will of the people

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.

Intolerables – Redux

Reading time – 2:55; Viewing time – 5:24  .  .  .

A couple of months ago I wrote about the concept of intolerables – that which is intolerable to you and you’d fight it to the death. It’s critically important for each of us to know our intolerables, because they bring sharp focus to our North Star. As motivational speaker Les Brown makes clear, “You have to know what you stand for, or you’ll fall for anything.”

Trump tax plan to benefit the wealthy. CLICK ME

Amazingly, trickle-down, “voodoo economics,” is once again being shoved up our noses, this time by President Trump with his new tax plan (have a look at the 1-page “plan” here). He tells us that he’ll boldly reduce the top corporate rate from 35% to a miserly 15%. Further, he assures us that there’s no need to end any special interest loopholes. That’s because our economy will have a veritable explosion of growth. And the growth will be such a win – you’ll be sick of winning! – and companies will make so much more money that even at the new reduced tax rate, tax collections by the government will stay as they are. His magical thinking plan will be revenue neutral! Note that that’s what Sam Brownback, governor of Kansas, promised Kansans 5 years ago. Instead, he’s driven his state into recession and borrowed from the state pension system just to stay afloat.

The best part of Trump’s plan, he tells us, is that the taxes saved will put so much extra cash into the tills of corporations that they will immediately start a hiring frenzy. JOBS! So many jobs you’ll be sick of jobs and there will be so much joy that CEOs and marketing executives and janitors will skip and sing merrily in the streets, hand in brotherly hand. There’s just one thing: reduced taxes don’t create jobs. Increased demand is what creates jobs and Trump’s plan won’t increase demand. I guess we can forget about the singing and dancing in the streets.

In order to get we rubes to go along with his cockamamie plan he’s going to buy us off by slightly reducing and simplifying our personal taxes. Of course, those tax reductions will apply to Trump, too, but with lots more digits to the left of the decimal point for him than for you. In fact, applying his new scheme to the one Trump tax return we’ve seen would put over $30 MILLION into Trump’s pocket in that one year alone. It’s a zombie tax plan, according to Forbes. Trump figures you won’t notice his self-aggrandizement because he thinks you’re dumb enough to be happy with a couple more bucks in your jeans.

George W. Bush pulled that same “buying your support” crap by sending you just a few hundred bucks as he put billions into the pockets of billionaires with his first tax cut. He, too, told us the government revenue shortfall would be made up through economic expansion and the extra taxes that growth would generate. How’d that work out for us? Mmmm  .  .  .  not so well.

Bush even had the gall to pull that tax reduction trick a second time, even though we were at war and we were spending money like a drunken politician. He’s the first president in our history to take us to war and reduce taxes at the same time, instead of raising taxes to cover the cost of his war. We’ll be paying for his fiscal stupidity for a hundred years.

“. . . major major conflict with North Korea” CLICK ME

Trump wants to cut taxes, build national infrastructure, build the damn wall, cut taxes (yes, I know I already said that), rattle sabres at North Korea, fire $30 million worth of missiles at Syria, do who knows what with his bromance buddy Putin, eliminate regulations and, of course, cut taxes. And it’s all being planned by his Goldman Sachs buddies. What could possibly go wrong for middle class and poor Americans?

Ronald Reagan started this trickle-down idiocy in our government nearly 4 decades ago and it has never worked. Let me repeat: It has never worked. Benefits from lower taxes never trickled down. If you were poor, you became poorer. If you were middle class, you stagnated. All that money poured instead into the pockets of CEOs and shareholders who stuffed that cash into their investment portfolios. All the job growth we experienced over the years can be attributed to other factors, like the technology boom of the 1990s and the stimulus program of 2009, neither of which was a trickle down gimmick.

I told you in that earlier post that one of my intolerables is lying, like Paul Ryan telling us that his plans for Social Security and Medicare won’t privatize those programs – except that’s exactly what his plans would do. Trump is now telling the same lie to us that Reagan and the rest of the free market radicals have lied to us about since 1980.

Is that intolerable? We have to know, or we’ll fall for it again. Are we that dumb?

Both Mark Twain and Benjamin Disraeli liked to say, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” How would you categorize trickle-down economics? How would you categorize nearly anything Donald Trump says?

In other news

CLICK ME to download the flyer

Big doings in Elgin, IL next Sunday. Come join us as our presenters give us the inside skinny on healthcare, the Canadian pipeline planned to go through Illinois and Money, Politics and Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want. The sessions are free, open to the public and offer you an opportunity to learn without any of the all-too-common Washington spin. Join 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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

From the Beach – v 1.0

Reading time – 3:05; Viewing time – 4:49  .  .  .

