Big thinking

As Smart as Squirrels


A partial compendium of Trumpian distractions designed to keep your eye off the ball. Click the image for a larger view.

Reading time 5:39; Viewing time – 7:05  .  .  .

Ed note: There never seems to be a break in the outrageous, the illegal, the assaults on democracy and the hurtful things in the news – like the Kavanaugh horror show, murder in Turkey, 6.5 Presidential lies per day, the kidnapping of children and all the rest. That makes it difficult to find space for something forward thinking, so we’ll just have to make the space.
The main body of this post was published 6 years ago and the message still fits. So, here’s As Smart As Squirrels, lightly edited for today.

Strategy is what we do. Tactics are how we do those things, so the tactics serve the strategies. Strategy serves something else: The Why – why we are doing what we are doing. It’s our vision for tomorrow and all the tomorrows after that. It’s our True North and nobody in politics is talking about that. Most of what we hear is little more than reaction, accusations, false facts, and techniques that politicians use to contort themselves into what they think will manipulate voters to vote for them and will continue the overwhelming crush of the big money carpet bombing of our democracy.

If we are to survive as a democracy, if the American Dream is to endure, indeed, if America is to continue to be America, we will have to be as smart as squirrels.

Squirrels aren’t the most intelligent animals on the planet; they’re just fuzzy rats with cute tails and tiny little brains, but they’re smart enough to know that comfortable summer and autumn days will give way to eye-crossing cold winter days and food will become scarce. That’s why they gather those acorns and stuff them away during the warm months. They know tomorrow is coming and they prepare for it. That’s a useful model for us – prepare for tomorrow – and the challenge that faces us is to be as smart as squirrels and prepare for all the tomorrows. Here’s an example.

It’s been years since we passed peak oil, the point at which half of the Earth’s oil reserves had been consumed.  It took us a little over a hundred years to do that. With the explosion of world population and all those additional people wanting to consume energy at the pace we do, it will take just a few short decades to burn through the rest of the oil. Worse, because it took 60 million years to produce the oil we’ve been burning and, since we really can’t wait another 60 million years for the supply to improve, offshore drilling and punching holes in the ground in the still pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge simply aren’t the answers to our energy needs. Worse yet is the global warming that all that fossil fuel burning creates and which is going to impact everyone on Earth before long and in severely negative ways.

We have to be smarter than that about all of our challenges and we have to think longer term. That will require clarity, direction and innovation. It will also require us to abandon our willful myopia. Absent that, we will continue to defeat ourselves, so the question that needs our focus is this: What is our long-term vision for America – our Why?

That question is intended to focus our thinking perhaps seven generations into the future so that we make the best decisions today, so that we take the best actions that move us in the right direction for the longer term, rather than just being reactive to the most recent flamboyant outrage or short term gain for the few.

Sadly, I don’t hear anyone talking about that kind of thing for America. The R’s talk about limited government and low taxes, but those are strategies, not a vision, and they offer nothing to indicate the America those strategies would create. Besides, the Rs don’t even practice those strategies. I hear the D’s talk about caring, fairness and lots of freebie stuff, but those, too, are strategies, not a vision, and it isn’t clear what they would create.

In this sound-bite-limited, tiny little attention span world we seem to have lost the ability to hold more complex ideas in mind. So, while the preamble to the Constitution is probably where we should focus our attention for a vision for America, I don’t know if that will work, since it’s a bit long to put on a bumper sticker.

Here’s a modest stab at a vision: A republic of security, liberty and prosperity for all Americans. We’ll never run out of work to accomplish that, so it satisfies the seven generation requirement of a vision. We can easily fit most of our core needs and strategies under that umbrella, like national security, fiscal policy, human rights, the general welfare and even that most hated of words, regulations. It can serve as a benchmark for decisions we must make and it might even help to eliminate some of the political fact-fabricating, pandering and other stupid stuff that overwhelms and paralyzes our politics. Offered well, it can even provide a benchmark for making wise Supreme Court picks.

