Money

Potpourri v4.0

A partial compendium of Trumpian distractions designed to keep your eye off the ball. Click the image for a larger view.

Reading time – 3:03  .  .  .

I just re-read Thomas Friedman’s essay on artificial intelligence and it brought back a question I heard posed in connection with self-driving cars and trucks: How will we deal with one million truck drivers when they’re suddenly put out of work?

We’ve experienced a loss of jobs for a long while, primarily due to automation and, less so but still significantly, due to outsourcing to cheaper labor. There’s a difference in perception and reactivity between slow changes like those, and the sudden change that AI is bringing. We haven’t done well dealing with that long term loss of jobs, so how will we deal with a much more sudden loss of one million jobs?

That’s just one complex issue stacked onto so many more in our rapidly changing world. Nobody in the history of the world has faced globalization as we’re experiencing it and it has impacted us in dramatic ways. Nikil Saval’s essay in The Guardian is a must read on this issue.

Most importantly, we have to recognize the impact globalization has had and will continue to have on an extremely fearful citizenry. That fear has already led to Brexit and the rise of what’s being called populism around the world, both of which are isolationist tactics designed to return to an unattainable past. We have to find solutions and admit that they don’t lie in fictions about a fairy tale past or in an imagined dystopian future, and our solutions can’t be found by demonizing others. This is truly hard stuff that will require us to work together to find solutions.


He’s nuts. No, I really mean he’s nuts. Dan Wallace lays it out for you with a simple clarity befitting a centrist with a penchant for – what else? – clarity.


You know about the Muslim ban. You know about the rejection and even jailing of people applying for asylum in the U.S. You know about our state-run kidnapping of children. You know about voter suppression, mostly of people of color and of poor people, which is done to fight nearly nonexistent voter fraud. Read this report about the most recent effort at governmental discrimination. All of these are battles in the war against “others” to perpetuate control by those in power.

If you’d like to learn what all that “othering”, all that denial of rights leads to, read this piece at Harper’s Bazaar. Systematic discrimination has a logical and diabolical end and you won’t like it if that shows up here.


Speaking of state-run kidnapping of children, that problem is worse than you might suspect. The number of migrant kids in federally contracted facilities is 5 times what it was last year at this time – 12,800 kids. You need to read this piece to understand that more fully. For now, give credit to our government for its astonishing ability to swat at symptoms instead of root causes, to make innocents suffer and to provide disincentive to relief for those kids.

One last comment on this. These kids are being held in “federally contracted facilities.” That means that they are privately owned and run prisons, like our state and federal detention facilities built to house the largest number of prisoners in any country ever.

Many of these prisoners are serving absurdly long sentences for minor drug offenses. Had they been white, hundreds of thousands of these people would never have been jailed or would have received minimal sentences. On the other hand, this ongoing insanity is an excellent way to suppress the vote of poor people and people of color, which benefits the wealthy. And it does one more thing: it’s good for business, like the prison business, which makes for great campaign funding.


Finally, there are tens of thousands of tons of plastic garbage floating about our oceans and the mess causes many problems. Dealing with that is a vexing issue, but someone is at last doing something about it.

A 2000 foot long floating boom has been constructed that is designed to encircle the plastic garbage so that it can be recovered and recycled. It’s headed for its first real world test right now and you can read about it here. Pretty cool!

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

It’s All About That Tiger

A partial compendium of Trumpian distractions designed to keep your eye off the ball. CLICK HERE to see how they anticipate distracting you from what they don’t want you to see. CLICK THE IMAGE for a larger view.

Reading time – 3:12; Viewing time – 4:34 .  .  .

We human beings are perfectly designed to react instantly to dangers before us. That’s a really useful trait when the sabre tooth tiger shows up at the mouth of your cave. That’s self- and species-preservation in one neat package and it’s part of what made it possible for you to be born.So we’re adept at dealing with threats that are in our faces.

