suffering

Sometimes The Truth Hurts

Reading time – 2:13; Viewing time – 3:04  .  .  .

A friend offered a link to a New York Times article entitled “Democrats Are Playing Checkers While Trump Is Playing Chess.” He wrote, “The president’s manipulation of racial, cultural and economic anxiety will continue to serve him well politically. Until it doesn’t.”

So I read the article and recommend that you do, too. Here’s my reply.

Yeah, well, the truth hurts. I agree with all of this, albeit with frustration in my heart.

I see at least three pieces. First, is the substance of the issues that are important to people, like the crumbling of our towns and cities when people are displaced by rapid global changes; like the demographic upheaval caused by the incremental national shifting to a non-white majority; like the loss of manufacturing jobs, the majority of which are attributable to technology and innovation.

Second, there is the fear people feel over all these issues. Nobody has solved the globalization issue, for example, and it leads to fear, then anger, then irrational, self-defeating behavior, like Brexit and Trump. Christian whites have privileges that are incrementally being challenged, the reaction to which manifests itself in the extreme of neo-Nazis chanting, “Jews will not replace us” and in white supremacist hate spewing and in voter suppression fueled by anger and indignation over our nearly nonexistent voter fraud.

Third – and I’ve been saying this for a long time – Democrats are HORRIBLE at messaging. Recognizing that Ds have some good ideas, the way they present them is at times incoherent, uninspiring, self-defeating, inconsistent, punch-less and at times insulting. I’ve often wondered if anybody at the DNC has taken even an elementary course in marketing.

“I’m with her” – really? Assuming the notion of the Hillary team was that such language would rally women and feminist-sympathizing men to the D side, that pretty much slapped everyone else in the face, because nobody but family and close friends of Hillary were all about her. We humans are all about ourselves and the D’s messaging completely failed to recognize that.


Tara Thomas at the coffin of her Green Beret husband, Shawn, killed in Niger in February, 2017

Another way the truth hurts is when we see that the President of the United States has failed to honor those who sacrifice their lives for our country. Perversely, in their death they make it possible for him to lie about caring about them. Their death preserves the freedom for him to falsely accuse former Presidents of having blown off our fallen military people. Their coming home in flag-draped coffins gives him the freedom to make condolences to the families of our military dead all about himself.

How long will the 38% tolerate his behavior?

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s 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!

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

Reprehensible

Just for fun . . . unless maybe  .  .  .

Reading time – 2:06; Humming time – 3:18  .  .  .

Perhaps you caught part of President Trump’s stunningly cringe-worthy presentation in Puerto Rico, wherein he boasted about the fantastic job FEMA is doing and the amazing contributions of our military on that island, even as most of the relief supplies were still sitting in shipping containers. Their release has been awaiting memos – memos! – from mayors of the cities and towns on that island, as idiotically required by FEMA administrators.

Later Trump threw rolls of paper towels to citizens like the guy at the basketball game shooting T-shirts into the crowd. Let’s see, they desperately need clean drinking water, food, medical supplies, fuel for generators and repair of their electrical power system and Trump was throwing rolls of paper towels across the room.

Click me – because we’re better than that

He called out General Kelly, letting us know that he’s a 4-star general and, boy, that’s really something and that he – Trump – is providing more F-35s for the Air Force, which brought me to my gag point. First, the Pentagon has repeatedly told Congress that they don’t need the F-35. Second, and far more important, this bombastic display by our president took place in front of Puerto Ricans, who have friends and relatives all around their island who are suffering and some are dying, and instead of focusing on serving all those suffering people, this fool of a President is lauding his chief of staff and bragging about himself for forcing yet more F-35s onto the Pentagon. Reprehensible. Absolutely reprehensible.

And that’s when the song burst onto my laptop screen nearly fully formed.

Sing it yourself to the tune of Unforgettable, originally sung by Nat “King” Cole, then later mixed as a duet with his daughter, Natalie Cole. Here’s a karaoke version for your accompaniment. Note that these stanzas don’t perfectly follow the recorded arrangement.