I love to pick on Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). He fantasizes about a lot of crazy stuff, saying things like, “They’re gonna pull the plug on Granny.” In response to Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), who offered new allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Grassley said the allegations had “all the makings of a tabloid headline” and deserved “unqualified condemnation.” He said all of this stuff entirely without any supporting facts – just wild accusations. Imagine further one of his constituents asking him, “Senator, how does your saying such blatantly false things serve to create a republic of security, liberty and prosperity for all Americans?”

See what I mean about having a benchmark? We can test our notions and our strategies against our vision in order to be confident we’re moving in the right direction.

Surely, someone wiser than me can craft a far better long-term vision statement for America. What we need is something that isn’t in the weeds, is far sighted, doesn’t pander to wealthy interests and power grabbers and instead is focused on our entire society, our culture, our hopes, our dreams and our aspirations. When we do that, we call on what is best in America. When we fail to do that we make ourselves small and fall disappointingly short of our wonderful possibilities.

Is America as smart as I am?

So, give it a try in the Comments section below. What’s your vision for America? What should this country look like seven generations from now? What do you want your descendants in the year 2258 to be thanking you for?

We need to start moving in that direction right now. Otherwise, we’ll make ourselves dumber than squirrels.

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Ed. note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people, so:

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Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Populism and Obi-Wan


Reading time – 2:59; Viewing time – 4:06  .  .  .

Here’s Jax definition of populism: Mob behavior gussied up with a slick political cover.

Trump’s base is entirely populist, calling for extreme reaction to any issue and blunt force solutions to all problems. Think: Muslim ban; kidnapping children; building a $38 billion wall; embracing white supremacy and more.

Here are some characteristics of populism:

We are poor, innocent victims and that gives us the right to attack the imagined meanies who we fantasize have victimized us.

There is only “us” and “them” and we have to repress “them” or they will take over and victimize “us.”

There is always an enemy to demonize and dehumanize and blame for every problem. It’s never our fault and it’s never simply new cultural circumstances or the result of technological or global change. (See the cartoon below.)

All problems can be solved by hitting harder.

New thinking and fresh ideas are never contemplated or even welcome. Truth, facts and reality are no more than minor inconveniences, bumps in the road to greater power grabs.

Subtlety? What subtlety? We don’ need no stinking subtlety. We don’ need no stinking diplomacy. Or regulations to stop those who would exploit us. Or a press or justice system to hold leaders accountable. What accountability?

We are demanding of and slavish to an autocratic leader, a hero to worship, a strongman to idolize.

Perhaps democracy – rule by the people either directly or through democratically elected representatives – is an anomaly in human existence. Perhaps we are globally on the way back to monarchical, even dictatorial rule as our human default. The key is to envision what that looks like when we tear apart our hard won rights and structures, the foundations of freedom we’ve spent centuries building.

Our ancestors rebelled against the tyrant, King George III. You learned about that in your history classes, and his kind of tyranny is the world standard in the absence of democracy. In a monarchy, the people are rarely happy and most often are oppressed by the ruling class. That’s only attractive if you’re part of that ruling class. If you’re Dorothy from Kansas, not so much.

So, to the 27% of Americans who think that the government kidnapping of infants and children is okay, who think that shoving a thumb in the eye of our international friends is a good idea, who want to cozy up to tyrannical enemies of our country and who want to dismantle all of government and the judicial and press foundations that check executive excesses, you better be careful what you wish for. You just might get it and you will not like it and your grandchildren will curse you for your blindness.

Populism is driven by and generates great rushes of testosterone fury. It creates huge clouds of the sensation of being powerful, of sticking it to someone. But when those clouds lift we’ll be left with the tyranny of oppression.

To be clear, Trump and his minions are our challenge now. But to step back and look at a bigger picture, there is always a tyrant waiting to steal the reins of power and commit horrible acts and steal our democracy for himself. That can only happen if we allow the 27% to have their way.

I don’t have any notion that anyone can quickly change the visceral drive of the mobs that are the populism of this country. The Obi-Wan that is our only hope lies within the rest of us.

Click me for a larger image

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Ed. note: I don’t want your money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people, so:

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Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

D’oh!


Reading time – 3:09; Viewing time – 4:28  .  .  .

