Courage

In Case You’re Certain


Reading time – 5:47; Viewing time – 8:36  .  .  .

Things have been upside down, wrong, hurtful, unfair, dishonest and threatening to America. They’ve been that way for a long time and it’s high time we got about fixing things and restoring what’s right.

The starting point for this post is that those two sentences apply to the feelings of both far righties and far lefties. Likely, you don’t like that, but almost nobody gets up in the morning scratching their chin as they think of how they can be dishonest, unpatriotic and evil. Which means that all the stuff you think “they” do that looks crazy comes from a conviction they hold that they’re doing what’s right. Yes, I know that makes no sense. It’s much more fun to simply see them as bad and wrong, but what if there were people who disagree with you but are just as wanting to do the right thing as you are, even though their right thing looks wrong to you?

Well, that’s where we are. In fact, that’s where we’ve always been. Our system was made to work this way. If you’re a progressive or liberal (pick your label) you might be surprised to learn that there are lots of conservatives who are honest and smart and who hold solid notions. One of those people is my friend, John Calia.

John wrote a couple of comments on my last post, “Conservatives and Grandchildren,” and I asked his permission to use his second comment for this post, too.

In an earlier blog, “How Ya Gonna Pay For That?“, I posited that sometimes it isn’t a simple straight line from what we want to how we’re going to pay for it or even if we should pay for it. Just saying, “The government will pay for it” is a red, white and blue shot in the foot, because simply loading a cost onto government gets handled in only three possible ways: 1. you and I pay more taxes, or; 2. we put it on the government credit card (i.e. we borrow), so that our children for seven generations will pay even more taxes, or; 3. we cut other government programs and services. And yes, it really is that simple.

But government policies and practices aren’t that simple and I’m offering John’s comments to make that case.

John has invoked the words of progressive economist Robert Reich, who recommended eliminating the corporate income tax. Before you hyperventilate, read what he said. It’s a bit thick if you’re not a tax expert, but be sure to read the last sentence carefully. I’ve edited John’s offering from Reich for brevity. You can read the entire piece in the Comments section at the bottom of my Conservatives and Grandchildren post here.

John wrote, “Here’s what liberal economist Robert Reich (Sec. of Labor under Clinton) said about corporate income taxes in his 2008 book [Supercapitalism]:

“In reality, the corporate income tax is paid—indirectly—by the company’s consumers, shareholders, and employees.

“It’s inefficient because interest payments made by corporations on their debt are deductible from their corporate income tax while dividend payments are not. This creates an incentive for companies to .  .  .  retain earnings rather than distribute them as dividends. The result, in recent years, has been for many corporations to accumulate large amounts of money that the company then uses to purchase other companies or to buy back its shares of stock.

“Logically, there is no reason why [stockholders’] ‘corporate’ earnings should be taxed differently than their other earnings. Abolishing the corporate income tax and treating all corporate income as the personal income of shareholders would rectify this anomaly.”

Abolish the corporate income tax? That’s heresy to progressives! But wait – that was a liberal economist recommending that.

The point I want to make is that nearly everything is more complex than we want it to be and sometimes best answers and solutions have the appearance of being counter to our beliefs. Just being reactionary really doesn’t serve us well.

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Click me.

John has a frustrating and, really, an annoying way of being reasonable with his mostly conservative opinions, which at times leave me with not much more of a response than a huffy, “Oh yeah?” Have a look at this post by John on his website and see for yourself. Your instant reaction may be to disagree and then, quite surprisingly, find that this conservative writer is – I’ll say it again – annoyingly reasonable.

AOC and others have offered what they are calling the Green New Deal (you can download a copy here). It has been cheered by progressives and pilloried by conservatives and, because of its lump sum extreme policy recommendations, it may be the vehicle that ensures Donald Trump’s reelection. My view is that it doesn’t represent much sustainable policy, is counter-productive, whimsically dismisses cost and unintended effects, is long on lofty ideas and extremely short on tangible actions and it crazily attempts to reinvent the universe over a period of 10 years, all this outlined in just 14 double-spaced pages. If this resolution were to somehow pass the House and Senate and get signed by the president, it would have no force of law. Nevertheless, I’m glad it exists.

We have some vexing and even terrible challenges before us, nearly all of which we refuse to solve. My hope is that this crazy document will start a worthwhile conversation that leads to a few desperately needed solutions. For that to happen will require that a lot of people leave their certainties behind and open themselves to other points of view. It’s a bit like progressives reading my pal John’s offerings and being surprised, finding that his notions are – dare I say it again? – reasonable.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to see how reasonable you can be and, in the process, open your thinking about our national needs and how we’re going to meet them.

