understanding

Common Wisdom v2.0


Reading time – 2:50; Viewing time – 3:52  .  .  .

This post has waited a year to be published for the obvious reason that so much craziness occurs constantly that some important things get left behind.

In a May 31, 2017 article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, Why Do The Young Reject Capitalism?, by Warren A. Stephens, the claim was made that our colleges and universities are bastions of lefty-ism that teach our young pups to hate capitalism. The letters to the editor that followed on June 11 were all in agreement, one of them even declaring that our children have been “on the dole” all their lives, so of course they expect others to do the work. It’s all a very tidy package of stereotypes. There’s a palpable self-satisfaction of all the writers pointing fingers at and judging colleges and students who just don’t get the pure perfectness of unfettered capitalism and who are probably harming we who do get it.

But where is the substantiation for the claim that higher education in America is anti-capitalism and teaches our students to be freeloaders? It’s easy to make the sweeping claims, but doing so doesn’t make those claims true, any more than what’s-his-name accusing President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower made his evidence-free claims true.

Young people have always worn their idealism on their shirtsleeves – you did, too – but does their idealism mean that our schools are teaching them to hate capitalism and be bums? That common wisdom may be common but I see no evidence of wisdom. Somebody please show me the unbiased research that justifies such claims. Otherwise, Warren A. Stephens, you can just shut up.

Everyone knows that our popular press is lefty. In a June 17, 2017 piece for the New York Times entitled Notes on A Political Shooting, which was prompted by the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise and security people at a baseball practice, Ross Douthat casually wrote, “But because our centrist elites are actually center-left there is a constant, involuntary tug toward emphasizing what’s wrong on the right-wing side of the spectrum and excusing what’s wrong on the other.” Apparently, those centrist elites are torqued until they’re lefty blue and we are all misled by their slant.

Douthat’s claim of a lefty press is made as a given, and others make that claim, too, but is there any truth to it? Where is the unbiased study that says overall our so-called “elites” – does that mean journalists? – are lefties? It certainly isn’t true at The Wall Street Journal or The Arizona Republic or The Chicago Tribune or The Manchester Union Leader or The Orange County Register, all of which are editorially righty publications, and there are many others. Nearly all of our talk radio is either conservative or extremist right fringe. I’m not convinced of the wisdom of Douthat’s common wisdom. Somebody please show me the research that justifies his claims. Otherwise, Ross Douthat, you can just shut up, too.

The claims of left-leaning anti-capitalism of our colleges, our students and elites are easy to make, but I want someone to substantiate them with actual factual facts. Not an “everybody knows” justification, but empirical data. You know – like science-y stuff. Until then, my wisdom about these claims of common wisdom is that the wisdom part is missing. These are yet another set of stories told over and over until people come to believe the claims, without having any justification that’s grounded in reality on planet Earth.

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Ed. note: I don’t want your money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


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

It’s Us


Reading time – 2:50; Viewing time – 4:09  .  .  .

A recent study has found a most hopeful truth about our country. In The Reinvention of America, James Fallows writes,

Serious as the era’s problems are, more people, in more places, told us they felt hopeful about their ability to move circumstances the right way than you would ever guess from national news coverage of most political discourse. Pollsters have reported this disparity for a long time. For instance, a national poll that The Atlantic commissioned with the Aspen Institute at the start of the 2016 primaries found that only 36 percent of Americans thought the country as a whole was headed in the right direction. But in the same poll, two-thirds of Americans said they were satisfied with their own financial situation, and 85 percent said they were very or somewhat satisfied with their general position in life and their ability to pursue the American dream. Other polls in the past half-dozen years have found that most Americans believe the country to be on the wrong course—but that their own communities are improving.

That’s positive news. So, even as we we snarl at one another over our political craziness and the spittle flies with our snarky certainties about “those others”, in fact we’re doing okay on the local level where we actually engage with one another and recognize our shared humanity. When we’re just folks, most of us seem to be okay together and we’re making our way through life pretty well, which brings us to how that happens.

