Conservatism

The Real Problem With America

Reading time – 54 seconds; Viewing time – 2:39  .  .  .

The insults hurled about in what passes for our politics are flagrant judgments that polarize us. As harmful to our republic are the insidious accusations buried in attack speak by those seeking to steal power for themselves.

Just the other day Republican candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL) went on another robotic rant, saying that one of his first acts as president, should he become that, will be to cancel all of the unconstitutional executive orders of President Obama. That, of course, was raw meat dripping blood for his angry followers and it was a great power trip for all. The only problem with it is that President Obama has not invoked a single executive order that is unconstitutional. Not even one. Perhaps Rubio doesn’t like any of them. That’s fine. His declaration of their unconstitutionality is not fine, and for more reasons than that he knows that what he’s saying is not true.

That kind of attack is exactly what puts more gasoline on the fire of distrust in government, which is now at 81%. So, too, are the repeatedly invoked descriptors of incompetent, loser, feckless, unlawful and others. When former senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) was interviewed on MSNBC last week she sneaked in a barb – really an assumptive “everybody knows” comment – about the unlawful Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). It might have been politically useful to make that accusation, but it was just as wrong as Rubio’s false accusation, as Obamacare has been challenged all the way to the Supreme Court repeatedly and with only one narrow exception, has been found to be quite constitutional.

These statements, along with the googly-eyed blathering of talk radio wing nuts are powerful forces for anger, hate, distrust and dysfunction. They represent the Big Lie told so often that people hearing it truly believe the anti-government, anti-anybody who disagrees with them talk. It polarizes our country even more, making it next to impossible for our government and our country to work and even for us to be civil with one another. It incrementally destroys America.

Read David Brooks’ essay The Governing Cancer of Our Time. His explanation is as insightful and powerful as any I’ve seen of the political polarization we’ve endured for at least three decades. Note especially his final point about what all the dysfunction leads to. Then come back here and offer your comments about what we can do to stop us from going further down this self-destructive path.

Late addition to this post: Read Paul Krugman’s piece, Twilight of the Apparatchiks for greater understanding of the institutionalized undermining of government and politics. Click through the despise government link and listen to the audio, too. Prepare to be shocked, but perhaps not surprised. JA

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

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

To Hell With The People

Reading time – 49 seconds; Viewing time – 2:17  .  .  .

Trump says they should stall. McConnell said he will stall in the Senate. All the Republican candidates for president insist we must wait to appoint a new Supreme Court justice until the next president takes office. They hope that a Republican will win the general election in November, in which case they can get a new justice that matches their extremist notions.

So, the political rant is all about dragging feet for almost a year – until after January 20, 2017, to fill the vacancy on the court. What’s conservative about that? Can you think of a single reason – even a bad one – that the court should be limited for a year if its job is to be the the final arbiter of disputes and the interpreter of laws, as established in Marbury v. Madison over 200 years ago? Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe can’t and he derided the Republicans’ behavior, saying the Republicans were, ”  .  .  .  holding the court and America hostage.” He said that’s shameful.* He’s right.

It is the obligation (i.e. requirement, duty, responsibility) of the president to nominate candidates to sit on the Supreme Court. It is the obligation of the Senate to vet the president’s candidates and approve or reject. Nowhere in the Constitution are there words suggesting that any of these required duties should be postponed for a year because it’s a presidential election year and the Republicans want to pack the court with their lapdog justices. Indeed, there have been 8 justices put on the court during election years since 1900, including Justice Anthony Kennedy, nominated by Ronald Reagan in  his last year in office.

This Republican hair-on-fire tantrum is just their current denial of reality, another flick of the middle finger to America, saying to hell with the people. The Republicans will likely cave in and hold hearings but will reject whoever President Obama nominates just to string out this process for a year and to deny President Obama another victory.

Isn’t America supposed to be better than that?

* Said to Chris Matthews on Hardball, February 15, 2016.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

Etymology for Today

Reading time – 26 seconds. .  .  .