The contrasting point is that the same sabre tooth tiger that we know is over the hill but is not currently in sight elicits not one bit of reaction from us. Out of sight of the cave, off our threat radar screen, to mix metaphors by tens of thousands of years. [Actually, tens of millions of years. ed.] Interestingly, our threat alert system, complete with the threat ignoring non-response of what isn’t in our faces right now, continues in you and me today and it’s a powerful obstacle to meeting our challenges.

Global warming is already causing problems worldwide, but recognizing adverse patterns made worse by our climate warming behaviors and seeing that as a threat is a pattern that’s difficult to feel. It’s much like ignoring that sabre tooth tiger that’s over the hill: it’s easy, because we don’t feel the threat from what isn’t in our faces.

The out-of-sight syndrome gives climate warming deniers the engine to fold arms and dig in heels. The same is true of the massive bee kill-off that threatens to greatly affect food supplies worldwide. Food is still plentiful in grocery stores, so we don’t see the threat, but scarcity is just over the hill. That out-of-sight location allows our EPA, for example, to refuse to deal effectively with pesticides that are killing bees – pollinators – at an alarming rate and the EPA has now pushed back its review of the toxin neonicotoid yet another year.*

Key Point: There are many issues that we decide in favor of benefit now, like jobs, money and comfort, because we’re unable to see over the hill to a future where the threat arrives right in our faces.

Click me

There are ways to help deniers to see the threat that’s over the hill and which is going to imperil all of us. Read Chip and Dan Heath’s excellent book Switch in order to understand how to help people to embrace change when they simply don’t feel the imperative. Hint: You have to help them feel the imperative.

That sabre tooth tiger really is going to present himself to us in many forms and venues and he really is just over the crest of that hill and he really is headed our way. That’s why we have to replace our spineless Congress so that we prepare for the challenges that will be in our faces very soon. It’s all about that tiger.

Two More Things  .  .  .

Last week your president announced that he plans to cancel a 2.1% COLA wage increase for about 1.5 million civilian federal workers. He claimed that the cost is fiscally unacceptable, or some other justification that attempted to sound policy-based, but there just might be a different reason for his digging into workers’ pockets. Try out this theory of Trump’s motivation to stiff our federal workers.

Dozens of Republican members of Congress are at significant risk of losing their jobs in the upcoming mid-term election. Imagine the great cry that will come from these at-risk politicians, wailing about the great pain that will be inflicted upon their constituents. They’ll posture in front of any camera that’s handy until at last – roughly 10 days before the election – the president will relent, saying that these fine Republican lawmakers, looking after their people’s best interests, have convinced him to restore the wage adjustments. He’ll magnanimously declare that these Republicans should be re-elected.

Wait until October 28th before you call me a conspiracy nut.

Finally, John McCain was eulogized by family, friends and colleagues. My most powerful and likely enduring memory is clear – perhaps you hold it similarly. It was of his life and message of duty, service, dedication to something much larger than ourselves. It was the repeated clarity that our future – something that is so much larger than ourselves – depends upon what we do today and that as citizens, it’s up to us. What will you do today?


*If you download the PDF from “EPA’s Policy Mitigating Acute Risk to Bees from Pesticide Products you’ll learn that, “This policy represents the EPA’s recommended labeling statements to mitigate acute risks to bees from pesticide products. This policy is not a regulation or an order and, therefore, does not legally compel changes to pesticide product registrations.” In other words, it’s 35 pages of “here are some labeling ideas.” The bees remain at risk.

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

Only Donald Trump

Reading time – 1:10  .  .  .

President Trump has said repeatedly that only he can do various things. As laughable as that has seemed, it recently set me to thinking about whether there might be some accuracy to his boasts. Here’s a list of what comes to mind as things only Donald Trump could have done:

