Fascism

Jax Jeopardy Game, Season 1, Episode 1

Reading time – 1:33  .  .  .

The category is U.S. Foreign Policy

For $250, your clue: Tora Bora in 2001

“Where and when did U.S. Special Forces and CIA operatives have Osama bin Laden trapped, when President George W. Bush refused to commit the necessary forces to capture bin Laden and, thus, allowed him to escape? We’re still wondering why.”

For $500, your clue: To catch Osama bin Laden

“What was the reason given for the full scale invasion of Afghanistan?”

For $750, your clue: No

“Was bin Laden in Afghanistan when the U.S. invaded?”

For $1,000, your clue: To close down terrorist training facilities

“What was the next stated reason for continuing the war in Afghanistan?”

For $1,250, your clue: To defeat the Taliban

“What was the next stated reason for continuing the war in Afghanistan?”

For $1,500, your clue: To establish democracy

“What was the next stated reason for continuing the war in Afghanistan?”

For $1,750, your clue: To train Afghani troops

“What was the next stated reason for continuing the war in Afghanistan?”

For $2,000, your clue: Huh?

“What was the next stated reason for continuing the war in Afghanistan?”

For $2,250, your clue: A string of lies

“What was the justification for the U.S. invasion of Iraq?”

For $2,500, your clue: Zero

“How many WMDs did Saddam Hussein have?”

For $2,750, your clue: Iraqi oil

“What would pay the trillions of dollars that the war in Iraq would cost, according to Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense?”

For $3,000, your clue: Pakistan

“What was the first country to be targeted by U.S. drones?”

For $3,500, your clue: Libya

“What is the most recent country to be targeted by U.S. drones?”

For $4,000, your clue: There isn’t one

“What is the plan for U.S. military disengagement from the middle east?”

For $4,500, your clue: Bomb them

“What is John Bolton’s solution for everything?”

For $5,000, your clue: The generals

“Who is President Trump not smarter than?”

For $7,500, your clue: Neither

“Who has the best plan for dealing with North Korea and Iran, Trump or Bolton?”

For $10,000, your clue: Diplomacy

“What do both Trump and Bolton not understand and refuse to use as the primary tool of U.S. foreign policy?”

For $15,000, your clue: Never

“When will the U.S. no longer be at war?”

For $20,000 and the Foreign Policy Championship, your clue: China

“As a result of self-defeating U.S. foreign policies, which country will own this century?”

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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.

Stop Watching the Sideshows

Reading time – 3:21; Viewing time – 4:23  .  .  .

The discussions drone on, with the current outrage over Trump’s cowardly firing of Rex Tillerson. I say cowardly, because apparently Trump tweeted the firing to the world hours before Tillerson found out about it from a third party. In other words, once again Mr. “You’re Fired” wasn’t man enough to confront someone – this time Tillerson – with the news that his employment was terminated.

Then, of course, there is the speculation about how long Tillerson’s firing was in the works and whether his recent supportive response to Theresa May’s finding that the Russians were behind the nerve gas attacks in England was the tipping point for Tillerson.

And there is ongoing hand-wringing over the revolving door that is the White House, how Trump can’t seem to keep people in place to do what needs to be done and also have the proper security clearances. And all of that, while true, is a sideshow, so stop watching it. It’s critical that we focus on the center ring in the Big Tent of the Trump Circus.

Trump is consistent in exactly one thing: doing what serves Donald Trump. And the most important thing Donald Trump needs now is to prevent us from seeing the connections between him and the Russians and their attacks on America. That is the center ring in the Big Tent.

It’s what explains his ongoing distractions and smoke screens, like his impulsive tariffs, his impulsive agreement to meet with Kim Jung Un, his impulsive verbal attacks on NATO, his impulsive rejection of the Paris Climate Accord, his impulsive ongoing attacks on the judiciary and the press and, of course, impulsively far more.

That Trump behaves this way is no surprise. He’s been in the business of causing outrage for a very long time and pundits who are horrified over the Tillerson et.al. exits are looking in the wrong direction. We knew what this snake was before we picked him up.

The right direction to look is at Republicans in Congress, those who are supposed to be a check and balance on the Presidency. Nearly all of them are metaphorically screwing themselves into the ground in an effort to somehow make Trump’s behavior okay. They’re laying down smoke screens like, “Oh yeah? Well here’s how some Democrat is worse,” as though even if true that would make Trump’s behavior acceptable. As bad as those Republicans may be, are those who don’t have the spine to address Trump’s un-American behavior at all.

