second amendment

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 2

Reading time – 6:20; Viewing time – 9:38  .  .  .

This is the continuation of my notions of a national platform begun in the last post. It’s necessary to make an addendum to point #5 regarding healthcare.

Memo to Lawmakers: Only 20% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing and that number hasn’t varied by more than a few percentage points since 2006. The disapproval rating of Congress stands at 74%, meaning that 3 out of 4 Americans think you’re doing a really lousy job. You really should feel terrible about that. Here’s what you need to know.

A big piece of the public disapproval of you is due to your making back room deals – sleaze behind closed doors – like what the Republican senators have done with their cruel healthcare plan that keeps millions of Americans from getting healthcare at all. That’s why We the People don’t approve of you.

All you have to do is to craft something that provides healthcare for everyone and do your deliberation in public, opening the process to comments from actual American people who will be impacted by what you do. This is not complicated and you really can do this.

Memo to Republicans in Congress: We the People know that your American Health Care Act (“AHCA”) isn’t really about healthcare. It’s about giving an $800 billion cash windfall to already rich people. Can you be any more disingenuous? Shame on you.

8. George W. Bush may go down in history as our worst president because he started two unnecessary wars which are likely to continue for decades. Donald Trump is trying to one-up him by tweaking the nose of an infantile nuclear dictator, thumbing his nose at our strongest allies, buddying up to Vladimir Putin and refusing to endorse Article 5 of the NATO charter.

Memo to lawmakers: You already know that only Congress has the power to declare war. Put on your big boy/girl pants, take a stand and fulfill your obligation. We don’t need perpetual war initiated by autocrats.

Economic teaching moment: War robs us of huge amounts of money – trillions of dollars. The cost of every bullet or rocket that’s fired is lost forever; in contrast, the money spent in America, on America gets recycled nearly perpetually to the benefit of all of us.

Mortality teaching moment: Our military people who get killed in our unnecessary wars really don’t come home and resume their lives. They’re dead and if you didn’t stand against our unnecessary wars, it’s your fault. Do you support our military? Then stop sending our people off to die for no good reason.

9. If Trump gets his way we’re going to de-fund the National Institutes of Health, the EPA and gut our diplomatic corps. so we’ll cut spending on cancer research, let our air and water get polluted again and make the military our only foreign affairs tool, all to save less than a couple of percent of our budget.

Memo to lawmakers: Really?!!! Please wake up and tell us you’re not that self-defeating. Put on those big boy/girl pants and take a stand for America.

10. Steven Bannon wants to tear down our established order and so far Trump seems to be his puppet in charge of dismantling what makes the American government work. At the same time Trump is collapsing the international coalition that has kept us strong and safe for 100 years, while at the same time sucking up to vicious autocrats around the world. Using duck logic, this looks, walks and quacks like a duck that is in the process of the self-immolation of America.

Memo to lawmakers: Get a grip on reality, stop this un-American president and put our government back together. Note that once again this will require that you put on your big boy/girl pants.

11. Fossil fuel is on the way out because we’re choking on its exhaust and the planet is warming at a staggering rate that will cook us all. We need clean energy, not more oil extracted from ecologically perilous places.

Memo to lawmakers: You’ll be okay without Big Oil and Big Gas campaign contributions – I promise. So, stop the idiocy of, “I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know about global warming.” Craft legislation that will drive a complete transformation of our energy infrastructure – a moon shot – like solar collectors on all roofs, solar farms, wind energy, tide energy, a new smart grid and all the rest. If you don’t care enough about your grandchildren to do this, then do it for mine.

12. 100 years ago graduating from 8th grade was a fine accomplishment and enough education for someone to get a good job with good pay. A few decades later a high school diploma was needed for a good job, so we made high school tuition-free for our kids. The world has changed and even more education is needed today. Right now there are 6 million jobs going wanting, many because employers can’t find people with the education required for those jobs.

Memo to lawmakers: Make state college education tuition-free. And find a way to get past property taxes being the primary funding for our schools, because this antiquated system leaves kids in poor areas unable to get a good education. That sentences them to a sub-standard life and robs us all of their contributions to a better America. And stop the efforts to privatize education because that isn’t the answer, even if big donors want you to believe it is. Yes, all of this will have tax implications, just as the switch to tuition-free high school did. Figure it out.

