Politics & Democracy

The Bullet-Head Zone

CPAC Conference, 2018

Reading time – 1:52; Viewing time – 3:03  .  .  .

In the wake of the slaughter of 17 students and teachers and the wounding of 14 others in Parkland, FL, Wayne LaPierre, the executive director of the NRA, gave a speech to the attendees of the CPAC conference. This is the association that used to be the home for conservatives, but now is primarily composed of hair-on-fire righties.

In his speech he equated gun ownership with God, claimed that having guns is the most important of our rights and reasserted the official NRA certainty that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, so let’s arm kindergarten teachers and have shoot-outs in the hallways.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Nearly every “fact” that LaPierre stated is untrue.
  2. His wholly unsupported accusations and opinions are based on a false and intentionally misleading interpretation of the Second Amendment. It was and is promulgated by the NRA in order to spike gun sales for the firearms industry. More on that in a future post.
  3. LaPierre’s job is to stoke righty fervor, so he gave a red meat speech to a hall of red meat eaters. That explains his tone.

These red meat eaters don’t represent American values, as 94% of Americans want universal background checks – that means for all transfers of ownership of all firearms. That includes when grandpa gives his old hunting rifle to his grandson.

Nearly all Americans, including the overwhelming majority of NRA members, want gun ownership prohibited for all convicted violent felons, mentally disturbed people, those on the terror watch list, domestic violence perps and the like. 74% of Americans want assault weapons and high capacity magazines banned. And nobody outside the NRA thinks a gun battle in the school hallway is a good idea.

Go ahead and watch LaPierre and listen to his fascism-worthy speech. Again, it’s his job to stoke gun fervor with high volume and he’s good at that. Just get that he and those like him are not just allowing, but are indirectly inviting more kids to get killed in our schools, more movie and concert attendees to be mowed down and more church, synagogue and mosque goers to be murdered.

I’ll say it again: A vote for an NRA backed candidate is a vote for dead children.

VOTE in your primary and in the general election on November 8. First check to see which candidates have taken money from the NRA (here’s a link to all NRA money recipients) and vote against these people. *

This is another chapter in the “Big Money controls Congress and you don’t count” story of the destruction of our democracy. You can shut down that story. And you can save our kids.

VOTE!

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    Click me

  • * This is actually tougher than it sounds. Have a look at this and note the distribution of NRA funds: only $1 million of the $59 million the NRA spent to warp our politics and our democracy in the 2016 election was for direct contributions. For example, the recipient list shows they gave Marco Rubio $9,900, but their total spend for him on TV ads and SuperPAC contributions was in the millions of dollars. So, when Cameron Kasky asked Rubio to promise to never take another dollar from the NRA, Rubio weaseled. Rubio is a great talker. Too bad we can’t trust him.

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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.

Fable

Flag of the United States of America

Reading time – 2:10; Viewing time – 3:25  .  .  .

Once upon a time there was a democratic republic called the United States of America. It was thought of by many as the shining city on a hill. It was the best hope for millions coming there from around the world and proved to be a land of opportunity. It had many strengths and valuable resources, but the most powerful of all was its people. They had enduring values and a can-do culture that made them the envy of the world.

One day the people found that they had been frustrated and angry for a very long time. Their leaders had failed them, lied to them and stolen from them, so they looked for a new leader and chose one who roused them with words of anger and grandiose promises. He had many obvious flaws and he lied to the people repeatedly, but they didn’t care about the lies because he spoke to their decades-long frustration, so they elected him to be their leader. Then things turned very bad for the people.

They learned that this new leader had ties to an Evil Empire and he was beholden to that empire in very suspicious ways, including great sums of money. And he surrounded himself with many others who also had ties to the Evil Empire in suspicious ways. He dismissed allies and warmed up to vicious autocrats around the world, especially the leader of the Evil Empire. He had many contacts with that leader and refused to report the contacts to his own intelligence agencies or to the press of his own country, so the people had to look to the Evil Empire for the truth of what was happening in their own country.

