Patriotism

The Indispensable Nation


Reading time – 3:56  .  .  .

It’s time to take a break from talk of impeachment, contempt of Congess citations, subpoenas, obstruction of justice, picking a fight with Iran and the unending daily tsunami of outrageous behavior – not because those things aren’t important, but because there are other critically important things to consider that are easy to overlook because of our continuing self-inflicted reign of terror. A 50,000 foot view is one of those things.

George Packer wrote a piece for The Atlantic this month entitled “Elegy for the American Century: A report On The Decay of Pax Americana.” I confess that reading it brought into full light my ignorance of the complexities of the Balkan war, the complicated rivalries and borders, the centuries old grievances. More than that, though, it brought greater clarity to how we – the United States – have ceased to be the indispensable nation and have become globally unreliable.

– We now disrespect and even insult our allies

– We now embrace brutal dictators, the very people whom our allies worry about and because of whom they have looked to us for leadership

– We renege on treaties and agreements

– We focus enmity on defenseless people

– We allow buffoonery to go unchecked, making us the object of international mockery and scorn

– We foment divisiveness and hate within our own country, showing people in other countries that we can’t be relied upon because we simply don’t have it together

The United States was the only major power with an intact industrial base following WW II and we created a new world order. The Soviet Union was our continuing enemy, but they could only affect world order through military oppression. We had the goods, as well as the strength to stand up to the bad guys and western democracy flourished. That’s all changed now, though, because we have told the world that we can no longer be counted on.

Angela Merkel just told Europeans that the post-war world order is over and called for Europe to stand up to China, Russia and the US! Something has radically changed and it very clearly isn’t for the better.

Below is an excerpt from Packer’s piece focusing on this very thing.

“If you ask me when America’s long decline began, I might point to 1998. We were flabby, smug, and self-absorbed. Imagine a president careless enough to stumble into his enemies’ trap and expend his power on a blue dress. Imagine a superpower so confident of perpetual peace and prosperity that it felt able to waste a whole year on Oval Office [sex]. Not even al-Qaeda, which blew up two American embassies in East Africa that August, could get our serious attention—Clinton’s response, a barrage of cruise missiles, was derided left and right for following the script of Wag the Dog. The Republicans decided that destroying the president was more urgent than the national interest, and they attacked his every move at home and abroad. Our leaders believed they had the luxury to start tearing one another apart, and they’ve never stopped. Did any country ever combine so much power with so little responsibility? Slowly, imperceptibly at first, we lost that essential faith in ourselves.

“The American century ended in Baghdad and Helmand, in Aleppo and Odessa, and in Beijing. It also ended in Wisconsin and in Silicon Valley and, maybe above all, in Washington, D.C. It ended from overreach and exhaustion, rising competition, the rapid changes and broken promises of globalization, and the failure of our own middle-class democracy, which, when it was thriving, gave us an influence that exceeded even our power.

“Another place where the American century ended was Bosnia.

“Twenty years after Dayton [the peace talks that ended the war in Bosnia], five years after [Richard] Holbrooke [the US Assistant Secretary of State leading the Dayton peace talks] died when his aorta tore open .  .  .   a woman in Sarajevo named Aida began to experience insomnia. Though she had lived through the entire siege, she never counted herself among the hundreds of thousands of Bosnians with post-traumatic stress disorder, but now, two decades after the war, she lay awake night after night, unable to take her eyes off the American presidential campaign on TV. Something about the people at Donald Trump’s rallies was deeply familiar to Aida—their clothes, their faces, their teeth, the men’s mustaches, the women’s hair and makeup, the illogic of their grievances, their rage, their need for an enemy .  .  .  Moments in the American campaign brought up uncanny counterparts from those years in the Balkans. Late one night, during the Republican National Convention, Aida suddenly heard the voices of 1 million Serbs in the streets of Belgrade shouting for the head of a Kosovar leader—“Arrest Vllasi! Arrest Vllasi!”—while Milošević cupped his ear and goaded them: “I can’t hear you!” In Cleveland they were chanting “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

“After the Cold War, grand strategists proposed various scenarios for the future of the world: liberal capitalist triumph, the clash of civilizations, great-power rivalry, borderless anarchy. Nationalism didn’t make the short list.

“The warlords turned out to be ahead of their time. Kurt Bassuener, an American expert on Bosnia, calls Trump “America’s first Balkan president.” His public performances sound like translations from the Serbian. For Aida, Trump’s rule told her that Bosnia no longer has anyone to count on. Europe ceased being a noble idea when populist demagogues put up razor-wire fences to keep out refugees. Now the American idea is gone, too. [Said Aida,] ‘After the United States’ values collapsed, who’s there to look up to?'” [all emphasis mine]

Who, indeed?

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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Pounding and Flip-Flopping


Reading time – 4:51; Viewing time – 7:30  .  .  .

It’s a fundamental courtroom practice:

If the facts are on your side, pound on the facts.

If they aren’t on your side, pound on the law.

If the law isn’t on your side, pound on the table.

