suffering

The D. S. of A

What if our state and federal legislators were held to this standard?

What if our state and federal legislators
were held to this standard?

Reading time – 2:55; Viewing time – 4:39  .  .  .

At a time when a high school education is so often woefully inadequate for success in a global, interconnected world, where old time manufacturing skills have given way to computerized everything and where millions of employers are frustrated because they’re unable to find people with the proper training to do the jobs they have open, Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin continues to slash support for the formerly wonderful state universities in Wisconsin.

Rick Snyder, Republican Governor of Michigan, headed the drive to allow the state to take control of any municipal government in Michigan that the geniuses in Lansing deemed was in financial distress, the sanctity of the municipal voting ballot be damned. That led inexorably to the poisoning of the children in Flint, MI due to the diabolical economic decision to change the source of the drinking water for that city. Instead of the safe Great Lakes water they had used for a century, the Lansing imposed Flint dictator decided to provide water from the Flint River, water which is corrosive, and that resulted in the city drinking water becoming laced with lead. Nobody knows the human toll or the financial cost that ingestion of lead will exact over the long term, but it will be enormous. Snyder and his Republican legislature in Lansing are doing a tap dance around accountability and as of this moment they are still dragging feet on fixing their mess. Meanwhile, the residents of Flint are trapped in a water quality disaster and an economic squeeze of Rick Snyder’s doing.

Sam Brownback (R-KS) promised Kansans that if they elected him governor that he would slash taxes and that would magically result in increased revenue for the state because of the dramatic economic expansion that lower taxes would induce. So, they elected him governor. Instead of the results he promised, his plan resulted in way lower revenue for the now nearly bankrupt state and a depressed economy across Kansas. Who might have even guessed that reducing the state’s income might reduce the state’s income?

Bobby Jindahl is the Republican governor of Louisiana. His state is a financial disaster. It is ranked the worst in the nation in educating its children. There’s lots more – and none of it is pretty. Let’s just move on.

Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) is the titular head of the state with more real estate in peril as the oceans rise than anywhere else. The streets of Miami Beach are often under water and much of south Florida is at or only slightly above sea level, so it doesn’t take much of a wave or much of a rise in sea level to flood it. And Rick Scott, a former fossil fuel homie, denies global warming and the human imprint on it, so he does nothing.

And, of course, right here in Illinois where we have a bottomless pension debt, our governor is so out of touch that we’ll call him Bruce Rauner (R-Pluto). He hasn’t offered a thing to fix the pension crisis and he continues to govern by refusing every attempt to establish a budget. Yes, that’s right: Illinois has been operating without a budget for well over a year and Governor Rauner seems to think in the way of Ted Cruz, that if we just shut down the functions of government that somehow all the best things will happen. That hasn’t work out too well for Illinois college students, as threats of shutdown of entire institutions were imminent, nor did it work out for our mentally ill who, because of the governor’s draconian methods, were not even getting their meds. Let the games of the rich continue, because they aren’t affected by their restrictive policies, even as those who are most needy continue to suffer.

These are the D. S. of A, the Disaster States of America, although not all of them. The Republican leaders in these states proudly and self-righteously thumb their noses at our bloated federal government and the over-taxation of the public. Yet, oddly, as they fail their states, or their states face crises, like Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey, they expect the federal government to bail them out of their catastrophes. Either that or they just do more of what doesn’t work and declare victory.

How are you feeling about that? Keep that in mind as you vote for your state legislators on November 8.

Thanks to Steve Sheffey for pointing out this video.

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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 and engage.  Thanks!  JA

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

North Carolina

jennifer-roberts

Mayor Jennifer Roberts Charlotte, NC

Reading time – 39 seconds; Viewing time – 1:36  .  .  .

I saw Jennifer Roberts, the mayor of Charlotte, NC interviewed by Brian Williams a couple of nights ago and yesterday I found her leading a press conference. She thanked the local police (who conveniently did not have body cameras turned on when they killed Keith Scott) and the state police, as well as the NC National Guard. She talked about their professionalism (avoiding acknowledging their unprofessional non-use of those pesky body cameras) and she announced that the businesses in the downtown area will indeed be open for business. She talked about the need for the curfew and how well the police had enforced it and basically did an “aren’t we wonderful!” announcement.

Not once did she express regret over the loss of life or the grief of loved ones, concern for the injured, nor any appreciation whatsoever for the reason that people are on the streets. Not one word of caring for anyone not in a position of power.