Perhaps you know that anything that reads the same forwards and backwards is called a palindrome. Thus, “mom” is a palindrome. So is “tattarrattat,” a word coined by James Joyce to mean a knock on the door.

There are phrases and even sentences that are palindromes, too. Example: “A man, a plan, a canal: Panama.”

Of greater interest in the realm of current events is a new form. It’s called a Palin-drome. It is defined as a sentence which makes no sense either forward or backward.

Thanks, MA for helping us with that important piece of etymological clarity.

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

The 2,700 Club

Reading time – 69 seconds; Viewing time – 3:04  .  .  .

Point #1

There’s plenty of data showing that moments of anger can escalate to crimes of passion and somebody’s death occurs far more easily when there is a gun present. That’s exactly what happened in the Northlake Mall in Charlotte, NC last month, when two people got into an argument and at least one of them had a gun.

The same principle is true of suicide, which is a specialized form of homicide. It’s a lot easier to pull a trigger than to jab a knife into one’s chest or slit one’s wrist. Just the daunting task of slicing into your body or imagining a wrenching death from poisoning is enough to prevent many people from ending their lives and they are later grateful there wasn’t a gun within reach.

Point #2

The TSA recently announced that almost 2,700 handguns were confiscated from carry-on luggage at U.S. airports last year. That number is up 20% from 2014, perhaps suggesting that we were 20% more stupid in 2015 than in 2014. That may be an incorrect analysis, but let’s consider who would try to get a gun past security at an airport.

Idiot #1 – An ISIL operative bent on taking down an airliner and killing people on the ground in a seventh century leap for martyrdom.

Idiot #2 – A true-blue American with absolute faith and belief in the Second Amendment and who is standing up for his right to do stupid things. His back is straight, eyes alert and ahead, proud to be a pistol packing cowboy believing himself to be a direct inheritor of the intent of the Founders, as he passes through the body scanner without his boots.

Idiot #3 – “Oh, yeah. I forgot it was in there.” I had a discussion recently with a TSA agent at O’Hare, who told me that’s what they commonly hear when they find some fool’s gun in his luggage. They forgot they had a loaded Smith & Wesson in their suitcase? Forgot?!!! Actually, it doesn’t matter if they forgot. Trying to get a gun past security is a crime and each of the 2,700 were quickly given an opportunity to meet new and – let’s say, interesting – people at the local slammer.

Therefore,

Every one of these idiots is a form of terrorist, regardless of his hijacking intent. That includes the one who is the NRA’s “good guy with a gun” and who thinks he’s going to gun down bad guys on an airplane. In reality, that scenario is the Northlake Mall shooting all over again. It’s the crime of passion or the depression-driven attempt at suicide that turns into someone being murdered solely because there was a gun handy.

2,700 fools with guns is a terrible statistic, because one of those guys who didn’t get caught could have been on your flight with his  loaded 9mm. Next time you go through screening at the airport, instead of being annoyed by the delay, thank the TSA folks for doing a great job to protect you.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

What Are We Becoming?

Confederate Battle FlagReading time – 46 seconds; viewing time – 2:07  .  .  .

We’re seeing many more Confederate stars and bars, now that Donald Trump has assumed the mantle of Leader Of the Crazy Opposition (acronym: LOCO). These are the terminally angry people who want to return America to their America, whatever it is they imagine that was. But let’s check out what that really means.

There are a number of things that conservatives hold dear and value more and in different ways than do liberals. One is loyalty.

While we all value loyalty, it’s a huge value for righties and the further right you look, the more fervently you’ll find that loyalty is embraced. But the original stars and bars waving Confederates were so insanely reactive with their “You can’t tell me what to do!” tantrums that they crossed the line and made themselves traitors. There is no loyalty in that. It is the ultimate betrayal.