From The Onion. Click me

Here’s the one caveat: This call to being reasonable and open to other points of view DOES NOT extend to plainly hateful behavior, anti-constitutional actions, self-serving promotion that excludes (i.e. discriminates against) anyone or efforts to harm our democracy or the fundamental principles of our country. For any of those conditions, feel free to be closed-minded, antagonistic and energetically advocating for your opposing solutions that actually are solutions and which don’t harm others. Here’s an example of this caveat.

In his closing comments for his report on the southern border last Thursday, Chris Hayes perfectly captured what’s going on by saying:

“It’s not about the border, and it never has been.

“The wall is not the issue. The issue is what this country as a whole looks like, and who gets to call it theirs.”

Click here or here or here or here for fact checking on what Trump said during his rambling Rose Garden announcement of a national emergency for the non-emergency at our southern border. Be clear that his words are not just self-serving fantasy; they betray the hateful truth, that the solitary goal of Trump’s vanity wall and his bogus claims of crisis and emergency on our border is to keep brown people out of the US. It is akin to his hateful Muslim ban. These are exactly the kind of things described in my caveat about which you and I and all of us must never be reasonable and never tolerate.

In the absence of such hateful things, let’s all be a little less certain and maybe – just maybe – we can start to make things better.

Late addition to this post

For a reasonable example of considering various points of view, have a look at the lead editorial in today’s New York Times about healthcare here.

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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. So,

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

Potpourri v7.0 – Shutdown Edition


Reading time – 4:06; Viewing time – 5:34  .  .  .

It is the bright, fresh practice of the Senate of the United States of America to formally abandon all activity if the President of the United States might not like what the Senate would do. Of course, this is in stark contrast to times past when Congress was held to be a separate and equal branch of government. Now, though, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has seen the wisdom of abdicating Congressional responsibility. You can expect more acts of Senatorial disappearance as the shutdown continues or really any time it’s politically expedient.

Note that Senator McConnell is still under a Harry Potter invisibility cloak and didn’t appear to be available for comment.

Everyone knows that McConnell has stated that he won’t bring a bill to the floor of the Senate to resolve the government shutdown issue unless he knows the president will sign it. But, why is that? Try this.

A vote to open government without funding Trump’s wall is a most precarious thing for Republican senators. If they do that they will have turned their backs on Trump’s campaign promise and, correspondingly, on their constituents who voted for Trump. Senators will feel their fury in their next primary. It will be ugly and they know it.

If, on the other hand, those senators vote against reopening government, each one will immediately feel the fury of every government worker in their state, as well as the fury of the workers’ families and their friends, independents who can spell “empathy” and all Democrats in their state. That fury will be brought to every election s/he will enter for the rest of their life and they will have to resign from the Senate and become a lobbyist for Big Pharma or a defense contractor.

That’s why McConnell won’t bring a bill to reopen government to the floor for a vote if he thinks Trump will veto it. These days it’s very hard to be a Republican.


Here’s how to get the government reopened without spending billions on a useless wall designed solely for Trump’s ego. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team should offer this to Trump and announce it to the public at a press conference:

  1. Immediately reopen all of government.
  2. Immediately pay all back wages both to workers who were forced to work without pay and to workers who were furloughed.
  3. Trump will deliver a personal, hand-written note to each federal worker, written in bold Sharpie, saying, “I know I hurt you. I apologize and promise I’ll never do that again.” Okay, that isn’t going to happen. It’s just snark. I do feel better now.
  4. Funding will be provided for a bi-partisan blue ribbon committee to generate a plan to bring border security and immigration policy into the 21st century, including recommendations for permanently dealing with the DACA kids and the other 11,000,000 undocumented in the US now. The plan is to be submitted to Congress and the president within 9 months of committee inception. It is to include no recommendation tor a wall except where a wall will actually enhance border security and is to be of appropriate construction. No need for a wasteful “big, beautiful wall.”
  5. Congress is to draft a bill following the committee’s recommendations, as adjusted or amended by Congress, and vote on that bill within 6 months.

Note that Congress won’t be starting from scratch because there were efforts at immigration reform not long ago.

The beauty of this plan is that the if the president rejects it he will be telling everyone that he really doesn’t support border security or immigration reform; he only supports what makes him look like a tough guy and doesn’t care about America or Americans. There will be substantial pressure on him to agree to this plan.

Plus, the president can claim a victory, as there will be some amount of wall that will be constructed. And he can claim fiscal prudence, too, since whatever wall is recommended will likely cost a lot less than $5.7 billion and a whole lot less than the projected $59 billion for a complete Trump wall. Everyone wins.


Perhaps you recall President Trump bravely declaring, “There’s been nobody tougher on Russia than President Donald Trump.” Regardless, he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to sign off on the sanctions imposed on Russia and some oligarchs for their hacking our 2016 election.

