Foreign Policy

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 2

Reading time – 6:20; Viewing time – 9:38  .  .  .

This is the continuation of my notions of a national platform begun in the last post. It’s necessary to make an addendum to point #5 regarding healthcare.

Memo to Lawmakers: Only 20% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing and that number hasn’t varied by more than a few percentage points since 2006. The disapproval rating of Congress stands at 74%, meaning that 3 out of 4 Americans think you’re doing a really lousy job. You really should feel terrible about that. Here’s what you need to know.

A big piece of the public disapproval of you is due to your making back room deals – sleaze behind closed doors – like what the Republican senators have done with their cruel healthcare plan that keeps millions of Americans from getting healthcare at all. That’s why We the People don’t approve of you.

All you have to do is to craft something that provides healthcare for everyone and do your deliberation in public, opening the process to comments from actual American people who will be impacted by what you do. This is not complicated and you really can do this.

Memo to Republicans in Congress: We the People know that your American Health Care Act (“AHCA”) isn’t really about healthcare. It’s about giving an $800 billion cash windfall to already rich people. Can you be any more disingenuous? Shame on you.

8. George W. Bush may go down in history as our worst president because he started two unnecessary wars which are likely to continue for decades. Donald Trump is trying to one-up him by tweaking the nose of an infantile nuclear dictator, thumbing his nose at our strongest allies, buddying up to Vladimir Putin and refusing to endorse Article 5 of the NATO charter.

Memo to lawmakers: You already know that only Congress has the power to declare war. Put on your big boy/girl pants, take a stand and fulfill your obligation. We don’t need perpetual war initiated by autocrats.

Economic teaching moment: War robs us of huge amounts of money – trillions of dollars. The cost of every bullet or rocket that’s fired is lost forever; in contrast, the money spent in America, on America gets recycled nearly perpetually to the benefit of all of us.

Mortality teaching moment: Our military people who get killed in our unnecessary wars really don’t come home and resume their lives. They’re dead and if you didn’t stand against our unnecessary wars, it’s your fault. Do you support our military? Then stop sending our people off to die for no good reason.

9. If Trump gets his way we’re going to de-fund the National Institutes of Health, the EPA and gut our diplomatic corps. so we’ll cut spending on cancer research, let our air and water get polluted again and make the military our only foreign affairs tool, all to save less than a couple of percent of our budget.

Memo to lawmakers: Really?!!! Please wake up and tell us you’re not that self-defeating. Put on those big boy/girl pants and take a stand for America.

10. Steven Bannon wants to tear down our established order and so far Trump seems to be his puppet in charge of dismantling what makes the American government work. At the same time Trump is collapsing the international coalition that has kept us strong and safe for 100 years, while at the same time sucking up to vicious autocrats around the world. Using duck logic, this looks, walks and quacks like a duck that is in the process of the self-immolation of America.

Memo to lawmakers: Get a grip on reality, stop this un-American president and put our government back together. Note that once again this will require that you put on your big boy/girl pants.

11. Fossil fuel is on the way out because we’re choking on its exhaust and the planet is warming at a staggering rate that will cook us all. We need clean energy, not more oil extracted from ecologically perilous places.

Memo to lawmakers: You’ll be okay without Big Oil and Big Gas campaign contributions – I promise. So, stop the idiocy of, “I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know about global warming.” Craft legislation that will drive a complete transformation of our energy infrastructure – a moon shot – like solar collectors on all roofs, solar farms, wind energy, tide energy, a new smart grid and all the rest. If you don’t care enough about your grandchildren to do this, then do it for mine.

12. 100 years ago graduating from 8th grade was a fine accomplishment and enough education for someone to get a good job with good pay. A few decades later a high school diploma was needed for a good job, so we made high school tuition-free for our kids. The world has changed and even more education is needed today. Right now there are 6 million jobs going wanting, many because employers can’t find people with the education required for those jobs.

Memo to lawmakers: Make state college education tuition-free. And find a way to get past property taxes being the primary funding for our schools, because this antiquated system leaves kids in poor areas unable to get a good education. That sentences them to a sub-standard life and robs us all of their contributions to a better America. And stop the efforts to privatize education because that isn’t the answer, even if big donors want you to believe it is. Yes, all of this will have tax implications, just as the switch to tuition-free high school did. Figure it out.

13. Russia is not our friend. Russia is an opponent and, considering their ongoing cyber attack on the U.S. and our allies, they may be considered our enemy. Failing to vigorously oppose their behavior and impose penalties on them is ineptitude in the extreme and possibly treason. It’s true that the Executive branch conducts American foreign policy. It’s also true that both the House and Senate are investigating Russian hacking and possible collusion from within. The problem is that those investigations are cumbersome and glacially slow, which means that the president has plenty of time to undermine American security.