The House Judiciary Committee met last week to debate issuing a citation of contempt of Congress to Attorney General William Barr for his failure to produce an unredacted version of the Mueller Report and the underlying evidentiary materials, as well as for his failure to appear before the committee. Of course, the debate was bifurcated along party lines and what I found most interesting is what the Republicans did to make their case against contempt citations.

They brought up all manner of what they decried are unfair or unethical issues, including Hillary Clinton’s emails, FBI leadership, FBI spying and investigating (isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?), Barr’s courage to obey a law that actually doesn’t apply to the contempt of Congress issue, the Steele Dossier (none of which has been disproven), Christopher Steele’s having talked with Russians, various officials lying under oath, James Comey’s perfidy and other real or fantasy offenses.

NONE OF THAT HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH WILLIAM BARR FAILING TO RESPOND TO CONGRESSIONAL SUBPOENAS. IT’S ALL WHATABOUTISM.

That’s what people do when they don’t have a leg to stand on.

Don’t let their passion or the intensity of their fatuous bloviating or the panoply of unrelated issues distract you. This is solely about obeying the law. That sounds very conservative, don’t you think? How come the Republicans don’t like it? Try this.

The Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee likely feel duty bound to protect the Republican administration, regardless of what some individuals in that administration have done. That’s one of the more odious parts of party politics and it’s one of the things that causes voters’ blood to boil or drives them to simply tune out, believing, “They’re all crooks.”

Here’s what’s at stake in this subpoena/contempt citation case:

The important thing: The oversight function of Congress is impossible to conduct without the necessary information. The purpose of a subpoena is to elicit that information from reluctant witnesses. Which is to say, it doesn’t matter whether the president or his lapdog attorney general like it; Barr has to obey the subpoena and the law in order for our system to work.

The critical thing: What is at stake is the rule of law itself! If Barr and Trump get away with refusing subpoenas, then our rule of law is finished. So is justice in America, because it will be clear that obeying the law no longer matters. Say hello to tyranny.

Here’s the current reality:

Those Republican committee members don’t have the facts on their side. Barr has plainly and obviously stonewalled his subpoenas. That’s a punishable no-no. So they can’t pound on the facts.

Those committee members also don’t have the law on their side. The law is clear that citizens must obey a subpoena. So, those representatives can’t pound on the law.

All they have left is pounding on the table. And that’s what they did during the House Judiciary Committee contempt citation hearings and what they’re doing still.

You can expect the same behavior from Republican senators if a resolution of impeachment arrives in their chamber. That’s pretty much what we saw during the blizzard of filibusters the Republicans mounted to fight anything Obama promoted. They didn’t have the facts and they didn’t have the law, so they pounded on the table.

Critical note to Democrats: if positions were reversed, we’d see the same behavior from Congressional Democrats, although they’d probably smile more and be ever-so empathetic. Nevertheless, forget about feeling smug and disdainful about the other guys. This is party politics S.O.P.

Impeachment update  .  .  .

In 2017 I had the simple clarity that Trump should be impeached because he is a criminal, that he’s obviously guilty of violating the Emoluments Clause, obstruction of justice and possibly of treason for conspiracy with the Russians and for his refusal to take any action to prevent ongoing attacks by Russia. Then I considered what a President Pence might do and I wasn’t so sure that impeachment was best.

The first thing Pence would do is pull a Gerald Ford and pardon Trump and his entire crime family for felonies they have or may have committed. It’s unthinkable that they might get away with their self-aggrandizing criminality, so I changed my mind on impeachment. Now, though, there’s another worry.

Trump has started a march to war with Iran. Separating out his wag-the-dog gambit, starting that war will result in a lot of people dying and suffering and it likely will be a war that will last for many years, just like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, because there’s no way out. It appears that the only way to prevent that is to remove Trump from office before he can fire the first shot. That calls for impeachment, so back we go.

One price of doing that, though, is the probability of angering a lot of Americans who will see Trump as a victim and will vote in a Congress that might continue to dismantle the things we care about, a Congress which will deny climate warming. They will continue the assault on Roe v. Wade, on voting rights and will enact yet more wealth inequality measures. All of that and more are existential threats to liberal democracy and to our entire planet. That price is so large that it augers for leaving Trump in office until the end of his term in order to prevent a backlash Congress, even knowing that he will issue anticipatory pardons to all his co-conspirators.

Yes, I realize that I’m flip-flopping on the issue of impeachment and I don’t like it any more than you do.

This impeachment business is more complicated and has more consequences than I want it to have. I believe in the rule of law and apologize not one bit for being a Boy Scout about my horror over the assault on our moral character that we continue to endure.  But frustrating as it would be to refrain from stopping the subversive criminal in the Oval Office, preempting Trump with impeachment might do more harm than good. Clearly, this is a hold your nose moment in American history.

Click the pic for the report in The Onion

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

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

Danger From All Directions


Reading time – 3:47  .  .  .

Here are some news chunks that at first may seem to be unrelated, yet they really are connected.


