Freedom

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

Our Turn

Reading time – 2:18; Viewing time – 3:02  .  .  .

I observed an incremental shift toward authoritarianism during the Bush years. The John’s – Bolton and Ashcroft – scared me as much as Cheney did. I didn’t see that kind of power shift during the Obama years, although I could have been misled by his intelligence and his reasonable manner.

Now, though, we have a Destroyer-in-Chief, who is incrementally doing sociopath Steve Bannon’s work of eliminating anything that smacks of what we used to call “the establishment.” You know, the systems that promote the general welfare and the rest. Many of the Presidential Cabinet heads are dedicated to eliminating their departments (like DeVos, Price, Perry and Pruitt) and many of the rest are headed by diabolical or drone types (like Mnuchin, Carson and Zincke). Most of what I read from progressives and centrists about the actions of these powerful people is in opposition to the things they’re doing, like allowing oil drilling in the arctic refuge, cutting support for public education and food for poor children and eliminating regulations that prevent industrial pollution. While all of that opposition is important, I’m much more interested in what happens after the infrastructure take-down.

That is to say, what does all the trashing of the established order create? What will fill the vacuum? The answer that keeps coming up is fascism, autocracy, dictatorship. Pick a word that is in direct opposition to democracy and it will do.

When I met with some activists against fascism shortly before Trump took office I agreed with them in principle, but their notions seemed a bit wing-nutty extremist to me and I wasn’t ready to sign on. Now, though, the evidence has continued to accumulate and the picture is becoming clearer that we are on the road to the end of our democracy. That has fueled the change in my thinking.

Have a look at this poster about fascism. It was created during the Bush/Cheney years and is frighteningly accurate today.

If you really want to be informed, click through to the links accompanying the poster and read more. Then let us know how you’re feeling about democracy’s chances.

We must continue to protect our fragile experiment in democracy, because the work will never be done. The Founders thought it was pretty well done in 1789 when the Constitution was ratified, but in the 1950s Joe McCarthy got away with trashing the Constitution until some courageous people found their spine and stopped him.

Today Big Money has bought our democracy and the system hasn’t produced leaders with the spine to stop it yet. Reality is telling us every day that very bad things are happening and we need people to step up. It’s our turn now.

LATE ADDITIONS
  1. Go to http://www.RefuseFascism.org/.
  2. The Washington Post ran ran a story today entitled “When democracies are under attack, it’s time to rein in executive power.” Here are a couple of quotes from the piece:

”  . .  .  democracies erode not from military intervention or revolutions, but from the expansion and abuse of power by elected leaders.”
“.  .  .  political constraints are the strongest and most consistent predictors of democratic survival.”

“”We find that limiting executive power both lowers the stakes of elections and protects vulnerable minority groups from abuses of power.”

Read the piece.

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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!

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

Un-Republican

Reading time – 2:58; Viewing time – 4:31  .  .  .

I used to think of myself as a Republican – an Eisenhower Republican. At this point, though, I don’t know what it means to be a Republican. Or a conservative. It seems that extreme-ism is the battle cry of the 21st century and now the Republican Party is casting off any semblance of moderation and even simple respect for opposing views.

Ronald Reagan told us he was a true conservative. He believed in small government and low taxes. Then he bloated the federal government and raised taxes six times. What’s conservative about that?

David Stockman was Reagan’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, who famously declared in an interview for The Atlantic entitled “The Education of David Stockman,” that, “I mean, Kemp-Roth [Reagan’s 1981 tax cut] was always a Trojan horse to bring down the top rate…. It’s kind of hard to sell ‘trickle down.’ So the supply-side formula was the only way to get a tax policy that was really ‘trickle down.'” In other words, trickle-down was a ruse to get tax cuts for rich people. That dishonesty created decades of stagnation for middle class and working people. What’s conservative about that?

George W. Bush started two avoidable wars against countries that did us no harm. Then, instead of raising the taxes needed to pay for his wars like every other war president in American history, he drastically reduced taxes, which assured massive debt in the trillions of dollars. What’s conservative about that?

Then the Tea Partiers came and shut down our government to prevent the raising of the national debt limit. The debt limit was and is about authorizing the issuing of debt instruments so that we can pay for what we’ve already purchased – essentially it’s about keeping our word to pay our bills. The Tea Partiers – Republicans all – tried to make us into a dead beat nation. What is conservative about that?

