21st Century

What Are We Missing?


Reading time – 3:20  .  .  .

The daily outrages and incessant infantile furies create a barrier to focusing on important but non-urgent issues. Indeed, this post is being written just 10 days after the weekend massacres in El Paso and Dayton. This is during the ongoing intransigence of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. On full display are his dual betrayals of, 1. refusing to bring legislation to the floor of the Senate for a vote to defend against foreign invasion of our democracy, and, 2. refusal to bring any gun safety legislation to a vote. Happening at the same time is the President’s lying and misleading about both issues. But his behavior is so consistent that it’s hardly worth a yawn. Still, he’s the president, so his narcissism-on-display does suck up our national focus.

We have to make time to shine a light on the important but non-urgent issues. These things beg for answers, so let’s look at one as a placeholder for all: our gargantuan healthcare complex and changes we don’t notice.

STAT, the daily briefing from The Boston Globe focusing on healthcare related issues, reported on August 12,

“A new report from UnitedHealth Group finds that hospital prices increasing at current rates could end up costing $250 billion over the next decade. The report says that prices set by hospitals for services  — and not physician salaries or how much hospital services get used — are what’s driving up patients’ spending. Between 2013 and 2017, for instance, hospital prices increased by 19% while the cost of physician services increased by half that amount.”

To put that into perspective, healthcare accounted for 17.9% of GDP in 2017 and inflated 3.9% that year to a total of $3.5 trillion, or $10,739 per person. We spend a crazy amount of money battling injury and disease and this report says the cost to do that is getting far worse.

The un-examined tidbit that seems like a throwaway in this report is that over that same 4-year period the cost of physician services increased by almost 10%. Did we receive 10% greater value? Why should we pay the extra 10%?

Silly question. We pay it because healthcare isn’t like deciding which car to buy or whether now is a good time to install an energy efficient furnace. There isn’t a marketplace of cost competitive choices for doctors and when you need healthcare you need it now, regardless of your ability to pay.

That’s compounded by most of us getting a major portion of the cost of our healthcare from a third party – an insurance company – so we may only see the co-pay and be ignorant of the true cost. The result is that doctors and hospitals can charge what they want. There will be some moderation of the cost as the insurance companies arm wrestle with doctor and hospital office managers over their invoices, but that’s pretty much it.

We are so accustomed to the price of healthcare going up, reflected in our insurance premiums that may right now be getting deducted from your paycheck, that we don’t even squawk any more. Millions are so accustomed to the ever-escalating cost system that they won’t even look at alternative ways to fund our healthcare or ameliorate its cost.

Extending our willful blindness about our pockets being picked begs an answer to how many other ways we’ve allowed ourselves to become numb, as others eat away at our financial well being. That stuff is bankrupting us, so the question begging for an answer is, “What are we missing?”

Bonus Section

In that same edition of STAT they report,

“President Trump announced late last month a plan to import drugs from Canada to help lower Americans’ prescription costs, and Canadians are not happy about it.”

Just think for a moment about the multiple crazies of this. First, most of those drugs are made in the U.S. and exported to Canada at substantially reduced cost, where they are sold for somewhat more sane prices to consumers. Trump wants to create a massive importation of those same drugs back into the U.S., thus effectively swatting at symptoms and refusing to deal with the root cause. And it’s worse than that.

The predictable Canadian backlash to this vacuum-headed idea is driven by shortages of drugs in Canada. Reports STAT,

“You are coming as Americans to poach our drug supply, and I don’t have any polite words for that,” said Amir Attaran, a professor at the University of Ottawa. Read more here.

This is just another of Donald Trump’s strategy-vacant ideas without any thought to consequence to others, especially to our strong ally and second biggest trading partner.

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NOTES:

    1. Writings quoted or linked to my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
    2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
    3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

This Is Your Country


This is your country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is your country on Trump and McConnell

 

Walmart shooter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Any questions?



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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

NOTES:

    1. Writings quoted or linked to my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
    2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
    3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Vision


Reading time – 3:42; Viewing time – 4:39  .  .  .

The second round of over-populated candidate debates will occur this week. Instead of hearing them snipe at one another, jockey for position or clutch desperately for air time, here’s what I want from the candidates.