Trump’s temper tantrum list – and this is just a short, partial list – came to me in a true Homer Simpson moment. Here’s what he’s done:

  • – Backed the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accords, a plan for global climate protection that was agreed to by 195 nations
  • – Eliminated the 2012 CAFE standards that would dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels that contribute to global warming
  • – Backed the U.S. out of the TPP, thus giving enormous leverage on international trade to China, yet another step toward the U.S. becoming Number 2
  • – Cancelled DACA, putting nearly a million kids and young adults at risk by betraying them
  • – Opened our national parks and other protected lands and oceans to fossil fuel exploration
  • – Backed the U.S. out of the JCPOA, a successful, single focus agreement that prevents Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, leaving us a future choice between accepting Iran as a nuclear state or starting a war
  • – Promoted and signed a tax plan that overwhelmingly (85%) benefits already very wealthy people and corporations and blows off the rest of us in just a few years

This started when President Obama committed the greatest of sins, the most heinous of indictable crimes when he mocked Donald Trump at White House Correspondents Dinners (here at about 20 minutes).

Trump, a whining, sniveling little victim always, was infuriated and we know that whenever he thinks he’s been wronged (which is pretty much every day) he goes into full court press attack mode. And that’s what he’s been doing since he got his hands on the reins.

Trump has stupidly, childishly, clumsily done everything possible to erase the legacy of Barack Obama. The sole exception occurs whenever he can blame anything, whether real and imagined, on his predecessor. It doesn’t matter a whit to Trump if what he does harms our people or our country or the entire planet. He doesn’t care if he puts us at risk of civilization destroying nuclear war or any other consequence as long as he can diminish Barack Obama. That is the tyrant child we have as a president.

And another thing  .  .  .

Many Republicans in Congress and our nominally Republican president hate the very notion of helping poor people. “It’s your fault,” and “Help yourself,” intoned the pizza king presidential candidate, Herman Cain. Conservatives hate welfare, like the food stamps that make it so that poor children have something to eat.

Making that cruelty to our most at-risk people even worse are the slimy  reforms proposed by conservatives. People like Paul Ryan call for welfare changes that they brand with chest thumping, patriotic sounding names and then they lie about their programs and the adverse effect they’ll have on poor people. That’s the slime.

Repealing all welfare is likely politically impossible, but there must be a solution somewhere to this anathema to the conservative soul. Well, I just happen to have a solution that should satisfy everyone.

A kid in a family with an out of work coal miner dad in West Virginia doesn’t have the same resources for building an economically successful life as, say, little Donald Trump did. He began life with huge wealth in his lap, and just look at what he claims to have built from that. It’s obvious from that comparison – the poor kid in West Virginia and the rich Donald in New York – that the solution to our welfare mess is for everyone to start with a fortune.

That is why I propose that we give every current and future poor person a one-time $1 million stake to use to create their own life of wealth. Just imagine the millions of Americans with enormous wealth that this insightful program will produce. We’ll do away with all other welfare programs and that will make conservatives happy.

Best of all, the rest of us won’t have to listen to any more disingenuous and slimy conservative welfare reform schemes.

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Ed. note: I don’t want your money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Blustering for Bupkis*


  • * Bupkis – Absolutely nothing; nothing of value, significance, or substance.

Reading time 1:17  .  .  .

Who doesn’t want the nuclear capabilities of homicidal, fratricidal uncle-cidal Kim Jong-un eliminated? So, the upcoming summit between Kim and Trump has everyone’s interest and hopes for success, with success defined as ending North Korea’s nuclear threat. Sadly, critically, that doesn’t even rise to the level of remote possibility.

Kim has offered that he is ending his demands that U.S. troops be removed from South Korea, as well as ending nuclear testing. That sounds good, but it’s unlikely that he needs to do any further nuclear testing to have full, civilization ending capability, so his offer is not only without cost to North Korea, it is an entirely empty bag for the rest of us. That’s especially important to North Korea’s eastern neighbor, Japan, which Kim’s short- and medium-range ICBMs can reach right now.

Trump has responded by calling Kim’s gestures “big progress.” Therein lies the key pitfall.

