Military

George W. Bush Rehab

Reading time – 1:57 seconds; Viewing time – 2:58  .  .  .

This is important on 9/11.

There seems to be a surge of warm and fuzzy over former President George W. Bush, so the Daily Kos has pointed out the obvious. Quoting them,

George W. Bush ignored screaming sirens before the September 11 terrorist attacks.

George W. Bush used those attacks to lie the United States into attacking a nation that had nothing to do with them, and hundreds of thousands of innocents were killed, with millions made refugees. The disaster he created continues.

George W. Bush authorized torture.

George W. Bush let a great American city drown.

George W. Bush ignored climate change and his policies actively made it worse.

George W. Bush deregulated everything, attacked unions and the social safety net, and crashed the economy.

With a  memory dulled by time and with Trump as the comparative, Bush might look better now than he did in 2008, but let’s be clear about why he had one of the lowest presidential approval ratings ever recorded: he was a terrible president and we continue to live with the fallout. We are still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, now 15 and 17 years later and with no end in sight because Bush never had an exit plan for his unnecessary wars.

During the 2000 primary campaign Bush attacked John McCain’s war record. You have to be clear that as the Vietnam War was raging, instead of going to southeast Asia as McCain did, Bush had a fine time flying jets in Texas. Nobody ever fired rockets at him like they did at McCain.

And Bush impugned the patriotism of former Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA), who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam. That impugning of Cleland and his attack on McCain tell you all you need to know about the character of George W. Bush.

You may recall that President Obama campaigned in 2008 on hope and change and there’s a reason his message resonated with the overwhelming majority of Americans: under Bush, we felt hopeless and were desperate for change.

9/11 Memorial & Museum

Flight 93 National Memorial

Bush delivered a nice eulogy for McCain, but that doesn’t counterbalance what he did before. If your memory needs refreshing, you can visit the 9/11 Memorial in New York and the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, PA and visit the 9th Ward in New Orleans or just look at the millions of middle-east refugees flooding the world right now as reminders of his ineptitude.

9th Ward, New Orleans, today

So, don’t get all nostalgic for George W. Bush and long for him as though those were the good old days and he was up to the task. They weren’t and he wasn’t.

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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. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people, so:

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Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
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Nightmare

Reading time – 2:40  .  .  .

We all knew Hillary was right, that Donald Trump was temperamentally unfit to be President of the United States. We knew he had no clear policy positions and no moral foundation. For Trump supporters, that was the attraction, the point. It was the middle finger flicked at the establishment and it has turned out to be the angry extremist gift that keeps on giving. For the rest of America his unfitness for office has become the ongoing nightmare we feared.

When he posted his infantile tweet that his button was bigger than Kim Jong-Un’s my fear of his being in control of our thousands of nuclear warheads came into full focus. I pictured Trump in the Oval Office ordering his generals to destroy North Korea and wondered what would happen. Would they salute, say, “Yes,sir” and give the orders to annihilate? That is what they are supposed to do.

Or would the generals each in turn refuse to start World War III? Would they stand up to this petulant narcissist, telling him that they will not enable him to destroy the Earth? I imagined him firing generals one after another until at last he found one who would knuckle under to his pique; then the destruction would begin.

This is an insane and convoluted situation because of two contradicting points. In my heart of hearts I pray for military people with spine to stand up to our tantrum-prone president. The incompatible point is that civilian control of our military is a foundational principle of our country. The military isn’t supposed to refuse orders from the Commander-in-Chief. Standing up to the president in that way is not just mutiny: it’s a coup.

We’ve had plenty of exposés of the White House chaos and backstabbing and of the quiet resistance to this president, but now we have the anonymous essay in the New York Times by a high level administration person declaring in no uncertain terms that people we didn’t elect are working at odds to the president. It is effectively a coup not unlike my nightmare wonderings about military resistance to nuclear confrontation. And weirdly, bizarrely, I’m cheering for the insurgents. My cheers are driven by my fear of the harm Trump is doing to our country.

Understandably, Trump is off the rails in anger over learning that his own people are undermining him. He and his sycophants are focused on calling the author of the op-ed ugly names. What they are not doing is addressing the substance of his/her accusations. Worse, neither is there anyone in Congress lifting a finger to do anything about it. Mostly we’ve been getting reactions to the op-ed from legislators saying things like, “This is nothing new to us,” as though it’s just another day through the looking glass. “Oh, well.”