Then in December 2018 when Congress was on holiday break he had his Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, dump in Congress’ lap a plan for sanctions removal. They had just 30 days to vote to stop that action and far fewer once congressmen and senators were back in DC. The House voted to stop the sanctions removal with a strong bipartisan showing. The Senate wimped out, falling two votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.

Every one of those nay voting senators knows that Russia is a bad actor. Every one of them knows that Russia hacked our election and deserved those sanctions. And 43 of them voted to lift the sanctions.

Someone please tell me where those brave men and women store their spines when they go to DC.

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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. 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 be better informed.

Thanks!


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

Slavery


Reading time – 5:16; Viewing time – 8:10  . .  .

This post is longer than usual, but stay with me. I promise you’ll be rewarded.

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The 13th Amendment reads,

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Good idea. Too bad we’re violating that amendment right now.

In an article in the New York times entitled It’s Time for T.S.A. Workers to Strike, authors Barbara Ehrenreich and Gary Stevenson show us what’s happening to our federal workers. They are prevented by law from striking, a point which was firmly made by Ronald Reagan, who fired 11,000 striking PATCO workers in 1981. They were demanding better wages and shorter working hours, as the high stress of their air traffic control jobs and overlong work hours were literally killing them. Those are good reasons to demand better, but their contract said that they couldn’t strike and they paid the price. This time, though, it’s different.

Ehrenreich and Stevenson make the case for a T.S.A. strike on the basis of violation of the 13th Amendment. Likely they identified the T.S.A. workers out of all federal workers as the ones who should strike because their striking would shut down our air traffic system and grind much of our economy to a halt. It would be enormously expensive for industry, so their strike would likely cause great pressure on government to get the shutdown resolved fast. The logic of a 13th Amendment triggered strike, though, applies to all federal workers who are forced to work during this shutdown. I’m not advocating a strike, but forcing people to work and refusing to pay them is most bad ju-ju.

The complaint isn’t about better pay, better working conditions, shorter hours or anything typical. This is about paying people as agreed. Yet they are being forced to work without pay. That’s called slavery.

Should any of our federal workers strike, there surely will be a lawsuit initiated by the Justice Department. It will be an interesting case. Let’s do a thought experiment about that.

The government will be asking for a temporary restraining order to force workers back on the job immediately. Surely, they’ll quote contract law that says the workers agreed not to strike and are thus prevented from doing so. They’ll say that the government will pay workers in full when the shutdown is over and that the promise of future pay satisfies the contract.

From Stat, a Boston Globe publication. Sen. Dick Durban has called on HHS Secretary Nielsen to resign. Click the pic to download the report.

The defense will likely also quote contract law and make clear that the government has violated its obligations, thus nullifying the contract and freeing workers to strike. They’ll also make the Constitutional case that the government is practicing slavery in direct violation of the 13th Amendment. They might claim civil rights violations by the government as well.

The only difference between old fashioned slavery and the circumstances of today’s federal workers is that today the workers are being given a promise of being paid on some unspecified future date that could be years from now. Imagine being a federal worker and having to tell your landlord that you’ll pay your rent – some day. How well do you think that will work for you?

The way our thought experiment case is decided or the shutdown itself is ended will dramatically affect not just the workers, but our entire nation. Here are some examples:

1. Absent a quick resolution to the shut down, thousands of federal workers, whether striking or not, will find permanent full time work elsewhere because they have bills to pay. They will not be coming back to those federal jobs ever. But we need airport security, food inspectors, a fully functioning FBI and State Department, air traffic controllers and the rest. These are skilled jobs and we don’t have a bench, especially in this full employment economy. Who will do the work to make our nation function?

2. The shutdown is costing billions of dollars and, if it continues a while longer it’s projected by the President’s own economic people that it will cancel out national economic growth for the year.

3. Depending upon how this shutdown ends, we’ll be making a powerful statement about our national values. We’ll be declaring with our actions who and what we care about and we’ll be setting a precedent for the future. There will be lasting impact.

There’s more, of course, but think about the callous way our people are being treated. You’ve seen the up close and personal reports, like the woman who is trying to stretch her insulin supply because she doesn’t have money for more; and the workers who are trying to decide whether to buy food for their families or pay the electric bill; and the family with two kids, both of whom have medical issues and they’ve have run out of money to properly care for their kids; and the hundreds of thousands who now or in the very near future will be unable to pay the rent or the mortgage or the car payment. Still, they’re expected to show up and work without pay.

It’s hard to comprehend that we’re dealing with slavery in America in the 21st century.


A friend of mine is a federal worker – an air traffic controller. He’s one of those people who is dedicated to serving and works every day to keep you safe when you fly and he’s working without being paid. He’ll miss his second paycheck four days from now. I reached out to him early this week to see if there is something we can do to support him and his family. Here’s his reply:

Thank you for reaching out. This shutdown is definitely weighing on me more than the previous ones I have been a part of. This is the longest one in history and there is no trying to figure out a solution. This has turned into a school yard shouting match.