Kim wants an end to sanctions against his country and, more than anything, to gain the respect and honor he thinks will be his, as the world recognizes his great power and puts him on a level playing field with the world’s most powerful nation. He wants global cred and Trump is handing it to him just by agreeing to meet in a summit with no preconditions. In return, Trump and the United States are getting nothing. It’s a huge win for the North Korean dictator which comes to him without cost, and that is true regardless of the outcome of the talks. And if no agreement is reached at all, the door is open for John “nuke ’em first” Bolton to walk in and have the ear of an impetuous, self-image focused president. Thank you Mr. Art of the Deal.

We’ve tried before to negotiate with North Korea and it has failed every time. Talk is cheap and we’ve seen no action other than deceit.* It looks like Trump is blustering his way to the same outcome once again – or worse. Bupkis.

“I would rather believe a woman who has given birth to a baby and still insists that she is a virgin than Kim Jong-un.”
Kim Chang-guk, 73, who joined other older citizens in the South Korean capital one recent weekend to protest the inter-Korean summit meeting.

From NY Times Morning Briefing, April 25, 2018.

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Ed. note: I don’t want your money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people, 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 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Fable


Flag of the United States of America

Reading time – 2:10; Viewing time – 3:25  .  .  .

Once upon a time there was a democratic republic called the United States of America. It was thought of by many as the shining city on a hill. It was the best hope for millions coming there from around the world and proved to be a land of opportunity. It had many strengths and valuable resources, but the most powerful of all was its people. They had enduring values and a can-do culture that made them the envy of the world.

One day the people found that they had been frustrated and angry for a very long time. Their leaders had failed them, lied to them and stolen from them, so they looked for a new leader and chose one who roused them with words of anger and grandiose promises. He had many obvious flaws and he lied to the people repeatedly, but they didn’t care about the lies because he spoke to their decades-long frustration, so they elected him to be their leader. Then things turned very bad for the people.

They learned that this new leader had ties to an Evil Empire and he was beholden to that empire in very suspicious ways, including great sums of money. And he surrounded himself with many others who also had ties to the Evil Empire in suspicious ways. He dismissed allies and warmed up to vicious autocrats around the world, especially the leader of the Evil Empire. He had many contacts with that leader and refused to report the contacts to his own intelligence agencies or to the press of his own country, so the people had to look to the Evil Empire for the truth of what was happening in their own country.

He began to dismantle the country’s foreign service infrastructure and weakened the Justice Department with an ineffectual leader. He demeaned key government people and agencies, especially those looking into his affairs and who could unmask him. He fired many long time public servants and pressured still more to resign their posts. He constantly demeaned the press, those who could hold him accountable publicly. He bullied legislators and they knuckled under, refusing to challenge him.

Flag of the Russian Federation

He created great sideshows, including threatening nuclear war with a petty tyrant in order to distract the people from his wrongdoing. He packed government with those he could control and demanded loyalty to himself, instead of loyalty to the people and the country, as they had pledged. He caused his top intelligence people to meet with the top intelligence people of the Evil Empire. Then suddenly the people found that their flag had been changed to a very different red, white and blue.

*  *  *

Once upon a time there was a democratic republic called the United States of America. You can read about it in the history books.

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Want to do something to change the end of this fable into something more to your liking? Register for a Rapid Response event in your area by clicking on the logo to the right  .  .  .

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Want more on this? Have a look here.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

A Challenge For Moderates


Reading time – 4:51; Viewing time – 7:44  .  .  .

Preface

If in these darkly polarized times you and I aren’t in the same bubble, if our notions about politics, policies and what it means to be an American aren’t in lock step, try this on for size and decide then how far apart our bubbles really are.

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The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday arrived and with it a number of references to his Letter From A Birmingham Jail. Oddly, I had not read it before, so I had a look and was stunned at how much of what he had to say in 1963 resonates in various ways with the America of today. He wrote,

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Do you believe that to be true? Are we interconnected? If we do harm to one of us, are we all affected?

Dr. King wrote of the clear obstacle that segregationists were to progress, the obvious discrimination they practiced, the brutality and the subjugation of an entire race of people in our country. As striking was King’s grave disappointment with what he called “white moderates”. He wrote:

“.  .  .  the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Klu Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;”  .  .  .  Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection”

The white moderates of King’s time have been supplanted today in part by legislators who spinelessly refuse to stand up to the infantile bully on our national playground, as he acts to harm our citizens and demeans whole continents of people. They are the representatives, senators and even the cabinet members who bald face lie for the president, leaving their integrity far behind and all of us worse off for their cowardice. This is the greater frustration and bewilderment, magnified tenfold by those who stand silent to the outrages.