The Trump craziness and the resistance to it is exactly what is going to continue to happen if Congress refuses to act. We will simply wait around for the next outrage and next insult to our democracy and Trump’s undermining of the Constitution – then the next and the next until there’s nothing left to insult. We can wake up each day with a new version of the ongoing nightmare. Or we can act.

What will those now idle lawmakers say to their grandchildren when they ask what they did to preserve our democracy?

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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. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people, so:

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Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
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Today

Reading time – 2:09; Viewing time – 3:32  .  .  .

The landing at Normandy, June 6, 1944

Today is the 74th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Nazi occupied Europe. It was carried out on the beaches of Normandy in France and was and remains the largest invasion of anything, anywhere, at any time and was paid for with enormous amounts of blood to ensure our freedom today. If you know one of the few remaining veterans of that day, thank them for making it so that as you grew up you weren’t speaking German. And do it very, very soon. It’s far too easy to wait too long.

There is another event to honor today and that is the anniversary of the day Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. That day deserves our understanding.

The more I learn formally and through simple human experience, the more I see how critically important are the fraternal twins hope and caring. We humans crave them both and with them can do and endure anything and without them all is lost.

You can test the caring part by examining how you feel about someone who plainly doesn’t care about you. Likely, you don’t care much about them, either. You don’t want to be in relationship with them and you certainly aren’t motivated to support them. On the other hand, when someone does care about you, you know it and you care about them and are engaged and willing – even enthusiastic – to support them. That’s the power of caring.

The hope part is perhaps more ethereal, more difficult to pin down, but we know it when we feel it.

In 1968 we were locked in a cold war that threatened to end life on this planet. At the same time, we were bogged down in the endless slaughter of the war in Vietnam, with 500,000 of our military people there. Every day we saw the films of the carnage and got the report of our dead – the “body count.” We deeply needed something to give us hope.

Then Bobby Kennedy was running for President. He didn’t have the charisma of his older brother. He didn’t have the glamour or anywhere near the experience in elective office. But he had something far more valuable: He cared and we knew it and he gave hope to millions.

It was impossible to miss the depth of his caring for Americans, especially the downtrodden, the poor. Even his detractors saw that and his depth of caring was what we needed as we struggled through the horrors of the war in Vietnam, the social upheavals at home and the inept leadership of President Johnson. Bobby Kennedy represented hope in plain sight from our miserable, helpless leadership and from our national feelings of hopelessness.

And that is why the country grieved so when he was killed. We may have grieved more for him than for his assassinated brother; at the very least we grieved in an intensely heartfelt way. When John Kennedy was killed it was a loss of innocence for a generation. When Bobby Kennedy was killed it was a profound loss of hope for the nation. And that is why we remember starkly that awful day in June, 1968.

Bobby Kennedy’s death reminds us always to seek leaders who care about us and give us hope. That caring and hope are what make everything possible.

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Ed. note: I don’t want your money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people, so:

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

Blustering for Bupkis*

  • * Bupkis – Absolutely nothing; nothing of value, significance, or substance.

Reading time 1:17  .  .  .

Who doesn’t want the nuclear capabilities of homicidal, fratricidal uncle-cidal Kim Jong-un eliminated? So, the upcoming summit between Kim and Trump has everyone’s interest and hopes for success, with success defined as ending North Korea’s nuclear threat. Sadly, critically, that doesn’t even rise to the level of remote possibility.

Kim has offered that he is ending his demands that U.S. troops be removed from South Korea, as well as ending nuclear testing. That sounds good, but it’s unlikely that he needs to do any further nuclear testing to have full, civilization ending capability, so his offer is not only without cost to North Korea, it is an entirely empty bag for the rest of us. That’s especially important to North Korea’s eastern neighbor, Japan, which Kim’s short- and medium-range ICBMs can reach right now.

Trump has responded by calling Kim’s gestures “big progress.” Therein lies the key pitfall.

Kim wants an end to sanctions against his country and, more than anything, to gain the respect and honor he thinks will be his, as the world recognizes his great power and puts him on a level playing field with the world’s most powerful nation. He wants global cred and Trump is handing it to him just by agreeing to meet in a summit with no preconditions. In return, Trump and the United States are getting nothing. It’s a huge win for the North Korean dictator which comes to him without cost, and that is true regardless of the outcome of the talks. And if no agreement is reached at all, the door is open for John “nuke ’em first” Bolton to walk in and have the ear of an impetuous, self-image focused president. Thank you Mr. Art of the Deal.

We’ve tried before to negotiate with North Korea and it has failed every time. Talk is cheap and we’ve seen no action other than deceit.* It looks like Trump is blustering his way to the same outcome once again – or worse. Bupkis.