Vision is the “THAT way” clarity that guides us in both the best of times and the worst. We have a national vacuum where that direction should be and that leads to proposals that are foolish and often self-defeating and which leave us adrift in the hot air that is today’s sound bite politics. Our leaders, whose task it is to name it and keep us focused, are vision-challenged in our hyper-partisan, post-reality swamp, so we wander about without direction.

We are a fractious and largely confused people, often acting only on impulses borne of the amygdala, the “reptile brain,” which is acutely tuned to fear. That leaves us vulnerable to the demagogue’s exploitation, as we mindlessly react to the most recent fear mongering. That causes us to lose our ability to stay true to our values. It turns out that Darth Vader was right when he said:

Jamelle Bouie makes that clear in his essay The Joy of Hatred, wherein he speaks of, “our history of communal, celebratory racism.” Communal and celebratory, indeed. We’ve seen that in Donald Trump’s chanting crowds, with their nearly all white faces smiling and reveling in the dark side of rejecting “others.” That isn’t the least bit helpful to our American condition or to our possibilities and it is utterly without hope for the future.

Trump speaks and acts as though he is a disciple of Darth Vader and he is leading us backward into authoritarianism. That is the very thing that motivated the Founding Fathers to say to King George III, “No more.” While they didn’t utter those words, their actions and the Declaration of Independence made clear that was their message.

To find our way to that more perfect union and our true potential we need to regain our aspirational nature. We have to abandon our impoverishment of ourselves and stop looking through the rear view mirror. We have to restore our vision ahead. We’ve done that before, as we did under the leadership of President Kennedy, which resulted in our Apollo program successes.

During that period of our history we were in perpetual danger of civilization-ending conflict. Gaining preeminence in space was our way of saying to the world and to ourselves that we are America. Might it be possible to regain that forward looking, can-do spirit? Might we be able to articulate the inspiration of creating that shining city on the hill?

I have two essays for you that speak to that.

Lori Garver, former deputy administrator of NASA, wrote an exceptional vision for a new and critical mission for NASA and it doesn’t include sending anyone to the moon or to Mars. It is rooted in real world need that is incrementally manifesting itself in unmistakable ways.

The other essay is from David Brooks. He speaks to who we really are and who we can be. Do yourself a favor and click his link to a Langston Hughes poem.

Back to the Apollo program.

Gene Kranz was flight director for the Apollo 13 mission. A catastrophic failure of their spacecraft put the lives of the men aboard in peril. Kranz’ engineers and scientists were working to cobble together the life-sustaining measures needed to save our astronauts when Kranz is reputed to have said, “Failure is not an option.” That is still true.

Who has what it takes to inspire this nation? Who will call upon what Lincoln termed our better angels and lead us in the direction of our greatness?

What I want is for our politicians and candidates to stop the silly, often self-destructive stuff and focus on who we can be. I want them to awaken our sleeping capabilities and to light a beacon to shine on that hill and guide us all. Rarely has the need been so great.

As I watch the debates I’ll be looking for the candidate who will do that.


President Trump is obsessed with attacking opponents by using the word “infested.” His vision for America seems to be constant attack, constant degrading of others. That’s exactly the kind of future where there is no hope. That’s the kind of future that rips us apart. Click here to see what CNN’s Victor Blackwell had to say about that. Decide for yourself which vision moves your spirit.


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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Blue 2020


O’ Blue, you good dog, you.

Reading time – 1:10; Viewing time – 1:57  .  .  .

We have issues. Challenges, Problems to solve. And most of them not only are not getting solved, but they are being made worse. You need only consider our manufactured humanitarian crisis at our borders for a painful example.

There has been a continuous wringing of hands, including in this column, and the people tasked with dealing with our challenges have accomplished little. It appears that we’re left solely with the imperative that this horrible, likely criminal president must go. But we haven’t had a clarity about The Candidate who can accomplish that imperative and solve our problems. Now we do.

I’m announcing that my dog BLUE is a candidate for President of the United States!

He was born in this country, so he doesn’t have a foreign country to go back to. He isn’t a communist or a socialist and is color blind, so he can’t discriminate by race. BLUE is loyal, caring, steadfast and dedicated to making the lives of others better. He is fiercely protective, so you’ll sleep well at night, knowing that BLUE is standing guard over our country.

Trump shoves Markovic of Montenegro. Click for the video.