Memo to lawmakers: I really don’t care how much money the president owes to Russian interests or the pictures they may have of him or any other pressures Putin can put on Trump. I don’t care about Trump’s notion of making friends with Russia. They are antithetical to our beliefs, our way of life and our safety. Find a way to stop the foreign policy disasters that Trump is creating.

14. It’s absurd to be able to say this, but we are living in a world where millions actually believe in alternative facts and fake news. Surprise, Donald Trump didn’t invent it. This has been going on for a long time. The concept of shame for one’s despicable actions like lying no longer seems to exist and people are prepared to dismiss provable facts. Indeed, millions regularly dismiss reality because they have been told by self-serving types that others are lying to them. That itself is a lie, but it’s crafty stuff for those wanting power and for whom integrity isn’t high on their list of personal attributes.

Memo to lawmakers: Are you lying or misleading the public? Stop it. Stop manipulating to get control of the Supreme Court. Stop telling Americans that it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs and then doing nothing to stimulate job growth. Stop saying we’ll have better healthcare at a much lower cost when you can’t deliver either one. Stop telling the American people that those who report on you are liars when they report on your dalliances. Stop claiming your programs won’t privatize Social Security and Medicare when that’s exactly what they will do. Stop creating enemies like the press just to gain popular support for you, because now the truth has become an enemy and that is corroding our society. One last time: Put on your big boy/girl pants and tell the truth.

Final memo to lawmakers: What I’ve outlined in this post and the one prior is what Americans want. This isn’t fringe stuff, but doing this won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. There are competing interests and some are legitimate and quite valuable, with the exception, of course, of the issue of lying. Nevertheless, everything is either a negotiation and a compromise or it is stagnation through polarization. It’s your choice. Choose well, especially when it’s hard.

Unavoidably, our solutions come down to a 4-letter word: WORK. Roll up your shirt/blouse sleeves and get to work. Not the hateful, in-your-face behavior that we see so often or the misleading, hyperbolic idiocy that dominates the news, but work that’s focused on a better America and improving the lives of all Americans. If you can’t do that, just resign, because otherwise We the People will be sending you home real soon.

Get to work.

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 1

Reading time – 6:40; Viewing time – 9:54  .  .  .

This post was created in the days just before the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and the injuring of 5 others at a baseball practice. Clearly, the shooter had problems; yet that event has put into stark relief the extent of our political polarization, the frustrations of the American people and the extremism that some of our leaders have helped to deepen, all of which underline the points that follow.

DC is crazy and everyone knows it’s crazy. The president thinks everything is all about him and that his job is a popularity contest won by appealing to extremists. Many of those in Congress think their job about is serving special interests. The Republicans who speak loudly are anchored in the primordial Reagan ooze as though there is something holy about continuing to do what has never worked. Democrats don’t seem to be able to do much other than be against Trump and Republican extremism.

Meanwhile, We the People think it’s about America and Americans. That leaves it to us to be sane about the future of America, so here are the first seven of my Platform Points in bite-size portions. The key is that the vast majority of Americans are in line with these notions and our solution comes down to a 4-letter word. Note that my more aggressive comments are for the folks with big, extremist megaphones and not for the reasonable legislators who only want to make things better for everyone.

1. A minimum of 78% of Americans believe that big money infects and distorts our democracy and they want that changed. They want a We the People Amendment that negates the craziness of Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United, McCutcheon v. F.E.C. and the rest of the enabling decisions and legislation that allow the rich to buy America and impoverish the rest of us. Said another way, Americans want Congress to prevent the buying of Congress so that instead we can have an actual representative democracy.

Memo to Lawmakers: I understand that the present system requires you to grub for donations and seek the big buck donors. In fact, the system is the problem. In order to stop that, vote for the We the People Amendment to the Constitution. Get on the side of Americans, on the right side of history and end your begging for dollars. You’ll be glad you did it, because you know you hate begging for cash.

2. Just before the vote on the 2008 legislation that created Medicare Part D, Representative Billy Tauzin (R-LA) inserted an amendment into the legislation that prohibited the U.S. government, the largest purchaser of meds in the world, from negotiating with the pharmaceutical companies for better pricing. That sure was good for Big Pharma. Billy Tauzin didn’t run for re-election that year, preferring instead to go to work for PhRMA, the lobbying organization of Big Pharma. They gave him a pay increase to $2 million per year.

Memo to lawmakers: We the People are angry about the revolving door between Congress and lobbying. Clean up this sleaziness. Make the Tauzin behavior illegal. And change the Part D law so we can negotiate better pricing with Big Pharma.

3. Until a few years ago when the NRA went on a campaign to change the meaning of the Second Amendment, we all knew that violent offenders and those not mentally stable shouldn’t have firearms. We still know that, but now over half of all deaths by firearms are suicide (also here) and many of those are our returning vets. A gun within arm’s reach makes suicide and homicide real easy and we have to wonder if that shooter at the Republican baseball practice would have taken any action at all if he were not able to obtain an AR-15 assault rifle. Over 80% of Americans want sensible gun safety legislation, including a huge majority of NRA members.

