tolerance

The Clouds Are Gathering

what-registering-non-christians-looks-likeReading time – 1:57; Viewing time – 3:25 .  .  .

Trump lied? Say it isn’t so!

Actually, Politifact rated Trump 19% Mostly False, 34% False and 17% Pants-On-Fire False, for a total of 70% lies. Yeah, he lied. It’s a habit with this guy.

And he continues to lie. On Friday he claimed credit for ensuring that a Lincoln automobile plant would be kept in Kentucky, preventing the job loss disaster that would have happened if Ford had decided to move the plant to Mexico. That would be great, except that Ford never considered having the plant anywhere but in Kentucky. Trump had absolutely nothing to do with Ford’s decision about plant location. Trumpian dishonesty is a constant and it will take a huge toll on American culture, our people and our safety in the world.

Significant risks will occur when Trump slathers his fatuous dishonesty on foreign leaders. They won’t take kindly to it and the safety of the world will be at risk as he undermines international trust. And we most certainly won’t like it when he lies to us about whatever he agrees to as he fawns over Vladimir Putin.

What will happen to justice in America, which he claims to champion – like the right of every citizen to vote – when Trump makes racist, segregationist Jeff Sessions the attorney general? What will happen to America’s national security, the very same security that he brayed he will be the best at protecting, when Trump picks for his national security advisor hyperbolic Michael Flynn, a retired 3-star general who was forced to retire from the military and from his position as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency because of his flagrantly extremist behavior.

What happens to our freedoms when Trump’s ubermeister, White Supremacist Steve Bannon, starts registering Muslims and rounding up Hispanics to shuttle them off to who-knows-where?

What happens to the climate of the entire planet now that we have a Global Warming Denier in Chief?

People are already being hurt – read the post and comments here and here.

I have been accused of helping to drive the polarization of this country. I don’t know if I’m doing that, but if I am, look for me on the pole labeled, “Facts, Reality and Equal Justice”. I acknowledge that nothing bad has happened yet on the Trump national policy level. On the other hand, the preparations for very bad things to occur are happening in front of us right now and to refuse to see that is self-defeating for this nation; it may be disastrous for our minorities. We need to take action.click-for-ten-ways-to-fight-hate

I’m in discussion with some clergy people about what we can do to address the interpersonal hate that has oozed from slimy places under the fragile rocks of American tolerance.

There is a petition going around now  urging the members of the Electoral College to vote for Hillary, as most are under no legal obligation to vote according to their state’s voting outcomes. Go ahead – click through, sign it and pass this post to your friends urging them to do the same. Make your voice heard.

What else can we do? Put your ideas for action in the Comments section below. Help us all.

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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 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Guest Essay – Prep for The Big Game

Reading time – 2:55  .  .  .

Pam Verner is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating people with addictions. She is compassionate and caring and she is an expert.  She recently penned a clarifying and compelling message and gave me permission to share it with you. Her message is vitally important. Now Pam.

I rarely (actually never) send out group emails—because we all generally get enough. I figure, why take up your time to read yet another email? But this time I decided I wanted to speak and share a video—just this once. This email is particularly for those who are unhappy with Hillary and want to vote third party just to make a statement to the current political parties. This is not the time for that. Here’s why.

First my take—(please know this is based upon my professional training and experience as a psychotherapist dealing with addictions):

Trump behaves and speaks like every addict in the throes of addiction. Please know, I deeply love alcoholics and addicts—and pray for their recovery. But they should never be at the helm of our country when they are held within the throes of their addiction. Someone in the throes of addiction needs help and support to see a better and truer path in life. Whether Trump is currently consuming drugs, alcohol, sex or whatever in an addictive pattern—I truly do not know. However, his thinking and behavior patterns surely resemble what I would call a “dry drunk,” i.e.– a pattern of addictive thinking. And that snorting he does when he is in a debate and appearing to feel somewhat threatened—well, to me that appears he is trying to call upon some sense of “remembered” power before speaking. Notice that he snorts deeply, then speaks. This is also reminiscent of a dry drunk —only perhaps more telling, a “dry drug.”