BLUE is incapable of inflicting cruelty on refugees and would never promote a tax act that ignored every citizen but the enormously wealthy. Rather than attacking our allies, BLUE will lick their hands. And he would never push a fellow NATO member aside to get in the front row.

It’s obvious that we need a leader who respects the office of the president, is thoughtful and is dedicated to the people instead of to himself. You get it, because this is both clear and compelling.

Really, isn’t it obvious that my dog BLUE will do a much better job of being President of the United States than Donald Trump? So, let’s make this a red, white and

BLUE 2020!


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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

This Isn’t About Trump – It’s About What’s Important


Reading time 5:02; Viewing time – 6:59  .  .  .

Trump politicized the Fourth of July.

There were M1A2 Army tanks and Bradley armored vehicles in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

Not content with just stationary vehicles, Trump ordered the military to have airplanes and helicopters pass overhead, saving the Battle Hymn of the Republic to blare over the loudspeakers as the Navy Blue Angles did a fly-by.

The military was there because Trump won’t get his military parade to one-up President Macron of France. Such a massive show of hardware would rip up Pennsylvania Avenue and cost more than he could scam through Congress. And they were there because the violent machines of war make him feel powerful and self-important.

He gave a speech written by others which included concepts he doesn’t understand, interspersed with self-serving grandiosity. He anchored it to the military because his base would thrill to that; but of course that was only a fraud to justify focus on himself.

“It’ll be like no other – it will be special  .  .  . ” Trump had promised of his spectacle. Of course, that turned out to be true – it was like no other. But not in the way he meant. (Just for fun you can review his speech here.)

For this Trump “look-at-me” event using our military for political purposes, only big Republican donors and pols were offered tickets. No Democrats were invited. He refused to disclose how much the event actually cost, but we already know that he robbed $2.5 million from our national parks as partial payment.

And all of that is the problem.

Trump made our national birthday party all about Trump instead of all about America. It is the perfect exemplar of what has happened to our country since the craziness began, as foreign affairs, immigration, trade policies, the wall, threats of war, healthcare, taxation and all the rest are solely about Trump, not about America.

That is why we have to do absolutely everything necessary to get the hands of this dangerous person off the levers of government. Because it’s not supposed to be about Trump; it’s supposed to be about you and me and 320 million of our country-men and -women.

I’m not an “all Democrats all the time” guy. I am a democracy guy full time and it matters that a huge percentage of our democracy has been demolished by this would-be tyrant. It needs to be rebuilt before we lose it all. I’ve written about that in many ways, including how We The People aren’t getting what we want. A part of what submarines rule by the people is a Republican Congress that is dedicated to chest-thumping fictions and obstruction.

The Republican mantra for the last two Democratic presidents – that’s 16 years of government – has been opposition to everything those presidents promoted. That was true regardless of how sensible the policies were and even if Republicans had supported those policies before there was a Democrat in the White House.

That produced hyper-partisan warfare and gridlock. It’s why we don’t have even a plan to rebuild our infrastructure, yet politicians tell us in every election cycle that they’re going to fix it. It’s why we don’t have common sense gun laws, even as over 90% of us demand them. It’s why Roe v. Wade continues to be attacked, while 76% of Americans want it left alone as settled law.

The same is true about healthcare, education, the DACA kids, global warming, Putin’s invasion of America and so many other issues. We aren’t getting what we want and our pride as Americans continues to slip almost entirely due to – let’s call it displeasure – with our politics.

We need to put the building blocks of democracy back in place and the only way to get beyond the Congressional gridlock of the past 30 years is unitary government, at least for a time.

Yes, I know that the very vocal Democrat far left is off-putting to independents and traditional Republicans and even to centrist Democrats. Read Nick Kristoff’s piece for more on that. I suspect that there will be a strong moderating force, should the Dems take over Congress, especially if Nancy Pelosi is in charge of the House. I, for one, will be lobbying for that moderation.

And I will be lobbying for democracy and for for clarity about what We The People want and the best ways to deliver that. Join me now in two ways.

First, support candidates who will create the change you want to see. Right now there’s about an 85% chance they’re Democrats, especially if they’re opposing one of the spineless Republicans who hasn’t the moral courage to stand up to Trump.