We aren’t living in the Jim Crow south anymore, but Republicans across the country are using various means to take the vote away from people of color, from our young and from our elderly. Their voter ID laws and the closing of poling places and voter registration offices are today’s version of a poll tax or literacy test or having to divine the correct number of jelly beans in a jar in order to vote. These are the “people of ill will” today, the present day thieves of the right to vote and the right to be a full and equal citizen of our country.

Sadly, the “white moderates” of today aren’t standing up to these thieves. They are Americans who sit at home instead of fiercely protesting the cruelty that is in front of them. They refuse to recognize that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” They are those who live in their self-imprisoned ignorance of, “What can one person do?” They sympathize silently and then change the channel on the television, numbing themselves into apathy. They are the ones who go along to get along, who won’t make waves and who avoid conflict, even in the obvious screaming need for conflict with what is plainly wrong.

King made clear that, ”  .  .  .  freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Yet those in power refuse to listen to those being oppressed today, as our citizens’ voting rights are stolen from them simply because those who are doing the stealing are allowed to get away with it by those who don’t demand justice. There is more.

A reader of these essays wrote privately in reply to my recent post, “Leadership and the Tax Bill”, reminding me of Emma Lazarus’ poem, The New Colossus. It is inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. We all know the end of the poem, but it deserves to be read in its entirety.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
.
Every one of us save Native Americans is either an immigrant or is descended from immigrants who were welcomed by this Mother of Exiles. That means that your family wasn’t born here, but instead came here from somewhere else, surely for good reason. Perhaps their decision to leave all they had known was famine or discrimination or poverty or war and it’s quite likely your people weren’t royalty. Almost surely they were poor people, perhaps peasants, exiles. They were tired and poor and yearned to breathe free. They might even have been the wretched refuse of the teeming shore of a shithole country. If they were to try to come here today, would they be admitted? Would we lift up our lamp beside our golden door for your people? Would you allow your own ancestors to immigrate to America?
.

If you would, then you are not allowed to be what Dr. King called a “white moderate”, a passive presence. In fact, you aren’t allowed to be a moderate at all. If you would allow your family to breathe free here, then you must stand up for today’s immigrants.  And you must stand against the vote thieves ripping apart our democracy. You must mount the battlements and fight the loud and cruel oppressors of today.

Emma Lazarus’ voice is calling for you to take action, to lift our lamp beside our golden door.

Dr. King implores you to not be a moderate, but to stand up to injustice, because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and that includes justice for you.

At the Women’s March – Chicago 20, 2018. The woman holding this sign said that she now knows she would have been a conductor in the underground railroad, saved Anne Frank and more. She knows that she could not stand idly by in the face of injustice. I don’t know her name, but I’m grateful for her courage, her passion and for being a role model.

Your own family is calling you – counting on you – to speak up in their name, the very name you bear.

From “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown:

Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.

Back to my comments in the Preface: What would happen if we – you and I – were to join our bubbles that we imagine to be so far apart and we refuse to be moderate?

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Duplicity


Reading time – 2:56; Viewing time – 4:27 .  .  .

The congressional act that followed the 1995 Oslo Accords called for the U.S. to recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel, as well as move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv. There was an escape clause in the act that allowed the President to delay recognition and the move by 6 months. That escape clause has been exercised twice a year ever since – until now. There are at least two noteworthy observations to make about these events.

When Bill Clinton first exercised the escape clause in 1996 he was viciously attacked by Republicans, notably by Senator John Kyle (R-AZ) and Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS, now the bankrupting governor of his state), claiming that Clinton was in contempt of Congress. You may recall that this was during the Newt Gingrich, Contract With America era, when the Republicans in Congress made it clear that they had the sole objective of opposing anything Clinton.

