First Amendment

The 1960s and Now

Reading time – 3:00; Viewing time – 4:24 .  .  .

Times were dark and we were heading down the dismal spiral of the Vietnam war. There was the draft and all the guys knew that we would spend a minimum of two years in the military. It’s just the way things were. And there was a problem with that.

World War II had been a patriotic cause to protect our country and the world from the most evil of all evils. It was a “good war”. Vietnam bore no resemblance to that and not many boomers were anxious to slog through rice paddies and get shot while serving in “Johnson’s war,” a conflict that had no patriotic reason. Most of us felt at risk. Mortal risk.

And that’s what lit the fires of protest, the shouting, the anger, the demonstrations, the confrontations with the establishment. Vietnam simply wasn’t a “good war” and certainly wasn’t worth killing others or dying for. If they wanted boomers to go to war, they needed a much better reason. Let Johnson be the first president to lose a war, we said. Better that than any of us losing our lives for no patriotic reason.

We were agitated. We were engaged. And we were completely misunderstood by older generations who simply couldn’t make sense of us. They wanted to know what all those protest songs were about. Why were we so angry and how come we didn’t do as we were told the way they had? And why didn’t we just abandon our resistance in the face of the titanic force of the way things were?

The answer, of course, is that it was personal. President Johnson was coming for me and he was going to get me killed for no good reason. It doesn’t get more personal than that and that’s the key point.

Like us, the astonishingly clear students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School feel that same mortal risk and they are agitated and they are engaged. They are protesting and they are demonstrating. And, just as for the boomers in the 1960s, it’s personal. They will not go away. They will not be silent. And they will not knuckle under to the titanic force of the way things are.

Here is what politicians better figure out really fast:

  1. This generation gets it and it’s personal and they refuse to wear a bulls eye on their backs.
  2. It isn’t just the students at one Florida high school; it’s every high school and college kid across the nation. If you doubt that, watch for the head count at March For Our Lives on March 24. Better yet, show up.
  3. These kids can and will vote. And don’t dismiss the high school sophomores and juniors: They’ll be voting in the 2020 election.
  4. This generation of Americans will vote in bigger numbers than previous generations and they will outlive all of us. They will get their way.

We boomers had our day, but there were some civil rights advances, the Vietnam war and the draft went away and our fire went out. We became complacent and learned to play the game.

Now, though, our Gen-Zs, like the kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, are politically aware and they are mobilized. So are many of the Gen-Ys. Together, they are the hope for our nation’s future.

President Obama told us in 2008 that, “We are the people we’ve been waiting for.” He was right. And on February 22, just 8 days after the MSD High School massacre he told that entire generation, “We’ve been waiting for you. And we’ve got your backs.” He’s right again.

Memo to politicians: Get on the right side of history or get run over.

Memo to Wayne LaPierre, executive director of the NRA: In your red-fanged address to the CPAC conference you said, “We are never talking about an armed resistance against the socialist corruption of our government.” Was your implied threat intentional?

Just know, Wayne, that as you rail against any and all actions that might actually make our students safer, rest assured that they aren’t advocating armed resistance against you either.

See how personal this gets?

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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.

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.

(Mostly) Quick Hits – They’re Linked, I Promise

Reading time – 6:49; Viewing time – 9:59  .  .  .

First, a heads-up for the impatient: The lede is buried at the end of this post.

A Really Tough Time for Republicans

Judge Roy Moore was removed from the bench twice for flaunting our laws in favor of his absolutist religious beliefs. Yes, he was an Alabama Supreme Court judge who disrespected the rule of law – that’s why he was removed from the bench – did I mention “twice”? Apparently, in Alabama that’s not a disqualifier for becoming a United States Senator. As you know, though, the story gets far worse.