A hallmark of the mental pattern of addiction is to be caught within the web of “victim/rescuer/perpetrator.” It’s a classic dynamic in my field with which we frequently work. Trump is extremely skillful and intense in engaging with these three dynamic roles. I believe his populist support comes from sounding the rescuer trumpet. When he believes he is being attacked, he sounds the victim trumpet. The inordinate number of lawsuits he has [filed] against others shows how skillful he is in doing victim yet going into perpetrator role. What we are seeing now with the current tapes and female testimony is his perpetrator role.

With Trump, I believe the victim role and the rescuer role are simply covers for his primary pattern of perpetrator. Make no mistake, he is a threat to any vulnerable aspect of our country—our women, our children, our environment, our small businesses, our minorities, our public schools and anything else that does not have the strength to fight. Because that is the simple definition of a predator: A person who exploits vulnerability.

Watch this video of Trump being a predator. He looks as if he is stalking Hillary when her back is turned. That’s one thing a predator does – strikes when backs are turned. This video is both funny and horribly unsettling.

Remember the predator and vote [in] this election. Please do not throw your vote away on any third party.* The stakes are higher in this election than in any other in our history.

Instead, send Hillary to the White House (yes I know for sure she is not perfect). And send Trump to the treatment facility where he can get help to restore his humanity. It must be in there somewhere—it always is.


I will add this:

  1. * You may recall from a couple of my posts about the need to vote for Hillary and not a 3rd party candidate or to abstain from voting. The issue is that every vote that is not for Hillary is a vote for Trump, because it’s one less vote that he has to overcome in order to win.
  2. Watch the video. It’s creepy, but it’s important that you see it. While I was watching the second debate I desperately wanted Hillary to turn around, mid-sentence, and say, “Donald, this isn’t your turn, so go to your chair. I don’t care if you sit or stand, but women don’t like to be stalked.”
  3. Share this with your people, your friends, your colleagues, your neighbors, every Millennial you know or have heard of and even with your crazy Uncle Bill. Link it to your FaceBook page – just use the FaceBook linking button below (blue square with an “f”) and link it to all the other social media you use, too.

THANK YOU PAM VERNER for your professional insight and wisdom and for your courage to speak out!

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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 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

To All Men: It’s About You

Somebody's Mom

Somebody’s Mom

Reading time – 1:43; Viewing time – 3:19  .  .  .

It’s not at all unusual to refrain from contributing to research on, say, Parkinson’s Disease – until your mom’s voice begins to shake and she has trouble getting her hands to do the most ordinary of things.

It’s just human nature to have cared when Malaysia Flight 370 went missing, but it’s likely you went about your day in an ordinary fashion. Unless you had loved ones on that airplane.

And so it is as we react to the revelations about Donald Trump and his sexual assaults. You care, but if it wasn’t you or yours, perhaps you just go about your business.

It wasn’t just the so called “locker room” tape from years ago that made this so awful, because there is now a steady drumbeat of women coming forward and disclosing his lewd, bullying and apparently illegal behavior that harmed them. Women across the country have rejected Trump because of his obvious misogyny.

There have been appeals to men on the grounds that they may have daughters, wives or sisters, so they should be able to relate to this brutality and abhor Trump and his abuses. After all, that would affect them. But that rather misses the mark, because some men don’t have daughters, a wife or sisters. Does that excuse them from the imperative to reject Trump?

Anna Marie Cox said it best after the Trump “locker room” recording was released. She said the obvious, that every man had a mother.

