Military

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 2017 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.
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And another thing  .  .  .
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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.
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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?
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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?
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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?
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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  .  .  .
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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 2017 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 2017 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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Love Thy Who?

Reading time – 3:43; Viewing time – 5:41  .  .  .

At an evening meeting on April 20th the discussion drifted to the issue of our political divide. The characterization of Trump voters included words like moron, racist, ignorant and a few other choice descriptors. The demonizing fell from lips as easily as rain from the sky – or manure from a barnyard animal – my protestations notwithstanding.

It’s just a guess on my part, but I don’t think character assassinations will be anything but destructive, this in a time when more than ever we need to come together to solve perhaps the largest accumulation of Gordian knot challenges we have faced.

Our vexing political divide is the focus of this post.

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Ezra Klein and Alvin Chang did a report on the issue of political identity – our political divide – for Vox entitled “Political identity is fair game for hatred”: how Republicans and Democrats discriminate. They found what you already know to be true, that we politically polarized Americans seem to be unable even to talk with our neighbors who hold political views different from our own. People are even selecting where they will live based upon whether the neighbors are politically aligned with them. And woe be to a daughter or son who marries someone with membership in the other political party.

The dysfunction we see among politicians is exaggerated because we tend to elect zealots; however, we’re not doing a very good job ourselves of even tolerating our “other party” neighbors, much less loving them. Indeed, we seem to be in an age where “other-ing” is not just accepted, but is encouraged.

In my pal Brian Muldoon’s book, The Heart of Conflict, he identifies what he sees as the fundamental reason people are so often unable to talk about differing religious beliefs without the conversation devolving into conflict. He says that it’s because any challenge to our fundamental beliefs challenges our sense of identity and that shakes our tectonic plates, so we go into fight-or-flight mode the same way our caveman ancestors treated threatening saber tooth tigers.

It appears that our political views have reached the same kind of base-of-the-skull level. As Klein and Chang write in their article, “  .  .  . rising political polarization was showing something more fundamental than political disagreement – it was tracking the transformation of party affiliation into a form of personal identity that reached into almost every aspect of our lives.”

It seems to me that invites fight-or-flight into arenas where there are no actual mortal threats; nevertheless, we treat ordinary opinions – like political differences – in the same life-or-death manner we do religious differences.

In the face of this we’re told to love our (“different from me”) neighbors. That’s a tough assignment for we human beings.

Nevertheless, that is the assignment. Should we fail to complete the assignment and get a great grade, our democracy will be at mortal risk. We better figure out how to do something other than fighting or fleeing.

In other news

House Joint Resolution 48 is what we need. It’s what I’ve been calling for in my presentations to groups all over the country since that dark January day in 2010. This is a cure for the deepest ailment of our democracy.

HJR 48 is a bill to reverse the tsunami of corporate and fat cat cash in our politics that was unleashed by the disastrous Citizens United decision. The bill currently has 23 cosponsors; that’s where you come in.

Call your representative now and request that s/he cosponsor this critically important bill. Do this even if your representative is already a cosponsor – they need your support for this.

To find your rep’s phone number, go to www.House.gov and enter your zip code in the box in the top-right corner of the page. Then pick up your phone, dial it and tell the nice staffer who answers that you are a constituent and you want your rep to cosponsor HJR 48.

Do it now, and we’ll slay this mother of our political dysfunction.

Finally, we have a whole new level of stupid coming from Washington. From The Root:

Paul Reickhoff

According to the Military Times, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) has drafted legislation that would charge soldiers $100 a month for access to the GI Bill. The bill would deduct a total of $2,400 from each soldier’s paycheck to make them eligible.

“Pushing this GI Bill tax proposal on troops in a time of war is political cowardice,” said Paul Reickhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America “Some politicians would rather make backroom deals than raise taxes or find other ways to support our troops as bombs continue to fall overseas.”

Let’s see, the geniuses in DC want to send our young off to fight and die for the oil we have to stop using if we’re to avoid hard boiling the planet, and also in order to fill monstrous political egos. As a way to say thanks, our legislators want to tax our troops.

Yes, really.

Bonus Section

Watch this Vox piece for clarity about cable news manipulation and the advancement of “alternative facts.”

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

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

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

Leading By Reaction

Reading time – 4:13; Viewing time – 6:26  .  .  .

