will of the people

Placating the Haters

Reading time – 1:38 seconds; Viewing time – 2:19  .  .  .

Click for the story and video on CNN

The recent massacre in Charlottesville, Virginia brought out the worst of Donald Trump – again. Here’s coverage from CNN quoting Trump’s speech:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” Trump said during a short statement from his private golf club in New Jersey. “It has been going on for a long time in our country — not Donald trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.”

The President did not mention white nationalists and the alt-right movement in his remarks, and later called for a “study” of the “situation.” [emphasis added]

Once again Trump failed to apply the words “racist” and “racism” and “antisemitism” and”bigotry” and “violence” solely to the white supremacists, where it belongs. Once again he has failed to call out the haters, except this time he made them sound as though they’re equivalent to those who object to and protest the hatred. Yes, he equated those protesting hate with a murderer in a silver Dodge Charger and the skinheads across the street.

Trump has claimed that he’s the least racist person you’ve ever seen, but he discriminated against blacks in his New York buildings. He was happy to have David Duke’s endorsement and had to be pressured into disowning it. He’s called Mexicans rapists and tried to exclude all Muslims from America. Perhaps it’s his bigotry that causes him to issue mealy-mouth, disingenuous statements about those who harm innocents who aren’t of Christian European ancestry.

Or maybe it’s because this president’s ratings are in the tank – he only has support from 37% of Americans – his “base” – and he can’t afford to lose any more popular support, so he continues to placate the haters. That is to say, once again, he’s made it all about Trump, the president with absolutely no sense of morality and no purpose other than self-aggrandizement, all this as our people bleed in the street.

In Other News

*Reuters is reporting that President Trump is removing white supremacist, alt-right groups including the KKK, Aryan Nation and neo-Nazis from the national terror watch list. Read the report all the way down to the chart, where you’ll see that these domestic terrorist groups are twice as likely to commit violence in America as al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists.

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

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

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

Figure It Out

Reading time – 3:57; Viewing time – 6:38  .  .  .

We have yet another edition of the interpretation game, “I think what the President meant was  .  .  .” His “fire and fury” ad lib has spawned no end of pols, politicians and pundits pretending they can get into the President’s very unusual brain and interpret his most recent inane statement, trying to make rational sense of Trump’s irrationality. Listen for the interpretation game words following his next tweet designed to take the focus off the investigation into his possible collusion with the election hacking Russians. Those who take the bait and respond to his 140-character stupid stuff will use the exact words, “I think what the President meant was  .  .  .” That’s the moment you’ll know that listening further is a waste of your life.

It’s so sad that the President of the United States requires so much interpretation and guesswork in order to have any hope of understanding his meaning. Actually, it’s far worse than that. Be sure to read through to the last section of this post for the existential implications.

Thom Hartmann recently asked a question on his radio show, inquiring of callers whom they would prefer as President, Donald Trump or Mike Pence. In this era of expected impeachment, that was a thought provoking question and some interesting views emerged. Here’s my short list:

Donald Trump:

He is a non-stop chaos creator and his actions are dangerous for us and for the world.

Trump’s dalliances with non-reality are an impediment to solving our national problems.

Under the spell of Stephen Bannon, Trump is working to “bring the establishment crashing down,” which means he wants to eliminate much of what we think of as good things, like education, the environment, healthcare, our fundamental functions of government, the press and more.

There is a danger that we’ll become weary of Trump’s crazy and destructive behavior and stop paying attention. That’s when the really bad stuff will happen.

Trump is incompetent enough to start a nuclear war.

Mike Pence:

He’s a serial liar.

Pence wants to make the United States of America a Christian theocracy. Forget about whether you like the idea; it’s unconstitutional. And you better hope he isn’t an Armageddon crazy.

When Pence was Governor of Indiana he was proud to discriminate against the LGBTQ community as though doing so were somehow constitutional. He is holy unhinged.

I have no basis for saying this, but I think it’s possible that Pence has enough competence to avoid nuclear war. But that’s just a guess.