Reprehensible

Reprehensible, in every way.

Reprehensible, that’s how you’ll stay.

Just because you think the universe

Spins around you, but you’re just perverse.

Never before has someone been more  .  .  .

 

Reprehensible, dog whistles, too,

And the constant lies when truth would do.

In PR you’re talking fighter planes,

While folks die, your neglect is just insane,

And the truth is Reprehensible you.

 

Reprehensible, your Russia thing,

Putin on your side, let treason ring.

And the nuclear war you’re itching for

And the press – you’re always bitching more.

Presidential you? That’s delusion, it’s true  .  .  .

 

Inauguration crowd, one-tenth the size

Of the Cubs parade, that’s no surprise.

That’s why, Donald, it’s incredible

That you won; wish that were shred-able.

‘Cus you’re always Reprehensible you.

Got a stanza to offer? Put it in the Comments section below for all to enjoy.

And another thing  .  .  .

Are you pretty well sick of the heartfelt “thoughts and prayers” our legislators offer after every mass shooting? The problem, of course, is that thoughts and prayers don’t stop bullets from ripping apart the bodies of the next innocent victims.

Gun safety legislation is prevented by the massive contributions of cash to politicians from the NRA. Have a look at the short list compiled by David Leonhardt of the New York Times for an idea of just how persuasive this lobbying organization for the firearms industry really is.

I know you want gun safety legislation to begin to stem the flow of the blood of innocents – 90% of us do. But as I demonstrate in my Money, Politics & Democracy talks, You’re Not Getting What You Want. And you won’t, as long as we allow our legislators to be in the pocket of big money.

You and I have a part in this in another way, too. Have a look at the article from the Washington Post by Danny Hayes to understand Why it’s so hard to pass gun control laws (in one graph). Hint: we all have BSO Syndrome (bright, shiny objects).

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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.

P.R. and a Guest Essay

Reading time – 3:25  .  .  .

A guest essay follows a few comments on our federal “Who cares about it anyway?” crisis.


How is it possible to explain the inadequate and, reasonably labeled as cruel behavior of the President of the United States toward the people of Puerto Rico and the mayor of San Juan?

We questioned the foot dragging of federal help for victims of Hurricane Katrina, wondering if the response would have been as slow and miserly had the miserable victims holed up in the Superdome been white and had not been poor. Consider the same question in our current circumstances, substituting “had they not been Puerto Rican’s.”

Relief arrived a lot faster in both Houston and Florida last month. How come it has been so slow in Puerto Rico?

Where are the Army MASH units? Why has it taken a week and a half to dispatch a Navy hospital ship?

Why are there locked shipping containers of critically needed food, water and medical supplies sitting on a dock in San Juan instead of being opened and the supplies distributed to the hungry, thirsty people?

The mayors of cities and towns on that island are operating from vehicles instead of from their offices because many of their office buildings no longer exist. So, why are FEMA bureaucrats demanding memos from them in order to dispatch relief to the people?

This weekend citizens of Puerto Rico are dying, as there is no power for dialysis machines, no more insulin and they are drinking unclean ground water because there is nothing else available. All that horror and more is happening, while the leader of the free world tweets his venom and plays golf this weekend at his posh resort in New Jersey. Let’s call him President Reprehensible.


Guest Essay

College pal Al Shuman is something of a thinker and a stringer of words who often has something to say offline about these Disambiguations. His recent comments, though, prompted me to ask his permission to post his pennings here, suspecting that others may find them useful. See what you think and offer your notions in the Comments section below.

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I’ve almost written responses to the last couple of Disambiguation pieces and still may. I learned a new word from the last piece – I had not heard “limbic” as an adjective (or actually known its meaning) and it’s good to get new words.