“I would rather believe a woman who has given birth to a baby and still insists that she is a virgin than Kim Jong-un.”
Kim Chang-guk, 73, who joined other older citizens in the South Korean capital one recent weekend to protest the inter-Korean summit meeting.

From NY Times Morning Briefing, April 25, 2018.

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Ed. note: I don’t want your money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people, so:

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  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 to be better informed.

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

Jax Jeopardy Game, Season 1, Episode 1

Reading time – 1:33  .  .  .

The category is U.S. Foreign Policy

For $250, your clue: Tora Bora in 2001

“Where and when did U.S. Special Forces and CIA operatives have Osama bin Laden trapped, when President George W. Bush refused to commit the necessary forces to capture bin Laden and, thus, allowed him to escape? We’re still wondering why.”

For $500, your clue: To catch Osama bin Laden

“What was the reason given for the full scale invasion of Afghanistan?”

For $750, your clue: No

“Was bin Laden in Afghanistan when the U.S. invaded?”

For $1,000, your clue: To close down terrorist training facilities

“What was the next stated reason for continuing the war in Afghanistan?”

For $1,250, your clue: To defeat the Taliban

“What was the next stated reason for continuing the war in Afghanistan?”

For $1,500, your clue: To establish democracy

“What was the next stated reason for continuing the war in Afghanistan?”

For $1,750, your clue: To train Afghani troops

“What was the next stated reason for continuing the war in Afghanistan?”

For $2,000, your clue: Huh?

“What was the next stated reason for continuing the war in Afghanistan?”

For $2,250, your clue: A string of lies

“What was the justification for the U.S. invasion of Iraq?”

For $2,500, your clue: Zero

“How many WMDs did Saddam Hussein have?”

For $2,750, your clue: Iraqi oil

“What would pay the trillions of dollars that the war in Iraq would cost, according to Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense?”

For $3,000, your clue: Pakistan

“What was the first country to be targeted by U.S. drones?”

For $3,500, your clue: Libya

“What is the most recent country to be targeted by U.S. drones?”

For $4,000, your clue: There isn’t one

“What is the plan for U.S. military disengagement from the middle east?”

For $4,500, your clue: Bomb them

“What is John Bolton’s solution for everything?”

For $5,000, your clue: The generals

“Who is President Trump not smarter than?”

For $7,500, your clue: Neither

“Who has the best plan for dealing with North Korea and Iran, Trump or Bolton?”

For $10,000, your clue: Diplomacy

“What do both Trump and Bolton not understand and refuse to use as the primary tool of U.S. foreign policy?”

For $15,000, your clue: Never

“When will the U.S. no longer be at war?”

For $20,000 and the Foreign Policy Championship, your clue: China

“As a result of self-defeating U.S. foreign policies, which country will own this century?”

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

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

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

Reality

Reading time – 4:46; Viewing time – 7:03  .  .  .

My pal John Calia comments now and again on these posts and he recently declared me to be a far left liberal. “Not so!” I protested, and proceeded to show him a bunch of my views on issues about which the vast majority of Americans agree. For example,

We want sensible gun safety legislation.

We want big money out of our politics.

The wealthy should pay their fair share – and it’s more than they’re paying now.

We oppose privatization of Social Security.

The Earth is warming at a dramatic pace and humans are a key driver of that. We need a climate moon shot if we’re to be able to live in what are now our coastal cities.

Russia is not our friend and we must take action to protect our democracy.

Stop lying to us about “trickle-down economics.” We’ve seen this movie over and over for 40 years and we know how it ends, and it’s not well for almost all of us. Instead of the same old stupid stuff, do something that actually helps the lower 99%, like,

Pass an infrastructure bill to rebuild America.

No more unnecessary wars – and stop the ones we’re in.

There is lots more, but my notions seem to coincide with middlin’ views, methinks. John challenged me to take the quiz on the Pew Research site, so I did. Lo and behold, they say I’m a Solid Liberal, along with 15% of the American public. That’s far left, not centrist. I could look for a second opinion, but that feels more like a desperate attempt to prove I’m right, rather than just accepting reality. My friend Ozzie sensibly instructs, “Reality always wins. Our job is to get in touch with it.” Inconvenient, perhaps, but he’s right.

Annoyingly, there is a lot about our current reality that plagues us and we better get in touch with it. You know about the reality of the Trump craziness that pits Americans against one another and focuses on outrage and petty victimization, while creating roadblocks to accomplishing anything to deal with our vexing problems.