That woman is reptilian.

And she matches well the governor and members of the North Carolina state legislature who have worked so diligently to steal voting rights from the poor and  minority citizens of North Carolina, which is still, as far as I know, part of the United States of America, where voting rights are guaranteed for all citizens, except convicted felons in some states, including North Carolina.

What has happened to North Carolina?

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APOLOGIES – to you if you have tried to comment on past Disambiguations but have been frustrated, confused and perhaps annoyed that your comments seem to have been received but never showed up online. We’ve been experiencing biblical levels of spam and have tried various means to thwart the bad guys. Some methods, though, seem to have thwarted everyone. Now there’s just a simple “I’m not a robot” method in place. So, go ahead – say something – and let’s see if this works better for you.  JA

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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 and engage.  Thanks!  JA

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

Two Shirts

Two ShirtsReading time – 1:39 seconds; Viewing time – 2:47 .  .  .

July 5 – Alton Sterling is shot and killed by Baton Rouge, LA police.

July 6 – Philando Castile is shot and killed by St. Anthony, MN police.

July 7 – An angry sniper – a black man – kills 5 and wounds 7 white Dallas police, as well as wounding at least 2 civilians.

What are we to make of all that? Try this.

Tens of thousands of people participate every year in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. They are committed to preventing and curing breast cancer, so does that mean that these people don’t care about those who suffer from heart disease or diabetes?

The Mothers Against Drunk Driving leaders are singular in their focus, many of them because they have lost someone due to a drunk driver. Does that mean that they think it’s okay to drive stoned?

Tax Increment Financing is a tool used by cities in many countries for the purpose of redevelopment of sub-standard neighborhoods. Does that mean that the mayors of these cities don’t care if other areas fail?

My mother gave me two shirts as a birthday present many years ago. I immediately went to another room to try one on and then returned, only to hear Mom say, “You don’t like the other shirt?”

Clearly, choosing one doesn’t mean the dismissing of another. It isn’t a zero-sum game.

All of which is to say that the lily white criticism of Black Lives Matter, proudly proclaiming that all lives matter, is stupid and, worse, it’s racist. I have yet to hear any spokesperson for Black Lives Matter say or imply that only black lives matter. Their mission is about changing things so that black lives matter as much as every other life.

So, when you hear blabber-mouths complain about the Black Lives Matter movement, hear their words for what they are: an attempt to avoid the very real subject of active racism in America. They are trying to make it look as if whites are the poor victims of blacks who don’t want to get murdered by cops. That’s racism.

In an article for STAT about racism, police brutality and the training of our medical professionals, doctor/author Jennifer Adaeze Okwerekwu declares that, ”  .  .  .  as a nation we have a crippled conscience.” Perhaps those who complain about Black Lives Matter should get a pair of cultural crutches.

Does this speak to you? Then speak it along to friends & followers – LIke it, Tweet it, LInk it, FB it with a link to http://bit.ly/29RaiPA.

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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.

National Courage

 Source: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

World Population – Source: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

Reading time – 2:10 – Viewing time – 5:29  .  .  . 

When there were just one billion people (about 1804), this planet was able to tolerate a lot of abuse in various forms of pollution, including fouling of lakes and rivers, putting toxic gasses into the air and dumping nasty materials into the ground. The ratio of humans to planet was just too great for us to have lasting, significant impact.

As we now approach eight billion people, the ratio is vastly different and human impact on the Earth is both obvious and threatening. That leaves us just two options for actions to save ourselves from substantial danger.

First, we can take steps to reduce the pollution that we create and perhaps even reverse some of it. That will take a united and sustained global effort if we are to avert wars over fresh water and food. It is hoped that such an effort has been started with the accords developed at the Paris Climate Conference in December, 2015, attended by 195 nations. The fundamental agreement is that each nation is to devise its own plan. What is needed, of course, is for all to follow through both with plans and with actions.

The second thing we can do is to cause world population to stabilize and then decrease, because obviously, with fewer people we will have a reduced impact on the planet. Accomplishing that is the trick.

Jonathan Swift offered us direction on that with his 1729 offering to ease the burden of the poor in Ireland by selling their children as food, this in his powerful work, A Modest Proposal. What could be simpler and have the twofer advantage of both decreasing the population and helping with food shortages?

With that clear and compelling logic in mind, I suggest that we are already on a similar journey and offer these examples:

Let’s face the facts.

