Military

How Did We Get Here? and “The Wag”


Reading time – 3:58; Viewing time – 5:40  .  .  .

  • How did we get to the point:

– where ripping babies from their mothers’ arms is tolerated?

– where we refuse those kidnapped kids soap and a toothbrush and there isn’t universal outrage?

– where disrespecting our allies and cozying up to adversaries is thought to be good foreign policy?

– where allowing fossil fuel exploration in Monument Valley is considered a good idea?

– where pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement is deemed sound policy for our children and grandchildren?

– where there could be a discriminatory citizenship question on the national census? The Constitution calls for no such thing.

– where Russia could invade and disrupt our national election and the president refuses to confront, much less punish the offender?

– where the president refuses to do anything to stop further cyber assault on our country and even invites it – and somehow we aren’t all enraged?

– where we yawn when yet another Cabinet Secretary resigns in disgrace?

– where birthright citizenship – you know, the 14th Amendment – would be under attack? Note: The 14th Amendment is probably why you are a United States citizen.

– where we tolerate reversing EPA standards, such that fossil fuel extractors no longer have to report or reduce methane emissions? Methane is 84 times more powerful at global warming than carbon dioxide.

– where picking fights with other countries is considered a good negotiating strategy?

– where a continuing presidential attack on freedom of the press is somehow held to be patriotic?

– where defying subpoenas is in any way a debatable thing?

– where arbitrary tariffs slapped on friends is tolerated?

– Where witnesses before Congressional committees can avoid testifying by claiming “absolute immunity,” an immunity that doesn’t exist in law?

This list could be far longer and likely you can add to it.

We’ve always had divided government, with impassioned politicians at times saying stupid stuff.* This isn’t about that. This is about the amazing reality that we got to the point where, for example, ripping babies from their mamas as a tool to discourage immigration is open for debate.

KEY POINT: Not one of the items on this list is a whine about Trump being crude, disrespectful, ignorant and an assault on decency. They aren’t even a complaint about his well over 10,000 lies since taking office. And every one of them has substantive impact on Americans – like you – and on our nation as a whole.

KEY OTHER POINT: It’s so very easy to pin all that on Trump, but he only has the power to do those things because of a supportive – or at least compliant – citizenry and, correspondingly, a meek and cowardly Republican Congress.

KEY QUESTION: In order to get out of this craziness we have to be able to both define it and identify what brought us here. What’s your notion? Post it in the Comments block and we’ll help one another learn.

FUN FACT: Roughly 63 million people voted for Trump (or they voted against Hillary) in 2016. On that same day, over 90 million voting age Americans stayed home.

FUN FACT QUESTION: Can you think of something you can do so there isn’t a repeat of that in 2020? I knew you could.

Late Addition

I’ve warned repeatedly (here and here, for example) that we are at risk of Donald Trump pulling a “wag the dog” scam to ensure he gets reelected. Now it appears that he’s doing it.

He has backed Iran into a corner with enough sanctions to hobble its economy and withdrawn from the JCPOA. Then Trump complained because Iran said that it would restart its uranium enrichment program, the very thing the JCPOA prevented.

So, he sent a carrier group and 2,500 troops to the area. Then on Thursday he ordered military strikes on Iran in response to Iran having downed a U.S. reconnaissance drone. He called off the attack before damage was done, claiming that killing 150 people with his attacks wouldn’t be a proportional response. We don’t know if that cancellation was actually just a stunt to make Trump seem to be a humanitarian, but since Trump is all about the theater of things, it very well could have been just that.

Recognize that Trump is constantly opaque in his dealings, leaving everyone wondering about his motives and goals, and almost certainly he sees the situation with Iran as a pissing contest that he has to win. A lot of his supporters like his kind of brainless muscular response, which drives the danger meter pointer closer to catastrophe.

You better make sure your senators and Congress people stand up to what looks like the newest Gulf of Tonkin fraud, or we’ll get involved in yet another unending middle east war and a lot of people will die.


