Integrity

The Indispensable Nation


Reading time – 3:56  .  .  .

It’s time to take a break from talk of impeachment, contempt of Congess citations, subpoenas, obstruction of justice, picking a fight with Iran and the unending daily tsunami of outrageous behavior – not because those things aren’t important, but because there are other critically important things to consider that are easy to overlook because of our continuing self-inflicted reign of terror. A 50,000 foot view is one of those things.

George Packer wrote a piece for The Atlantic this month entitled “Elegy for the American Century: A report On The Decay of Pax Americana.” I confess that reading it brought into full light my ignorance of the complexities of the Balkan war, the complicated rivalries and borders, the centuries old grievances. More than that, though, it brought greater clarity to how we – the United States – have ceased to be the indispensable nation and have become globally unreliable.

– We now disrespect and even insult our allies

– We now embrace brutal dictators, the very people whom our allies worry about and because of whom they have looked to us for leadership

– We renege on treaties and agreements

– We focus enmity on defenseless people

– We allow buffoonery to go unchecked, making us the object of international mockery and scorn

– We foment divisiveness and hate within our own country, showing people in other countries that we can’t be relied upon because we simply don’t have it together

The United States was the only major power with an intact industrial base following WW II and we created a new world order. The Soviet Union was our continuing enemy, but they could only affect world order through military oppression. We had the goods, as well as the strength to stand up to the bad guys and western democracy flourished. That’s all changed now, though, because we have told the world that we can no longer be counted on.

Angela Merkel just told Europeans that the post-war world order is over and called for Europe to stand up to China, Russia and the US! Something has radically changed and it very clearly isn’t for the better.

Below is an excerpt from Packer’s piece focusing on this very thing.

“If you ask me when America’s long decline began, I might point to 1998. We were flabby, smug, and self-absorbed. Imagine a president careless enough to stumble into his enemies’ trap and expend his power on a blue dress. Imagine a superpower so confident of perpetual peace and prosperity that it felt able to waste a whole year on Oval Office [sex]. Not even al-Qaeda, which blew up two American embassies in East Africa that August, could get our serious attention—Clinton’s response, a barrage of cruise missiles, was derided left and right for following the script of Wag the Dog. The Republicans decided that destroying the president was more urgent than the national interest, and they attacked his every move at home and abroad. Our leaders believed they had the luxury to start tearing one another apart, and they’ve never stopped. Did any country ever combine so much power with so little responsibility? Slowly, imperceptibly at first, we lost that essential faith in ourselves.

“The American century ended in Baghdad and Helmand, in Aleppo and Odessa, and in Beijing. It also ended in Wisconsin and in Silicon Valley and, maybe above all, in Washington, D.C. It ended from overreach and exhaustion, rising competition, the rapid changes and broken promises of globalization, and the failure of our own middle-class democracy, which, when it was thriving, gave us an influence that exceeded even our power.

“Another place where the American century ended was Bosnia.

“Twenty years after Dayton [the peace talks that ended the war in Bosnia], five years after [Richard] Holbrooke [the US Assistant Secretary of State leading the Dayton peace talks] died when his aorta tore open .  .  .   a woman in Sarajevo named Aida began to experience insomnia. Though she had lived through the entire siege, she never counted herself among the hundreds of thousands of Bosnians with post-traumatic stress disorder, but now, two decades after the war, she lay awake night after night, unable to take her eyes off the American presidential campaign on TV. Something about the people at Donald Trump’s rallies was deeply familiar to Aida—their clothes, their faces, their teeth, the men’s mustaches, the women’s hair and makeup, the illogic of their grievances, their rage, their need for an enemy .  .  .  Moments in the American campaign brought up uncanny counterparts from those years in the Balkans. Late one night, during the Republican National Convention, Aida suddenly heard the voices of 1 million Serbs in the streets of Belgrade shouting for the head of a Kosovar leader—“Arrest Vllasi! Arrest Vllasi!”—while Milošević cupped his ear and goaded them: “I can’t hear you!” In Cleveland they were chanting “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

“After the Cold War, grand strategists proposed various scenarios for the future of the world: liberal capitalist triumph, the clash of civilizations, great-power rivalry, borderless anarchy. Nationalism didn’t make the short list.

“The warlords turned out to be ahead of their time. Kurt Bassuener, an American expert on Bosnia, calls Trump “America’s first Balkan president.” His public performances sound like translations from the Serbian. For Aida, Trump’s rule told her that Bosnia no longer has anyone to count on. Europe ceased being a noble idea when populist demagogues put up razor-wire fences to keep out refugees. Now the American idea is gone, too. [Said Aida,] ‘After the United States’ values collapsed, who’s there to look up to?'” [all emphasis mine]

Who, indeed?

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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Pounding and Flip-Flopping


Reading time – 4:51; Viewing time – 7:30  .  .  .

It’s a fundamental courtroom practice:

If the facts are on your side, pound on the facts.

If they aren’t on your side, pound on the law.

If the law isn’t on your side, pound on the table.