Conservatives also place huge value on individual freedom. Who wouldn’t? But the original Confederates believed in individual freedom only for themselves and they demanded slavery – the complete lack of freedom – for millions of people. They had good reasons for that, of course. It gave them a sense of power to have that kind of control over others. Far more important, though, is the financial gain they received by not having to pay laborers to work their fields. Reasonably translated, they sold their declared personal value of individual freedom, sold out themselves, for money. They chased their greed, no less than our 1% chase their greed today. That’s ironic, because today’s stars and bars wavers hate today’s greedy 1%-ers for doing what the original Confederates did.

So, please, if you want to wave your Confederate flag, don’t tell me that it’s about individual liberty or freedom or loyalty. The damned thing stands for slavery, greed and disloyalty  .  .  .  and the millions of Americans motivated to wave that flag are supporting Donald Trump.

What are we becoming?

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

Trust

Reading time – 47 seconds; viewing time – 2:23  .  .  .

Thirty-five years ago we learned that the nine most frightening words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Ronald Reagan told us that over and over as he campaigned to become president of the United States, effectively appealing to people’s fears and accelerating our loss of trust.

Here’s a chart from the Gallup Organization on trust in our own government. (Click on the graph for an expanded view.) Gallup Trust in GovernentThe downward trend is unmistakable and is due in part to the continuing message from Republicans that government cannot be trusted. Obviously, trust is undermined by hard facts, too, like Johnson’s “credibility gap,” Nixon’s criminal activities, Clinton’s philandering and Bush II lying us into two wars, but do not underestimate the power of the Big Lie.

Predating Reagan’s attack on government  was a Republican attack on our news media. You may recall that Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew was President Nixon’s public hatchet man and he rejoiced in calling the members of our news media, “effete intellectual snobs,” and “nattering nabobs of negativity.” He saved his choicest words for what he called the “eastern liberal press,” a sneaky way to divide and conquer. Then he resigned in the face of charges of extortion, tax fraud, bribery and conspiracy. He is considered by many to have been the worst vice-president in U.S. history. Still, he was successful in starting the smear campaign on our news media.

That campaign continues unabated today, with more than Gallup Trust in Media Graphscreechy Sarah Palin invoking the label “lame stream media,” to the point that now less than half of Americans trust our news media.

Surely, there are many reasons for our distrust, but there is no doubt that the constant repetition from Republicans that you can’t trust our news media has hastened the decline of our trust.

The Republican drum beat of distrust of government and the press has continued unabated for decades. Why is it, then, that Republicans don’t understand it when fringe, hateful pretenders to the throne are preferred by “the base” – the pissy people who show up and vote – and they throw establishment Republican politicians into the political gutter? Gotta be painful when the crap they threw to manipulate us gets tossed back in their faces. They won’t get any sympathy from me any time soon.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder - a Republican affliction

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder – a Republican affliction

Reading time – 77 seconds  .  .  .

I heard a comedian explaining that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who laugh and those who make people laugh. Hard to argue with that.

And it turns out that there are always two kinds of people in the world. For cabbies it’s people who drive and people who need a ride. For children it’s kids who are fun to play with and kids who aren’t.

My view, too, is that there are two kinds of people in the world: people who divide people into two groups and those who don’t. And that is the most important difference we’re being shown by the presidential candidates.

The Republicans – every one of them – are dividing us into two kinds of people:

  • – We good Americans and immigrants who are taking our jobs.
  • – The makers and the takers.
  • – The straights and the gays.
  • – Those who know that military solutions are best and the weak-knee wimps.
  • – We good Americans and the terrible government.
  • – The gun-toters and those who would take their guns from them.
  • – The Christians and all those who are wrong.
  • – Good Americans and the “lame stream media.”
  • – The cops and the Black Lives Matter people who incite the murdering of cops.

In all these cases Republicans tell us that the cause of the problems of the first group is all those in the second group. No need here for personal responsibility or even good sense. As Church Lady would say, “How convenient.”