Every one of them knows that Trump is a very bad boy who has done reprehensible things, many of which are likely illegal and possibly treasonous. Every one of them can see on open display Trump’s dereliction of duty, as he refuses to take any action to inhibit Russian meddling with our election coming just 8 months from now. That includes the Republican House Intelligence Committee members who have caved and sucked up to Trump with their blatantly valueless report.

Go ahead: answer for yourself why Trump might give Putin an open lane to skew our election. It’s the same answer to the question of why Trump gave Putin veto power over the choice for Secretary of State last year. You may remember that Trump declared his options to be either Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney. Putin nixed both, but allowed Tillerson to get the job because Putin likes Tillerson. That’s because Russia’s biggest oil deal ever was made with Tillerson at the head of Exxon shortly before the 2016 election. And the Republicans know all of that, too.

We’re left with a Congress that, through its verbal gymnastics of Trump explanations, paired with cowardly silence, is allowing Putin to control Trump and this country and our allies in Europe as well. We are being sold out by a subservient President and a spineless Congress.

So, stop watching the sideshows and keep your eyes on the Big Tent.

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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.

White House Veracity

Reading time – 2:59; Viewing time – 4:26  .  .  .

The White House, power center of the United States, home of the leader of the free world, the influence center of global economics and source of a continuing flow of lies has done it again.

Hope Hicks, the 29 year old White House Communications Director, testified before the House Intelligence Committee on February 27, refusing to answer most questions. She based her refusal on an imaginary privilege, which roughly paralleled Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ refusal both times he testified before that committee. It is essentially an assertion that, “I don’t want to talk about it and the President doesn’t want me to, either.” There is no such privilege – that’s what makes it imaginary. Said ranking member Adam Schiff,

“That’s an overly broad claim of privilege that I don’t think any court of law would sustain. And I think the White House knows that. This is not executive privilege; it is executive stonewalling.”

Hicks did manage to say a few things to the committee. One of them was that her work for President Trump had occasionally required her to tell white lies. This requires some clarification.

When a woman asks, “Do these pants make my butt look big?” people of strict integrity might be forced to admit that, yes, they do. On the other hand, relationships can be fragile and they are likely the most important issue, so saying something more tactful might be the better course, something like, “They’re okay, but you might want to try a darker color.” Or, “No, you look great.” Those are white lies – lies told to spare someone’s feelings.

We have yet to hear such a lie from anyone in the White House. With over 2,000 documented Presidential lies in a single year, not one has been identified as a lie to avoid hurting someone. No press briefing, commonly packed with lies, distortions and misdirection has included white lies. Not a single cabinet briefing has included a white lie. It beggars belief that Hope Hicks, alone in a swamp of lies, would be the sole dispenser of white lies, this in the name of the President of prevarication.

No, she’s  just another West Wing liar and now she’s gone, like dozens before her.

And another thing  .  .  .

Jared Kushner, son-in-law to the President, unpaid handler of everything including middle-east peace, can’t get a security clearance. In fact, he will never get a top security clearance, even though for well over a year he has been privy to the most sensitive of America’s secrets. At the same time he’s held numerous meetings with top officials of other countries, many without another pair of American ears present, and he has discussed his private financial interests at the same meetings. He proposed setting up a private communications scheme with Moscow, with his base to be in the Russian embassy. And it’s been reported that the Chinese are working him in an influence operation. This too-smart-for-American-interests agent is ripe for being blackmailed and putting us all at risk.

At the same time Trump hasn’t allowed our intelligence services to do anything about Russian hacking of our elections and has refused to apply legally required sanctions on them. And during the transition his then national security advisor Michael Flynn, liar to the FBI and dabbler in Russian cooperation, promised to remove Obama era sanctions.

Trump unmasked an Israeli agent to the Russians. He’s had numerous contacts with Vladimir Putin without so much as an American translator present. He’s refused to appoint ambassadors to nations in key flash points around the world, including South Korea. And he has decimated our diplomatic corps.

There is far more, of course, but the key question is how many years will it take for the United States to recover from Trump compromising and even betraying of our country? Indeed, will we ever be able to recover?