There was a lot of talk about President Obama’s “red line” regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its own civilians in 2013. Obama was and continues to be scorched by conservatives for having taken no action. What is so conveniently forgotten is that at the time there was a great deal of complaining about an “imperial presidency,” about presidents taking the country to war without the required consent of Congress. So, Obama went to Congress and asked for an official authorization for the use of force in Syria. Big surprise: the Republican majority Congress refused to even bring it up for a vote.

Now, President Trump is faced with his first foreign crisis, created by President Bashar al-Assad of Syria having yet again attacked his own citizens with sarin gas. Strangely, Trump has done a turnaround from his repeated warnings to Obama in 2013 to avoid any entanglement with Syria. Trump’s cautions followed Assad having just attacked his people with sarin gas. We saw the horrific pictures then and Trump was adamant that Obama not take action. Now, Trump is all about taking action, although nothing substantive has changed on the ground since 2013. President Trump, the “don’t touch Syria” guy,  launched 59 Tomahawk missiles into the al Shayrat Airfield near Homs, Syria on April 6. The attack was only symbolic, in that it won’t significantly change Assad’s military advantage or the Syrian civil war.

The fundamental of decision making is to start by declaring a vision of a better tomorrow – the “why” you do what you do. Once that is articulated, the next step is to identify what you will do to create that vision – that’s the strategy, the “what” stuff. Last is to decide on the tactics – the “how” you will do the “what” stuff.

Somebody please tell me what Trump’s vision is. No, not the marketing slogans he spouts endlessly, but the vision. What is the better tomorrow he wants to create?

Okay, that’s too hard, so let’s go to the strategies. What are Trump’s strategies? C’mon, name just one.

Okay, that’s too hard, too, so let’s name a tactic. Oh, right, he launched Tomahawk missiles in reaction to Assad’s reprehensible behavior, with Trump claiming he was deeply changed by what he saw, which as noted, was essentially, exactly what he saw in 2013 when he wasn’t deeply moved by what he saw and he advised President Obama not to interfere in Syria. Those Tomahawk missiles were launched in direct conflict with Trump’s own policy view and that of his chief strategist, Steve Bannon. “It’s America First,” they tell us, so what does a foreign civil war in the Middle East have to do with us and why should we get involved? Also, what strategy does the tactic of firing missiles serve? Betcha you can’t name one.

Try this: Trump has had failure after failure since he assumed office. He has been found to be woefully lacking as a leader and his approval rating has been in free fall. Now, instead of leading, he has become merely reactionary to external events and has fired off missiles at a Syrian airfield, an act which will change not very much in that civil war and which leads to nothing because it’s connected to nothing. Nevertheless, he will claim that the Tomahawk missile attack is proof that he is a strong leader. Listen for that at a Sean Spicer press briefing soon – maybe already.

Future events may show that attacking the al Shayrat Airfield was the right thing to do to prevent further attacks on Syrians by chemical weapons, barrel bombs and other munitions. It may become clear that this attack was necessary to protect American troops in the area and to prevent transfer of chemical weapons to third parties who might use them in the U.S. The world might prove to be overwhelmingly in favor of taking action against the atrocities Assad creates. However, it is sadly most likely that Trump’s decision to deploy our weapons was actually done to help Donald Trump rally domestic support for himself and to prop up his miserable approval rating.

As the Syrian people continue to suffer, they are still banned by this president from coming to this country for refuge from that awful war, even as Trump has puffed himself up on Tomahawk missiles.

In other news

“Morning Joe” on MSNBC, April 5, 2017

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) made quite a name for himself in 2015 by trying to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal our diplomats were working hard to create. He wrote a letter (download a PDF of it here) and got 46 of his Republican senator pals to sign it and sent it off to the leaders of Iran. The letter essentially gave a lesson about our Constitution to the Iranians, with the clear implication that they should not trust those in the American administration with whom they were negotiating.

“The Lead, with Jake Tapper” on CNN, March 20, 2017

Our national history is that partisan disputes have always stopped at the water’s edge. Only the president negotiates with foreign powers and we stand united relative to the rest of the world. Undermining the President as Cotton did could easily be described as treason.

That’s why it’s so odd to see Cotton being interviewed so frequently on cable news shows now, as though he is an honest broker. Someone please tell me why any American should listen to him.

Finally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed throughout 2016 that he wouldn’t give a hearing to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee because presidents never nominate to the Court in their last year in office. Of course, McConnell was right – except for Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and more (read more about it here). Now McConnell has used the so-called nuclear option to break a filibuster and the Senate permanently so he could jam his preferred candidate onto the Court.