We stubbornly refuse to change our lifestyle habits and that’s good, because that helps to solve our population problem.

Interestingly, there are now more homicides by firearms each year than deaths due to car crashes. Part of that is due to the safety systems now built into our cars, like seat belts, air bags, ABS brakes, traction control and newer features like frontal crash protection. There is even some braniac’s invention of a system to keep your car in its lane, even when you’re distracted by texting something that’s so important that it can’t wait for you to stop the car.

Unfortunately, all of those automobile safety features run counter to our desired reduction of the population, so some serious consideration should be given to abandoning all of them and bringing back the days when holiday weekends were marked by tallying the hundreds of fatal car crashes across the nation.

For the gun part of this issue, it’s time to stop pretending that background checks, fingerprint ID and trigger locks are good things. It’s time for a national return to both open and concealed carry, with all adult citizens being required to carry a loaded gun. That will bring us back to the days of the Old West and we will be able to settle our differences quickly and help to reduce over-population and pollution all at the same time.

As for the suicides of military veterans, we may have to become better at this, as there are roughly 21.8 million vets in America, so the 22 suicides per day probably won’t have sufficient impact to make a dent on our over-population problem. Perhaps we can entirely eliminate PTSD treatment for returning vets and also string out medical attention for war-related injuries even longer.

Source: “NIH Research Funding Rebounds in President’s FY 2016 Budget”, by, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Finally, and perhaps obviously, it’s time to end our mania over disease treatment and prevention. Infectious diseases have the same potential today to solve a great many of our population challenges as they did during the bubonic plague in medieval Europe and the influenza epidemic in the early 20th century. Sadly, we have recently taken a step in a counterproductive direction.

As you can see from the dashed light blue line on the chart on the right, we have wisely been reducing funding  for the National Institutes of Health for 13 years. Just this year, though, in a wrong-headed move, the President increased funding just slightly. That will have the long term effect of increasing our population and pollution problems. What could he have been thinking?

Clearly, there are things we can do to increase our death rate and achieve our goals. All we need is our national gift for innovation and the courage to rededicate ourselves to continue on our path.

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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 Question Still Haunts Us

Ed. note: This was my response to a letter from a friend, updated only very slightly, and was posted three months before the 2012 general election. Sadly, the question still haunts us.
 

Reading time – 3:34; Viewing time – 8:36  .  .  .

Thanks so much for your comments.  I completely and enthusiastically agree  .  .  .  You said we have bigger fish to fry and we certainly do have enormous financial issues.

We really have been living beyond our means for decades and our politicians (both R’s and D’s) have done a good job of protecting their jobs instead of doing their jobs and, in the process, they have led the public to believe that there is a free lunch.  We, the public, somehow went along with them when, to paraphrase Richard Pryor, the politicians said to us, “You gonna believe me or your lying good sense?” And we believed them. Go figure.

Notwithstanding the stupidity of all parts of that dynamic, my original comments that perhaps seemed polarized were and are intended to be focused on the broader issue. You used the word “reprehensible” and it is both apt and at the heart of my meaning. Here are a few data points, all of which raise a singular question.

The Republicans, led by Ted Cruz, held hostage the entire nation – even the entire world economy – to their fiscal demands. I understand that it was a leverage point, but the debt ceiling and a new budget are two entirely different things and the authorization to increase the debt ceiling should have been done as an independent issue. It should have been done immediately in order to declare our resolve to remain the standard for the world economy. Threatening financial disaster can be seen in another way: It is a statement of the kind of America the Republicans are trying to create. Is that really who we Americans are?

Conservatives Reagan, Bush I & Bush II, each in his time, ran up the biggest deficits/debt in the history of the world. Reagan and Bush I increased taxes to pay for their spending. Bush II instead both decreased taxes and started two unnecessary wars. All of that pushed us to the brink of financial disaster. Is that really who we Americans are?

Recall for a moment the Reagan-initiated frenzy for deregulation, a Republican mania that continues today. That led directly to the financial collapse of 2008 and, yes, D’s were complicit in that. All those trillions of bail out dollars are gone and with no accountability and nearly no mechanisms to prevent another round of “too big to fail.” Strangely, the Republicans are howling for still more deregulation which would put us at ever greater risk. Is that really who we Americans are?