13. Russia is not our friend. Russia is an opponent and, considering their ongoing cyber attack on the U.S. and our allies, they may be considered our enemy. Failing to vigorously oppose their behavior and impose penalties on them is ineptitude in the extreme and possibly treason. It’s true that the Executive branch conducts American foreign policy. It’s also true that both the House and Senate are investigating Russian hacking and possible collusion from within. The problem is that those investigations are cumbersome and glacially slow, which means that the president has plenty of time to undermine American security.

Memo to lawmakers: I really don’t care how much money the president owes to Russian interests or the pictures they may have of him or any other pressures Putin can put on Trump. I don’t care about Trump’s notion of making friends with Russia. They are antithetical to our beliefs, our way of life and our safety. Find a way to stop the foreign policy disasters that Trump is creating.

14. It’s absurd to be able to say this, but we are living in a world where millions actually believe in alternative facts and fake news. Surprise, Donald Trump didn’t invent it. This has been going on for a long time. The concept of shame for one’s despicable actions like lying no longer seems to exist and people are prepared to dismiss provable facts. Indeed, millions regularly dismiss reality because they have been told by self-serving types that others are lying to them. That itself is a lie, but it’s crafty stuff for those wanting power and for whom integrity isn’t high on their list of personal attributes.

Memo to lawmakers: Are you lying or misleading the public? Stop it. Stop manipulating to get control of the Supreme Court. Stop telling Americans that it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs and then doing nothing to stimulate job growth. Stop saying we’ll have better healthcare at a much lower cost when you can’t deliver either one. Stop telling the American people that those who report on you are liars when they report on your dalliances. Stop claiming your programs won’t privatize Social Security and Medicare when that’s exactly what they will do. Stop creating enemies like the press just to gain popular support for you, because now the truth has become an enemy and that is corroding our society. One last time: Put on your big boy/girl pants and tell the truth.

Final memo to lawmakers: What I’ve outlined in this post and the one prior is what Americans want. This isn’t fringe stuff, but doing this won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. There are competing interests and some are legitimate and quite valuable, with the exception, of course, of the issue of lying. Nevertheless, everything is either a negotiation and a compromise or it is stagnation through polarization. It’s your choice. Choose well, especially when it’s hard.

Unavoidably, our solutions come down to a 4-letter word: WORK. Roll up your shirt/blouse sleeves and get to work. Not the hateful, in-your-face behavior that we see so often or the misleading, hyperbolic idiocy that dominates the news, but work that’s focused on a better America and improving the lives of all Americans. If you can’t do that, just resign, because otherwise We the People will be sending you home real soon.

Get to work.

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

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 1

Reading time – 6:40; Viewing time – 9:54  .  .  .

This post was created in the days just before the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and the injuring of 5 others at a baseball practice. Clearly, the shooter had problems; yet that event has put into stark relief the extent of our political polarization, the frustrations of the American people and the extremism that some of our leaders have helped to deepen, all of which underline the points that follow.

DC is crazy and everyone knows it’s crazy. The president thinks everything is all about him and that his job is a popularity contest won by appealing to extremists. Many of those in Congress think their job about is serving special interests. The Republicans who speak loudly are anchored in the primordial Reagan ooze as though there is something holy about continuing to do what has never worked. Democrats don’t seem to be able to do much other than be against Trump and Republican extremism.

Meanwhile, We the People think it’s about America and Americans. That leaves it to us to be sane about the future of America, so here are the first seven of my Platform Points in bite-size portions. The key is that the vast majority of Americans are in line with these notions and our solution comes down to a 4-letter word. Note that my more aggressive comments are for the folks with big, extremist megaphones and not for the reasonable legislators who only want to make things better for everyone.

1. A minimum of 78% of Americans believe that big money infects and distorts our democracy and they want that changed. They want a We the People Amendment that negates the craziness of Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United, McCutcheon v. F.E.C. and the rest of the enabling decisions and legislation that allow the rich to buy America and impoverish the rest of us. Said another way, Americans want Congress to prevent the buying of Congress so that instead we can have an actual representative democracy.

Memo to Lawmakers: I understand that the present system requires you to grub for donations and seek the big buck donors. In fact, the system is the problem. In order to stop that, vote for the We the People Amendment to the Constitution. Get on the side of Americans, on the right side of history and end your begging for dollars. You’ll be glad you did it, because you know you hate begging for cash.

2. Just before the vote on the 2008 legislation that created Medicare Part D, Representative Billy Tauzin (R-LA) inserted an amendment into the legislation that prohibited the U.S. government, the largest purchaser of meds in the world, from negotiating with the pharmaceutical companies for better pricing. That sure was good for Big Pharma. Billy Tauzin didn’t run for re-election that year, preferring instead to go to work for PhRMA, the lobbying organization of Big Pharma. They gave him a pay increase to $2 million per year.