At the same time, though, Trump enjoys huge support from ordinary Americans, irrespective of his terrible job performance rating (that’s down to 36.9%). That support leads to Congressional spinelessness, Senators McCain, Corker and Flake notwithstanding. Indeed, the legislators in Congress who live in scandalously gerrymandered districts keep getting reelected in spite of our disdain for Congress (now with just a 13% approval rating). They don’t fear a challenge from the other party, but are terrified at being primaried from the right by an angry extremist candidate. That’s because we’re living in the era of Extended Middle Finger America. Indeed, as Victor Davis Hanson wrote in the National Review, ”  .  .  .  Trump is a symptom of widespread disgust  .  .  . What created him was furor at a smug, entrenched Republican political establishment.”

Arguably, this anger at the establishment began long ago with the assassination of President Kennedy and the Warren Commission’s apparent whitewash of an investigation. It was abetted by the lies of Lyndon Johnson about the war in Vietnam and the lies and crimes of Richard Nixon and the resignation over corruption charges of his Vice-President. It surely was helped along by Bill Clinton’s – let’s call them dalliances.

Our anger was nurtured by Ronald Reagan, who told us that the 9 most feared words in America are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” He told us that, “Government is the problem.” He repeatedly encouraged us to be angry at our government. Actually, we had some solid reasons to be angry.

When the I-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis we were delivered a very clear heads-up that we have infrastructure problems, yet precious little has been done in the intervening 10 years to protect the American people and ensure our solid presence in the world. In contrast, former third-world countries are modernizing at a ferocious pace, leaving us less competitive in this global economy. That’s a huge trust killer for us, just as our refusal to fix our education system and governmental infighting to prevent poor people from receiving good healthcare undercut our belief in our systems.

Gasoline was poured on the flames of anger at government by Newt Gingrich’s madness in rabidly attacking Bill Clinton on everything and shutting down the government; then George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lied us into two unnecessary wars. It was worsened by John Boehner telling us that it was all about “jobs, jobs, jobs” and yet opposing every attempt to create legislation that would encourage job growth. The furies were angered still further by a Republican Congress that was solely focused on ensuring that Obama had no wins, instead of looking out for the American people.

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

All of that is backward looking. What will we do about it?

I don’t have the answers, but I’m confident that what is called for is inspired and inspiring leadership in a new direction. We need a Lincoln to call upon our better angels. And we need insightful ideas that are offered in inspiring ways. Who will do that?

It’s self-defeating to live in, “.  .  . the sublime relief of deferred responsibility, the soft, violence of willful ignorance,” as phrased by Lindy West in a marvelous piece in the New York Times. Her reference was to the normalization of the hate of the alt-right, but the phrase works well for all of our current reality.

Back to my friend, Ozzie. The companion piece to “Reality always wins” is this:

If you want to know the future, create it.

What is the future reality you want? The time to start creating it is now.

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

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

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

Figure It Out

Reading time – 3:57; Viewing time – 6:38  .  .  .

We have yet another edition of the interpretation game, “I think what the President meant was  .  .  .” His “fire and fury” ad lib has spawned no end of pols, politicians and pundits pretending they can get into the President’s very unusual brain and interpret his most recent inane statement, trying to make rational sense of Trump’s irrationality. Listen for the interpretation game words following his next tweet designed to take the focus off the investigation into his possible collusion with the election hacking Russians. Those who take the bait and respond to his 140-character stupid stuff will use the exact words, “I think what the President meant was  .  .  .” That’s the moment you’ll know that listening further is a waste of your life.

It’s so sad that the President of the United States requires so much interpretation and guesswork in order to have any hope of understanding his meaning. Actually, it’s far worse than that. Be sure to read through to the last section of this post for the existential implications.

Thom Hartmann recently asked a question on his radio show, inquiring of callers whom they would prefer as President, Donald Trump or Mike Pence. In this era of expected impeachment, that was a thought provoking question and some interesting views emerged. Here’s my short list:

Donald Trump:

He is a non-stop chaos creator and his actions are dangerous for us and for the world.

Trump’s dalliances with non-reality are an impediment to solving our national problems.

Under the spell of Stephen Bannon, Trump is working to “bring the establishment crashing down,” which means he wants to eliminate much of what we think of as good things, like education, the environment, healthcare, our fundamental functions of government, the press and more.

There is a danger that we’ll become weary of Trump’s crazy and destructive behavior and stop paying attention. That’s when the really bad stuff will happen.

