Freedom

Jax Fablz: Where Bees Go


There were hives.  Lots of hives.  They were all over the Federation of Bee Hives.

The drones worked hard, collecting pollen and bringing it back to the hives and the queens would look upon their work and say that it was good.  But both the queens and the drones of the southern hives had too much to do and the summers were so hot and humid that they needed help.

Then one day a ship arrived with African bees.  The southern bees cheered and bought the African bees, queens, drones and all.  The African bees were made to labor for the southern bees who forced them to work very hard.  They weren’t paid for their work, and were given only enough to eat to stay alive.  The African queen bees gave birth to baby bees and they were owned by the local bees, as well, so the free bee labor pool grew and grew, but the African bees suffered and were very unhappy.

One day a group of northern queen bees told the southern queen bees that what they were doing to the African bees was terrible and that they had to stop.  The southern bees did not like being told what they could and could not do and became very angry.  They said, “We have hive rights!”

Well, the talk became angrier and angrier and hatred grew.  The southern bee queens and drones insisted that they needed the free African bee labor so that they could become even richer.  At last they said they had had enough of northern bee judgments and northern bee demands on them.   With that, they left the Federation of Bee Hives.

That caused a bee civil war and over 600,000 bees died in the fighting.  The Federation was saved and the African bees were freed, but there wasn’t a single bee anywhere who didn’t feel the pain and sorrow of loss of their fellow bees.  All of the bees vowed that such a thing would never happen again.

The years passed and the southern bee queens and drones gave way to new generations of bees.  No bee then alive had a memory of the terrible suffering of that war of long ago and not a single bee could remember the vow their ancestors had made.  Still, they carried with them the stories of how their bee ancestors were told what they could not do.  That kept a fire of resentment buzzing in their bee hearts.

They also carried a disdain for the African bees still in their midst.  Like their southern bee ancestors, they liked to think they were better than the African bees, so they did things to keep the African bees down.  The southern bees liked the feelings of power and control that gave them.  But little by little the northern bees put a stop to many of the bad things that were being done to the African bees.  That served to amplify the buzzing of the southern bees over how much they disliked being told what they could and could not do.

Finally, one day the southern queen bee of the largest southern bee hive spoke up.  She had no memory of the awful suffering of the past, or at least she acted that way, because she hinted that perhaps her hive should secede from the Federation of Bee Hives.  She was very pretty, but most bees knew that she was nothing but a pollen head.  Still, she had tapped in to the southern bee feelings of resentment, a resentment nurtured by generations of bees that liked to see themselves as victims and blame other bees for their suffering.

Then more southern bees began to speak of what they called “the good old days” when the southern bee hives left the Federation.  Like the pretty queen bee who had spoken up, they refused to acknowledge the terrible suffering that all bees had endured because of that bee civil war of long ago.  They paraded in funny bee hats and old southern bee war uniforms.  They waved the flag of those old days of hive secession and buzzed with pride.  Indeed, there were quite a few southern bees who became so puffed up with feelings of their power of resentment that their hairy bodies and especially their heads became quite swollen.

One day one of the swollen head southern bee drones said that he would stand for office to represent his hive in the Federation of Bee Hives.  If he were to win his election he would have to swear an oath of allegiance with his bee leg on the Bee Bible, promising to protect and defend the Constitution of the Federation of Bee Hives.  But he had openly declared that he was a member of a group calling for the southern hives to secede from the Federation again.

And no bee had any idea what had happened to bee integrity or even common bee sense.  They only knew that they were trapped in a downward spiral of bee fear and bee hate.

————————————–

Moral:  Both the anger of victim-hood and the pride of self-righteousness lead to the same dark place. – JA


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Are You Ready?


CialisBoomers are the ones who were told, “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” (thank you, Jerry Rubin), the ones who were going to change the world and who most certainly were never going to get old.  But now we are past the point where we can refuse to trust anyone over 30, we did change the world but many of us still refuse to get old.  That has created a billion dollar industry of erection sustaining drugs for old stud wanna-bees.

The next time you see a Cialis commercial on television take a good look at the happy couples.  Of course they are happy, as the commercials imply that they are so hormonal that they are having sex whenever the wind blows.

Notice, too, that everyone is good looking.  We viewers subliminally hope that Cialis will deliver that benefit, too.  And there is something else.  The women are all at least 15 years younger than the men.  Little surprise there, since the drug hucksters are selling a return-to-youth fantasy to old guys.