Mark Rigby is the Assistant Principal for Operations at Niles West High School, a large suburban Chicago school with an astonishing diversity among its student population. The folks charged with the welfare of these students, as at every school in America, are acutely aware of many threats that can shake the stuffing out of everyone. Still, these leaders carry on in the best tradition. Here’s a recent post from Mark. He sent this to the faculty and administrators at NWHS:

In the spirit of sharing, I ran across this memorandum from a Mr. C.J. Price, who was peripherally in charge of Parkland Memorial Hospital during the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and all the ensuing calamitous events that followed. He penned this beauty on 27 November 1963:

“What is it that enables an institution to take in stride such a series of history jolting events? Spirit? Dedication? Preparedness? Certainly, all of these things are important, but the underlying factor is people. People whose education and training are sound. People whose judgment is calm and perceptive. People whose actions are deliberate and definitive. Our pride is not that we were swept up by the whirlwind of tragic history, but that when we were, we were not found wanting.”

We in education have a tendency to fall back on “policy and procedure” when discussing events that take place. As Mr. Price says above, what really matters when the rubber meets the road and the balloon goes up and we are up against it, is you. I read this and thought of Niles West and wish each of you to know the importance of what you contribute each day. We are rarely found wanting, and our students are most fortunate.

I think Mark and Mr. Price are on to something: the critical factor is us.

We are the people who make our neighborhoods and our communities work. We’re the ones who step up and help each other when the hurricane or tornado hits, when another angry, crazy person guns down our innocents or when the creek overflows or a neighbor is ill. To borrow Mark Rigby’s phrasing, we are rarely found wanting when it’s close to home and we are all most fortunate for that.

Many thanks to Mark Rigby for allowing me to share his words.

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Ed. note: I don’t want your money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


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

The 1960s and Now


Reading time – 3:00; Viewing time – 4:24 .  .  .

Times were dark and we were heading down the dismal spiral of the Vietnam war. There was the draft and all the guys knew that we would spend a minimum of two years in the military. It’s just the way things were. And there was a problem with that.

World War II had been a patriotic cause to protect our country and the world from the most evil of all evils. It was a “good war”. Vietnam bore no resemblance to that and not many boomers were anxious to slog through rice paddies and get shot while serving in “Johnson’s war,” a conflict that had no patriotic reason. Most of us felt at risk. Mortal risk.

And that’s what lit the fires of protest, the shouting, the anger, the demonstrations, the confrontations with the establishment. Vietnam simply wasn’t a “good war” and certainly wasn’t worth killing others or dying for. If they wanted boomers to go to war, they needed a much better reason. Let Johnson be the first president to lose a war, we said. Better that than any of us losing our lives for no patriotic reason.

We were agitated. We were engaged. And we were completely misunderstood by older generations who simply couldn’t make sense of us. They wanted to know what all those protest songs were about. Why were we so angry and how come we didn’t do as we were told the way they had? And why didn’t we just abandon our resistance in the face of the titanic force of the way things were?

The answer, of course, is that it was personal. President Johnson was coming for me and he was going to get me killed for no good reason. It doesn’t get more personal than that and that’s the key point.

Like us, the astonishingly clear students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School feel that same mortal risk and they are agitated and they are engaged. They are protesting and they are demonstrating. And, just as for the boomers in the 1960s, it’s personal. They will not go away. They will not be silent. And they will not knuckle under to the titanic force of the way things are.

Here is what politicians better figure out really fast:

  1. This generation gets it and it’s personal and they refuse to wear a bulls eye on their backs.
  2. It isn’t just the students at one Florida high school; it’s every high school and college kid across the nation. If you doubt that, watch for the head count at March For Our Lives on March 24. Better yet, show up.
  3. These kids can and will vote. And don’t dismiss the high school sophomores and juniors: They’ll be voting in the 2020 election.
  4. This generation of Americans will vote in bigger numbers than previous generations and they will outlive all of us. They will get their way.

We boomers had our day, but there were some civil rights advances, the Vietnam war and the draft went away and our fire went out. We became complacent and learned to play the game.

Now, though, our Gen-Zs, like the kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, are politically aware and they are mobilized. So are many of the Gen-Ys. Together, they are the hope for our nation’s future.