Trump is incompetent enough to start a nuclear war.

Mike Pence:

He’s a serial liar.

Pence wants to make the United States of America a Christian theocracy. Forget about whether you like the idea; it’s unconstitutional. And you better hope he isn’t an Armageddon crazy.

When Pence was Governor of Indiana he was proud to discriminate against the LGBTQ community as though doing so were somehow constitutional. He is holy unhinged.

I have no basis for saying this, but I think it’s possible that Pence has enough competence to avoid nuclear war. But that’s just a guess.

What all of that and more means is that neither Trump nor Pence is a good choice. Still, impeachment will happen before January 20, 2019 (my best guess) – or Trump will resign so that he can declare he’s a victim, proceed to demonize his detractors with scathing tweets and otherwise lie constantly and have his signature temper tantrums.

On the other hand, should Trump somehow escape the Mueller noose, he may run again in 2020 and will obliterate Pence the same way he did “Little Marco”, “Low energy Jeb” and “Lyin’ Ted”. Try these for Trumpian slime-names:

“Plastic Pence”

“Boring Mike”

“Do nothing Mike”

“Back-stabbin’ Mike”

“Drop the Mike”

It’s unlikely you’ll actually have to choose between Trump and Pence. Nevertheless, weigh in with your view of these very flawed characters in the Comments section below. Which one would you prefer in the West Wing? Note that “Choice E, None of the above” is not an option for this exercise.

In Other News  .  .  .

The healthcare craziness in Congress has quieted, but the issue is not settled. To understand where We The People see this, have a look at the Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll of August 11, 2017. Here’s one of the charts from this most interesting report.There is much to learn from the poll and this chart highlights one of the key points. Note the resistance among Trump supporters to making the ACA work. It’s that consistent 30-something percent of Americans who back Trump no matter how wacky, insulting or dishonest his behavior. Meanwhile, a significant majority of Americans now like the ACA and want its weak points fixed.

Congress: Do you hear us?

And finally  .  .  .

President Trump has flexed his ego muscles by threatening Kim Jung-un and North Korea. He’s done that using inflammatory, belligerent language much like a schoolyard bully. Trump never backs down, regardless of how obvious it is that what he has done is counterproductive or dishonest, so instead of finding a way for diplomacy to work, he has instead suggested that his threats may have been, of all things, too mild. All of his chest thumping has been done in the total absence of any direct diplomacy. There are no talks underway with North Korean officials. We have no means of dialogue with them. We don’t even have an ambassador to South Korea because Trump has refused to appoint one.

The President’s in-your-face behavior is happening in this context of no possibility for diplomacy, which leaves few choices to Kim Jung-un. Trump has backed him into a corner where if he caves in to Trump’s threats, he will lose face on the international stage. He just may feel that there is more honor and ego protecting in striking out militarily and causing millions to die, rather than to cave in to the American tough talker. All those deaths will occur because of Trump’s self-imposed limitation that our only international negotiating tool is military force.

And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who refuses to recruit a full and capable diplomatic team, tells us to sleep well. Good luck with that.

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

Tariffs, Afghanistan and Republicans

Reading time – 3:45; Viewing time – 5:00  .  .  .

Frequent reader, insightful commenter and friend John Calia directed me to a blog by John Mauldin discussing the issue of tariffs and trade wars. Mauldin is comprehensive and clear in his work and I urge you to link through and read his offering.

I was at one time an undergraduate econ major and I recall clearly a lecture by my professor, Dr. George Thatcher at Miami University. He talked about tariffs in great detail and showed how counter-productive they are. He was far too much the gentleman to use the word “idiotic” to describe them, but that word comes to mind as I conjure his clarity of description. He convinced me then of the certain backfire of tariffs and I have seen nothing in the intervening decades to change my mind.

Mauldin is spot on, especially as he invokes the obvious, now called “game theory,” in which other countries will not sit idle as we attempt to stack the deck in favor of the U.S. Other countries will adjust and act in their own best interests. Tariffs will backfire and hurt us greatly.

The Trump administration is focused on two – and only two – objectives. The first and most important is that everything is entirely about Trump getting continuous applause and accolades in his reality-TV-show administration. Declaring us victims of unfair trade deals and promising protective tariffs stokes his “base” and delivers a thundering applause line that feeds his narcissism. And there is a complete absence of people who actually know something about tariffs. What those experts say doesn’t trigger applause, so they’re of no use to Trump.