The House Judiciary Committee met last week to debate issuing a citation of contempt of Congress to Attorney General William Barr for his failure to produce an unredacted version of the Mueller Report and the underlying evidentiary materials, as well as for his failure to appear before the committee. Of course, the debate was bifurcated along party lines and what I found most interesting is what the Republicans did to make their case against contempt citations.

They brought up all manner of what they decried are unfair or unethical issues, including Hillary Clinton’s emails, FBI leadership, FBI spying and investigating (isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?), Barr’s courage to obey a law that actually doesn’t apply to the contempt of Congress issue, the Steele Dossier (none of which has been disproven), Christopher Steele’s having talked with Russians, various officials lying under oath, James Comey’s perfidy and other real or fantasy offenses.

NONE OF THAT HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH WILLIAM BARR FAILING TO RESPOND TO CONGRESSIONAL SUBPOENAS. IT’S ALL WHATABOUTISM.

That’s what people do when they don’t have a leg to stand on.

Don’t let their passion or the intensity of their fatuous bloviating or the panoply of unrelated issues distract you. This is solely about obeying the law. That sounds very conservative, don’t you think? How come the Republicans don’t like it? Try this.

The Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee likely feel duty bound to protect the Republican administration, regardless of what some individuals in that administration have done. That’s one of the more odious parts of party politics and it’s one of the things that causes voters’ blood to boil or drives them to simply tune out, believing, “They’re all crooks.”

Here’s what’s at stake in this subpoena/contempt citation case:

The important thing: The oversight function of Congress is impossible to conduct without the necessary information. The purpose of a subpoena is to elicit that information from reluctant witnesses. Which is to say, it doesn’t matter whether the president or his lapdog attorney general like it; Barr has to obey the subpoena and the law in order for our system to work.

The critical thing: What is at stake is the rule of law itself! If Barr and Trump get away with refusing subpoenas, then our rule of law is finished. So is justice in America, because it will be clear that obeying the law no longer matters. Say hello to tyranny.

Here’s the current reality:

Those Republican committee members don’t have the facts on their side. Barr has plainly and obviously stonewalled his subpoenas. That’s a punishable no-no. So they can’t pound on the facts.

Those committee members also don’t have the law on their side. The law is clear that citizens must obey a subpoena. So, those representatives can’t pound on the law.

All they have left is pounding on the table. And that’s what they did during the House Judiciary Committee contempt citation hearings and what they’re doing still.

You can expect the same behavior from Republican senators if a resolution of impeachment arrives in their chamber. That’s pretty much what we saw during the blizzard of filibusters the Republicans mounted to fight anything Obama promoted. They didn’t have the facts and they didn’t have the law, so they pounded on the table.

Critical note to Democrats: if positions were reversed, we’d see the same behavior from Congressional Democrats, although they’d probably smile more and be ever-so empathetic. Nevertheless, forget about feeling smug and disdainful about the other guys. This is party politics S.O.P.

Impeachment update  .  .  .

In 2017 I had the simple clarity that Trump should be impeached because he is a criminal, that he’s obviously guilty of violating the Emoluments Clause, obstruction of justice and possibly of treason for conspiracy with the Russians and for his refusal to take any action to prevent ongoing attacks by Russia. Then I considered what a President Pence might do and I wasn’t so sure that impeachment was best.

The first thing Pence would do is pull a Gerald Ford and pardon Trump and his entire crime family for felonies they have or may have committed. It’s unthinkable that they might get away with their self-aggrandizing criminality, so I changed my mind on impeachment. Now, though, there’s another worry.

Trump has started a march to war with Iran. Separating out his wag-the-dog gambit, starting that war will result in a lot of people dying and suffering and it likely will be a war that will last for many years, just like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, because there’s no way out. It appears that the only way to prevent that is to remove Trump from office before he can fire the first shot. That calls for impeachment, so back we go.

One price of doing that, though, is the probability of angering a lot of Americans who will see Trump as a victim and will vote in a Congress that might continue to dismantle the things we care about, a Congress which will deny climate warming. They will continue the assault on Roe v. Wade, on voting rights and will enact yet more wealth inequality measures. All of that and more are existential threats to liberal democracy and to our entire planet. That price is so large that it augers for leaving Trump in office until the end of his term in order to prevent a backlash Congress, even knowing that he will issue anticipatory pardons to all his co-conspirators.

Yes, I realize that I’m flip-flopping on the issue of impeachment and I don’t like it any more than you do.

This impeachment business is more complicated and has more consequences than I want it to have. I believe in the rule of law and apologize not one bit for being a Boy Scout about my horror over the assault on our moral character that we continue to endure.  But frustrating as it would be to refrain from stopping the subversive criminal in the Oval Office, preempting Trump with impeachment might do more harm than good. Clearly, this is a hold your nose moment in American history.

Click the pic for the report in The Onion

                                                     ————————————

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Nation’s Business


Reading time – 4:54; Viewing time – 7:08  .  .  .

Reader JC wrote in response to my column last week that he wants me to let go of focus on Trump and instead focus on the nation’s business. My reply was that stopping Trump from further damaging our democracy is the nation’s business, leaving the implication that dropping focus on Trump would be a bad idea. Nevertheless, we’re all weary of dealing with his blatantly dishonest and sometimes obviously criminal behavior. We’re all sick of the impeachment debate, too. So, okay, let’s focus on the nation’s business.