Several women have gone public, accusing Moore of sexually violating them and  most were minors when the accused sexual predator allegedly violated them. We’re talking pedophilia. Here are some peculiars about this:

  1. There are only allegations of Moore’s wrongdoing – nine as of this writing – there have been no legal proceedings. If we still believe in innocent until proven guilty (and that’s questionable, given the Trump hysteria of “lock her up”) why are so many calling for Moore’s political lynching?
  2. We all know he’s a slime ball, with a history of his absolutist views being the only ones he deems of value, and his taking a million dollars from his charity for his personal use. He’s hurt both the Constitution and a lot of people and has that self-righteous stink of a hypocrite. That makes it easy to leap to a public opinion conviction of this guy.
  3. Donald Trump has slithered his tweets about how awful are the two wrongdoings of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).  Oddly, even with the multiple accusations of Moore’s pedophilia, Trump hasn’t said a thing about him. That’s a mistake. I believe that the best thing that can happen is for Trump to weigh in on Moore’s alleged sexual predatory behavior. After all, other than Harvey Weinstein, Trump is the guy with the most experience in this field. Okay, that was snark.
  4. Why aren’t all Republicans leaping at the opportunity to fry Roy Moore? This is a political no-brainer.
  5. This is a really tough time to be a Republican with a spine, with a moral compass, with a drive to do what’s right for others and for our country. If such folks stand up for what’s right, the extremists will fire them from from their jobs in Congress and the state houses. That’s because about half of us – most of the reasonable, centrist Americans – don’t bother to vote, leaving to the extremists the decisions about who goes to Congress and our state houses. The solution to this is obvious. So, help a good-guy Republican by showing up and voting for the reasonable folks in every election.

Education

George W. Bush created the No Child Left Behind plan, which forced teachers to instruct students how to take standardized tests, rather than teaching them what they need in order to succeed in life. The name of that plan is something we all support and encourage, so the spinmeisters did their job. The only problem is that No Child Left Behind left millions of children behind.

Speaking of our children being successful, it seems we don’t actually want that to happen. We continue to provide the majority of funding for our schools through property taxes, which is a great plan if the properties are in a wealthy area. It doesn’t work quite as well if the area is poor, because that results in low tax revenue for schools and inadequate resources for turning out well educated kids. That’s how we systematically condemn poor kids to poverty and our country to less than our best possible future.

Leadership

Being clear about what’s going on and about what needs to be done is hard work. Someone needs to stand up and declare, “THAT WAY!” and it isn’t at all obvious who’s up to the challenge. The call has to be inspirational and it must be clean and crisp and memorable so that we maintain focus and continue putting one foot in front of the other and in the right direction. But that call seems as yet uncrafted. In the face of challenges all around us, which way should we go? And who will you follow?

Monopoly (not the board game)

The Justice Department case against Microsoft 17 years ago for anti-competitive practices is the most recent enforcement of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, legislation designed to prevent monopoly. The  purpose of that act was to keep excessive economic power from being concentrated in too few hands, because otherwise society – that’s the rest of us – would be harmed. Ronald Reagan essentially terminated the Sherman Anti-trust Act through non-enforcement and not much has been done to prevent anti-competitiveness since then, even as large corporations buy competitors and consolidate power for themselves and largely at the expense of you and me. Think: airlines; investment companies; accounting firms; pharmaceutical companies; and banks.

Taxes

You already know that the basic fact of the proposed Republican tax plan is primarily a cash giveaway to the rich. That’s accomplished by taking benefits from poor and working class Americans. The Republicans are claiming that this corporate and rich people’s mattress-stuffer bill will deliver the wondrous magic of driving economic growth, new and better jobs for Americans and rising income for all. Plus, everybody gets their own pony in the back yard. But what if all the goodies (other than the cash gift to the wealthy) are really just a phantom that was dreamed up years ago in order to sell trickle-down?

Bruce Bartlett was a key guy in creating the trickle-down myth in the 1980s, so he knows something about this. Read his piece in the Washington Post, where he ‘fesses up to having been a true believer in trickle-down and now unmasks the fraud that it is. He pulls back the curtain about the claim that reducing taxes primarily on the wealthy will result in rising income for working Americans. Be sure to pass along his piece to your fiscally conservative brother-in-law and be sure to remind him of the $1.5 trillion debt the Republicans’ plan will create. That should make for a spirited Thanksgiving discussion.

Banking

The Glass-Steagall Act was passed following the Great Depression as a preventative against some reckless banking practices that helped lay waste to our economy and devastate millions of Americans. In 1999 that law was repealed, allowing investment banks, commercial banks and insurance companies to merge and invent heretofore unimaginable products that put the entire world on the precipice of economic disaster.  There have been many calls for the big banks to be broken up since then, precisely because they enjoy de facto monopoly of our financial world and can pose an existential threat to our country. Those break ups haven’t happened and the banking instruments that put our economy in peril in 2008 are vastly larger today. What do you suppose might happen?