The second objective is driven by Stephen Bannon, who proudly proclaims that he wants to bring the establishment crashing down. If destroying the established order in its entirety is what is most important to Bannon and, by extension, is important to Trump, tariffs will be a huge aid in the effort. The result will not be pretty for the rest of us, but Bannon will be smiling and thumping his chest and congratulating Trump on how brilliant he is. I’m not sure, though, that even the America Firsters will be thumping their chests when we see hundreds of thousands of jobs disappear and former international friends being not at all friendly to us.

For now, pity General Kelly, who has taken a job where internecine warfare in the White House is the norm. Sadly, I think the likelihood of his success at establishing order and, in the present context, preventing worldwide disorder by means of tariffs, is next to nonexistent. Kelly and the nation deserve better.
.
And another thing  .  .  .
 .
Our war in Afghanistan began with President George W. Bush declaring that we were going after the al Qaeda bad guys who attacked us on 9/11, this following his pulling our CIA people out of Tora Bora and allowing Osama bin Laden to escape. One would think, then, that once al Qaeda had been essentially eliminated that we’d bring our troops home. That didn’t happen.
.
Instead, the mission morphed to ensuring that future al Qaeda bad guys wouldn’t have safe haven in Afghanistan. Did you ever see a statement defining that? What would a “no safe haven” Afghanistan look like to our troops slogging through the Afghan desert and mountains? How would we know that we had achieved that goal?
.
Then the mission morphed again, this time to fighting the Taliban. I don’t recall the stated goal, nor a justification for warring against them. Note that the Taliban was composed of Afghans – they were religious fundamentalists waging a civil war in that most uncivil country. Why were we involved in that?
 .
Then the mission changed again to supporting the Afghan military, this with no specifically stated end goal other than, “until they can stand on their own,” something that has never happened in recorded history. How will we know when that has happened?
.
The goal posts keep getting moved and this is by far the longest war in American history, continued now through three American presidencies. Somebody please tell me why we are making war in Afghanistan and how we’ll know we’ve accomplished our goals so that we can bring our people home.
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And finally  .  .  .
 .

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) published a stunning article in Politico entitled My Party Is In Denial About Donald Trump. It is a call to courage and action and I urge you to read it, keeping in mind that this was penned by a Republican from a very red state,

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

Bluster and Garbage

Reading time – 2:11; Viewing time – 3:18  .  .  .

North Korea launched a rocket this week that appears to have the capabilites of an intercontinental ballistic missile – that is to say, with sufficient fuel, it could span continents. Be clear that ours is the first continent to the east of North Korea.

Surely, Trump consulted his generals to learn what they saw as our options for response to North Korea’s missile launch. But given the decimation of the ranks of our State Department by Trump, what is your confidence that he also consulted our top diplomats or our State Department personnel in Seoul, South Korea before launching missiles in the face of Kim Jong-un?

We’ve been cautioned repeatedly not to pay attention to what is said by Trump administration people, but instead to pay attention to their actions. The actions related to North Korea that we’ve seen President Trump take so far include:

– sending an aircraft carrier to within striking distance of North Korea

– parking a pair of nuclear submarines off the coast of North Korea

– and firing a pair of ballistic missiles from South Korea this week

These are repeated tweaks to the nose of the infantile North Korean dictator. It’s likely he doesn’t want to be embarrassed on the world stage, so how do you imagine he will react to Trump’s actions? Exactly how is anyone now safer or more secure because of Trump’s responses?

George W. Bush famously put little stock in diplomacy, preferring instead to swagger on the world stage with a nuke tucked into each holster of his gun belt. He started wars with two countries, neither of which posed a clear and present danger to the United States, nor did either attack us, but Bush did show the world who’s boss. Donald Trump has similar disdain for the power of subtle diplomacy and he similarly blusters, wanting to be seen as macho.

While in Poland before the G20 meeting, Trump was asked about military action against North Korea. He declared, “I have some pretty severe things that we are thinking about.” That’s swagger and bluster and we are left to worry about what follows such threatening talk.

The history books are fat with the descriptions of the devastating consequences to humanity due to leaders who swagger and bluster. The difference now is that within easy reach of such leaders are intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs.

In the original Star Wars movie the three main characters take refuge in the garbage bay of an enemy star ship. Luke says that things could be worse. That’s when the walls of the bay begin to close on them and they realize they are in a trash compactor. Han Solo replies to Luke, “Things are worse.”

And so they are for the United States, as, in the absence of diplomacy, we veer ever-closer to military conflict with North Korea. Should that happen, it will be a humanitarian disaster.

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

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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