  1. He’s made racist, weaselly, mean-spirited, hypocrite Jefferson Beauregard Sessions into a sympathetic character.
  2. In his mania to erase all of President Obama’s accomplishments and legacy, he double-crossed the Dreamers.
  3. In his mania to erase all of President Obama’s accomplishments and legacy, he pulled us out of the JCPOA, giving tacit approval to Iran to build nuclear bombs.
  4. In his mania to erase all of President Obama’s accomplishments and legacy, he pulled us out of the Paris Climate Agreement and is encouraging the burning of coal and the removal of pollution protections.
  5. He has criminalized asylum seekers and kidnapped hundreds of children.
  6. He has lied to the American public an average of 6.5 times per day for over 19 months.
  7. He has alienated all NATO countries.
  8. He has started multiple trade wars.
  9. He has expanded economic inequality.
  10. He has abandoned the people of Puerto Rico – Americans, every one.
  11. He has embraced white supremacists and emboldened them to ever more public hatred and violence.
  12. He has wiped his dirty boots on the First Amendment through his Muslim ban.
  13. He has negotiated away the safety and security of the United States and possibly the entire world and received nothing in return from North Korea. I have previously argued that any idiot could have done this, but no idiot would have been this idiotic.
  14. He has insulted the leaders of Mexico, Canada, Great Britain, Germany – where else?

Honestly, I think he may be right. He may be the only one who can do this stuff.

What am I missing? Add to this list in the Comments section below.

  • ————————————

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

Breaking Point, or

How Trump Successfully Diverted Attention From His Kidnapping of 3,000 Children

Reading time – 4:49;  Viewing time – 7:35  .  .  .

I’ve been pretty hard on Congressional Republicans in my recent posts, but I’m questioning if that’s still justified. Perhaps things are beginning to change, although Thomas Friedman doesn’t think so, nor does James Comey.

We’ve wondered over and over about which shameless Trump outrage would at last do him in; none has. Not the Access Hollywood grab brag; not the “nice people on both sides” Charlottesville racism; not the job-killing tariffs; not the attacks on our FBI and Justice Department; not his 6.5 lies per day; not the firing of James Comey specifically because Comey refused to truncate the FBI investigation into Russian hacking of our election and possible Trump campaign collusion; not the betrayal and abuse of Dreamers; not the attacks on our allies; not the kidnapping of children; no outrage has stopped the runaway Trump train. Now, though, I’m wondering afresh if we’ve reached a breaking point and I’m daring to be disappointed yet again.

Trump has consistently sided with Putin over our intelligence services regarding Russian hacking. Now, though, The New York Times is reporting that before the inauguration Trump was fully briefed by our top intelligence agencies leaders about Russian hacking and was even shown intercepted Russian military agent emails which show Putin himself was behind the entire effort to subvert our democracy. Still, Trump continues to refuse to forcefully lay the blame on Putin and punish him for his wrongdoing, much less take action to protect our 2018 election.

Is it possible that Congressional Republicans now have something in hand that is so not okay that they’ll stop being jellyfish? Well even some formerly silent Republicans are speaking out. You can read many of their comments here – it’s important that you have a look.

Congressman Will Hurd (R-TX) wrote an essay that you’ll want to read: He begins,

“Over the course of my career as an undercover officer in the C.I.A., I saw Russian intelligence manipulate many people. I never thought I would see the day when an American president would be one of them”

Newt Gingrich is pushing back, however tepidly:

Even Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is managing to counter the President and his refusal to accept the undisputed evidence of our intelligence community. Ryan said,

“They did interfere in our elections – it’s really clear,” Ryan told reporters in Washington. “There should be no doubt about that.”

“Not only did Russia meddle with our elections, they’re doing it around the world,” he said. “They did it to France. They did it to Moldova. They’re doing it to the Baltics. Russia is trying to undermine democracy itself, to delegitimize democracy, so for some reason they can look good by comparison.”

Shifting now to Democrats for one specific point  .  .  .

Having been Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton knows a thing or two about foreign affairs and has a question for Trump:

Great question. Which side do you think Trump plays for? And if you think it’s the USA, exactly what evidence can you offer to support your opinion? And, no, a MAGA hat doesn’t count. It’s just a hat.

