right wing

Un-Republican

Reading time – 2:58; Viewing time – 4:31  .  .  .

I used to think of myself as a Republican – an Eisenhower Republican. At this point, though, I don’t know what it means to be a Republican. Or a conservative. It seems that extreme-ism is the battle cry of the 21st century and now the Republican Party is casting off any semblance of moderation and even simple respect for opposing views.

Ronald Reagan told us he was a true conservative. He believed in small government and low taxes. Then he bloated the federal government and raised taxes six times. What’s conservative about that?

David Stockman was Reagan’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, who famously declared in an interview for The Atlantic entitled “The Education of David Stockman,” that, “I mean, Kemp-Roth [Reagan’s 1981 tax cut] was always a Trojan horse to bring down the top rate…. It’s kind of hard to sell ‘trickle down.’ So the supply-side formula was the only way to get a tax policy that was really ‘trickle down.'” In other words, trickle-down was a ruse to get tax cuts for rich people. That dishonesty created decades of stagnation for middle class and working people. What’s conservative about that?

George W. Bush started two avoidable wars against countries that did us no harm. Then, instead of raising the taxes needed to pay for his wars like every other war president in American history, he drastically reduced taxes, which assured massive debt in the trillions of dollars. What’s conservative about that?

Then the Tea Partiers came and shut down our government to prevent the raising of the national debt limit. The debt limit was and is about authorizing the issuing of debt instruments so that we can pay for what we’ve already purchased – essentially it’s about keeping our word to pay our bills. The Tea Partiers – Republicans all – tried to make us into a dead beat nation. What is conservative about that?

Restrictive voting laws have been enacted in many states to prevent our almost non-existent voter fraud. The effect of these laws is to prevent tens – perhaps hundreds – of thousands of legal voters from voting. That’s anti-Constitutional, so what is conservative about that?

Kris Kobach, the face of dishonest voter fraud claims.

Now Kris Kobach, the former flame-throwing Secretary of State of Kansas who made his bones by railing against non-existent voter fraud, is heading a commission – a fraudulent commission (also here and here). He and his band of liars and thieves are trying to institutionalize voter suppression, this from the federal level. Be clear that this is yet another Republican Trojan horse, in that the real purpose of the Kobach Commission is to extend the last gasp of control for a vanishing white majority. What’s conservative about the pernicious lies of these lying liars (thank you, Al Franken, for the descriptive words)? What’s conservative about stripping voting rights from the young, the old, the poor and those of color?

The Republican Party has verbally championed conservatism, but it seems to want to conserve the kinds of things that are at odds with anything that is conservative or even patriotic. Whatever happened to loyalty and justice and the rule of law, the kinds of things that Republicans used to want to conserve? They keep telling us that they’re the party of Lincoln, but they do things that Lincoln would have found both abhorrent and illegal.

Charlie Christ, former Republican governor of Florida, switched parties, declaring that he didn’t leave the Republican Party; rather, the Republican Party left him. He’s right. So are all the other former Republicans, like Rep. Patrick Murphy (now D-FL) and those who threw up their hands in disgust and quit, like former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN). Perhaps today’s Republican Party needs a new name: The Un-Repubican Party.

Wait, though. We the People keep electing these extremists, so, sadly, we’re getting what we deserve. Perhaps we have to wake up and smell the Constitution. Otherwise, we can start calling ourselves We the Un-People.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

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

Water and Spine

Reading time – 1:35 seconds; Viewing time – 2:30  .  .  .

Click me

You already know what’s happening in Houston and it’s moving east to flood more cities. However bad you understand this to be, it’s way worse. Click here and scan through the maps to understand the enormity of the storm and the millions of people who are affected.

As bad as it is, the water won’t be gone for almost a month and these people need our help now. So, if you don’t have a flat bottom boat you can haul to the cities to rescue people in Houston, Port Arthur and Beaumont, CLICK ON THIS LINK to connect to a list of good organizations that are helping there and give from your heart by way of your wallet. Now is a really good time to do that.

And another thing  .  .  .

This is a love note to the white supremacists of all stripes, Neo-Nazis, KKK members and especially Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

This is not just a critical time in America; it’s a critical time for you as well. It’s a choice or inflection point in our unfolding history. So, here’s the exercise you must do if you are to choose wisely and prove that you have the spine of red, white and blue that you claim.