It is hard to go to work – and do my job – not knowing when I will be compensated for it. I will continue to work my scheduled shifts – my overtime shifts – the holidays – and do everything that is asked of me. I am proud of what I do and I will continue to do it.

The show of support from our union brothers and sisters from around the globe has been amazing. I have been treated to meals by the Allied Pilots Association and the Irish Air Traffic Controllers Association. The controllers in the Great White North [Canada] have taken it upon themselves to send pizzas to US facilities. Local businesses are reaching out – creditors are being understanding – some banks are offering 0% interest loans (as long as you pay them back within a certain time period). What is helping is the amount of publicity this is getting as a whole.

For now – we are okay. That may change. If this drags on, we may be forced to reach out to friends and family for financial support. We (luckily) aren’t quite there yet.

Thank you for reaching out – this has (and continues to be) a rough time and it helps to know we have a wonderful support system with some amazing people.

Please don’t let this only be a heartwarming story of people supporting others. Find a way to do your part, like overpaying your tab at the restaurant that’s providing free meals to federal workers and their families, or reaching out to someone you know who might need help, or donating to a local food bank or one of the GoFundMe sites. People are hurting and coming together in times of need is what we Americans do. It’s time for action.

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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. 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 be better informed.

Thanks!


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

Wag the Dog


Reading time – 3:24; Viewing time – 4:37  .  .  .

This is from the Sunday New York Times:

“At [national security advisor John] Bolton’s direction, the National Security Council asked the Pentagon last year to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran .  .  .”

Let’s put this into perspective.

Gen. Colin Powell warned us against doing military stupid stuff in his Powell Doctrine decades ago. It’s grounded in the painful lessons of Vietnam and, while it has weathered criticism for being incomplete, it’s hard to disagree with Powell’s cautionary message. Sadly, we’ve pretty much ignored it time and again.

Not stated in the Powell Doctrine is another of his admonitions, the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it. And so we do in Iraq and Afghanistan, the longest wars in our history. Now John Bolton, always eager to flex US muscle, has asked for plans to strike Iran.

Can you imagine Donald Trump being a calming voice of reason to tether John Bolton to reality? Neither can I. If Bolton gets his way we will break yet another country where we will then be in perpetual war. And this story gets worse.

We are mired in the longest government shutdown in US history. The president is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to overpower Congress and get his useless wall. You need to understand what such a declaration can mean.

In a time of declared national emergency the president has vast powers. Here’s a partial list:

Suspend the Constitution – yes, SUSPEND THE CONSTITUTION!

Redirect money in blatant conflict with Congressional intent

Declare martial law

Deploy our military in-country

Seize control of the internet

Shut down communications (telephone, radio, television, etc.)

Freeze bank accounts – including yours

Suspend habeas corpus (i.e. imprison Americans without charge and without due process of law – Think: Guantanamo in Des Moines, IA)

Control the states’ voter databases

Sanction Americans without charge and leave them without recourse

Effectively, the president can become a monarch. Perhaps Trump will prefer autocrat or generalissimo or kommisar or general secretary or chairman. Regardless of the label, it will be the end of American democracy.

This president has repeatedly shown that he has no regard for Constitutional limits, much less respect for legislative and cultural norms. He’s given us no reason to believe that he would refrain from outrageous behavior following his declaring a national emergency. And with the help of Mitch McConnell for the past two  years, Trump has packed the courts and his cabinet with people who likely would refuse to stand up to him.

A declaration of national emergency, whether for his fantasy claims of crisis at our southern border or for a pending or hot conflict with Iran or Argentina would be just the thing for Trump to consolidate power. Beyond fulfilling Trump’s bottomless ego needs, such a declaration will completely divert attention from his conspiracies with Russia. It’s the ultimate distraction and, perhaps, the negation of any investigation into his possible criminal activity.

Did I mention that this story gets worse? It does.

We never vote leaders out of office during war time and very rarely during any other national emergency. The only contrary example I can think of is Herbert Hoover, who lost the 1932 election to Franklin Roosevelt for his mishandling of the Great Depression. Nevertheless, the point for us now is to be clear that a declaration of national emergency, regardless of the justification Trump uses, would likely ensure Trump’s reelection in 2020, if, indeed, we even have another election.

And that will make Vladimir Putin very happy. His only regret will be that he won’t have any more kompromat on Trump, because exposing Trump’s money laundering, his tax fraud, his obstruction of justice and his treason will no longer matter.

Wag the dog.

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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 that goal requires reaching many 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 be better informed.

Thanks!


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

Double Standard


Click for a larger view

Reading time – 4:56  .  .  .

It wasn’t always this way. In fact, there have been many times when it was the reverse. But this is how it is today.

