Freedom

Voluntary Subjugation

Reading time – 2:59; Viewing time – 4:16  .  .  .

Whatever may be the perverted mental issues that compel him to puffery and self-service instead of service to country and which eased his way to lie over 2,000 times during his first year in office, the real issue is not Donald Trump’s dishonesty. The real issue is Trump’s complete disregard for the truth, this in pursuit of what Trump sees is best for Trump in the moment. Nothing else means anything to him. Reality is just a minor obstacle to crush under heel. It’s what autocrats always do. Refer to Putin, Xi, Duerte, Erdoğan and others for examples.

Trump’s sudden pardon of “Scooter” Libby, the treasonous aide to Darth Cheney, wasn’t done for Libby’s benefit. It was done to send a signal to all of Trump’s co-conspirators that he would pardon them from their crimes that Robert Mueller is investigating. So, Flynn, Manafort, Cohen, Papadopoulos and the rest can stonewall the FBI investigators, be found guilty of who-knows-what crimes and draw the Chance card that reads, “Get out of jail free.” The entire Trump crime family will walk.

Trump is riding an angry, right-wing wave that began several decades ago. It’s made of millions of Americans displaying an extended middle finger driven by notions of betrayal that have been nurtured by first rate extremist manipulators. They stoke reptile brain reactions, impulses which are great in the wild when physical dangers are all about, but which are destroyers of our culture, our society and which corrode our entire republic.

Now the Trump-loving media types are fabricating fatuous, even idiotic fictions that demonize our laws, our system of justice and the dedicated people who do the hard and dangerous work to keep us safe and free. The self-righteous, far-right, alternative facts media people are slandering and defaming those who pose any threat to Der Fuhrer Trump. They are tearing down what we have painstakingly built over the course of two-and-a-half centuries to protect us. They are whipping the national reptile brain into a frenzy and doing great damage to our country. It’s the perfect complement to the making of an autocrat, a dictator, a despot, a tyrant. It is happening in front of your eyes and in plain sight.

Not long ago I wrote,

The worst thing, though, is the ongoing drumbeat of how awful our government is, including blatant lies by legislators and by polarized commentary by the likes of Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones. That has led to a very angry citizenry. And that has led to the election of a president who is incrementally tearing down the very things that make this country work. Somehow, his supporters, otherwise good, solid folks, are so angry that they are willing to ignore Trump’s awfuls. They have and continue to be prepared to elect representatives and senators who spew vitriol.

Click for the story and to read the caption.

I have written elsewhere (here and here or click Fascism in the Categories list to the right) about the threat of creeping fascism in this country and have seen nothing to indicate that progress has been made to reverse the weakening of our democracy. The cowardice of Republicans in Congress who fail to check this American tyrant president encourages fascism, as predicted in 1944 by Henry Wallace, Roosevelt’s next-to-last vice-president.

Nuremberg rally, 1938

Have a look at what former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has to say about this today and let the threat to our democracy that she exposes get under your skin. Think about how we’re going to stop that death spiral or we will have volunteered to be subjugated by a sociopathic tyrant.

We have been warned repeatedly by various clear thinkers that, “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” That sounds a lot like Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies. It also sounds a lot like Donald Trump’s rallies.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

Take Heart!

  • Reading time – 46 seconds  .  .  .

    Click me for the story – from The Onion, of course.

    • It’s hard to be hopeful when headlines are dope-ful
      • Of President Trump’s latest stupid.
    • “Take heart!” I implore, even as the Chief Bore
      • Treats our nation in ways that are putrid.
  • It’s more than just some who can see that he’s dumb
    • As he leaves yet another field tattered.
  • He keeps the world tense ‘cus he hasn’t the sense
    • To behave as though truth really mattered.

  • The key to his bullshit is not that he’s half-wit
    • Instead, it’s the point of his talents.
  • He hasn’t a care that reality’s there,
    • He just works to keep us all unbalanced.

  • That’s the way of the crazy who’s way beyond lazy
    • To deal with his sociopath nature.
  • He dumps his dysfunction on us, sans compunction
    • And gives away all of our future.

  • The President claims that he has a great brain
    • But that’s just a narcissist fragment.
  • He tries to get by with another fat lie,
    • But we’ll catch him in Mueller’s broad dragnet.

