Gene Altshuler

The Democratic-Chronicles: The system is rigged

One of our essential freedoms is the right to vote. With the 2016 campaign season now in full swing it is appropriate to take a close look at this core constitutional right. The right to vote is far from perfect. No, that is too wimpy a characterization — actually the system is rigged. If you think […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: The Grand Old Party no more

The Republican Party is “in play” — a Wall Street term for a company ripe for a takeover. Watching the Republican Party self-destruct is disheartening and sad. There is a distinct probability, not just a possibility, that the Party of Lincoln will be reduced to a gaggle of warring factions and we will witness the demise of […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: The politics of hate

Fear and hate, hate and fear — which comes first? Actually they are palindromic. Fear engenders hate and hate motivates the simplistic and uninformed, and so goes the dance. Not a stately minuet but the chaotic sweaty mosh pit called Republican politics. Fear and hate are bad enough in and of themselves, but the right chooses […]

My Turn: The other side of the street

Reading “Reflections from the Sidewalk” by Marcia Brim expressing her objections to abortion, I was struck by her effort to be a calm voice, rejecting inflammatory language and respectfully listening to those who believe in a woman’s right to control her own body. While you project a calm and reasoned voice, there are other Christians […]

The Democratic-chronicles: It’s a wrap

Year end is upon us and it is a good time to look back on 2015. In many ways this has been an extraordinary year with major changes to our social fabric, both positive and negative. Let’s start with the positive changes: The world finally got it right as the United Nations Conference on Climate […]

The Democratic-chronicles: A moral outrage

Although there is universal condemnation of the latest mass murder in San Bernardino, and thousands of articles and editorials extant, I am compelled to add my voice to the swelling chorus decrying America’s penchant for guns and refusal to enact any reasonable measures of safety from firearms. While I am sure that I cannot add […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: The politics of fear

Many commentators are saying they are ashamed of the Republican response to the horrific massacres in Paris. You know, those Republicans who are saying to close our borders to refugees or only allow in certified Christians. But not me. I have been ashamed of the “far wrong” wing of the Republican party for quite some time […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Some more things I have learned

The following are additional life lessons I have stumbled across since I last wrote on lessons in November 2014. As I said previously, I hope I have avoided platitudes, empty pieties, self-evident propositions, commencement oratory and anything that sounds like it may have come from the inside of a fortune cookie. But then again … […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Obama’s legacy, part 2

Despite the fact that President Obama has achieved major and significant accomplishments, his presidency has been far from perfect. Obama entered the White House believing to his core that opposing parties could always reason together. And he stubbornly kept to this belief, in the face of obdurate and relentless opposition, for almost six years before […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Do Republicans eat their young?

This is a rhetorical question but I have to ask: Do Republicans eat their young? Of course they don’t; they are generally nice people who really care about kids and puppies. But of late they have begun to eat their elders. With the rise of the Tea Party a new dynamic has infused the politics […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Brickbats and Trolls

It is not surprising that those who write to pick a bone with me outnumber those who agree with me by a wide margin. If I were to only see the online posts and letters to the editor I would feel like a blue dot in a sea of red. Yet people continually ask me […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Obama’s Legacy

From the perspective of a historian it is much too soon to opine on Obama’s legacy. Recently this subject came up in a discussion with a learned friend. While we agreed that it was too soon to memorialize Mr. Obama, we began to recount his successes, the burdens he carried and the obstacles he overcame. […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: The summer of our discontents

We have walked on the moon, seen pictures of Pluto from three billion miles away, virtually eliminated smallpox and polio and invented the Internet, the personal computer and Cool Whip. But why do otherwise seemingly intelligent people deny man’s calamitous role in climate change. Then, not only adamantly refuse to modify their behavior but prevent […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Free market nonsense

The concept of a free market economy is central to the very fabric of American conservative orthodoxy. But as I pointed out previously this is a fantasy, for there never has been, nor can there ever be, a completely free market economy. This fantasy is a classical zombie that keeps rising from the graveyard of discredited […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: An enduring question

An enduring question is what role government should play in the lives of its citizens. I twice addressed this question last year. In the first article I discussed the appropriate size of government and in the second the question of its purpose. The question that arises today is a bit different — that of the role […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Ideology-driven policy

What do you call a person who will not learn from experience? One who causes pain and suffering to others because of their indifference? Think drunk driver or the radical Republicans, who have raised indifference to an art form. When it comes to the minimum wage, conservatives have long advocated policies that treat companies’ employees […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Understanding SCOTUS

In the aftermath of the recent Supreme Court rulings on Marriage Equality and the Affordable Care Act, liberals are almost giddy and vibrating with joy in the afterglow. For those on the right, there is a palpable sense of sadness, resignation and, for a defiant few, a refusal to follow the law of the land. […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Moral myopia

Wanton killing always causes me to think about morality, or the lack of it. There is a belief, by some, that without religion there is no morality. And whether as self-justification or sincere belief, many, if not most, people of faith hold that their own religion is the foundation of morality. Much as I hate […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Censorship by any other name

Censorship by any other name is suspect. Presently, college campuses around the country have become home to a moral movement that is shocking for its illiberal slant and because it is a perverse form of censorship in institutions that have long prided themselves as bastions of free speech. Recently aggrieved students, reacting to what they […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Why am I a liberal?

Why am I a liberal and not a conservative? Well a belief system can be defined as much as what it stands for as what it is against. First, I do not consider the current right wing of the GOP to be conservative by any understanding of Abraham Lincoln, Edmund Burke, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight David […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: A Christian nation?