Comments from reality for our legislators:

We know.

And you know, too.

And we know you know.

And you know that we know that you know.

So, how come you’re saying stupid stuff? How come you’re lying and pretending to be ignorant?

Last Saturday saw the world marching for science, which shouldn’t have been necessary, because it’s kind of like marching for air. I mean, who isn’t in favor of air? Like air, why wouldn’t everyone be in favor of science? It’s done things like enabled the eradication of smallpox everywhere and we’re this close to eradicating polio – there are only 5 reported cases worldwide this year. Science has brought the entire world to unprecedented levels of prosperity. Who wouldn’t support disciplines that help us so much?

You already know that 97% of the world’s climate scientists proclaim loudly and clearly that the Earth is warming at an extremely rapid rate toward extremely dangerous consequences. You also know that the studies done by the remaining 3% of climate scientists were funded largely by – guess who? – the fossil fuel industries.

Donald Trump insists that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. Many Senators and Representatives (mostly with an R by their name) outright deny that global warming is happening, or they admit that the planet is warming but they deny human behavior is making things worse. They simply refuse to see what they don’t want to see and that’s the extent of their ostrich insight.

Why would they do that?

Why would they consign their own children and grandchildren to the devastation of ever-more severe hurricanes, and famine, the kind that’s sweeping across Africa right now? It’s already beginning to be seen in America, because increased heat and reduced rainfall are baking our agricultural lands. Why would they risk the political and cultural perils of the mass emigrations that have already begun? Why would they allow Miami, New York, Los Angeles and the rest of our coastal cities to become Atlantis?  It’s about short-term thinking and self-serving priorities.

We get it, because all we have to do to understand is to follow the money.

So, to those very same short-term thinking, self-serving politicians, just get this: We know. And we know that you know. We see you and we will remember all of it on the date of your next election.

We know.

Now a little definition clarity

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Entitlement – “A right to benefits specified especially by law or contract.”

The word “entitlement” has long been used to describe government programs that deliver benefits to our citizens, like Social Security and Medicare. The political right has done a marvelous job of shifting the simple obligatory meaning of the word to include a connotation of “freebies given to the undeserving.” Arguments abound over the sustainability of these programs, but the wrongness now slathered on the entitlement concept resides primarily within the haves who vilify the have-nots, the self-described makers portraying themselves as being fleeced by the takers.

Our contract law stems from English Common Law, so we’re steeped in many hundreds of years of belief and agreement that when we make a deal we have to keep our part of the bargain. A deal is a deal, so let’s define this properly.

Our governmental entitlement programs carry with them a contract to deliver the agreed upon benefits to the people. They don’t include options for Paul Ryan to offshore the obligation to private sellers so they can make a buck. So, to our legislators: figure out the funding challenge. And don’t fix this by dumping the heavy load onto the backs of poor people, because they’re entitled.

Bonus Selection

I’ve long wondered what it would take – what outrages were necessary – to motivate people to stand up and demand better. It seems we’ve found out.

Public dissent in the form of mass protests have become frequent and very vocal and the combined voices are having significant impact. A common chant of the crowds is:

  • “Show me what democracy looks like.”
  • answered by,
  • “This is what democracy looks like.”

The “this” in the response is the people in the streets standing up for what they believe in and demanding better.

That leads us to the current post of my friend Mardy Grothe. He is one of a small handful of Yoda-like people in my life, none of whom is short, green or has pointed ears. They simply are wise.

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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.

Love Thy Who?

Reading time – 3:43; Viewing time – 5:41  .  .  .

At an evening meeting on April 20th the discussion drifted to the issue of our political divide. The characterization of Trump voters included words like moron, racist, ignorant and a few other choice descriptors. The demonizing fell from lips as easily as rain from the sky – or manure from a barnyard animal – my protestations notwithstanding.

It’s just a guess on my part, but I don’t think character assassinations will be anything but destructive, this in a time when more than ever we need to come together to solve perhaps the largest accumulation of Gordian knot challenges we have faced.

Our vexing political divide is the focus of this post.

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Ezra Klein and Alvin Chang did a report on the issue of political identity – our political divide – for Vox entitled “Political identity is fair game for hatred”: how Republicans and Democrats discriminate. They found what you already know to be true, that we politically polarized Americans seem to be unable even to talk with our neighbors who hold political views different from our own. People are even selecting where they will live based upon whether the neighbors are politically aligned with them. And woe be to a daughter or son who marries someone with membership in the other political party.