Memo to lawmakers: We the People are angry about the revolving door between Congress and lobbying. Clean up this sleaziness. Make the Tauzin behavior illegal. And change the Part D law so we can negotiate better pricing with Big Pharma.

3. Until a few years ago when the NRA went on a campaign to change the meaning of the Second Amendment, we all knew that violent offenders and those not mentally stable shouldn’t have firearms. We still know that, but now over half of all deaths by firearms are suicide (also here) and many of those are our returning vets. A gun within arm’s reach makes suicide and homicide real easy and we have to wonder if that shooter at the Republican baseball practice would have taken any action at all if he were not able to obtain an AR-15 assault rifle. Over 80% of Americans want sensible gun safety legislation, including a huge majority of NRA members.

Memo to lawmakers: NRA campaign contributions are nice, but you’ll be okay without them. And the “cold, dead hands” mantra may bring about a satisfying testosterone rush, but it’s killing Americans. Pass sensible gun safety legislation.

4. The FDA has dragged feet for years on an Obama era requirement that restaurants display calorie counts on restaurant meals. “Now the FDA has indefinitely postponed the implementation of the rule which would require food manufacturers to list added sugars along with more visible calorie counts and clearer serving sizes.” They’ve also refused to require labeling that would let us know if a food product contained genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Why doesn’t the government want us to know what we’re eating?

Memo to lawmakers: You already know the answer to the question: It’s the Big Food lobby. They fear that if we consumers know the crap they put in their products that they’ll sell less of it to us, so they “incentivize” lawmakers and agencies to stall disclosure laws. This isn’t a key issue, but it is another case of Big Money buying our government in large and small ways, getting what it wants at the expense of We the People. Labeling changes cost next to nothing. Make them do it.

5. The American people don’t want bickering over how many millions of us should be shut out of healthcare by the various idiotic proposals being considered. By a significant margin, we want Medicare for all, universal healthcare, single payer – call it what you will. The statistics show that Medicare costs about 25% less than care that is provided through private healthcare insurance – that’s for equivalent healthcare procedures and outcomes. The cost differential is largely due to the overhead costs of private insurers, like marketing, sales expense and really high pay for their C-level executives. Switching to single payer will make a significant dent in our bloated spending for healthcare and will save individual Americans a lot of money.

Memo to lawmakers: Yes, it’s true that single payer will put out of business many of the private healthcare insurance companies that make lovely campaign contributions. The buggy whip makers had a similar challenge 100 years ago when something better came along. Those formerly making buggy whips figured out how to get along; so will our healthcare insurance folks today. Single payer is what Americans want, so your choices, lawmakers, are to continue to do the stupid dance over this issue (now being done in secret to jam it through the Senate) or you can get on the right side of history.

6. Trickle down economics never trickles down. It was factually wrong when it was proposed and it has consistently failed for nearly 40 years. Supply side stimulus doesn’t grow businesses; demand does, but demand isn’t stimulated by the upside down economics of trickle down. Let’s be specific about what actually happens: Giving more money to rich people with the expectation that they will expand their businesses and hire lots of Americans and pay good wages doesn’t happen. Making this worse is that because their personal wants and needs were already met before any tax windfall, rich people don’t spend the new trickle down money, so we don’t get a boost to the economy. Instead, overwhelmingly, rich folks have put their trickle down money into their investments so that nearly all reward has gone to them. The rest of us have stagnated.

Memo to lawmakers: Stop the dishonest schemes that only enrich the wealthy, like Bush’s tax cuts, Trump’s one-page “tax plan” and the disingenuous AHCA which would give huge tax breaks to rich people, funded by refusing healthcare entirely to 23 million Americans. The tax breaks will not redound to the rest of us, as history shows. Come up with a progressive tax plan that makes sense for all. And don’t ever again say “trickle-down” or “supply side” or we’ll know you’re lying.

7. Everyone knows that our infrastructure is failing. We have 55,000 bridges that need substantial repair or complete replacement. Our roads need a huge amount work. Our airports and trains are second rate compared to most of the industrialized world. The water and sewer pipes in all our major cities are over 100 years old. In short, there is a long list of what needs to be done if we are to remain the world leader.