One of the most enduring myths is that we are, and were established as, a Christian nation. Peter Manseau’s “One Nation, Under Gods: A New American History” is an unusual work that drives home the idea that the U.S. is “informed by internal religious diversity.” There was literally never a point in the history of […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Moral bigotry

We are a society riven by opposing points of view, different mindsets based upon different world views. And this propensity is exacerbated by the different balance of values held by liberals and conservatives. The issues are legion from choice to the size of government. In a recent article I wrote about the lost art of […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: The lost art of compromise

Compromise is the essence of any social system. Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism, said, “All governments — indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act — is founded on compromise and barter.” With the sole exception, I might add, of tyranny, for tyranny is neither prudent nor virtuous. But […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: The right to carry and the right to exit

The issue of gun control has galvanized our nation, with a vocal and bullying minority stomping for little or no restrictions. These Second Amendment absolutists keep pushing for not just concealed weapon permits without sensible restrictions (e.g no felony or domestic abuse convictions, no mental illness), but open carry. Open carry refers to the practice […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: The sweet smell of success

Success is pregnant with meaning and nuance. We wish it for our children, our friends and relatives, and ourselves. While most people equate success with material wealth, for others it is recognition and accomplishment. We have grown up with the aphorisms about success that formed our national ethos: the Horatio Alger stories of rags to […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Spin doctors, haters and the First Amendment

The point and purpose of this article is not to refute the odious, anti-semitic screeds, or the crude and obnoxious rants by various letter writers to this paper. My focus is on the bigger question of freedom of speech and its limits. The use of direct quotes from the various letter writers is simply for […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Nihilists and naysayers

Recently when addressing the issues of balanced and sustainable economic development, I labeled myself as a “Wise Growth” person. One of the comments I received was what did I mean by that? Growth seems like such a simple word, just one syllable and yet it is crucial to all things. From living organisms to the […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: The baby and the bath water

We would like to believe that our public servants (aka county administrators) always place the interests of the county above petty vindictiveness. And then they go and prove us wrong. Sure, not all of them are short-sighted and petty, but it only takes one or two, doing something really stupid, to tar the rest. I […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: The Great Divide

More and more we have become a society with an obscene gap between rich and poor. We are also a society more socially and politically divided than ever before. And everything in our technical infrastructure and popular culture encourages and exacerbates these trends. And when an approach is developed to teach critical thinking in our […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Free speech is an oxymoron

Speech is not free. Don’t even go there. I know you can speak your mind whenever, and on whatever subject you like with only certain, carefully crafted restrictions. It’s the First Amendment people! But if you choose to be heard beyond the reach of your voice, or the nine people who read your brilliant blog […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Fair and balanced

A recent column by Margaret Sullivan, the public editor of the New York Times, impressed me on many levels. In it she examines the criticism of the papers coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and explains the Times’ process in reporting news. Without going into the specifics of her column I was impressed by the lengths […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Poor, poor Mr. Alger

The reason some people don’t want to hear the truth is because it will destroy their delusions. — paraphrasing Friedrich Nietzsche Thank you for your recent letter to the editor of Nov. 17 expressing concern at how misguided and misinformed I am. While I do not expect to change your mind one wit, I wanted […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Why are we different?

What makes a person a conservative or a liberal? Is it nature or nurture — or some combination? Recently social science has evolved to where it has begun providing answers. Research, based on hard science not speculation, presented in such books as “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt; “Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: To live my life

If this is a free country why are you telling me how to live my life? Recently, a little before eight o’clock on a Sunday morning, the doorbell rang. When we answered it, a bit grumpy before our first cup of coffee, standing there was a neatly dressed young couple, each holding the hand of […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: The opt-out syndrome

One of the most sacred rights we have as Americans is the right to vote. Yet citizens are opting out of the political system and not exercising this right in alarming numbers. In the last presidential election, 42.5 percent didn’t bother. No one expects a midterm turnout to approach that of a presidential year. For […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Chicken Little and the Sky is Falling

Chicken Little was hit on the head by an acorn and believed that the sky was falling. Our politically conservative Chicken Littles are now eerily quiet on what were sky-is-falling rants. Here are just a few that we no longer hear about because, wait for it … they are simply are not true. The Affordable […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Democracy denied

I am not a fan of initiatives — aka legislating by ballot. We elect representatives, and we should let them do their job. And while I may disagree with my representative’s vote from time to time (in the case of McClintock all the time), I have my chance to change things come election time. At […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: How not to run for BOS

Well, I have suffered through the first candidate forum to determine someone to fill the vacant seat in the Board of Supervisors’ District 2. In a take-off from a Seinfeld episode, it was cringeworthy. Not one of the five candidates evidenced any real measure of preparation for the debate. The gaffs were, well, cringeworthy. With […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Not invented here

There are lots of reasons why things do not get done: procrastination, timidity, lack of resources, contrary to policy or principles, or just plain resistance due to the uncertainty or discomfort of the new, that is a change to the status quo. All organizations face the unsettling aspects of change. And resistance shows up in […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Drowning in their Tea Pee 838

In one of the biggest primary election upsets ever, the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, lost his bid to a virtual unknown. While every pundit worth their salt has weighted in on the underlying meaning of this, two things occur to me. First, this election was Cantor’s to lose. And lose it he did. It […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: You have blood on your hands

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, reading what seems like a million words, hearing endless debates in Congress and a seeing flood of television horror stories, America cannot seem to bring a modicum of sanity to the issue of gun control. The killings go on, absolutely nothing has changed and I am puzzled and […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: Other things I have learned

The following are some life lessons I have stumbled across. I hope I have avoided platitudes, empty pieties, self-evident propositions, commencement oratory and anything that sounds like it may have come from the inside of a fortune cookie. But then again… 1. If someone says, “It’s too complicated for me to explain it to you,” […]

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