President Obama told us in 2008 that, “We are the people we’ve been waiting for.” He was right. And on February 22, just 8 days after the MSD High School massacre he told that entire generation, “We’ve been waiting for you. And we’ve got your backs.” He’s right again.

Memo to politicians: Get on the right side of history or get run over.

Memo to Wayne LaPierre, executive director of the NRA: In your red-fanged address to the CPAC conference you said, “We are never talking about an armed resistance against the socialist corruption of our government.” Was your implied threat intentional?

Just know, Wayne, that as you rail against any and all actions that might actually make our students safer, rest assured that they aren’t advocating armed resistance against you either.

See how personal this gets?

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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 (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 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.

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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.

Picture of a Duck


Reading time – 2:03; Viewing time – 4:09  .  .  .

Fact #1: On January 26 alt-right, anti-Semite, white supremacist advisor to President Trump, Stephen Bannon, told the New York Times that the “elite media” is “the opposition party” and should “keep its mouth shut.”

Opinion: That sounds a great deal like a lightly veiled threat to freedom of the press and has an Orwellian thought police stink to it.

Fact #2: On January 24 Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) spoke on the floor of the House, declaring that President Trump is, “not getting the news coverage he deserves.” Smith said, “The national liberal media won’t print that, or air it or post it,” He continued, “Better to get your news directly from the President. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”

Opinion: That’s a most interesting take on truth, this from the Chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee who denies climate warming (also here) and really isn’t much for science at all. Perhaps he, too, saw the biggest crowds ever on Inauguration Day.

Fact #3: On Holocaust Remembrance Day, President Trump issued a statement that failed to mention Jews or antisemitism (also here), even though in the Holocaust Jews were specifically targeted for extermination. This was the first such Presidential omission.

Opinion: Blowing off the recognizing of the murder of six million people, all of the same religion  .  .  .  an anti-Semite with the President’s ear  .  .  .  what could that mean?

Fact #4: On January 28 President Trump issued an Executive Order banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States and also halting the U.S. refugee program. Trump made it clear that those seven countries were just the start and that there will be more Muslim-majority countries added to the list. He claimed that the ban is for the purpose of protecting the United States against “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Opinion: During his campaign for the Presidency Donald Trump promised repeatedly that one of the first things he would do as President would be to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Attempting such a thing would immediately fail for being in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution, so Trump is using this subterfuge to effect religious discrimination.

Let’s connect the dots. First we’re told to shut up. Then we’re told to get our information only from the President. Then the President snubs Jews and bans Muslims. This is looking very much like the beginning of making the United States an officially white, Christian nation with discrimination, subjugation and humiliation for all others. These dots make a horrific picture.

Using the duck metaphor, if connecting the dots makes a picture that looks like a duck and we then find that it walks like a duck and also quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. But this duck is full of hate.

If you’re up to it, have a look at this post that presents a fair assessment of what is really going on and the grave danger that may be on the way. History tells us that there is something to this. Thanks to SL for pointing me to the blog.

In other news  .  .  .

(read this out loud in your best Walter Cronkite voice)

ALTERNATIVE FACTS UPDATE: Following a weekend of impassioned protests at airports across the nation last weekend against President Trump’s Executive Order effectively banning Muslims from entering the United States, Trump blamed airport delays first on Delta Airlines’ computer problems and also blamed Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) tears. In a statement issued this morning, Sen. Schumer’s tears have denied responsibility for any airport delays and suggested that Mr. Trump couldn’t find reality with two hands and a flashlight.

Trump’s tweets have been scored BIGLY ALTERNATIVE on the Alternative Facts Meter. Kellyanne Conway, official advisor to the President, is reportedly pleased and is said to be smiling, as well as continuing to talk constantly, but without addressing any question posed to her.

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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.

Herbie


Reading time – 1:47; Viewing time – 3:45  .  .  .

NOTE: WordPress is the utility I use to craft and offer these posts and it has gone mad. It is misbehaving in strange and limiting ways, which accounts for why this post is late, why there isn’t much in the way of pics in this offering, as well as why there may be typos, irregularities and writing that looks like something from my iPhone, whicno-place-forh often prints whatever comes into its silicon brain.