Restrictive voting laws have been enacted in many states to prevent our almost non-existent voter fraud. The effect of these laws is to prevent tens – perhaps hundreds – of thousands of legal voters from voting. That’s anti-Constitutional, so what is conservative about that?

Kris Kobach, the face of dishonest voter fraud claims.

Now Kris Kobach, the former flame-throwing Secretary of State of Kansas who made his bones by railing against non-existent voter fraud, is heading a commission – a fraudulent commission (also here and here). He and his band of liars and thieves are trying to institutionalize voter suppression, this from the federal level. Be clear that this is yet another Republican Trojan horse, in that the real purpose of the Kobach Commission is to extend the last gasp of control for a vanishing white majority. What’s conservative about the pernicious lies of these lying liars (thank you, Al Franken, for the descriptive words)? What’s conservative about stripping voting rights from the young, the old, the poor and those of color?

The Republican Party has verbally championed conservatism, but it seems to want to conserve the kinds of things that are at odds with anything that is conservative or even patriotic. Whatever happened to loyalty and justice and the rule of law, the kinds of things that Republicans used to want to conserve? They keep telling us that they’re the party of Lincoln, but they do things that Lincoln would have found both abhorrent and illegal.

Charlie Christ, former Republican governor of Florida, switched parties, declaring that he didn’t leave the Republican Party; rather, the Republican Party left him. He’s right. So are all the other former Republicans, like Rep. Patrick Murphy (now D-FL) and those who threw up their hands in disgust and quit, like former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN). Perhaps today’s Republican Party needs a new name: The Un-Repubican Party.

Wait, though. We the People keep electing these extremists, so, sadly, we’re getting what we deserve. Perhaps we have to wake up and smell the Constitution. Otherwise, we can start calling ourselves We the Un-People.

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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.

With Liberty and Justice For All

Reading time – 2:57; Viewing time – 4:24  .  .  .

There are quite practical and important reasons to see beyond our justifiable anger and desire for retribution for the crimes of Trump. I refer not to his total and horrifying moral failings, but to actual crimes he may have committed. It matters to our republic and there is a history to make the point.

Ronald Reagan got away with Iran-Contra, having broken several laws, including contempt of Congress. To believe that he was ignorant and somehow, innocent of the high level scheming it took to pull off the three-way, illegal deal is to believe in the preposterous. Nevertheless, he got away with it.

His successor, H.W. Bush, pardoned six officials convicted of crimes related to the Iran-Contra scandal. Those pardons brought us Oliver North and G. Gordon Liddy on far-right talk radio, instead of hosting those criminals in prison. It also brought us the suspicion that the pardons were hush money Bush paid to hide his own involvement in the affair. Both Bush and the six perps got away with it.

George W. Bush pardoned “Scooter” Libby for perjury related to the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame. That tied a ribbon around Bush’s duplicity over fictitious weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Libby walked.

W. Bush got away with lying us into two wars. Sadly, that isn’t criminally actionable, but he did get reelected, so he really did get away with his lies.

The big one, though, is Nixon, who got away with Watergate because of President Ford’s grantinga full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in.” We all know that Nixon should have gone in jail, but that didn’t happen. He did resign, but in looking at Watergate through a judicial lens, he got away with it. Remember that Ford became Vice-President because of the opening left by the bribe taking, nolo contendere pleading former Vice-President, Spiro Agnew. Many wonder if Ford was offered the Vice-President post contingent upon his pledge to pardon Nixon. If so, not only did Nixon avoid the criminal prosecution he deserved, but Ford got away with that reprehensible agreement.

The point is that if Pence “Ford-pardons” Trump, all of Robert Mueller’s work is for naught and yet another chief executive will have escaped accountability for his wrongdoing. Trump will likely have gotten away with money laundering, conspiracy, collusion, fraud and various seditious acts. Failing to prosecute him may allow other bad guys to go free, as well.

I don’t care that much about impeachment, as I think Trump will resign before that can happen. After all, he’s told us that this President business isn’t as much fun as being the CEO of his fraudulent empire.

On the other hand, I do care a great deal about justice and the messages we send to our fellow citizens, as we stand on the wobbling tectonic plates of justice for all.