“The FDA won’t ban a type of breast implant that has been linked to cancer, the agency announced Thursday. Textured breast implants have been tied to a form of cancer known as anaplastic large-cell lymphoma and have been banned in many other countries.”


“A Kaiser Family Foundation poll of 1,200 adults finds that a majority do not favor the Trump administration’s proposed changes [drastic cuts] to Title X, the program that provides funding for family planning and other services to low-income people.”


“He lied to Congress. He lied to Congress… If anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law — not the president of the United States, not the attorney general.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted Attorney General William Barr at a press conference Thursday, saying that part of previous testimony Barr gave Congress on April 9th was a lie. The attorney general then denied knowledge of concerns raised by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team over Barr’s four-page summary of the Mueller report. By March 28, Barr had already received a formal letter from Mueller that conveyed the special counsel’s concerns and spoken with him about it over the phone.”

It’s the “emBARRassment” of Barr. Thanks AS for that.


“Trump at war with Democrats: ‘We’re fighting all the subpoenas’

“Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump vowed on Wednesday to fight “all the subpoenas” issued by House Democrats investigating his administration, reinforcing his administration’s increasingly combative posture toward congressional oversight.”


Trump-Putin (Again): President Donald Trump said he discussed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report with Russian President Vladimir Putin in an hour-long phone call today. However, Trump says he didn’t warn Putin not to meddle in the upcoming 2020 elections: “We didn’t discuss that,” he told reporters.


On a small stage these can be seen as disconnected actions of the incompetent. With a wider focus, these can be seen as manifestations of a continuing Trump-led national march to authoritarianism and the formal abandonment of We the People. These are actions both small and large that undermine our rights, our safety, our security, our freedom and democracy itself, while at the same time aggregating power to Trump, he who cannot be indicted for his crimes.

Further, that inevitably leads to our loss of leadership in the world – it’s already happening – which will further undermine our security. Read the piece in The Atlantic by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) to get a perspective on the extensive and self-destructive reach of authoritarianism that is upending the hard-won battles, both in war and in debate, the work to build democracy.

The task before us right now is the same task that President Lincoln set before the nation in closing his remarks at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863:

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Were the 51,112 casualties at Gettysburg for nothing?

We are faced with that same question about the hundreds of thousands who have died and the millions who suffered in all of our conflicts in order to protect our democracy. Because if we now allow authoritarianism to undermine what we declare we hold dear, then we will have betrayed them and they will have suffered and died in vain. And government of the people, by the people and for the people will perish from the earth.

It’s time to see what is happening right in front of our eyes. That it is not masked doesn’t make it any less dangerous and it is just as disloyal to our country. Metaphorically, it doesn’t matter if you saw the poisonous snake before it bit you. You’re dying just the same.

It falls to us to keep faith with those who have protected our democracy. This is our time to rally to Lincoln’s call. Read his words again and let them seep into your bones.

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

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

The Nation’s Business


Reading time – 4:54; Viewing time – 7:08  .  .  .

Reader JC wrote in response to my column last week that he wants me to let go of focus on Trump and instead focus on the nation’s business. My reply was that stopping Trump from further damaging our democracy is the nation’s business, leaving the implication that dropping focus on Trump would be a bad idea. Nevertheless, we’re all weary of dealing with his blatantly dishonest and sometimes obviously criminal behavior. We’re all sick of the impeachment debate, too. So, okay, let’s focus on the nation’s business.

I recall something about “draining the swamp,” which would be good business for the nation, but all I see from Trump says that he wants to populate the swamp with even slimier creatures. His current pick for the Federal Reserve Board is Stephen Moore, who boldly claimed that he’s not a big believer in democracy. Got a problem with that? Or his frequent and blatant mashing of facts? What do you suppose that attitude might do to the nation’s business if Moore gets his hands on the Fed?

Click the pic for the essay

Trump can’t get away with misappropriating funds in order to build his useless monument to himself on our southern border without the Senate Republican refusal to override his veto. And he can’t get away with de-funding Medicare and giving whopping tax breaks to already rich people without the support of Republicans in Congress. Neither can he get away with packing our federal courts with young and crazy righty judges, many of whom aren’t remotely qualified for their jobs, without help from our complicit Republicans. Read Paul Krugman’s clear, focused take on this Congressional spinelessness in his essay, The Great Republican Abdication. As well, read some of the reader comments attached to his essay.

All of this is about the nation’s business that isn’t being properly served. Are you getting the feeling that we have to stay focused on both our less courageous legislators and Trump?

Click the pic for the full stupid

Climate change is the biggest existential threat to our nation and likely to the entire world since the dinosaurs were wiped out 60 million years ago. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is my favorite whipping boy for the idiotic denial of this reality. He brought a snowball into the Senate in February 2015, claiming that its very existence proved that there is no global warming. Gotta love blatant stupidity that makes the hollowness of false claims so obvious.