What all of that and more means is that neither Trump nor Pence is a good choice. Still, impeachment will happen before January 20, 2019 (my best guess) – or Trump will resign so that he can declare he’s a victim, proceed to demonize his detractors with scathing tweets and otherwise lie constantly and have his signature temper tantrums.

On the other hand, should Trump somehow escape the Mueller noose, he may run again in 2020 and will obliterate Pence the same way he did “Little Marco”, “Low energy Jeb” and “Lyin’ Ted”. Try these for Trumpian slime-names:

“Plastic Pence”

“Boring Mike”

“Do nothing Mike”

“Back-stabbin’ Mike”

“Drop the Mike”

It’s unlikely you’ll actually have to choose between Trump and Pence. Nevertheless, weigh in with your view of these very flawed characters in the Comments section below. Which one would you prefer in the West Wing? Note that “Choice E, None of the above” is not an option for this exercise.

In Other News  .  .  .

The healthcare craziness in Congress has quieted, but the issue is not settled. To understand where We The People see this, have a look at the Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll of August 11, 2017. Here’s one of the charts from this most interesting report.There is much to learn from the poll and this chart highlights one of the key points. Note the resistance among Trump supporters to making the ACA work. It’s that consistent 30-something percent of Americans who back Trump no matter how wacky, insulting or dishonest his behavior. Meanwhile, a significant majority of Americans now like the ACA and want its weak points fixed.

Congress: Do you hear us?

And finally  .  .  .

President Trump has flexed his ego muscles by threatening Kim Jung-un and North Korea. He’s done that using inflammatory, belligerent language much like a schoolyard bully. Trump never backs down, regardless of how obvious it is that what he has done is counterproductive or dishonest, so instead of finding a way for diplomacy to work, he has instead suggested that his threats may have been, of all things, too mild. All of his chest thumping has been done in the total absence of any direct diplomacy. There are no talks underway with North Korean officials. We have no means of dialogue with them. We don’t even have an ambassador to South Korea because Trump has refused to appoint one.

The President’s in-your-face behavior is happening in this context of no possibility for diplomacy, which leaves few choices to Kim Jung-un. Trump has backed him into a corner where if he caves in to Trump’s threats, he will lose face on the international stage. He just may feel that there is more honor and ego protecting in striking out militarily and causing millions to die, rather than to cave in to the American tough talker. All those deaths will occur because of Trump’s self-imposed limitation that our only international negotiating tool is military force.

And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who refuses to recruit a full and capable diplomatic team, tells us to sleep well. Good luck with that.

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

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

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

Plumbing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apologies to all for my tasteless metaphor.

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

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

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

Separation Anxiety

Reading time – 3:29; Viewing time – 4:50  .  .  .

We long ago decided that the First Amendment limitation declaring clearly that, “Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” no longer meant “separation of church and state.” Back in 1956 our enemy was the godless Soviet Union, so we proved we were holier than they were by turf-grabbing God and stamping “In God We Trust” on our currency and any other place the ink would stick. That was far more chest-puffing than the emotionless E Pluribus Unum, which actually had served us well as the motto of the U.S. since 1782. We sure showed those commies something.

The problem, of course, is that there are millions of Americans who don’t trust in the God envisioned by the red-baiters of the 1950s and who should have been protected from that Yoda-phrased motto by the clear implication of the First Amendment. It had long been interpreted as not just freedom of religion, but also freedom from religion.

Fifty years later that didn’t matter to George W. Bush, who promoted public support of religion through what he called “faith-based initiatives.” Translation: Give public tax money to churches. Sadly for the Constitution, that worked – Bush and the Bible thumpers won that round, too.

And they’re winning more ground still. Just this month the Supreme Court decided that public funds could not be withheld from a Missouri religious school which needed to repave its daycare playground surfaces. Once again that means pubic tax dollars will be going to a church.

Betsy DeVos is the latest in the string of would-be reformers of education who just doesn’t get it. She has never attended a public school, having always been in the silver spoon club, nor so much as served on a public school board, so she really has no knowledge of the purview of her department of government. In her educational myopia she thinks that privately owned charter schools and parochial schools are the answer to the problems our education system is facing. Said another way, De Vos wants to give billions of dollars of public tax money to church-owned, church-run schools. In this era of fuzzy-brained legislators and a loud evangelical section of the citizenry, she just might get away with that. Doing so won’t meet our educational challenges, but it will further erode the separation of church and state.