He began to dismantle the country’s foreign service infrastructure and weakened the Justice Department with an ineffectual leader. He demeaned key government people and agencies, especially those looking into his affairs and who could unmask him. He fired many long time public servants and pressured still more to resign their posts. He constantly demeaned the press, those who could hold him accountable publicly. He bullied legislators and they knuckled under, refusing to challenge him.

Flag of the Russian Federation

He created great sideshows, including threatening nuclear war with a petty tyrant in order to distract the people from his wrongdoing. He packed government with those he could control and demanded loyalty to himself, instead of loyalty to the people and the country, as they had pledged. He caused his top intelligence people to meet with the top intelligence people of the Evil Empire. Then suddenly the people found that their flag had been changed to a very different red, white and blue.

*  *  *

Once upon a time there was a democratic republic called the United States of America. You can read about it in the history books.

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Click me to find the event in your area. Then sign up and show up when Trump fires Mueller.

Want to do something to change the end of this fable into something more to your liking? Register for a Rapid Response event in your area by clicking on the logo to the right  .  .  .

.  .  .  because you need to stand up and be counted if you’re to get a “lived happily ever after” ending to this fable.

Want more on this? Have a look here.

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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.

Invertebrates

Not so long ago the Republican Party proudly boasted of being the party that stood for law and order. They let us know in no uncertain terms that they were the guys who would defend against international threats. They were the tough guys who were best suited to ensure our national security.

Apply Trump’s words about voters to the majority of Republican members of Congress.

Now, though, they cower before the Mad Goon-in-Chief, doing his bidding and refusing to challenge his dishonesty and his devotion solely to himself, rather than to our nation. He’s callously made 1.8 million DACA kids (his number) mere pawns in his game of chicken to get his stupid, unnecessary wall, the security tool that assumes that Mexicans don’t know about ladders or tunnels. That’s the wall he told us time and again that Mexico will pay for, but now he wants each of us to pay hundreds of dollars for it. Today’s Republicans are sucking up to this scoundrel by playing his game and have abdicated their responsibility and their oath of office to protect and defend. They’re no longer the fierce guardians of our Republic; they’re the cowering lapdogs.

It took just 96 years for H.L. Mencken’s prophesy to come true.

Trump leads them in taunts to diminish our  institutions, like the press, the FBI, the CIA, the entire Justice Department and specific people in those agencies. He has Senators Ron Johnson (R-MN), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and others making flagrantly idiotic, scary sounding accusations about the FBI, substantiated solely by hot air, demeaning the very people who make sure we’re safe. That doesn’t sound much like the party that used to stand for law and order. That sounds more like self-serving people being manipulated by moneyed interests and lacking a spine to stand against what they know to be wrong.

Rep. Devin Nunez (R-CA) is cavorting about DC right now with a memo he wrote, claiming McCarthy-like that his memo contains a smoking gun that has the fingerprints of the evil FBI on it. The memo contains classified information that he carelessly didn’t review. And he carelessly has shown that classified information to most of the Republican members of Congress and is threatening to carelessly release it to the public. That whooshing sound you hear is Devin Nunez sucking up to Donald Trump.

The Justice Department has pushed back, making clear that Nunez will do damage to our national security should he release the memo. To understand the full importance of that, you need to know that at the same time that Nunez is doing his Trump suck-up dance, a tsunami of Russian bots is inundating our social media, calling for the release of his memo. Did I mention that the memo contains classified information? In other words, Republican Nunez is brainlessly playing directly into the hands of the Russians.

So, let’s be clear about what’s important:

Think: Congress

  • What is important is that unlike Nunez and the rest of the suck-ups, you and I see this for what it is: the next self-serving, transparent attempt at misdirection from what is important, the Russian hack of our election.
  • What is important is Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible conspiracy – not collusion: conspiracy – by Trump and his organization to get the Russians to help him win the election.
  • What is important is the investigation into possible obstruction of justice by Trump.
  • What is important is to discover if Trump – the President of the United States – has been part of a massive money laundering scheme and whether that has made him vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.

The good news is that Mueller doesn’t care about Nunez’s dingbat grandstanding or Trump’s demonizing attacks or the spinelessness of what passes for Republicans in Congress today. He cares about justice. So do we.

We care about the abdication of duty to country by the jellyfish in Congress.