Let’s see, he’s a “senior” who refuses to acknowledge time, wants to be the young stud he never was, so he pairs himself with a young, nubile, willing kitten (yeah, that’ll work) who smiles at him with just a hint of lust in her eyes – and he’s ready!  All of this comes at just seven bucks per thrill pill.

Yup, we watch the commercials and we fall for the fantasy.  Somehow, the pleasant and desirable images and the smooth sound of the voice-over, go down easily and we accept the whole package.  Actually, though, it is nothing but a manipulation of you and me for the profit of the pharmaceutical corporations selling us dreams in a pill.

It works the same way in the political arena.  Radicals and rich guys are trying to separate you from your cash and your power with slick commercials, images and slogans, and even a chest-thumping testosterone rush, all for their own benefit, not yours.  Maybe instead of mindlessly absorbing the fictions we’re fed we should get in touch reality before the American plutocratic coup is complete.

It is the right moment right now.  Are you ready?

WARNING: If you go blind, lose your hearing or die, stop taking Cialis immediately – it will be too late for you.  Correspondingly, if you lose your democracy, it will be too late for all of us.


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Predicting The Future


Sarin Cannisters* * * Special Tuesday Edition * * *

The word “Anschluss” became well known in 1936 as Hitler’s Germany annexed Austria.  Two years later the next newly familiar name was the Sudetenland, the predominantly German speaking part of Czechoslovakia.  Hitler’s pact with England’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain paved the way for the rest of Czechoslovakia to fall into German hands and in 1939 Poland fell to the Nazis in just a few days.  Then in 1940 Hitler incrementally overran Denmark, Norway, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and it wasn’t looking too good for the Brits at that point.  All this took place with the world pretty much watching from the sidelines as though people expected something different to happen after each country fell to the German blitzkrieg (another word that became well known then).

On September 8, 1974 newly ascended President Gerald Ford issued a “full, free and absolute pardon” for “  .  .  .  all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in .  .  .  ”  Many were the conspiracy theories about a supposed pact with the devil that spawned a Ford presidency and a pardon for an American who had not yet even been indicted for a crime but whose guilt was obvious.  Nevertheless, the pardon stood and, other than having to resign from office, Nixon got away with his lawbreaking.

1985 was a fine year for labyrinthine presidential dealing, as President Reagan and his team negotiated a three-way swap of arms to Iranians and sent money from the arms transactions to the Contras in Nicaragua.  The arms going to the Iranians were supposed to buy goodwill, such that the Iranian government would exert influence to get 7 American hostages released from their imprisonment at the hands of the Army of the Guardians of the Iranian Revolution (Hezbollah).  The U.S. sale of arms to the Iranians was a violation of the then-current arms embargo on Iran.  Providing money to the Contras in Nicaragua was in direct violation of the Boland Amendment.

Interestingly, of those indicted for their parts in this nefarious scheme, a handful received a sentence of a short term on parole.  A few went to prison for a little while and of those, nearly all were pardoned by President George H. W. Bush, himself a key player in the conspiracy but who never had to answer for his lawbreaking.  President Reagan was clearly responsible for the entire illegal operation but he was never charged with anything other than poor oversight of his national security team.  That is to say, he got away with it.

In the waning days of George W. Bush’s second term the major U.S. financial institutions began to fail under the weight of the house of cards they themselves had allowed to be erected and Bush told us we had to act immediately to rescue them because they were “too big to fail.”  We sent trillions of dollars their way and, even as fraud had plainly been committed, no criminal indictments were issued against the perps.  Those same financial institutions are now far larger than they were when they were “too big to fail” and their smoke-and-mirrors investment schemes continue.

Bush also lied the U.S. into two wars and compounded his lawlessness by authorizing the torture of hundreds of prisoners, an act that is in violation of the Geneva Conventions and others, as well as a clear violation of United States law.  Not a single person involved in that lawbreaking was indicted for anything and the Obama administration has made clear that it will not prosecute.  All of the lawbreakers have gotten away with their crimes.

There is an ongoing pattern of crime at the highest levels that continues to go unpunished.  What is significant about that is the certainty that bad behavior unpunished is a guarantee of more bad behavior in the future and that is exactly what has happened.  Let’s take this knowledge to the present crisis.

It is clear that Bashar al-Assad has no compunction about killing over 100,000 of his countrymen, nor has he any concern over using weapons of mass destruction, like sarin gas (stockpiles pictured above).  Failing to punish that behavior will ensure that Bashar al-Assad will do more of the same or worse in the days to come.  And the story is even bigger than that.