And some wonder why the public’s trust in government is around 19%.

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

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

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

Bus Daydream

Reading time – 2:44; Viewing time – 3:46  .  .  .

In anticipation of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to the U.S. and her discussions with President Donald Trump I was struck with a BFOTO (blinding flash of the obvious), that Merkel is in a unique position – that’s “unique” as in: she’s the only one who can do it – and I started to daydream.

The dream began with the clarity that Merkel presides over the strongest economy within a 2000 mile radius – maybe further. She grew up in Soviet communist East Germany, so she has no false illusions about life in a totalitarian regime. And her having come of age in post-WW II Germany means that Merkel has a solid understanding of the horrible consequences of a country electing a charismatic, sociopathic leader. She knows what happens when the people don’t stand up to a tyrant.

So, I dreamed that all of that and more put Merkel in the unique position to stand up to Trump, to refuse to put up with his vacuous diatribes. I dreamed that she ignored Trump’s fatuous claims and scoffed at his baseless bragging. I dreamed that she talked with him on an equal footing about NATO and pushed back on his blinders-in-place foreign policy nonsense and told him to listen to his generals, who tell him to expand, not contract our diplomatic corps, instead of expecting that we can bomb the world into Trump’s cartoon vision of trade arrangements that work for him.

My daydream was about Angela Merkel telling Donald Trump where the bus stops. It was about Merkel speaking to the world, imploring us to stop this self-important manipulator before it’s too late. She’s the only world leader who can do that.

Then my daydream ended and I realized once again that we the people are standing up to this tyrant and will continue to stand up and tell Donald Trump where the bus stops.

In Other News

President Trump and the Republican leaders in Congress have proposed a new healthcare bill that is so dramatically flawed that almost nobody likes it. I heard it said on the NPR show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me that this Republican healthcare plan could be labeled like the album of rapper 50 Cent, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.”

Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan have promised unspecified additional legislation at a later date to fix this hollowed out program, which is lovely if you like pie in the sky. Now they say they’re open to adjustments and amendments, this in hopes of being able to squeak the bill through the House.

But the bill will send hundreds of billions of dollars to already wealthy people at the cost of cutting over 50 million Americans out of health insurance altogether and it will impoverish millions more.

Some of us want to help our mostly wealthy legislators to feel what that’s like. We want them to walk in the shoes of, say, a 60-year-old making $25,000 per year whose health insurance cost will balloon to devour over half of their income. Here’s how you can help these disconnected legislators feel the pain.

Sign the Change.org petition calling for removing healthcare subsidies for members of Congress and their families. See how they like that.

There are nearly 600,000 signatures on this petition already and it’s heading for a million, so be sure to post the link to the petition on your FaceBook page.

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

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

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

Lethal Misdirection For The Ultimate Goal

Reading time 3:29; Viewing time – 6:07  .  .  .

He trundled out his list of astonishingly unqualified candidates for cabinet posts, at least three of whom have previously vowed to eliminate the agencies they would now oversee. His chief strategist is a white supremacist, alt-right bigot and Trump has put him on the National Security Council.* He announced his National Security Advisor pick, a former general who is extreme enough to have been forced to resign from the Defense Intelligence Agency and who is foolish enough to have habitually retweeted insane stuff.

He put a gag rule on multiple agencies of government and fired both the acting Attorney General and the Acting Director of Immigration Enforcement.

Then the Muslim ban was announced and we showed up at airports by the thousands in solidarity with refugees and immigrants. Lawyers toted their laptops to airports and gave free help to those stuck there. No way we’ll stand for crushing a Presidential heel into the face of the Statue of Liberty.

Trump’s Supreme Court justice nominee is so far to the right that when he was in high school he joked about founding a club called “Fascism Forever,” although The Daily Mail claims he really did it. That’s a keenly important attitude for a megalomaniac president’s Supreme Court justice, but not so much for the rest of us. It’s time to stiffen senatorial spines – call your senators and tell them.

And let’s not forget that Trump’s Secretary of State is great buddies with our sworn enemy, Vladimir Putin, who is stepping up military aggression in the Ukraine. At the same time Trump is removing sanctions on Russia. And Trump has already insulted the leaders of at least four of our allies, Mexico, Australia, Germany and Canada.