We care about the baseless attacks on the very people we count on to keep us safe.

We care that the people who thump their jellyfish chests about how strong they are for America are the very people who have abandoned their integrity and, through their obstruction, are enabling Russia to hack our next election.

These Republicans, the ones who are making fatuous accusations about the FBI, as well as all those in Congress who stand silently by and won’t call out Nunez or the president – and that especially includes Spineless Speaker Paul Ryan – have sold out their country to appease the infant tyrant, Trump.

The late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan summed up the aspiration of everyone in this country: “What the people want is very simple – they want an America as good as its promise.”

We aren’t getting that America from either the Executive Branch or the Legislative Branch of our government. And we’re going to remember that this coming November and in 2020.

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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.

A Year-End Message About Making Things Better

Reading time – 2:21; Viewing time – 3:49  .  .  .

The latest Star Wars film is in theaters now and it’s terrific. Like all the films in the series, it deals with some universal issues, like good versus evil, acceptance of uncomfortable truths, the shattering of illusion and the complexity of human beings.

Nearly all the main actors participated in an interview for the New York Times and Andy Serkis, who plays the evil Supreme Leader Snoke, commented on the motivations of those with power. He said,

”.  .  .  leaders are fearful people, because when you’re in a position of maximum power, you can only lose power. And that fear drives nearly all decisions. That fear then makes you aggressive. It makes you want to destroy others. It makes you unable to see or care about others.”

While the interview discussion was about a character in a science fiction movie, can you think of a real life person who answers Serkis’ description? And how is that working for us? More on that later.

Adam Driver plays the part of a conflicted bad guy in the film and had some cogent remarks, too. He said,

”When I meet people who are unable to hear the other side, who not only think they’re right but they’re justified, then there’s no end to what they would do to make sure that their side wins .  .  . When you feel morally justified, that feels more long-lasting and more unpredictable.”

Here’s the hard part.

If Driver is right, that people who believe they’ve grabbed the moral high ground would do anything to ensure that their side wins, then if they’re on the other side of our politics from you and me, they’re dangerous. But what if you and I think we’re right and believe we’re holding the moral high ground and we’re sure that we are morally justified?

If we’re going to solve America’s problems, if we are to create a better tomorrow, every one of us is going to have to give up the absolutist views of our own moral purity, and that just isn’t something that’s easy to do. When we’re certain that we’re right, that we have the moral high ground, compromise feels dirty and makes us feel like we’re sellouts. But it’s the only way forward that isn’t self-destructive.

So, I ask myself if I can shed my certainty that I’m right. If I can’t do that, then I’ll continue to see those who disagree as wrong and, as Steely Dan puts it in their song Hey Nineteen,

  • ”No, we can’t dance together.”
  • “No, we got nothing in common.”
  • “No, we can’t talk at all.”

And that leads to still more polarization and a worsening of our problems.

I have a lot of confidence that Andy Serkis is right about people with great power in their hands, that they are fearful and that their fear drives their decisions, makes them aggressive and wanting to destroy others and they’re devoid of care about others. It is my belief that the drivers and behaviors he describes are exactly what we see from Donald Trump every day. He and his fear are wounding us and our republic.

When I consider Adam Driver’s words I can’t help but reflect on the demonizing I’ve done of, say, Donald Trump and his voters and supporters, and certainly of those in his administration. It’s hard to disagree with their actions and do it with the enormous force that feels necessary in order to resist what feels evil, and not at the same time succumb to judging and demonizing.

But that’s my challenge – and perhaps yours, too – if we are to make things better

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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.

(Mostly) Quick Hits – They’re Linked, I Promise

Reading time – 6:49; Viewing time – 9:59  .  .  .

First, a heads-up for the impatient: The lede is buried at the end of this post.

A Really Tough Time for Republicans

Judge Roy Moore was removed from the bench twice for flaunting our laws in favor of his absolutist religious beliefs. Yes, he was an Alabama Supreme Court judge who disrespected the rule of law – that’s why he was removed from the bench – did I mention “twice”? Apparently, in Alabama that’s not a disqualifier for becoming a United States Senator. As you know, though, the story gets far worse.