Memo to lawmakers: NRA campaign contributions are nice, but you’ll be okay without them. And the “cold, dead hands” mantra may bring about a satisfying testosterone rush, but it’s killing Americans. Pass sensible gun safety legislation.

4. The FDA has dragged feet for years on an Obama era requirement that restaurants display calorie counts on restaurant meals. “Now the FDA has indefinitely postponed the implementation of the rule which would require food manufacturers to list added sugars along with more visible calorie counts and clearer serving sizes.” They’ve also refused to require labeling that would let us know if a food product contained genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Why doesn’t the government want us to know what we’re eating?

Memo to lawmakers: You already know the answer to the question: It’s the Big Food lobby. They fear that if we consumers know the crap they put in their products that they’ll sell less of it to us, so they “incentivize” lawmakers and agencies to stall disclosure laws. This isn’t a key issue, but it is another case of Big Money buying our government in large and small ways, getting what it wants at the expense of We the People. Labeling changes cost next to nothing. Make them do it.

5. The American people don’t want bickering over how many millions of us should be shut out of healthcare by the various idiotic proposals being considered. By a significant margin, we want Medicare for all, universal healthcare, single payer – call it what you will. The statistics show that Medicare costs about 25% less than care that is provided through private healthcare insurance – that’s for equivalent healthcare procedures and outcomes. The cost differential is largely due to the overhead costs of private insurers, like marketing, sales expense and really high pay for their C-level executives. Switching to single payer will make a significant dent in our bloated spending for healthcare and will save individual Americans a lot of money.

Memo to lawmakers: Yes, it’s true that single payer will put out of business many of the private healthcare insurance companies that make lovely campaign contributions. The buggy whip makers had a similar challenge 100 years ago when something better came along. Those formerly making buggy whips figured out how to get along; so will our healthcare insurance folks today. Single payer is what Americans want, so your choices, lawmakers, are to continue to do the stupid dance over this issue (now being done in secret to jam it through the Senate) or you can get on the right side of history.

6. Trickle down economics never trickles down. It was factually wrong when it was proposed and it has consistently failed for nearly 40 years. Supply side stimulus doesn’t grow businesses; demand does, but demand isn’t stimulated by the upside down economics of trickle down. Let’s be specific about what actually happens: Giving more money to rich people with the expectation that they will expand their businesses and hire lots of Americans and pay good wages doesn’t happen. Making this worse is that because their personal wants and needs were already met before any tax windfall, rich people don’t spend the new trickle down money, so we don’t get a boost to the economy. Instead, overwhelmingly, rich folks have put their trickle down money into their investments so that nearly all reward has gone to them. The rest of us have stagnated.

Memo to lawmakers: Stop the dishonest schemes that only enrich the wealthy, like Bush’s tax cuts, Trump’s one-page “tax plan” and the disingenuous AHCA which would give huge tax breaks to rich people, funded by refusing healthcare entirely to 23 million Americans. The tax breaks will not redound to the rest of us, as history shows. Come up with a progressive tax plan that makes sense for all. And don’t ever again say “trickle-down” or “supply side” or we’ll know you’re lying.

7. Everyone knows that our infrastructure is failing. We have 55,000 bridges that need substantial repair or complete replacement. Our roads need a huge amount work. Our airports and trains are second rate compared to most of the industrialized world. The water and sewer pipes in all our major cities are over 100 years old. In short, there is a long list of what needs to be done if we are to remain the world leader.

Memo to lawmakers: Stop whining that the Obama Recovery Act (the “stimulus”) didn’t work. The spending you authorized was about half of what was needed for all those “shovel-ready” projects; then you gave half of it to rich people in the form of tax breaks that, once again, didn’t trickle down. The stimulus plan could have worked and our bridges would have been safer by now, but in your mania to ensure that Obama had no wins you submarined it. America is falling apart and you finger pointers with a big megaphone are a key reason why. Cut the crap and pass a major infrastructure plan.

This is the end of Part 1 of the Platform. You’ll find Part 2 in the next post and it will include the unveiling of that key 4-letter word.

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Answer

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

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

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

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

Text Message to President Trump

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

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

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

Frum finishes,

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

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

Which brings us to the political manipulation of healthcare.

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

On May 31st Megan Thielking wrote:

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

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

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

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

Words to live by in these challenging times.

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

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

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Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Friends – Or Not

Reading time – 2:50; Viewing time – 4:56  .  .  .

A key reason that many divorces are so bitter, so vitriolic and often find people doing self-destructive things only because doing so will harm the other person, too, is a profound sense of betrayal. It’s the same reason that we treat traitors far more harshly than we treat criminals. A betrayal by someone we trusted is, indeed, a bitter thing and their saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t magically restore trust. That has consequences on the world stage.