Freedom

It’s time to pay attention to what’s going on and make sense of it all. Here’s a sampling of what some very wise people had to say about that.

Our government . . . teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. Justice Louis Brandeis

He Screwibus Union

The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion. Edmund Burke

The people of every country are the only safe guardians of their own rights, and are the only instruments which can be used for their destruction. And certainly they would never consent to be so used were they not deceived. Thomas Jefferson

If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.  W. Somerset Maugham

We need clear, rational thinking and action in order to protect what we hold dear. Who would have thought that doing so would require courage on the part of those in Congress?

What we’ve seen so far are extensive connections to Russia and fatuous lies told about those connections by nearly everyone high in the Trump administration. What has been confirmed by 17 intelligence agencies of the U.S. is that Russia hacked of our election and tried to influence the votes of millions of Americans. Instead of believing our own experts, Trump believes Putin when all he offers is, “nuh-uh.” Trump maintains a submissive, lapdog posture toward Putin and his manipulation of and access to information makes it look like there’s been a bloodless coup, a Russian theft of America.

You are incrementally being put at greater risk by powerful people concerned solely with their own wealth and power and apparently without the slightest concern for our country. I assure you that staying quiet about this, doing an ostrich, will allow more harm to be done to you and to America. Robert Mueller is doing his job, but that may not be enough. Perhaps it’s time for you to stand up and speak up.

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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 and engage.  Thanks!

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

Sometimes The Truth Hurts

Reading time – 2:13; Viewing time – 3:04  .  .  .

A friend offered a link to a New York Times article entitled “Democrats Are Playing Checkers While Trump Is Playing Chess.” He wrote, “The president’s manipulation of racial, cultural and economic anxiety will continue to serve him well politically. Until it doesn’t.”

So I read the article and recommend that you do, too. Here’s my reply.

Yeah, well, the truth hurts. I agree with all of this, albeit with frustration in my heart.

I see at least three pieces. First, is the substance of the issues that are important to people, like the crumbling of our towns and cities when people are displaced by rapid global changes; like the demographic upheaval caused by the incremental national shifting to a non-white majority; like the loss of manufacturing jobs, the majority of which are attributable to technology and innovation.

Second, there is the fear people feel over all these issues. Nobody has solved the globalization issue, for example, and it leads to fear, then anger, then irrational, self-defeating behavior, like Brexit and Trump. Christian whites have privileges that are incrementally being challenged, the reaction to which manifests itself in the extreme of neo-Nazis chanting, “Jews will not replace us” and in white supremacist hate spewing and in voter suppression fueled by anger and indignation over our nearly nonexistent voter fraud.

Third – and I’ve been saying this for a long time – Democrats are HORRIBLE at messaging. Recognizing that Ds have some good ideas, the way they present them is at times incoherent, uninspiring, self-defeating, inconsistent, punch-less and at times insulting. I’ve often wondered if anybody at the DNC has taken even an elementary course in marketing.

“I’m with her” – really? Assuming the notion of the Hillary team was that such language would rally women and feminist-sympathizing men to the D side, that pretty much slapped everyone else in the face, because nobody but family and close friends of Hillary were all about her. We humans are all about ourselves and the D’s messaging completely failed to recognize that.


Tara Thomas at the coffin of her Green Beret husband, Shawn, killed in Niger in February, 2017

Another way the truth hurts is when we see that the President of the United States has failed to honor those who sacrifice their lives for our country. Perversely, in their death they make it possible for him to lie about caring about them. Their death preserves the freedom for him to falsely accuse former Presidents of having blown off our fallen military people. Their coming home in flag-draped coffins gives him the freedom to make condolences to the families of our military dead all about himself.

How long will the 38% tolerate his behavior?

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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 and engage.  Thanks!

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

The NFL Player Protests

Reading time – 3:12; Viewing time – 4:54  .  .  .

Most people feel their safety threatened when their treasured beliefs are challenged or even just questioned. And when our tectonic plates rumble beneath our feet, we get scared, then angry, then aggressive, wanting to drive away the threat. Think back to the violent reactions some had over flag burning in the 70s, as that symbol to some was far more bedrock to others. More currently, one person texted to me last Sunday about how upset she was that so many athletes were doing such an unpatriotic thing taking a knee during the playing of our National Anthem. Clearly, her tectonic plates got shaken, even though protest is very patriotic. Our nation was birthed in it.