  • So, don’t you despair, ‘though he’s sucked all the air
    • From the stage that should stir a great nation.
  • This guy’s going down for high crimes and he’s bound
    • For a Leavenworth style vacation.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

If You Ever Were a Kid

Reading time – 2:32; Viewing time – 3:51  .  .  .

There is something peculiar about we human beings, in that we often don’t really “get it” unless we relate events to ourselves. For example, when we see the devastation of a hurricane in Houston, we don’t fully understand and have to see the suffering up close and personal to begin to imagine what it would be like for ourselves if we were in those circumstances. That’s what it takes for us to “get it.”

March For Our Lives – Chicago

So it is with March For Our Lives, as most of us have not been directly touched by gun violence. The Parkland community, all the people of New Town and Aurora and San Bernardino and Orlando and Las Vegas do get it because they’ve lived it. Here’s how you can start to get it:

  • If you have a child or a grandchild,
  • if you know someone who is a school kid, or
  • if you ever were a kid,

Click me for the Sun-Times story

then imagine someone with an AR-15 showing up and firing over 100 bullets in 6 minutes 20 seconds and killing and maiming dozens of kids you know. Just imagine the hallway in your high school that seemed so ordinary; then suddenly someone shows up and sprays bullets from his assault rifle into your friends and maybe into you and you’re lying in the blood.

Are you starting to get it yet?

Left column has names of kids killed this year. The reverse side is entirely filled with the names of the rest of the kids killed this year.

At the Chicago March For Our Lives, all the presenters were students. Here is what they want you to know.

“We call BS” – Emma Gonzalez – Click and watch the video

They are sick deep into their souls from the murders of their friends and family members. Their pain is etched into their faces and they suffer every day.

In case you’re white, they want you to understand that black and brown skin is not bullet proof and that they feel the agony of danger and loss just like you would.

They want you to know that they will out-live you and they will vote in huge numbers. Further, they will not stop until they get the safety they want for themselves, for their little brothers and sisters and for their children to come.

Some say enough is enough, but that isn’t right because there is no “enough” bullet-riddled children. There is only the reality of the suffering and dying that has no purpose. There are the suicides that are made so easy by the presence of a gun. There is the insanity that we tolerate only because it hasn’t come close enough to ourselves to feel it.

But it probably came close enough to your heart in Parkland, FL. And at Sandy Hook Elementary School when you found out those little 6 year old bodies had multiple bullets ripped through them. And at Columbine.

You probably “get it” because you were a kid once. You remember the classes and the hallways and you knew who the brooding, angry kid was. Maybe you can imagine that kid coming to school to wreak his vengeance for his imagined wrongs – maybe wrought on you just because you happened to be in the hallway between classes.

For our legislators: Don’t even think about offering thoughts and prayers or weasel-words. Get on the right side of history or start updating your résumé, because these people are going to send you home.

By the way, in the 17th school shooting in the first 80 days of this year – that’s one every 4 days –  a kid shot two students at Great Mills High School in Maryland five days ago. One of them was a 16 year old girl the shooter knew. She died on Thursday. She could have been your daughter. She could have been you.

Now you “get it.” It’s time for sweeping change.

All photos from March For Our Lives – Chicago, March 24, 2018.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

Stop Watching the Sideshows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

Behavior Geek

Reading time – 3:19; Viewing time – 4:36  .  .  .

When I see or hear behavior that stands out, one of my first responses is to wonder what’s behind that. For example, when Donald Trump demands a military parade and faintly lauds the Nazis in Charlottesville and insults Gold Star Families and imposes import tariffs that will create a net loss of over 100,000 jobs – and worse once our trading partners react – and he lies two-thirds of the time, I scratch my head about what drives those behaviors. That’s after I calm down. Fortunately, mental healthcare professionals have offered their expertise about Trump’s behavior by demonstrating that he exhibits nearly all of the telltale indicators of a sociopath (here and here and here and here and here). Voilà! The behavior geek in me is satisfied. Mostly.

That information helps to explain Trump’s bizarre acts to destabilize others (“I like being unpredictable.”) and his destructiveness of our country, often displayed multiple times per day. What it doesn’t do is explain why millions of people dismiss his anti-social behavior, saying things like, “That’s just Donald being Donald,” as though that makes okay his Access Hollywood admission of assault of women, his constant attacks on his predecessors in office and his refusal to aggressively interdict Russian efforts to subvert our elections and to impose sanctions. Why would those who wave the red, white and blue tolerate for even one second Trump’s obviously anti-American behavior, his grabs for autocracy, his dereliction of duty?