None of the 3% of scientists who claim that there is no man-made global warming is a climatologist. The other 97% are climatologists and, by definition, they know what they’re talking about. They are unified and clear that we are in the process of hard boiling our planet. Nevertheless, Trump has pulled us out of the Paris Climate Accords and pushed the levers for increased fossil fuel burning. And the Republicans in Congress won’t stand up to him. That’s a problem for our nation. That’s going to cause terrible consequences for your grandchildren, so watch here to see how they feel about that. Shouldn’t our nation’s business have some focus on the future?

or in stopping the Russians and Chinese from hacking our next election, or hurricane relief, or infrastructure rebuilding, or gun safety, or net neutrality, or white extremist violence, or the shrinking middle class, or draining the swamp, or wealth inequality, or   .  .  .

Which brings us to my favorite chant:

Q. What do we want?

A. Science!

Q. When do we want it?

A. After peer review!

Our leadership has been allowed to ignore what the vast majority of us want, like universal background checks before the sale of any firearm (about 90% of us) and universal healthcare (over 60% of us). We all know that our infrastructure is crumbling and we want it fixed. Indeed, we’ve been wringing hands over that for decades and we want action to rebuild it. The number of good paying jobs that will come from that long term investment in our country would be tremendous.

Meanwhile, our Congress has done nothing to make things better. Trump has brayed lies about how world-class our airports will be and the vast rebuilding of our nation that he will deliver, but he’s done literally nothing to start that ball rolling. All of that is the nation’s business, but public demand for those things doesn’t seem to matter.

We have citizen super-majorities for many of the nation’s issues which are ignored by those in power. Read Tim Wu’s piece on this and decide for yourself if you’re okay with the majority of Americans being blown off and the nation’s business ignored. Sadly, because these issues are being ignored by our Congress and the president, if we’re to deal with the nation’s business, losing focus on Trump simply isn’t an option.

Frustratingly, Trump’s continuously outrageous behavior gives him what he really wants – constant attention. We really do have to keep watch on this infant tyrant and stop him from breaking yet more stuff.

It’s time to recognize that this situation didn’t come about in a vacuum.

While we Americans aren’t the first to disempower ourselves through brainless acceptance of propaganda, we’re quite good at it. And we excel at demonizing one another and, in service to that, have perfected the art of “othering,” which keeps us divided and weak. Those things happen in the presence of leadership that undermines what we believed were our values and replaces them with constant fear as the driver of our behavior, like fear of Muslims and fear of immigrants.

Our nation’s business is ignored when we’ve metaphorically barred the door and stand ready with a shotgun at all times, because we’ve made ourselves so easy to manipulate.

Our job – your job – is to keep an eye on Congress, the president and DC fear mongering and stay conscious and active. And VOTE! Perhaps one day we’ll have a Congress and president that attend to our nation’s business.

Final thought  .  .  .

In the race for the Democratic nomination for president the constant question is about who can beat Trump. I have a contrarian thought on that positioning.

Watch for Ohio Governor John Kasich to announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination, even as he has little use for what passes for today’s Republican Party. He’s a traditional Republican and will appeal to those who aren’t burdened by a permanently extended middle finger. Don’t be surprised if he turns out to be that party’s front runner.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Your Lyin’ Eyes and Impeachment


Reading time – 3.47; Viewing time – 5:20  .  .  .

The Mueller Report is out and I haven’t had time to go through all 448 pages, although you can do that yourself by getting the PDF from the DOJ website here. Click on the 4th line beginning “Report on the Investigation” for the download. Or if you prefer you can get an indexed and searchable version here.

There is big stuff in that report, including that the lack of indictments of the president is due to the Justice Department guideline that a sitting president can’t be indicted. Also, because so many documents were destroyed by various perps.

Nevertheless, Mueller let us know that he was unable to declare that the President of the United States isn’t a criminal. Stunning! My more chilling takeaway, though, is about Attorney General William Barr.

Barr was promoted as a legal institutionalist, even after his unsolicited, 19-page job application that made it clear that he believed that, metaphorically speaking, a president really could get away with shooting someone on 5th Avenue. That view works for Trump and Barr got the attorney general post.

In each of his public appearances and writings as attorney general, Barr has gone out of his way to exonerate the president. His rhetoric vacillates between cherry-picked, out of context phrases to outright lies all in favor of President Trump. Did he think we wouldn’t notice? In listening to Barr I’m reminded of comedian Richard Pryor’s line, “Who you gonna believe: me or your lyin’ eyes?”

The scary part is that Barr sounds like the president’s defense counsel, instead of the attorney for the Constitution of the United States of America.

In his piece in New York Magazine entitled, “Congress Should Impeach William Barr,” Jonathan Chait wrote,

“The Justice Department is an awesome force that holds the power to enable the ruling party to commit crimes with impunity .  .  .”

We should have seen this coming.

From The Onion, of course. Click the pic

Barr is the former attorney general for President George H.W. Bush. Barr recommended to Bush that he pardon the convicted Iran-Contra felons. Click through the link and scroll down to the Indictments section and you’ll see that these guys did a lot of really bad things, including thwarting the explicit will of Congress. You need to appreciate how significant that is.

Doing that is an attack on Congress itself, and it encourages an imperial presidency. William Barr cemented that by recommending those pardons. And now he’s defending this power grabbing, dictator wanna-be president.