A violent storm went through my area this morning and a power line was downed by a broken tree limb just a block from my house. The police were out in the violent storm within minutes, cordoning the area and protecting everyone from the continuous blast of 600 volt sparking and fire. Before heading to my basement due to a tornado warning, I saw more flames from another direction, called 911 and was connected to the fire department. I reported the situation and a bunch of guys saddled up and headed out in a fire truck, this while most of us were huddled in our basements from the continuing storm.

Consider, too, the school teachers to whom we entrust most of our kids’ education and those who drive snow plows through blizzards so we can go where and when we want. All these people protect and support us, including in dangerous situations and often in terrible conditions. They are also the people who the Republicans want to strip of some of their pay, their pensions, their right to bargain collectively and the Republicans want to lay off a bunch of them, too. In Wisconsin, Scott Walker wants to take nearly all of the savings from the heavy load put on the backs of Wisconsin cops, firemen, teachers and others and give it to rich people. Is that really who we Americans are?

Paul Ryan wants to kill Medicare, send everyone and their money to a few private medical insurers and leave millions of those who need health care adrift in their poverty. 70% of the savings from his plan to kill Medicare would go directly to rich people and corporations. Is that really who we Americans are?

In Michigan, the Republican controlled state government has decided that they have the right to take over any local governmental body in the state if the geniuses in Lansing decide that the locals need their help. [Update: Take a look at the Flint, MI lead-poisoned kids to get an idea of what a fine job those geniuses are doing.] They have effectively stripped voting rights from entire communities and imposed a dictatorship on the state. Is that really who we Americans are?

In Arizona, former governor Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe Arpaio enshrined discrimination into the law and into desert concentration camps. Is that really who we Americans are?

Rand Paul says that it’s immoral that we helped the victims of Hurricane Katrina. That pretty much captures the America he and so many of the hair-on-fire R’s want us to become. Is that really who we Americans are?

The Republicans voted in lock step to continue to give tax breaks to the biggest oil companies which have the greatest profits in the history of the world. Huh?

Everything I see tells me that the Republican party wants to turn the clock back to the days of the robber barons. Life was very good then for the very rich. For everyone else, well, it wasn’t so good. The Republicans seem to be in favor of anything to kill those hated programs that help people who need help. Yes, I know there are plenty of dim-witted and even self-defeating programs that never should have been started or which have long outlived their usefulness. And don’t misunderstand me:  There is nothing wrong with being rich. The wrong is in excluding everyone else.

The financial burden from the past is enormous and vexing. The financial challenge of the future will look different from the free lunch nonsense to which we are accustomed. There is plenty of fixing to do. The key, though, is our clarity of vision of who we want to be – our national True North. That direction is being decided right now, in part, by people doing reprehensible things. The reprehensible behavior is not one-sided, of course. The bulk of it that I see, though, comes from the right.

I wish I could find one of those moderate Republicans you mentioned who has the backbone to speak what s/he believes, rather than what they thought would get votes from “the base” and who would offer reasonable centrist views. I’m hoping that you are incorrect about them being extinct, but instead find that they are in hiding, waiting for the chest thumping storm of temper tantrum insanity to pass. I will welcome an honest exchange that focuses on making a better America.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I believe we are right now at an important crossroads in the battle for the soul of America. We are in a defining moment of setting a vision – a self-image – of who we Americans really are.

In my Money, Politics & Democracy presentations I break the news about our American vision in this way:

We are crafting the America our children and grandchildren will inherit – and we’re doing it right now!

We better get about the task. We better speak up about the task, because:

If you don’t make your voice heard, people who want a very different America from the one you want will be heard, because they will be the only ones talking.

Speak up! In the Comments section below. With your friends, your family and, yes, even your crazy brother-in-law. Speak up or you and your children will have to put up with what you’ve tolerated.

 

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

Things Could Be Worse

Reading time – 2:13; Viewing time – 4:15  .  .  .

In a most accessible article in the November 10, 2014 Christian Science Monitor, author Henry Gass reviewed a fresh examination of wealth inequality, comparing 1929 America to today. Here are selections of Gass’ writing:

In the late 1920s, the top 10 percent of Americans possessed 84 percent of the country’s wealth. Since then, wealth inequality in America has followed a U-shaped trajectory, declining through the Great Depression until the mid-1980s, then steadily increasing since then.

Professors Saez and Zucman found that the richest 0.1 percent of Americans [today] have as much of the country’s wealth as the poorest 90 percent. Both groups control roughly 22 percent of total wealth .  .  .