Imagine you’re an Israeli Mossad counter-terrorism operative and you’ve spent years building relationships that have put you in a vital position with key ISIS people where you can collect critical information about ISIS terror campaigns. You listen, you learn, and then when you can manage to get word to your superiors, you tell them of ISIS plans for attacks on the west. You constantly guard against even a whiff of suspicion about your double agent status among ISIS sympathizers, because that suspicion alone would likely result in your death.

And then, on an otherwise ordinary day and in one blistering moment of betrayal, the President of the United States blows your cover.

If you’re lucky, you find a way to disappear before ISIS thugs can grab you. If not, you’re already dead.

That’s the likely short version of the current experience of one Mossad agent and that story reverberates throughout the Israeli intelligence community, as they have lost a critical source of information for the safety of their country and perhaps lost a colleague and friend as well. How do you suppose those folks feel right now about sharing intelligence with the United States?

“‘We will think twice before conveying very sensitive information,” said Danny Yatom, Israel’s former head of Mossad.

Further, Yatom said, “If Monday night’s Washington Post report that US President Donald Trump recently revealed classified information to Russia is true, it would be a grave violation of intelligence sharing protocol and could lead to harm to the source  .  .  .” [i.e. the Mossad agent].

But that’s just one Israeli talking, right? Turns out there are many more people with something to say about this:

In an interview with ABC News, Dan Shapiro, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel called the president and his team “careless,” saying that the reported disclosures demonstrate a “poor understanding of how to guard sensitive information.”

“The real risk is not just this source,” said Matt Olsen, the former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center .  .  . “but future sources of information about plots against us.”

The immediate danger due to President Trump’s breathtakingly hazardous revelation to the Russians is the life of a Mossad agent. The long term and potentially far more destructive danger is the future lack of intelligence cooperation we can expect, not just from Israel, but from other allies as well, as they focus on the needs of their own countries, realizing that they cannot trust the United States of America to consistently act with their welfare in mind. Such is the peril brought about by President Trump’s betrayal of a close ally without any concern for consequences.

Following a betrayal – especially one as public as this – it’s very difficult to restore trust. Think about the president who made that happen the next time you board an airplane for an international flight home, or go to a nightclub anywhere or just send your kids to school, knowing that our allies are not helping to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Friends don’t betray friends.

Finally,

James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” tweeted President Trump on May 12 regarding their meeting on January 27, when the president is said to have asked for Comey’s loyalty to him and Comey reportedly pledged only his honesty.

“Tapes” is an archaic term now, as nearly all recording is digital. Sadly, even those calling for the release of recordings of Trump’s Oval Office conversations are using the word “tapes”. I can easily imagine Trump weaseling around a demand for voice recordings if he has them, because he can truthfully say that there are no tapes.

Memo to everyone: Stop using the word “tapes”. A catchall like “audio recordings” will be much more useful and far less likely to invite intentional misleading.

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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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Trump and Putin

Reading time – 2:42; Viewing time – 3:46  .  .  .

Thomas Edsall has done it again. He’s helped us to understand the Trump thing, answering questions that seem so very perplexing.

I referred to Edsall last month to help us to understand why people voted for Donald Trump. No, they aren’t all racists and no, they aren’t all stupid and no, they didn’t vote against their own interests – at least, not all of them. This time he’s helping us to understand the possible Trump-Putin connection in his essay What Does Vladimir Putin See in Donald Trump? and the answers are chilling.

We know that Putin has an evil thing for Hillary Clinton, so he’d want anyone running against her to win just for that reason, but there’s way more. Putin is all about power grab. At the very least he wants to be able to stand toe-to-toe against the United States and exert his influence throughout the former Soviet bloc countries and perhaps even dominate Europe. To do that requires a stooge in the White House to undermine America’s power in the world, a stooge who would:

”  .  .  .  weaken the West’s desirability, credibility and moral authority.”

”  .  .  .  undermine NATO’s unity”

”  .  .  .  [be eager to have] direct and indirect links to a profoundly corrupt and violent foreign dictator, whose policies he admires, whose advisers he shares and whose slogans he uses.”

Regarding those slogans, “Trump unquestioningly repeated slogans and conspiracy theories [like] – ‘Obama invented ISIS’ and ‘Hillary will start World War III’ – lifted from Sputnik, the Russian propaganda website.”

[and who would be malleable] “Trump’s susceptibility to praise has made him vulnerable to manipulation.”

There’s more – way more – and all of it says that you ought to be very worried, because this human model of sociopathy looks to be in the process of selling out our democracy.

I have warned of the coming of fascism to America and have specifically advised that we’re only one terrorist attack away from Trump declaring martial law (here and here and here and here). While I’m sure that sounds paranoid and hyperbolic to some, I invite you to watch Yale history Professor Timothy Snyder on Bill Maher’s program on March 24, 2017 and you’ll see what I mean. For a better understanding of Professor Snyder’s message, click here.