At the last Republican debate, divisions like these and attacks on those in the “other” group are all we heard. Okay, that’s not entirely true. We also heard about taxation plans based on math with rounding errors in the negative trillions of dollars, but which would put trickle-down economics on steroids, thus accelerating the transfer of all money in this country to 158 families.

In contrast, at the Democratic debates we heard about bringing us together:

  • – Healthcare for all Americans as a right.
  • – Economy-stimulating infrastructure rebuilding that will create millions of good paying jobs.
  • – Ending income inequality so that everyone benefits from a growing economy.
  • – Ending our corrupt election finance system and driving special interests out of control of government.
  • – Common sense gun safety laws so that we begin to end our self-inflicted, ongoing massacre of innocents.
  • – A shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy so that we don’t all die on an uninhabitable planet.

This list could be much longer, but you get the idea. It’s about all of us, not a dividing of us.

Again, and with a few extra words this time, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who try to manipulate us with fear and hate in order to divide us from one another; and those who don’t.

The key is this: Fearful, angry people are motivated, so they vote. They may vote in self-destructive ways, but they show up on election day and vote. People who aren’t fearful and angry aren’t as motivated, so they don’t bother to vote. That distinction is exactly what led to a Tea Party wacko getting elected governor of Kentucky last week.

The Republicans are affected with Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder (dividing us over mostly bogus issues) which they spread to unaware Americans via media contact. The acronym is ISAD, and I assure you that I am sad over this debasement of America.

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who vote and get what they think they want; and those who don’t vote and are willing victims of the manipulators who divide us.

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

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

The New History – Texas Style

TEAReading time – 41 seconds  .  .  .

Norman Goldman likes to rename our southern states because in so many ways they resemble third world despotic countries. I’m talking about things like voter suppression, denial of women’s rights and more. So, for example, Goldman has renamed Texas, calling it Texassistan (“tex-ASS-i-stan”), and with good reason.

Texas is one of several southern states vying to be the most fervently ignorant among an unenlightened few which deny the brutal reality of the “forced migration and enslavement of Africans in America.” * They even deny that slavery was the cause of the Civil War. I understand that denial of guilt-provoking reality feels better than facing the truth, but it doesn’t change what happened. It does change people’s perception of reality, and that’s a problem for the next generation.

In a recent New York Times article, How Texas Teaches History, author Ellen Bressler Rockmore discusses how slight grammatical construct changes and focus shifting can dramatically alter our understanding. For example, she looks at a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt text called Texas United States History and points out that,

” .  .  .  in the sentences that feature slaves as the subject, as the main actors in the sentence, the slaves are contributing their agricultural knowledge to the growing Southern economy; they are singing songs and telling folk tales; they are expressing themselves through art and dance.”

Really? That’s what slavery in America was about – singing songs and telling folk tales, art and dance? Apparently, there’s no need to dwell on the unpleasant stuff, like slave owners and field foremen beating, whipping, branding and killing slaves, children ripped from their mothers’ arms and sold down the river. Dem happy blackies, jus’ singin’ ‘n’ dancin’ and havin’ a good ol’ time** is the history of slavery that Texas wants to teach its children.

And that Pablum version of slavery gets multiplied, because Texas is by far the largest purchaser of school texts in America – they buy for 5 million school kids – so creating books that satisfy the Texas State Board of Education is a financial imperative for publishers. What that means is that history text books used throughout the nation are getting poisoned by the Texassistan far right wing dishonesty and cruelty. The result is that your kid is reading that version of history.

If you click through to Rockmore’s article, be sure to review some of the many comments. They’re enlightening, something that cannot be said of the Texas State Board of Education.

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*That phrase is lifted from Rockmore’s article referenced in the next paragraph and is done so because it so accurately captures the truth.

**I do recognize how deeply offensive those stereotype words are and I intend no offense to anyone who has even as little as a mere foothold in reality. Those words are used to illuminate the deeply offensive attitude expressed in Texas’ revisionist history and they are used mockingly toward the Texas State Board of Education.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

Spirit

Reading time – 47 seconds  .  .  .