While the bottom 90 percent of Americans and the top 0.1 percent control about 22 percent of the country’s wealth each, the top 0.01 percent of Americans now control 11.2 percent of total wealth. That share of the wealth held by the country’s richest 0.01 percent .  .  .  is the largest share they’ve had since 1916, the highest on record, according to the study.

Wait a second: the study’s authors said that, ”  .  .  .  wealth inequality in America has followed a U-shaped trajectory, declining through the Great Depression until the mid-1980s, then steadily increasing since then.” What do you suppose happened in the 1980s to cause that shift? Could it be trickle-down economics that really only trickles up? Could it also have something to do with blind faith in unregulated free markets, with Adam Smith’s invisible hand blessing only the already wealthy?

Perhaps it’s pleasant to have so much power that one can influence laws and regulations in order to continually expand one’s power and wealth. On the other hand, this is exactly why the Founders abhorred monopoly (it had been forced on them by the Crown) and it is why we passed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1890. “Trust” was what monopolies were called then, and the last time that law was invoked was in 2000 in a case involving Microsoft and its bundling of apps that unfairly restricted competition (Read: put other companies out of business, kept prices unnaturally high and Americans lost jobs). The time it was invoked before that was before Reagan was elected. He refused to use the Act and that hands-off approach and absolute faith in “the market” has led to the enormous roll up of companies in industry after industry, with the result that competition is severely limited and, prices escalate and wealth continues to concentrate in the hands of a very few Americans.

For example, we used to have seven major air carriers in the U.S. Due to mergers, we now have only three. American Airlines just completed the purchase of US Air, claiming that doing so would have no adverse effect on competition. But it is reported that they will be devaluing their Frequent Flyer program in the second half of 2016. And, in a January 29, 2016 conference call, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker explained how American will be increasing revenues by charging more for things like room for your knees and things that they haven’t charged for before. That is to say, now that they own a former competitor, prices are going up.

That’s just one small example of how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer in today’s rigged economy.

Given enough economic jabs, people will become angry, and that Chinese water torture of wealth inequality expansion could lead to something ugly. It certainly has given us a crazy election season, the essence of which was captured by one South Carolina supporter of Donald Trump, who explained, “We’re voting with our middle fingers.”

Things could be worse. Unfortunately, we keep proving that to be true.

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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.

How To Stop Talking Past One Another

I hear you but I'm not listening t-shirtReading time – 3.1 minutes; viewing time – 4:58  .  .  .

Gotta wonder how righties and lefties can stop talking past one another and join in order to start solving some of our vexing challenges. Here’s a key piece of what has to happen if we are to progress. First, some context.

The pundits have consistently been either wrong or clueless about the reasons for Donald Trump’s success at conniving support. Actually, he and all the Republican candidates (with the possible exception of Rand Paul) get righty support for some solid and important reasons.

There are millions of Americans who feel disrespected and forgotten by their government and their country and they are largely correct. For example, we are decades into supply side economics that has abandoned them and stolen their American dream. They have had catastrophic lies shoved down their throats and nobody in power is listening to them. The Republican presidential candidates play up to their anger, telling them they are right and mouthing various forms of “screw you” at government, which is pretty much what all those people want to say to our government. These folks are supremely angry and, like most people who have been wronged, they want to hit back. Here’s a metaphor for that.

Think for a moment of the people you know who have gone through a messy, painful divorce. They lash out irrationally and meanly at the same person they posed with in loving wedding photos just a few years earlier. They run up horrendous expenses and drain the savings just so that it hurts the other, even as their actions hurt themselves. They feel wronged and want to “hit back,” regardless of the price they themselves must pay. Think: people voting against their own interests.

The far right has spent decades demonizing government. Reagan campaigned and won telling us that government is the problem. That Big Lie lives on and now millions more Americans hate their own government and want to cripple it, so they vote for candidates who shut down the government, which curtails services righties themselves want. The Republicans go googly-eyed over national debt and screech their demands for lower taxes and small government (“small enough to drown it in the bathtub”). Then they enlarge government and either raise taxes, increase debt or both. Government isn’t the problem; lying, disingenuous, self-serving politicians are, and righties are way past being fed up with them. Think: hate for insiders and support for outsiders.

These emotionally charged righty voters do not and will not respond to logical arguments because they are consumed by fight-or-flight messages overwhelming their brains. That’s what causes Trump rally attendees to assault protesters, chant “Seig heil!” and wave Confederate banners. Forget about appealing to these folks with talk of compassion. They have to be approached with a message they can hear, so the first step is to find a way for us to hear one another.