Memo to lawmakers: Stop whining that the Obama Recovery Act (the “stimulus”) didn’t work. The spending you authorized was about half of what was needed for all those “shovel-ready” projects; then you gave half of it to rich people in the form of tax breaks that, once again, didn’t trickle down. The stimulus plan could have worked and our bridges would have been safer by now, but in your mania to ensure that Obama had no wins you submarined it. America is falling apart and you finger pointers with a big megaphone are a key reason why. Cut the crap and pass a major infrastructure plan.

This is the end of Part 1 of the Platform. You’ll find Part 2 in the next post and it will include the unveiling of that key 4-letter word.

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.

Antonio Davon Brown

Gay_flag.svgReading time – 2:44; Viewing time – 5:04  .  .  .

At the vigil on the Northbrook Village Green there were rainbow flags draped over the gazebo railings, but the vigil wasn’t about gays.

The officiants were from a dozen different faiths, but the vigil wasn’t about religion.

The attendees held candles, but the vigil wasn’t about primitive lights.

In the final analysis, the vigil was about reaffirming our common humanity. We need that reaffirmation, because we are too often battered by attempts to destroy our common humanity.

Prayers were offered to stand together and to remember, honor and stand for those cut down by angry violence, and for all of us – not just those gathered on a spring evening in the park, but for all people everywhere – to live in peace and love.  And I assure you that doing so, living for that day of peace and love, is not enough.

Waiting for that day will only get us more of what we are getting right now, over 80 U.S. homicides per day by firearm. We have more than twice as many mass shootings per year than the next 4 countries combined. Vigils won’t stop the next homicide. But vigils can propel us off our passive backsides and into action and that is the only thing that will begin to stop the carnage.

90% of Americans want universal background checks for the sale of any firearm and 80% of NRA members want that, too. Why isn’t that the law of the land? The vast majority of Americans want assault rifles banned entirely, but anybody with enough cash can buy one in minutes. Why is that?  Following the massacre in Orlando, there is now pressure to create legislation to prevent anyone on a terrorist watch list from buying firearms. That effort required nearly 15 hours of filibustering by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) just to enable a discussion of the topic. Why do so many congressmen and senators block any gun safety measures from becoming law? What is the reason for all the push-back against what Americans want?

The answer is the money of the NRA. Without it, many members of Congress would have trouble funding their reelection campaigns, so they take money from the NRA and then do its bidding to enhance sales of firearms for the companies of the firearms industry, the true masters of the NRA. That makes it possible for an angry young man to purchase an AR-15, a handgun and lots of ammunition and then kill 49 people and wound another 53 in an Orlando night club. Here is the translation of that into simple truth:

The senators and congressmen who make themselves beholden to the NRA care more about their political careers than they do about more than one hundred casualties in just one night in Orlando, or the holiday partiers in San Bernadino, or 20 little kids and 6 teachers killed in Sandy Hook, or the people in a church in Charleston, or the movie goers who went to see the new Batman movie in Aurora or the kids at Columbine High School. These legislators care more about their political careers than they do about the brutal deaths of over 30,000 Americans every year. And if you are the next victim of an angry young man who decides to shoot up the theater you’re attending, these legislators really don’t care. Not about you.

And that won’t change just because we held candles during the vigil in the Village Green Park. Our silence will only enable the next massacre. That will only start to change when you get up and make your voice heard. So, get up. Get active. Get heard.

Go to www.PeacefulCommunities.org and sign the petition. Attend a rally. Get up. Get active. Get heard.

Go to the websites for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence and People For a Safer Society and take the action steps. Get up. Get active. Get heard.

Antonio Davon Brown

Antonio Davon Brown

Captain Antonio Davon Brown was a down-to-earth guy, according to the Orlando Sentinel. He was a 2008 graduate of Florida A&M University and had been deployed in Kuwait. He and I did not know one another and now that he has been murdered in the Pulse Nightclub in Orland, FL, we will never know one another. That he was there suggests that he liked to have a good time. He might have been gay – or perhaps he just liked hanging out with friends and the loud, upbeat music and some drinks.

Captain Brown was not a statistic. He was a real person who lived and loved and hoped, just like you and I do. He was only able to do that for 30 years. Just 30 years, because in America, buying an AR-15 is as easy as buying a gallon of milk.

Get up. Get active. Get heard. Right here, right now.

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

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

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

The 2,700 Club

Reading time – 69 seconds; Viewing time – 3:04  .  .  .