All of that is not to demonize such folks. It’s to recognize the limbic reaction we people have when our cherished notions that keep us feeling safe in the world get smacked. We humans usually don’t do well when our solidity in space is questioned, or in tolerating ambiguity, uncertainty or complex thoughts, especially when the complex thoughts are conflicting, so we want to do something to restore our sense of safety.

As a result of Sunday’s protests, nothing has happened to our National Anthem, the flag, our military people both past and present or our belief in American exceptionalism. Nobody has been harmed. The country is no less secure. It might be argued (and make no mistake, I am arguing) that our country is better for the courage of some to stand up to injustice. Indeed, if your brother or your father had been shot in the back by a South Carolina cop and that cop was found innocent of murder, it’s pretty likely you’d have something to say about that and your volume would be dialed up to 11.

Rodney King was beaten almost to death by 4 Los Angeles cops in 1991 and then the cops were found innocent of charges of assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force. The LA riots began immediately after that verdict.

Injustice will not go without confrontation forever. People will respond. I submit that taking a knee in protest of injustice is a far better way to make a statement than burning our cities. America was not hurt by the NFL players, even as chest thumping flag wavers are distorting the message of the protesters to suit their biases.

I love my country and get a lump in my throat whenever we celebrate it. That doesn’t mean, though, that I will tolerate everything that goes on in my country. The list of my intolerables includes the “whites only” sign that I saw on the side of a bait shop in Arkansas when I was a kid, the cop violence to blacks for 400 years, the last-hired-first-fired lot of people with brown skin, the dismissing of friends and allies and the coddling of tyrants, the assault on our ideals – any and all of it, I will not tolerate it.

Let’s make this personal. My dad flew a P-47 based in England during WW II. His war stories dribbled out over the years, one of which put fire in his eyes half a century after the fact. One day his virulently anti-Semitic CO picked him as his wing man and they ran into a sky full of Messerschmitt Bf-109s. It wasn’t long before my dad found himself alone against a swarm of bad guys – his CO had abandoned him in a dog fight. Dad made it back to base and confronted his CO. Days later the CO left him in the middle of a fight once more. When he got back to base Dad again went looking for his CO, this time with his officer’s sidearm in his hand. The good news is that others stopped him before he found the CO and that abandonment scene wasn’t repeated. Injustice must be confronted, although I don’t recommend the .45 caliber pistol method of communication.

Here’s the point. It takes courage to stay the course when those on your side are somehow not on your side, and I honor my dad for having done that. There is a parallel between his story and that of the NFL players, whose fellow citizens are supposed to be on the same side with them, but somehow are not.

However it’s done, injustice must be confronted and it always takes courage to do so. So I honor those NFL players who took a knee to confront injustice, knowing they would be roundly criticized for their action.

We must stand up to injustice, because it’s the only way things will get better and we will begin to live into the promise of America.

Have a look at what John Pavlovitz has to say about this.

And here’s what Bob Costas had to say. And Stephen Colbert.

Thanks go to J.C. for prompting me to tell this story.

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If you’ll be in the Chicago area on October 4, come join us for a presentation by Mike Papantonio, host of Ring of Fire Radio. Here’s a link to get tickets. Space is limited, so, “Don’t you wait and be too late.” This promises to be a terrific evening for those who continue to believe we can be better.

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

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

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

Harry Potter and What We Are

Reading time – 2:40; Viewing time – 3:44  .  .  .

  • “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” J.K. Rowling, from Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets.