Religion is all about rules laid down by people who lived a long time ago, rules commonly called dogma. Those people said (or somebody else said) that the words of their dogma were given to them by God or inspired by God. It is an act of faith to believe what cannot be proven, like the holiness of those written words. Billions of people make that leap of faith willingly. That is their religion.

Spirituality is different. It has no rules. There is no dogma and it requires no faith. It is simply about how we live our lives and the energy and passion we put into the world. Whether we’re living in the tiny cracks of life or on the mountain tops, we are all spiritual. The only question is whether we recognize it and the effect of our spirit on ourselves and on others.

And that is what has me troubled these days, as we see that about 30% of people who self-identify as Republicans say that they support Donald Trump. He lashes out in mean spirited ways and declares his judgment of doom on those he doesn’t like. He has simplistic and misleading answers for any question and everything is metaphorically punctuated with a middle finger. The more he does his crazy, angry dance, the more Republicans seem to like him. Compounding that are the other candidates who carpet bomb the country with their negativity, their mean attacks and their outright lies. Each of them has followers, too.

What is that saying about the spirit of all these followers? Not their religion. I’m talking about the spirit in them. It’s looking pretty mean and angry, judgmental and vindictive.

Spirit is about how we live our lives. We demonstrate our spirit in that way and it appears that a lot of Americans are living in very dark ways. That’s an evil spirit that affects all of us.

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

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

The Endarkened Right

Endarkened RightReading time – 54 seconds  .  .  .

This is just too strange – read through to the end and you’ll see why.

And, yes, I know that “endarkened” isn’t a word. For now, though, let it stand as the polar opposite of “enlightened.” And let “right” mean not “correct,” but the stupidly polar opposite of stupidly polar “left.”

On May 11 Charles Murray’s essay was published in the Wall Street Journal and is entitled, Regulation Run Amok-And How to Fight Back. His contention is that there are just gobs of government regulations that are strangling the America out of America. Indeed, he tells us in what he appears to believe are self-evident terms,

“Then, with FDR’s New Deal and the rise of the modern regulatory state, our founding principle was subordinated to other priorities and agendas. What made America unique first blurred, then faded and today is almost gone.”

Gosh, that sounds as though instead of melting the Wicked Witch of the East, we liquidated Glinda, the bubble-traveling Good Witch of the North – on purpose. Note, too, how he invokes “the modern regulatory state,” as though it is some agreed upon, fact-worthy construction, like ancient Athens as a city-state. It isn’t.

Murray goes through a litany of innuendo and shadow puppet notions to support his case and then tells us what we good Americans should do about all those terrible regulations: we should just ignore them. Civil disobedience. Do what makes sense to you, even if you break the law, he tells us.

No cars have come down your street for over five hours and it’s 3:30AM. Why in the world should you have to stop at that stop sign? Just blast on through the intersection.

You own the land, so you should be able to do what you damn well please with it. Those regulators can’t tell you what to do, by golly, so you build your boutique toxic chemical plant in your garage and if the stuff sometimes spills and runs down the driveway toward the sidewalk where the little kids are walking to school, no biggie.

Let ’em come after you, because you have your good sense to protect you against those annoying experts the regulators will call as witnesses when your delusional ass is hauled into court. But you’ll be okay financially, because Murray also proposes a Legal Services Corporation (his words) as a kind of people’s insurance against those pesky regulators who strangely think they are supposed to uphold the law.

Look, nobody thinks that we don’t have some stupid regulations and that some have long outlived their usefulness and may now be nothing more than foolish obstacles. But the way to correct those is not to create a nation of chaos-inducing vigilantes pretending that they know better than anyone else. It’s to change the law. Isn’t that what righties say when civil rights activists push the limits?

Can you believe it? As a left-of-center moderate, I’m giving “obey the law” instruction to an endarkened righty. Surely, we are living in strange 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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

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