The lyrics of Do You Hear The People Sing grow louder.

In Other News

What about that Muslim ban and the refusal of refugees? It’s easy to lose sight of the issue, now that a couple of courts have put the hammer to implementing this draconian, cruel executive order, and what with the blizzard of Trumpian lunacy that assaults us daily. But the teachers and staff at the Niles Township High School District 219 in Skokie, IL haven’t forgotten and they sent a message to their students. You must watch it and take in their message to the kids.

Now imagine if we as a country and as directed by Executive Order were that caring and kind to the strangers among us – you know, like the way every major religion in the world instructs us. Go ahead: imagine.

And finally, I’ll be presenting Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, 1330 Ridge Avenue this Wednesday, March 29 at 7:00PM. Come join us.

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

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

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Bus Daydream

Reading time – 2:44; Viewing time – 3:46  .  .  .

In anticipation of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to the U.S. and her discussions with President Donald Trump I was struck with a BFOTO (blinding flash of the obvious), that Merkel is in a unique position – that’s “unique” as in: she’s the only one who can do it – and I started to daydream.

The dream began with the clarity that Merkel presides over the strongest economy within a 2000 mile radius – maybe further. She grew up in Soviet communist East Germany, so she has no false illusions about life in a totalitarian regime. And her having come of age in post-WW II Germany means that Merkel has a solid understanding of the horrible consequences of a country electing a charismatic, sociopathic leader. She knows what happens when the people don’t stand up to a tyrant.

So, I dreamed that all of that and more put Merkel in the unique position to stand up to Trump, to refuse to put up with his vacuous diatribes. I dreamed that she ignored Trump’s fatuous claims and scoffed at his baseless bragging. I dreamed that she talked with him on an equal footing about NATO and pushed back on his blinders-in-place foreign policy nonsense and told him to listen to his generals, who tell him to expand, not contract our diplomatic corps, instead of expecting that we can bomb the world into Trump’s cartoon vision of trade arrangements that work for him.

My daydream was about Angela Merkel telling Donald Trump where the bus stops. It was about Merkel speaking to the world, imploring us to stop this self-important manipulator before it’s too late. She’s the only world leader who can do that.

Then my daydream ended and I realized once again that we the people are standing up to this tyrant and will continue to stand up and tell Donald Trump where the bus stops.

In Other News

President Trump and the Republican leaders in Congress have proposed a new healthcare bill that is so dramatically flawed that almost nobody likes it. I heard it said on the NPR show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me that this Republican healthcare plan could be labeled like the album of rapper 50 Cent, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.”

Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan have promised unspecified additional legislation at a later date to fix this hollowed out program, which is lovely if you like pie in the sky. Now they say they’re open to adjustments and amendments, this in hopes of being able to squeak the bill through the House.

But the bill will send hundreds of billions of dollars to already wealthy people at the cost of cutting over 50 million Americans out of health insurance altogether and it will impoverish millions more.

Some of us want to help our mostly wealthy legislators to feel what that’s like. We want them to walk in the shoes of, say, a 60-year-old making $25,000 per year whose health insurance cost will balloon to devour over half of their income. Here’s how you can help these disconnected legislators feel the pain.

Sign the Change.org petition calling for removing healthcare subsidies for members of Congress and their families. See how they like that.

There are nearly 600,000 signatures on this petition already and it’s heading for a million, so be sure to post the link to the petition on your FaceBook page.

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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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Picture of a Duck

Reading time – 2:03; Viewing time – 4:09  .  .  .

Fact #1: On January 26 alt-right, anti-Semite, white supremacist advisor to President Trump, Steven Bannon, told the New York Times that the “elite media” is “the opposition party” and should “keep its mouth shut.”

Opinion: That sounds a great deal like a lightly veiled threat to freedom of the press and has an Orwellian thought police stink to it.

Fact #2: On January 24 Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) spoke on the floor of the House, declaring that President Trump is, “not getting the news coverage he deserves.” Smith said, “The national liberal media won’t print that, or air it or post it,” He continued, “Better to get your news directly from the President. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”

Opinion: That’s a most interesting take on truth, this from the Chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee who denies climate warming (also here) and really isn’t much for science at all. Perhaps he, too, saw the biggest crowds ever on Inauguration Day.

Fact #3: On Holocaust Remembrance Day, President Trump issued a statement that failed to mention Jews or antisemitism (also here), even though in the Holocaust Jews were specifically targeted for extermination. This was the first such Presidential omission.

Opinion: Blowing off the recognizing of the murder of six million people, all of the same religion  .  .  .  an anti-Semite with the President’s ear  .  .  .  what could that mean?