We are facing an upcoming nuclear arms threat from Iran.  So, too, and likely more immediately, is Israel facing that threat, given that the Iranians have sworn to wipe Israel from the map.  We have told the Iranians that they must abandon their development of nuclear weapons and comply with international agreements to halt the spread of nuclear weapons.  We have been clear that failure on their part to comply will be seen as a threat to the United States, which will compel us to take direct action against that threat.

But are our threats of action against Iran believable if we fail to confront the use of weapons of mass destruction in Syria?

The world sat on its hands as Hitler incrementally annexed most of Europe.  In the United States we allowed Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barack Obama to break major laws with impunity or fail to prosecute those who did.  Each of those then-current issues and failures to act ensured the next wrongdoing.

The pattern and the message are unmistakable:  The behavior we tolerate is the behavior we are certain to get over and over.  But now the toleration of bad behavior could lead to worldwide catastrophe.


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Slogans


WizardAt the National Speakers Association convention earlier this year, Bruce Terkel delivered a powerful keynote presentation on marketing.  During that speech he explained that President Obama’s 2008 slogan “Yes we can” was the second best marketing slogan ever.  It is positive, it is inclusive and it is enabling.  Sadly, Republicans utilize a different slogan strategy.

Tom Coburn (R–OK), Ted Kruz (R-AZ), Michele Bachmann (R-Mars) and a bunch more Republicans want President Obama impeached.  They offer no high crimes or misdemeanors of which they think he is guilty.  They just want the sentence carried out without bothering with an indictment or conviction.  Their slogan seems to be, “Say anything to marginalize him.”

Paul Ryan continues to promote his Republican budget – only it isn’t a budget.  It is a plan to privatize nearly all of government.  This is just another example of Republicans putting lipstick on a pig and telling us it isn’t a pig, like the original Patriot Act that actually was unpatriotic and like Operation Iraqi Freedom that didn’t free the Iraqis but did chain us to perpetual war.  Their sleight-of-hand slogan is, “Fooling you with a lying label.”

I wrote here recently that the Republicans got nuthin’ because they propose nothing that will benefit America or Americans, other than the billionaires to whom they are indentured.  They lambasted President Obama at every opportunity regarding a budget.  Then Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Tanning Salon) presented the 2010 Republican budget that had no numbers in the entire document other than page numbers.  (Accounting note: If there are no numbers, it can’t be a budget.)  On the infrequent occasions that congress does manage to pass legislation to make things better, like the Dodd-Frank bill, Republicans immediately start the process to dismantle it piece by piece.  This slogan is obvious:  “Whatever it is, we’re against it even if we used to be for it.”

The House did pass a farm bill.  It gives Big Agri-Business multi-billions of dollars.  That same bill eliminates support for food stamps.  One in six American children lives in poverty – it is double that number for people of color – and The House intends to take the food out of the mouths of those kids.  The slogan: “Starvation makes children more self-reliant.”

Two of three poling places in North Carolina are being closed, leaving local college students with obstacles nearly impossible to overcome in order to vote.  A pregnant woman in Kansas, victim of a brutal rape, cannot do anything about it.  The school teachers in Wisconsin, who have sacrificed pay over and over in exchange for the promise of an adequate pension when they retire, are now having their pensions stolen from them.  None of that is an accident.

The Republicans are so bereft of offerings that they are putting the majority of their effort into stopping Americans from voting in order to win elections and cram through legislation to produce results like the examples above.  If they can’t stop people from voting, they use district gerrymandering to make votes inconsequential.  For example, Texas is 45% white but the Republican controlled state legislature has ensured that 70% of the districts are white Republican, thus marginalizing people of color.

Perhaps this kind of Constitutional blasphemy has not permeated your world yet.  Just understand this:  it will.  Right now they are coming after people of color, poor people, first time voters, the elderly and the infirmed.  After that it will be another group, then another, because a power hungry minority will never have enough control to satisfy themselves. Look to history and you will see the repeated story of incremental loss of rights concurrent with the rise of totalitarianism.  That is what voter suppression accomplishes, so “Coup by disenfranchisement” is the Republican slogan.

“You know, I would have at least some respect for the Republicans who pass these laws if they would just come clean and admit they are trying to keep everyone but old white guys from voting like it used to be in the good old days.  But instead, they make up stuff.”

Gaylard French of Waxahachie, TX
The Dallas Morning News
Letters to the Editor, August 18, 2013

We can sit back and pretend that our country is not being stolen from us, but sooner or later we’re going to have a very bad day.  The Republican slogan for that is, to quote Dick Cheney, “So?”