I recall something about “draining the swamp,” which would be good business for the nation, but all I see from Trump says that he wants to populate the swamp with even slimier creatures. His current pick for the Federal Reserve Board is Stephen Moore, who boldly claimed that he’s not a big believer in democracy. Got a problem with that? Or his frequent and blatant mashing of facts? What do you suppose that attitude might do to the nation’s business if Moore gets his hands on the Fed?

Click the pic for the essay

Trump can’t get away with misappropriating funds in order to build his useless monument to himself on our southern border without the Senate Republican refusal to override his veto. And he can’t get away with de-funding Medicare and giving whopping tax breaks to already rich people without the support of Republicans in Congress. Neither can he get away with packing our federal courts with young and crazy righty judges, many of whom aren’t remotely qualified for their jobs, without help from our complicit Republicans. Read Paul Krugman’s clear, focused take on this Congressional spinelessness in his essay, The Great Republican Abdication. As well, read some of the reader comments attached to his essay.

All of this is about the nation’s business that isn’t being properly served. Are you getting the feeling that we have to stay focused on both our less courageous legislators and Trump?

Click the pic for the full stupid

Climate change is the biggest existential threat to our nation and likely to the entire world since the dinosaurs were wiped out 60 million years ago. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is my favorite whipping boy for the idiotic denial of this reality. He brought a snowball into the Senate in February 2015, claiming that its very existence proved that there is no global warming. Gotta love blatant stupidity that makes the hollowness of false claims so obvious.

None of the 3% of scientists who claim that there is no man-made global warming is a climatologist. The other 97% are climatologists and, by definition, they know what they’re talking about. They are unified and clear that we are in the process of hard boiling our planet. Nevertheless, Trump has pulled us out of the Paris Climate Accords and pushed the levers for increased fossil fuel burning. And the Republicans in Congress won’t stand up to him. That’s a problem for our nation. That’s going to cause terrible consequences for your grandchildren, so watch here to see how they feel about that. Shouldn’t our nation’s business have some focus on the future?

or in stopping the Russians and Chinese from hacking our next election, or hurricane relief, or infrastructure rebuilding, or gun safety, or net neutrality, or white extremist violence, or the shrinking middle class, or draining the swamp, or wealth inequality, or   .  .  .

Which brings us to my favorite chant:

Q. What do we want?

A. Science!

Q. When do we want it?

A. After peer review!

Our leadership has been allowed to ignore what the vast majority of us want, like universal background checks before the sale of any firearm (about 90% of us) and universal healthcare (over 60% of us). We all know that our infrastructure is crumbling and we want it fixed. Indeed, we’ve been wringing hands over that for decades and we want action to rebuild it. The number of good paying jobs that will come from that long term investment in our country would be tremendous.

Meanwhile, our Congress has done nothing to make things better. Trump has brayed lies about how world-class our airports will be and the vast rebuilding of our nation that he will deliver, but he’s done literally nothing to start that ball rolling. All of that is the nation’s business, but public demand for those things doesn’t seem to matter.

We have citizen super-majorities for many of the nation’s issues which are ignored by those in power. Read Tim Wu’s piece on this and decide for yourself if you’re okay with the majority of Americans being blown off and the nation’s business ignored. Sadly, because these issues are being ignored by our Congress and the president, if we’re to deal with the nation’s business, losing focus on Trump simply isn’t an option.

Frustratingly, Trump’s continuously outrageous behavior gives him what he really wants – constant attention. We really do have to keep watch on this infant tyrant and stop him from breaking yet more stuff.

It’s time to recognize that this situation didn’t come about in a vacuum.

While we Americans aren’t the first to disempower ourselves through brainless acceptance of propaganda, we’re quite good at it. And we excel at demonizing one another and, in service to that, have perfected the art of “othering,” which keeps us divided and weak. Those things happen in the presence of leadership that undermines what we believed were our values and replaces them with constant fear as the driver of our behavior, like fear of Muslims and fear of immigrants.

Our nation’s business is ignored when we’ve metaphorically barred the door and stand ready with a shotgun at all times, because we’ve made ourselves so easy to manipulate.

Our job – your job – is to keep an eye on Congress, the president and DC fear mongering and stay conscious and active. And VOTE! Perhaps one day we’ll have a Congress and president that attend to our nation’s business.

Final thought  .  .  .

In the race for the Democratic nomination for president the constant question is about who can beat Trump. I have a contrarian thought on that positioning.

Watch for Ohio Governor John Kasich to announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination, even as he has little use for what passes for today’s Republican Party. He’s a traditional Republican and will appeal to those who aren’t burdened by a permanently extended middle finger. Don’t be surprised if he turns out to be that party’s front runner.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Your Lyin’ Eyes and Impeachment


Reading time – 3.47; Viewing time – 5:20  .  .  .

The Mueller Report is out and I haven’t had time to go through all 448 pages, although you can do that yourself by getting the PDF from the DOJ website here. Click on the 4th line beginning “Report on the Investigation” for the download. Or if you prefer you can get an indexed and searchable version here.