So, to all the men who had a mother: Is being abused by Trump the way you would have wanted your mother to be treated when she was 19 or 25? If she was beautiful, would you have thought that her beauty made her fair game for sexual ambush? Would it have been okay if she had been in the Miss Teen USA contest when she was 15 years old and Trump had walked into her dressing room while she was undressed? Would it have been okay if she had been assaulted by lewd comments as she did nothing more provocative than walk down the sidewalk or show up for work?

Perhaps it has to be that close – it has to affect we humans personally – in order for us to truly feel the empathy and sometimes the outrage we should feel over the undeserved suffering of others. Now, though, you don’t have to be a woman who was leered at or groped or raped or pinned against a wall, nor do those things have to have happened to your daughter, your wife or your sister. You’re not exempt from the imperative to reject Trump, because you had a mother. So, this is personal. This is about you.

Oh, and by the way  .  .  .

When I’m wrong, it’s important that I admit it, and so it is that I offer this ‘fess up.

A while ago I claimed in a post right here that those who support Trump aren’t idiots. They are simply people who are angry over being blown off and abused for so very long and Trump is the voice of their rage. Now, though, we’re told that 27% of American women still support Trump. Clearly, I was wrong. They really are idiots.

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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 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Trump Debate Bingo

Reading time – 87 seconds; Viewing time – 2:42  .  .  .

In a snappy article in the New York Times cleverly entitled, A Week of Whoppers From Donald Trump, authors Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns list a single week’s “.  .  .  blizzard of [Trump’s] falsehoods, exaggerations and outright lies  .  .  .” and then debunk them.

After reading the piece it occurred to me that watching the September 26 debate would be more fun if I were to keep track of the false innuendo and bovine fecal matter that dribbles from Trump’s lips  .  .  .  just to record his prevarication score in Bingo-like fashion  .  .  .  to identify which lies he told the most times in just one 90-minute period.

Given that he was to be just one of the two debate participants, he would be limited to about 45 minutes of blatant deceit possibility, minus the time moderator Lester Holt might use for posing questions and suppressing audience reaction. Surely, not even Donald the Deceiver could rack up a high score in so little time, right?

Wrong.

In a debate where I found Donald Trump to be especially incoherent and non-specific, here are the top scoring Trump untruthables according to our crack CYA News staff:

  1. I was against going into the war in Iraq. He said something like that 4 times. Hard to tell because of his meandering, incoherent rhetoric. He said it other ways, too, which if added to the blatant denials of the truth brings the total to about 8 whoppers.
  2. Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before. He said some form of that approximately two times – sort of. Again, it’s hard to nail this down due to the Trump verbal blizzard of non-sequiturs.
  3. Lots of whoppers vying for third place, like:
    1. ISIS is in more and more places.
    2. I’m all for NATO.
    3. The Iran agreement is one of the great giveaways of all time.
    4. We lose on everything.
    5. “Stop and frisk” wasn’t found to be unconstitutional.

Perhaps things seem hopeless and you feel your sense of dignity and even your sanity assaulted by the Trump blasts of political dishonesty. Well, take heart – there is hope!

Have a look at the newest offering from the Represent.us folks. After watching their highly encouraging video, click through to their website. Then maybe even do something to make things better. I mean, really, that shouldn’t be too hard, since the bar is set so low.

DIRTY STINKING LIES BONUS SECTION:

David Leonhardt heads the New York Times Daily Opinion report and published the following summary of Deceitful Donald’s excursions from reality. There is no link to this in the newspaper, as this material was only offered as the lead article in the email to subscribers immediately following the September 26, 2016 debate.