I really don’t care if you’ve never voted for a Democrat, because your predisposition to oppose Ds has no place in our teetering democracy.

The second way may appear to be just for fun, but it isn’t.

Read the hat carefully – click the pic for a larger view

Confucius tells us that the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name. We certainly need more wisdom in America right now. If Trump is to be removed from power in 2020 so that we can restore our democracy, we must properly name him with unmistakable clarity so that We The People make sensible choices.

What is the name that captures Trump? Put your notion in the Comments section to help expand our wisdom and make America America again. NOTE: This isn’t about venting; it’s about accurate description.

And this isn’t about Trump. It’s about Independence Day.

BTW – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted a happy Fourth of July message on Thursday morning that included a picture of the Betsy Ross 13-star flag. White supremacist and other hate groups have been using that flag to promote themselves and spread hate, likely because slavery was the law of the land when Ross made that flag. Click through and read McConnell’s tweet; then read the comments below it. They are stunning in their rebuke of him. Indeed, pass along the link to your friends in Kentucky so that they will remove this democracy killing “Grim Reaper” – that’s how he describes himself – from the Senate.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

How Did We Get Here? and “The Wag”


Reading time – 3:58; Viewing time – 5:40  .  .  .

  • How did we get to the point:

– where ripping babies from their mothers’ arms is tolerated?

– where we refuse those kidnapped kids soap and a toothbrush and there isn’t universal outrage?

– where disrespecting our allies and cozying up to adversaries is thought to be good foreign policy?

– where allowing fossil fuel exploration in Monument Valley is considered a good idea?

– where pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement is deemed sound policy for our children and grandchildren?

– where there could be a discriminatory citizenship question on the national census? The Constitution calls for no such thing.

– where Russia could invade and disrupt our national election and the president refuses to confront, much less punish the offender?

– where the president refuses to do anything to stop further cyber assault on our country and even invites it – and somehow we aren’t all enraged?

– where we yawn when yet another Cabinet Secretary resigns in disgrace?

– where birthright citizenship – you know, the 14th Amendment – would be under attack? Note: The 14th Amendment is probably why you are a United States citizen.

– where we tolerate reversing EPA standards, such that fossil fuel extractors no longer have to report or reduce methane emissions? Methane is 84 times more powerful at global warming than carbon dioxide.

– where picking fights with other countries is considered a good negotiating strategy?

– where a continuing presidential attack on freedom of the press is somehow held to be patriotic?

– where defying subpoenas is in any way a debatable thing?

– where arbitrary tariffs slapped on friends is tolerated?

– Where witnesses before Congressional committees can avoid testifying by claiming “absolute immunity,” an immunity that doesn’t exist in law?

This list could be far longer and likely you can add to it.

We’ve always had divided government, with impassioned politicians at times saying stupid stuff.* This isn’t about that. This is about the amazing reality that we got to the point where, for example, ripping babies from their mamas as a tool to discourage immigration is open for debate.

KEY POINT: Not one of the items on this list is a whine about Trump being crude, disrespectful, ignorant and an assault on decency. They aren’t even a complaint about his well over 10,000 lies since taking office. And every one of them has substantive impact on Americans – like you – and on our nation as a whole.

KEY OTHER POINT: It’s so very easy to pin all that on Trump, but he only has the power to do those things because of a supportive – or at least compliant – citizenry and, correspondingly, a meek and cowardly Republican Congress.

KEY QUESTION: In order to get out of this craziness we have to be able to both define it and identify what brought us here. What’s your notion? Post it in the Comments block and we’ll help one another learn.

FUN FACT: Roughly 63 million people voted for Trump (or they voted against Hillary) in 2016. On that same day, over 90 million voting age Americans stayed home.

FUN FACT QUESTION: Can you think of something you can do so there isn’t a repeat of that in 2020? I knew you could.

Late Addition

I’ve warned repeatedly (here and here, for example) that we are at risk of Donald Trump pulling a “wag the dog” scam to ensure he gets reelected. Now it appears that he’s doing it.

He has backed Iran into a corner with enough sanctions to hobble its economy and withdrawn from the JCPOA. Then Trump complained because Iran said that it would restart its uranium enrichment program, the very thing the JCPOA prevented.