If Barr is an institutionalist, exactly what institution does he serve?

Read more about this here.

And another thing .  .  .

Now that most of the Mueller Report is released, the talk of impeachment is spiraling upward. I’ve long called for the removal of this cheating, lying, fraudulent, self-aggrandizing, democracy damaging president, but now I have significant doubt about that notion.

President Gerald Ford set a woeful precedent by granting, “.  .  .   a full, free and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in .  .  .” Nixon got a free pass for his criminal wrongdoing and wasn’t held accountable in any way.

That is the precedent that Mike Pence will inherit should he become President. That means that our criminal president will likely be pardoned for any and all crimes which he may have committed (think: conspiring with the Russians to disrupt our 2016 election, obstruction of justice; money laundering; and fraud).

Further, if Trump were to be impeached, whether convicted in the Senate or not, he and the Republicans will wail about him being a poor victim, suffering unfair discrimination by the evil Democrats and the Washington swamp. That could lead to another Republican in the White House in 2021 and a Congress controlled by the same spineless legislators who are enabling Trump right now.

The solution that makes the most sense to me is to Benghazi Trump: just keep his wrongdoing in the public eye through November 3, 2020 with ongoing Congressional hearings.

I often have difficulty rationalizing the impact of the bypassing of punishment for wrongdoing in favor of some greater good, but this one looks obvious enough even for me.

No impeachment.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Potpourri v8.0


Reading time – 3:41; Viewing time – 5:10  .  .  .

Exposed

You know that anything you post on FaceBook or Twitter is available to anyone, anywhere, right? And you also know that even if you remove your content it still exists in archives and will stay there and be available to anyone willing to snoop as long as electrons move through the ether, right? You’re exposed. (BTW – click here for instructions to permanently delete your FaceBook account.)

Dreamers were promised that if they signed up for DACA that their information would not be shared or used against them in any way. But then they were betrayed by the Backstabber-in-Chief in 2017. They’re exposed.

And now we learn that pharmaceutical companies are sharing your user data about their medicines through their mobile apps. That means that when you actively or passively report anything about your use of a med and its effect on you, providers can and will send it along to whomever they like, wherever they like and you have no privacy whatsoever. HIPPA laws offer no protection. Exposed again.

Nobody reads user agreements about websites or apps. They are mind numbing in the extreme. Besides, we just want the site or the app and don’t care about the legal mumbo-jumbo. But the information collectors do care. They want your information. And they share your information with others you’ve never heard of. You never intended for your information to go to others, but that’s what happens. They sell your information to others who are free to share it with still others, leaving you totally exposed.

The FaceBook, DACA and pharma exposures of your information make it clear that promises to keep your information private don’t rise even to the level of unreliability. Quite literally, no one is worthy of your trust with your private information. The only thing I see that can help you is to refuse to post any personal information. Not an easy thing to do in today’s wired environment, but it’s better than nothing. Maybe.

Dermatologist Report

In a fit of pique, President Donald Trump demonstrated his perilously thin skin by ranting about Sen. John McCain, who died in 2018. In a 5-minute rant, Trump made it clear that he resented Sen. McCain because he was everything that Donald Trump is not.

The majority of what Trump said is false (nothing new there); most of the rest is simply idiotic, like his complaining that McCain failed to thank Trump for what he did for the funeral, which consisted primarily of providing transportation of McCain’s casket from Arizona to Washington. Trump gave no indication of how McCain might have expressed his appreciation from the grave, but somehow he seemed to think such appreciation should have been provided to him. Yes really.

The “F” Word

For the past few weeks I’ve been promoting the talk by Professor Jason Stanley of Yale University that was delivered to a packed house in Evanston, IL on March 23, based on his book How Fascism Works. So sorry if you missed it, because he put in front of us in plain, compelling language the clear and present danger that is before us.

Yelling “Fascism!” likely falls on ears that refuse to hear; it sounds hyperbolic and is off-putting. After all, this is America and we’re a democracy.

Yet it is irrefutable that democracy is under attack. You hear the assaults on our judiciary, the press, the FBI, our intelligence community, free speech, immigrants, the right to vote and more. You’ll have to educate yourself to fully realize the depth of the assault, which means reading Dr. Stanley’s books, as well as others, like How Democracy Dies and  Do Facts Matter?

Trump floated the idea of his becoming President for life, perhaps laying the groundwork for a permanent power grab. Michael Cohen warned us at the end of his testimony before the House Oversight Committee that if Trump loses the 2020 election that there “.  .  .  won’t be a peaceful transition of power.” How many warning signs do we need before we recognize that danger is right in our faces?

Tens of thousands of Jews wouldn’t leave Germany in the 1930s, even as their neighbors were being disappeared into concentration camps. They refused to hear and they refused to see what was right before them. Then it was too late. It’s up to us in America today to be more perceptive to danger than that.

You need to get smarter on this, so read Jason Stanley’s book. It’s an easy read. I found myself underlining lots of it because there is so much valuable information. Go on – get smart.

                ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

In Case You Missed It


Reading time – 2:10; Viewing time – 3:33 .  .  .

Ed. Note: There was apparently operator (that would be me) error for the email announcement of the Sunday post this week. That’s why you’re receiving this on Monday. I think the situation is corrected and, with luck and the absence of any more operator interference, we’re back on track.


Perhaps you recall George W. Bush’s so-called “Faith Based and Community Initiative” of 2003. Less well remembered is Bill Clinton’s “Charitable Choice” program of 1996. The practical effect of each was to supply federal dollars to religious institutions.

Earlier still, in 1954, we added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. That was so that we could declare ourselves better than and identifiable from those godless Commies, at least to ourselves. That addition to the Pledge wasn’t enough, though, since most Americans didn’t recite it daily; only school children did that. So in 1956 we added “In God We Trust” to all of our currency. We look at our coins and greenbacks every day, so that should have provided sufficient reminders of God as officially on our side and in our laws, even to those with the shortest attention span.

Each of these actions super-glued religion to our government and our country. I don’t understand why establishing religion as part of our state was not un-Constitutional, given the clear mandate of The First Amendment. Disappointingly, this story is continuing and it would have been easy to have missed it, given the tsunami of events last week.

Betsy DeVos is the totally unqualified head of the Department of Education. Her lack of qualification is due both to her near-complete ignorance of public education and her predilection to shift all to the private sector and to destroy her department of government entirely. Her ignorance doesn’t stop her from taking bold action, though, including effectively de-funding public education.

She has now decided to enhance the flight of your tax dollars for public education to private religious institutions. The lead paragraph of an article about this in The New York Times reads,

“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Monday that she will no longer enforce a provision in federal law that bars religious organizations from providing federally funded educational services to private schools.”

So, religious organization X will now be free to use its federally supplied dollars (how come they have those?) to fund religious schools. That’s a nifty two-step diversion to those private schools of your public money that is supposed to go to pubic education. What part of “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion  .  .  . ” is unclear?

Even Evangelicals have expressed opposition to government funding of religious institutions. That is in part on the basis that such action will inevitably result in government control of religion. They’re right.

Last scratch at this itch: In 2012 President Obama unilaterally created the DACA program, which was effectively the selective, rather than universal, application of our immigration laws. Republicans went berserk in opposition. The law is the law, they screamed. The Constitution clearly separates powers and this one doesn’t belong to the Executive branch, they cried.

Where is that same opposition to Trump and DeVos selectively refusing to enforce our laws and support the Constitution today?

Click to join me on March 23 for this fascinating and informative event.

               ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 


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

In The Center of the Bulls Eye


Reading time – 4:49; Viewing time – 6:15  .  .  .

My pal Dan Wallace commented sagely about my last post, Time To Chill?, and included links to a couple of his own posts. I heartily recommend that you read them by clicking through to my post, scroll down to his comments and then link to his essays. They explain in a compelling fashion what’s critically important and what you know in your bones to be true.

He ended his comments saying that he’s sad that we are where we are and he supposed that I am, too. Here’s how I replied:

Sad, yes. And more. Here’s a short story to illustrate.

The gorilla sat calmly in his habitat, separated from the visitors at the zoo by a wide and deep moat. A child climbed the fence and was on the top of the moat wall on the gorilla’s side of the fence. That’s when the gorilla stood up and bellowed, beat his chest and jumped up and down, scaring the child back to where he belonged.

When our security and our identity are challenged it’s right for us to be angry and on the offense. That has nothing to do with sad; it’s about appropriate aggressiveness to protect what we hold dear.

That’s the job before us right now – to protect what we hold dear.

Here’s a set of 4 tweets from Paul Krugman, posted on January 18, 2019:

“A thought about where we are as a nation: We’re living in the age of unsurprising revelation. Is there anyone who doesn’t already believe that Trump-Putin-treason is a real thing? Even Trump loyalists surely know it’s true. They just think it’s an OK price for the racism. 1/

“The question instead is when and whether the evidence will become so dramatic, so blatant, that Trump’s defenders won’t feel able to keep pretending they don’t know. That is, it’s not really about what we learn but about how it plays out. 2/

“Think of the Steve King story as a dress rehearsal. Everyone knew what he was, and has for years. Somehow, though, we reached a tipping point where GOP leaders felt they had to say, “We’re shocked, shocked to find open racism going on in our party!” 3/

“I don’t know if we’ll ever reach that sort of tipping point with Trump. But even if we do, remember: they’ve known all along, but were willing to sell out America as long as it was convenient. 4/”

That means that in the face of the abject failure of those we rightly count on, we – you and I – must use appropriate aggressiveness to protect what we hold dear.

At last there are the beginnings of honest-to-goodness, Constitutionally mandated oversight. What is sadly unsurprising is the volume of brainless, absurd opposition to that oversight in pursuit of protecting He Who Must Be Obeyed by Republicans.