If you’d like to revisit an accurate prediction of what national security would look like with Trump as President, have a look at this video from October 31, 2016 – at least watch 6 minutes starting about the 14-minute mark. You’ll find it an eerily and frighteningly precise description of what has happened since then. It’s not as though we weren’t warned.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) is onto Trump’s cave-in to Putin and is poking at what is in the back of everyone’s mind:

Trump is making the world demonstrably more dangerous with his every insult and lie about our friends and allies and with every suck up to Putin, Kim Jong-un and Xi. He is isolating our country and destroying our protections. It is impossible now to avoid the key questions:

  1. What does the United States of America get out of Trump’s capitulation to Putin and his attacks on our friends? We have some answers to that question and they aren’t pretty.
  2. What does Trump himself get out of that? The answers to this question will illuminate all. Have a look at conservative Ross Douthat’s take on this.

If President Obama were selling out America the way Donald Trump is, can you imagine any Congressional Republican whose hair would not be on fire? The volume of the outrage would be deafening. The calls for impeachment and imprisonment would be continuous.

The thing is, in that scenario, the Republicans would be right. Their indignation would be justified. Their red, white and blue righteous fury would befit the wrongdoing.

But this isn’t Obama’s malfeasance; it’s Trump’s. So, where is the Republican hair-on-fire, the outrage, the indignation and righteous fury and the calls for impeachment and imprisonment? Perhaps they are starting, albeit slowly. Maybe we’re hearing the first crack of the breaking point.

The Republicans in Congress have both the power and the obligation to take action to stop this treachery, this betrayal of our country. Pray that Trump’s sell-out of the United States and all of western democracy is the breaking point for Republicans and that they at last stand up against Trump’s treason. Better yet, call them and demand that they do their job.

Trump’s deception, his double-dealing, his breach of faith and trust constitute a clear and present danger that threatens America. That is why over the past week you shifted your attention away from 3,000 kidnapped children; Trump is a master of distraction. Stay focused on democracy, because worse distraction is on the way and you may be tempted to forget Helsinki by next week. Don’t do it – for the sake of our democracy.

  • ————————————

    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!

If Only Someone Could Name One

Reading time – 2:15  .  .  .

It’s time to focus on Trump’s policies and policy actions and what they mean to us.

“America First” is more a campaign bumper sticker than a strategy, so that’s not a helpful guide. All I’ve been able to find are Trump’s various tactics to accomplish  .  .  .  something. Here are some examples.

I can’t name Trump’s foreign affairs policy. I do know that:

He moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thereby shoving a big U.S. thumb in the eye of all Palestinians and most Arabs and further undermining the possibility of lasting peace in the region. And he pissed off a lot of Muslims, creating a new recruiting poster for ISIS and al Qaeda. Not helpful to us.

He fired off a bunch of missiles at Syria, killing many people while avoiding hitting many of Assad’s chemical weapon stockpiles and production facilities, so the multi-million dollar fireworks show was essentially no help in stopping Assad from gassing his people. We did make some more fervent enemies.

He continues to play softball with Putin and his oligarchs, even after all the plain, visible evidence that Russia, an avowed enemy of the United States, cyber-attacked America. You fill in the blanks as to what that means to our democracy.

I can’t name Trump’s economic policy. I do know that:

He has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum coming from some of our closest allies and trading partners (the EU, Canada, Mexico), incentivizing them to retaliate. That is to say, he’s started a trade war. It is forecast to raise prices in the U.S. and cost many thousands of American jobs. And that makes Putin smile.

During the 2016 election campaign Trump promised to bring jobs back from China. He recently visited with President Xi and oddly declared that ZTE, manufacturer of cheap cell phones that China uses to spy on America, had a problem and we had to support them and save 70,000 jobs – in China. Immediately thereafter China made a $500 million cash infusion to Trump’s private resort project in Indonesia. The results are fewer American jobs and unlawful emoluments for the president, which further erodes our system of justice.

Trump enthusiastically promoted and signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which decreases federal taxes for most people for a short while and lowers taxes for corporations in perpetuity. 83% of the personal tax savings go to the super-wealthy and the Act will create $1.5 trillion of national debt. Do the math for your kids.

I don’t know what Trump’s civil and voting rights policy is. I do know that:

One of his first acts as President was to create the Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity and make former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach its lead. Both the charter of the committee and Kobach’s personal purpose are to end the non-existent scourge of voter fraud by preventing lawful but poor or non-white U.S. citizens from voting.