Fact #4: On January 28 President Trump issued an Executive Order banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States and also halting the U.S. refugee program. Trump made it clear that those seven countries were just the start and that there will be more Muslim-majority countries added to the list. He claimed that the ban is for the purpose of protecting the United States against “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Opinion: During his campaign for the Presidency Donald Trump promised repeatedly that one of the first things he would do as President would be to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Attempting such a thing would immediately fail for being in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution, so Trump is using this subterfuge to effect religious discrimination.

Let’s connect the dots. First we’re told to shut up. Then we’re told to get our information only from the President. Then the President snubs Jews and bans Muslims. This is looking very much like the beginning of making the United States an officially white, Christian nation with discrimination, subjugation and humiliation for all others. These dots make a horrific picture.

Using the duck metaphor, if connecting the dots makes a picture that looks like a duck and we then find that it walks like a duck and also quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. But this duck is full of hate.

If you’re up to it, have a look at this post that presents a fair assessment of what is really going on and the grave danger that may be on the way. History tells us that there is something to this. Thanks to SL for pointing me to the blog.

In other news  .  .  .

(read this out loud in your best Walter Cronkite voice)

ALTERNATIVE FACTS UPDATE: Following a weekend of impassioned protests at airports across the nation last weekend against President Trump’s Executive Order effectively banning Muslims from entering the United States, Trump blamed airport delays first on Delta Airlines’ computer problems and also blamed Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) tears. In a statement issued this morning, Sen. Schumer’s tears have denied responsibility for any airport delays and suggested that Mr. Trump couldn’t find reality with two hands and a flashlight.

Trump’s tweets have been scored BIGLY ALTERNATIVE on the Alternative Facts Meter. Kellyanne Conway, official advisor to the President, is reportedly pleased and is said to be smiling, as well as continuing to talk constantly, but without addressing any question posed to her.

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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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Danger – There’s Bad Stuff Coming

New York Times, April 9, 1944

New York Times, April 9, 1944. Click the graphic to download the full article as it appeared.

Reading time – 2:55; Viewing time – 5:35  .  .  .

We need a good and optimistic start for the new year. That message is for next week. Let’s first establish in a blinding flash of the obvious and in a compelling way why we need that good and optimistic start.

You don’t need a pundit, a pol or a blogger to tell you that American institutions are at risk and look shaky. There is bad stuff staring us in the face in so many venues and there is a chance you’ve wondered how bad it can get. The answer is, very bad. Here are some examples.

Under the ultra-thin, see-through veil of ensuring decorum, Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House and beloved Republican brainiac, the proposer of changes to Medicare and Social Security that he says don’t privatize those programs, except they really do, has proposed banning live streaming and photos from the floor of the House. This comes as a knee-jerk reaction to Republicans having been sucker punched by Democrats who demanded an up or down vote on universal registration of sales of firearms. Ryan ignored them and they responded witih a sit-in. Ryan tried to quash the event by closing the House session, which turned off the CSPAN cameras, but smart phone live streaming foiled his attempt at abridging free speech. Now Ryan and Republican hissy-fitters want to further restrict speech by fining Democrats and perhaps telling their mommies on them. Start thinking about abridgement of rights and be clear that practice will extend to your rights.

President Elect Trump notoriously retweeted hate group tweets and offered mealy mouthed responses to calls that he repudiate hate groups. During his campaign rallies he repeatedly called for protesters to be beaten up and demeaned them as though they were sub-human. He continues to refuse to repudiate hate groups and has brought Steve Bannon, alt-right hater of all things not white and anyone not worshiping male dominance, to be his chief strategist. Oh, and he wants to deport 11 million Hispanics and register Muslims. Start thinking discrimination and scapegoating.

Trump has hired lunatic fringe Mike Flynn to be his National Security Advisor. This is the same Mike Flynn who retweets phony stories and conspiracy crap, one example of which motivated North Carolina resident Edgar Welch to drive from his home to DC to invade a pizza parlor, believing he was rescuing sexually abused children from the basement. He believed that because Mike Flynn brainlessly retweeted the bogus story. The good news is that the bullets Welch fired into the floor of the pizza restaurant didn’t hurt anyone. The bad news is that Mike Flynn, the fool who didn’t have the sense not to retweet this blatantly false story, is and will be advising the new president on when and where to use America’s military might, including nuclear weapons. Start thinking about military adventurism giving rise to horrific catastrophes.

There are many more examples of the democracy killing efforts underfoot, including Trump’s ridiculing and criticizing of the press so that you won’t find credence in reports from investigative journalists who report on Trumpian malfeasance.

To bring this to a focus, let’s check in with President Franklin Roosevelt’s Vice-President, Henry Wallace. He knew something about the harm that authoritarian regimes do to democracy and the world and has agreed to speak to you from his day and explain this fully and clearly. Click here to download a PDF copy of his comments as originally published in the New York Times on April 9, 1944. Click here to download a highlighted, easier to read version. Read it, especially the highlighted parts and you just may see a parallel between then and now and you’ll begin to realize just how bad the bad stuff we’re facing really is.