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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.

An Astonishing Ability To Do The Wrong Thing

Reading time – 75 seconds  .  .  .

Pathetic that he needed such notes. Note, too, the “45” on the cuff. Sad.

Russia invaded Ukraine so Obama put sanctions on them. Trump removed them.

17 people were murdered in Florida. Trump said congratulations to the first responders and told Jeff Sessions to look into prosecuting Hillary.

Kim Jong-Un launched a ballistic missile. Trump insulted him and indirectly dared him to do worse.

The FBI indicted 13 Russian hackers. Trump congratulated himself.

Trump bellowed that Mexico will pay for his wall. Now Trump demands payment from Congress (i.e. you and me).

Trump promised to protect the Dreamers. Trump pulled the rug out from under the Dreamers by removing executive order protection and now uses them as pawns.

Trump promised protection and even expansion of Social Security and Medicare. Trump signed a tax bill that is the first step to privatizing and limiting both of those programs.

Congress passed a law to sanction Russia which Trump signed. Proof of Russian hacking was offered (yet again) and Trump refused to sanction Russia as required by law.

Trump repeatedly meets with Russian leaders without any American present, not even a translator.

Trump promised to isolate himself from his business interests. That never happened and he continues his self-aggrandizement by charging hundreds of millions of dollars for security and transportation to Mar-a-Lago and Trump Tower. And Trump gets foreign dignitaries to stay in his hotels.

Trump held a “listening session” with survivors of mass shootings. It is astonishing that he had to bring a cheat-sheet along to know what to say (see the picture). Worse, he proposed arming teachers with guns, right in line with the NRA’s solution for increased gun sales. And what could be better than crossfire in the hallway of the school?

Of course, this list could go on and on, but the most important point is that Trump is not just completely untrustworthy; he is imperiling us. His hollow words to survivors won’t bring any safety to students or anyone else. And he is imperiling the United States by failing his primary responsibility to protect and defend our country. Tom Friedman’s article on this is mandatory reading.

Unlike Trump, I’m doing something for our safety. Mark your calendar on March 24 to join the national student protest. Then review this post and send a link to at least 10 others.

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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.

The “T” Word

Reading time – 3:13; Viewing time – 4:18  .  .  .

In Brené Brown’s new book, Braving the Wilderness, she quotes Harry G. Frankfurt in differentiating between liars and bullshitters. The liar rejects the authority of the truth; the bullshitter pays no attention to the truth at all. She also quotes Brandolini’s Law: “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”


The BS effrontery was plain for all to see on January 30, as the President of the United States delivered the Constitutionally required report to Congress on the state of the union. The president delivered his practiced applause lines and – horror of horrors! – the Democrats did not stand and applaud.

Now, this is the reality show president, so for him to experience an absence of fawning adulation must have been terribly painful. Indeed, the next day he put his hurt feelings on his sleeve.

This from NBC News:

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday called Democrats’ stone-faced reaction to his State of the Union address last week “treasonous” and “un-American” during a visit to a manufacturing plant in Cincinnati.

Trump described Republicans as “going totally crazy wild” during his remarks last Tuesday, while expression-less Democrats remained seated for the majority of the speech. “They were like death,” Trump lamented. “And un-American. Un-American.”

But their reaction, he said, was also something much worse.

Vaguely noting that “someone” called the Democrats’ reactions “‘treasonous,'” Trump said he agreed. “I mean, yeah, I guess. Why not? … Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

Definition: treason – the crime of betraying one’s country.

Apparently, failing to applaud Trump is the same as betraying one’s country, at least in the mind of the Great Thought Mangler. Is it possible, though, that treason is flowing from a different source? Wouldn’t undermining the fundamentals of our country be treasonous?

Some examples:

From The Onion, of course! Consider this as a placeholder for all the betrayals of this administration

  • – Violating the separation of powers
  • – Attacking the Justice Department, the FBI and the press in order to undermine an investigation
  • – Bringing to the inner circle of the White House people who CANNOT GET A SECURITY CLEARANCE, at least one of whom has been targeted by a Chinese influence operation and several of whom put themselves in a position to be blackmailed by foreign powers – and they all had access to top secret information
  • – Refusing to be loyal to allies and sucking up to tyrants, both large and small
  • – Threatening nuclear annihilation
  • – Double-crossing Dreamers and CHIPs kids
  • – Abandoning the people of Puerto Rico
  • – Blatantly disregarding the emoluments clause, making millions for himself, and
  • – Failing to protect and defend this country against invasion by a hostile foreign power

Not one of these actions is partisan in nature or even a policy issue and none is in dispute. Each is in direct opposition to the welfare of this nation and every one is poison to democracy. They are simple questions of right versus wrong, patriotic versus treasonous. This is about betraying one’s country.