*Stupid stuff is the blatantly obvious false or misleading statement. It’s the filibustering of a reporter to avoid his/her question. It’s the whataboutism that is designed to avoid having to deal with the truth or to denigrate an opponent. It’s the whole cloth fabrication that comes in a small throwaway line or a sweeping, dramatic denial of reality. Stupid stuff.



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

Wag The Dog – v2.0


Reading time – 2:55; Viewing time – 4:23  .  .  .

Ed note for viewers:

Be sure to read the Late Addition Comment at the end of this post. It is material that is not included in the video.


I’ve warned of an upcoming “Wag the Dog” move by Trump (here and here) and it appears that he’s now teed that up.

The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln last month in the Mediterranean Sea off Spain. It has been rerouted to the Persian Gulf. Credit: Cati Cladera/EPA, via Shutterstock. Click the pic for the complete story

Trump and his war-drum-pounding national security advisor John Bolton, a man who never saw a place where he didn’t want to start a war, have ordered an aircraft carrier group and bombers to the Persian Gulf, “.  .  .  to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.” Bear in mind that Bolton stridently promotes regime change in Iran, a policy which didn’t work so well for us in Iran’s neighbors, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “It is absolutely the case that we’ve seen escalatory action from the Iranians, and it is equally the case that we will hold the Iranians accountable for attacks on American interests.” Further, he said, “The fact that those actions take place, if they do, by some third-party proxy, whether that’s a Shia militia group or the Houthis or Hezbollah, we will hold the Iranians — Iranian leadership — directly accountable for that.”

That sounds a lot like we’re on track for an iteration of the August 10,1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, a response to an attack on a U.S. Navy destroyer by North Vietnamese torpedo boats which never happened. The story was a complete fraud.

That phantom attack was used as an excuse to allow President Johnson to escalate the Vietnamese civil and anti-colonial war into a full blown U.S. war without requiring Congress to put on its big boy and big girl pants and declare war. That fraud-inspired U.S. involvement killed 58,000 Americans and untold hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese. The important point for now is that we’ve never turned out a president in time of war. Johnson was reelected 3 months after his fraud.

Click me

Trump is highly unlikely to win reelection in 2020 without help and we already know that he has no hesitation to do whatever serves him, regardless of the cost to others or to The Constitution. So, keep your focus on his belligerence, his lies and the excuses coming from the White House for attacking Iran.

That new war will start before November 3, 2020. And our amoral president and our spineless members of Congress, most of whom have never served in war, will once again fail to honor their oath of office. They will send someone else’s kids into harm’s way. We’ll have started another war that’s impossible to end and the Air Force base in Dover, Delaware will once again ramp up its unloading of flag draped coffins.

But that’s okay, because Trump will have wagged the dog and been reelected.

And just in case Trump’s contemptible wag the dog reelection scheme doesn’t look strong enough to him next year, don’t be surprised if he declares a state of national emergency, citing his war in Iran, and cancels the 2020 election. That will be the end of our glorious experiment in self-rule. R.I.P. American democracy.

Finally,

That Trump is an enemy of democracy is indisputable, what with his blatant and flamboyant breaking of our laws and complete disregard for democratic norms. But he’s not alone and I’m not talking now about other autocrats.

You absolutely must read Carole Cadwalladr’s post in The Guardian and watch her embedded TED talk. You’ll come to understand more deeply and clearly how the Russians bent our 2016 election, how the engineers of fraud choreographed Brexit to the detriment of all of Great Britain and how broken is liberal democracy around the world.

Click for the story

Read, then watch. Then take action, because democracy is a participation sport and, as Thom Hartmann says, “Tag! you’re it!”

Late addition  .  .  .