It’s unsurprising because these legislators know that if they don’t toe the line to protect Trump they’ll get primaried from the right in their next election and Trump will stomp on their skulls; so for them, protecting Trump trumps all. Clearly, their careers in politics are far more important to them than, say, ensuring our democracy or safeguarding the Constitution, which they swore to protect and defend.

Please don’t complain that Krugman and I are unfairly bashing Republicans. If the Democrats were doing this, I’d be skewering them mercilessly, but they aren’t. It’s just the Republicans now, so they’re the ones who get pinned to the center of the bulls eye to be targets for the truth.

So, what can we do?

Here’s a set of three offerings devoid of right versus left and R versus D conflict. These are about bringing us together to protect and defend what we hold dear, what we must protect and defend, because those guys aren’t doing their job.

    1. Watch this video from Represent.us. It’s focused on ending the bi-partisan corruption that infests our government. I know you’re entirely on board with wanting to end the corruption of our politics, so watch the video. It goes down easy and is very much of a piece with the Money, Politics & Democracy programs I deliver.
    2. Read Jason Stanley’s book How Fascism Works. Buy it from your locally owned, ma & pa book store to support them and your town. And don’t put it on the stack of books you’ll get to “some day.” Read it now – it’s that timely. And while you’re at it, get a copy of How Democracies Die.
    3. If you’re in the Chicago area, attend Jason Stanley’s talk on March 23. Here’s a link to RSVP. For budget sensitive patriots: It’s a freebie. And contributions are welcome.

Frank Bruni had a fine piece in last Sunday’s New York Times in which he dug into what’s behind the anti-vaxxers’ refusal of the very things that can protect their children. It isn’t that they don’t love their children; it’s more insidious and deadly than that. It’s that they don’t love truth.

That is the age we are living in, a kind of anti-Enlightenment era, in which the search for so many is for propaganda that supports our opinions instead of searching for provable reality, feel-good stories instead of truth, and anger instead of resolution. Don’t get too smug about this, though, because I think we’re all candidates for at least some that description.

Too many of our elected officials have played to this dumbed-down version of Americans and these legislators are the very people who have abdicated their responsibilities in Congress.

This stuff matters because of what you hold dear, so now is the time to be appropriately aggressive to protect it.

Click to join me on March 23 for this fascinating and informative event.

                   ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 


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

The Real Issue


Reading time – 4:34; Viewing time – 6:40  .  .  .

Ed. Note: Be sure to check out our periodically published new feature, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up at the end of the regular post.

___________________________________

By now you’ve at least heard of the kerfuffle created by the remarks of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and it’s entirely possible that you’re both offended and pretty well annoyed by the whole mess. I’ve decided to weigh in only because the key issue seems to have been missed and it’s a really big issue. It’s a life and death issue.

To recap, Omar dispatched tweets and comments that triggered an explosion. They were:

Feb.10 – Responding to a tweet about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel, she tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”

Feb 11 – Responding to a question about who’s paying these Benjamins, she tweeted, “AIPAC!” referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Feb 11 – Following criticism from Democratic leadership, she tweeted a sort-of apology, saying in part, “My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”

Feb 28 – Speaking as a panel member at a DC venue she said, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. I want to ask why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA (National Rifle Association), of fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policies?”

In a recently discovered 2012 tweet she wrote, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

That’s a lot to digest, so let’s boil it down to the essentials. Omar is saying,

  1. Wealthy Jews are buying influence.
  2. AIPAC is using “Benjamins” to control Congress and the President.
  3. American Jews have “allegiance” to a foreign country, Israel, implying they are disloyal to America.
  4. Jews have some semi-occult ability to hypnotize others and cause them to do the bidding of Jews.

Let’s start with the easiest to dispel. AIPAC doesn’t make political contributions to candidates or politicians. Now on to the real damage.

The stereotype of Jews being wealthy and using their wealth to control others and thus do harm to those others has been around a long time. The same is true of the lunacy that says that Jews can “hypnotize the world” and get their way. Neither would be a big deal if it were just a few psychotics screaming such things in a rubber room. Sadly, devastatingly, it doesn’t stop there and it never has.

These hateful tropes have been believed by the uninformed, the gullible and the hateful and powerful for centuries, perhaps millennia. They have been used to justify some of the the most vile and hateful acts, including the Spanish Inquisition, pogroms across Europe and Russia, the Holocaust and tens of thousands of small scale violent events all over the world. Think: Tree of Life Synagogue.

That is to say, words matter. They have impact on people and that drives people’s actions. When the words are hateful – especially when they qualify as a Big Lie, as Omar’s do – they incite people to violence. She helped to continue the hateful lies and to support the haters’ justification of their hate and their violence. That’s the real issue.

In her weenie apology she managed to demand to be listened to as a qualification of her “unequivocal” apology. It’s a bit like apologizing by saying, “I apologize if what I said was offensive.” Kinda misses the mark of apologizing for actually being offensive.

Much of the political tap dance of both Democrats and Republicans has been an astonishing circus sideshow of posturing for political advantage. I especially love the justifications claimed by the 23 Republicans who voted against the resolution condemning hate. One stands out as the winner of the Totally Daft Award. See #3 below.