There is big stuff in that report, including that the lack of indictments of the president is due to the Justice Department guideline that a sitting president can’t be indicted. Also, because so many documents were destroyed by various perps.

Nevertheless, Mueller let us know that he was unable to declare that the President of the United States isn’t a criminal. Stunning! My more chilling takeaway, though, is about Attorney General William Barr.

Barr was promoted as a legal institutionalist, even after his unsolicited, 19-page job application that made it clear that he believed that, metaphorically speaking, a president really could get away with shooting someone on 5th Avenue. That view works for Trump and Barr got the attorney general post.

In each of his public appearances and writings as attorney general, Barr has gone out of his way to exonerate the president. His rhetoric vacillates between cherry-picked, out of context phrases to outright lies all in favor of President Trump. Did he think we wouldn’t notice? In listening to Barr I’m reminded of comedian Richard Pryor’s line, “Who you gonna believe: me or your lyin’ eyes?”

The scary part is that Barr sounds like the president’s defense counsel, instead of the attorney for the Constitution of the United States of America.

In his piece in New York Magazine entitled, “Congress Should Impeach William Barr,” Jonathan Chait wrote,

“The Justice Department is an awesome force that holds the power to enable the ruling party to commit crimes with impunity .  .  .”

We should have seen this coming.

From The Onion, of course. Click the pic

Barr is the former attorney general for President George H.W. Bush. Barr recommended to Bush that he pardon the convicted Iran-Contra felons. Click through the link and scroll down to the Indictments section and you’ll see that these guys did a lot of really bad things, including thwarting the explicit will of Congress. You need to appreciate how significant that is.

Doing that is an attack on Congress itself, and it encourages an imperial presidency. William Barr cemented that by recommending those pardons. And now he’s defending this power grabbing, dictator wanna-be president.

If Barr is an institutionalist, exactly what institution does he serve?

Read more about this here.

And another thing .  .  .

Now that most of the Mueller Report is released, the talk of impeachment is spiraling upward. I’ve long called for the removal of this cheating, lying, fraudulent, self-aggrandizing, democracy damaging president, but now I have significant doubt about that notion.

President Gerald Ford set a woeful precedent by granting, “.  .  .   a 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 .  .  .” Nixon got a free pass for his criminal wrongdoing and wasn’t held accountable in any way.

That is the precedent that Mike Pence will inherit should he become President. That means that our criminal president will likely be pardoned for any and all crimes which he may have committed (think: conspiring with the Russians to disrupt our 2016 election, obstruction of justice; money laundering; and fraud).

Further, if Trump were to be impeached, whether convicted in the Senate or not, he and the Republicans will wail about him being a poor victim, suffering unfair discrimination by the evil Democrats and the Washington swamp. That could lead to another Republican in the White House in 2021 and a Congress controlled by the same spineless legislators who are enabling Trump right now.

The solution that makes the most sense to me is to Benghazi Trump: just keep his wrongdoing in the public eye through November 3, 2020 with ongoing Congressional hearings.

I often have difficulty rationalizing the impact of the bypassing of punishment for wrongdoing in favor of some greater good, but this one looks obvious enough even for me.

No impeachment.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

In Case You Missed It


Reading time – 2:10; Viewing time – 3:33 .  .  .

Ed. Note: There was apparently operator (that would be me) error for the email announcement of the Sunday post this week. That’s why you’re receiving this on Monday. I think the situation is corrected and, with luck and the absence of any more operator interference, we’re back on track.


Perhaps you recall George W. Bush’s so-called “Faith Based and Community Initiative” of 2003. Less well remembered is Bill Clinton’s “Charitable Choice” program of 1996. The practical effect of each was to supply federal dollars to religious institutions.

Earlier still, in 1954, we added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. That was so that we could declare ourselves better than and identifiable from those godless Commies, at least to ourselves. That addition to the Pledge wasn’t enough, though, since most Americans didn’t recite it daily; only school children did that. So in 1956 we added “In God We Trust” to all of our currency. We look at our coins and greenbacks every day, so that should have provided sufficient reminders of God as officially on our side and in our laws, even to those with the shortest attention span.

Each of these actions super-glued religion to our government and our country. I don’t understand why establishing religion as part of our state was not un-Constitutional, given the clear mandate of The First Amendment. Disappointingly, this story is continuing and it would have been easy to have missed it, given the tsunami of events last week.

Betsy DeVos is the totally unqualified head of the Department of Education. Her lack of qualification is due both to her near-complete ignorance of public education and her predilection to shift all to the private sector and to destroy her department of government entirely. Her ignorance doesn’t stop her from taking bold action, though, including effectively de-funding public education.

She has now decided to enhance the flight of your tax dollars for public education to private religious institutions. The lead paragraph of an article about this in The New York Times reads,

“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Monday that she will no longer enforce a provision in federal law that bars religious organizations from providing federally funded educational services to private schools.”

So, religious organization X will now be free to use its federally supplied dollars (how come they have those?) to fund religious schools. That’s a nifty two-step diversion to those private schools of your public money that is supposed to go to pubic education. What part of “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion  .  .  . ” is unclear?