What I had begun to write was that what I was reading felt like it was a transmission from my thoughts to your keyboard – all except one thing. I am sad that I no longer get a lump in my throat when I see the country celebrated (in the “usual” ways). Such events usually stir thoughts of jingoism, and I often feel uncomfortable. I get the lump now in the presence of true acts of courage, involving commitment to principle rather than an automatic performance of a ritual, which suddenly, in this moment, strikes me as akin to idol worship.

So, I am sitting in anticipation of your next piece, which I expect to be a commentary on Trump’s handling of the Puerto Rico fiasco and his shameful tweeting about the mayor of San Juan. It was not surprising, but I think that this is the lowest he’s gone and I want to put my hands over my ears and shout, “SOMEONE PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!!!” Mr. Mueller, you must have enough stuff by now; please hurry up and help bring this nightmare to an end.

And in defiance of what WE think is ALL common sense, his “base” is forever unmoved. The fact that they* feel empowered as never before provides the filter through which all events are viewed, all evidence is judged, interpreted, or dismissed. These people have too much at stake to abandon their commitment and “see the light.”

Although I think I understand what motivates these people and wish not to disrespect them, I confess that I continue to think of a wonderful line in Blazing Saddles where the Waco Kid says to Sheriff Bart, “You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the New West. You know . . . morons.”

Guilty as charged.

*Acknowledging that many Trump supporters are expressing party loyalty and/or political expediency, the “they” in this case are not those; they’re the ones whose support many of us judge makes no sense.

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Last Chance!

If you’ll be in the Chicago area on October 4, come join us for a presentation by Mike Papantonio, host of Ring of Fire Radio. Here’s a link to get tickets. Space is limited, so, “Don’t you wait and be too late.” This promises to be a terrific evening for those who continue to believe we can be better.


Best news headline of the week:

Hugh Heffner’s bedoom

Officials Investigating Hugh Hefner’s Death Suspect Foreplay

From The Onion, September 28, 2017

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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 NFL Player Protests

Reading time – 3:12; Viewing time – 4:54  .  .  .

Most people feel their safety threatened when their treasured beliefs are challenged or even just questioned. And when our tectonic plates rumble beneath our feet, we get scared, then angry, then aggressive, wanting to drive away the threat. Think back to the violent reactions some had over flag burning in the 70s, as that symbol to some was far more bedrock to others. More currently, one person texted to me last Sunday about how upset she was that so many athletes were doing such an unpatriotic thing taking a knee during the playing of our National Anthem. Clearly, her tectonic plates got shaken, even though protest is very patriotic. Our nation was birthed in it.

All of that is not to demonize such folks. It’s to recognize the limbic reaction we people have when our cherished notions that keep us feeling safe in the world get smacked. We humans usually don’t do well when our solidity in space is questioned, or in tolerating ambiguity, uncertainty or complex thoughts, especially when the complex thoughts are conflicting, so we want to do something to restore our sense of safety.

As a result of Sunday’s protests, nothing has happened to our National Anthem, the flag, our military people both past and present or our belief in American exceptionalism. Nobody has been harmed. The country is no less secure. It might be argued (and make no mistake, I am arguing) that our country is better for the courage of some to stand up to injustice. Indeed, if your brother or your father had been shot in the back by a South Carolina cop and that cop was found innocent of murder, it’s pretty likely you’d have something to say about that and your volume would be dialed up to 11.

Rodney King was beaten almost to death by 4 Los Angeles cops in 1991 and then the cops were found innocent of charges of assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force. The LA riots began immediately after that verdict.

Injustice will not go without confrontation forever. People will respond. I submit that taking a knee in protest of injustice is a far better way to make a statement than burning our cities. America was not hurt by the NFL players, even as chest thumping flag wavers are distorting the message of the protesters to suit their biases.

I love my country and get a lump in my throat whenever we celebrate it. That doesn’t mean, though, that I will tolerate everything that goes on in my country. The list of my intolerables includes the “whites only” sign that I saw on the side of a bait shop in Arkansas when I was a kid, the cop violence to blacks for 400 years, the last-hired-first-fired lot of people with brown skin, the dismissing of friends and allies and the coddling of tyrants, the assault on our ideals – any and all of it, I will not tolerate it.