Bruce Terkel was asked the obvious question by a member of the audience at the close of his keynote to the National Speakers Association convention.  “If ‘Yes we can’ is the second best marketing slogan ever, what is the best one?”  Terkel didn’t miss a beat, replying, “See your doctor for an erection lasting longer than four hours.”

Are we that easy to manipulate – with just a slogan?


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Bankruptcy


Jailed-protesters-vs-jailed-bankers-editorial-cartoon-300x228No, not that kind.

This is about political bankruptcy.  It is about a Republican Party that doesn’t make decisions based on fact and, in fact, ignores fact and instead creates fatuous fantasies.  It is a party that brought us a president who doesn’t read, who ignores facts and who makes decisions based on gut hunches.  No, I didn’t make that up.  It is what President George W. Bush told us about the way he makes decisions And, yes, he had the “football” and could have pushed the button to send nuclear missiles to annihilate millions based solely on his “gut hunch.”

This is a party that is legally bankrupt, as it seeks to institutionalize discrimination with a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.  This is a party that is legally bankrupt as state house after state house finds diabolical ways to prohibit from voting American citizens who are not white or who are poor.

This is a party that is morally bankrupt, as it chants the same mantra year after year, that it is all about jobs, jobs, jobs, but every opportunity to stimulate job growth has been filibustered by Republicans on the floor of the Senate or voted down by the Republican dominated House.  Okay, there was one bill – the veterans jobs legislation – but the Republicans had to be shamed into passing it.

But let’s be fair.  The Democrats took over in 2009 and have steadfastly refused to prosecute Wall Street bankers who defrauded the public with their swamp of mortgage derivatives.  The same Justice Department has refused to prosecute bankers for their millions of fraudulent home mortgage foreclosures.  This is the same Democratic Party that refused to create legislation to prevent another round of “too big to fail” and, guess what, once again the banks are too big to fail.

This is the Democratic administration that has refused to prosecute the prior administration for its blatant lawbreaking by torturing prisoners and for illegal detention.  And it is the same party and administration that has expanded the war in Afghanistan, a war that plainly cannot be won.  History would have told President Bush that fact before he commanded an invasion, but he would have had to have read a history book to know that.

This is a war with ever-morphing goals, no strategy for success, with a continuing supply of dead bodies and an economic cost that will eventually reach $4 to 6 trillion dollars And this is a war that President Obama has continued and expanded, notwithstanding his pledge to end American military involvement by the end of next year.  How many more dead Americans will we have created between now and then?  Would you like to be the last soldier or marine to die for that unholy cause?

The far righties hold dear a deep distrust of government.  They are right to do that, because they continue to champion and elect untrustworthy legislators.

The far lefties are never happy because government continues to eviscerate the values and rights they hold dear.  But they sit on their recliners on election day or fail to jump through the hoops necessary to register to vote or they just drop out entirely and complain loudly.

We get the government we deserve – or do we deserve the government we get?  Either way, we’ll continue to get what we are getting now until we require better.  Until then, you can expect a government in the pocket of corporations and fabulously wealthy people who crave money and power above all else.  They are the ones who pull the strings of the Marionette America and bringing to us our national bankruptcy.  We are the ones who tolerate that.


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Are You an Old, Rich White Guy?


Rich white guyPollution is an ordinary part of manufacturing.  For example, those shiny, chrome plated gizmos like your ballpoint pen and the reflectors of the tail lights of your car are bathed in toxic chrome when they are made and they drip chrome into the water that rinses them.  Capturing that residual chrome is much more expensive than just flushing it down the drain, so chrome platers don’t much like EPA regulations that make them install expensive waste water treatment facilities.  Those who own and run other companies subject to EPA regulations feel pretty much the same way.

Come to think of it, lots of companies don’t much care for OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, either.  That government bureau makes companies do expensive things, like install safety devices that prevent people from being decapitated or electrocuted or having their hands chopped off in manufacturing machinery.  OSHA requires construction companies to ensure that their employee wear hard hats so that their heads don’t get sliced or crushed.  All of that costs money that companies don’t like to spend.

Those pesky state legislatures have passed laws that require that your children be in child safety seats and that you be belted in and air bagged.  All of that costs money that car manufacturers don’t like spending.