Legitimate criticism of Israel is welcome. Opposing the government or the policies is in bounds and justifiable. Spreading hate is not.

This whole thing is simpler than the political theater of the absurd would allow you to see and it’s way beyond finding Omar’s words offensive or reacting to her poorly crafted jiu jitsu apology. We need to focus on the key issue, which is the spreading of hate and the potential incitement to violence done by Rep. Omar’s words. It’s a really big issue. It’s a life and death issue.

For more on the impact of words, see this post.


You Can’t Make This Stuff Up
A short compendium of current events that are too dumb even for fiction
  1. Veteran conservative broadcaster and columnist Jane Chastain recently wrote a column titled “AOC WAS A GIRL SCOUT .  .  .  JUST SAY NO TO THE COOKIES.”
  2. Finnish investigative journalist Jessikka Aro has been courageously reporting on Russian propaganda and its troll factories for years. She was informed she was to receive the International Women of Courage Award in Washington, D.C. Then the Trump State Department learned that Aro had been critical of the President, so her award was cancelled.
  3. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said that he voted against the House resolution condemning bigotry and hate because its wording, “.  .  .  suggests America’s House of Representatives cares about virtually everyone except Christians and Caucasians.”

Sourced from Daily Kos and The Washington Post. You can look it up.

Click to join me on March 23 for this fascinating and informative event.

              ————————————

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. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Time to Chill?


Reading time – 3:47; Viewing time – 5:19  .  .  .

For at least three years some have been saying to ignore what he says and to focus instead on what he does.  Pay attention, they say, to policy stuff, actions that have impact, and ignore the stupid – even false – things he says. Just chill.

That sounds like good counsel and I’ve tried to follow it. Alas, there is no escaping that words have power to drive people to action. And some actions are brutal and even murderous.

Michelle Goldberg wrote in the New York Times, “.  .  .  Trump is a racist. This should be clear to all people of good faith, given that Trump was a leading figure in the birther movement, defended white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville, and claimed he couldn’t get a fair hearing from a judge of Mexican heritage .  .  .” Be clear that his messages are heard loud and clear by people who revel in hate.

There really weren’t “good people on both sides” in Charlottesville. It may have been just words the President spoke, but his message to haters, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and thugs of all stripes was that they’re just great folks spewing hate and doing harm to others.

The President showed up at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, even though he was specifically asked by the Rabbi and the mourners to stay away. His words were exactly what the mourners didn’t want, but he spoke anyway. His message to his fanatical followers was that it’s okay to disrespect some people, even those in the midst of the profound pain of loss. Gotta wonder how much his constant disrespect motivated the shooter.

What we’re clear about is that the President’s disrespect extends everywhere, including his hateful comments about John McCain, and his acceptance of the torturing and murder by tyrants abroad, with whom he tells us he has great relationships and he and Kim Jong-un “fell in love,” however gag-able that may be.

He doesn’t care about Otto Warmbier, who endured torture and beatings by the North Koreans that led to his death. He doesn’t care about Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who the Saudis killed, butchered and cremated. And he clearly doesn’t care about Sergei Skripal and his daughter, who were poisoned in a nerve agent attack in London. Trump takes the tyrant dictators at “their word” and finds no fault in them. What do you suppose is the message his fanatical followers get from that?

He at last got part of his Muslim ban. Then he tweeted hatefully toward Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) about her handful of anti-Semitic comments, for which she had already apologized; but he had nothing at all to say about decades of racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric from Christian Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who remains unrepentant for his hate. Got any doubt about what one religion is okay with the President and how he feels about other religions in America? That gives the cover of righteousness to the haters, making virtually any atrocity acceptable.

Click through and read this important essay.

He continues to vilify brown skin people from south of the border and blacks everywhere, while at the same time inviting more immigrants from “Norway.” Got any doubt about what color skin the President wants all Americans to have and how unwelcome others are? I wonder if his racism motivated the murderer at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston?

His words incite fear, hate and anger and he dog whistles violence at every rally. He drives division and hatred every day. And he’s managed to get 40% of Americans to listen to him and some to emulate him. That puts the rest of us at risk and you already know that sometimes people get killed. So, no, I will not ignore what he says.

All of what he says and does sends a tyrannical message of exclusion, of “us versus them.” It’s a small view of America from a small, cowardly man, but some of his followers like that and want to exclude others using violence to do so. That’s what happens in cults of personality.

Before someone starts waving their red, white and blue at me, proclaiming in righteous voice that this is the land of the free and we’re entitled to our views and opinions, even if they’re based in hate, just get this one piece: this country was established by the Founders in absolute opposition to a tyrant. This is no time to succumb to one.

Do you know someone who tells you to chill, to just get over it for the hateful and stupid things that come out of this President’s mouth? If they want to know the true value of that chill notion, click here and register to hear the expert speak on the subject. And bring that friend along – the one who tells you to chill.

Watch this now. This is no time to chill.

Click to join me on March 23 for this fascinating and informative event.

                ————————————

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. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 

 


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

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