Let’s make this personal. My dad flew a P-47 based in England during WW II. His war stories dribbled out over the years, one of which put fire in his eyes half a century after the fact. One day his virulently anti-Semitic CO picked him as his wing man and they ran into a sky full of Messerschmitt Bf-109s. It wasn’t long before my dad found himself alone against a swarm of bad guys – his CO had abandoned him in a dog fight. Dad made it back to base and confronted his CO. Days later the CO left him in the middle of a fight once more. When he got back to base Dad again went looking for his CO, this time with his officer’s sidearm in his hand. The good news is that others stopped him before he found the CO and that abandonment scene wasn’t repeated. Injustice must be confronted, although I don’t recommend the .45 caliber pistol method of communication.

Here’s the point. It takes courage to stay the course when those on your side are somehow not on your side, and I honor my dad for having done that. There is a parallel between his story and that of the NFL players, whose fellow citizens are supposed to be on the same side with them, but somehow are not.

However it’s done, injustice must be confronted and it always takes courage to do so. So I honor those NFL players who took a knee to confront injustice, knowing they would be roundly criticized for their action.

We must stand up to injustice, because it’s the only way things will get better and we will begin to live into the promise of America.

Have a look at what John Pavlovitz has to say about this.

And here’s what Bob Costas had to say. And Stephen Colbert.

Thanks go to J.C. for prompting me to tell this story.

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If you’ll be in the Chicago area on October 4, come join us for a presentation by Mike Papantonio, host of Ring of Fire Radio. Here’s a link to get tickets. Space is limited, so, “Don’t you wait and be too late.” This promises to be a terrific evening for those who continue to believe we can be better.

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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.

Reasons Why

Reading time – 2:01; Viewing time – 3:12  . .  .

I’m on a continuing quest to figure out how we politically polarized Americans can begin to talk with one another. To that end, I’m spending time with Trump voters, asking why they voted as they did. Here are some of the main reasons I’m hearing:

  • – Anyone but Hillary
  • – Wanted a conservative Supreme Court pick
  • – Angry at the establishment for all the broken promises and were attracted by a non-politician
  • – Didn’t want a 3rd Obama term

There’s no question that some Trump voters responded to his dog whistle racist comments, his refusal to repudiate hate groups and his calls for violence. But if you’re accusing all Trump voters of being racist, you’re a huge part of the problem of our national inability to work together. Stop it.

Because it’s critical that we Americans work together right now.

The President of the United States is engaging in petty schoolyard bully taunts with the infantile and diabolical leader of North Korea. You already know that Trump has called Kim Jong Un “Rocket man” and has threatened to totally destroy North Korea. Kim has called Trump “a mentally deranged U.S. dotard” and the stupid stuff fires back and forth daily. All of that would be laughable, were it not for the nuclear bombs that are a part of the threats.

There’s more, of course, but one reader texted to me that, “NEVER did I imagine that in my lifetime I would lose sleep over dying by being blown up.” That is what Trump’s bellicose rhetoric has done to a lot of people. It might be excusable if there were the faintest hope that there was an actual strategy to eliminate nuclear weapons in North Korea, but Trump has never shown the slightest interest in anything more sophisticated than name calling. So much for there being a strategy. Where does that leave the rest of us?

Ultimately, safety in the world is the key issue – nothing else matters if the nukes start flying – and Trump has undermined our sense of safety in the world. Do you suppose that the chest thumping that Trump’s rhetoric stimulates in his base is worth the threat of nuclear annihilation?

The long term version of the same thing is global warming. It’s going to get us – our children and grand children, really – and the longer we tolerate a president and 54 senators who deny global warming, the worse things will be. That’s why our participating in the guidelines of the Paris Climate Agreement matters, even if the Denier-in-Chief wants to make political hay with his base by scoffing at this mortal threat to humankind.