We’re distracted by the blizzard of substantial issues pouring from the White House, none of which appears to have been thought through but which, in the aggregate, keep us engaged in a frenetic readjustment of our focus. So, we miss the political coup that’s underway, and that is the real deal, and it’s incrementally happening by keeping us distracted. The open door to the coup is the next misdirection and it is going to have global consequences for decades.

On February 1 National Security Advisor Mike Flynn came to the White House daily briefing and made a belligerent threat to Iran in the wake of their having tested a ballistic missile. He put the Iranian government “on notice.” That doesn’t leave much room for the U.S. to maneuver if the Iranians launch another missile.

That’s exacerbated by President Trump having fired nearly all of our State Department staff, all the way down to those who issue visas. Those now gone were the folks in charge of diplomacy, which, as you’ll recall, is what we formerly used to avoid war.

Here’s an historical reference. George W. Bush came to the White House determined to take down Saddam Hussein. Whether that was because that dirty varmint said something bad about Bush’s daddy or because he just figured Saddam was too bad to stay in power or whether he thought he could remake the middle-east in the democratic image of America, we likely will never know. What we do know is that he seized upon the tragedy of 9/11 and blamed Saddam, saying he was in cahoots with al-Qaeda (which was nonsense, because al-Qaeda is fanatically religious and Saddam was secular and seen by al-Qaeda as apostate) and he also told us that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, all evidence to the contrary be damned. The point is that Bush lied. He manufactured reasons to start a war and it had nothing to do with our national security.

And we’re seeing Trump do that same thing right now.

Clearly, we don’t want Iran to have either ballistic missile or nuclear weapon technology. This has to be dealt with, but leaving ourselves no tools but military action assures more war with no way out. And Flynn having immediately gone public with a threat that sounds a lot like a schoolyard taunt, leaves the Iranians no way to back down while saving face. Alternatives to war have all but vanished.

This is all complicated by our president being incapable of reassessing or admitting he made a mistake or acknowledging that he is anything but infallible and the smartest person (“I’m speaking to myself about foreign policy, because I have a very smart brain“). Just remember that he told us that he knows more than the generals. And our judges. And the climate scientists. And all our diplomats. And all our negotiators. And all our education experts. Call him the god-like Kim Jong-Trump.

Trump is edging us to the precipice of another war that has nothing to do with our national security. The war dead will stay dead and real people will grieve and we will stay mired in the death and destruction and debt. And Trump has his reason.

He will use our mass protests against war – and yes, we will protest – as sufficient reason to declare martial law. All of this – the discrimination, the dismantling of our governmental institutions, gag rules and firings, stealing the Supreme Court, the insulting of our allies and giving relief to our avowed enemy and the coming war itself – all these distractions exist so that this President can become the American dictator. Then the coup will be complete and our democracy will be over.

Click here for more. Thanks to PV for the pointer.

Here’s Robert Reich with the imperative.

Some of the misdirection is subtle. Here’s the Washington Post’s Why Trump’s focus on ‘Islamic terrorism’ misses the point entirely and why it will lead to truncated freedom of the press.

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In Other News

*Reuters is reporting that President Trump is removing white supremacist, alt-right groups including the KKK, Aryan Nation and neo-Nazis from the national terror watch list. Read the report all the way down to the chart, where you’ll see that these domestic terrorist groups are twice as likely to commit violence in America as al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists.

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

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

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

Jax New Rules

amer-united-1-10-17

JUST A FEW SEATS LEFT – LAST CHANCE TO REGISTER – RSVP NOW AND SET YOUR DVR TO RECORD PRESIDENT OBAMA’S FAREWELL ADDRESS

Reading time – 2:47 seconds; Viewing time – 3:54  .  .  .

Safety note to readers and viewers: This commentary registers 7.4 on the Snark-O-Meter.

With honor to Bill Maher for the format, here are Jax New Rules starting on January 20:

electric-chair-2Jax New Rule – People have to stop saying they’re pro-life if they continue to support the death penalty.