From How Democracies Die:

Click to watch the interview of former DNI James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan about the Russian invasion of America.

“An essential test for democracies is not whether such [authoritarian] figures emerge but whether political leaders, and especially political parties, work to prevent them from gaining power in the first place.”

Congress, you miserably failed the first test. Protecting the FBI and the Justice Department may be the last chance to stand up and fulfill your oath of office. The only question is whether you will wake up to your responsibility to protect and defend the Constitution and intercede to stop treason, the betrayal of our country.

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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.

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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Click me to find the event in your area. Then sign up and show up when Trump fires Mueller.

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  .  .  .

.  .  .  because you need to stand up and be counted if you’re to get a “lived happily ever after” ending to this fable.

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.

Invertebrates

Not so long ago the Republican Party proudly boasted of being the party that stood for law and order. They let us know in no uncertain terms that they were the guys who would defend against international threats. They were the tough guys who were best suited to ensure our national security.

Apply Trump’s words about voters to the majority of Republican members of Congress.

Now, though, they cower before the Mad Goon-in-Chief, doing his bidding and refusing to challenge his dishonesty and his devotion solely to himself, rather than to our nation. He’s callously made 1.8 million DACA kids (his number) mere pawns in his game of chicken to get his stupid, unnecessary wall, the security tool that assumes that Mexicans don’t know about ladders or tunnels. That’s the wall he told us time and again that Mexico will pay for, but now he wants each of us to pay hundreds of dollars for it. Today’s Republicans are sucking up to this scoundrel by playing his game and have abdicated their responsibility and their oath of office to protect and defend. They’re no longer the fierce guardians of our Republic; they’re the cowering lapdogs.

It took just 96 years for H.L. Mencken’s prophesy to come true.

Trump leads them in taunts to diminish our  institutions, like the press, the FBI, the CIA, the entire Justice Department and specific people in those agencies. He has Senators Ron Johnson (R-MN), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and others making flagrantly idiotic, scary sounding accusations about the FBI, substantiated solely by hot air, demeaning the very people who make sure we’re safe. That doesn’t sound much like the party that used to stand for law and order. That sounds more like self-serving people being manipulated by moneyed interests and lacking a spine to stand against what they know to be wrong.

Rep. Devin Nunez (R-CA) is cavorting about DC right now with a memo he wrote, claiming McCarthy-like that his memo contains a smoking gun that has the fingerprints of the evil FBI on it. The memo contains classified information that he carelessly didn’t review. And he carelessly has shown that classified information to most of the Republican members of Congress and is threatening to carelessly release it to the public. That whooshing sound you hear is Devin Nunez sucking up to Donald Trump.

The Justice Department has pushed back, making clear that Nunez will do damage to our national security should he release the memo. To understand the full importance of that, you need to know that at the same time that Nunez is doing his Trump suck-up dance, a tsunami of Russian bots is inundating our social media, calling for the release of his memo. Did I mention that the memo contains classified information? In other words, Republican Nunez is brainlessly playing directly into the hands of the Russians.

So, let’s be clear about what’s important:

Think: Congress

  • What is important is that unlike Nunez and the rest of the suck-ups, you and I see this for what it is: the next self-serving, transparent attempt at misdirection from what is important, the Russian hack of our election.
  • What is important is Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible conspiracy – not collusion: conspiracy – by Trump and his organization to get the Russians to help him win the election.
  • What is important is the investigation into possible obstruction of justice by Trump.
  • What is important is to discover if Trump – the President of the United States – has been part of a massive money laundering scheme and whether that has made him vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.

The good news is that Mueller doesn’t care about Nunez’s dingbat grandstanding or Trump’s demonizing attacks or the spinelessness of what passes for Republicans in Congress today. He cares about justice. So do we.

We care about the abdication of duty to country by the jellyfish in Congress.