Let’s imagine that Rowling has offered a valuable insight – that it’s our choices that show who we truly are – and consider these points:

  1. Donald Trump has refused to say anything to suggest that he fully agrees with his 17 national security agencies that the Russians hacked not just Hillary Clinton’s and John Podesta’s emails, but also sought to affect our national election. He has compounded that by offering no leadership to counter this ongoing invasion of America by a foreign adversary. He’s dismantling our cyber security oversight and has had more friendly involvement with covertly hostile Russian officials than he’s had with anyone else.
  2. Trump brought top Russian officials into the Oval Office, this in the absence of an American translator. While there he passed top secret espionage information to them, which put Israeli intelligence people in peril.
  3. Trump met for an hour at the G20 dinner with Vladimir Putin. The only other participant in the conversation was Putin’s translator. That means that Trump doesn’t know what was relayed from him to Putin, nor can he know what Putin actually said.
  4. Rex Tillerson is incrementally dismantling the State Department. You know, the people who conduct U.S. diplomacy.
  5. Betsy DeVos is working to dismantle public education.
  6. Scott Pruitt is dismantling the EPA, including the Clean Water Act. Drink up.
  7. I don’t know what Rick Perry is doing to the Department of Energy, about which he knows next to nothing. What we can be sure of is that he wants to eliminate the department, this according to his “Oops!” moment at a Republican debate in 2016.
  8. Trump and the Republicans pound the blatantly false drum beat that Obamacare is dead. Now Trump wants to eliminate it, provide nothing to replace it and leave millions of Americans – 1 in 10 of us – adrift with no access to medical care but the emergency room.
  9. Trump continues to blow off our allies and cozy up to Putin. This is particularly vexing because the Republicans have spent decades telling us that they are the muscular protectors of America against the bad Russians and that the Democrats are weak-kneed and can’t be counted on to stand up to the bad guys. Now, though, the Republicans seem to have Kryptonite strapped to them and they’re mute about Trump’s “love-the-Russians” behavior.
  10. The Onion had a touching and troubling take on what we’re doing about immigration. Watch it here.
  11. Now we hear that Trump is investigating presidential pardons for his staff, his family and for himself, even though nobody has officially been charged with a crime. He’s also working to discredit the Special Counsel and his team and has threatened to fire Robert Mueller. All we’ve heard has come from eyebrow raising pundits. We’ve heard nothing from members of the President’s party. Where is the outrage?

There’s more, of course. The point is that our choices – our actions – declare what we are, just as J.K. Rowling said. What are we saying about who we are?

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

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

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

Separation Anxiety

Reading time – 3:29; Viewing time – 4:50  .  .  .

We long ago decided that the First Amendment limitation declaring clearly that, “Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” no longer meant “separation of church and state.” Back in 1956 our enemy was the godless Soviet Union, so we proved we were holier than they were by turf-grabbing God and stamping “In God We Trust” on our currency and any other place the ink would stick. That was far more chest-puffing than the emotionless E Pluribus Unum, which actually had served us well as the motto of the U.S. since 1782. We sure showed those commies something.

The problem, of course, is that there are millions of Americans who don’t trust in the God envisioned by the red-baiters of the 1950s and who should have been protected from that Yoda-phrased motto by the clear implication of the First Amendment. It had long been interpreted as not just freedom of religion, but also freedom from religion.

Fifty years later that didn’t matter to George W. Bush, who promoted public support of religion through what he called “faith-based initiatives.” Translation: Give public tax money to churches. Sadly for the Constitution, that worked – Bush and the Bible thumpers won that round, too.

And they’re winning more ground still. Just this month the Supreme Court decided that public funds could not be withheld from a Missouri religious school which needed to repave its daycare playground surfaces. Once again that means pubic tax dollars will be going to a church.

Betsy DeVos is the latest in the string of would-be reformers of education who just doesn’t get it. She has never attended a public school, having always been in the silver spoon club, nor so much as served on a public school board, so she really has no knowledge of the purview of her department of government. In her educational myopia she thinks that privately owned charter schools and parochial schools are the answer to the problems our education system is facing. Said another way, De Vos wants to give billions of dollars of public tax money to church-owned, church-run schools. In this era of fuzzy-brained legislators and a loud evangelical section of the citizenry, she just might get away with that. Doing so won’t meet our educational challenges, but it will further erode the separation of church and state.

The undermining of the Bill of Rights goes in other directions, too. President Trump wants to revamp our libel laws so he can sue the press whenever he doesn’t like their coverage of him. He publicly demeans and attacks the press, nearly always without justification, so that now our approval of the very people who hold public officials accountable including the President is down to less than one-third. How long do you suppose it will be until the press gets muzzled by an autocratic boot crushing the First Amendment guarantee against the abridgement of freedom of the press?