The undermining of the Bill of Rights goes in other directions, too. President Trump wants to revamp our libel laws so he can sue the press whenever he doesn’t like their coverage of him. He publicly demeans and attacks the press, nearly always without justification, so that now our approval of the very people who hold public officials accountable including the President is down to less than one-third. How long do you suppose it will be until the press gets muzzled by an autocratic boot crushing the First Amendment guarantee against the abridgement of freedom of the press?

The moral of this story is that our rights were a very good idea, but only for a while, and they’re no longer rights at all. Many far righties are pushing for a Constitutional Convention so they can remake our entire national framework to their liking. Who do you suppose you’ll run into as you follow the money to learn who will benefit from the abandoning of our rights, the elimination of environmental protections, the shedding of food and pharmaceutical oversight and the denial of climate change? You can trust that it’s the usual suspects, the ones with the very deep pockets. The rights and protections these extremists seek to destroy are no longer even a speed bump on the road to discarding the Constitution entirely.

Frighteningly, we may not be able to count on many of our elected officials to stop that. David Frum clearly outlines the peril in this piece. And former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul makes clear that we cannot count on the President to protect us, either. Former Treasury Secretary Laurence Summers agrees.

With our Republican legislators each scrambling to be the last one to find a spine, the 2018 election looks to be of even greater importance than was the election in 2016. Those of us who continue to believe that the Bill of Rights is a really good thing for America and Americans have our work to do.

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

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

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

Clarity From a Choir

Reading time – 3:57; Viewing time – 5:13  .  .  .

It’s an amateur choir, but the sound these folks make is stunning. They performed for years under the leadership of their much beloved director, who died suddenly and unexpectedly.

The search for a new director began and they found an interesting guy. He and the board came to a decision about a new vision for the choir, deciding that rather than being solely about music there was a grander service for them to provide. That vision laid clear the path forward.

Everyone in the choir auditioned to remain and, although it was hard to do, some were asked to leave. They simply couldn’t clear the performance bar necessary for the vision of the future.

And it’s working, because the choir is even better than before. Answering the “What do we want?” question first made the “How can we improve?” question easy to answer.

That’s the point. There must be a vision of a better future in order to make sound decisions about how to solve problems and overcome challenges. The test is always about which choice best moves us toward what we want, that better future.

David Brooks writes in his June 27 piece, The G.O.P. Rejects Conservatism, “The current Republican Party has iron, dogmatic rules about the role of government, but no vision about America.”

For example, Republicans chant the mantra “small government, low taxes,” which sounds appealing and which they have never practiced at the federal level in my lifetime. More important, that mantra only describes the government they want. It’s a tactic for something, but they never say what that is.

Now let’s get to the other side of the aisle.

The Democrats can’t seem to articulate much of anything about a vision for America, either. Like the Republicans, they are clear about certain issues. For example, there seems to be a consensus about health care being a right of all Americans, but that isn’t a description of a vision for a better America. It’s a tactic to accomplish something. What does that better America look like according to the Democrats?

Once we Americans agree on what we want, then a sensible discussion can begin about how to achieve that. Absent a vision, we wind up squabbling over individual issues with no concept of how or whether the various tactics help move us toward that vision.

I still like the Jeffersonian statement in the first few sentences of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Do we as a nation still hold those truths to be self-evident? If that’s the vision, then the solutions to our challenges must be measured against that vision. Honestly, I never hear a discussion that sounds even remotely that grand, yet that is what is needed if we are to get beyond selfish squabbling and solve our very complicated challenges.

Let’s take this one step further.

What if the people now in charge have a very different vision for the future of America than you do? What if you’re being played right now to benefit those holding the reins? Don’t imagine this as a propeller hat notion, because that happens regularly around the world and right here in America, too. For example, while we were grieving over 9/11, George W. Bush used that tragedy as an excuse to invade Iraq and get draconian, un-constitutional laws passed in order to spy on you.

