National security

Still Looking For the Up-Side

Reading time – 1:41; Viewing time – 2:38  .  .  .

President Trump has made good on yet another brain dead campaign promise, this time by moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. There was a formal ceremony to recognize the change and it included words from a pastor who has publicly announced that all Jews are going to hell, comments from know-nothing, double-dealing Jared Kushner and self-satisfied chest thumping from hard line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Donald Trump on video.

After decades of U.S. Presidents having the good sense to avoid a declaration of Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel (check out this post), Donald Trump has once again trashed well thought out policy in favor of smashing and breaking everything in sight and in the process has managed to jump into a smoldering pile of terrible.

Even as the lovely embassy ceremonies were proceeding, Gazans were conducting a massive protest just a few miles away, where dozens of Gazans were killed and thousands wounded by Israeli forces. It won’t stop – there will be more violence triggered by the U.S. embassy move, because it is seen in the Palestinian and entire Arab world as the full embracing of Israel by the U.S. and the total abandonment of Palestinians. Indeed, Turkey has recalled its ambassador to the U.S. in protest. The obvious dissing of Palestinians is exactly why Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama exercised the escape clause of the Oslo Accords and did not move our embassy.

Once again, though, Donald Trump has made clear that all he cares about is making transactional deals and that he has no concept of strategy or consequences. He’s actually ignorant enough to believe that he’s just achieved something worthwhile.

Instead, Trump has told the Palestinians that the U.S. is no longer an honest broker for peace, leaving them without hope, so they have nothing to lose by being violent. It is what all people without hope eventually do.

When Trump first announced in December, 2017 his intention to move the U.S. embassy, I asked for help to understand the up-side to the U.S. of such a move, because I couldn’t see a thing of value. Nobody offered anything. Crickets.

So, once again I invite you to offer the up-side of this for the United States. Please put your notions in the Comments section below.

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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.

Blustering for Bupkis*

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

Reading time 1:17  .  .  .

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

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

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

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

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

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

From NY Times Morning Briefing, April 25, 2018.

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

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

Thanks!

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

Jax Jeopardy Game, Season 1, Episode 1

Reading time – 1:33  .  .  .

The category is U.S. Foreign Policy

For $250, your clue: Tora Bora in 2001

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

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

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

For $750, your clue: No

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For $2,000, your clue: Huh?

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

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

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

For $2,500, your clue: Zero

“How many WMDs did Saddam Hussein have?”

For $2,750, your clue: Iraqi oil

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

For $3,000, your clue: Pakistan

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

For $3,500, your clue: Libya

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

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

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

For $4,500, your clue: Bomb them

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

For $5,000, your clue: The generals

“Who is President Trump not smarter than?”

For $7,500, your clue: Neither

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

For $10,000, your clue: Diplomacy

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

For $15,000, your clue: Never

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Reality

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

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

We want sensible gun safety legislation.

We want big money out of our politics.

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

We oppose privatization of Social Security.

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

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

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

Pass an infrastructure bill to rebuild America.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you want to know the future, create it.

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

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

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

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

Figure It Out

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

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

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

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

Donald Trump:

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

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

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

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

Trump is incompetent enough to start a nuclear war.

Mike Pence:

He’s a serial liar.

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

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

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

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

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

“Plastic Pence”

“Boring Mike”

“Do nothing Mike”

“Back-stabbin’ Mike”

“Drop the Mike”

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

In Other News  .  .  .

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

Congress: Do you hear us?

And finally  .  .  .

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tariffs, Afghanistan and Republicans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bluster and Garbage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Magician

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

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

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


Spoiler alert: Magicians don’t do magic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 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.

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