So, he sent a carrier group and 2,500 troops to the area. Then on Thursday he ordered military strikes on Iran in response to Iran having downed a U.S. reconnaissance drone. He called off the attack before damage was done, claiming that killing 150 people with his attacks wouldn’t be a proportional response. We don’t know if that cancellation was actually just a stunt to make Trump seem to be a humanitarian, but since Trump is all about the theater of things, it very well could have been just that.

Recognize that Trump is constantly opaque in his dealings, leaving everyone wondering about his motives and goals, and almost certainly he sees the situation with Iran as a pissing contest that he has to win. A lot of his supporters like his kind of brainless muscular response, which drives the danger meter pointer closer to catastrophe.

You better make sure your senators and Congress people stand up to what looks like the newest Gulf of Tonkin fraud, or we’ll get involved in yet another unending middle east war and a lot of people will die.


*Stupid stuff is the blatantly obvious false or misleading statement. It’s the filibustering of a reporter to avoid his/her question. It’s the whataboutism that is designed to avoid having to deal with the truth or to denigrate an opponent. It’s the whole cloth fabrication that comes in a small throwaway line or a sweeping, dramatic denial of reality. Stupid stuff.



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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Moral Values


Reading time – 3:56; Viewing time – 5:43  .  .  .

The Gallup organization does polling on lots of things, one of which is how we feel about ourselves. They just produced a report that shows that we believe our moral values aren’t good and are getting worse.

That got me to thinking about what that means. What are our moral values? I don’t recall seeing them posted on any wall. We listed some values in the Declaration of Independence. Maybe those are the ones.

The Republicans have been claiming to be the party of “family values” for decades, but I don’t remember any clarification of what that means, which makes that claim nothing more than a bumper sticker like, “I’ve been to Wall Drug.”

The American divorce rate has hovered around 50% for decades, but is now decreasing, this due entirely to Millennials, so marriage commitment likely isn’t a driver of our notion that our moral values are getting worse.

Both violent crime and property crime in this country have been dropping for decades, according to Pew Research, Gallup and many others. Perhaps that says something about our notion of honesty and how sticky that is. That doesn’t seem to be the cause of our worsening self-image, either.

So, exactly which moral values do we view as bad and getting worse? And does that apply to all of us or to some of us most especially? I think it’s the latter.

I think that outside of our government, no Americans are ripping children from their mothers and then leaving them in cages or in vans. I think that outside of our government most people keep their word, they don’t stab friends in the back and they don’t cozy up to people they know are bad guys. I think that most of us have the courage to stand up for what’s right and to oppose what’s wrong.

And I believe that hasn’t changed much over the decades. We have roughly the same proportion of heroes and cowards, honest people and crooks and all the rest as in years past. What’s changed is our notion about how we are, far more so than how we’ve actually changed. And if that’s correct, then where are we getting these notions of how we’re morally slip-sliding away? I think we need to look to leadership.

Note that the tens of thousands of Brits who demonstrated weren’t protesting America; they were protesting Trump. Clearly, they see the real moral values problem.

Johnson gave us the Vietnam War. Nixon gave us Watergate. Ford gave us absence of accountability. Carter gave us a wimpy handshake. Reagan gave us supply side economics and Iran-Contra. H.W. Bush gave us “Read my lips.” Clinton gave us Monica. W. Bush gave us two unnecessary – some say illegal – wars that continue to be U.S. tar babies. Trump gave us endless lies and corruption, brainless deconstruction of what makes our country work, continuing abuse of migrant children and his wearying narcissism. And most of these presidents gave us stagnant wages for all but a fabulously wealthy few and invested them with grossly out-sized power and influence.

Yes, I know I left Obama off this list. I just can’t seem to conjure his horrible scandal, betrayal or criminal behavior. Although there was that tan suit that so infuriated Congressional Republicans.

Here’s my point. I think that the constant drumbeat of horrible leadership that stabs our intuited moral values in the back warps our thinking about ourselves.

That doesn’t relieve us of our responsibility for having elected these presidents and members of Congress who fall so terrilbly short. That’s on all of us. If our notions about our moral values are to improve, the responsibility lies with us and what we do. We can start to make things better by voting. And I don’t mean just the 60% who typically show up for presidential elections. I mean the other 40%, too. Then perhaps we’ll feel better about our moral values when we’ve ousted the greatest violator of them all, as well as his enablers.