Newt Gingrich was giddy in his self-righteous moralizing in pursuit of bringing down Bill Clinton following the 1994 mid-term election that put Republicans in charge of Congress. He was thrilled that Ken Starr was investigating the Clintons, looking for anything  indictable. You know – witch hunting.

Starr investigated the suicide death of Vince Foster, deputy White House counsel, and found no wrongdoing by the Clintons. He looked into the Whitewater land deal in Arkansas and found a dumb investment, but found no wrongdoing. This pattern persisted through the investigation of the White House travel office, accusations of tampering with FBI files, the Rose law firm, Paula Jones, Madison Guarantee Savings & Loan and hints they didn’t believe in the Easter bunny. No criminal wrongdoing was found. None.

Then, quite apart from Starr’s efforts, Bill Clinton’s sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky dropped into Starr’s lap. Starr managed to set Clinton up in an embarrassing way and Clinton lied to avoid embarrassment. Presto! Something indictable. The relentless, pointless, moralizing pursuit by Starr and a very aggressive Republican Congress had paid off.

Later Barack Obama was elected president and the games began anew. On the night of Obama’s electoral victory Mitch McConnell and a handful of Republican vigilantes sat in a DC restaurant scheming about what they would do to bring Obama down. Their plan was to oppose anything Obama supported, regardless of merit or value to the public or even whether the issue had previously been championed by Republicans. McConnell even went public, declaring the new Republican holy mantra that Job #1 was to ensure that Barack Obama would be a 1-term president. Jobs for Americans wasn’t number 1. Neither was the stabilizing of our economy that was cratering and in peril of free-falling into a terrible economic depression. Not even national security was number one.

When Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled, “You lie!” at Obama during a speech to a joint session of Congress in September 2009, most Republicans were eerily silent or mealy mouthed about Wilson’s violation of Congressional decorum and his galactic stupidity. To be fair, he did get censured.

The Affordable Care Act passed on a straight party-line vote in March 2010 when Democrats controlled Congress and had just enough votes to prevent a Republican filibuster.

Then the 2010 mid-term election put control of Congress back in the hands of Republicans and the wheels of government immediately ground to a halt in accordance with the dictum of the McConnell vigilantes. That was okay for the Republicans and they took great joy in criticizing Obama for failure to accomplish anything except what was done by executive order. The Republicans loved to bray that the EOs were unconstitutional, yet it was their own obstruction that made them necessary.

And all the while the Republicans were deafeningly silent when the Birther lies began and have largely stayed that way even to the present.

Another outfall of the 2010 mid-term election was that Darrell Issa (R-CA) became chair of the House Oversight committee. He promised to hold hundreds of investigations into the Obama administration. Likely you remember his investigation into the birth control requirements of the ACA, a hearing at which he refused to allow any women – including Sandra Fluke – to testify before the all male committee. This is the same Darrell Issa who wouldn’t allow Elijah Cummings (D-MD) to make a statement – he cut off his microphone.

The Republicans held 7 investigations into the Benghazi tragedy in failed attempts to lay blame on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They didn’t hold those hearings to learn the truth – the facts were already well known. They held them to sustain a smear campaign into the 2016 election.

This is the post-truth Republican world, where accusation has the weight of fact and where Rudy Giuliani is free to tell us that, “Truth isn’t truth.”

Their Through the Looking Glass untruths, all of that brutal obstruction, the false allegations, the relentless smears and the rest were okay for the Republicans.

Now, things have changed. Democrats are in control of the House and will be able to do the investigations that should have already happened. Impeachment over obstruction of justice and repeated violations of the Emoluments Clause screams for attention. And in this environment of obvious Trump felonious activities, combined with two years of Republican led protection of Trump and their refusal to dig for truth, Republicans are now telling Democrats to play nice!

They musn’t overreach. Don’t pile on. Don’t start impeachment proceedings  because the Republicans will spray paint cable news with moralized pronouncements of Democratic excess and meanness.

Clearly, it’s okay for Republicans to thump bibles of righteousness and do any mean spirited thing in pursuit of their advantage. That’s somehow good and right. Now, if we’re to believe them, Democrats have to play nice like little girls at a make believe luncheon for their dolls.

Get ready for this moralizing double standard. It’s already started.

I’ll say it again: There have been times when party positions and practices were the reverse of this. To pretend that’s what matters now, though, is to ignore the dire reality before us.

We have entered a time when majorities of our citizenry willfully believe patently false things all the time. They have been fed a steady diet of lying propaganda for so long that they no longer question anything. It is the triumph of the Big Lie.

Our responsibility right now is to call it out – to fight the fraud. If instead we sit on our hands, we will welcome George Orwell’s dystopian future.

This time it falls to the Democrats to unmask the Big Lie. And it’s up to you and me to make certain that they do. To get started, click here.