Old, rich white guys like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson and others who own the companies that we force to spend extra money in order to protect all of us want to do away with lots of government driven protection.  They want that precisely because that protection costs old, rich white guys money.  Indeed, over the years the car companies resisted pollution controls, safety glass, turn signals, safety belts and more because those things cost money.  If you’d like to know more about the thinking of such people, those who seek money and power over all else, have a look at the words of Vice President Henry A. Wallace, Franklin Roosevelt’s number two from 1941 – 1945.  He wrote a blistering Op-Ed for the New York Times on April 9, 1944 focused on American Fascism, the blending of government and business. You will likely find that the description in his essay is stunningly and disturbingly similar to our socio-political circumstances today, including the lying, the cheating, the demonizing and, worst of all, greed masquerading as patriotism.  The bulk of that comes from old, rich white guys.  You can find Wallace’s article here and here.

The old, rich white guys are thankful that elections are so expensive that candidates have to continuously grub for cash, especially big pots of it, because then those who are elected become indebted to those old, rich white guys.  That stimulates those politicians to take every measure possible to thwart legislation that might be good for most Americans who are not old, rich white guys.

Those politicians do things like make it harder for non-rich, non-white Americans to vote, because doing so keeps the old, rich white guys in power and in the money and that keeps the politicians well funded and in office.  The flow is so pleasingly circular.  Our national history is replete with egregious examples of voter suppression and the current voter ID laws about to be enacted in Texas, North Carolina and Ohio are the newest.  Those laws will disenfranchise millions of non-rich , non-white Americans and will have the effect of being the final nail in the coffin of democracy.  Hail to the John Roberts Supreme Court for enabling those voter suppression laws through its democracy killing decision in the Citizens United v. FEC case.  That completed the task of ensuring that old, rich white guys control all the money and all the power, a task started with naked hypocrisy by Ronald Reagan in 1981.

In the not-too-distant future history may be written with deference to the old, rich white guys – after all, history is always written by the victors.  But the multitudes who live in subsistence because of the loss of American democracy will not stay there willingly.

The fight for freedom and liberty is never ending and we are at a tipping point in America right now.

Are you an old, rich white guy?  If so, things are working quite well for you and you like the path we’re on.  On the other hand, if you are not an old, rich white guy you will care deeply about this far sooner than you might imagine.  When it starts to pinch, you will squeak and you will fight back.  What do you suppose it will look like when 310 million Americans who are not old, rich white guys are doing that?  I fear for us, because we always seem to wait too long to act and we have always been a violent society.


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The American Disease


We have an advanced case of The Stupids.

This disease can be contracted by constant exposure to public officials saying and doing idiotic things.  It results in eventual Stupids fatigue, marked by lack of reaction to outrageous behavior.  Here are some common causes of this nationally debilitating disease.

  1. Bible-thumping zealots tell us that 9/11 happened as God’s punishment for our nation’s sins.  They say we deserved it.
  2. Deeply repressed homophobes wail in their self-righteousness and tell us how we should live our lives, as they thump bibles from atop their moral superiority.  Then we find out that they are homosexuals.  Worse, we tolerate their hypocrisy because later they “repent.”  Same for governors who hike the Appalachian Trail – in Argentina – and serial cheats who run the Christian Coalition.
  3. Fools blabber constantly about rape, somehow inventing a concept of “legitimate rape,” with its implication that some rapes are not real rapes.  We are left to guess at what that means, but it sounds like they think some rape victims were “asking for it” and don’t deserve to be seen as victims of criminal assault and battery.  Other fools tell us that in the case of pregnancy due to rape, “A woman’s body can shut that down.”
  4. Michele Bachmann can’t figure out in which state Paul Revere made his historic ride, or distinguish between John Wayne and John Wayne Gacy, yet she got re-elected.
  5. Our elected officials have kept us in a near-constant state of war for over 30 years – some argue that the number is 60 – and we tolerate the dead kids and the dead economy.
  6. Richard Nixon declared his resistance to exiting the war in Viet Nam saying, “I’m not going to be the first American president to lose a war.” (October, 1969)  So, 45,000 more American men and women were killed before America inevitably lost that war.  That set the stage perfectly for all politicians to make every issue about themselves and their welfare and not about the welfare of America and Americans.
  7. John Boehner wants to lock up IRS people before an investigation is even attempted or charges filed.
  8. Chuck Grassley still thinks that, “They’re gonna pull the plug on Granny” and nobody calls him on his lie.
  9. Rand Paul still thinks that we should not aid hurricane victims.
  10. Paul Ryan still tells us that privatizing Medicare is not privatizing Medicare and half the country believes him.
  11. We now have two Governor Ultrasounds, as the Republican legislature of Wisconsin and its Governor, Scott Walker, have joined Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia and have decided that they know better about medical care than a woman’s doctor, so they require a vaginal ultrasound before any abortion.  And the OB/GYN has to read a statement to the patient that forces the doctor to lie to his/her patient.  Then the patient gets to pay for all that fraud.
  12. The gun bill failed, even though 90% of Americans wanted it to pass.   Perhaps a cover reason for it can be found in the bazillion amendments to the bill, most of which have nothing to do with firearms and many of which are stupid on their face.  And once again Americans have tolerated their elected representatives caving in to the NRA.
  13. Global warming deniers base their claims on complete bunk and the corporate run media, in its fair and balanced way, continues to let them air their views.  Worse, we’ve done next to nothing to deal with the looming danger that global warming will bring, largely driven by our voracious appetite for burning fossil fuels and our corresponding willingness to enrich the oil companies at the expense of planet Earth and its inhabitants.
  14. Congress actually passed a law that protects Monsanto from prosecution if its genetically modified seeds prove to harm or kill people.  This is the same congress that bemoans lack of accountability in our education system.
  15. We continue to pull money out of education, even though our future national welfare depends upon our kids being educated and prepared to compete.