We were proud and humbled to participate in the Women’s March in Chicago on January 21, along with 250,000 others locally (they had been expecting just 20,000) and 3,500,000 people around the world. It’s curious that so many non-Americans were so interested – invested, really – that they would give up a day to demonstrate over what is happening here.

yes-we-canThere are reasons why so many demonstrated, so get this: We must stand up and be counted. Then we must do it again. And again and again. We must make our voices heard. Our elected officials must feel the hot breath of our collective voices so that they ignore us at the peril of loss of their jobs.

Get this, too: This (the marches) is what democracy looks like when people see tyranny on the way. Look for more pictures of the Chicago march as soon as WordPress fully comes to its senses.

On to today’s (Sunday’s, really) opinion piece.

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the-goalIn Eliyahu Goldratt’s book The Goal the author depicts a troop of Boy Scouts on a long march. One of the boys – Herbie – is overweight and soon has to slow down, unable to keep up with the rest of the boys. Given that the boys must stay together, the entire troop can march no faster than the speed which Herbie can maintain. That is to say, Herbie is the primary constraint for the troop of Boy Scouts that precludes completing their march and going for a swim sooner.

Thus, Goldratt introduces the Theory of Constraints. It’s a most useful scientific approach to problem solving, finding root causes and optimum solutions, strategic planning and more based upon identifying and dealing with the lowest performing factor. And, entertainingly, analysis and planning can be done with a pen, a pad of sticky notes and a wall.

I participated in a two week course to learn to do this kind of analysis along with a half-dozen colleagues several years ago and came away with an elegant plan for my business and several profound revelations, one of which is that I’m more of a big picture guy and not so much a detail guy. That was both useful and painful to realize. Nevertheless, I learned that whatever the endeavor, there is always a Herbie, a constraint that prohibits further improvement and it is the pinch point that must be dealt with first if things are to get better.

That leads me to wonder what our national Herbie is right now. You may be tempted to say it’s Donald Trump, but that might be both of little value and factually incorrect, because something put Donald Trump into the White House. Something created the political polarization in which we live and something created the problems we refuse to deal with. It is the key challenge to us in moving forward.

If you agree that we are well short of where we could and should be, I offer this question to you: What is our national Herbie? What is the key constraint that prevents us from having a healthy democracy? Give this some thought and pen your ideas in the Comments section below.

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

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

 


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

Danger – There’s Bad Stuff Coming


New York Times, April 9, 1944

New York Times, April 9, 1944. Click the graphic to download the full article as it appeared.

Reading time – 2:55; Viewing time – 5:35  .  .  .

We need a good and optimistic start for the new year. That message is for next week. Let’s first establish in a blinding flash of the obvious and in a compelling way why we need that good and optimistic start.

You don’t need a pundit, a pol or a blogger to tell you that American institutions are at risk and look shaky. There is bad stuff staring us in the face in so many venues and there is a chance you’ve wondered how bad it can get. The answer is, very bad. Here are some examples.

Under the ultra-thin, see-through veil of ensuring decorum, Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House and beloved Republican brainiac, the proposer of changes to Medicare and Social Security that he says don’t privatize those programs, except they really do, has proposed banning live streaming and photos from the floor of the House. This comes as a knee-jerk reaction to Republicans having been sucker punched by Democrats who demanded an up or down vote on universal registration of sales of firearms. Ryan ignored them and they responded witih a sit-in. Ryan tried to quash the event by closing the House session, which turned off the CSPAN cameras, but smart phone live streaming foiled his attempt at abridging free speech. Now Ryan and Republican hissy-fitters want to further restrict speech by fining Democrats and perhaps telling their mommies on them. Start thinking about abridgement of rights and be clear that practice will extend to your rights.

President Elect Trump notoriously retweeted hate group tweets and offered mealy mouthed responses to calls that he repudiate hate groups. During his campaign rallies he repeatedly called for protesters to be beaten up and demeaned them as though they were sub-human. He continues to refuse to repudiate hate groups and has brought Steve Bannon, alt-right hater of all things not white and anyone not worshiping male dominance, to be his chief strategist. Oh, and he wants to deport 11 million Hispanics and register Muslims. Start thinking discrimination and scapegoating.

