was a part-time tough guy on the playground. When I wanted to get my way and persuasion wouldn’t work, I’d just muscle my way to it, so I understand self-centered bullying behavior that discounts the wants and needs of others. Adults would never do that, right? I mean, they’re grown ups and they’ve gotten over childish behavior, having learned that it isn’t just all about them, that they have to live with others and – dare I say it? – compromise. They get that, right?

Actually, no, not right. George W. Bush repeatedly told us, metaphorically speaking, that he would hold his breath until he turned blue unless he got his way. Unless they get their way John Boehner, Ted Cruz and others are all about shutting down the government once again, spitting in the face of 313,000,000 Americans.

Recently, we were treated to an audio recording of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. This five-term legislator, serving as a leader in the world’s most august deliberative body, spoke to a bunch of really rich guys on Fathers Day. He promised that if he didn’t get his way he would attach a rider to every bill to prevent any expenditure of money and thus paralyze government.

Clearly, some people didn’t grow up; they just grew older and they continue to behave like 10-year-old bullies on the playground. Tragically for so many of us, lots of them work in Washington, DC.

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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 subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

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

Nothing Conservative To See Here – Move Along

Reading time . .  .  43 seconds

There are so many programs that the Republicans used to support, like healthcare reform, gun background checks and programs that suggest something science-y, like cap-and-trade.  For six years, though, they have been focused solely on opposing anything President Obama supports, so they have turned their backs on their own programs trying to out-testosterone one another and promoting governmental paralysis. Indeed, many Republicans used to be conservatives, but that seems to have fallen into disfavor over on the right, which is now well short of the neocortex.

The Republicans are big promoters of a fire breathing, smoke belching military. They support the troops and wave flags and insist that we continue to spend money on defense at the same rate or even more than we spent when we were engaged in a cold war opposing a country that now no longer exists. Let nobody suggest that the R’s are military wimps. They got their camo mojo on and it’s cookin’ all the time, supportin’ the troops. Conservative bedrock in action, right?

Except when our troops come home broken up, messed up and throwing up. Then the R’s aren’t so supportive of the troops. That’s when they adjust their bean counter eye shades and sleeve garters to cut budgets. That’s when it’s clear that the “political right” has departed from conservatism. Indeed, Poppy Bush would be aghast to learn that there are no compassionate conservatives.

Read Carl Gibson’s excellent article Fake Political Outrage is the Real VA Scandal and see for yourself. These R’s who are refusing to properly care for our wounded are the same right wingers who authorized “supporting out troops” by lying to the American people, trumping up “evidence” for an unnecessary war and then sending our troops into battle without body armor, without vehicle armor and without an exit plan. Then they sent another 100,000 troops to attack Afghanistan, yet another country that did not attack America. Tough beans now for the 1.6 million vets who have cycled home, need help and are applying to the VA for what was promised.

Are you looking for conservatives? Don’t bother looking at today’s Republican Party, because there’s nothing conservative to see there. Move along.

 Ed. note:  Thanks to EBC for bringing Gibson’s article to my attention.

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

Elephants

Reading time: 64 seconds  .  .  .

A guy is walking down the sidewalk when he spots his friend Ralph standing at the corner. He notices that Ralph is snapping his fingers.

“Hey, Ralph,” he says.  “What’s with the finger snapping?”

“I’m keeping the elephants away.”

“Ralph,” the guy says, “there aren’t any elephants around here.”

Ralph looks at him and calmly says, “See? It’s working.”

That, of course, was a knee-slapper back in 4th grade, but the behavior lives on, just as though there is always a direct cause and effect as well as good sense to our actions. But it ain’t necessarily so.

The Tea Party types think that threatening national default on America’s debt will reduce government spending.  There is absolutely no connectivity between the two, but they continue to snap their fingers for that.

President Reagan sold the nation “supply-side,” aka “trickle-down” economics. The idea was that enriching already rich people and corporations would create a “trickle-down” of wealth to all other Americans. That trickle has never even been a drip and that experiment in what President George H.W. Bush called “voodoo economics” has failed miserably. Nevertheless, there are self-labeled conservatives who continue to snap their fingers for that ongoing catastrophe as though it is good for everyone. Side note: There is nothing conservative either in that policy or in that behavior.

We have people telling us that Benghazi is a scandal and that the IRS doing its job of ensuring that not-for-profits play by the rules is a scandal. They tell us that killing the Jobs Bill was best for producing jobs. They say that additional sanctions are needed against Iran, even though the Iranians at last are playing by interim rules designed to lead to a non-nuclear Iran and additional sanctions would violate the agreement that led to the present negotiations. Finger snappers all.

Snap away, you guys living in Fantasy Land, where cause and effect are magically found in your vaporous thinking. Just get that there won’t be any elephants, regardless of what you do with your fingers.

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

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

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

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