We are distracted by these circuses and, clearly, this barely scratches the surface of the idiotic stuff that has been going on for so long.  Here is the key:

Re-read Number 6.  It is all about the self-interest of the politicians to advance their careers.  In order to do that they need big money.  To get big money, they have to do the bidding of people who have big money, meaning extremely wealthy individuals and corporations.  When they do that bidding, they are working for the monied interests, not for the interests of America and Americans.  That keeps us from dealing with our very real issues, like global warming, for example, because the oil, coal and gas industry people want to ensure the continuation of their gravy train.  Same logic for guns, healthcare and the lot.

We cannot change human nature and politicians will always look out for their own best interests.  So, until we deal with big money in politics, not much will get better.  Not any time soon.  Not until disaster strikes.  Maybe not even then.  Think:  Sandy Hook Elementary School followed by the failed gun bill, that failure being courtesy of threats to lawmakers from the NRA.

Most of us don’t feel disaster until it is in our faces and it becomes personal.  That is simple human nature at work and it is why, for example, we fail to stand up to the big money bullies who would allow an assault rifle in the hands of the fool next door.

Have you stood in a line for eight hours to vote?  Hundreds of thousands of Americans have had to do that and that is disaster.  Has a vaginal ultrasound been forced on you or someone close to you?  That is disaster.  Have you felt the bottomless depth of pain over children being gunned down?  That is disaster.  Does it bother you that you might be targeted by the NSA? It should, because that is a disaster.

The America you believe in is being stolen from you bit by bit, and it will be gone unless you and I disengage from the boob tube and the rest of the distractions that gobble our time, energy and attention and we at last speak up.  Speak up to get big money out of politics.  Everything turns on that.

The Stupids is a curable disease and you and I hold the cure.


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Frog Boil


Boiling FrogThe news was broken by Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian and also by The Washington Post that FISA court Judge Roger Vincent approved a warrant drafted by the National Security Agency (NSA) to require Verizon to turn over all of its records of calls made to and from the US and any foreign telephone.  It was done under the provisions of FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  

FISA was designed to enable the gathering of – guess what – foreign intelligence.  It works in secret and is accountable to nobody, so we have no way to know if its actions are justified or appropriate and its provisions and restrictions are not well understood by the public.  Not surprisingly, our government has a way of stretching the meaning of the act to suit its purposes.  Here is an example of that stretching.

In addition to Verizon’s domestic-to-foreign calls being reported, the NSA also requires Verizon to turn over its records for all completely domestic calls.  Remember that part about FISA being about gathering foreign intelligence?  How a call from a domestically registered phone to another domestically registered phone is foreign is an unholy stretch, but that is what our government is doing.  And it gets worse.

The Washington Post broke the story that the NSA has a surveillance program called PRISM.  It is a another lovely piece of FISA stretch that delivers to the NSA all of the records of all the big online servers, like Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, Google, Facebook and more.

With the Verizon intelligence grab the NSA knows every call you’ve made and all the  calls made to you, the duration of the calls and the number your phone was connected to, the location of both phones and all of the records are delivered to the NSA daily.  With the PRISM program, the NSA can dig into anything you’ve ever done online, including your used-to-be-private emails and web surfing history. 