We care about the baseless attacks on the very people we count on to keep us safe.

We care that the people who thump their jellyfish chests about how strong they are for America are the very people who have abandoned their integrity and, through their obstruction, are enabling Russia to hack our next election.

These Republicans, the ones who are making fatuous accusations about the FBI, as well as all those in Congress who stand silently by and won’t call out Nunez or the president – and that especially includes Spineless Speaker Paul Ryan – have sold out their country to appease the infant tyrant, Trump.

The late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan summed up the aspiration of everyone in this country: “What the people want is very simple – they want an America as good as its promise.”

We aren’t getting that America from either the Executive Branch or the Legislative Branch of our government. And we’re going to remember that this coming November and in 2020.

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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.

Address to Congress, January 3, 2018

Reading time – 4:52; Viewing time – 7:07  .  .  .

Mr. President, colleagues, fellow citizens, I rise today to speak to the obvious. That I do so is grounded in the Confucian admonition, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” Once so named, the resultant clarity may spawn wisdom.

If we take as most fundamental and do so in unanimous agreement, that we are here to act on behalf of and for the benefit of the American people, and if we use that understanding as the standard by which our actions are to be valued and judged, then it is possible – even likely – that we are falling far short of the mark and that we do so with frightening regularity. Such a condition implores us to identify and name the causes and then deal with them so that we do what we were sent here to do. That it is important that we do so can be substantiated by our approval ratings from the American people, which have languished at a disreputable level below 20% for most of the past two decades. It’s possible we’ve been missing something important.

In a recent report from the Congressional Management Foundation, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving the working of Congress, they wrote that, “.  .  .  we  in Congress need to be much better able to absorb, organize and use knowledge to make laws and policy.” In other words, while living in this age of the avalanche of information, we are woefully deficient in knowledge and poorly skilled at using what little knowledge we have.

Colleagues, I’m confident you’ve experienced this deficit repeatedly and know from frustrating experience that your votes are all too often supported by ignorance and confusion. That isn’t particularly important when we are naming a new post office or agreeing unanimously that the hybridization of watermelons to be seedless has added mightily to the quality of life for all Americans. Yet there are times when we are dealing with issues of great substance and which will have enormous impact on our country and on our countrymen. In such times, ignorance and confusion have no place and serve only to ensure the least beneficial outcomes.

The impact of our ignorance is exacerbated by our own actions designed to protect ourselves, our position, our power and our wealth. We have enacted rules that ensure that predatory sexual behavior by one of our members can be hushed; that allow manipulation of Congressional districts to the benefit of incumbents, rather than that of constituents; that effectively permit one-party rule by declaring the reconciliation of a bill; and that allow leaders to prevent the filling of a Supreme Court vacancy for over a year in order to tilt the court.

Most recently we passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which may have been attractively named, but which was created and enacted in a most undemocratic fashion. I speak now primarily of the process, not to the substance of the bill; that has been examined in numerous exposés and found to fall somewhat short of the suggestion of the label affixed to it. Nevertheless, it is useful to unmask a few examples in order to find our way to a larger view.

Contrary to the claims boasted to our citizens, this bill is not the biggest tax reduction in U.S. history, nor is its design likely to benefit primarily our poor and working class Americans. Indeed, the over $1 trillion debt it will create will be will be summarily dumped upon the backs of our poor and working class, even as it enormously benefits our ultra-wealthy, all protestations in conflict with this notwithstanding. This bill is fundamentally regressive and unlikely to generate higher wages or more jobs for Americans, at least not in numbers remotely resembling those claimed by proponents. Furthermore, like much legislation, it contains provisions that have nothing whatsoever to do with tax reform, some of which greatly benefit many of our own members, but which impact Americans substantively and most often negatively. All of this is listed solely for the purpose of making obvious the question of how we in this deliberative body could have done this.

One answer to that important question lies in our process. This legislation was crafted in secret and by one political party only – everyone but Republican ideologues were excluded. There were no Democratic voices heard at all and few moderate Republican voices. There were no tax or economic or financial experts called upon to provide their wisdom and their calculations of the far reaching effects of this massive change. For the estimate of the impact of this legislation we were left to rely solely upon people largely ignorant of the complexities. So much for our having the necessary knowledge of the impact of what we were doing.