We humans make decisions emotionally and justify them rationally. (Read Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence for  more on that.) That’s critical to know, because those angry righties are incensed and, like everyone in such a state, reasoning doesn’t exist for them. It’s not that they don’t want to hear or that they are tone deaf. It’s that they cannot hear.

Perhaps righties can hear that they are being lied to by righty politicians, being sold out yet again. Maybe they can hear that their kids are the ones who are going to die in the desert when the next Republican president decides to invade yet another middle-east country. Tell them that will happen while the politicians’ kids are partying, playing X-Box games of world domination and ignoring those poor and middle class kids bleeding in the sand. That inherent lack of fairness is a powerful message that angry people can hear.

It’s possible righties will respond to hearing that if the Republican politicians have their way and revert healthcare to the way things were, that when these righties get cancer nobody will care. They’ll get minimal help and they will die in pain and way too young. But the pharmaceutical and insurance companies will have made billions off their suffering because the politicians have set it up to work that way.

They’ll really hate it when they learn that Republicans are trashing our education system through funding cuts, so now their kids won’t get an education that helps them to succeed in a vastly changed world. Their kids will live in the Chinese century, because there will no longer be exceptionalism in America. That’s a gut-wrencher for righties.

They, like every human being, make decisions emotionally and justify them rationally, so we have to speak to their gut, first, last and always if we are ever to stop talking past one another.

Just be clear that, because we’re human, you and I function with the same limitations. And we all need to adjust and connect if we are to stop the insanity and begin to fix our problems.

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.

Vice

Reading time – 67 seconds  .  .  .

Happy Columbus Day, as we celebrate some guy who found an island over 500 years ago and we have no clue about the reason we remember and celebrate, a reason which has been lost for over 100 years. It’s just another day off work for some. So, the message today is, “Who cares?” Read on.

The vices of the rich and great are mistaken for errors,
and those of the poor and lowly for crimes.
– Marguerite Gardiner (Lady Blessington)*

And so we jail young black men for possession of a small amount of marijuana, but we allow government torturers to go unindicted.

Banking swindlers foreclosed fraudulently on the home mortgages of millions of Americans, forcing them onto the street and nobody went to jail for fraud or conspiracy. At the same time our legislators cut funds for food stamps that took food from the mouths of millions of kids, as those legislators congratulated themselves on their fiscal prudence. None was held to account for the empty stomachs of poor kids.

Goldman Sachs aggressively and fraudulently sold collateralized debt obligations (“CDOs”) to its clients, while at the same time dumping their own holdings because they knew those CDOs were worthless. No one went to jail for their SEC violations, fraud or conspiracy. They just got a slap on the wrist. Gotta wonder if the absence of Goldman asses in federal prison has something to do with the revolving door between Goldman and the FED.

Adding the $600 billion given to the Pentagon annually to the hundreds of billions thrown at the NSA and the rest, our annual defense spending is about $1.5 trillion, which supports our state of perpetual war, often on the wrong side of other peoples’ conflicts. That’s very profitable for the war matériel manufacturers, for so-called contractors (read: mercenaries) and others. It’s homicidal for people underneath our drone-launched rockets. Clearly, the profiteers care more about their profits than the lives of those they kill, yet no one is held to account.

Our leaders lied us into wars (think: Viet Nam and Iraq), nothing good came of it for the people of those countries or for the US, monstrous bad things happened and none of our leaders has been held accountable for the lying that resulted in millions slaughtered. Then a guy in New York got busted for selling cigarettes illegally, cops strangled him to death and no one called paramedics or attempted to resuscitate him. They just got put on administrative leave for a while. Makes me wonder: Black lives matter, but to whom?

We keep our privately run prisons full of people guilty of not much (sometimes guilty of nothing at all) because it’s profitable for our prison industry and helpful to “tough on crime” politicians. At the same time, the rich and powerful torturers, defrauders and even murderers go free.

Sadly, accountability is applied in inverse proportion to wealth and power.

So, many of the rich and powerful get away with their vice, largely because the laws are made by the rich and powerful; the rest of us are subject to the law. It’s that way in most places, so in this respect, America isn’t exceptional.

But we could be.

So, who cares? If we don’t care enough, things are certain to get worse.

*Thanks to MG for the quote.

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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.

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