No one knows who said it first, but it’s often attributed to Sinclair Lewis:

When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.

appoint-merrick-garland

Click me and sign the petition – because you can fight fascism right now.

Fascism? In America? Do the reading. Do an online search of fascism in America. The alarm rang a while ago, the snooze button is broken from our banging on it, hoping the alarm would go away and we all have to wake up.

I’ve heard it said and am beginning to believe that we are one or two ISIS-related terrorist attacks in America away from Mr. Extremist, everything in the false language of unearned greatness President Trump declaring martial law and suspending civil liberties. Just look at those he surrounds himself with, consider his absolutist, power-grabbing, self-congratulating nature, factor in his pathologically thin skin and the retaliatory abuse he heaps on innocent people. This just doesn’t look good for our nation.

If you had already caught a glimpse of this you likely have wondered what can be done and who will stand up to the bullies. Start with this: It’s up to us.

In addition, both some help and some hope are on the way and will be in the next post. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, it’s your turn now – in the Comments section below.

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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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

ptsd2Reading time – 3:46; Viewing time – 6:44  – longer than most, still respectful of your time  .  .  .

NOTE: Email addresses listed in the prior blog have been repaired. If that kept you from taking action, please make your voice heard right now – tomorrow is too late.

Let’s see what we have now for Trump administration picks to run our country – just a little taste test. Note that the first three do not require Senate confirmation. We’re stuck with them.

Steve Bannon is Trump’s Chief Strategist. Bannon is the former chairman of Breitbart News, an Alt-Right (i.e. White Supremacist, hate mongering, lying) website of – dare I say it? – scum bucket fake news stories and attacks. And this guy will have the President’s ear full time. What could possibly go wrong? Late addition: Click here and scroll down to section IV to learn about Bannon’s possibly treasonous activities that would invite Russia into the White House.

Rience Priebus, former head of the Republican National Committee with an exceptionally fluid connection to facts and reality, has been named as Trump’s Chief of Staff. That means that Priebus will largely be in charge of who and what comes before the President of the United States. What could possibly go wrong?

Michael Flynn has been named Trump’s National Security Advisor. Flynn is the guy who was fired from the Defense Intelligence Agency for his flamboyant and fatuous notions and ways. He had the astoundingly poor judgment to retweet anti-Semitic comments and to tweet fake news 16 times in the last few months. He even had the complete lack of sense and absence of good judgment to tweet baseless, brainless nonsense about non-existent Hillary emails, supposedly connecting her with money laundering and sex crimes with children (the so-called “Pizzagate”). With Flynn as the nation’s National Security Advisor, what could possibly go wrong?

Jeff Sessions is Trump’s nominee for Attorney General. This is the same Jeff Sessions who was rejected for a federal judgeship a few years back because he’s a racist and a segregationist. As a senator from Alabama, he’s opposed nearly every piece of immigration legislation that’s come before him. The AG is the one in charge of deciding which cases will be prosecuted – that is to say, which laws will be enforced. With a segregationist and anti-immigrant in charge of our civil rights laws, again, what could possibly go wrong?

Scott Pruitt to head the E.P.A. is a noteworthy choice. As the Oklahoma Attorney General he sued the E.P.A. repeatedly and berated it, saying it was anti-energy. He dislikes E.P.A. regulations – you know, those pesky things that, for example, keep corporations from polluting our water – and he is a de facto climate warming denier. With those bona fides at the head of the agency, what could possibly go wrong?

Dr. Ben Carson is Trump’s pick to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Carson has repeatedly declared that he has no experience in running anything other than a neurosurgery. While his doctoring skills may be fine, they don’t qualify him to run any agency of government at any level. He’s clueless. So, what could possibly go wrong there?

Retired General James Mattis is Trump’s pick for Defense Secretary. Most acknowledge that Mattis is a capable fellow, but he retired only three years ago from the military and our laws require that he be separated from the military for at least seven years to hold such a position (it used to be ten years). Oddly, Trump seems to believe that flaunting the law is okay (go figure). But the seven year limitation is there for a reason – so that we maintain civilian control over our military. Conservatives should be all over this as a flagrant attempt to violate the law and Mattis should go find something to do that is both useful and legal. Otherwise, we will have codified lawbreaking. What could possibly go wrong from that?

Betsy DeVos is Trump’s nominee to be Education Secretary. This is the same Betsy DeVos who wants to reform education to “advance God’s kingdom” and wants to use “school choice” to do that. Be clear that school choice means vouchers of public money doled out to spend on kids’ education in private religious schools. So much for separation of church and state. There’s way more to DeVos’ lunacy, but the key here is that she is an opponent of public education, a religious zealot who wants to run this country according to the laws of the Bible (are you ready to stone adulterers?) and she’s Trump’s pick for Education Secretary. What could possibly go wrong?