We have massive economic inequality and we have massive judicial inequality as well. For example, Blacks and Latinos go to jail for minor drug offenses at 10 times the rate of whites, even though drug use is about the same in each group, according to Human Rights Watch. We have nearly no voter fraud, but Blacks, Latinos and the poor are prevented from voting by the nefarious schemes designed by the wealthy to deny our citizens the justice of their votes. All of this happens as we see those at the top get away with their malfeasance. And that undermines – even corrodes – our democracy.

So, beware President Pence’s first actions. He will be in a position to affirm the lofty claims we make about liberty and justice for all. He will also be in a position to loosen and shake still further the tectonic plates on which we stand. If he does that, if he “Ford-pardons” Trump, we may reach the tipping point of the erosion of our national confidence in ourselves.

Correction: This post incorrectly states that “Scooter” Libby received a Presidential pardon. He did not. President Bush commuted his sentence. But considering that he did no jail time, for practical purposes, he got away with it.

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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.

Thomas Paine Today

Reading time – 4:27; Viewing time – 6:36  .  .  .

Throughout his candidacy President Trump promised to “drain the swamp,” the fetid, stinking hole of Washington DC that had betrayed ordinary Americans. He railed against insiders, the people who made DC worthy of disdain. Then he populated his cabinet with Goldman Sachs banksters. You know, the financial masters of the universe who gambled with your money, then lost it and demanded that you cover their debts? Well, they’re in charge of part of the swamp right now and they’re continuing to grab ever more wealth for themselves and others, like Donald Trump.

Trump continues to pound the drum of accusation and demonization against the press and our judiciary. That’s convenient for any autocrat who wants to undermine the people who hold them accountable and stop their excesses. Actually, Trump sees these people as enemies and he attacks them viciously almost daily. That’s effective in numbing his “base” to the factual reports about his – let’s call them “dalliances” – from the Constitution.

Trump demanded Former FBI Director James Comey’s loyalty to him, which Comey sensibly refused. At the time Comey was looking into possible involvement of Trump and his election team with Russians who meddled with the U.S. election. Comey wouldn’t quash the investigation as Trump asked, so Trump fired him. Eliminating opposition is what autocrats do.

Click me for the nauseating video

Actually, Trump consistently demands loyalty to himself alone and doesn’t seem to recognize that all government hires – including the President – have pledged loyalty to the Constitution of the United States of America and not to the President. However, demanding personal loyalty is what autocrats do. Just recall that infinitely embarrassing (okay, vomitous) Cabinet meeting as his cabinet members took turns fawning over Great Leader. That must have made even psycho autocrat Kim Jung-un in North Korea envious.

Trump uses Twitter to maintain a constant barrage of outrageous, accusatory and false claims – the kind Kellyanne Conway promoted as “alternative facts.” Okay, you could call them lies. They keep us watching Trump’s latest shiny objects instead of his likely treasonous actions.

Trump has created a federal panel to collect all U.S. voter registration information in order to stop our nearly nonexistent voter fraud. Have you any doubt whatsoever that what he really wants to do is to restrict the voting rights of all citizens who are likely to vote against him? Remember, for an autocrat, it’s all about aggregating power.

Trump is trying to replace his chief toady, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with someone who hasn’t recused himself from all things Russia. That will allow the new AG to fire Robert Mueller and end the investigation into Trump’s and the Trump organization’s possibly illegal and possibly treasonous behavior with Russia. Trump has tweeted that he wants the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton for something or other. It seems that Trump wants the people in the Justice Department to be his very own vigilantes and the FBI his thugs. Autocrats like that.

Trump is even looking into his ability to pardon his staff, his family and himself. Should that happen, who will hold Trump accountable? Who will stop him from committing yet more crimes? Given this nearly spineless Republican Party, what else will he be able to get away with? This is the stuff of would-be dictators stacking the deck for themselves so that they can get away with anything.

Earlier in the year Trump tried to refuse all Muslims entry to the U.S., even including returning American citizens who are Muslim. Later he pared down his hate list to people from 7 Muslim-majority countries, not even one of which had attacked us. On July 26 of this year President Trump issued an executive order banning all trans-gender Americans from the military. To whom would such enemy creation and hateful actions appeal? Garry Kasparov can help us understand.