Trump pulled out of the JCPOA, effectively dissing our European allies in that agreement, and at the same time daring Iran to go nuclear. Now Trump’s additional sanctions on Iran will cause that country’s economy to shrink by 6% this year – that’s over last year’s 3.9% contraction –  while inflation may reach 40%. How long would any nation tolerate that?

In most circumstances, Trump does a hyperbolic, over-the-top declaration of what he will build or do and then does nothing to create policy to make anything happen. In the case of Iran, he is creating just the right policies and pushing just the right buttons to start an unnecessary war.

This is exactly what Congress is designed to prevent. Better contact your senators and representative now.

Like I said, “Tag! You’re it!”

      ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Wag the Dog


Reading time – 3:24; Viewing time – 4:37  .  .  .

This is from the Sunday New York Times:

“At [national security advisor John] Bolton’s direction, the National Security Council asked the Pentagon last year to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran .  .  .”

Let’s put this into perspective.

Gen. Colin Powell warned us against doing military stupid stuff in his Powell Doctrine decades ago. It’s grounded in the painful lessons of Vietnam and, while it has weathered criticism for being incomplete, it’s hard to disagree with Powell’s cautionary message. Sadly, we’ve pretty much ignored it time and again.

Not stated in the Powell Doctrine is another of his admonitions, the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it. And so we do in Iraq and Afghanistan, the longest wars in our history. Now John Bolton, always eager to flex US muscle, has asked for plans to strike Iran.

Can you imagine Donald Trump being a calming voice of reason to tether John Bolton to reality? Neither can I. If Bolton gets his way we will break yet another country where we will then be in perpetual war. And this story gets worse.

We are mired in the longest government shutdown in US history. The president is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to overpower Congress and get his useless wall. You need to understand what such a declaration can mean.

In a time of declared national emergency the president has vast powers. Here’s a partial list:

Suspend the Constitution – yes, SUSPEND THE CONSTITUTION!

Redirect money in blatant conflict with Congressional intent

Declare martial law

Deploy our military in-country

Seize control of the internet

Shut down communications (telephone, radio, television, etc.)

Freeze bank accounts – including yours

Suspend habeas corpus (i.e. imprison Americans without charge and without due process of law – Think: Guantanamo in Des Moines, IA)

Control the states’ voter databases

Sanction Americans without charge and leave them without recourse

Effectively, the president can become a monarch. Perhaps Trump will prefer autocrat or generalissimo or kommisar or general secretary or chairman. Regardless of the label, it will be the end of American democracy.

This president has repeatedly shown that he has no regard for Constitutional limits, much less respect for legislative and cultural norms. He’s given us no reason to believe that he would refrain from outrageous behavior following his declaring a national emergency. And with the help of Mitch McConnell for the past two  years, Trump has packed the courts and his cabinet with people who likely would refuse to stand up to him.

A declaration of national emergency, whether for his fantasy claims of crisis at our southern border or for a pending or hot conflict with Iran or Argentina would be just the thing for Trump to consolidate power. Beyond fulfilling Trump’s bottomless ego needs, such a declaration will completely divert attention from his conspiracies with Russia. It’s the ultimate distraction and, perhaps, the negation of any investigation into his possible criminal activity.

Did I mention that this story gets worse? It does.

We never vote leaders out of office during war time and very rarely during any other national emergency. The only contrary example I can think of is Herbert Hoover, who lost the 1932 election to Franklin Roosevelt for his mishandling of the Great Depression. Nevertheless, the point for us now is to be clear that a declaration of national emergency, regardless of the justification Trump uses, would likely ensure Trump’s reelection in 2020, if, indeed, we even have another election.

And that will make Vladimir Putin very happy. His only regret will be that he won’t have any more kompromat on Trump, because exposing Trump’s money laundering, his tax fraud, his obstruction of justice and his treason will no longer matter.

Wag the dog.

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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 that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

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

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:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

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:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

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:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

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:

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

Thanks!


Copyright 2019 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 2019 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 2019 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.

————————————

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

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