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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 that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!

 


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

This Is Going To Be A Challenge


Reading time – 3:50; Viewing time – 5:07  .  .  .

The experts tell us what is painfully obvious, that we’ve trained ourselves to have a short little attention span and we refuse to hone our ability to hold conflicting or complex thoughts in mind. We are impatient in the extreme.

Examples:

It used to take about 45 minutes to bake a potato. Now it takes 4 minutes in the microwave oven and we stand in front of the machine counting down the last 30 seconds and maybe opening the door before it beeps because we just don’t have the patience to wait those last 7 seconds.

The online order that took 3 minutes for you to place arrives on your doorstep in no more than 2 days. We used to be satisfied with 2 weeks.

Information on nearly anything is available in under one second and we’re surprised if it takes more than one click to find it.

No doubt you can think of more examples of our expectations for instant gratification and wish fulfillment, but let’s just admit to our near-universal impatience. That’s why this is going to be a challenge.

That kind of behavior and expectations neatly delivers to us leaders who couch every issue as a simple problem with a quick, binary choice of solutions, when in reality most of the challenges we send our representatives to solve are complex, three dimensional puzzles that require holding complex thoughts in their heads and staying focused, on-task.

Bumper sticker slogans are so much easier than six pages of explanation and they’re instantly gratifying. That encourages our leaders to deliver what Elaina Plott described as, ”  .  .  .  a warped polity whose leaders are manipulative of public opinion rather than responsive to it.” Further, she said, “Popular discourse is given [over] to extremes.”

Chris Hedges wrote about this in a 2012 essay, How To Think. By the standard of our national nanosecond attention span, his piece is long and thick. So, go ahead – test your focusing skills – read the entire excellent essay. Meanwhile, here’s a excerpt:

“Human societies see what they want to see. They create national myths of identity out of a composite of historical events and fantasy. They ignore unpleasant facts that intrude on self-glorification. They trust naively in the notion of linear progress and in assured national dominance. This is what nationalism is about—lies. And if a culture loses its ability for thought and expression, if it effectively silences dissident voices, if it retreats into what Sigmund Freud called “screen memories,” those reassuring mixtures of fact and fiction, it dies. It surrenders its internal mechanism for puncturing self-delusion. It makes war on beauty and truth. It abolishes the sacred. It turns education into vocational training. It leaves us blind. And this is what has occurred. We are lost at sea in a great tempest. We do not know where we are. We do not know where we are going. And we do not know what is about to happen to us.”

Hedges’ comments were made 4 years before Trump was elected. What’s changed in the interim is the severity of the problems we face, as well as our having achieved an increasing clarity about the looming disaster that is about to happen to us. At the same time, we’re ever more impatient.

Click the caricature for the original

If Donald Trump has served a useful purpose for the United States it surely is as a caricature of our acquiescence to ignorance and easy non-solutions to complex problems. Those things give us a chest-thumping sugar high right until the moment when reality arrives and we come crashing down, like when we learned about all those children ripped from their mothers’ arms and then put in cages. He’s shown us daily what foolishness, greed, hate mongering and dishonesty can do to a nation. Perhaps the results of the mid-term election indicate that we are beginning to see for ourselves what has happened to us. We don’t like it and we’re taking action to redirect our country.

Angry old white guys who long for a proud and pleasant but fictitious past are dying off, so my hopes are for our young to put their shoulders to the wheel and move this national wagon in the right direction. The Parkland kids are showing the way. They just received the 2018 International Children’s Peace Prize, awarded by Bishop Desmond Tutu in Cape Town, South Africa. The Millennials at www.Represent.us and the tens of thousands who canvassed for candidates in this election are showing us the way as well.

For them and us to succeed will require that we hold complex thoughts in our heads and stay focused. It means now and then we will have to accept less than instant gratification. It means we may have to live with some level of disappointment and nevertheless stay the course.

This is going to be a challenge. And it is our challenge.

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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 that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Potpourri v5.0


Reading time – 2:55; Viewing time – 3:47  .  .  .

I attended a demonstration last week in Naples, FL. This was one of the over 1,000 demonstrations spread among all 50 states protesting the Matt Whitaker appointment as acting Attorney General, seen as the first concrete step to Trump neutering the Mueller investigation.

We were on a corner of busy US Highway 41. People brought signs and many driving by honked horns in support. The most important moment for me was when a guy in a pickup truck drove by, windows open, and yelled, “I’m for Trump. I got a job.”

And, of course, he’s right. The righties will point to that and declare that’s proof that Trump is great for America. The lefties will point to the rock steady growth of the economy since 2009 and say it was inevitable. I say that this guy just helped us to understand why people voted for Trump.

It’s about the dignity of work. It’s about being able to care for yourself and your family. It’s about not having anxiety over every dollar. It’s about pride of accomplishment. And millions of Americans have been locked out of all of that.