The dysfunction we see among politicians is exaggerated because we tend to elect zealots; however, we’re not doing a very good job ourselves of even tolerating our “other party” neighbors, much less loving them. Indeed, we seem to be in an age where “other-ing” is not just accepted, but is encouraged.

In my pal Brian Muldoon’s book, The Heart of Conflict, he identifies what he sees as the fundamental reason people are so often unable to talk about differing religious beliefs without the conversation devolving into conflict. He says that it’s because any challenge to our fundamental beliefs challenges our sense of identity and that shakes our tectonic plates, so we go into fight-or-flight mode the same way our caveman ancestors treated threatening saber tooth tigers.

It appears that our political views have reached the same kind of base-of-the-skull level. As Klein and Chang write in their article, “  .  .  . rising political polarization was showing something more fundamental than political disagreement – it was tracking the transformation of party affiliation into a form of personal identity that reached into almost every aspect of our lives.”

It seems to me that invites fight-or-flight into arenas where there are no actual mortal threats; nevertheless, we treat ordinary opinions – like political differences – in the same life-or-death manner we do religious differences.

In the face of this we’re told to love our (“different from me”) neighbors. That’s a tough assignment for we human beings.

Nevertheless, that is the assignment. Should we fail to complete the assignment and get a great grade, our democracy will be at mortal risk. We better figure out how to do something other than fighting or fleeing.

In other news

House Joint Resolution 48 is what we need. It’s what I’ve been calling for in my presentations to groups all over the country since that dark January day in 2010. This is a cure for the deepest ailment of our democracy.

HJR 48 is a bill to reverse the tsunami of corporate and fat cat cash in our politics that was unleashed by the disastrous Citizens United decision. The bill currently has 23 cosponsors; that’s where you come in.

Call your representative now and request that s/he cosponsor this critically important bill. Do this even if your representative is already a cosponsor – they need your support for this.

To find your rep’s phone number, go to www.House.gov and enter your zip code in the box in the top-right corner of the page. Then pick up your phone, dial it and tell the nice staffer who answers that you are a constituent and you want your rep to cosponsor HJR 48.

Do it now, and we’ll slay this mother of our political dysfunction.

Finally, we have a whole new level of stupid coming from Washington. From The Root:

Paul Reickhoff

According to the Military Times, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) has drafted legislation that would charge soldiers $100 a month for access to the GI Bill. The bill would deduct a total of $2,400 from each soldier’s paycheck to make them eligible.

“Pushing this GI Bill tax proposal on troops in a time of war is political cowardice,” said Paul Reickhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America “Some politicians would rather make backroom deals than raise taxes or find other ways to support our troops as bombs continue to fall overseas.”

Let’s see, the geniuses in DC want to send our young off to fight and die for the oil we have to stop using if we’re to avoid hard boiling the planet, and also in order to fill monstrous political egos. As a way to say thanks, our legislators want to tax our troops.

Yes, really.

Bonus Section

Watch this Vox piece for clarity about cable news manipulation and the advancement of “alternative facts.”

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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.

What Ails Us – v2.0

Reading time – 1:49; Viewing time – 2:32  .  .  .

Just back from the Tax March-Chicago and there’s much to report. Pics are in the blog – I think you’ll enjoy the signage (use your browser’s zoom function to zoom in and read the signs) – but the key is the meaning of it all.

This march was one of many across the nation on this Tax Day, April 15 and the marches were promoted for the purpose of demanding that Donald Trump release his tax returns. Nobody expects that he’ll turn them over because hundreds of thousands of Americans turned out across the country to make the demand, but it was important that we demand and keep on demanding.

There are so many ways Trump has proven to be disingenuous, manipulative, dishonest and incompetent that it is extremely difficult to have any trust in him. Further, the FBI and committees of both houses of Congress are investigating his ties to Russia because he may have colluded with them to swing the presidential election to himself. That’s treason.

Congressional Job Approval, through 2016, Gallup Organization

And truly, it isn’t just Trump. We have so many reasons to distrust our government and we have responded to ongoing polls about how we feel about it, like Gallup’s (left), which says that 81 of every 100 Americans doesn’t trust our government. In my Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want presentations I show the graph that’s attached to this blog and then ask attendees how we can possibly have a democracy when our distrust in our own government is so awful. I’ve yet to hear an answer to my question.