The bad news about both playing nuclear chicken and ignoring global warming is that initially each will cause great suffering and millions of deaths. The good news is that after a while each will cease to be an issue.

And that’s why it’s critical that we Americans work together right now.

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Stay clear-headed about efforts to stop nuclear proliferation (I.e. more countries getting nukes and playing nuclear chicken with us). Read this, especially the last paragraph, and this. Thanks go to S.S.and J.C. for the links. Also, read this from The Gallup Organization.

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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

Read More…

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

Potpourri v2.0

Reading time – 4:34; Viewing time – 7:40  .  .  .

August 29 – Corpus Christi, TX

President Trump visited Corpus Christi and held a news conference, Where he proudly proclaimed, “Thank you, everybody! What a crowd! What a turnout!” thus making over 50″ of rain and widespread devastation for tens of millions of Americans secondary to the size of his crowd. As a special crowd pleaser, he waved a Texas state flag. Then he left, without visiting with any Texans in shelters, without reviewing the vast destruction and without showing any sign of caring about the people.

 

August 30 – President’s address

President Trump delivered a Tele-Prompter-driven address in Springfield, MO focused on tax reform. He also slid in an unnecessary and inappropriate attack on Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO). With that speech he let us know that he wants Congress to carry the heavy load for his still formless tax initiative, then declared, “I don’t want to be disappointed by Congress. Do you understand me? Do you understand? Understand?

I understand that tax reform, like everything else in the universe, is solely about Donald Trump. It’s clear that his not being disappointed is the most important thing and that the people of the United States of America are not. It’s simply and completely all about Donald Trump.

So, yes, Mr. President, we do understand you.

August 31 – Morning Joe

Host Joe Scarborough let us know in no uncertain terms that he’s tired of the United States playing footsie with the North Koreans over their development of nuclear bombs and ICBMs. Several presidents have tried bribery and so-called “strategic patience” to contain them and it has not worked. Enough of the good cop routine, says Joe. He’s sick of it. Here’s the problem with that.

We’re not talking about frustration over waiting for your annoying little brother to share a toy; we’re talking about nuclear weapons that can kill tens of millions of people in an instantaneous flash. And we’re talking about an adversary led by a boy tyrant as impulsive and self-focused as our president. We ought not be posturing or playing chicken here.

Scarborough’s frustration, however valid, doesn’t matter and isn’t the least bit helpful.

Our cable news-addicted president might hear your words, Joe, and then tweet, “I’m hearing that some people are saying we should get tough on the North Koreans.” He might act on his impatience, his impulsiveness and his boundless ignorance and that could lead to global disaster. So, please, Joe, just shut up.

August 31 – The Monkey Cage

In a stunning article based on their extensive research and their report, Media Bias in Terrorism Coverage, unmask the ugly truth, that, “

August 31 – The ACA is sabotaged again

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) adeptly put a dagger into the back of the Affordable Care Act in 2016 when he championed a nearly complete defunding of the so-called cost-sharing reductions that kept insurance companies whole as the pre-existing conditions issue sorted itself out. That drove insurance companies to jack up their rates enormously or completely withdraw from many states and took medical insurance away from millions of Americans.

In July, the Trump administration terminated contracts with two companies which provide in-person assistance to people to help them to enroll. Think: “Granny just doesn’t know how to navigate the internet.” And this week the Trump administration announced that it’s cutting by 90% the advertising designed to encourage Americans to get health insurance. And HHS has announced that it is dramatically closing the enrollment window for 2018. Those measures ought to be of great assistance in preventing people from signing up and, in consequence, cutting them out of medical care.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to criticize the program, calling it a “disaster” and declaring that it’s “on the verge of collapse.” It’s clearly something of a self-fulfilling prophecy if the Republicans have their way with this program that has helped millions of Americans.