My pal David Houle is a futurist. That means that while you’re doing whatever you do throughout the day, he’s researching what’s to come. His recent post suggests that things are and will be changing dramatically, specifically as we move beyond 20th century thinking into 21st century thinking. Have a look at his post and see what you think.

Just get that only a few years ago the Green New Deal wasn’t a remote possibility even for discussion. Recall Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth and how he and his notions were mocked. Neither was Medicare for all open for discussion, nor was immigration reform or prison reform or gun safety and so many other issues. Our changing cast of characters in government to people with 21st century thinking has already changed the discussion and change in action can’t be far behind. It’s likely we’ll feel differently about ourselves as all this unfolds. Stand by for a new Gallup report in a few years – it’s going to look very different.

Final unrelated point: Read David Brooks’ essay “The Coming GOP Apocalypse.” And before you cheer on that apocalypse, do a gut check on your belief in diversity. America needs Republicans. It’s just that they got lost in the woods of self-important chest thumping a few decades ago and can’t hear anyone else over the sound of their certainties. What we need is not their demise; we need them to come to their senses.

So, find an old school conservative friend and convince them to run for office to save our nation from today’s so-called Republicans.

Many thanks to JC for the pointer to Brooks’ essay.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Public Opinion


  • Reading time – 2:29  .  .  .

You know what George Santayana  said:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

confirmed by “Metaphors Be With You”, by Dr. Mardy Grothe, page 301

The world has had innumerable returns to authoritarianism, as though we believe that a strongman leader can and will fix our ills, but history teaches us that more often than not those leaders deliver far worse suffering.

Now, with our ignorance of how to deal with globalization and the internet and with authoritarian-led nations seeking to do us harm, a huge minority of our fellow citizens want a tough guy leader for our country. It’s possible many of our 320 million people have forgotten the past – you know, like when our Founding Fathers led a rebellion against an authoritarian despot, King George III.

I know little about Walter Lippmann, his writings and his politics, but I came upon this quote recently:

“Men who have lost their grip upon the relevant facts of their environment are the inevitable victims of agitation and propaganda. The quack, the charlatan, the jingo  .  . .  can flourish only where the audience is deprived of independent access to information.”

from “Liberty and the News“, 1920, by Walter Lippmann

That was penned a generation after Santayana and it suggests something insidious, something far more dangerous than the forgetfulness to which Santayana speaks. It suggests leadership that intentionally manipulates what we see, hear and are able to learn. It’s fed by the lack of a free and independent press. It’s fed by the demeaning and slandering of the people and institutions that report on leaders and hold them accountable.

Forming the basis of the Almond–Lippmann consensus about public opinion are three assumptions:

Public opinion is volatile, shifting erratically in response to the most recent developments. Mass beliefs early in the 20th century were “too pacifist in peace and too bellicose in war, too neutralist or appeasing in negotiations or too intransigent”

Public opinion is incoherent, lacking an organized or a consistent structure to such an extent that the views of US citizens could best be described as “nonattitudes”

Public opinion is irrelevant to the policy making process. Political leaders ignore public opinion because most Americans can neither “understand nor influence the very events upon which their lives and happiness are known to depend.”

Lippmann later recanted these views, as he saw that the public was far more clear-headed about the Vietnam war than were politicians.

Nevertheless, re-read those three points and imagine what political manipulation of the news can do to public opinion. Think about what undermining our free press can do to enable leaders to pervert democracy. Then think about why so often Americans are ignored in public policy making on issues like gun safety, climate warming, healthcare and so many others where the overwhelming majority of the public doesn’t get what it wants.

Rosa Parks: Nevertheless, she persisted.

Are you okay with that?

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 

 


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Fake President – and Memorial Day


Reading time – 4:18; Viewing time – 6:54  .  .  .

The Fake President Part

He says “fake news” daily, but it isn’t about fake news, as the president and his drones would have you believe. It never was. Same for his attacks on our other institutions.

They want you to believe whatever they say that effectively undermines our sharing of power – our democracy – and I can prove it with just a few things that happened last week.

From the AP:

“WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Thursday granted Attorney General William Barr new powers to review and potentially release classified information related to the origins of the Russia investigation, a move aimed at accelerating Barr’s inquiry into whether U.S. officials improperly surveilled Trump’s 2016 campaign.”