Trump has hired lunatic fringe Mike Flynn to be his National Security Advisor. This is the same Mike Flynn who retweets phony stories and conspiracy crap, one example of which motivated North Carolina resident Edgar Welch to drive from his home to DC to invade a pizza parlor, believing he was rescuing sexually abused children from the basement. He believed that because Mike Flynn brainlessly retweeted the bogus story. The good news is that the bullets Welch fired into the floor of the pizza restaurant didn’t hurt anyone. The bad news is that Mike Flynn, the fool who didn’t have the sense not to retweet this blatantly false story, is and will be advising the new president on when and where to use America’s military might, including nuclear weapons. Start thinking about military adventurism giving rise to horrific catastrophes.

There are many more examples of the democracy killing efforts underfoot, including Trump’s ridiculing and criticizing of the press so that you won’t find credence in reports from investigative journalists who report on Trumpian malfeasance.

To bring this to a focus, let’s check in with President Franklin Roosevelt’s Vice-President, Henry Wallace. He knew something about the harm that authoritarian regimes do to democracy and the world and has agreed to speak to you from his day and explain this fully and clearly. Click here to download a PDF copy of his comments as originally published in the New York Times on April 9, 1944. Click here to download a highlighted, easier to read version. Read it, especially the highlighted parts and you just may see a parallel between then and now and you’ll begin to realize just how bad the bad stuff we’re facing really is.

No one knows who said it first, but it’s often attributed to Sinclair Lewis:

When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.

appoint-merrick-garland

Click me and sign the petition – because you can fight fascism right now.

Fascism? In America? Do the reading. Do an online search of fascism in America. The alarm rang a while ago, the snooze button is broken from our banging on it, hoping the alarm would go away and we all have to wake up.

I’ve heard it said and am beginning to believe that we are one or two ISIS-related terrorist attacks in America away from Mr. Extremist, everything in the false language of unearned greatness President Trump declaring martial law and suspending civil liberties. Just look at those he surrounds himself with, consider his absolutist, power-grabbing, self-congratulating nature, factor in his pathologically thin skin and the retaliatory abuse he heaps on innocent people. This just doesn’t look good for our nation.

If you had already caught a glimpse of this you likely have wondered what can be done and who will stand up to the bullies. Start with this: It’s up to us.

In addition, both some help and some hope are on the way and will be in the next post. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, it’s your turn now – in the Comments section below.

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

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


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

Whitefish, MT – Guest Essay


whitefishReading time – 2:54  .  .  .

An email addressed to our family from my travel writer, Montana native, daughter-in-law Wendy arrived and it was so shocking and important that I asked permission to post it here as a guest essay. You may know what’s going on in Whitefish, MT, but it’s unlikely that you’ve heard about it on such a personal level. Read on. It’s important.

I don’t know if you’ve read the headlines lately, but there’s some super disturbing news happening right now in Whitefish, MT—the town that Scott, the boys and I will be visiting next month (and where Pop just visited). Richard Spencer, the leader of the alt-right white supremacist movement, has targeted Jews in the area. The town is horrified and standing together—they’ve held packed town hall meetings to re-read the anti-discrimination laws and have done everything they can to support the local businesses that are most affected and targeted by racism. Spencer’s mom owned a building of businesses and she said that her business was affected by her son’s activities and she now is forced to sell, which Spencer is using against the Jews in Montana—it’s sick. Read these articles:

Think Progress

CNN Video [There are several videos on the page. Wait for Gary Tuchman’s Whitefish piece to load.]

LA Times

This terrifies me to my core, especially because I was born and raised in Montana and I feel so bad for the open minded and openhearted majority of Montana locals who are dealing with this. The scary thing is that this dirt bag, emboldened by Trump, has decided to run as an Independent and already has a platform: Montana First. Isn’t this what most of us feared with a Trump presidency? The trolls are coming out from under the bridges and are showing themselves. It’s up to us to support and become activists for what’s right. Missoula, MT (the biggest town near Whitefish) has started a “Light in Every Window” campaign and I think everyone, Jews or not, should stand up and show solidarity, across the nation by putting menorahs in our windows. Also, visit the Love Lives Here in the Flathead Valley site to show support for the Whitefish locals.