August 31 – Houston, TX

Vice-President Mike Pence visited Texas and made it a point to wear jeans and work gloves to help a homeowner remove branches of a downed tree from his property. He shook hands with and listened to several people suffering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. The only problem with that is that showing caring and empathy for the people stung by a huge disaster, being willing to dig in and help, is a leadership task that belongs to the President.

President George H.W. Bush went to be with victims of Hurricane Andrew. President Clinton showed up in Arkadelphia, AR to be with the people devastated by tornadoes. President George W. Bush showed up where the Twin Towers had stood; President Obama stood with the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School and victims of Hurricane Sandy. In none of those or any other national disasters was it the Vice-President who showed up. How come it was VP Pence in Houston?

Perhaps it was because Trump actually doesn’t care enough to get his hands dirty. And perhaps it was because Pence has already started running for President.

August 31 – Important Onion piece,
Headline: White Woman Discusses How Much She Considered Going To A Black Lives Matter Protest Once.

This one just might make you think – maybe you’ll see things a bit differently. Watch the video here —->

September 2 and for the foreseeable future

The people of the Gulf Coast are going to need help for a long time. Tens of thousands of residents have lost everything but what they’re wearing. Tens of thousands more are and will be digging the mud out of their houses and piling onto the soggy curb what used to be their precious things, hoping that a garbage truck will show up some day. Lend a hand by CLICKING ON THIS LINK, then picking one of the do-gooder outfits dedicated to helping our countrymen. It’s our turn to help them now that it’s their turn to start over.

If not now, then when? If not us, then who?

September 2, –  Breaking news

President Trump showed up at a Houston shelter for Hurricane Harvey victims.

September 3 – Last Minute Addition

Read Joe Biden’s short and stirring essay, “We Are Living Through a Battle for the Soul of This Nation,” because regardless of where you fall on the left-right political continuum, chances are quite good that you’ll agree that this is the kind of leadership we need.

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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.

Plumbing

Reading time – 1:34; Viewing time – 2:23  .  .  .

During a recent visit to my dentist I stopped in the men’s room and found a – let’s call it “interesting” – wall sign. Honestly, I have never heard of sensitive plumbing. I mean, isn’t it just a bunch of sturdy pipes? Does the plumbing in a commercial building have feelings? Does it become upset if something that doesn’t belong there gets introduced to its innards? Is anxiety triggered just beyond the next pipe fitting by a careless user? What are we to make of this new age accommodation to the emotions of plumbing?

Well, nothing, of course. But it brought to mind the crude and cruel behavior of those in the White House and Congress and how they seem to view the American people. Perhaps they haven’t seen this sign and don’t realize that the American people, for all our strength and rugged individualism, for all our can-do spirit, have certain sensitivities. There are some things that just don’t go down well.

For example, we’re sensitive to the healthcare needs of one another and we don’t want people thrown under the plumbing just because they aren’t wealthy. We’re sensitive to the thousands who are killed by gun violence every year, so we really want sensible gun laws to protect our dear ones. We’re sensitive to the outrageous tsunami of money heaped into our politics by extremely wealthy people in a pay-to-play scheme – it’s corroding our democracy. We’re sensitive to the inability of those we send to Washington to accomplish much more than naming a post office. We’re sensitive to our rapidly heating planet and fear for the future of our kids and grand kids. And we’re sensitive to the declining standard of living for about 90% of us.

Click me – then sign up to learn more about the Summit for righties, lefties and indies

Tell you what let’s do. Copy the picture above and paste it into an email to your senators, congressperson and to President Trump. Tell them you’re a sensitive American and you want them to solve the vexing problems we face and for them to stop the stupid stuff. Let them know that if they don’t, they’ll be the ones introduced to the plumbing in 2018.

Apologies to all for my tasteless metaphor.

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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 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.

Leading By Reaction

Reading time – 4:13; Viewing time – 6:26  .  .  .