They aren’t all racists, homophobes and misogynists and they don’t all think that mass gun slaughter is just the price of freedom. Please, get over those notions and the need to demonize those who are different from you. That’s the disease that has swept our nation and you can self-inoculate against that virus. Seeking to understand is a really good way to do that. I really mean just seeking to understand. Be a behavior geek to see the world as they do so that you can understand them. Be clear, though, that doing so is not for the faint of heart.

I recently presented my Money, Politics and Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want program and had a unique experience. The program is non-partisan and focuses solely on how the Big Money people are getting what they want, but We the People are not. I’ve presented this program to groups from all over the political spectrum and have never gotten push-back. But that isn’t what happened at this recent presentation.

There were people sitting at the edges of their chairs, wagging fingers, interrupting, and aggressively going off-point, seemingly unable to focus on the content. They seemed to want to defeat what they experienced as an attack on their cherished beliefs and I was hard pressed to avoid engaging in a verbal battle. I felt attacked and wanted to hit back. I refused that knee-jerk response, though, and repeatedly tried to redirect back to the primary point about Big Money in our politics, but to no avail.

At last some clarity came to me and when the room quieted I said that in that room we were a microcosm of America today. We seemed to be unable to simply talk to one another and be heard. There was refusal to tolerate different views and insistence on being “right.” And, yes, that describes what was going on inside me, too, as the near-chaos had ensued. It took a formidable force of will not to verbalize some of my reactions. That’s why that seeking to understand business is not for the faint of heart.

The only good that I see having come from that meeting is the clarity of what we in America have become. It isn’t pretty and I don’t get what’s behind it – the behavior geek stuff – not fully.

We have to look outside our smug bubbles in order to learn, so I’m looking and will report what I find in subsequent posts. For now, we all need to understand how self-destructive we’re being on a one-to-one basis and nationally when we demonize one another; when we refuse to allow others the same right of opinion as we demand for ourselves; when we hunker down in those smug bubbles. When we’re ready to peer outside our defended zones, things will begin to get better.

For now, stop listening to the haters.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

The 1960s and Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is what politicians better figure out really fast:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See how personal this gets?

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

Fable

Flag of the United States of America

Reading time – 2:10; Viewing time – 3:25  .  .  .

Once upon a time there was a democratic republic called the United States of America. It was thought of by many as the shining city on a hill. It was the best hope for millions coming there from around the world and proved to be a land of opportunity. It had many strengths and valuable resources, but the most powerful of all was its people. They had enduring values and a can-do culture that made them the envy of the world.

One day the people found that they had been frustrated and angry for a very long time. Their leaders had failed them, lied to them and stolen from them, so they looked for a new leader and chose one who roused them with words of anger and grandiose promises. He had many obvious flaws and he lied to the people repeatedly, but they didn’t care about the lies because he spoke to their decades-long frustration, so they elected him to be their leader. Then things turned very bad for the people.

They learned that this new leader had ties to an Evil Empire and he was beholden to that empire in very suspicious ways, including great sums of money. And he surrounded himself with many others who also had ties to the Evil Empire in suspicious ways. He dismissed allies and warmed up to vicious autocrats around the world, especially the leader of the Evil Empire. He had many contacts with that leader and refused to report the contacts to his own intelligence agencies or to the press of his own country, so the people had to look to the Evil Empire for the truth of what was happening in their own country.

He began to dismantle the country’s foreign service infrastructure and weakened the Justice Department with an ineffectual leader. He demeaned key government people and agencies, especially those looking into his affairs and who could unmask him. He fired many long time public servants and pressured still more to resign their posts. He constantly demeaned the press, those who could hold him accountable publicly. He bullied legislators and they knuckled under, refusing to challenge him.

Flag of the Russian Federation

He created great sideshows, including threatening nuclear war with a petty tyrant in order to distract the people from his wrongdoing. He packed government with those he could control and demanded loyalty to himself, instead of loyalty to the people and the country, as they had pledged. He caused his top intelligence people to meet with the top intelligence people of the Evil Empire. Then suddenly the people found that their flag had been changed to a very different red, white and blue.

*  *  *

Once upon a time there was a democratic republic called the United States of America. You can read about it in the history books.

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

Want to do something to change the end of this fable into something more to your liking? Register for a Rapid Response event in your area by clicking on the logo to the right  .  .  .