And that’s the main point. The tsunami of money in our politics, our lying president, a senator holding a snowball as he speaks on the floor of the Senate and claiming that the snowball is proof that climate warming is a hoax, legislators promising to take health care from 24 million more Americans, and all the rest have eroded our trust in government and we feel betrayed. The reason we feel betrayed is because in reality, we have been.

And that’s what the marches and rallies are all about. There’s only so much betrayal we’ll put up with. There’s only so much scorn from our elected officials that we’ll tolerate. Then we push back. Hard.

So, to paraphrase Shakespeare, “Hell hath no fury like Americans scorned.” Politicians, you’ve been warned.

Bonus Section

Trump claiming things are a mess may serve him by making it look as if he’s avoiding responsibility (in reality, he can’t) and if something gets a bit better that may make him look to be heroic to some people. You know there’s a “but” coming: BUT like so much of what Trump says, his claims are lies. Baseless, fatuous lies designed only to buff his TV reality show image. Read John Pavlovitz’s clarifying piece, No, Mr. Trump, America Is Not a Mess.

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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.

Sir Isaac Newton and You

Reading time – 3:51 seconds; Viewing time – 5:57  .  .  .

The press is under attack, and rightly so, according to Donald Trump. He has let us know in no uncertain terms and repeatedly that those in “the media” are dishonest – so dishonest – they lie. I’m guessing that “he’s been hearing” that most are devil worshipers with unpatriotic foreign stuff in their attics. I’m sure he’s hearing that “people are saying” they may not be real Americans. Some might be black. Or Muslim. Or both black and Muslim. Bad. Sad.

President Lying-78%-of-the-Time has a penchant for falsehood. Trump’s integrity outages may have been of relatively small consequence during the campaign (except, of course, to rally attendees who got beaten up at his direction), but his dishonesty has huge consequences on the national and international stage now that he’s the president.

You need to read the Los Angeles Times 4-part editorial series The Problem With Trump. These  essays provide a level-headed and shocking analysis of what’s really going on – it’s big and everything we hold dear is at risk.

Trump’s dishonesty is happening during an era of vitriolic, polarized politics, especially in Congress, which makes constraining the worst of Trump’s lunacies next to impossible. In large measure, that is what puts everything at risk.

I’ve written several times about looming fascism in America (click on Fascism in the Categories list to the right) because of the bully in the White House and the extremists in Congress. I have seen nothing to mollify my concerns. While I don’t know if Trump is even capable of planning such a thing, I’m confident that Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner are capable of that and their influence only grows. And, no, don’t imagine for an instant that because Kushner is Jewish that he’s not capable of driving our nation to fascism. Not Nazism; fascism.

From How I Became an American by Yascha Mounk:

“Like Mr. Trump, democratically elected dictators have often believed that they don’t owe political consideration to the minorities they vilify. And, like Mr. Trump, they have often claimed that all those who challenge their rule – independent judges, critical journalists – are enemies of the people. For anybody who has studied how democracies die, the president’s dark rhetoric sounds familiar.”

Read the Los Angeles Times pieces – all 4 editorials. Now let’s connect this to a broader reality.

In a stunning piece by David Roberts for Vox.com entitled Donald Trump and the Rise of Tribal Epistemology*, Roberts lays bare the erosion of our institutions that were designed to provide the foundation upon which our society is built. He’s talking about truth, science, democratic systems and a clarity of the difference between right-doing and wrong-doing. He’s talking about the very things Trump and Bannon want to take down. And they’re not alone in their efforts toward destruction; witness how the right wing has,

  • Rejected the consensus of the world’s scientists on climate change
  • With a Democrat in the White House, the Republicans filibustered every bill
  • House Republicans routinely threaten the solvency of the country by refusing to raise the debt ceiling
  • The Senate refused to even have hearings on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee
  • Republicans united behind a serial swindler and self-confessed sexual predator – what happened to their spine?

Roberts’ piece specifically focuses on journalism and what it can do in this post-truth, post-fact, post-norms era. He writes,

“At a deeper level, healthy journalism relies on the basic institutions and norms of liberal democracy – on transpartisan authorities capable of establishing a common bedrock of facts and rules. As we’ve seen in other democracies around the world that succumb to autocracy (think Russia, Hungary, Turkey, Venezuela), the decline in institutions is both cause and consequence of authoritarianism.”

So, chicken or egg first? It really doesn’t matter if nothing is solidly reliable.