First, build a bonfire. A big one. Stand as near as you dare and gaze into the flames, feeling the cleansing power of fire. You know, like the cleansing you used to do to Blacks, Jews, immigrants and other “undesirables.”

Next, gather your KKK bed sheet and hood, your Nazi armband and flag and your SS and Brown Shirt outfits and the police badge you used to justify violating people not just like you and throw it all into the fire. Throw every scrap of hate literature (yes, burn those books), your imitation Luger pistol and holster, the posters on your bedroom wall, the framed pictures of Adolph Hitler, Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis that adorn your hate shrine and all the official membership cards in your wallet and even your prized Tiki-Torch. Throw all of it into the fire.

Finally, stand and watch as the fire purifies America. Let it purify you.

If you don’t have the courage to do that, if you find that the colors of your spine really aren’t red, white and blue, you’re a weasel. Read Maureen Dowd’s column from August 19 and you’ll understand.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

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

Another Modest Proposal

Reading time – 1:46; Viewing time – 3:07  .  .  .

In the wake of the Charlottesville tragedy, many in the white supremacist, neo-Nazi, and KKK hate clubs are calling for an all-white North America. They offer little clarity about what they would do with the hundreds of millions of non-whites and non-Christian whites now living between the southern border of Mexico and the Arctic Circle, but there is little doubt that those in the sewer of hate have marshaled both of their collective brain cells and have managed to make a declarative statement that they want all those not just like them to be gone from North America. I have a better and easier solution.

The state of Alaska is way larger than Texas and only has about 742,000 residents, so there are vast spaces that are totally uninhabited. Let’s carve out an area of, say, 100 square miles somewhere in the vast, bleak northern third of the state, a section that’s without oil, and give it to the skinheads and the idiots with white hoods. We’ll keep it fenced with the technology of Trump’s “beautiful wall” in order to keep the haters away from the rest of us.

Inside the wall they can light torches, burn crosses, carry loaded guns and threaten one another to their hearts’ content. Maybe we can relocate the Robert. E. Lee statue there, along with the one of Jefferson Davis and the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first pinhead grand wizard of the KKK. Let them fly Confederate and Nazi flags, hold Kristallnacht festivals and show one another that they are proud, goose stepping morons. That area has extremely long nights in the winter, so they’ll have lots of time for their brainless tiki-torch parades.

The haters will then have what they want, their all-white piece of North America. Given their violent solutions to all problems, they will likely cull their own herd and eventually will no longer be of any consequence to the rest of us. Best of all, we won’t have to suffer their feigned victim-hood, their manufactured rage and the hate that they vomit onto innocent Americans.

One last comment  .  .  .

Those who fought for the Confederacy were traitors. They fought for the right to have and abuse slaves. There was nothing remotely noble about their cause.

It may be pleasing to some needing to self-justify to honor those traitors of long ago, but traitors are criminals and are subject to execution, so why would we not apply the appropriate posthumous remedy of obscurity to Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis and the rest of the leaders of the traitorous Confederacy?

Tear down all the memorials to the Confederacy. Keep the truth in our history books (no, it was not a northern war of aggression) and call the Confederacy exactly what it was: a traitorous insurgency and selfish grab for the right to enslave other people.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

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

Harry Potter and What We Are

Reading time – 2:40; Viewing time – 3:44  .  .  .

  • “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” J.K. Rowling, from Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets.

Let’s imagine that Rowling has offered a valuable insight – that it’s our choices that show who we truly are – and consider these points:

  1. Donald Trump has refused to say anything to suggest that he fully agrees with his 17 national security agencies that the Russians hacked not just Hillary Clinton’s and John Podesta’s emails, but also sought to affect our national election. He has compounded that by offering no leadership to counter this ongoing invasion of America by a foreign adversary. He’s dismantling our cyber security oversight and has had more friendly involvement with covertly hostile Russian officials than he’s had with anyone else.
  2. Trump brought top Russian officials into the Oval Office, this in the absence of an American translator. While there he passed top secret espionage information to them, which put Israeli intelligence people in peril.
  3. Trump met for an hour at the G20 dinner with Vladimir Putin. The only other participant in the conversation was Putin’s translator. That means that Trump doesn’t know what was relayed from him to Putin, nor can he know what Putin actually said.
  4. Rex Tillerson is incrementally dismantling the State Department. You know, the people who conduct U.S. diplomacy.
  5. Betsy DeVos is working to dismantle public education.
  6. Scott Pruitt is dismantling the EPA, including the Clean Water Act. Drink up.
  7. I don’t know what Rick Perry is doing to the Department of Energy, about which he knows next to nothing. What we can be sure of is that he wants to eliminate the department, this according to his “Oops!” moment at a Republican debate in 2016.
  8. Trump and the Republicans pound the blatantly false drum beat that Obamacare is dead. Now Trump wants to eliminate it, provide nothing to replace it and leave millions of Americans – 1 in 10 of us – adrift with no access to medical care but the emergency room.
  9. Trump continues to blow off our allies and cozy up to Putin. This is particularly vexing because the Republicans have spent decades telling us that they are the muscular protectors of America against the bad Russians and that the Democrats are weak-kneed and can’t be counted on to stand up to the bad guys. Now, though, the Republicans seem to have Kryptonite strapped to them and they’re mute about Trump’s “love-the-Russians” behavior.
  10. The Onion had a touching and troubling take on what we’re doing about immigration. Watch it here.
  11. Now we hear that Trump is investigating presidential pardons for his staff, his family and for himself, even though nobody has officially been charged with a crime. He’s also working to discredit the Special Counsel and his team and has threatened to fire Robert Mueller. All we’ve heard has come from eyebrow raising pundits. We’ve heard nothing from members of the President’s party. Where is the outrage?

There’s more, of course. The point is that our choices – our actions – declare what we are, just as J.K. Rowling said. What are we saying about who we are?

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

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

Separation Anxiety

Reading time – 3:29; Viewing time – 4:50  .  .  .

We long ago decided that the First Amendment limitation declaring clearly that, “Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” no longer meant “separation of church and state.” Back in 1956 our enemy was the godless Soviet Union, so we proved we were holier than they were by turf-grabbing God and stamping “In God We Trust” on our currency and any other place the ink would stick. That was far more chest-puffing than the emotionless E Pluribus Unum, which actually had served us well as the motto of the U.S. since 1782. We sure showed those commies something.

The problem, of course, is that there are millions of Americans who don’t trust in the God envisioned by the red-baiters of the 1950s and who should have been protected from that Yoda-phrased motto by the clear implication of the First Amendment. It had long been interpreted as not just freedom of religion, but also freedom from religion.

Fifty years later that didn’t matter to George W. Bush, who promoted public support of religion through what he called “faith-based initiatives.” Translation: Give public tax money to churches. Sadly for the Constitution, that worked – Bush and the Bible thumpers won that round, too.

And they’re winning more ground still. Just this month the Supreme Court decided that public funds could not be withheld from a Missouri religious school which needed to repave its daycare playground surfaces. Once again that means pubic tax dollars will be going to a church.

Betsy DeVos is the latest in the string of would-be reformers of education who just doesn’t get it. She has never attended a public school, having always been in the silver spoon club, nor so much as served on a public school board, so she really has no knowledge of the purview of her department of government. In her educational myopia she thinks that privately owned charter schools and parochial schools are the answer to the problems our education system is facing. Said another way, De Vos wants to give billions of dollars of public tax money to church-owned, church-run schools. In this era of fuzzy-brained legislators and a loud evangelical section of the citizenry, she just might get away with that. Doing so won’t meet our educational challenges, but it will further erode the separation of church and state.

The undermining of the Bill of Rights goes in other directions, too. President Trump wants to revamp our libel laws so he can sue the press whenever he doesn’t like their coverage of him. He publicly demeans and attacks the press, nearly always without justification, so that now our approval of the very people who hold public officials accountable including the President is down to less than one-third. How long do you suppose it will be until the press gets muzzled by an autocratic boot crushing the First Amendment guarantee against the abridgement of freedom of the press?

The moral of this story is that our rights were a very good idea, but only for a while, and they’re no longer rights at all. Many far righties are pushing for a Constitutional Convention so they can remake our entire national framework to their liking. Who do you suppose you’ll run into as you follow the money to learn who will benefit from the abandoning of our rights, the elimination of environmental protections, the shedding of food and pharmaceutical oversight and the denial of climate change? You can trust that it’s the usual suspects, the ones with the very deep pockets. The rights and protections these extremists seek to destroy are no longer even a speed bump on the road to discarding the Constitution entirely.