Several women have gone public, accusing Moore of sexually violating them and  most were minors when the accused sexual predator allegedly violated them. We’re talking pedophilia. Here are some peculiars about this:

  1. There are only allegations of Moore’s wrongdoing – nine as of this writing – there have been no legal proceedings. If we still believe in innocent until proven guilty (and that’s questionable, given the Trump hysteria of “lock her up”) why are so many calling for Moore’s political lynching?
  2. We all know he’s a slime ball, with a history of his absolutist views being the only ones he deems of value, and his taking a million dollars from his charity for his personal use. He’s hurt both the Constitution and a lot of people and has that self-righteous stink of a hypocrite. That makes it easy to leap to a public opinion conviction of this guy.
  3. Donald Trump has slithered his tweets about how awful are the two wrongdoings of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).  Oddly, even with the multiple accusations of Moore’s pedophilia, Trump hasn’t said a thing about him. That’s a mistake. I believe that the best thing that can happen is for Trump to weigh in on Moore’s alleged sexual predatory behavior. After all, other than Harvey Weinstein, Trump is the guy with the most experience in this field. Okay, that was snark.
  4. Why aren’t all Republicans leaping at the opportunity to fry Roy Moore? This is a political no-brainer.
  5. This is a really tough time to be a Republican with a spine, with a moral compass, with a drive to do what’s right for others and for our country. If such folks stand up for what’s right, the extremists will fire them from from their jobs in Congress and the state houses. That’s because about half of us – most of the reasonable, centrist Americans – don’t bother to vote, leaving to the extremists the decisions about who goes to Congress and our state houses. The solution to this is obvious. So, help a good-guy Republican by showing up and voting for the reasonable folks in every election.

Education

George W. Bush created the No Child Left Behind plan, which forced teachers to instruct students how to take standardized tests, rather than teaching them what they need in order to succeed in life. The name of that plan is something we all support and encourage, so the spinmeisters did their job. The only problem is that No Child Left Behind left millions of children behind.

Speaking of our children being successful, it seems we don’t actually want that to happen. We continue to provide the majority of funding for our schools through property taxes, which is a great plan if the properties are in a wealthy area. It doesn’t work quite as well if the area is poor, because that results in low tax revenue for schools and inadequate resources for turning out well educated kids. That’s how we systematically condemn poor kids to poverty and our country to less than our best possible future.

Leadership

Being clear about what’s going on and about what needs to be done is hard work. Someone needs to stand up and declare, “THAT WAY!” and it isn’t at all obvious who’s up to the challenge. The call has to be inspirational and it must be clean and crisp and memorable so that we maintain focus and continue putting one foot in front of the other and in the right direction. But that call seems as yet uncrafted. In the face of challenges all around us, which way should we go? And who will you follow?

Monopoly (not the board game)

The Justice Department case against Microsoft 17 years ago for anti-competitive practices is the most recent enforcement of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, legislation designed to prevent monopoly. The  purpose of that act was to keep excessive economic power from being concentrated in too few hands, because otherwise society – that’s the rest of us – would be harmed. Ronald Reagan essentially terminated the Sherman Anti-trust Act through non-enforcement and not much has been done to prevent anti-competitiveness since then, even as large corporations buy competitors and consolidate power for themselves and largely at the expense of you and me. Think: airlines; investment companies; accounting firms; pharmaceutical companies; and banks.

Taxes

You already know that the basic fact of the proposed Republican tax plan is primarily a cash giveaway to the rich. That’s accomplished by taking benefits from poor and working class Americans. The Republicans are claiming that this corporate and rich people’s mattress-stuffer bill will deliver the wondrous magic of driving economic growth, new and better jobs for Americans and rising income for all. Plus, everybody gets their own pony in the back yard. But what if all the goodies (other than the cash gift to the wealthy) are really just a phantom that was dreamed up years ago in order to sell trickle-down?

Bruce Bartlett was a key guy in creating the trickle-down myth in the 1980s, so he knows something about this. Read his piece in the Washington Post, where he ‘fesses up to having been a true believer in trickle-down and now unmasks the fraud that it is. He pulls back the curtain about the claim that reducing taxes primarily on the wealthy will result in rising income for working Americans. Be sure to pass along his piece to your fiscally conservative brother-in-law and be sure to remind him of the $1.5 trillion debt the Republicans’ plan will create. That should make for a spirited Thanksgiving discussion.