Trump has tried three times to prevent Muslims from entering the U.S. That’s a subversion of the First Amendment protection of freedom of religion.

Trump’s immigration practices are designed to prevent anyone but white, European Christians from entering the U.S. To enforce this, he has instituted the practice of ripping thousands of children from their parents when they show up at our southern border to apply for entry. Are you okay with that, Mom?

And of course there is Trump’s tweeted temper tantrum against Samantha Bee for her crude statement about Ivanka, matched with his complete absence of criticism of Roseanne Barr for her most recent racial slur. Apparently, bad mouthing Ivanka is inexcusable, but racial hate speech is okay anytime.

I can’t name Trump’s policy regarding preserving and protecting our democracy. I do know that:

He has carried on an unrelenting demonizing of our system of justice and the agencies that ensure that we are safe, like the Justice Department and the FBI, this for his stated purpose of undermining public confidence in those agencies.

He has attacked our press with his stated purpose of undermining pubic confidence in our Fourth Estate so that the American people won’t believe negative reporting about Trump.

There’s just a snapshot in understated terms of Trump’s policies. My promise to you is that I’ll henceforth do my level best to avoid reactions to Trump’s temper tantrum tweets and his constant stream of lies. Instead, I will focus exclusively on preserving our democracy and on his policies. Now, if only someone could name one of those policies  .  .  .

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

An Astonishing Ability To Do The Wrong Thing

Reading time – 75 seconds  .  .  .

Pathetic that he needed such notes. Note, too, the “45” on the cuff. Sad.

Russia invaded Ukraine so Obama put sanctions on them. Trump removed them.

17 people were murdered in Florida. Trump said congratulations to the first responders and told Jeff Sessions to look into prosecuting Hillary.

Kim Jong-Un launched a ballistic missile. Trump insulted him and indirectly dared him to do worse.

The FBI indicted 13 Russian hackers. Trump congratulated himself.

Trump bellowed that Mexico will pay for his wall. Now Trump demands payment from Congress (i.e. you and me).

Trump promised to protect the Dreamers. Trump pulled the rug out from under the Dreamers by removing executive order protection and now uses them as pawns.

Trump promised protection and even expansion of Social Security and Medicare. Trump signed a tax bill that is the first step to privatizing and limiting both of those programs.

Congress passed a law to sanction Russia which Trump signed. Proof of Russian hacking was offered (yet again) and Trump refused to sanction Russia as required by law.

Trump repeatedly meets with Russian leaders without any American present, not even a translator.

Trump promised to isolate himself from his business interests. That never happened and he continues his self-aggrandizement by charging hundreds of millions of dollars for security and transportation to Mar-a-Lago and Trump Tower. And Trump gets foreign dignitaries to stay in his hotels.

Trump held a “listening session” with survivors of mass shootings. It is astonishing that he had to bring a cheat-sheet along to know what to say (see the picture). Worse, he proposed arming teachers with guns, right in line with the NRA’s solution for increased gun sales. And what could be better than crossfire in the hallway of the school?

Of course, this list could go on and on, but the most important point is that Trump is not just completely untrustworthy; he is imperiling us. His hollow words to survivors won’t bring any safety to students or anyone else. And he is imperiling the United States by failing his primary responsibility to protect and defend our country. Tom Friedman’s article on this is mandatory reading.

Unlike Trump, I’m doing something for our safety. Mark your calendar on March 24 to join the national student protest. Then review this post and send a link to at least 10 others.

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

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

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

The “T” Word

Reading time – 3:13; Viewing time – 4:18  .  .  .

In Brené Brown’s new book, Braving the Wilderness, she quotes Harry G. Frankfurt in differentiating between liars and bullshitters. The liar rejects the authority of the truth; the bullshitter pays no attention to the truth at all. She also quotes Brandolini’s Law: “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”


The BS effrontery was plain for all to see on January 30, as the President of the United States delivered the Constitutionally required report to Congress on the state of the union. The president delivered his practiced applause lines and – horror of horrors! – the Democrats did not stand and applaud.

Now, this is the reality show president, so for him to experience an absence of fawning adulation must have been terribly painful. Indeed, the next day he put his hurt feelings on his sleeve.