Kasparov is likely the best chess player ever and is a Putin critic. Having lived in the Soviet Union he knows a thing or two about autocrats. Here is a Kasparov tweet from the day after Trump tweeted his banning of trans-gender Americans from the military:

That’s what autocrats do. They distract us with outrageous, divisive stupidities and get us to hate each other and then lash out against one another as they go about aggregating all power to themselves. It’s classic divide and conquer.

It’s always dangerous to make comparisons to Adolph Hitler, but there are parallels here. Like Hitler, Trump won a democratic election with less than 50% of the popular vote. Like Hitler, he surrounds

Click me for the article

himself with toadies who will never confront him. Like Hitler, he undermines the rule of law. Like Hitler, he makes bombastic, false declarations that polarize citizens. Like Hitler, he constantly accuses and humiliates others in order to diminish them and to create enemies for followers to hate. Like Hitler, he neutralizes those who might have power to check him. And like Hitler, he tries to incrementally take rights from the people and aggregate power to himself.

Many have warned us about the creep of fascism in America, including me here and here. It is something that I had never dreamed could happen, yet it was foretold by Henry Wallace, FDR’s Vice-President, Professor Timothy Snyder and others. It’s happening in plain sight right now in America.

In another time of peril heaped upon us by an autocratic ruler, Thomas Paine warned us clearly that, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” And so it is today. The bugle is sounding and we must answer the call or we will lose our democracy.

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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.

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

Nixon Again?

Reading time – 2:45; Viewing time – 3:46  .  .  .

Crude alert: This post contains a little crudeness near the end. Sensitive readers should squint while reading those parts.

Parents are cautioned to separate the person from the deed, such that when little Johnny kicks the dog he’s not a bad boy. It’s just that he did a bad thing. It’s important that we don’t crush his budding self-esteem by giving him any “You’re not an okay person” message that would carry into adult life and at last cause him to be a doormat for others or a “hit you back first” abuser or a milquetoast failure.

And so it is with our president. It’s important that we don’t label him with personality damaging, ego bruising labels. For example:

He wasn’t a liar, thief and cheat when he repeatedly refused to pay his contractors; he just did a bad thing. Repeatedly.

He’s not a sexual abuser and misogynist; he just crudely brags about abusing women and publicly demeans them. Those are bad things, too.

It’s important that we not call him a traitor; we should at least wait for the FBI report about his conspiring with the Russians and then be gentle and say that perhaps he did some questionable things.

Again, it’s important that we not call him a traitor; he just publicly pinpointed two of our ultra-stealth nuclear submarines, so we should offer positive correction. And too bad for the crews of those subs and our entire military.

He’s not a liar; he just uses special math for his budget that he calls balanced but which adds $2 trillion to our debt. We’ll get him a math tutor.

He’s not a liar; he’s just a little misguided about his promised healthcare plan that will be better and cheaper but instead is a scheme to send billions of dollars to rich people by preventing tens of millions of Americans from having any healthcare at all. Just a little oops. Anyone could make that mistake.

You already know that this list could be very, very long, but in each instance it’s important that we describe the act and not demean the person, right?

Oh, screw that. Trump is a cruel, amoral cheat and liar, a betrayer of the first order (just ask the Israelis) and without any qualities required of a president or even a satisfactory human being. He’s a back-stabber of friends and allies and a supplicant to tyrants and murderers.

CLICK HERE for more information (PDF)

Honestly, I don’t care a bit if Trump’s fragile ego gets bruised. I just want him out of power so that he can’t hurt America or Americans like you and me. I want him in a place that’s safe, say, Danbury Federal Correctional Institution or the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Either one. And for a really long time.

Back in the Vietnam War days when Richard Nixon was president there were lots of protests against the war and against the president who continued it because as he said, “I’m not going down in history as the first American President who lost a war.” That is to say, it was all about Nixon’s self-image, which was far more important to him than the lives of the additional 28,000 men and women who would die because of his self-obsession. A sign commonly found at street protests then read, “Dick Nixon before he dicks you.”

And now we have another president who is similarly all about himself. You and I better stay clear about that and take action before this president dicks us all.

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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.

Not Knowing

Reading time – 4:15; Viewing time – 6:10  .  .  .