Banking

The Glass-Steagall Act was passed following the Great Depression as a preventative against some reckless banking practices that helped lay waste to our economy and devastate millions of Americans. In 1999 that law was repealed, allowing investment banks, commercial banks and insurance companies to merge and invent heretofore unimaginable products that put the entire world on the precipice of economic disaster.  There have been many calls for the big banks to be broken up since then, precisely because they enjoy de facto monopoly of our financial world and can pose an existential threat to our country. Those break ups haven’t happened and the banking instruments that put our economy in peril in 2008 are vastly larger today. What do you suppose might happen?

Freedom

It’s time to pay attention to what’s going on and make sense of it all. Here’s a sampling of what some very wise people had to say about that.

Our government . . . teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. Justice Louis Brandeis

He Screwibus Union

The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion. Edmund Burke

The people of every country are the only safe guardians of their own rights, and are the only instruments which can be used for their destruction. And certainly they would never consent to be so used were they not deceived. Thomas Jefferson

If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.  W. Somerset Maugham

We need clear, rational thinking and action in order to protect what we hold dear. Who would have thought that doing so would require courage on the part of those in Congress?

What we’ve seen so far are extensive connections to Russia and fatuous lies told about those connections by nearly everyone high in the Trump administration. What has been confirmed by 17 intelligence agencies of the U.S. is that Russia hacked of our election and tried to influence the votes of millions of Americans. Instead of believing our own experts, Trump believes Putin when all he offers is, “nuh-uh.” Trump maintains a submissive, lapdog posture toward Putin and his manipulation of and access to information makes it look like there’s been a bloodless coup, a Russian theft of America.

You are incrementally being put at greater risk by powerful people concerned solely with their own wealth and power and apparently without the slightest concern for our country. I assure you that staying quiet about this, doing an ostrich, will allow more harm to be done to you and to America. Robert Mueller is doing his job, but that may not be enough. Perhaps it’s time for you to stand up and speak up.

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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.

Our Turn

Reading time – 2:18; Viewing time – 3:02  .  .  .

I observed an incremental shift toward authoritarianism during the Bush years. The John’s – Bolton and Ashcroft – scared me as much as Cheney did. I didn’t see that kind of power shift during the Obama years, although I could have been misled by his intelligence and his reasonable manner.

Now, though, we have a Destroyer-in-Chief, who is incrementally doing sociopath Steve Bannon’s work of eliminating anything that smacks of what we used to call “the establishment.” You know, the systems that promote the general welfare and the rest. Many of the Presidential Cabinet heads are dedicated to eliminating their departments (like DeVos, Price, Perry and Pruitt) and many of the rest are headed by diabolical or drone types (like Mnuchin, Carson and Zincke). Most of what I read from progressives and centrists about the actions of these powerful people is in opposition to the things they’re doing, like allowing oil drilling in the arctic refuge, cutting support for public education and food for poor children and eliminating regulations that prevent industrial pollution. While all of that opposition is important, I’m much more interested in what happens after the infrastructure take-down.

That is to say, what does all the trashing of the established order create? What will fill the vacuum? The answer that keeps coming up is fascism, autocracy, dictatorship. Pick a word that is in direct opposition to democracy and it will do.

When I met with some activists against fascism shortly before Trump took office I agreed with them in principle, but their notions seemed a bit wing-nutty extremist to me and I wasn’t ready to sign on. Now, though, the evidence has continued to accumulate and the picture is becoming clearer that we are on the road to the end of our democracy. That has fueled the change in my thinking.

Have a look at this poster about fascism. It was created during the Bush/Cheney years and is frighteningly accurate today.

If you really want to be informed, click through to the links accompanying the poster and read more. Then let us know how you’re feeling about democracy’s chances.

We must continue to protect our fragile experiment in democracy, because the work will never be done. The Founders thought it was pretty well done in 1789 when the Constitution was ratified, but in the 1950s Joe McCarthy got away with trashing the Constitution until some courageous people found their spine and stopped him.