Dear Times Reader,
He lied about the loan his father once gave him.
He lied about his company’s bankruptcies.
He lied about his federal financial-disclosure forms.
He lied about his endorsements.
He lied about “stop and frisk.”
He lied about “birtherism.”
He lied about New York.
He lied about Michigan and Ohio.
He lied about Palm Beach, Fla.
He lied about Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve.
He lied about the trade deficit.
He lied about Hillary Clinton’s tax plan.
He lied about her child-care plan.
He lied about China devaluing its currency.
He lied about Mexico having the world’s largest factories.
He lied about the United States’s nuclear arsenal.
He lied about NATO’s budget.
He lied about NATO’s terrorism policy.
He lied about ISIS.
He lied about his past position on the Iraq War.
He lied about his past position on the national debt.
He lied about his past position on climate change.
He lied about calling pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers.
He lied about calling women “pigs.”
He lied about calling women “dogs.
He lied about calling women “slobs.”
So… who won the debate?
You can sign up for this daily newsletter, containing commentary and links to The Times’s full daily Opinion report, here.
David Leonhardt
Op-Ed Columnist

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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 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

About Those Deplorables

false

Click the meter to get the fact-checked story on who started the birther insanity.

Reading time – 1:37 seconds; Viewing time – 2:56  .  .  .

I instantly cringed when I heard Hillary say,

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?”

There is a difference between the act (saying something deplorable) and the person (they are deplorable) and my belief is that to condemn the person is to vilify, and that is a deplorable thing to do. So, I’m forcing myself to read between the lines and make a differentiation.

The polls have shown that a very large percentage of Trump supporters are motivated by some form of hate. The white supremacists are the extreme example, of course, but ordinary Americans with strong biases about race, gender identity, religion and national origin practice”othering” and they say and do, well, deplorable things. Like beating up protesters. My blood boils at the hatred of Trump and his cadre of brownshirts and brownshirt wannabees and I struggle to keep my “reject the action, not the person” mindset. In fact, there, I just failed again with the brownshirt comment.

Separating out these people who expressly promote hate, like David Duke, former Grand Peabrain of the Ku Klux Klan, and Alex Jones, Right Wing Village Idiot (and no, I won’t provide links to these two haters), I think a lot of Trump supporters are in his Kampf for far more benign reasons. They are frustrated at being lied to over and over by elected officials. They are suffering because so many good American jobs have disappeared (Fact: a large percentage of jobs are gone because of automation – off-shoring and bad trade deals aren’t the only boogie men). And they have been fed a steady diet of lies and hate from politicians, telling them that others are the cause of whatever their woes might be, all this in the absence of any facts that might be at least tangentially connected to reality.

All that doesn’t make these people innocent. At the very least they are guilty of allowing themselves to be ignorant. In their black and white world, they refuse to allow for the complexities of the world and foolishly insist on simple answers. And they allow themselves to be led by nothing more substantive than bumper sticker slogans.

And they are getting all of that from Donald Trump.

Stretch yourself, though, to allow that in their heart-of-hearts they love America just as much as you do and that they believe in right over wrong and good over bad. If you can do that, then Stephen King can explain our national obsession with delusion in this way:

the-trust-of-the-innocent

Think about that as you watch the debates.

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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 2018 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 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Challenge of 1776

Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress

Reading time – 1:33; Viewing time – 2:39  .  .  .

Actually, they tiptoed up to the Declaration of Independence. There wasn’t a mad rush to shove parchment in King George’s face and everyone was aware of the self-imposed threat to life and property, should they, ”  .  .  .  assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them,” and , ”  .  .  .  declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

Yet they did that, even with only tepid support of some of the states. We are left to deal with that separate and equal station, this collection of individual states – and deal with leaders who now seem destined to continuously knock heads against one another.

Our present lunacy is not without precedent, yet that is scarce comfort, as our politicians frantically race to the bottom of human disgust. Those debating independence during that blisteringly hot summer of 1776 in Philadelphia argued with passion, but they did not pour their energies into rank personal attack devoid of meaning, nor could they have contemplated our politics as snake oil salesmanship.

And here we are, 240 years later, a divided United States.

We all value loyalty, personal independence, toughness, honor, safety, collective pride, respect, fairness, caring, inclusion and more. The sociologists explain that our problem is that we individual humans place different emphasis on those things and that leads to very different behaviors. And each of us is certain that we got it right and cannot fathom how anyone would disagree with us and we are annoyed by and intolerant of the idiots who foolishly don’t see it our way.