It takes time to sort through the chaos and begin to see what is truly there. George Will at last did exactly that and explained it in his column of May 3rd, when he wrote of President Trump, ”  . .  .  the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something.”

We humans are profoundly uncomfortable with not knowing. We make up stories in a nanosecond to fill voids in our understandings and you’ll find yourself doing it many times a day if you know what to look for. For example:

  • You’re driving down the highway when the car in the next lane suddenly swerves into your lane, cutting you off. There’s a good chance you’ll be yelling something like, “Idiot!” just as though you actually know something about the other driver’s mental limitations. But it’s just your fantasy.
  • or
  • Your high school age kid has a curfew of midnight and it’s 1:15AM. She’s not home and there’s been no phone call. Do you think, “Gosh, I’ll bet she’s having a great time at the party”? Not a chance. You’re reaching for your phone and wondering where to call first, the police or the hospital. Either way, you’ve made up a story.

We all make up stories because we’re more comfortable with our fictions than with not knowing. And so it is with trying to understand Donald Trump’s behavior.

Dozens of mental health professionals have weighed in, finding him wanting of certain higher brain functions and social skills. We’ve called Trump many names in an effort to explain what drives his detached-from-reality, self-serving, cruel and sometimes questionably legal behavior, but George Will seems to have identified something that leans against the heart of the matter. Trump really doesn’t know what it is to know something. He just makes stuff up.

Be clear that what drives Trump’s disability is far less important than limiting him so that in his inability to actually know something he doesn’t permanently damage what’s important.

Which brings us to Trump’s obvious attempts to obstruct justice.

  1. He fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York as he was investigating possible wrong-doing by Trump’s HHS Secretary Tom Price, as well as Trump’s primary flag-waver, Fox News. Further, Bharara had jurisdiction over Trump Tower in New York.
  2. He finagled Rep. Devin Nunez (R – Political Suicide) into making a fool of himself and, in the process, neutering the House Intelligence Committee’s efforts to investigate Trump’s possible conspiracy with the Russians to turn the presidential election his way.
  3. He fired Sally Yates, Acting Attorney General, when she both refused to defend Trump’s clearly unconstitutional Muslim ban and she warned Trump of Mike Flynn setting himself up for blackmail by the Russians. That would imply a link to Trump. Clearly, Yates had to go.
  4. And now, just as James Comey had gone to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein asking for additional resources for the expanding investigation into Trump’s possible conspiracy with the Russians, Trump fired him*, giving a clumsy and implausible justification for the sacking (click here for the documentation).
  5. Furthermore, don’t forget Trump’s continuing attack on the Fourth Estate, the people of the press, who are the watchdogs to keep government accountable. He viciously and baselessly attacks the press at every opportunity in order to undermine your confidence in them when they report negative things about him.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Donald Trump neutralizes anyone who starts to get close to the truth about him. That ought to shiver your timbers; it surely shivers those of our democracy.

As for the challenges of reporting on Trump, have a look at what Russian reporter Alexey Kovalev had to say about covering Trump’s bromance idol Putin and see if anything sounds familiar. This is what it’s like covering lying, manipulative autocrats.

Not knowing causes us to make up stories to fill in the blanks and it’s all too easy to focus on doing that, but making up stories is insufficient if we’re to have a democracy. We need an independent investigation of Trump and his cronies now. Go to Rep. Jerry Nadler’s (R-NY) page for MoveOn.org and sign the petition calling for exactly that. Here’s why.

Last week I attended a meeting hosted by Rep Brad Schneider (D-IL) focusing on gun violence in the U.S. There I asked a question about what it will take to get a gun safety bill onto the floor of the House and Senate for an up-or-down vote so we can hold our legislators accountable. He said it would take two things. First, it will take new leadership. That makes sense, since it’s the leader of each chamber of Congress who decides what bills will come to the floor. Second, he said it will take the power of the people. We must make our voices heard.

That happens when millions of us speak up – our power is in our numbers – and it’s why you’re going to sign Jerry Nadler’s petition. Go ahead, do it now. Then call your senators and representative, telling them to pdemand an independent prosecutor.

Breaking news .  .  . CLICK ME

Not knowing isn’t an option – because you know.