They aren’t all racists or stupid or deplorable or blind or morally bankrupt or anything more or less than human. And too many of the college educated and urbane just don’t seem to get it. Pal J.C. offered a link to a David Brooks essay that suggests that there may be better ways to see ourselves and to build something of lasting value, rather than continuing on our path to extreme Us-Them.

Democrats who can’t seem to figure out how to appeal to red state America don’t get it. Hillary didn’t get it. Tom Perez, head of the DNC, doesn’t get it. Maybe what that guy in the pickup truck wanted to say is that none of us has to be wrapped in a self-righteous cocoon and all of us care how we’re treated.

Can we stop talking about how Democrats can win votes in red states? How about figuring out what’s really going on in peoples’ lives – all people – and deal with those challenges?

Read Brooks’ essay and post your comments below.

“When small men attempt great enterprises, they
always end by reducing them to the level of their mediocrity.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

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The CDC tells us that there were 200,000 opioid related deaths in the U.S. from 1999 – 2016. They also tell us that the rate of those deaths in 2016 was 5 times what it was in 1999. That’s not good.

Lethal dose

Now the FDA has approved a new drug, trade name Dsuvia, a new form of sufentanil. It is 10 time stronger than today’s opioid, fentanyl. One of the justifications for its approval is that it’s claimed that it is valuable for treating pain from battlefield injuries when an IV can’t be used. Said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, “The military application for this new medicine was carefully considered in this case.”

Perhaps. But given our record of failing to keep a tight rein on supplies of these powerful drugs and the consequences to hundreds of thousands of now dead people, I’m wondering how we’ll prevent things from becoming far worse.

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Finally, perhaps you’ve heard pundits talk about Trump being entirely transactional and wondered what that meant. Branding expert Scott Galloway recently posted a video that explains that clearly and the section of his video dealing with that is posted below. You’ll instantly appreciate the difference between strategic (vision-centered) versus tactical (transactional). If you’d like to view his full post (most is non-political), click here.

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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 that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


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

I Didn’t Want To Write This Post


Reading time – 4:54; Viewing time – 6:18  .  .  .
I didn’t want to write this post. I want to be better than this, to be evolved and enlightened. I want to be patient and understanding and have equanimity, but that just isn’t happening. Not now and perhaps not for a very long time.

I’m mad as hell.

I’m sick of weenie politicians offering their damned “thoughts and prayers.” I’m nauseated by the spinelessness of our leaders who are, instead, followers of the biggest financial donors. I’m sickened by elected officials who value their political life far more than the actual lives of attendees at religious ceremonies and little children in school. The core value of these officials seems to be, “Let ’em all die, as long as I get re-elected.”

I attended what was offered as a healing ceremony at my synagogue on Sunday morning. The kids attending Sunday School were brought in for the last 15 minutes of the proceedings and as I watched their little bodies make their way to open seats I couldn’t help but realize that these kids have now been taught to be afraid all the time, everywhere. And that’s absolutely not okay.

Nobody has ever solved the riddle of how to take fear and hate and anger from the hearts of our citizens, so I don’t have any notion that the riddle will be solved now. What I do believe is that we can open our eyes to the reality all around us and start to deal with it.

The Anti-Defamation League keeps track of anti-Semitism in America and reports that anti-Semitic incidents were up 57% in 2017 over 2016, with the highest increases occurring in the first 3 months of the year. It’s interesting to note that these spikes in acts of hatred occurred during and just after Donald Trump’s inauguration. Then the acts of hate spiked again following the “Unite the Right” neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, which was conducted by “fine people,” according to our president.

Trump is the obvious and easy-to-name provocateur of intolerance because of his well documented incitements to hate and violence. His wooden recitation of words from a Tele-prompter that were written by someone else means nothing, because everyone knows he’s completely disingenuous in his sympathy and is only mouthing the words. The withholding of his vilification of others barely lasted an hour following his Tele-prompter charade, when he was back to naming enemies and demeaning them. We’ve always had a problem of hatred in this country, but we’ve often had a leader upon whom we could count to call upon our better angels. Now, we don’t.

And it’s missing from many of our elected leaders, too, especially those who spinelessly refuse to stand up to Trump.

For those who desperately want to deny the one-sidedness of the incitement to hate and violence that lives in our politics and our country, I have a question for you: What is it that you’re pretending not to know? Perhaps you’ll like my question better in this form: What is it that is right before you every day that you refuse to see and refuse to hear?

If you call yourself a Republican I invite you to examine if that’s really true. The Republican Party of Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and H. W. Bush is long gone. There are still some ugly echoes from them, like the overt racism of Nixon and the racial stereotyping by Reagan (recall his self-serving lie, saying there were “welfare queens” in Chicago), but the basic conservatism of any and all of them is gone, regardless of the Republican label in use by others today.