Surprise: The Founders had to deal with those same human dynamics. Yet, somehow they managed to create a new and united country.

If they could do that, exactly what is our problem right now?

FranklinGo to your community parade tomorrow and, as the fire trucks, clowns and floats, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops and the politicians vying for your vote pass by, recognize that we’re all feeling our way forward, just as they did in Philadelphia all those years ago. As Benjamin Franklin said to the signers, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

We have big challenges right now, so it’s time for us to hang together.

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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 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Real Problem With America

Reading time – 54 seconds; Viewing time – 2:39  .  .  .

The insults hurled about in what passes for our politics are flagrant judgments that polarize us. As harmful to our republic are the insidious accusations buried in attack speak by those seeking to steal power for themselves.

Just the other day Republican candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL) went on another robotic rant, saying that one of his first acts as president, should he become that, will be to cancel all of the unconstitutional executive orders of President Obama. That, of course, was raw meat dripping blood for his angry followers and it was a great power trip for all. The only problem with it is that President Obama has not invoked a single executive order that is unconstitutional. Not even one. Perhaps Rubio doesn’t like any of them. That’s fine. His declaration of their unconstitutionality is not fine, and for more reasons than that he knows that what he’s saying is not true.

That kind of attack is exactly what puts more gasoline on the fire of distrust in government, which is now at 81%. So, too, are the repeatedly invoked descriptors of incompetent, loser, feckless, unlawful and others. When former senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) was interviewed on MSNBC last week she sneaked in a barb – really an assumptive “everybody knows” comment – about the unlawful Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). It might have been politically useful to make that accusation, but it was just as wrong as Rubio’s false accusation, as Obamacare has been challenged all the way to the Supreme Court repeatedly and with only one narrow exception, has been found to be quite constitutional.

These statements, along with the googly-eyed blathering of talk radio wing nuts are powerful forces for anger, hate, distrust and dysfunction. They represent the Big Lie told so often that people hearing it truly believe the anti-government, anti-anybody who disagrees with them talk. It polarizes our country even more, making it next to impossible for our government and our country to work and even for us to be civil with one another. It incrementally destroys America.

Read David Brooks’ essay The Governing Cancer of Our Time. His explanation is as insightful and powerful as any I’ve seen of the political polarization we’ve endured for at least three decades. Note especially his final point about what all the dysfunction leads to. Then come back here and offer your comments about what we can do to stop us from going further down this self-destructive path.

Late addition to this post: Read Paul Krugman’s piece, Twilight of the Apparatchiks for greater understanding of the institutionalized undermining of government and politics. Click through the despise government link and listen to the audio, too. Prepare to be shocked, but perhaps not surprised. 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.

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

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The System Is Not Supposed to Work

NY Times 12-19-15On December 19, 2015 The New York Times ran an opinion piece by Kevin Baker entitled Political Party Meltdown, which put perspective and a smidgen of clarity to the opaque and toxic swamp that is our Congress. I urge you to read his insightful essay now. Then have a look at the exchange between my friend Dan Wallace and Kevin Baker. Whatever comes up for you in reviewing the words of these smart and informed guys, put them in the Comments section below. Help us all to learn even more. And perhaps the frustration we feel over our dysfunctional and often non-functional government just might abate just a bit.

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Dan Wallace wrote:

Kevin – I loved your essay in the NYT, and I had a thought/question on which I’d love your opinion.