Sir Isaac Newton

Recall your 8th grade science class, where you learned about Sir Isaac Newton and his Laws of Motions, the first of which (paraphrased) was, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.” Your teacher may have demonstrated that law with a thrown ball, which would have carried out to the most distant reaches of the universe, but for that pesky gravity thing, the immediate outside force. Gravity changed the trajectory of the ball and made it accelerate in an arc toward the center of the Earth. Yes, I know that’s more science than you were looking for in a political commentary, but perhaps you remember some of that – surely you remember that Law of Motion, and that’s the main point.

Unaffected by an outside force, everything keeps going on its trajectory, and that’s true of politics, as well. So, if there is a different future that you want to see than the one we’re headed toward, there better be some force acting upon it.

YOU’RE THAT FORCE!

Get off the couch and get on the streets. Protest. Resist. Recruit. Call, text and write to your congressperson and senators. Show up at their doors. Join with others at MoveToAmend.org, CommonCause.org, Represent.US, Mayday.US and kick in a few bucks to save your democracy.

GET A POLITICAL BULLHORN AND MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

*Epistemology – The theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.

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

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

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

Values Bankruptcy Machine

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

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

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

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

Treating immigrants cruelly

Insulting our closest allies

Mocking the disabled and selling out the disenfranchised

Mocking our war dead and our war heroes

Trashing the regulations that ensure safe, clean air and water

Refusing science and demeaning learning and wisdom

Calling for our most dangerous adversary to hack our elections

Repeatedly attacking the judiciary, our intelligence community and the press

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


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

Allowing mentally unstable citizens to own guns

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

Allowing internet service providers to sell your personal information

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

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

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

Talkin’ ’bout you, Republican!

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

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

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

In Other News

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

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

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

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

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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.

Trump and Putin

Reading time – 2:42; Viewing time – 3:46  .  .  .

Thomas Edsall has done it again. He’s helped us to understand the Trump thing, answering questions that seem so very perplexing.

I referred to Edsall last month to help us to understand why people voted for Donald Trump. No, they aren’t all racists and no, they aren’t all stupid and no, they didn’t vote against their own interests – at least, not all of them. This time he’s helping us to understand the possible Trump-Putin connection in his essay What Does Vladimir Putin See in Donald Trump? and the answers are chilling.

We know that Putin has an evil thing for Hillary Clinton, so he’d want anyone running against her to win just for that reason, but there’s way more. Putin is all about power grab. At the very least he wants to be able to stand toe-to-toe against the United States and exert his influence throughout the former Soviet bloc countries and perhaps even dominate Europe. To do that requires a stooge in the White House to undermine America’s power in the world, a stooge who would:

”  .  .  .  weaken the West’s desirability, credibility and moral authority.”

”  .  .  .  undermine NATO’s unity”

”  .  .  .  [be eager to have] direct and indirect links to a profoundly corrupt and violent foreign dictator, whose policies he admires, whose advisers he shares and whose slogans he uses.”

Regarding those slogans, “Trump unquestioningly repeated slogans and conspiracy theories [like] – ‘Obama invented ISIS’ and ‘Hillary will start World War III’ – lifted from Sputnik, the Russian propaganda website.”

[and who would be malleable] “Trump’s susceptibility to praise has made him vulnerable to manipulation.”

There’s more – way more – and all of it says that you ought to be very worried, because this human model of sociopathy looks to be in the process of selling out our democracy.

I have warned of the coming of fascism to America and have specifically advised that we’re only one terrorist attack away from Trump declaring martial law (here and here and here and here). While I’m sure that sounds paranoid and hyperbolic to some, I invite you to watch Yale history Professor Timothy Snyder on Bill Maher’s program on March 24, 2017 and you’ll see what I mean. For a better understanding of Professor Snyder’s message, click here.

The lyrics of Do You Hear The People Sing grow louder.

In Other News

What about that Muslim ban and the refusal of refugees? It’s easy to lose sight of the issue, now that a couple of courts have put the hammer to implementing this draconian, cruel executive order, and what with the blizzard of Trumpian lunacy that assaults us daily. But the teachers and staff at the Niles Township High School District 219 in Skokie, IL haven’t forgotten and they sent a message to their students. You must watch it and take in their message to the kids.

Now imagine if we as a country and as directed by Executive Order were that caring and kind to the strangers among us – you know, like the way every major religion in the world instructs us. Go ahead: imagine.

And finally, I’ll be presenting Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, 1330 Ridge Avenue this Wednesday, March 29 at 7:00PM. Come join 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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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