To flesh this out more clearly, have a look at Naomi Klein’s work on governments using public shock to advance their power grabbing. Here’s a link to her short video. Watch it when you think your bones can tolerate being rattled.

Rachel Maddow almost got punked by government-planted fake news last week. This is really sneaky stuff – your government planted fake news in her inbox in order to discredit the press in general and Maddow in particular when she aired the lies. Perhaps they did that because she’s been steadfast in reporting on the Russian hacking story. Had Maddow taken the bait of that fake Top Secret document, the Discreditor-in-Chief would have railed against the press and we would likely be left with one less watchdog over government at a time when we need all the members of our press A-team suited up. Here’s a link to the reporting.

Both the Maddow and Klein pieces bear heavily on a vision for America and you likely won’t like the vision these pieces point to. For more on this read Seth Abramson’s Twitter string and you’ll understand more fully how compromised America’s future is becoming.

Many thanks to C. H. for pointing me to these pieces.

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

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

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

The Magician

Reading time – 2:41; Viewing time – 3:59  .  .  .

Preface: This is being recorded on the 4th of July, a day for pancakes in the park, a parade, picnics and barbecue and, of course, fireworks. There is much to celebrate in the red, white and blue.

At the same time we have challenges – you could call them opportunities to form a more perfect union. The biggest one of all, though, isn’t about that more perfect union; it’s about whether we will have a union at all. That is the focus of this offering.


Spoiler alert: Magicians don’t do magic.

They don’t make something vanish or appear by supernatural means and the lady doesn’t get sawed in half. Instead, they fool us by getting us to pay attention to something they’re doing right in front of us while at the same time and out of sight they are crafting the part that really matters. That is to say, what they do directs our focus so that we don’t pay attention to what is critically important. That accurately describes what Donald Trump does every day.

He is the best in the world at creating distractions so that we don’t look at what’s most important. He tweets flamboyant personal attacks, makes idiotic claims and acts like a 10-year-old brat on the playground. He lies about easily provable facts and when he’s caught lying he doubles down on his lies. He publicly contradicts the people in his own administration. He promises to abandon our allies, sucks up to vicious autocrats and threatens world stability.

As dangerous as all of his stupid stuff is, it’s actually a collection of distractions this magician is using to keep us from focusing on the one existentially important issue: Russia is taking control of the United States of America.

Seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies have declared unequivocally that the Russians hacked the DNC, John Podesta and voter databases in at least 20 states. They used Wikileaks to make public some emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s prospects, thus enhancing Trump’s chances of winning. They micro-targeted innocent Americans with fake news in order to influence them to vote against Hillary and for Trump. Were any of this a physical assault instead of virtual, it would be a Russian invasion of our country with enemy troops storming our shores and darkening our skies.

Here’s the critical piece: It’s just short of 6 months into the Trump administration and Donald Trump has done absolutely nothing to investigate, sanction or even acknowledge the Russians’ actions. NOTHING!

Instead of protecting the security, integrity and sovereignty of the United States, Trump has fired the FBI director.and he’s threatened to fire the independent counsel investigating Russian hacking. Get that we’ve been attacked and the President of the United States, whose paramount function is national security, has tried to impede the investigations of the attacker and otherwise just sits on his hands refusing to protect our country.

The July 4th flag waving is over and it’s time to acknowledge that there has been a coup in America. Have a look at Keith Olbermann’s comments here and here about this. Then lean hard on your senators and representative to take action to preserve and protect our country. Tell your family and friends to join you on the streets. Otherwise, there won’t be a sovereign United States of America and we can kiss the American dream good-bye.

This isn’t a Republicans versus Democrats, conservatives versus liberals issue. This is a test of patriotism. Don’t flunk this one.

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

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

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

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get to work.

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

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Answer

Reading time – 3:21; Viewing time – 5:17  .  .  .