I worked for a moderate Republican senator in the early 80’s (about when I think the shift from 4 “parties” to 2 really started – the Reaganites were very intolerant of anyone to their left). I left Capitol Hill believing that the Founders had intentionally designed the institutions of the Federal government, and especially Congress, to require lots of horse trading because that would ensure that resources were apportioned reasonably fairly over time. It seems to me that it worked beautifully as long as resources were growing, which is all the Founders could have imagined they would do, but that it stopped working around 1975, which is the last year the US ran a trade surplus and therefore, I would argue, marks the point at which the US actually became intrinsically non-competitive in the global economy. Our political institutions simply have no capacity to take things away from people, which is really what they’ve needed to do for 40 years, and so they have behaved in a very distorted fashion. The main form of distortion has been to paper over our lack of competitiveness with massive deficit spending. “Conservatives” (and remember, my instincts are those of a moderate Republican, not a liberal Democrat) don’t like to remember this, but the deficit spending was kicked off in earnest by Reagan. We were running deficits of $50-60 billion/year until the tax cuts passed, at which point they jumped to about $350 billion/year, which is pretty much where they’ve stayed ever since, except for ’98-99 surpluses, and 2008-present, when they’ve been closer to $1 trillion/year. And the latter, I think, can be seen as simply one piece of reckoning for the can having been kicked down the road by institutions (not just people) who intrinsically don’t have the capability to do anything else.

The discourse certainly was much more civil in 1983 than it is now, but my experience tells me that Congress was no better at actually solving a difficult problem then than it is now. It just failed at lower volume.

That’s my 30,000-foot view of how this has played out. I would be REALLY interested to know where you agree and disagree.

Warm regards,

Dan Wallace

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Kevin Baker’s reply:

Dear Dan,

Thanks for reading—and writing.  You make some interesting points. Just some quick reactions to them:

—While I’m hardly an expert on them, I’m not sure that the Founders, for all their virtues, really did foresee a lot of constructive horse trading.  They never seemed that at home with a party system; I sometimes [think] they envisioned high-minded debates in which the overwhelming logic and beauty of their arguments swept all away.  When that situation failed to materialize, they turned immediately to scandal sheets and pistols.

—I don’t think I’d agree that our institutions are incapable of taking things away from people.  I think Americans have a generally good record of sacrifice in times of war, and I would say that decades of generally stagnant incomes mean that many people have had a lot taken away from them. For that matter, the minimum wage still is not the equivalent of what it was in 1968, and didn’t the famous Reagan-O’Neill deal on “entitlements” entail a payroll tax increase on the vast majority of Americans?

—Did the trade deficit really mean we were inherently unable—or less able—to compete in the world economy?

I would question that.  I think the increased competition with the likes of Japan and Western Europe then was generally a good thing, which forced our companies and workers to get better.

But competing with a host of other nations, all over the world, that employed such tactics as using child labor, outlawing unions, banning civil liberties, and erecting tariff barriers?  I think that was, and is, crazy—and also, as I’m sure you know, very much an anomaly in our history.

William McKinley, for instance, would never have contemplated the idea that Americans should have competed against, say, labor from Italy in his time, much less from China.  But now, for some reason, both parties generally embrace it.

—Beyond that, I’d say our economy, and our society, both have deeper structural problems.  My thoughts on this are far from original, but in general I would say that these include doing much too little to support wages for the 70 percent of the population who still do not get a bachelor’s degree; shifting more and more of the tax burden onto the working and middle classes; and so structuring tax codes and financial regulations [such] that, more and more, the best minds of our nation are lured into the mere manipulation of money.

I don’t think most people aren’t sacrificing enough.  Instead, they are in overdrive:  scrambling to work 2-3 jobs, working desperately to send their kids to private schools and universities that charge ungodly amounts of money, and at the same time trying to take care of aged parents who now live longer than ever, with less and less capacity.

It’s a big reason why, I think, the establishment narrative from both parties—work hard, obey the rules, get an education, and you’ll be fine—seems increasingly absurd to them.

Anyway, nice corresponding with you.  Just out of curiosity, which Republican did you work for?  Many in my family were Rockefeller Republicans, and I’ve always had a certain admiration for old Rocky.

All the best,
Kevin Baker

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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 2018 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 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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