What was so very odd is that each time George W. Bush signed that same escape clause, which he did 16 times, neither Kyle nor Brownback nor any other Republican seemed to have a problem with that. And that same kind of duplicity on every issue is exactly what happened in the Obama era, those heady Republican days when Mitch McConnell reminded us that job one for Republicans was ensuring that Obama would be a one-term President. Let’s look at this type of behavior in another context.

During the Clinton presidency Gingrich and his howlers appointed Ken Starr to be Independent Counsel to investigate Clinton’s dealings in the failed real estate deal known as Whitewater. Finding nothing legally actionable there, Starr proceeded to investigate every nuance of both Clintons for five years and continued to find nothing actionable until the the Monica Lewinsky affair at last allowed them to smear the President publicly. There were no Republicans then claiming that Starr’s wandering investigation was a witch hunt. There were no objections to partisan digging for dirt, no attacks on the Department of Justice, no wailing of improper actions on the part of the Independent Counsel.

Now, though, there is a chorus of Republicans in Congress with abhorrent accusations against both the FBI and Robert Mueller, as he conducts his investigation into Trump campaign collusion with the Russians. It’s the same kind of duplicity as for the Jerusalem issue. That leads to the second point.

I’ve scoured sources looking for an upside to the U.S. of Trump’s declaration of formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel. That’s something that most nations have not done, this in an effort to avoid becoming an obstacle to a peaceful solution to the strife in the region. What is the possible good that will come of recognizing Jerusalem as the capitol and of moving the embassy?

Trump’s declaration has surely been good for militant Palestinians and Muslims around the world, as they have already reacted with demonstrations and violence. Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli hardliners like the in-your-face value that comes of Trump’s declaration, but what about value for the U.S.?

All I can find of value here is the pleasure that so-called Evangelicals derive from some self-satisfying biblical notions they hold, as well as the glee of hard-core Trump supporters for his sticking it to somebody. That might garner more votes for Roy Moore to become Senator Pedophile and keep that Alabama Senate seat Republican. That, in turn, may help Trump to further destroy American culture and values. Truly, I have not found a single benefit to the United States beyond that, if you can truly call those benefits.

Meanwhile, connect the dots to congressional Republicans. Where is their outrage over Trump sabotaging the possibility for peace in the Middle East? What happened to conservative calls for what serves this country?

This isn’t my father’s Republican Party and we are the worse for that.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Tariffs, Afghanistan and Republicans


Reading time – 3:45; Viewing time – 5:00  .  .  .

Frequent reader, insightful commenter and friend John Calia directed me to a blog by John Mauldin discussing the issue of tariffs and trade wars. Mauldin is comprehensive and clear in his work and I urge you to link through and read his offering.

I was at one time an undergraduate econ major and I recall clearly a lecture by my professor, Dr. George Thatcher at Miami University. He talked about tariffs in great detail and showed how counter-productive they are. He was far too much the gentleman to use the word “idiotic” to describe them, but that word comes to mind as I conjure his clarity of description. He convinced me then of the certain backfire of tariffs and I have seen nothing in the intervening decades to change my mind.

Mauldin is spot on, especially as he invokes the obvious, now called “game theory,” in which other countries will not sit idle as we attempt to stack the deck in favor of the U.S. Other countries will adjust and act in their own best interests. Tariffs will backfire and hurt us greatly.

The Trump administration is focused on two – and only two – objectives. The first and most important is that everything is entirely about Trump getting continuous applause and accolades in his reality-TV-show administration. Declaring us victims of unfair trade deals and promising protective tariffs stokes his “base” and delivers a thundering applause line that feeds his narcissism. And there is a complete absence of people who actually know something about tariffs. What those experts say doesn’t trigger applause, so they’re of no use to Trump.

The second objective is driven by Stephen Bannon, who proudly proclaims that he wants to bring the establishment crashing down. If destroying the established order in its entirety is what is most important to Bannon and, by extension, is important to Trump, tariffs will be a huge aid in the effort. The result will not be pretty for the rest of us, but Bannon will be smiling and thumping his chest and congratulating Trump on how brilliant he is. I’m not sure, though, that even the America Firsters will be thumping their chests when we see hundreds of thousands of jobs disappear and former international friends being not at all friendly to us.