Today’s Republican Party is the party of discrimination, the withholding of rights, hatred and the impoverishment of middle class and poor Americans and anyone who is not from white, Christian European stock, and the violent perps feed off that. If the things in that list don’t describe you, then renounce your membership in that party right now, because the Republicans of today abandoned you in favor of protecting their own asses and in the process they lost any semblance of moral standing and the right to a place of leadership. And it’s not just the discrimination that’s a problem.

They’ve sold out to the gun lobby because that gets them big donations for their campaigns. Were they honest they would declare the number of people who they figure can be butchered by semi-automatic weapon carrying angry people before they’ll stand up for sensible gun safety laws. Don’t look for that declaration, though, because going public with that would upset their big money donors.

Eleven people were killed and many more were wounded in the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday, this in the name of blaming Jews for the miserable life the killer had made for himself. It’s the same pattern as for the butchery in the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and the Sikh temple in Milwaukee and the LGBTQ partiers at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and those little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the people at the Las Vegas concert. Nearly all those dead bodies can be attributed to the cowardice of our elected officials to stand up and lead.

I went to the healing ceremony on Sunday and found no healing. I’ll get to that someday. Right now I’m mad as hell and I don’t give a damn about politicians’ “thoughts and prayers.” I want action.

For more following our most recent massacre, be sure to read Howard Fineman’s essay and Bari Weiss’ essay, too.

Correction: While she lived through those years, Rose Mallinger, the 97 year old shooting victim originally mentioned in this post, was not a holocaust survivor. Apologies for the error. JA

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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:

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 be better informed.

Thanks!


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

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:

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 be better informed.

Thanks!


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

Who Cares?


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

Reading time – 2:59; Viewing time – 4:17  .  .  .

North Dakota Republican lawmakers must think they’re in Texas or North Carolina, because they’re pursuing the same kinds of voter discrimination that’s become so popular with voter suppressionists in those other states.

They passed voter suppression tactics designed to stomp on the rights of 40,000 Native Americans. Here’s where it gets really weird: they started their discrimination after early voting had already begun.

Gotta give points for creativity to the North Dakota Republicans, because all the voter suppression actions in most other states has been to keep black, brown and poor people from voting, but not in North Dakota. Their anti-Constitutional genius is designed to keep poor Native Americans down. It seems that all those broken treaties over the centuries didn’t constitute enough cruelty to satisfy the supremacist power thirst of these Republicans. And the story gets worse.

Native Americans challenged that law in Federal court, which stopped it. But then the Republican North Dakota Secretary of State appealed to the Eighth District Court, which reversed the lower court and allowed the discriminatory law to stand. That decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, which decided that the law should go into affect.

So, who cares? We don’t care about Native Americans any more than we cared about Puerto Ricans when the hurricane slashed through that island and killed 2,975 Americans. None of them is from white European stock, so who cares?


Then there’s the deceit of the Kavanaugh debacle. Read the letter from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s lawyers posted halfway down the HUFFPost article. You’ll come away with clarity about the fundamental dishonesty of the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. To wrap a bow around that, here’s a link to a video of Donald Trump mocking Dr. Blasey Ford. His words aren’t only cruel; they’re utterly false. But really, if you’re in power, who cares?


A football coach, an athletic director and fifteen high school kids were killed and yet more were injured by a gunman at Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, FL on Valentine’s Day this year. Don’t even try to imagine how you would cope if one of your children had been shot dead at school, because unless you’ve lived it there isn’t even a remote possibility that you understand. But Fred Guttenberg does and he knows that doing something to help is what must be done. Guttenberg’s daughter, Jaime, was one of those killed that awful day in Florida.

Jaime was a dancer and she often helped those in need. She was small in stature, but took action to stop bullying. She simply cared about doing things to help others, so Fred created a foundation to do just that. It’s called Orange Ribbons for Jaime and I urge you to take a look. Watch Fred’s short video on the About page of the foundation’s website. Then take action to be like Jaime – do something to help others, like contributing to this foundation. Fred is completely transparent about what the foundation supports and, not surprisingly, that includes common sense gun safety reforms.

And support March For Our Lives, too. You remember David Hogg, Cameron Kasky and Emma Gonzalez – those kids who are wise beyond their years and who both broke your heart and filled it, as they spoke out on that day of murder in Parkland. They’re still speaking out and you can believe that they won’t stop until we defeat the gun lobby, whose only care is the profit to be made selling yet more guns. They won’t stop until we decide as a country that our children’s lives are more precious than unlimited arsenals in the house of any angry nut bag in this country. Chip in to help this movement.

Because the answer to the question “Who cares?” is you.

#WeAreTheMob
#WeWillVote

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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:

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 be better informed.

Thanks!


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

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