We questioned with bi-partisan wonder whether we could appear to the world any dumber than when George W. Bush was  president, as he declared, “Rarely is the question asked, ‘Is our children learning?‘” He was the “decider” (#7 in the text; and watch the video at the bottom) and the one who inappropriately gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel an unrequested back rub. He is the war president who wanted to be a war president but then claimed he didn’t want to be a war president. He confused our allies all over the world.

al Qaeda attacked us on 9/11, so we sent our special forces after them. We cornered the bad guys at Tora Bora. Then Bush gave orders that allowed them to get way. Then we attacked Afghanistan. Then we attacked the Taliban, neither of which attacked America at all. Then we attacked Iraq and unraveled the entire middle east. Could it get any dumber or any worse?

Then Barack Obama came along and neither Republican nor Democrat worried that he would say or do dumb things, embarrass the United States and undermine world order. He restored our diplomatic corps and told the world that America was ready to lead once again. There is plenty of room to disagree with his policies, but nobody thought he would do something dumb and compromise America’s place in the world or its safety.

Text Message to President Trump

Now we’re living in the Donald Trump world of chaos. He has insulted our allies around the world and given comfort to our most dangerous adversary. He has tweaked the nose of a nuclear dictator and now Trump has cynically reneged on the United States’ commitment to the Paris Climate Accord. He has done that even as the world’s largest polluter, China, is focusing on clean energy and an end to burning coal. Why are we relying on China to show us the way and be the technology leader in energy? To make China great again?

In a stunning article in The Atlantic, David Frum, no lefty flag-waver himself, issued a brutal assault on Donald Trump’s world leadership.

“Perhaps the most terrifying thing about the Trump presidency is the way even its most worldly figures, in words composed for them by its deepest thinkers, have re-imagined the United States in the image of their own chief: selfish, isolated, brutish, domineering, and driven by immediate appetites rather than ideals or even longer-term interests.”

Frum finishes,

“Under the slogan of restoring American greatness, they are destroying it. Promising readers that they want to “restore confidence in American leadership,” they instead threaten and bluster in ways that may persuade partners that America has ceased to be the leader they once respected—but an unpredictable and dangerous force in world affairs, itself to be contained and deterred by new coalitions of ex-friends.”

We now have the answer to whether things could get dumber or worse following Bush. They could and they have.

Which brings us to the political manipulation of healthcare.

Morning Rounds, published by The Boston Globe, is a daily compendium of what’s going on in the healthcare industry. It’s a freebie publication and I recommend it to you if you want to keep your finger on the pulse of healthcare in America. Subscribe here.

On May 31st Megan Thielking wrote:

“Senate GOP leaders are still working away on a new draft repeal and replace plan, and a new poll out this morning gives lawmakers an idea of what the public would like to see happen. Roughly one-quarter of the public wants to see the Senate make minor tweaks to the AHCA, with another quarter saying they’d like to see big changes, according to the new Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Another 30 percent say they don’t want to see the Senate pass the bill at all. The chief concerns among those who don’t like the AHCA as-is: the cost of health care, the ability to get and keep insurance, and the quality of care they’re able to receive.”

I’ll add that 23 million Americans are terrified they’ll have no healthcare at all.

Last and on a more hopeful note, Cubs president Theo Epstein gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Yale, this year. Referencing the moving message of Chicago Cub Jason Hayward in the locker room during a rain delay late in the 7th game of the 2016 World Series, Epstein offered this to the graduates:

“And, finally, when things go really, really wrong — and then when it rains on top of everything else — I ask you to choose to keep your heads up and come together, to connect, and to rally around one another, especially those who need it the most. It is likely to uplift you all.”

Words to live by in these challenging times.

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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

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

Not Knowing

Reading time – 4:15; Viewing time – 6:10  .  .  .

It takes time to sort through the chaos and begin to see what is truly there. George Will at last did exactly that and explained it in his column of May 3rd, when he wrote of President Trump, ”  . .  .  the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something.”