Point #1

There’s plenty of data showing that moments of anger can escalate to crimes of passion and somebody’s death occurs far more easily when there is a gun present. That’s exactly what happened in the Northlake Mall in Charlotte, NC last month, when two people got into an argument and at least one of them had a gun.

The same principle is true of suicide, which is a specialized form of homicide. It’s a lot easier to pull a trigger than to jab a knife into one’s chest or slit one’s wrist. Just the daunting task of slicing into your body or imagining a wrenching death from poisoning is enough to prevent many people from ending their lives and they are later grateful there wasn’t a gun within reach.

Point #2

The TSA recently announced that almost 2,700 handguns were confiscated from carry-on luggage at U.S. airports last year. That number is up 20% from 2014, perhaps suggesting that we were 20% more stupid in 2015 than in 2014. That may be an incorrect analysis, but let’s consider who would try to get a gun past security at an airport.

Idiot #1 – An ISIL operative bent on taking down an airliner and killing people on the ground in a seventh century leap for martyrdom.

Idiot #2 – A true-blue American with absolute faith and belief in the Second Amendment and who is standing up for his right to do stupid things. His back is straight, eyes alert and ahead, proud to be a pistol packing cowboy believing himself to be a direct inheritor of the intent of the Founders, as he passes through the body scanner without his boots.

Idiot #3 – “Oh, yeah. I forgot it was in there.” I had a discussion recently with a TSA agent at O’Hare, who told me that’s what they commonly hear when they find some fool’s gun in his luggage. They forgot they had a loaded Smith & Wesson in their suitcase? Forgot?!!! Actually, it doesn’t matter if they forgot. Trying to get a gun past security is a crime and each of the 2,700 were quickly given an opportunity to meet new and – let’s say, interesting – people at the local slammer.

Therefore,

Every one of these idiots is a form of terrorist, regardless of his hijacking intent. That includes the one who is the NRA’s “good guy with a gun” and who thinks he’s going to gun down bad guys on an airplane. In reality, that scenario is the Northlake Mall shooting all over again. It’s the crime of passion or the depression-driven attempt at suicide that turns into someone being murdered solely because there was a gun handy.

2,700 fools with guns is a terrible statistic, because one of those guys who didn’t get caught could have been on your flight with his  loaded 9mm. Next time you go through screening at the airport, instead of being annoyed by the delay, thank the TSA folks for doing a great job to protect 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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder - a Republican affliction

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder – a Republican affliction

Reading time – 77 seconds  .  .  .

I heard a comedian explaining that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who laugh and those who make people laugh. Hard to argue with that.

And it turns out that there are always two kinds of people in the world. For cabbies it’s people who drive and people who need a ride. For children it’s kids who are fun to play with and kids who aren’t.

My view, too, is that there are two kinds of people in the world: people who divide people into two groups and those who don’t. And that is the most important difference we’re being shown by the presidential candidates.

The Republicans – every one of them – are dividing us into two kinds of people:

  • – We good Americans and immigrants who are taking our jobs.
  • – The makers and the takers.
  • – The straights and the gays.
  • – Those who know that military solutions are best and the weak-knee wimps.
  • – We good Americans and the terrible government.
  • – The gun-toters and those who would take their guns from them.
  • – The Christians and all those who are wrong.
  • – Good Americans and the “lame stream media.”
  • – The cops and the Black Lives Matter people who incite the murdering of cops.

In all these cases Republicans tell us that the cause of the problems of the first group is all those in the second group. No need here for personal responsibility or even good sense. As Church Lady would say, “How convenient.”

At the last Republican debate, divisions like these and attacks on those in the “other” group are all we heard. Okay, that’s not entirely true. We also heard about taxation plans based on math with rounding errors in the negative trillions of dollars, but which would put trickle-down economics on steroids, thus accelerating the transfer of all money in this country to 158 families.

In contrast, at the Democratic debates we heard about bringing us together:

  • – Healthcare for all Americans as a right.
  • – Economy-stimulating infrastructure rebuilding that will create millions of good paying jobs.
  • – Ending income inequality so that everyone benefits from a growing economy.
  • – Ending our corrupt election finance system and driving special interests out of control of government.
  • – Common sense gun safety laws so that we begin to end our self-inflicted, ongoing massacre of innocents.
  • – A shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy so that we don’t all die on an uninhabitable planet.

This list could be much longer, but you get the idea. It’s about all of us, not a dividing of us.

Again, and with a few extra words this time, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who try to manipulate us with fear and hate in order to divide us from one another; and those who don’t.