For now, pity General Kelly, who has taken a job where internecine warfare in the White House is the norm. Sadly, I think the likelihood of his success at establishing order and, in the present context, preventing worldwide disorder by means of tariffs, is next to nonexistent. Kelly and the nation deserve better.
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And another thing  .  .  .
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Our war in Afghanistan began with President George W. Bush declaring that we were going after the al Qaeda bad guys who attacked us on 9/11, this following his pulling our CIA people out of Tora Bora and allowing Osama bin Laden to escape. One would think, then, that once al Qaeda had been essentially eliminated that we’d bring our troops home. That didn’t happen.
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Instead, the mission morphed to ensuring that future al Qaeda bad guys wouldn’t have safe haven in Afghanistan. Did you ever see a statement defining that? What would a “no safe haven” Afghanistan look like to our troops slogging through the Afghan desert and mountains? How would we know that we had achieved that goal?
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Then the mission morphed again, this time to fighting the Taliban. I don’t recall the stated goal, nor a justification for warring against them. Note that the Taliban was composed of Afghans – they were religious fundamentalists waging a civil war in that most uncivil country. Why were we involved in that?
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Then the mission changed again to supporting the Afghan military, this with no specifically stated end goal other than, “until they can stand on their own,” something that has never happened in recorded history. How will we know when that has happened?
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The goal posts keep getting moved and this is by far the longest war in American history, continued now through three American presidencies. Somebody please tell me why we are making war in Afghanistan and how we’ll know we’ve accomplished our goals so that we can bring our people home.
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And finally  .  .  .
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Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) published a stunning article in Politico entitled My Party Is In Denial About Donald Trump. It is a call to courage and action and I urge you to read it, keeping in mind that this was penned by a Republican from a very red state,

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

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

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Answer


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

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

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

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

Text Message to President Trump

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

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

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

Frum finishes,

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

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

Which brings us to the political manipulation of healthcare.

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

On May 31st Megan Thielking wrote:

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

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

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

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

Words to live by in these challenging times.

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

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

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Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Have We Forgotten?


Reading time – 2:23; Viewing time – 3:14  .  .  .

If you scratch at the story of nearly any American you won’t have to go very deep – usually no more than 4 or 5 generations back – to find immigrants. And those immigrants not so many years back were not royalty. They weren’t moneyed elite. They weren’t the connected and the powerful.

Elizabeth Warren was right when she said that our business leaders, our entrepreneurs, didn’t build it themselves. They got their education because we all funded it. They’re able to find skilled new employees today for the same reason. Their supplies and their goods go to and from their shops on roads we all paid for and their toilets flush because we all got together and decided to build sanitation facilities. The list of the facets of infrastructure, education, incentives and opportunities no one person built is far too long to list. The point is that we support one another and none of us makes it on his/her own.

Back to your ancestors – they didn’t make it alone either. They didn’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps; someone gave them a job. Or someone gave them credit to buy a pushcart and fill it with apples. Let that stand as a metaphor for however your far-better circumstances came about.

At the Passover Seders just concluded around the world a message near the end of the service reminds us that the longing and search for freedom is never-ending and that it is the responsibility of each of us to do our part to bring about freedom for all. Jesus said “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). The imperative across religions is remarkably consistent: It is our duty to care for the poor and the stranger.

We are in this world and this life together and irrespective of anyone’s sense of rugged individualism, we are interdependent. We are all called upon to care for one another – we are, indeed, our brother’s keeper. Have we forgotten that and where we came from?

The next time you hear someone denigrating “those others” as though they are different from and less than “us”, and chest thumping over keeping refugee mothers and babies and bedraggled girls and boys and men from our shores, or ripping mothers and fathers from their children, or refusing to pay a living wage to laborers, or threatening to limit services to the widow or the pregnant teen across town, or blocking anything that might mitigate the slaughter of our people by handguns  – the victims are mostly poor people, like your ancestors – give some thought to the imperatives that come to us through the millennia.

We are cautioned at the Passover Seder: “Remember, you were slaves in the land of Egypt.” That isn’t some metaphorical or impersonal “you;” it means you. It’s where you came from, exactly as it is for the poor and the strangers among us now. Have we forgotten?

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

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

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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