Jax New Rule – Americans who demand the defunding of Planned Parenthood may no longer claim that they care about women, especially poor women, and they have to stand on street corners handing out condoms.

repeal-and-what

Copyright Stantis, Chicago Tribune, 2017

Jax New Rule – Now that the Republicans control the presidency and both chambers of Congress, they can vote for roughly the 62nd time to repeal Obamacare, even as they have nothing to replace it and won’t for at least two years – that’s according to their own calculations – they have to take ownership of the healthcare outcomes of the millions of people who will no longer have access to healthcare at all. Furthermore, the Republicans will be required to provide grave markers for these millions, bearing the inscription, “I arrived here early, thanks to the Republicans.”

stoned-womanJax New Rule – Absolutist Bible thumpers must stop their cafeteria use of biblical rules and henceforth must follow all of them and in their literal meaning. So, if on your wedding night you learn that your wife is not a virgin, you must stone her to death and return the body to her father. And when you yourself commit adultery, your friends and relatives must stone you to death.

And finally,

Jax New Rule – Republicans who don’t aggressively investigate and penalize Vladimir Putin and Russia for their computer hacking and selective leaks omj-3f what they found, and for attempting to influence our 2016 election and our democracy itself may no longer wear the label of patriot nor claim they’re for muscular national defense.

For decades the Republicans have been presenting themselves to the American people as the true patriots, the ones who believe in the most robust national defense and who always fought for more money for the Pentagon, regardless of whether the Pentagon even wanted it (e.g. the F-35 Joint Task Strike Fighter). Whenever some foolish Democrat would suggest using some of those billions of defense dollars for something non-military they were ridiculed by Republicans as being weak-kneed, unpatriotic and willing to sacrifice the lives of our brave military men and women.

wp-putin-ordered-hackBut now that we’ve caught Putin with his hand in our ballot boxes, only a small handful of legislators is speaking up. Where did all that chest thumping go? What happened to their boasts of patriotism now that the President will be of their party and he’s in Putin’s pocket?

We all understand Trump’s continuing denial of the Russians having influenced the election. After all, if they did sway the election, it would be clear thatwt-3 Trump doesn’t really have the mandate he falsely boasts of having. It would be clear that he’s an illegitimate president. No, Trump has to tweet his denials of Russian influence on the election because his overblown ego couldn’t handle the truth.

But what of the many Senators and Representatives who are much too quiet now and should be calling for retribution, sanctions and greater protections for our country? Where are they? Where’s that stiff patriotic spine they’ve bragged about since the start of the Cold War?

Jax new rule for this Congress is this: Put up or shut up.

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

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

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

3 Q & As and The Supreme Court

supreme-court-minus-1Reading time – 1:49; Viewing time – 2:56  .  .  .

Much has been said about the long term consequences of the 3 – 5 Supreme Court Justice appointments that will be made over the coming 4 to 8 years by the next president. Whatever your notion of the type of Court we should have, factor the following into your voting decision making.

Donald Trump has spoken recklessly and cruelly by demeaning women, Gold Star families, POWs, Mexicans, Muslims and the disabled.

1. Two-part question: As President, what might he say about Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Peña Nieto of Mexico or President Erdoğan of Turkey? And is that a Presidential role model you want for your little ones?

Trump lost almost a billion dollars in one year. It’s not uncommon for businesses to have a bad year, but one billion dollars? Oddly, he says he is such a good businessman that he alone can lead our economy to greatness.

2. Does that make any sense to you?

Trump has spoken carelessly about the use of nuclear weapons, declaring that we should give them to at least 3 nations that are currently non-nuclear. Doing so would greatly increase the likelihood of America-hating extremists getting their hands on nuclear weapons. He has also said that he might use nuclear weapons in a first strike capacity. Such loose talk about nuclear weapons makes national leaders around the world far more than uneasy and it’s not difficult to imagine an adversary like North Korea (with its stunningly psychotic leader Kim Jong-un) perceiving that President Trump would nuke them, influencing them to strike us first.

3. Do you really want a Commander in Chief who is cavalier about nuclear weapons?

I’m no flag waver for Hillary Clinton and I have serious concerns about her as President. On the other hand,

1. She has some positive traits as a roll model and won’t insult women, men, members of minorities or the disabled, members of the opposition or international leaders.

2. She has a plan for the economy that, while imperfect, will have some good overall effect.

3. She won’t get us nuked by North Korea, nor will she start World War III.

That is to say, our choices this year may be dreadful, but these are the choices we have. We can eventually recover from brutish insults and wanton discrimination; from an insane economic policy that will add $10 T to the national debt; and from Supreme Court decisions we disagree with. We can’t recover from a nuclear war. That trumps everything, so stop sweating the Supreme Court decisions.

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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: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

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

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