National security

Nightmare

Reading time – 2:40  .  .  .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Dumb

A partial compendium of Trumpian Distractions designed to keep your eye off the ball

Reading time – 2:28; Viewing time – 3:17  .  .  .

This is the third post with Trump Distractions included for your clarity.

There is a daily deluge of tweets and quotes that would be outrageous coming from any other President in American history, but somehow this is our new normal. The key point of them is to keep you unfocused from our gravest national emergency, the extensive efforts of Russia to undermine our democracy and that of all western democracies. More specifically, the distractions are designed to direct your attention away from possible conspiracy by Trump and Trump campaign and administration operatives to aid Russia in its efforts to weaken our country.

Somewhere in the vicinity of 38% of all Americans are totally unmoved by the obvious peril to our country posed by Russia and a possibly connected home grown conspiracy. These folks instead continue to be focused on their anger and Trump’s dog whistles. The distractions are red meat and they love them, so this post isn’t for them.

Want proof? Read this book.

Rather, I’m saying that the distractions are designed to pull the eyes of the other 62% of us away from what is hiding in plain sight. Your job is to make sure that the distractions don’t work on you.

The primary and overriding job of the President of the United States – every President of the United States – is to protect and defend our country. Everything else is secondary. The most obvious and immediate kind of threat is that of state actors attacking us. That is exactly what Russia is and has been doing and is exactly where this president has utterly and willfully failed his duty.

You know about Trump’s subservience to Putin and his attacking of our friends. You know about his undermining of the very institutions designed to protect America and Americans. You know about his refusal to lead our intelligence apparatus to protect us and, of course, there’s more. That is presidential failure of his sworn, primary duty, quod erat demonstrandum. Surely, that’s a dumb thing to do, but is Trump dumb?

He’s only dumb if you accept my definition of the primary job of the President. There is nothing dumb in Trump’s words or actions if you think that the President should be focused entirely on doing what is best for himself, his family and his friends.

Is Trump a liar? I quote again:

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.

No, Trump isn’t a liar; he actually pays no attention to the truth at all. It simply doesn’t exist for him. That’s why it’s so easy for him to vomit distracting falsehoods and inanities designed to keep your eye off the ball. That’s why it’s so easy for him to sell out our country. That’s why I post his distractions.

Trump isn’t dumb. Far from it. He’s a very smart, bullshitting traitor.

  • ————————————

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

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

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:

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Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
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Got It

Reading time – 3:39; Viewing time – 5:22  .  .  .

Question 1

In 2012 President Obama signed the Executive Order on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – DACA. He did this both because it was the right way to treat these folks and because the Republican Congress was dedicated solely to opposing anything Obama endorsed, regardless of its inherent value. That meant that an Executive Order was the only way to get this – or really, anything – done.

Last September President Trump reversed Obama’s Executive Order with one of his own. His justification was the flimsy excuse that Congress should create a law about this. He gave them 6 months to get that done and, of course, nothing has been done by this Congress for over 9 months. Why would Trump do that?

Question 2

Kim Jong-un asked for a meeting with Trump and Trump leaped to agree. The “rocket man” taunt and the juvenile schoolyard brag that Trump’s button was bigger that Kim’s were gone, replaced by gracious statements about the murderous North Korean dictator. Then Trump sent a letter to Kim calling off the June 12 meeting because Kim had said a mean thing about Vice-President Pence. Why would Trump do that?

Question 3

Trump slapped significant tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from our best friends, Canada, Mexico and the countries of the European Union. He justified his actions with false claims about our balance of trade. The allies we are presently abusing in this way are in the process of establishing their own retaliatory tariffs on American products, especially our agricultural exports, and China is thrilled with us making ourselves an unreliable trading partner. Our economists and financial types have made clear that the trade war Trump has started will cause the net loss of tens of thousands of American jobs – maybe hundreds of thousands – and create higher prices for all of us. Why would Trump do that?

Answers

Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that his M.O. for negotiating is to take away something the other party has and wants. He figures that the other party will then bargain to get back what they had, giving Trump something he wants in the process, effectively at no cost. And all of that happens without Trump having any regard for the harm he does to others.

  1. Trump took away DACA and used that takeaway to bargain for his useless “beautiful wall.” He didn’t get the wall, but in the process of his manipulation he deported some and traumatized all 700,000 DACA people.
  2. Trump took away the North Korean summit so he’d look like he has the upper hand. What he got was a vague statement about de-nuclearization, so Trump said the meeting was now a go. Kim won’t eliminate his nuclear weapons, so Trump has fooled himself with his own stunt. And Kim will get exactly what he wants: international legitimacy and maybe sanctions relief. Foolishly, Trump will brag that only he could have done this. He might be right about that. But now millions will suffer and the world will continue to live in the shadow of Kim’s nuclear ambition. And all those bad things will happen even if Trump walks away from the summit. President Xi of China loves that.
  3. Trump slapped tariffs on our friends. Watch for Trump’s demand that they foot more of the cost of NATO as the key to terminating the tariffs. In the process he will have shredded decades, even centuries of built up goodwill, much to the pleasure of Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s negotiating strategy – got it.

Just keep in mind that Trump’s self-proclaimed genius for deal making led to six bankruptcies and a lot of very angry people. At the national and international level, abusing people is a really bad thing not likely to be forgotten by those angry people. That will have long term negative consequences for America.

Related to this, see the USA Today piece on Trump’s business relationships with top foreign leaders. And don’t miss the end of the ban on exclusions for preexisting conditions, coming soon to a medical insurance plan near you. What do you suppose Trump wants for his wealthy buddies in exchange for us keeping our insurance coverage?

As always, follow the money.

And Another Thing

Click me for the full story

The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta has issued a report, “Suicide Rising Across the US“. Two things jump out of the report:

  1. The primary tool for suicide is firearms. I’m guessing that easy accessibility and ease of use are key factors in that. Thanks so much, NRA sponsored legislators.
  2. The states with the highest rates of suicide are largely states Trump won. Correlation? Dunno, but it looks most curious. And lethal.

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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:

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  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

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

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

Blustering for Bupkis*

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

Reading time 1:17  .  .  .

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

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

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

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

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

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

From NY Times Morning Briefing, April 25, 2018.

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

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.

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

Jax Jeopardy Game, Season 1, Episode 1

Reading time – 1:33  .  .  .

The category is U.S. Foreign Policy

For $250, your clue: Tora Bora in 2001

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

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

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

For $750, your clue: No

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For $2,000, your clue: Huh?

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

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

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

For $2,500, your clue: Zero

“How many WMDs did Saddam Hussein have?”

For $2,750, your clue: Iraqi oil

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

For $3,000, your clue: Pakistan

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

For $3,500, your clue: Libya

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

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

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

For $4,500, your clue: Bomb them

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

For $5,000, your clue: The generals

“Who is President Trump not smarter than?”

For $7,500, your clue: Neither

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

For $10,000, your clue: Diplomacy

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

For $15,000, your clue: Never

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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