There was a lot of talk about President Obama’s “red line” regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its own civilians in 2013. Obama was and continues to be scorched by conservatives for having taken no action. What is so conveniently forgotten is that at the time there was a great deal of complaining about an “imperial presidency,” about presidents taking the country to war without the required consent of Congress. So, Obama went to Congress and asked for an official authorization for the use of force in Syria. Big surprise: the Republican majority Congress refused to even bring it up for a vote.

Now, President Trump is faced with his first foreign crisis, created by President Bashar al-Assad of Syria having yet again attacked his own citizens with sarin gas. Strangely, Trump has done a turnaround from his repeated warnings to Obama in 2013 to avoid any entanglement with Syria. Trump’s cautions followed Assad having just attacked his people with sarin gas. We saw the horrific pictures then and Trump was adamant that Obama not take action. Now, Trump is all about taking action, although nothing substantive has changed on the ground since 2013. President Trump, the “don’t touch Syria” guy,  launched 59 Tomahawk missiles into the al Shayrat Airfield near Homs, Syria on April 6. The attack was only symbolic, in that it won’t significantly change Assad’s military advantage or the Syrian civil war.

The fundamental of decision making is to start by declaring a vision of a better tomorrow – the “why” you do what you do. Once that is articulated, the next step is to identify what you will do to create that vision – that’s the strategy, the “what” stuff. Last is to decide on the tactics – the “how” you will do the “what” stuff.

Somebody please tell me what Trump’s vision is. No, not the marketing slogans he spouts endlessly, but the vision. What is the better tomorrow he wants to create?

Okay, that’s too hard, so let’s go to the strategies. What are Trump’s strategies? C’mon, name just one.

Okay, that’s too hard, too, so let’s name a tactic. Oh, right, he launched Tomahawk missiles in reaction to Assad’s reprehensible behavior, with Trump claiming he was deeply changed by what he saw, which as noted, was essentially, exactly what he saw in 2013 when he wasn’t deeply moved by what he saw and he advised President Obama not to interfere in Syria. Those Tomahawk missiles were launched in direct conflict with Trump’s own policy view and that of his chief strategist, Steve Bannon. “It’s America First,” they tell us, so what does a foreign civil war in the Middle East have to do with us and why should we get involved? Also, what strategy does the tactic of firing missiles serve? Betcha you can’t name one.

Try this: Trump has had failure after failure since he assumed office. He has been found to be woefully lacking as a leader and his approval rating has been in free fall. Now, instead of leading, he has become merely reactionary to external events and has fired off missiles at a Syrian airfield, an act which will change not very much in that civil war and which leads to nothing because it’s connected to nothing. Nevertheless, he will claim that the Tomahawk missile attack is proof that he is a strong leader. Listen for that at a Sean Spicer press briefing soon – maybe already.

Future events may show that attacking the al Shayrat Airfield was the right thing to do to prevent further attacks on Syrians by chemical weapons, barrel bombs and other munitions. It may become clear that this attack was necessary to protect American troops in the area and to prevent transfer of chemical weapons to third parties who might use them in the U.S. The world might prove to be overwhelmingly in favor of taking action against the atrocities Assad creates. However, it is sadly most likely that Trump’s decision to deploy our weapons was actually done to help Donald Trump rally domestic support for himself and to prop up his miserable approval rating.

As the Syrian people continue to suffer, they are still banned by this president from coming to this country for refuge from that awful war, even as Trump has puffed himself up on Tomahawk missiles.

In other news

“Morning Joe” on MSNBC, April 5, 2017

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) made quite a name for himself in 2015 by trying to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal our diplomats were working hard to create. He wrote a letter (download a PDF of it here) and got 46 of his Republican senator pals to sign it and sent it off to the leaders of Iran. The letter essentially gave a lesson about our Constitution to the Iranians, with the clear implication that they should not trust those in the American administration with whom they were negotiating.