And, if you think that what happens in one small town in northwest Montana doesn’t affect you, you’re wrong—this hate mongering is happening everywhere and it’s growing. We need to stand up for our brothers and sisters who are being discriminated against.

When I asked Wendy if I could post her comments, here’s how she responded:

Of course.

I’m so disturbed and sad. The hate groups are growing exponentially and I really feel like non-Jews and non-people-of-color need to stand up and SHOUT, “THIS IS NOT OK.” Whitefish has known about Spencer for years and they’ve stayed quiet until Spencer grew emboldened by Trump and became louder. Now, this little picturesque town is getting torn apart by the attention and association with this dirt bag. I’m proud of the people I know who live there and of this little town that could, but I fear that it will harm them beyond repair.

I also feel like my job of visiting and writing with the purpose of tourism is more important now than ever. The majority of Whitefish residents don’t feel this way [like Spencer]. The majority believes in love and diversity and community.

My pal Brian Muldoon is an attorney and mediator living in Whitefish and he keeps his finger on the pulse of the town, so I asked for his comments about what is happening there. He wrote, “And the people of Whitefish are NOT deeply divided about this, as some media have reported. It’s Richard Spencer v. Everyone Else.” That’s reassuring. What is not as reassuring is that, as Brian notes, it’s very hard to shut down the trolls and the haters, in part because they have a First Amendment right to spew their hatred – plus, they revel in the publicity.

It’s important that you understand that this is not just an intellectual, “Oh, that’s interesting” exercise. Brian just advised that the FBI has sent one Whitefish family into hiding. They only do that when there are credible death threats.

Hatred has consequences. For some valuable context, read Brian’s short essay, Why Racism Matters – just click the title to download the PDF.

Do you imagine this is an isolated case of hatred? It isn’t. Here’s yet another independent, ongoing tally of hate crimes, with the Whitefish situation detailed second on the list.

Simply watching in horror is what allows the scourge of hatred to expand. Silence is not an option. Do as Wendy implores: Stand up and, “SHOUT, ‘THIS IS NOT OK.'”

  • ————————————-

    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.

Eye Opening


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

A Reflecting Sphere


Hand with Reflecting Sphere, M.C. Escher, 1935

Hand with Reflecting Sphere, M.C. Escher, 1935

Reading time – 1:31; Viewing time – 3:00  .  .  .

What do you suppose the reflection in Escher’s sphere would look like to Donald Trump, were he holding it? Surely, he would describe the image with superlatives, but that’s neither useful nor is it new information; neither is it important.

The far more important question is what would we, the American people, see were we to hold Escher’s reflecting sphere? Would we see ourselves steeped in democracy and freedom? How about liberty and justice for all? What about freedom of speech and of the press and freedom of and from religion? Are we a people who love peace and believe war is the last and worst option? Do we still reach out our hand, saying, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”? And do we still tell those looking to us as their last best hope, “I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”? We have a Declaration of Independence, a Constitution and a Statue of Liberty that say that we should see those things as we look at ourselves.

But what if some of us aren’t exactly like “us”? What if they don’t speak English yet or are sleeping on a sewer grate for warmth this winter? What if the brains of some are a bit scrambled because their mothers were druggies while they were pregnant? What if some have lived nearly all their lives in this country, they were good students and helped the high school basketball team win and America is the only country and culture they know, but they and their parents were born in Guatemala and entered this country illegally? Do these other “us” people deserve liberty and justice for all and the rest?

In point of fact, we don’t agree about that and quite a bit more and it gets even more complicated when we’re angry or afraid and need to feel muscular.

The challenge before us now and extending far into the future is to find the things that unite us instead of finding things that divide us. The challenge is to stop racing to judgment about those who don’t agree with every nuance of belief we hold, to stop knee-jerk demonizing others as stupid or ignorant, hateful or unpatriotic. The challenge before us is to start asking questions, seeking to understand, rather than trying to cram our views down anyone’s throat, because that cramming guarantees unnecessary conflict.

Get over your certainties and I’ll get over mine and perhaps, in some future with a bit more hope in it we can find a way forward that has room for all of “us” and we see in that reflecting sphere the things that unite 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.

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.

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