At root, this isn’t about an investigation. There is no improper surveillance or corrupt FBI, because investigating is what the FBI does – it’s in its name – and it’s what they do to identify and catch bad guys.

Recall that our nation was cyber-attacked by a hostile foreign power solely to benefit the candidacy of Donald Trump. We’d have to be idiots not to look into a possible conspiracy.

Click me

So, this new power to declassify that Trump has given to Barr (and which has never before been delegated by a president) is actually about giving Barr the power to selectively release documents, to dis-empower our intelligence agencies and invalidate conspiracy investigations. It’s about trying to make Trump’s election win appear to be earned, even as we all know it’s phony. It’s about making the FBI look corrupt. Doing so is an effort to sabotage public confidence in the FBI in particular and government in general. That’s what fascist autocrats do – they demean government so that citizen loyalty gets shifted to the leader. Buy and read this book and you’ll understand.

From the New York Times:

“WASHINGTON — Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks leader, has been indicted on 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act for his role in obtaining and publishing secret military and diplomatic documents in 2010, the Justice Department announced on Thursday — a novel case that raises profound First Amendment issues.”

The First Amendment ensures several rights and freedom of the press is one of them. It is the only thing that ensures public accountability of government officials. It is the primary bulwark against totalitarianism. And our president has thrown tantrums for years about our national press, demeaning it by calling it “fake news”. Now he’s trying to cut the legs out from under our investigative reporters.

Trump’s fake news charge isn’t about the accuracy of reporting and it isn’t made solely out of pique; it is made to decrease your confidence in the press, to make you so skeptical that you’ll only listen to one person: the president. That’s what fascist autocrats do – they demean the press so that citizen loyalty gets shifted to the leader. Buy and read this book and you’ll understand.

From Twitter:

Trump has the distinction of having such a profound absence of good judgment, that he posted this video. It is a doctored video of Nancy Pelosi, clearly an attempt to make her look old, enfeebled, perhaps mentally challenged.

This video is so transparently altered that we have to wonder why the President of the United States would have anything to do with it.

His current spat with Nancy Pelosi can be reduced to its playground bully essence, “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”

The real dynamic, though, is that Trump is trying to undermine your confidence in both the Speaker of the House and the entire Congress, leaving the president as the only one for citizens to follow. That’s what fascist autocrats do.

In contrast, here’s the truth.

The FBI and its over 35,000 people are dedicated to protecting us from bad guys. They put their lives on the line for us every day. They’re the real deal.

Our mainstream press is the real deal, too, as they dig to separate truth from propaganda and lies and hold government officials accountable.

Congress surely is more complicated, but it is the branch of government that most closely represents We The People.

Trump is working every day toward the goal of becoming an autocrat, a dictator, like his bromance buddy Vladimir Putin, whom he believes blindly and more so than our entire intelligence community. He is attempting to undermine the pillars of our government and of our democracy itself, leaving only him to follow.

Click me for a larger view

Despite Donald Trump’s inane and self-important proclamations, there is no corrupt FBI or brain-addled Speaker of the House or fake news. There’s just a fake president.

The Memorial Day Part

This is Memorial Day weekend. Sadly, our president scheduled a trip to Japan. So, instead of visiting Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier on Memorial Day as representative of all of us paying our respects, he’s going to have a press conference with Prime Minister Shinzō Abe.

You and I can do better than that.

This is the day we set aside to honor our war dead, those who, in Lincoln’s words, gave their last full measure of devotion. They are among the heroes who made it possible for us to live the lives we do, so it’s fitting that we honor them.

So, display your flag – half-mast until noon, then at the top for the rest of the day. Go to the ceremony in your town and remove your cap as the bugler plays Taps. Thank the veteran sitting next to you for having had his buddy’s back. Stand and be grateful to these people. We owe them more than we will ever be able to repay.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Indispensable Nation


Reading time – 3:56  .  .  .

It’s time to take a break from talk of impeachment, contempt of Congess citations, subpoenas, obstruction of justice, picking a fight with Iran and the unending daily tsunami of outrageous behavior – not because those things aren’t important, but because there are other critically important things to consider that are easy to overlook because of our continuing self-inflicted reign of terror. A 50,000 foot view is one of those things.