We humans are profoundly uncomfortable with not knowing. We make up stories in a nanosecond to fill voids in our understandings and you’ll find yourself doing it many times a day if you know what to look for. For example:

  • You’re driving down the highway when the car in the next lane suddenly swerves into your lane, cutting you off. There’s a good chance you’ll be yelling something like, “Idiot!” just as though you actually know something about the other driver’s mental limitations. But it’s just your fantasy.
  • or
  • Your high school age kid has a curfew of midnight and it’s 1:15AM. She’s not home and there’s been no phone call. Do you think, “Gosh, I’ll bet she’s having a great time at the party”? Not a chance. You’re reaching for your phone and wondering where to call first, the police or the hospital. Either way, you’ve made up a story.

We all make up stories because we’re more comfortable with our fictions than with not knowing. And so it is with trying to understand Donald Trump’s behavior.

Dozens of mental health professionals have weighed in, finding him wanting of certain higher brain functions and social skills. We’ve called Trump many names in an effort to explain what drives his detached-from-reality, self-serving, cruel and sometimes questionably legal behavior, but George Will seems to have identified something that leans against the heart of the matter. Trump really doesn’t know what it is to know something. He just makes stuff up.

Be clear that what drives Trump’s disability is far less important than limiting him so that in his inability to actually know something he doesn’t permanently damage what’s important.

Which brings us to Trump’s obvious attempts to obstruct justice.

  1. He fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York as he was investigating possible wrong-doing by Trump’s HHS Secretary Tom Price, as well as Trump’s primary flag-waver, Fox News. Further, Bharara had jurisdiction over Trump Tower in New York.
  2. He finagled Rep. Devin Nunez (R – Political Suicide) into making a fool of himself and, in the process, neutering the House Intelligence Committee’s efforts to investigate Trump’s possible conspiracy with the Russians to turn the presidential election his way.
  3. He fired Sally Yates, Acting Attorney General, when she both refused to defend Trump’s clearly unconstitutional Muslim ban and she warned Trump of Mike Flynn setting himself up for blackmail by the Russians. That would imply a link to Trump. Clearly, Yates had to go.
  4. And now, just as James Comey had gone to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein asking for additional resources for the expanding investigation into Trump’s possible conspiracy with the Russians, Trump fired him*, giving a clumsy and implausible justification for the sacking (click here for the documentation).
  5. Furthermore, don’t forget Trump’s continuing attack on the Fourth Estate, the people of the press, who are the watchdogs to keep government accountable. He viciously and baselessly attacks the press at every opportunity in order to undermine your confidence in them when they report negative things about him.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Donald Trump neutralizes anyone who starts to get close to the truth about him. That ought to shiver your timbers; it surely shivers those of our democracy.

As for the challenges of reporting on Trump, have a look at what Russian reporter Alexey Kovalev had to say about covering Trump’s bromance idol Putin and see if anything sounds familiar. This is what it’s like covering lying, manipulative autocrats.

Not knowing causes us to make up stories to fill in the blanks and it’s all too easy to focus on doing that, but making up stories is insufficient if we’re to have a democracy. We need an independent investigation of Trump and his cronies now. Go to Rep. Jerry Nadler’s (R-NY) page for MoveOn.org and sign the petition calling for exactly that. Here’s why.

Last week I attended a meeting hosted by Rep Brad Schneider (D-IL) focusing on gun violence in the U.S. There I asked a question about what it will take to get a gun safety bill onto the floor of the House and Senate for an up-or-down vote so we can hold our legislators accountable. He said it would take two things. First, it will take new leadership. That makes sense, since it’s the leader of each chamber of Congress who decides what bills will come to the floor. Second, he said it will take the power of the people. We must make our voices heard.

That happens when millions of us speak up – our power is in our numbers – and it’s why you’re going to sign Jerry Nadler’s petition. Go ahead, do it now. Then call your senators and representative, telling them to pdemand an independent prosecutor.

Breaking news .  .  . CLICK ME

Not knowing isn’t an option – because you know.

In an interview with Lester Holt on May 11, President Trump characterized James Comey as a “showboat” and “grand-stander.” Is it possible that Trump fired Comey, in part, because he was getting too much attention and Trump wants it all for himself? No, that isn’t snark and I’m not kidding. I’m wondering if that’s part of the motivation for firing Comey for this attention craving president.

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

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

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