Even Evangelicals have expressed opposition to government funding of religious institutions. That is in part on the basis that such action will inevitably result in government control of religion. They’re right.

Last scratch at this itch: In 2012 President Obama unilaterally created the DACA program, which was effectively the selective, rather than universal, application of our immigration laws. Republicans went berserk in opposition. The law is the law, they screamed. The Constitution clearly separates powers and this one doesn’t belong to the Executive branch, they cried.

Where is that same opposition to Trump and DeVos selectively refusing to enforce our laws and support the Constitution today?

Click to join me on March 23 for this fascinating and informative event.

               ————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Real Issue


Reading time – 4:34; Viewing time – 6:40  .  .  .

Ed. Note: Be sure to check out our periodically published new feature, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up at the end of the regular post.

___________________________________

By now you’ve at least heard of the kerfuffle created by the remarks of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and it’s entirely possible that you’re both offended and pretty well annoyed by the whole mess. I’ve decided to weigh in only because the key issue seems to have been missed and it’s a really big issue. It’s a life and death issue.

To recap, Omar dispatched tweets and comments that triggered an explosion. They were:

Feb.10 – Responding to a tweet about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel, she tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”

Feb 11 – Responding to a question about who’s paying these Benjamins, she tweeted, “AIPAC!” referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Feb 11 – Following criticism from Democratic leadership, she tweeted a sort-of apology, saying in part, “My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”

Feb 28 – Speaking as a panel member at a DC venue she said, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. I want to ask why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA (National Rifle Association), of fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policies?”

In a recently discovered 2012 tweet she wrote, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

That’s a lot to digest, so let’s boil it down to the essentials. Omar is saying,

  1. Wealthy Jews are buying influence.
  2. AIPAC is using “Benjamins” to control Congress and the President.
  3. American Jews have “allegiance” to a foreign country, Israel, implying they are disloyal to America.
  4. Jews have some semi-occult ability to hypnotize others and cause them to do the bidding of Jews.

Let’s start with the easiest to dispel. AIPAC doesn’t make political contributions to candidates or politicians. Now on to the real damage.

The stereotype of Jews being wealthy and using their wealth to control others and thus do harm to those others has been around a long time. The same is true of the lunacy that says that Jews can “hypnotize the world” and get their way. Neither would be a big deal if it were just a few psychotics screaming such things in a rubber room. Sadly, devastatingly, it doesn’t stop there and it never has.

These hateful tropes have been believed by the uninformed, the gullible and the hateful and powerful for centuries, perhaps millennia. They have been used to justify some of the the most vile and hateful acts, including the Spanish Inquisition, pogroms across Europe and Russia, the Holocaust and tens of thousands of small scale violent events all over the world. Think: Tree of Life Synagogue.

That is to say, words matter. They have impact on people and that drives people’s actions. When the words are hateful – especially when they qualify as a Big Lie, as Omar’s do – they incite people to violence. She helped to continue the hateful lies and to support the haters’ justification of their hate and their violence. That’s the real issue.

In her weenie apology she managed to demand to be listened to as a qualification of her “unequivocal” apology. It’s a bit like apologizing by saying, “I apologize if what I said was offensive.” Kinda misses the mark of apologizing for actually being offensive.

Much of the political tap dance of both Democrats and Republicans has been an astonishing circus sideshow of posturing for political advantage. I especially love the justifications claimed by the 23 Republicans who voted against the resolution condemning hate. One stands out as the winner of the Totally Daft Award. See #3 below.

Legitimate criticism of Israel is welcome. Opposing the government or the policies is in bounds and justifiable. Spreading hate is not.

This whole thing is simpler than the political theater of the absurd would allow you to see and it’s way beyond finding Omar’s words offensive or reacting to her poorly crafted jiu jitsu apology. We need to focus on the key issue, which is the spreading of hate and the potential incitement to violence done by Rep. Omar’s words. It’s a really big issue. It’s a life and death issue.

For more on the impact of words, see this post.


You Can’t Make This Stuff Up
A short compendium of current events that are too dumb even for fiction
  1. Veteran conservative broadcaster and columnist Jane Chastain recently wrote a column titled “AOC WAS A GIRL SCOUT .  .  .  JUST SAY NO TO THE COOKIES.”
  2. Finnish investigative journalist Jessikka Aro has been courageously reporting on Russian propaganda and its troll factories for years. She was informed she was to receive the International Women of Courage Award in Washington, D.C. Then the Trump State Department learned that Aro had been critical of the President, so her award was cancelled.
  3. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said that he voted against the House resolution condemning bigotry and hate because its wording, “.  .  .  suggests America’s House of Representatives cares about virtually everyone except Christians and Caucasians.”

Sourced from Daily Kos and The Washington Post. You can look it up.

Click to join me on March 23 for this fascinating and informative event.

              ————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Time to Chill?


Reading time – 3:47; Viewing time – 5:19  .  .  .

For at least three years some have been saying to ignore what he says and to focus instead on what he does.  Pay attention, they say, to policy stuff, actions that have impact, and ignore the stupid – even false – things he says. Just chill.

That sounds like good counsel and I’ve tried to follow it. Alas, there is no escaping that words have power to drive people to action. And some actions are brutal and even murderous.