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

Want more on this? Have a look here.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

A Challenge For Moderates

Reading time – 4:51; Viewing time – 7:44  .  .  .

Preface

If in these darkly polarized times you and I aren’t in the same bubble, if our notions about politics, policies and what it means to be an American aren’t in lock step, try this on for size and decide then how far apart our bubbles really are.

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The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday arrived and with it a number of references to his Letter From A Birmingham Jail. Oddly, I had not read it before, so I had a look and was stunned at how much of what he had to say in 1963 resonates in various ways with the America of today. He wrote,

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Do you believe that to be true? Are we interconnected? If we do harm to one of us, are we all affected?

Dr. King wrote of the clear obstacle that segregationists were to progress, the obvious discrimination they practiced, the brutality and the subjugation of an entire race of people in our country. As striking was King’s grave disappointment with what he called “white moderates”. He wrote:

“.  .  .  the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Klu Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;”  .  .  .  Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection”

The white moderates of King’s time have been supplanted today in part by legislators who spinelessly refuse to stand up to the infantile bully on our national playground, as he acts to harm our citizens and demeans whole continents of people. They are the representatives, senators and even the cabinet members who bald face lie for the president, leaving their integrity far behind and all of us worse off for their cowardice. This is the greater frustration and bewilderment, magnified tenfold by those who stand silent to the outrages.

We aren’t living in the Jim Crow south anymore, but Republicans across the country are using various means to take the vote away from people of color, from our young and from our elderly. Their voter ID laws and the closing of poling places and voter registration offices are today’s version of a poll tax or literacy test or having to divine the correct number of jelly beans in a jar in order to vote. These are the “people of ill will” today, the present day thieves of the right to vote and the right to be a full and equal citizen of our country.

Sadly, the “white moderates” of today aren’t standing up to these thieves. They are Americans who sit at home instead of fiercely protesting the cruelty that is in front of them. They refuse to recognize that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” They are those who live in their self-imprisoned ignorance of, “What can one person do?” They sympathize silently and then change the channel on the television, numbing themselves into apathy. They are the ones who go along to get along, who won’t make waves and who avoid conflict, even in the obvious screaming need for conflict with what is plainly wrong.

King made clear that, ”  .  .  .  freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Yet those in power refuse to listen to those being oppressed today, as our citizens’ voting rights are stolen from them simply because those who are doing the stealing are allowed to get away with it by those who don’t demand justice. There is more.

A reader of these essays wrote privately in reply to my recent post, “Leadership and the Tax Bill”, reminding me of Emma Lazarus’ poem, The New Colossus. It is inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. We all know the end of the poem, but it deserves to be read in its entirety.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
.
Every one of us save Native Americans is either an immigrant or is descended from immigrants who were welcomed by this Mother of Exiles. That means that your family wasn’t born here, but instead came here from somewhere else, surely for good reason. Perhaps their decision to leave all they had known was famine or discrimination or poverty or war and it’s quite likely your people weren’t royalty. Almost surely they were poor people, perhaps peasants, exiles. They were tired and poor and yearned to breathe free. They might even have been the wretched refuse of the teeming shore of a shithole country. If they were to try to come here today, would they be admitted? Would we lift up our lamp beside our golden door for your people? Would you allow your own ancestors to immigrate to America?
.

If you would, then you are not allowed to be what Dr. King called a “white moderate”, a passive presence. In fact, you aren’t allowed to be a moderate at all. If you would allow your family to breathe free here, then you must stand up for today’s immigrants.  And you must stand against the vote thieves ripping apart our democracy. You must mount the battlements and fight the loud and cruel oppressors of today.

Emma Lazarus’ voice is calling for you to take action, to lift our lamp beside our golden door.

Dr. King implores you to not be a moderate, but to stand up to injustice, because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and that includes justice for you.

At the Women’s March – Chicago 20, 2018. The woman holding this sign said that she now knows she would have been a conductor in the underground railroad, saved Anne Frank and more. She knows that she could not stand idly by in the face of injustice. I don’t know her name, but I’m grateful for her courage, her passion and for being a role model.

Your own family is calling you – counting on you – to speak up in their name, the very name you bear.

From “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown:

Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.

Back to my comments in the Preface: What would happen if we – you and I – were to join our bubbles that we imagine to be so far apart and we refuse to be moderate?

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

Address to Congress, January 3, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

A Conservative Commentary in Two Connecting Pieces

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

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

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

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

Next point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

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