Frighteningly, we may not be able to count on many of our elected officials to stop that. David Frum clearly outlines the peril in this piece. And former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul makes clear that we cannot count on the President to protect us, either. Former Treasury Secretary Laurence Summers agrees.

With our Republican legislators each scrambling to be the last one to find a spine, the 2018 election looks to be of even greater importance than was the election in 2016. Those of us who continue to believe that the Bill of Rights is a really good thing for America and Americans have our work to do.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

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

Clarity From a Choir

Reading time – 3:57; Viewing time – 5:13  .  .  .

It’s an amateur choir, but the sound these folks make is stunning. They performed for years under the leadership of their much beloved director, who died suddenly and unexpectedly.

The search for a new director began and they found an interesting guy. He and the board came to a decision about a new vision for the choir, deciding that rather than being solely about music there was a grander service for them to provide. That vision laid clear the path forward.

Everyone in the choir auditioned to remain and, although it was hard to do, some were asked to leave. They simply couldn’t clear the performance bar necessary for the vision of the future.

And it’s working, because the choir is even better than before. Answering the “What do we want?” question first made the “How can we improve?” question easy to answer.

That’s the point. There must be a vision of a better future in order to make sound decisions about how to solve problems and overcome challenges. The test is always about which choice best moves us toward what we want, that better future.

David Brooks writes in his June 27 piece, The G.O.P. Rejects Conservatism, “The current Republican Party has iron, dogmatic rules about the role of government, but no vision about America.”

For example, Republicans chant the mantra “small government, low taxes,” which sounds appealing and which they have never practiced at the federal level in my lifetime. More important, that mantra only describes the government they want. It’s a tactic for something, but they never say what that is.

Now let’s get to the other side of the aisle.

The Democrats can’t seem to articulate much of anything about a vision for America, either. Like the Republicans, they are clear about certain issues. For example, there seems to be a consensus about health care being a right of all Americans, but that isn’t a description of a vision for a better America. It’s a tactic to accomplish something. What does that better America look like according to the Democrats?

Once we Americans agree on what we want, then a sensible discussion can begin about how to achieve that. Absent a vision, we wind up squabbling over individual issues with no concept of how or whether the various tactics help move us toward that vision.

I still like the Jeffersonian statement in the first few sentences of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Do we as a nation still hold those truths to be self-evident? If that’s the vision, then the solutions to our challenges must be measured against that vision. Honestly, I never hear a discussion that sounds even remotely that grand, yet that is what is needed if we are to get beyond selfish squabbling and solve our very complicated challenges.

Let’s take this one step further.

What if the people now in charge have a very different vision for the future of America than you do? What if you’re being played right now to benefit those holding the reins? Don’t imagine this as a propeller hat notion, because that happens regularly around the world and right here in America, too. For example, while we were grieving over 9/11, George W. Bush used that tragedy as an excuse to invade Iraq and get draconian, un-constitutional laws passed in order to spy on you.

To flesh this out more clearly, have a look at Naomi Klein’s work on governments using public shock to advance their power grabbing. Here’s a link to her short video. Watch it when you think your bones can tolerate being rattled.

Rachel Maddow almost got punked by government-planted fake news last week. This is really sneaky stuff – your government planted fake news in her inbox in order to discredit the press in general and Maddow in particular when she aired the lies. Perhaps they did that because she’s been steadfast in reporting on the Russian hacking story. Had Maddow taken the bait of that fake Top Secret document, the Discreditor-in-Chief would have railed against the press and we would likely be left with one less watchdog over government at a time when we need all the members of our press A-team suited up. Here’s a link to the reporting.

Both the Maddow and Klein pieces bear heavily on a vision for America and you likely won’t like the vision these pieces point to. For more on this read Seth Abramson’s Twitter string and you’ll understand more fully how compromised America’s future is becoming.

Many thanks to C. H. for pointing me to these pieces.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

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

BOHICA

Reading time – 3:45; Viewing time – 6:41  .  .  .