Michelle Goldberg wrote in the New York Times, “.  .  .  Trump is a racist. This should be clear to all people of good faith, given that Trump was a leading figure in the birther movement, defended white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville, and claimed he couldn’t get a fair hearing from a judge of Mexican heritage .  .  .” Be clear that his messages are heard loud and clear by people who revel in hate.

There really weren’t “good people on both sides” in Charlottesville. It may have been just words the President spoke, but his message to haters, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and thugs of all stripes was that they’re just great folks spewing hate and doing harm to others.

The President showed up at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, even though he was specifically asked by the Rabbi and the mourners to stay away. His words were exactly what the mourners didn’t want, but he spoke anyway. His message to his fanatical followers was that it’s okay to disrespect some people, even those in the midst of the profound pain of loss. Gotta wonder how much his constant disrespect motivated the shooter.

What we’re clear about is that the President’s disrespect extends everywhere, including his hateful comments about John McCain, and his acceptance of the torturing and murder by tyrants abroad, with whom he tells us he has great relationships and he and Kim Jong-un “fell in love,” however gag-able that may be.

He doesn’t care about Otto Warmbier, who endured torture and beatings by the North Koreans that led to his death. He doesn’t care about Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who the Saudis killed, butchered and cremated. And he clearly doesn’t care about Sergei Skripal and his daughter, who were poisoned in a nerve agent attack in London. Trump takes the tyrant dictators at “their word” and finds no fault in them. What do you suppose is the message his fanatical followers get from that?

He at last got part of his Muslim ban. Then he tweeted hatefully toward Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) about her handful of anti-Semitic comments, for which she had already apologized; but he had nothing at all to say about decades of racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric from Christian Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who remains unrepentant for his hate. Got any doubt about what one religion is okay with the President and how he feels about other religions in America? That gives the cover of righteousness to the haters, making virtually any atrocity acceptable.

Click through and read this important essay.

He continues to vilify brown skin people from south of the border and blacks everywhere, while at the same time inviting more immigrants from “Norway.” Got any doubt about what color skin the President wants all Americans to have and how unwelcome others are? I wonder if his racism motivated the murderer at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston?

His words incite fear, hate and anger and he dog whistles violence at every rally. He drives division and hatred every day. And he’s managed to get 40% of Americans to listen to him and some to emulate him. That puts the rest of us at risk and you already know that sometimes people get killed. So, no, I will not ignore what he says.

All of what he says and does sends a tyrannical message of exclusion, of “us versus them.” It’s a small view of America from a small, cowardly man, but some of his followers like that and want to exclude others using violence to do so. That’s what happens in cults of personality.

Before someone starts waving their red, white and blue at me, proclaiming in righteous voice that this is the land of the free and we’re entitled to our views and opinions, even if they’re based in hate, just get this one piece: this country was established by the Founders in absolute opposition to a tyrant. This is no time to succumb to one.

Do you know someone who tells you to chill, to just get over it for the hateful and stupid things that come out of this President’s mouth? If they want to know the true value of that chill notion, click here and register to hear the expert speak on the subject. And bring that friend along – the one who tells you to chill.

Watch this now. This is no time to chill.

Click to join me on March 23 for this fascinating and informative event.

                ————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!

 

 


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Apathy and the Big Picture


Ed. Note:

Other than this sentence, this post does not mention or allude to Michael Cohen, Robert Mueller, Congressional hearings, Kim Jong-un, impeachment, obstruction of justice or any of the usual suspects. Today this is an official JaxPolitix safe zone.

_________________________________________

Reading time – 5:03; Viewing time – 6:35  .  .  .

Seeing the Big Picture isn’t always easy for me, what with the constant flash of bright, shiny objects of distraction, the din of self-serving noise and the near-complete lack of veracity from official sources. Whatever is happening, I try to avoid a knee-jerk reaction to the latest outrage and instead put some effort into thinking Big Picture. Sometimes I succeed. I got some help for that last week and hereby pass it along to you.

Let’s start with the key to what brought us to where we are now, the Big Picture: public apathy. Specifically, apathy toward elections.

You already know that it’s largely agitated people who are motivated to show up and vote in primary elections. (Late addition: There is evidence that this belief may not be accurate.*) That leaves us with a problem. Here’s how it works.

These folks make up about one-third of the electorate, but they have oversized influence because few moderate voters show up for primaries. That means that this angry one-third of voters decides who your choices will be when you show up in November for the general election. Worse, in the general election the winner will have garnered only a smidgen over 50% of the votes, so our elected officials are decided by just 17% of eligible voters. But wait, it gets worse than that.

Only about 60% of eligible voters shows up for the general election. That means that the winner of a general election is decided by just 10% of our eligible voters. And because that 10% has a large component of hair-on-fire types, we get flamers in Washington. See the sidebar to the right and link through to the article for an example. This guy is hardly unique – he’s just the most recent.

The fact of agitated people making up the preponderance of primary voters is why moderate Republicans aren’t standing up to obvious malfeasance. It’s because doing so will anger “the base” – code for “angry voters” – and in the next primary some far out goofball will defeat the moderate. That causes moderates to have elective surgery to remove their spines when they get to Washington – it’s so they can keep their jobs.