The moral of this story is that our rights were a very good idea, but only for a while, and they’re no longer rights at all. Many far righties are pushing for a Constitutional Convention so they can remake our entire national framework to their liking. Who do you suppose you’ll run into as you follow the money to learn who will benefit from the abandoning of our rights, the elimination of environmental protections, the shedding of food and pharmaceutical oversight and the denial of climate change? You can trust that it’s the usual suspects, the ones with the very deep pockets. The rights and protections these extremists seek to destroy are no longer even a speed bump on the road to discarding the Constitution entirely.

Frighteningly, we may not be able to count on many of our elected officials to stop that. David Frum clearly outlines the peril in this piece. And former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul makes clear that we cannot count on the President to protect us, either. Former Treasury Secretary Laurence Summers agrees.

With our Republican legislators each scrambling to be the last one to find a spine, the 2018 election looks to be of even greater importance than was the election in 2016. Those of us who continue to believe that the Bill of Rights is a really good thing for America and Americans have our work to do.

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

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

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

Clarity From a Choir

Reading time – 3:57; Viewing time – 5:13  .  .  .

It’s an amateur choir, but the sound these folks make is stunning. They performed for years under the leadership of their much beloved director, who died suddenly and unexpectedly.

The search for a new director began and they found an interesting guy. He and the board came to a decision about a new vision for the choir, deciding that rather than being solely about music there was a grander service for them to provide. That vision laid clear the path forward.

Everyone in the choir auditioned to remain and, although it was hard to do, some were asked to leave. They simply couldn’t clear the performance bar necessary for the vision of the future.

And it’s working, because the choir is even better than before. Answering the “What do we want?” question first made the “How can we improve?” question easy to answer.

That’s the point. There must be a vision of a better future in order to make sound decisions about how to solve problems and overcome challenges. The test is always about which choice best moves us toward what we want, that better future.

David Brooks writes in his June 27 piece, The G.O.P. Rejects Conservatism, “The current Republican Party has iron, dogmatic rules about the role of government, but no vision about America.”

For example, Republicans chant the mantra “small government, low taxes,” which sounds appealing and which they have never practiced at the federal level in my lifetime. More important, that mantra only describes the government they want. It’s a tactic for something, but they never say what that is.

Now let’s get to the other side of the aisle.

The Democrats can’t seem to articulate much of anything about a vision for America, either. Like the Republicans, they are clear about certain issues. For example, there seems to be a consensus about health care being a right of all Americans, but that isn’t a description of a vision for a better America. It’s a tactic to accomplish something. What does that better America look like according to the Democrats?

Once we Americans agree on what we want, then a sensible discussion can begin about how to achieve that. Absent a vision, we wind up squabbling over individual issues with no concept of how or whether the various tactics help move us toward that vision.

I still like the Jeffersonian statement in the first few sentences of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Do we as a nation still hold those truths to be self-evident? If that’s the vision, then the solutions to our challenges must be measured against that vision. Honestly, I never hear a discussion that sounds even remotely that grand, yet that is what is needed if we are to get beyond selfish squabbling and solve our very complicated challenges.

Let’s take this one step further.

What if the people now in charge have a very different vision for the future of America than you do? What if you’re being played right now to benefit those holding the reins? Don’t imagine this as a propeller hat notion, because that happens regularly around the world and right here in America, too. For example, while we were grieving over 9/11, George W. Bush used that tragedy as an excuse to invade Iraq and get draconian, un-constitutional laws passed in order to spy on you.

To flesh this out more clearly, have a look at Naomi Klein’s work on governments using public shock to advance their power grabbing. Here’s a link to her short video. Watch it when you think your bones can tolerate being rattled.

Rachel Maddow almost got punked by government-planted fake news last week. This is really sneaky stuff – your government planted fake news in her inbox in order to discredit the press in general and Maddow in particular when she aired the lies. Perhaps they did that because she’s been steadfast in reporting on the Russian hacking story. Had Maddow taken the bait of that fake Top Secret document, the Discreditor-in-Chief would have railed against the press and we would likely be left with one less watchdog over government at a time when we need all the members of our press A-team suited up. Here’s a link to the reporting.

Both the Maddow and Klein pieces bear heavily on a vision for America and you likely won’t like the vision these pieces point to. For more on this read Seth Abramson’s Twitter string and you’ll understand more fully how compromised America’s future is becoming.

Many thanks to C. H. for pointing me to these pieces.

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

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

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

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