Critical Action Step – just 4 minutes completion time

This is about dealing with the mother lode of our political dysfunction, so first things first. Click here and read the short, clear text of the proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution – the We The People Amendment. It’s designed to stop corporate and big money control of your government. Then click here and send the MoveToAmend message to your representative to co-sponsor this vitally important legislation.

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It was just five years ago – maybe you remember when Darrell Issa (R-CA) was chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and he held hearings on the Affordable Care Act requirement to offer birth control as part of the ACA. That the hearings took place is anything but remarkable. What is noteworthy is that Issa refused to call any women as witnesses. Not one. And, no, Sandra Fluke did not testify for Issa’s committee. He refused her, this at the same time Rush Limbaugh was calling her a whore. That no women were included in discussions about birth control is outrageous for at least three reasons:

  1. The birth control in question is entirely that which applies to women. The ACA did not contemplate covering vasectomies. Clearly, women have standing in this discussion.
  2. Because women carry most of the burden of birth control, their views offer insight that men simply cannot provide.
  3. Women represent more than 50% of the American population. When you figure out why over half the citizens of the U.S. should be ignored, be sure to let me know.

That’s just the way today’s Republicans roll and it’s continuing today in House Resolution 610, which they label as a two-parter:

  1. The Choices in Education Act of 2017
  2. The No Hungry Kids Act

What could be bad about choices and well fed kids?

Well, it turns out that this bill is actually designed to do exactly the opposite of the claims its title suggests, so here is a more accurate moniker: the Screw the Constitution and Let the Kids Eat Crap Republican Initiative of 2017.

There are two problems with this legislation. The first is that “choices” means that this is a voucher program that will give public funds (that means your money) to private schools you just might not want to directly support. It also means that your money will go to parents who home school their kids, too. Public money will be diverted from our public education system (the school in your neighborhood) to make these “choices” possible.

Be clear that many of these private schools are parochial. And overwhelmingly, people who home school their kids do so to integrate their religion into basic education. So, to sum that up, the House Resolution is designed to send your money to the pockets of owners of for-profit schools and to religious institutions, while at the same time starving our public schools to death. Good-bye to public education and good-bye to separation of church and state.

The second part of House Resolution 610 removes the requirement that food being offered to kids in school be nutritious, like fruits, vegetables and low fat protein. Instead, the schools that your money will go to will be allowed to stuff any kind of cheap crap down our kids’ throats. This should be a boon to the sugar and saturated fat industries. Really, though, kids don’t make campaign contributions, so who cares about them anyway?

The most egregious part of this is that President Trump, Vice President Pence and Education Secretary Betsy De Vos held a so-called listening session with 10 representatives from the field of education. Only two represented public education full time. It’s the same warped thing that Darrell Issa did regarding birth control.

All of which is to say that the Republican method for investigating any topic and providing solutions to our significant challenges is to decide in advance the outcome they want and then make a sham of the entire process of investigation and sound decision making, to which I say, BOHICA – “Bend over, here it comes again.”

Watch the short video What is HR 610 and How Will It Affect Education? Then follow the simple instructions in the video. At stake is the Constitution and the future of our kids. They shouldn’t be forced to eat crap. Metaphorically, neither should you.

In Other News

What if the blizzard of organizations vying for your attention, action and money could be aggregated under an umbrella that can connect you where you want to be connected and which can help your organization achieve far greater reach?

And what if you want to be better informed without totally disrupting your life?

Say good-bye to the what-ifs, because if you live in the Chicago area your solution is at hand. Come to the information-packed United for Democracy Now meeting on March 25 at 1:00PM and get it all – here’s a link to the FaceBook page. Then just click the GOING button so we reserve space for you and your friends who will accompany you. There’s no cost to attend the meeting, you won’t be hit on for anything and you’ll have a way to get your organization way better connected. Plus, you’ll walk out better informed by the wonderful presenters, who will talk about:

An overview of what’s really happening – like about small business, the ACA and more.

Healthcare – betcha you want to get a handle on what’s really going on and what can be done.

The tar sands oil pipeline – coming soon to an Illinois near you. These things only leak sometimes.

The craziness is unremitting and, as David Corn said, you can’t fact check crazy. But we can be better informed, so this is the meeting you want to attend. And you just might leave a bit more hopeful. Wouldn’t that be refreshing!

BTW: I’m the MC for this meeting – come say hello. I’ll look for 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.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

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

Guest Essay: What Ails Us

Reading time – 5:55  .  .  .