Did I mention that it gets worse? It does.

The Supreme Court delivered its insane decision on the Citizens United case in January 2010.  It was one of the most devastating and inappropriate decisions the Court has made, because they delivered not one, but two decisions, the second of which was over an issue that wasn’t in dispute in the case. That opened the door to the bottomless supply of money that buys our entire elective process, exactly as President Obama predicted would happen at his State of the Union address later that same month. Chief Justice Roberts shook his head in disagreement, but he and his 4 friends (it was, of course, a 5-4 decision) were blindly wrong in expanding the case to something completely outside the dispute in question, as well as wrong about what would happen.

And that, plus moderates surrendering elections to extremist voters gets us less than the best legislators, less than the best judges, less than the best policies and the dysfunction and corruption we have right now. Ours is a devastatingly compromised democracy.

That’s the Big Picture I see. Now here’s the help I mentioned in the opening of this piece.

Read Jim Hightower’s current Lowdown to see how your pockets are being picked.

Trump’s only legislative win is the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which he and the proponents of this larceny claimed would increase workers’ wages. Apparently, they felt that dangling that before voters would cause us to support the annual $1 trillion giveaway to the wealthy. I know you review your paychecks carefully, so how much more are you getting? Nothing. Nada. And that’s the point.

That piece of legislative theft is just the most recent example of exacerbating wealth inequality and it came about because we elected self-serving radicals to be in the majority. Or should I say, 10% of voters did that and many of the rest of us stood by – 120 million eligible voters stayed home on election day – and let that happen. Clearly, many people were motivated to turn that around in the 2018 election. Perhaps that’s a beginning of change. But it’s only useful if we continue that change.

BTW – while you’re on Jim Hightower’s site, have a look at his clarification of populism. You might be surprised to learn that populism isn’t at all what many would have you believe. It isn’t about torches and pitchforks.

There are consequences to massive wealth inequality and the world has lived it repeatedly. Read futurist David Houle’s current post to enhance your view on this.

I’m reminded of the cynical declaration commonly attributed to Marie Antoinette about the French poor: “Let them eat cake.” There was no cake for them, nor bread, either. Perhaps you remember that the French Revolution happened shortly thereafter in 1789 and lovely Marie lost her head.

The point is that there’s a limit to what people will tolerate – we demonstrated that at the Boston Tea Party. The question is whether we will take action before things get really dangerous. Which leads to how we’ll do that.

RepresentUs is an organization dedicated to setting things right before we pass a point of no return. Watch their video, Unbreaking America, narrated by Jennifer Lawrence and Joshua Graham Lynn, for a clear explanation of what’s going on and what we can do about it. It’s well worth 11 minutes of your time. And if you’d like to see the research mentioned in the video, click here for a PDF download. Be sure to note the next-to-last paragraph on page 3.

Back to the Big Picture: All we have to do turn this mess around is to abandon our apathy.

  • * Even if the general belief of primaries being driven by extremists is not true – and that is unclear – the lack of voter participation is still at the core of our dysfunction. 120 million voters sat out the 2016 election and that gave us an extremist president and an extremist Congress. The importance of voter participation was further illustrated, this time in reverse, by the massive voter participation in the 2018 election and the changes those activated voters have started. When we show up and vote, politicians get a very powerful message from us that just might affect their behavior. When we don’t show up and vote, politicians get a very different message from us.

    Click to join me on March 23 for this fascinating and informative event.

                         ————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!

 


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Do They Even Remember?


Reading time – 2:28; Viewing time – 3:43  .  .  .

In the 1997 movie The Rainmaker, Matt Damon plays the part of a rookie attorney up against an army of lawyers for the defense. He attempts to take depositions from employees of the company he’s suing, but is repeatedly told that the people he intended to depose are no longer with the company. It’s clear from the proceedings that the defense is employing slimy tactics to thwart Damon’s efforts. At last he asks the chief defense lawyer, “Do you even remember when you first sold out?” That question has sad application today.

In Sheila Markin’s current post she writes,

Republican Senators know full well how dangerous Trump is and say so behind closed doors, but they will not act to counter him because they think their constituents support Trump. These Senators believe they need to follow the will of their voters and that if they do not, they will face a primary challenger. They may be right. Notice that Lindsey Graham used to push back against Trump but when he did that his poll numbers with Republicans were in the dumper. It was clear that he could get primaried. Now that he is a Trump sycophant, his approval with Republicans in his state is up to 70%. Instead of defending democracy, instead of teaching his constituents to think differently, Graham has gone to the dark side.

Think about Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and his transparent antics last year. As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, instead of doing his job of leading a serious investigation into possible nefarious Russian connections to the Trump administration and campaign committee, he put all his efforts into protecting Trump. That included his laughable theatrics about an urgent “newly discovered” memo, which we learned shortly thereafter he had picked up from the White House the evening before. He refused to subpoena or even call many key witnesses and prevented the challenging of witnesses who refused to answer questions, claiming a privilege that doesn’t exist. Some witnesses lied and weren’t held accountable.