This from NBC News:

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday called Democrats’ stone-faced reaction to his State of the Union address last week “treasonous” and “un-American” during a visit to a manufacturing plant in Cincinnati.

Trump described Republicans as “going totally crazy wild” during his remarks last Tuesday, while expression-less Democrats remained seated for the majority of the speech. “They were like death,” Trump lamented. “And un-American. Un-American.”

But their reaction, he said, was also something much worse.

Vaguely noting that “someone” called the Democrats’ reactions “‘treasonous,'” Trump said he agreed. “I mean, yeah, I guess. Why not? … Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

Definition: treason – the crime of betraying one’s country.

Apparently, failing to applaud Trump is the same as betraying one’s country, at least in the mind of the Great Thought Mangler. Is it possible, though, that treason is flowing from a different source? Wouldn’t undermining the fundamentals of our country be treasonous?

Some examples:

From The Onion, of course! Consider this as a placeholder for all the betrayals of this administration

  • – Violating the separation of powers
  • – Attacking the Justice Department, the FBI and the press in order to undermine an investigation
  • – Bringing to the inner circle of the White House people who CANNOT GET A SECURITY CLEARANCE, at least one of whom has been targeted by a Chinese influence operation and several of whom put themselves in a position to be blackmailed by foreign powers – and they all had access to top secret information
  • – Refusing to be loyal to allies and sucking up to tyrants, both large and small
  • – Threatening nuclear annihilation
  • – Double-crossing Dreamers and CHIPs kids
  • – Abandoning the people of Puerto Rico
  • – Blatantly disregarding the emoluments clause, making millions for himself, and
  • – Failing to protect and defend this country against invasion by a hostile foreign power

Not one of these actions is partisan in nature or even a policy issue and none is in dispute. Each is in direct opposition to the welfare of this nation and every one is poison to democracy. They are simple questions of right versus wrong, patriotic versus treasonous. This is about betraying one’s country.

From How Democracies Die:

Click to watch the interview of former DNI James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan about the Russian invasion of America.

“An essential test for democracies is not whether such [authoritarian] figures emerge but whether political leaders, and especially political parties, work to prevent them from gaining power in the first place.”

Congress, you miserably failed the first test. Protecting the FBI and the Justice Department may be the last chance to stand up and fulfill your oath of office. The only question is whether you will wake up to your responsibility to protect and defend the Constitution and intercede to stop treason, the betrayal of our country.

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

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

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

Placating the Haters

Reading time – 1:38 seconds; Viewing time – 2:19  .  .  .

Click for the story and video on CNN

The recent massacre in Charlottesville, Virginia brought out the worst of Donald Trump – again. Here’s coverage from CNN quoting Trump’s speech:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” Trump said during a short statement from his private golf club in New Jersey. “It has been going on for a long time in our country — not Donald trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.”

The President did not mention white nationalists and the alt-right movement in his remarks, and later called for a “study” of the “situation.” [emphasis added]

Once again Trump failed to apply the words “racist” and “racism” and “antisemitism” and”bigotry” and “violence” solely to the white supremacists, where it belongs. Once again he has failed to call out the haters, except this time he made them sound as though they’re equivalent to those who object to and protest the hatred. Yes, he equated those protesting hate with a murderer in a silver Dodge Charger and the skinheads across the street.

Trump has claimed that he’s the least racist person you’ve ever seen, but he discriminated against blacks in his New York buildings. He was happy to have David Duke’s endorsement and had to be pressured into disowning it. He’s called Mexicans rapists and tried to exclude all Muslims from America. Perhaps it’s his bigotry that causes him to issue mealy-mouth, disingenuous statements about those who harm innocents who aren’t of Christian European ancestry.

Or maybe it’s because this president’s ratings are in the tank – he only has support from 37% of Americans – his “base” – and he can’t afford to lose any more popular support, so he continues to placate the haters. That is to say, once again, he’s made it all about Trump, the president with absolutely no sense of morality and no purpose other than self-aggrandizement, all this as our people bleed in the street.

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

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get to work.

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

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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