The key is this: Fearful, angry people are motivated, so they vote. They may vote in self-destructive ways, but they show up on election day and vote. People who aren’t fearful and angry aren’t as motivated, so they don’t bother to vote. That distinction is exactly what led to a Tea Party wacko getting elected governor of Kentucky last week.

The Republicans are affected with Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder (dividing us over mostly bogus issues) which they spread to unaware Americans via media contact. The acronym is ISAD, and I assure you that I am sad over this debasement of America.

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who vote and get what they think they want; and those who don’t vote and are willing victims of the manipulators who divide us.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

What Should We Do?

Reading time – 121 upsetting seconds  .  .  .

WARNING: People are being murdered, but you might not care. Have a look at this and you’ll understand. Then come back here for an eye-opener.

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I’m a curious guy, so when a horrific event unfolds, one of my first reactions is to wonder what’s behind the event, pushing it to its terrible end. It’s the “Why?” question we all ask when yet another killer snuffs out the lives of innocent people. It turns out that some smart people with the resources for research have looked into this question extensively and it’s pretty easy to get information.

For example, in a summary article on sott.net they report,

Nearly every mass shooting incident in the last twenty years, and multiple other instances of suicide and isolated shootings all share one thing in common, and it’s not the weapons used.

The overwhelming evidence suggests the single largest common factor in all of these incidents is that all of the perpetrators were either actively taking powerful psychotropic drugs or had been at some point in the immediate past before they committed their crimes. [emphasis added]

Most shooters are male, in their teens to early 20s and they are on drugs – prescription drugs, legally prescribed and obtained. Some side effects of these SSRI drugs (Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors ), like Zoloft, Ritalin and Prozac, are suicidal tendencies and violence.

We are a drug-taking society and we carry the expectation that a pill will solve our problems. This from AntidepressantAdverseReactions.com,

In addition to depression, SSRIs are marketed for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (“OCD”), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”), Social Anxiety Disorder (“SAD”) and Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (“PMDD”) and Panic Disorder.

See? Just take a pill and all those nasty symptoms go away.

And we’re taking ever more of these drugs. In a 2014 Scientific American article, they wrote,

Antidepressant use among Americans is skyrocketing. Adults in the U.S. consumed four times more antidepressants in the late 2000s than they did in the early 1990s. As the third most frequently taken medication in the U.S., researchers estimate that 8 to 10 percent of the population is taking an antidepressant.

We throw pharmaceuticals at ourselves willingly – we like quick fixes – and sometimes we do so inappropriately. Just do a search on “SSRI overprescription” and read any article (here’s one from Psychology Today and here’s one from the American Psychological Association) and you’ll see that’s true. But the story is worse than that.

The pharmaceutical companies actively, enthusiastically and artfully tell the happy tale of how their products make life better. They are far less prone to put out front the downsides, the side effects. In fact, they go out of their way to soft-peddle and sometimes suppress them. (Same deal: just do a search on “suppression of SSRI side effects” and read any article – here’s one.) The pharmaceutical companies make a profit of over $6,000,000,000 per year on SSRIs; little wonder they don’t want to tell us the risks of violence from giving acting-out little Johnny some pills.

But then Johnny grabs the legally purchased guns from dad’s house and goes to the movie theater or the local school and kills a bunch of people, then himself. And we’re all shocked and surprised.

In a 2013 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice, they found what you’ve felt all along, that things are getting worse, that there are more and more mass shootings. Here’s a chart of 160 active shooting incidents by year where 3 or more people (not counting the shooter) were killed:

Blair, J. Pete, and Schweit, Katherine W. (2014). A Study of Active Shooter Incidents, 2000 - 2013. Texas State University and Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington D.C. 2014

Blair, J. Pete, and Schweit, Katherine W. (2014). A Study of
Active Shooter Incidents, 2000 – 2013. Texas State University and Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of
Justice, Washington D.C. 2014

As you can see, you were right: there really are more and more mass shootings.

To be sure, some people have a medical need for pharmaceuticals. But perhaps we’ve taken the lazy way, throwing pills at symptoms instead of dealing with root causes, and in the process, and likely unknowingly, invited increasing horrors upon ourselves.

Surely, gun safety has to consider the mental stability and competence of those who want guns. At the same time, we don’t have to invite greater mental instability by so often feeding our kids and young adults the very drugs that make them suicidal and violent. Maybe a pill isn’t always the answer. Maybe we should be directly dealing with mental health issues. Good idea, right?

