Manipulation

General Kelly Won’t Save Us

Be sure to read this to the end, lest the bright, shiny objects distract your view.

Reading time – 2:47; Viewing time – 4:25  .  .  .

General Kelly gave a heartfelt and impassioned presentation this week, invoking the death of his son in the line of duty. And he talked about what happens to the bodies of our fallen, as they are returned home for burial with honor. (Sidenote: Watch Kevin Bacon in the movie Taking Chance here or via your favorite online provider for a better understanding of how we honor our young men and women who have died in the line of duty.) Kelly’s presentation was all very patriotic, very heroic and astonishingly cynical.

For General Kelly to have used the sad death of his son and our empathy for the general to cover for the despicable attitude of disrespect shown by the President to a grieving widow is a profound assault on everything that smacks of decency.

I, and likely you, offer our condolences and caring to General Kelly for his profound loss. We care about him both as a father who has lost a son and a soldier who has lost one of his own. That stands, regardless of what he has done to cover for our amoral President. And it doesn’t excuse it.

General Kelly is now in the politics business. It is both our right and our duty as citizens to question what he says and does. That has become especially important now that he has formally joined the ranks of the Trump Prevaricators, an unholy club including Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, Steve Mnuchin and others for whom verifiable, obvious truth carries no meaning. Let go of your hope that General Kelly will save us from Trump’s lunacy. That just isn’t going to happen.

It’s easy to get sucked into railing about the distortions, fantastical idiocies and outright lies of Trump and his fawning servants, but it would be a terrible mistake to do that.

You’re correct in seeing all the Trump craziness as craziness, but it’s actually far worse than that. Read Tom Friedman’s piece to better understand the strategy-less operations of this White House – make that of Trump – that leads to such staggeringly inappropriate – and at times self-destructive – behavior. Note that the “self” in the self-destructive behavior is you and me and America.

Next up in your government’s screw-you game is the long awaited tax reform bill that is actually a tax cut program for the fabulously wealthy. The Senate Republicans have barely managed to jam through a tax bill and toss it over the transom to the House to start the process of creating the detail of the next enrichment program for the rich. As usual it’s presented as a boon to working people and no, the Rs would never propose a bill that would primarily benefit already wealthy people and large corporations.

Except that what we know about this new iteration of dishonesty from Paul Ryan and the others owned by big special interests is that their plan will do exactly the opposite of what they claim it will do. In fact, it will strip a trillion-and-a-half dollars from Medicare and Medicaid – that means from you and me and from poor people – and deliver it to the super-rich in the form of tax breaks. Read Paul Krugman’s description and you’ll understand what rubes the Republicans apparently think we all are.

Here’s the key.

While all of these things and more are substantive, while issues of great importance and lasting impact are at stake, all of it pales in comparison to the Russian hacking and influencing of our election. And even that might be secondary to Trump and his team of bandits conspiring with the Russians to steal the election. That will be bigger if it’s true, because then we will know that we have lost America.

General Kelly won’t save us from our rot from within. That job is up to all of us.

So don’t allow yourself to be distracted by Trump’s bright, shiny and outrageous objects. Keep your eyes focused on the truth of what really happened.

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

Un-Republican

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kris Kobach, the face of dishonest voter fraud claims.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Paine Today

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

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

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

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

Click me for the nauseating video

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click me for the article

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harry Potter and What We Are

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Separation Anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clarity From a Choir

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s take this one step further.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Magician

Reading time – 2:41; Viewing time – 3:59  .  .  .

Preface: This is being recorded on the 4th of July, a day for pancakes in the park, a parade, picnics and barbecue and, of course, fireworks. There is much to celebrate in the red, white and blue.

At the same time we have challenges – you could call them opportunities to form a more perfect union. The biggest one of all, though, isn’t about that more perfect union; it’s about whether we will have a union at all. That is the focus of this offering.


Spoiler alert: Magicians don’t do magic.

They don’t make something vanish or appear by supernatural means and the lady doesn’t get sawed in half. Instead, they fool us by getting us to pay attention to something they’re doing right in front of us while at the same time and out of sight they are crafting the part that really matters. That is to say, what they do directs our focus so that we don’t pay attention to what is critically important. That accurately describes what Donald Trump does every day.

He is the best in the world at creating distractions so that we don’t look at what’s most important. He tweets flamboyant personal attacks, makes idiotic claims and acts like a 10-year-old brat on the playground. He lies about easily provable facts and when he’s caught lying he doubles down on his lies. He publicly contradicts the people in his own administration. He promises to abandon our allies, sucks up to vicious autocrats and threatens world stability.

As dangerous as all of his stupid stuff is, it’s actually a collection of distractions this magician is using to keep us from focusing on the one existentially important issue: Russia is taking control of the United States of America.

Seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies have declared unequivocally that the Russians hacked the DNC, John Podesta and voter databases in at least 20 states. They used Wikileaks to make public some emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s prospects, thus enhancing Trump’s chances of winning. They micro-targeted innocent Americans with fake news in order to influence them to vote against Hillary and for Trump. Were any of this a physical assault instead of virtual, it would be a Russian invasion of our country with enemy troops storming our shores and darkening our skies.

Here’s the critical piece: It’s just short of 6 months into the Trump administration and Donald Trump has done absolutely nothing to investigate, sanction or even acknowledge the Russians’ actions. NOTHING!

Instead of protecting the security, integrity and sovereignty of the United States, Trump has fired the FBI director.and he’s threatened to fire the independent counsel investigating Russian hacking. Get that we’ve been attacked and the President of the United States, whose paramount function is national security, has tried to impede the investigations of the attacker and otherwise just sits on his hands refusing to protect our country.

The July 4th flag waving is over and it’s time to acknowledge that there has been a coup in America. Have a look at Keith Olbermann’s comments here and here about this. Then lean hard on your senators and representative to take action to preserve and protect our country. Tell your family and friends to join you on the streets. Otherwise, there won’t be a sovereign United States of America and we can kiss the American dream good-bye.

This isn’t a Republicans versus Democrats, conservatives versus liberals issue. This is a test of patriotism. Don’t flunk this one.

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

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

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

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get to work.

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

Nixon Again?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLICK HERE for more information (PDF)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Not Knowing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you seeing a pattern here?

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking news .  .  . CLICK ME

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

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

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

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

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

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