I understand the self-preservation urge these legislators feel, but that wasn’t part of their oath of office. They swore quite specifically to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Even if they don’t think the President is an enemy, 17 of our intelligence agencies have stated unequivocally since 2016 that Russia and its agents cyber attacked and are continuing to cyber attack the United States. That shifts them from the category of adversary to enemy of our country.

Many of our Republican legislators have turned a blind eye to that. They have refused to carry out the actions required by the oath of office to which they swore and instead, through their inaction, have supported the obstructions created by this president. And he remains the target of a counter-intelligence investigation for very threatening reasons. Perhaps the refusal of these legislators to stand up to Trump, even for national security reasons, really will ensure they won’t get primaried. But what about our country?

These people know exactly what they’re doing.

Do they even remember when they first sold out?

Late addition:

Watch the vote in the House on the bill to stop the President’s national emergency power grab. There is nothing conservative about such a move; indeed, when President Obama did things far less of a reach he was excoriated by Republicans, so they should vote to stop Trump, one and all. But most won’t.

Then watch the delay shenanigans in the Senate on that bill. They will pull every procedural trick out of obscurity to avoid taking a stand. When the delays are exhausted, the bill might pass, but many Republicans will vote against it – or I should say, they will refuse to stand up to Trump. As The Rainmaker attorney asked, “Do they even remember when they first sold out?”

                      ————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!

 


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

We’re Perfectly Positioned


Reading time – 4:05; Viewing time – 5:41  .  .  .

Her husband was killed by a street shooter. Later, one of her sons was shot and killed. Relating this to the small audience brought her to tears – again. The mother’s pain she bears will never go away.

When she was able to function again she started a support group for mothers who have lost family members to street violence. There are currently about 75 members of “Sisterhood.” There could be 750,000 members because we shoot someone’s son or daughter or husband or daddy over 100 times per day, every day.

Some of the violence is due to random drive-by shootings; some is done by warring gangs; some is done by angry young people or disgruntled workers. All of it is due to something way beyond wrong.

Another presenter spoke to the audience about his family of origin. Seven kids, Mom and an abusive step-father who hit with chairs, a vacuum cleaner, whatever was handy. The presenter grew up thinking that’s just the way things were – until the night his little sister went into the bathroom to avoid their step-father’s violence and quietly hung herself with the cord of a hair dryer. That’s what random violence can do to people. The presenter now works with at risk kids, people who grew up as he did, assuming that violence was just the way people deal with their anger. Most of it isn’t done by an electrical cord. Most is by gun.

As always, the grassroots efforts are driven by people who have lived the pain and they’re doing wonderful, critically needed work to help others, holding hands and hugging to soothe the sufferers and to counsel people away from violence before they commit it and that’s good. It’s one piece of the horrific puzzle and it isn’t enough.

The cover picture of this puzzle of over 30,000 gun killings per year shows:

The lack of proper education of our kids for a successful life

Lack of employment opportunities where they are most needed

Our refusal to enact meaningful, national gun safety legislation

Our cultural idealizing and reverence for tough, macho guys (think: Charlton Heston’s “cold, dead hands” speech)

Our slavish belief in the Second Amendment as a holy thing and meaning something other than what was intended by the Founders

A political system that rewards the biggest donors instead of We the People

Our limp-wristed way of dealing with mental health

The ease with which we are distracted by the next bright, shiny object

You can likely add to this list. The point is that there are many contributing factors to our gun violence problem and no one thing is going to cure our addiction to pointless death. Still, some useful things are obvious.

Guns are the perfect tool to kill lots of people quickly. Knives kill, but imagine the killer at Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High School last year with knives instead of guns. He could have killed some kids, but there’s no way he could have killed 17 of them with knives or an axe or any other hand weapon. Getting guns out of the hands of those who should never have one will be a major step toward solving our problem. Refusing to do that enables our truly angry, hate-filled people to carry out their horrible plans.

Three years ago the FBI arrested two men who were planning a race war, expecting to bomb Black churches and Jewish synagogues. Last week they arrested a white nationalist who proclaimed, “I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on earth,” and he was prepared to attack using his armory of assault weapons if President Trump is impeached. He planned to pump himself up with steroids and opioids so he would be ready to unleash continuing carnage. The authorities managed to stop these two nut cases.

But we’ll never run out of angry men who want to do violence and stopping all of them is unlikely to happen. The question we must answer is whether we are willing to do what is necessary to stop them before they start. If we continue to make it easy to assemble an arsenal of weapons of war, if we continue to make it easy for nearly anyone with a few bucks in their pocket to buy a handgun and some ammunition, we will continue to kill the likes of the little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, high school kids at Columbine and Douglass, movie goers in Aurora, CO, factory workers in Aurora, IL, people at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, concert attendees in Las Vegas and thousands on the streets.

By February 17 there were already 43 mass shootings in the US this year. There were 5 last weekend alone. That can feel dreadful and even horrifying but might not be motivating because most it happens at a distance. That’s just how it was for that mom until her husband and son were killed. It’s up close and real personal for her now. That’s the way it always is for victims and their loved ones.

We’re perfectly positioned to get exactly the horrific results we’re getting right now. The only way to get different, better results is to do something about it.

                        ————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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