Perhaps as crippling as anything, there were no deliberations on the floor of either house of Congress. There were no open session hearings. There was only the cramming of a poorly considered law through the chinks in our system, this at 1:50AM on a Saturday when nobody was watching.

The entire process for creating this hugely consequential Act spanned only six weeks, the reason for which was the entirely valueless goals of meeting a timetable which was based on nothing more than a Presidential whim, along with gaining the opportunity to crow of having a “win” before the end of the year. The artificial deadline made careful deliberation impossible and that undermined and at last devastated any hope of focusing on benefit for the American people.

To summarize, our process guaranteed that we would be deficient in the knowledge required to create the vehicle most likely to engineer what is best for our people. Further, our rules and our process ensured that we in this august and hallowed hall, with the echoes of giants still reverberating in this chamber, succumbed to enhancing our own security, power and wealth, all to the detriment of our fellow citizens.

With the Confucian admonition in mind, the obvious has been stated and things have been appended with their proper names. It now falls to us to find the wisdom. The voices of our Founders ring through the centuries directly to us, with an unambiguous call that we find that wisdom and act in accord with it. Our people deserve no less and it is our duty to do far more.

Mr. President, I yield the remainder of my time.

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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 Conservative Commentary in Two Connecting Pieces

Reading time – 3:09; Viewing time – 4:18  .  .  .

Donald Trump and his Congressional Republicans, as well as every blatherer on Fox News, are all over Robert Mueller and his team, as well as the FBI and the Justice Department. They have impugned Mueller’s integrity. attacked the FBI saying it’s in tatters (somebody please tell me what an FBI in tatters would look like) and have generally done whatever they could to undermine public confidence in the folks who enforce our laws. Okay, we get the political leverage they’re after. We also get the cynical, anti-American nature of dragging down a bedrock of our republic solely for political advantage. I’m sure it’s making Vladimir Putin smile.

But here’s the thing. I want somebody to give me one – just one – example of compromised integrity of Mueller or the FBI. I don’t mean wild, awful sounding accusations without substance. I mean facts. If your views are in line with those of Trump, please offer your solid evidence of malfeasance of our top law enforcement agency or the special counsel or his team in the Comments section below. And, no, his team members expressing political views is not evidence of malfeasance or compromised integrity.

Here’s my view: This whole exercise is another chapter in the Trump-Bannon quest to tear everything apart, to bring it “crashing down“. Ripping apart the Justice Department would be a potent step for that. Doing so would also affirm that Trump is a poor but brave victim of his awful enemies like the judiciary, the press and free elections. This is what fascism looks like. If you’re a conservative, how does tearing down the Justice Department play for you?

Next point.

Nikki Haley was given the honor of representing the United States of America in the United Nations, which was more than a little weird, since she had absolutely no experience in either foreign affairs or diplomacy. Her ineptitude was made manifest on December 21, the winter solstice, as her dim light matched the longest darkness of the year when she addressed the United Nations. She spoke in opposition to a nonbinding UN resolution calling for the U.S. to rescind its decree formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel and pledging to move our embassy there.

Here is a link to a video of her remarks; here’s a link to a full transcript. Click through and listen. As you listen, note the thuggish tone and the insistence of blind loyalty and subservience to the U.S.

Haley’s infantile temper tantrum makes for yet another day of embarrassment for the United States on the world stage and is as shameful and as crass as it can be. This is putting the unending search for world peace onto a return on investment, pro-forma spreadsheet and threatening to end our investment because we didn’t get treated well by meanies in the UN. This is blatantly declaring that the United States will bull its way through the world with no concern for others, just because we can. This is idiotically declaring that a challenge to Trump, after his having thrown gasoline onto the fires of the middle east, is somehow a threat to our sovereignty, so we’re having a hissy fit at the United Nations.

Somebody please tell me how being a bully in the world advances our interests or that of our allies. Somebody please tell me how sticking a finger in the eyes of every other nation of the world makes Americans or our allies safer. Somebody please tell me what is conservative about dissing the United Nations.

Sleep well, knowing that your government is doing all it can to tear apart our own foundations and, at the same time, undermining our safety and security in the world. If that’s okay with you, you might want to recheck your conservative credentials, because you used to be a bedrock law and order supporter, a believer in the Constitution and the rule of law. You used to believe in America.

* 63% of Americans oppose of the move of our embassy.

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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.

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