“The Lead, with Jake Tapper” on CNN, March 20, 2017

Our national history is that partisan disputes have always stopped at the water’s edge. Only the president negotiates with foreign powers and we stand united relative to the rest of the world. Undermining the President as Cotton did could easily be described as treason.

That’s why it’s so odd to see Cotton being interviewed so frequently on cable news shows now, as though he is an honest broker. Someone please tell me why any American should listen to him.

Finally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed throughout 2016 that he wouldn’t give a hearing to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee because presidents never nominate to the Court in their last year in office. Of course, McConnell was right – except for Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and more (read more about it here). Now McConnell has used the so-called nuclear option to break a filibuster and the Senate permanently so he could jam his preferred candidate onto the Court.

And some wonder why the public’s trust in government is around 19%.

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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.

Values Bankruptcy Machine

Reading time – 3:09; viewing time – 4:58  .  .  .

There are conservatives who espouse worthwhile conservative ideas; however, not even one of those ideas includes Trumpian behavior, like:

Cabinet picks and agency bosses who are determined to take down everything in their control

A secretary of state with financial ties to our most dangerous adversary

Treating immigrants cruelly

Insulting our closest allies

Mocking the disabled and selling out the disenfranchised

Mocking our war dead and our war heroes

Trashing the regulations that ensure safe, clean air and water

Refusing science and demeaning learning and wisdom

Calling for our most dangerous adversary to hack our elections

Repeatedly attacking the judiciary, our intelligence community and the press

Lying – not being mistaken or misdirecting – lying 78% of the time


You’ll never hear a true conservative support an idea or policy that includes Congressional actions, like:

Allowing mentally unstable citizens to own guns

Refusing to vet a Democratic president’s nominee for the Supreme Court

Allowing internet service providers to sell your personal information

Claiming to be pro-life but advocating for the death penalty

Voting against anything a Democratic president supported solely to prevent him from having a win and regardless of the cost to our country

Somehow “conservative” and “Republican” have come to mean ensuring that the maximum amount of money flows to rich people, including our congressmen and senators. Those labels mean that all regulations must be eliminated, no matter how many West Virginia rivers get polluted or towns destroyed or our planet hard boiled. Every obstacle to greater wealth and power must be removed for the benefit of the wealthy and they leave it for others to pay the price with yet more suffering. Nothing else seems to matter to them. Today’s Republicans have made their party into a values bankruptcy machine.

Talkin’ ’bout you, Republican!

I have conservative friends – people who are true conservatives, not just those who assume the label for their own benefit – who abhor what today’s Republicans have done to their party and are doing to our country and who are disgusted by the lack of Republican will to stand up to this tyrant president. Such patriotic folks really do exist – actually, there are a few are in Congress.

I want center-right Republicans to stand up and be counted. The time for head down silence doesn’t exist. I want them to speak for what really is conservative, not the hateful, unpatriotic stuff we’ve suffered since Newt Gingrich, in a self-important hissy fit, shut down the government in the 90s.

Do you know centrist Republicans? Tell them to stand up, to speak up and to run for office. Our country needs them now more than ever.

In Other News

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has asked for immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and the FBI. President Trump has weighed in on Flynn’s bargaining, tweeting,

The thing is, when you hunt for witches, sometimes you find a witch. And if there’s a witch discovered in this hunt, their actions won’t be found to be of the magic wand, fairy tale type; they will be found to be treasonous.

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Finally, I send many thanks to the good folks at the Universalist Unitarian Church in Evanston for your wonderful hospitality at our meeting last week where I presented Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want. I’m grateful for your insightful questions and comments and enthusiastic engagement.

We need to spread the word so we can reclaim our democracy. If you’re connected to a group of concerned citizens who will benefit by learning about the enormous and corrosive effect big money has on our politics and our democracy and who want to know what we can do about it, call or drop me a note. I’ll do a presentation for your group – freebie. I don’t want money. All I want to do is to save democracy for our children and grandchildren. They’re counting on us.

————————————

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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