There’s a problem with that: we’ve dramatically reduced the resources we deploy to deal with mental health. From a 2013 Forbes magazine article,

From 2009 to 2011, states cut mental health budgets by a combined $4 billion- the largest single combined reduction to mental health spending since de-institutionalization in the 1970s.

Ronald Reagan championed the curtailing of the “welfare state” and he cut funding for a slew of social programs, among them resources for treating mental illness. From Sociology.org,sidebar

.  .  .  Ronald Reagan pursued a policy toward the treatment of mental illness that satisfied special interest groups and the demands of the business community, but failed to address the issue: the treatment of mental illness.

What are the special interests and business community that were satisfied by Reagan’s policy? The pharmaceutical industry at every level. For those folks, doing anything that drives the sale of more meds is good for business. The real needs of people with mental illness just isn’t their problem.

So, now that we have an undisputed, ever-increasing series of mass shootings, as well a clarity about what’s causing so many of them, what do you think we should do: give more pills with potentially lethal side effects in order to mask symptoms; or treat the real mental health issues of our people? Consider your answer to that question in the context of sending your kids off to school and wondering if their going to class will be a life-threatening act.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

Roseburg, OR and Manipulation

Reading time – 65 seconds  .  .  .

President Obama went to Roseburg, OR to express condolences to the families, friends and their fellow citizens for their losses due to the murderous campus rampage of a killer at their community college. He went to meet privately with families of victims and the surviving victims to let them know of his care and to say that he and the American people were holding those hurting people in our hearts. In light of that, who could voice a complaint?

It turned out that hundreds of people found something to complain about. They came with “OBAMA GO HOME” signs. They came with their disdain and their loaded guns to greet him at the airport. They came with the message that he can’t take their guns. Other than their flagrant disrespect for a man bringing condolences to grieving people, they also came with their perfect ignorance.

The NRA has done a masterful job of propagandizing* gun rights, using the last 7 years to make people believe that President Obama is going to take their guns from them. That would be reasonable if not for the fact (and this is an ACTUAL fact) that President Obama has never spoken a word publicly that could remotely be understood to believe that he wants to do anything of the sort.

He has spoken repeatedly about sensible gun safety laws, like universal background checks so that Crazy Pete down the block can’t legally buy an AK-47 assault rifle. He’s never suggest that you should not be able to own a gun.

He has spoken repeatedly about keeping guns out of the hands of convicted violent felons. Unless that describes you, that sensible proposal would never affect you.

There is no perfect American solution for preventing all gun deaths. There are many solutions for preventing some of them. Should you find yourself a potential target of an angry young white guy who can’t get a date and who is carrying a lifetime of rage and an assault rifle with a huge clip of bullets, that moment might change your mind about access to guns and a partial solution will look pretty good to you.

The one thing that the NRA is supremely good at is propaganda. They wrap themselves up in red, white and blue, proclaim all sorts of sanctimonious, nonsensical blather about rights that has nothing to do with our Constitution and its spokesmen use that to inflame unknowing patriotic people to hate the government. They get people tied up six different ways from Sunday with a proud “Don’t tread on me” appeal to their, “You can’t tell me what to do!” passion and incite them threaten violence upon others.

The NRA has convinced well meaning, independent minded people that the government not only oppresses them now, but that their guns are their only defense against a tyrannical government. The massive sale of firearms and ammunition to citizens that comes of that phony threat creates lots of profit for the firearms industry and they pass some of their millions to their lobbyist, the NRA, to twist the arms of our legislators to their violence enabling desires. That is to say, the NRA’s self-serving manipulation creates a false and impassioned us-them conflict, all for the unnamed purpose of greed.

The downside to that is the sad and tragic list of Americans, over 406,000 since 2001, dead by gun violence.

The good news for the Roseburg protesters is that our Constitution gives people the right to protest (another ACTUAL fact). The bad news is that they have been grievously manipulated to believe that the Constitution is intended to allow everyone – even the crazy and the violent felons – the right to own and use any weapon they want, leaving us all at risk.

Do you believe that a partial solution is a good idea? Then support, campaign and vote for legislators who have the same good sense as you.

________________________

*Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s diabolically brilliant chief of propaganda, created a road map for manipulation of public opinion, his Principles of Propaganda. Here are a few that you may find rather similar to the NRA’s actions:

6. To be perceived, propaganda must evoke the interest of an audience and must be transmitted through an attention-getting communications medium.

14 Propaganda must label events and people with distinctive phrases or slogans.

16. Propaganda to the home front must create an optimum anxiety level.

18. Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

Mass Resignation

Reading time – 57 seconds  .  .  . 