As reported in The New York Times, “James R, Clapper, Jr., director of national intelligence, “.  .  .  the government ‘does not unilaterally obtain information from the servers’ of telephone and Internet providers, saying that information is turned over only under court order, when there is a ‘documented, foreign intelligence purpose for acquisition’ of the data.”

Sounds reassuring.  And not confidently believable, if there is anything substantive to what whistle blowers Edward Snowden and William Binney have said.

These kinds of “data mining and harvesting” were supposed to be do-able only as part of a specific investigation that the NSA was conducting, not as a “grab the entire universe of information” fishing expedition.  Further, the warrant that is required for the NSA to dig its tentacles into you was supposed to be authorized by a FISA court judge using a very hairy eyeball, but nearly ever warrant requested has been allowed.

You may have committed no crime nor even have known anyone who has, but the NSA has all of your records, phone, emails and web surfing history, and is looking at them, even though you are not part of an ongoing investigation.  Honest person that you are, you are being snooped and groped.  Every day.

Let’s see – is there more?  Well, we’re killing people overseas with drones and we have a most strange way of quantifying the effect of these machines.  We identify the people we kill in various categories, including al Qaeda, militant, civilian and unknown.  Strangely, we’ve killed thousands classified as unknown yet our government has claimed that there were very few civilian casualties.  If we don’t know the identity of the people we killed, how can we know they weren’t civilians?

And, by the way, surveillance drones are already flying inside the U.S.

This is just the most recent few outrageous things our government is doing under the cover label of national security.  What is disturbing is that these kinds of government power grabs, this taking control of our privacy, our freedom and our lives is exactly what we used to abhor about the Soviet Union.  That government robbed its people of their freedom and millions of Soviets were killed by the state.  Indeed, our rendition programs are functionally identical to the Soviets sending their people to die in labor camps in Siberia.  Put any face, label or justification on it that you like; stealing your freedom is stealing your freedom.

It is said that if a live frog is suddenly thrown into a pot of boiling water that it will thrash violently and do everything it can to get out of the pot.  On the other hand, if a frog is thrown into cool water and then the heat is turned up so that the water warms gradually, the frog will swim about calmly until it is boiled dead.  That is to say, slow change doesn’t seem to get the frog’s attention, and then suddenly it is too late.

We’re a lot like that frog.  Our government has incrementally changed at a pace that doesn’t seem to get our attention, but we are gradually losing the America you believe in, as we plunge headlong into totalitarianism.

“Americans are living in a totalitarian state.  They just haven’t figured it out yet.”  Russian immigrant.


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Murray-isms


My friend Pat Murray is one of the clearest thinkers I know in the areas of group and individual behavior and I have learned some valuable lessons from him.  See if this pairing of one statement plus two questions from Pat’s work stimulates your motivation innards.

YOU GET WHAT YOU TOLERATE – Children teach us this every day.  A major part of their job is to push the envelope to find out where the edges of acceptability are.  Those edges are often defined by some sort of pain, like physical pain as a result of attempting to defy the laws of physics while riding a bicycle or from adult displeasure over an inappropriate childhood behavior.

So it is with politics.  Our politicians will push the envelope and keep on pushing until we tell them they’ve gone too far by punishing them with our phone calls, letters and emails of displeasure and, eventually, with election defeat.  The key point is that if you tolerate their behavior, they will not only continue it but they will keep on pushing that envelope to an extreme until you actively refuse to tolerate what they are doing.   Passivity and apathy on your part will result in ever more outrageous behavior on their part.  You get what you tolerate.

WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? – Are you clear about what you stand for, what you believe in down to your bedrock, the absolutely most-not-be-violated ideals you will never compromise?  Tagging on to that question, motivational speaker Les Brown likes to say that you have to know what you stand for or you’ll fall for anything.

There are people in all areas of our lives who want to sell us something, who want to bend us to their way in order to help them to create a world that serves them.  Some of these people are quite comfortable lying to us, misleading us with flagrant, fatuous falsehoods (my alliteration for today) and many of them have very loud megaphones.  They feed us a spoonful of verifiable fact to gain our trust and then go off into their stream of dishonesty.  Unless you know what you stand for, you can be manipulated easily by these people and become a pawn to serve them while they do harm to you and everyone else in the process.  What do you stand for?