George Packer wrote a piece for The Atlantic this month entitled “Elegy for the American Century: A report On The Decay of Pax Americana.” I confess that reading it brought into full light my ignorance of the complexities of the Balkan war, the complicated rivalries and borders, the centuries old grievances. More than that, though, it brought greater clarity to how we – the United States – have ceased to be the indispensable nation and have become globally unreliable.

– We now disrespect and even insult our allies

– We now embrace brutal dictators, the very people whom our allies worry about and because they have looked to us for leadership

– We renege on treaties and agreements

– We focus enmity on defenseless people

– We allow buffoonery to go unchecked, making us the object of international mockery and scorn

– We foment divisiveness and hate within our own country, showing people in other countries that we can’t be relied upon because we simply don’t have it together

The United States was the only major power with an intact industrial base following WW II and we created a new world order. The Soviet Union was our continuing enemy, but they could only affect world order through military oppression. We had the goods, as well as the strength to stand up to the bad guys and western democracy flourished. That’s all changed now, though, because we have told the world that we can no longer be counted on.

Angela Merkel just told Europeans that the post-war world order is over and called for Europe to stand up to China, Russia and the US! Something has radically changed and it very clearly isn’t for the better.

Below is an excerpt from Packer’s piece focusing on this very thing.

“If you ask me when America’s long decline began, I might point to 1998. We were flabby, smug, and self-absorbed. Imagine a president careless enough to stumble into his enemies’ trap and expend his power on a blue dress. Imagine a superpower so confident of perpetual peace and prosperity that it felt able to waste a whole year on Oval Office [sex]. Not even al-Qaeda, which blew up two American embassies in East Africa that August, could get our serious attention—Clinton’s response, a barrage of cruise missiles, was derided left and right for following the script of Wag the Dog. The Republicans decided that destroying the president was more urgent than the national interest, and they attacked his every move at home and abroad. Our leaders believed they had the luxury to start tearing one another apart, and they’ve never stopped. Did any country ever combine so much power with so little responsibility? Slowly, imperceptibly at first, we lost that essential faith in ourselves.

“The American century ended in Baghdad and Helmand, in Aleppo and Odessa, and in Beijing. It also ended in Wisconsin and in Silicon Valley and, maybe above all, in Washington, D.C. It ended from overreach and exhaustion, rising competition, the rapid changes and broken promises of globalization, and the failure of our own middle-class democracy, which, when it was thriving, gave us an influence that exceeded even our power.

“Another place where the American century ended was Bosnia.

“Twenty years after Dayton [the peace talks that ended the war in Bosnia], five years after [Richard] Holbrooke [the US Assistant Secretary of State leading the Dayton peace talks] died when his aorta tore open .  .  .   a woman in Sarajevo named Aida began to experience insomnia. Though she had lived through the entire siege, she never counted herself among the hundreds of thousands of Bosnians with post-traumatic stress disorder, but now, two decades after the war, she lay awake night after night, unable to take her eyes off the American presidential campaign on TV. Something about the people at Donald Trump’s rallies was deeply familiar to Aida—their clothes, their faces, their teeth, the men’s mustaches, the women’s hair and makeup, the illogic of their grievances, their rage, their need for an enemy .  .  .  Moments in the American campaign brought up uncanny counterparts from those years in the Balkans. Late one night, during the Republican National Convention, Aida suddenly heard the voices of 1 million Serbs in the streets of Belgrade shouting for the head of a Kosovar leader—“Arrest Vllasi! Arrest Vllasi!”—while Milošević cupped his ear and goaded them: “I can’t hear you!” In Cleveland they were chanting “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

“After the Cold War, grand strategists proposed various scenarios for the future of the world: liberal capitalist triumph, the clash of civilizations, great-power rivalry, borderless anarchy. Nationalism didn’t make the short list.

“The warlords turned out to be ahead of their time. Kurt Bassuener, an American expert on Bosnia, calls Trump “America’s first Balkan president.” His public performances sound like translations from the Serbian. For Aida, Trump’s rule told her that Bosnia no longer has anyone to count on. Europe ceased being a noble idea when populist demagogues put up razor-wire fences to keep out refugees. Now the American idea is gone, too. [Said Aida,] ‘After the United States’ values collapsed, who’s there to look up to?'” [all emphasis mine]

Who, indeed?

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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