Saving the most insane for last, Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon/Mobil, is the nominee for Secretary of State. He proudly signed a $500 billion deal with Vladimir Putin and his government’s 70% share of Russia’s state oil company to drill in the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico. Tillerson was awarded Russia’s BFF (Best Friends Forever) award by Putin himself. Everyone agrees that national defense, the security of our nation, is the primary job of the federal government. How is this guy, who cozies up to our key adversary, going to look out for America’s national security interests? Oh, and by the way, Trump wants John Bolton to be Tillerson’s sidekick. That’s the same John Bolton who thinks we should nuke Iran and insists to this day that Saddam Husein had the weapons of mass destruction that reality has proven never existed. With Tillerson and Bolton at the Department of State, what could possibly go wrong?

There are more nominations we can examine (including a nominee for Treasury Secretary who’s direct from Goldman Sachs, a woman to head the Small Business Administration who’s a reality TV mogul, heading World Wrestling Entertainment, a Labor Secretary who opposes overtime pay and is anti-labor, an Energy Secretary who wants to eliminate the Department of Energy – the list goes on) but the point is clear.

Trump promised to drain the swamp, but instead has brought before us establishment types and billionaires who are blatantly at odds with the agencies they would lead. Given the power in their hands, each would worsen the condition of ordinary (read: not billionaire) Americans. There is nothing that can be done to excise those who do not require Senate approval; that swamp will remain polluted. For all the rest,

senators-stop

Otherwise, we will, indeed, find out exactly what could go wrong.

  • ————————————-

    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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Some Answers and a Pinch

Reading time – 2:15; Viewing time – 3:23  .  .  .

In the midst of your shock, grief and whatever else you felt following the 2016 general election, perhaps you questioned what you can do to mitigate the damage that is likely to be done, based upon the pledges of cruelty and the crushing of our culture of diversity that Trump promised during the election campaign. It turns out there’s plenty you can do and it’s critical that you do it.

Let’s start here: In a statement from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum just days after the election, they wrote, “The Holocaust didn’t start with killings; it began with words.” With the election season over and Donald Trump preparing to be the next President, the haters feel emboldened to lash out with horrific words and actions, so let’s first consider what you can do about that.

Download The Southern Poverty Law Center’s excellent guide, Ten Ways to Fight Hate because the really bad stuff is already happening. For yet more evidence, here’s a list of some of what was chronicled on just the first day following the election and here is an ongoing chronicling of hate acts from around the country. This is the kind of stuff that makes it mandatory to read the SPLC’s guide and take action. And there is more to do.

Download and read Rep. Jerry Nadler’s (D-NY) essay, How We Resist Trump and His Extreme Agenda. It is the job of our elected officials to represent us and they need the muscle of our support in order to be effective. He makes clear what is at stake and offers specific actions you can take.

Watch John Oliver’s final show of the season and review his recommendations for action (beginning about 18:25 in his program). A linked summary of his suggestions of support plus others (courtesy of SG, BW and DH)  is listed below to help you to focus on supporting what you believe in.

Women’s Health: Planned Parenthood

Reproductive Rights: Center For Reproductive Rights

Feminist issues: National Organization For Women and, edgier, Bitch Media

Global Warming: National Resources Defense Council and This Spaceship Earth

Environment: The Environmental Defense Fund and Sierra Club

Victims of terrorism: International Refugee Assistance Project

Race issues: NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Gender issues: The Trevor Project for LGBTQ Youth and Human Rights Campaign for LGBTQ

Hispanic issues: The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund

Freedom of the press: Subscribe to the New York Times or the Washington Post or your local newspaper; donate to ProPublica

Civil rights: American Civil Liberties Union

Immigration issues: Get your city council to make your town a sanctuary city.

General: Write to your Representative and Senators with your views – often. They count the clicks, calls and letters and that influences their voting. Go to www.senate.gov and www.house.gov for contact information.

Get it? As John Oliver says, it isn’t enough to nod heads in agreement with those in your bubble. You actually have to do something to protect what you hold dear. Here’s a little clarity about what that means.

Our Special Forces are composed of some of the most highly trained and physically fit people in the world. They are pushed beyond any limits they thought they had or might reasonably recognize. When one of them is at the point of exhaustion and tells his team he can’t go on, the response is, “So what?” Exhaustion doesn’t matter for these people because there is a critical mission which must be completed successfully.

It’s hard. Perhaps it hurts. Maybe doing yet more seems impossible. Yet all of that doesn’t matter, because of the imperative of the mission.

We need to be clear that we are at that same point right now.

dante-inferno-moral-crisisWe have a critical mission to protect America from those who would harm her. People will suffer unless we step up and do what must be done. And then do it again and again.

Take action even if it’s hard. Give your money even if it pinches a bit. This is a long term mission – it will take years to do this – so accept that pinch as a confirmation that you are doing your part to do the right thing for this critical mission.

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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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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