David Norman is a truly gifted executive coach and a good friend. He is also an erudite cynic, although he doesn’t use the word “erudite” to describe himself. Of course, that’s misplaced humility, because he’s an informed and insightful guy. And as you’ll see, he does use the word “cynic” to describe himself and does so quite deliberately.

He is a careful analyst of reality and has offered the essay that follows. Read his comments with your best critical thinking, because this is a challenge that we are going to have to face. To quote Gene Kranz, Mission Director of the imperiled Apollo XIII flight, “Failure is not an option.”

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First, and as a backdrop, I see myself as a cynic, at least in George Bernard Shaw’s estimation: “The power of accurate observation is called cynicism by those who don’t have it” (The World). It is from this perspective that I opine.

Well known is:

In 1920, H.L. Mencken wrote in the Baltimore Sun, “Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” 

This was quite prescient, especially considering it was written some 96 years ago.

Lesser known, but often being quoted following Trump’s election:

In this 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman critically examines TV and how, in his basic thesis, it has negatively affected the level of public discourse. In the foreword, Postman examines two dystopian visions, Orwell, in 1984, and Huxley, in Brave New World, who depicted a population too amused by distractions to realize that they had been made powerless. In Chapter 9, “Reach Out and Elect Someone,” Postman examines how political elections have simply become a battle of advertisements, in which candidates develop images meant to work in the same way that commercials do, by offering an abstract image of what the public feels it lacks. “As a result, people no longer vote what is best for them, but rather vote what they are told they lack in their lives” [emphasis added]. Postman ends his work with “The Huxleyan Warning,” in which he returns to the basic premise that Aldous Huxley was right; i.e., that we are too amused by distractions to realize we have been made powerless (excerpts from here).

Amusing Ourselves to Death was published 32 years ago.

One Other Major Influence:

Ronald Reagan, in 1987, eliminated the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was honest, equitable and balanced. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented.

It is not a coincidence that Fox News was started nine years later by Roger Ailes, ex-media consultant for Reagan, Nixon, and others.

Putting it Together:

The U.S. Population, as a whole, has become desensitized and avoids asking piercing, thought-provoking questions, choosing instead to be led (by the nose ring, as it were) by a TV “talking head” of their preference, one or more who support our limited world view (yet, interestingly enough, we don’t even realize that “our world view” is limited!). We listen, we accept and believe. As a population, we can’t parse actual reality from “reality TV.” Not only do we not turn against TV, we actually become further hijacked by “technologies” (as Postman describes TV, even before social media, et.al.) and worship the words. Facts or alternative facts; it really doesn’t matter. “It” was said on TV; therefore, it is perceived as the truth.

[Quick sidebar: (1) Last year in my role as an executive coach, one business owner stated outright to me, “I hate my wife.” While shocked at the force and brevity of the statement, I asked several open-ended questions to get at the substance. In short, his wife, a stay-at-home-mom, would watch Fox News all day, live in her social media tribes into the late hours and “come to bed angry” every night. (2) Almost five weeks later, another business owner, in our coaching session, said, “I hate my wife .  .  .”  Identical reasons as stated above. Note: Two different wives!  But what a coincidence from a small population, my client base. And how illustrative of our TV-guided mounting anger.]

So, What Does This All Mean Now?

We should not have been surprised by the election results, but we (read that as, my wife and I) were shocked.

My contention and belief is simple: as a population we are not doing any critical thinking. Note that The Texas GOP, in their 2012 platform, “opposed the teaching of Higher Order Thinking (HOTS) .  .  .” We wouldn’t want our citizenry asking critical questions, would we? Yet people are not incapable of learning; many simply refuse to be informed – a willing and perhaps gleeful ignorance, if you will. I do believe, as does Postman, that we have dumbed-down American citizenry to a point that “they” (the ubiquitous, “they”) sit slack jawed, empty-minded in front of the TV believing that (1) Survivor is real, and, (2) listening to those “talking heads” who support their limited view of the world, thereby simply amplifying the noise and static in their heads and anger in their gut.