Three more high school children are dead and three more are in critical condition because a handgun was easy to obtain and was the preferred method of dispute resolution for yet another hurt/angry American.

In the first year following the murders of 20 little kids and 7 teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, over 12,000* Americans were killed by guns.  There have been 87 school shootings since then. That number does not include things like random drive by shootings on the south side of Chicago. It solely considers kids bringing heat to school and shooting fellow students. Kids making dead kids – lots of dead kids – and hoards of emotionally scarred souls dealing with that horror as a lifelong legacy.

Of course, there are also crimes of passion, as spouses settle their grievances with whatever might be handy, like the Glock in the closet. Youngsters play with daddy’s toy and one puts a bullet through the head of his brother. And so many distraught people end their pain fast, all because guns are easy to get, even by people who should never have a firearm.

Had enough of the madness? According to Mark Glaze of CNN, “74% of NRA members and 87% of non-NRA gun owners believe all gun buyers should get a criminal background check.” Glaze wrote further, “A CBS/New York Times poll released on January 17 found 93% of those living in households with gun owners and 85% in households with NRA members support background checks.” Both NRA members and other American gun owners have seen enough dead kids and have had enough of the madness.

So, how come the NRA opposes universal background checks? It’s because the organization doesn’t represent gun owners. The NRA is the lobbying arm of the gun manufacturers. Those folks don’t want universal background checks because that might mean that they would sell slightly fewer guns. That’s more important to them than the lives of our kids.

So, when there was to be a vote in Congress for universal background checks, the NRA spent millions of its dollars threatening and cajoling legislators desperate for campaign cash, demanding them to reject universal background checks. The result is that the big money gun manufacturers got what they wanted, but you didn’t.

Getting the big money out of our politics is the real solution to that, but it’s going to take a while for you and I to bring that about. For now, the best thing is for NRA members to renounce their membership en masse.

Are you an NRA member? Quit the organization that has never represented you. Turn your back on the organization that turns its back on your kids. Stop giving your money to people who don’t care that six more kids just got shot, two of them are dead and that one of them could have been your 14 year old daughter.

Now, pass this blog along to the gun owners you know.

* This is a rough number based on gun deaths reported by media. The generally accepted total is over 30,000 Americans dead from guns per year. Every year.

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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.

Guns & Best Places: Final Exam

NilesReading time 37 seconds  .  .  . 

I have received requests from readers wanting to know what the three tests are that an applicant must pass in order to receive a zoning variance in Niles, IL. Mr. Bruce Sylvester, Community Planner for the Village of Niles kindly forwarded the information to me. The test is as follows:

“Standards. No special use shall be granted by the Village Board unless the special use:

“(a)    Is deemed necessary for the public convenience at that location;

“(b)  Is so designed, located, and proposed to be operated that the public health, safety, and welfare will be protected; and

“(c)  Will not cause substantial injury to the value of other property in the neighborhood in which it is located.”

That’s it. That was what was in contest at the Village Board meeting regarding a proposed new gun shop and shooting range in Niles, IL.

The applicant-owner knows nothing about gun shops – apparently, he is simply a businessman who sees an opportunity. His plan is to hire a manager from a nearby gun shop and shooting range to run day-to-day operations at his new shop. It is important to note that a substantial percentage of the guns sold by the shop where that soon-to-be new manager now works have made their way into the hands of people who killed others in the area with guns purchased at that shop. We don’t know if there is a connection between that gun shop manager’s capabilities and guns falling into the wrong hands. What we do know is that such things happen. I have seen no evidence of a plan to prevent that from happening at the now-approved new gun shop in Niles. That’s the gun shop where there are three schools within one mile of its location.

I made a comment at the public hearing on this issue because I’m close to this situation. My daughter is a dean at Niles West High School and, as such, deals with a few troubled kids. These are kids who go to school within one mile of that gun shop, whose parents just might buy a gun there and we don’t know how careful and responsible they will be with their new gun.

I said that we don’t need another University of Texas or Virginia Tech shooting, or another U.C. – Santa Barbara or Sandy Hook shooting. I especially don’t want that to happen at Niles West High School. This is no esoteric issue for me: It’s personal.

So I urged the Village Board to take a stand and to vote down the application for a special use permit. That did not happen. The new gun shop will be built. And recall that Niles, IL is a “Best place to raise a family.”

Have a look at the original post about this and be sure to review the comments. See what you think.

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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.

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