In an interview with Lester Holt on May 11, President Trump characterized James Comey as a “showboat” and “grand-stander.” Is it possible that Trump fired Comey, in part, because he was getting too much attention and Trump wants it all for himself? No, that isn’t snark and I’m not kidding. I’m wondering if that’s part of the motivation for firing Comey for this attention craving president.

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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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.

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

Love Thy Who?

Reading time – 3:43; Viewing time – 5:41  .  .  .

At an evening meeting on April 20th the discussion drifted to the issue of our political divide. The characterization of Trump voters included words like moron, racist, ignorant and a few other choice descriptors. The demonizing fell from lips as easily as rain from the sky – or manure from a barnyard animal – my protestations notwithstanding.

It’s just a guess on my part, but I don’t think character assassinations will be anything but destructive, this in a time when more than ever we need to come together to solve perhaps the largest accumulation of Gordian knot challenges we have faced.

Our vexing political divide is the focus of this post.

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Ezra Klein and Alvin Chang did a report on the issue of political identity – our political divide – for Vox entitled “Political identity is fair game for hatred”: how Republicans and Democrats discriminate. They found what you already know to be true, that we politically polarized Americans seem to be unable even to talk with our neighbors who hold political views different from our own. People are even selecting where they will live based upon whether the neighbors are politically aligned with them. And woe be to a daughter or son who marries someone with membership in the other political party.

The dysfunction we see among politicians is exaggerated because we tend to elect zealots; however, we’re not doing a very good job ourselves of even tolerating our “other party” neighbors, much less loving them. Indeed, we seem to be in an age where “other-ing” is not just accepted, but is encouraged.

In my pal Brian Muldoon’s book, The Heart of Conflict, he identifies what he sees as the fundamental reason people are so often unable to talk about differing religious beliefs without the conversation devolving into conflict. He says that it’s because any challenge to our fundamental beliefs challenges our sense of identity and that shakes our tectonic plates, so we go into fight-or-flight mode the same way our caveman ancestors treated threatening saber tooth tigers.

It appears that our political views have reached the same kind of base-of-the-skull level. As Klein and Chang write in their article, “  .  .  . rising political polarization was showing something more fundamental than political disagreement – it was tracking the transformation of party affiliation into a form of personal identity that reached into almost every aspect of our lives.”

It seems to me that invites fight-or-flight into arenas where there are no actual mortal threats; nevertheless, we treat ordinary opinions – like political differences – in the same life-or-death manner we do religious differences.

In the face of this we’re told to love our (“different from me”) neighbors. That’s a tough assignment for we human beings.

Nevertheless, that is the assignment. Should we fail to complete the assignment and get a great grade, our democracy will be at mortal risk. We better figure out how to do something other than fighting or fleeing.

In other news

House Joint Resolution 48 is what we need. It’s what I’ve been calling for in my presentations to groups all over the country since that dark January day in 2010. This is a cure for the deepest ailment of our democracy.

HJR 48 is a bill to reverse the tsunami of corporate and fat cat cash in our politics that was unleashed by the disastrous Citizens United decision. The bill currently has 23 cosponsors; that’s where you come in.

Call your representative now and request that s/he cosponsor this critically important bill. Do this even if your representative is already a cosponsor – they need your support for this.

To find your rep’s phone number, go to www.House.gov and enter your zip code in the box in the top-right corner of the page. Then pick up your phone, dial it and tell the nice staffer who answers that you are a constituent and you want your rep to cosponsor HJR 48.

Do it now, and we’ll slay this mother of our political dysfunction.

Finally, we have a whole new level of stupid coming from Washington. From The Root:

Paul Reickhoff

According to the Military Times, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) has drafted legislation that would charge soldiers $100 a month for access to the GI Bill. The bill would deduct a total of $2,400 from each soldier’s paycheck to make them eligible.

“Pushing this GI Bill tax proposal on troops in a time of war is political cowardice,” said Paul Reickhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America “Some politicians would rather make backroom deals than raise taxes or find other ways to support our troops as bombs continue to fall overseas.”

Let’s see, the geniuses in DC want to send our young off to fight and die for the oil we have to stop using if we’re to avoid hard boiling the planet, and also in order to fill monstrous political egos. As a way to say thanks, our legislators want to tax our troops.

Yes, really.

Bonus Section

Watch this Vox piece for clarity about cable news manipulation and the advancement of “alternative facts.”

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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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