Today Big Money has bought our democracy and the system hasn’t produced leaders with the spine to stop it yet. Reality is telling us every day that very bad things are happening and we need people to step up. It’s our turn now.

LATE ADDITIONS
  1. Go to http://www.RefuseFascism.org/.
  2. The Washington Post ran ran a story today entitled “When democracies are under attack, it’s time to rein in executive power.” Here are a couple of quotes from the piece:

”  . .  .  democracies erode not from military intervention or revolutions, but from the expansion and abuse of power by elected leaders.”
“.  .  .  political constraints are the strongest and most consistent predictors of democratic survival.”

“”We find that limiting executive power both lowers the stakes of elections and protects vulnerable minority groups from abuses of power.”

Read the piece.

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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!

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

With Liberty and Justice For All

Reading time – 2:57; Viewing time – 4:24  .  .  .

There are quite practical and important reasons to see beyond our justifiable anger and desire for retribution for the crimes of Trump. I refer not to his total and horrifying moral failings, but to actual crimes he may have committed. It matters to our republic and there is a history to make the point.

Ronald Reagan got away with Iran-Contra, having broken several laws, including contempt of Congress. To believe that he was ignorant and somehow, innocent of the high level scheming it took to pull off the three-way, illegal deal is to believe in the preposterous. Nevertheless, he got away with it.

His successor, H.W. Bush, pardoned six officials convicted of crimes related to the Iran-Contra scandal. Those pardons brought us Oliver North and G. Gordon Liddy on far-right talk radio, instead of hosting those criminals in prison. It also brought us the suspicion that the pardons were hush money Bush paid to hide his own involvement in the affair. Both Bush and the six perps got away with it.

George W. Bush pardoned “Scooter” Libby for perjury related to the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame. That tied a ribbon around Bush’s duplicity over fictitious weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Libby walked.

W. Bush got away with lying us into two wars. Sadly, that isn’t criminally actionable, but he did get reelected, so he really did get away with his lies.

The big one, though, is Nixon, who got away with Watergate because of President Ford’s grantinga 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.” We all know that Nixon should have gone in jail, but that didn’t happen. He did resign, but in looking at Watergate through a judicial lens, he got away with it. Remember that Ford became Vice-President because of the opening left by the bribe taking, nolo contendere pleading former Vice-President, Spiro Agnew. Many wonder if Ford was offered the Vice-President post contingent upon his pledge to pardon Nixon. If so, not only did Nixon avoid the criminal prosecution he deserved, but Ford got away with that reprehensible agreement.

The point is that if Pence “Ford-pardons” Trump, all of Robert Mueller’s work is for naught and yet another chief executive will have escaped accountability for his wrongdoing. Trump will likely have gotten away with money laundering, conspiracy, collusion, fraud and various seditious acts. Failing to prosecute him may allow other bad guys to go free, as well.

I don’t care that much about impeachment, as I think Trump will resign before that can happen. After all, he’s told us that this President business isn’t as much fun as being the CEO of his fraudulent empire.

On the other hand, I do care a great deal about justice and the messages we send to our fellow citizens, as we stand on the wobbling tectonic plates of justice for all.

We have massive economic inequality and we have massive judicial inequality as well. For example, Blacks and Latinos go to jail for minor drug offenses at 10 times the rate of whites, even though drug use is about the same in each group, according to Human Rights Watch. We have nearly no voter fraud, but Blacks, Latinos and the poor are prevented from voting by the nefarious schemes designed by the wealthy to deny our citizens the justice of their votes. All of this happens as we see those at the top get away with their malfeasance. And that undermines – even corrodes – our democracy.

So, beware President Pence’s first actions. He will be in a position to affirm the lofty claims we make about liberty and justice for all. He will also be in a position to loosen and shake still further the tectonic plates on which we stand. If he does that, if he “Ford-pardons” Trump, we may reach the tipping point of the erosion of our national confidence in ourselves.

Correction: This post incorrectly states that “Scooter” Libby received a Presidential pardon. He did not. President Bush commuted his sentence. But considering that he did no jail time, for practical purposes, he got away with it.

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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.

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.

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get to work.

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

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