If, however, you are willing to learn and be informed, and have critical thinking skills (and, apparently, not associated with the Texas GOP), then you could not have mentally transposed Trump’s pre-election rhetoric and proven, egregious behavior into a possibility of him being successful as president. In the run-up to the election I simply dismissed his election as a non-plausible circumstance – it simply couldn’t happen in the U.S., I said multiple times out loud, “Don’t worry, I have more faith in our population.” Yikes! Yet, the signs were in front of me/us all the time, and was I ever fooled.

In summary, and to paraphrase Postman, we have dumbed-down ourselves to death, and have doomed ourselves to have an Orange-Marmoset-On-Head-In-Chief (OMOHIC), armed with Twitter as a megaphone, encouraged by White Supremacists (Bannon and Miller) as earwigs and backed up by three generals as Next-Line-in-Charge.

This is the fire under the boiling cauldron of today’s politics.

Throw into this cauldron an evil witches brew of a public that is increasingly vengeful, fragmented, scared, voiceless and hateful (as not only encouraged by, but also condoned by our OMOHIC). Flavor the mixture with a heavy dose of legislative and, to a certain degree, judiciary dysfunction. What possibly could go wrong?

How could this cauldron of acidic, epic ingredients not boil over into national and/or international conflict?

What’s your answer that question?

“Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite.” Joseph de Maistre

Tighten your seat belt; this will be quite a ride!

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Ed. comments:

Following the French Revolution, Joseph de Maistre told us over 200 years ago:

“Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite.”

“Every nation gets the government it deserves.”

What government do we in America deserve? Have we done the work of citizenship that is required for a representative democracy to function well for the people? As you’ve seen, our guest essayist suggests we have not. Roger Cohen agrees.

I entitled this offering What Ails Us because it is insufficient to swat at the symptoms of our dysfunction; we must deal with what is causing our national ailing. Don’t imagine for even a moment that Donald Trump is what ails us. He is a symptom, an unavoidable outcome of what we Americans together have put in motion. Figuring this out and repairing it will require critical thinking from everyone, including citizens of Texas, and especially including you. Share your best thinking below.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

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

The Question

Reading time – 1:56; Viewing time – 3:48  .  .  .

amer-united-1-10-17

No email link is available, so copy/paste [email protected] into an email and say you’ll be there.

I’ve been in dialogue with a small group of smart people, many of whom read and contribute to this series. They have offered great clarity and insight and have pushed me to refine what I now see as the key question of our time. The question I pose is in service of something much larger and which requires naming in order for the question to make full sense. It is about our acute political polarization and how we can bring people together so that we have the muscle to demand the change – the democracy – our country needs.

Over most of the decades of my adult life I have seen what looks to me to be an incremental loss of democracy in America, with the people losing power and an elite few gaining it. Most Americans are centrists, but most of our elected officials are either partisan zealots or they cower before the zealots, resulting in governmental outcomes we the people don’t want and helping to polarize our citizenry. For example, 80% of Americans want universal background checks on sales of firearms and a ban on assault weapons, but the legislative extremists and the powerful, well funded lobbying groups ensure that there is never even a vote on the issue. There are many other examples of how we the people (as in democracy = “rule by the people”) are not getting what we want, all of which is to say that democracy has been sorely compromised.

What requires naming for The Question to make full sense is that we must save our democracy. Perhaps you prefer “restore” our democracy. Either way, just stopping the thieves is insufficient.

So, my question is:

How can we politically polarized Americans find a way to talk with one another, not scream past one another, and come together in the common cause of democracy?

Just asking the question unmasks me as the 60s idealist I remain, but I believe that it is the question we must answer in order to change our course. I went out on a limb with my article ringing the alarm of fascism staring us in the face and I expect substantial push-back. So, too, did those ringing the alarm in Mussolini’s Italy, in Hitler’s Germany, in Stalin’s Russia and in Pol Pot’s Cambodia (yes, I know those last two were communists – the same democracy robbing principles hold) and many other places where authoritarians ruled. The danger usually isn’t obvious when change is made incrementally, but now you need only look at the cabinet and advisor picks of our President Elect, match that with his extremist promises, flagrant lies, pathological need to be powerful, his thin skin and cruelty, his obvious contempt for our laws and the Constitution and you should be able to see the fascist freight train at the other end of the tunnel barreling down on us.

It is possible that you don’t and won’t share my view of the dire future we face if we sit back and let others make our decisions for us. That’s okay, because you likely share my view that we have lost key elements of democracy and that we have to re-secure them or we will lose all.