KNOW YOUR INTOLERABLES – Yes, I know that “intolerables” isn’t a word you can find in the dictionary, but you understood its meaning immediately. What is on your list of things that you will not put up with?  What are the absolutely no-go items?  Lying, cheating, stealing, dishonoring the sacred, cruelty, abandoning the helpless, disloyalty?  When you make your list, be sure to do a gut check so that you don’t write hollow platitudes, because that doesn’t serve you.  Rather, write what is actually true for you.

For example, you may find abridging the rights of fellow citizens to be intolerable, but do you believe in it so strongly that you’ll fight anyone who tries to silence those with whom you passionately disagree?  Do you believe in the rights of citizenship with such passion that you’ll stand up publicly for those whose voting rights are being stolen right now?  Do you believe in civil rights so strongly that you’ll speak out against the anti-Muslim fever that is both marginalizing and killing some Americans?  Speaking of killing, it may be an intolerable for you, but do you make an exception for those who kill abortion doctors?  Know your intolerables.

It is true that those are under-the-skin questions likely to provoke.  Are you agitated enough to take action?  A good starting place is to make two lists: HERE IS WHAT I STAND FOR and THESE ARE MY INTOLERABLES.  Your lists probably won’t be very long, but they will have great power for you.  And when you’re done, you’ll stop falling for anything and instead will be prepared to stop tolerating all that envelope pushing that violates what you believe in.  You might even exercise your citizenship by speaking out to make things better.


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

National Despair


There’s no point in waving arms, getting red in the face and snapping at the annoying tweaks that are sent only to distract and manipulate us.  If we’re to understand what is behind our national despair we need to focus on the core issue that keeps us stuck in a morass of helplessness and prevents us from the exceptionalism we’re capable of creating.

Perhaps you believe that doing the right thing is the right thing to do.  If so, this may fit for you:

I despair over the paralysis of America caused by the people who are supposed to be our leaders but who, instead, feather their own nest and ensure that their system is self-sustaining, much to the detriment of the rest of us.

I despair over the abdication of the regulatory muscle that could have prevented the banking-driven recession that has hurt so many Americans and has undermined the American brand throughout the world.

I despair over the abdication of the rule of law, like claiming that torture isn’t torture, like leading us into an unprovoked war and, every bit as damaging, by the near-complete failure of Congress and the press to do their jobs to prevent all that.

I despair over the public hatred and lies that are repeated by those in leadership positions and by ordinary, angry Americans as well, spreading the venom that has come to be tolerated and even believed by a distracted public.

I despair over angry young men who take handguns, rifles and automatic weapons to movie theaters and schools and kill innocents randomly, this while the NRA tells us that guns don’t kill and that assault weapons with 100 round drums must be legal and, by all means, let’s have 34 round magazines for those Glock semi-automatics.

I despair when the meteorologists tell us that we can expect this year’s drought to be repeated for years to come and, at the same time, people we’ve elected to be our leaders blatantly lie to us and declare that global warming doesn’t exist.

I despair when a congressman or senator shouts bigoted remarks at others and, worse, when those remarks aren’t rebuked by colleagues, the press and the public.

It’s true that we’ve always had haters and liars and that we’ve always had leaders who have twisted the truth because it serves them (and not America) well.   We have always had fools and bullies.

But it seems that the American train has jumped the track over the past 30 years, that dishonesty has become the purpose and dysfunction the goal.  For example, Ronald Reagan told us this about the Panama Canal:  “We bought it, we paid for it, we built it and we intend to keep it!”  That was a huge applause line, right up until the day he gave it away.

George H.W. Bush told us over and over, “Read my lips: No new taxes.”  Then he raised taxes.

Bill Clinton told us, “I did not have sex with that woman – Ms. Lewinski,” but, well, you know.

Now Mitt Romney is twisting himself every way imaginable to tell us that he’s always been against all those things he was always for.

And these are our leaders.

In any relationship, each has a part in the situation, so ultimately, it boils down to what we – you and I, our neighbors, your goofy brother-in-law, the retired couple down the street and everyone who works at the businesses in your town – have agreed to settle for.  We have let self-serving dishonesty penetrate our leadership as we simply went about our lives with myopic focus.  The lack of public integrity is so common now that we barely lift an eyebrow when we hear the next whopper.  It’s what we expect.  And that is the real poison of despair.

There is a glimmer of hope, though, that holds promise for us.  We can cure our national despair and it is so simple, so easy and so obvious.  We have the power to change everything and it is in our hands right now.

All we have to do is to stop settling.  All we have to do is to stop tolerating the intolerable.  All we have to do is to demand truth and call out the liars.

It’s time.


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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