Abraham Lincoln said it best: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” We must stand together – righties, centrists and lefties –  if we are to restore our democracy.

So, back to my question:

How can we politically polarized Americans find a way to talk with one another, not scream past one another, and come together in the common cause of democracy?

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

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

Eye Opening

Reading time – 3:13; Viewing time – 5:30  .  .  .

I’m still trying to figure this out and I think I’m making progress. Reality keeps telling me that I better hurry it up.

Why did people vote for Donald Trump even when he promised to do things that would harm them?

It’s easy to dismiss such people as ignorant or stupid. It’s also both factually inaccurate and counterproductive. First, nobody wakes up on election day and decides to do something harmful to themselves. We all act in what we perceive to be our best interests and feel we have good, sensible reasons to back that up. Second, if you want to encourage someone to see things in a different way, starting with, “You’re stupid,” probably won’t be useful, so a different approach is called for. In very short order that is going to become critically important. Stay with me to see why.

Sarah Kliff wrote a most interesting article in Vox entitled Why Obamacare enrollees voted for Trump. The sub-head is “In Whitley County, Kentucky, the uninsured rate declined 60 percent under Obamacare. So why did 82 percent of voters there support Donald Trump?” Good question.

The short answer comes from a woman living in the area who signed up thousands of people for Obamacare and then voted for Trump. Interviewed by Kliff, she said, “I found with Trump, he says a lot of stuff. I just think all politicians promise you everything and then we’ll see. It’s like when you get married — ‘Oh, honey, I won’t do this, oh, honey, I won’t do that.’” Kliff later reports, “I kept hearing informed voters, who had watched the election closely, say they did hear the promise of repeal [of Obamacare] but simply felt Trump couldn’t repeal a law that had done so much good for them. In fact, some of the people I talked to hope that one of the more divisive pieces of the law — Medicaid expansion — might become even more robust, offering more of the working poor a chance at the same coverage the very poor receive.”

In other words, they heard Trump’s message that he would repeal Obamacare and simply didn’t believe it. Here’s another example.

Watch the “Bernie Sanders in Trump Country” discussion that was aired on Chris Hayes’ program on MSNBC on December 12 and pay special attention to the panel members. They consistently expressed the same views as Kliff’s interviewees in Kentucky. They just figured that Trump was saying what he needed to say to get elected and, once elected, would do whatever these people viewed as the right thing, even when the right thing was in conflict with what Trump said he would do.

Before you slip into smug mode, wondering what kind of fools these people might be, consider what you expected from Barack Obama in 2008. There’s a good chance that you imagined that he would consistently do the right thing. Later it’s possible you were disappointed in him for failing your right thing test.

There’s a psychological term for hearing what we want to hear and dismissing as insignificant what we don’t want to hear. It’s called confirmation bias and we are all subject to our own version of self-delusion powered by that bias.

Here’s the bottom line to this: Be slow to ridicule Trump voters as stupid or ignorant or racist (yes, clearly some of the really loud ones are that). All that most of them were doing in this past election was being human. And they will respond to you a lot better when they realize that you respect them. In fact, that may be the key both to understanding what happened in this election and, more important, the key to a better future for you and our democracy.

Millions of voters have buyer’s remorse right now because they really voted against establishment Hillary, not for Trump. And they got Trump and now they are horrified. It’s time to respectfully invite them to join you and others to do something to stop the extremist agenda of the oligarchs and generals who are about to take the reins of power.

Not convinced that’s happening? Go here and here and click through the links there to learn what this open season of American hatred looks like. And as you do that, recognize that this brutality is sanctioned from the top. Protections you take for granted are on the edge of being eliminated by Presidential cabinet appointments, people who are dedicated to eliminating the agencies they will lead, the ones that now provide those protections you take for granted.

There is extreme danger on the very near horizon and we better make our voices heard. And we better reach the millions of Americans who voted for Trump and are now horrified so that they make their voices heard along with ours.

On a livestream on the 19th there was a critical clarity that was offered: Love doesn’t trump hate; Organizing trumps hate. As I have written repeatedly, if things are to change for the better, we’ll actually have to do something.

So, now that you see the looming danger and understand Trump voters a little better, get up, get involved and get organized – while we still can.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

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

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