Reform

It’s All About That Tiger


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click me

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

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

Two More Things  .  .  .

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

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

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

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


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

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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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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.

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.

A Special Message to Congress on Your Win


Reading time – 2:05; Viewing time – 2:54  .  .  .

Dear Congress:

Well, really not all that dear.

This week we had a train wreck in Washington, as an Amtrak train flew off the tracks near Tacoma. People have been injured and some have died; perhaps yet more will die.

We’ve had another train wreck in Washington, as our Republican majority Congress (that means YOU, Republican senators and congresspeople) has managed to pass tax legislation that will further injure an enormous number of Americans and will allow many of us to die prematurely.

In both cases you who are in charge seem to have forgotten that your job is to protect and serve the people and to do it with care.

With the passage of the Republican-only, so-called tax reform act, once again you have managed to do exactly the opposite of what the American people want you to do.

By an overwhelming majority we Americans disapprove of your hateful bill and wanted you to stomp it to death. You didn’t do that.

Study after study have shown that we want sensible gun safety laws, universal healthcare, protection of our national parks and wilderness areas, clean air and water, excellent public education, an end to our endless wars, a solid battle against global warming and more; but you consistently deliver the opposite.

This time you managed to put yet more billions of dollars into the pockets of already rich people, create an additional $5,000 of debt for every one of we 320 million Americans and you dumped the burden primarily on the backs of our poor and middle-class children. Congratulations on successfully sucking up to your rich donors, padding your own pockets and the pockets of the President and blowing off the rest of us.

You Republicans passed this junk legislation without any input from Democrats, with no input from tax experts and with no hearings in Congress, listening only to yourselves and those rich interests that have their hands up your back. This is exactly why we don’t trust you.

See if you can answer these three simple questions:

  1. We want you to do things cooperatively and help to end our culture wars, not to make them worse. Exactly what is your problem with that?
  2. How you can be so dumbfoundingly deaf to the voices of the people?
  3. 81% of Americans disapprove of you (that’s you, personally) and the job you’re doing. Can you figure out why?

C’mon now, Republican congresspeople – you’ve been in charge for 7 years and ought to know by now what we the people want. Yet we’ve known for a long time that you don’t want to hear from us, but we want to hear from you. Answer my questions.

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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.

Monopoly – The Game


Reading time – 2:49; Viewing time – 4:03  .  .  .

You’re 12 years old and you’re playing Monopoly with a few friends. One of them is “that guy” – the one who nearly always wins. You’ve played your best, but you’re watching your pile of cash disappear, as you land on yet another of his hotel properties. Your frustration grows and you find you have an urge to wipe everything from the board with both hands, sending houses and hotels, tokens and the Chance cards flying. Been there, done that. And we have a national case of that same frustration.

Many of us watched in horror last November when a thoroughly unqualified narcissist won the election to be President of the United States, commander of the nuclear codes. It took a while for the reality of events to fully register and the press has been chock-a-block with attempts to explain how this could have happened ever since that most fateful of days. How, indeed, could Americans have elected a schoolyard bully, a misogynist, a liar, an adulterer, a know-nothing, a destroyer of things? Last week I found a likely explanation.

I’ve written several times about the enormous impact of globalization and the profound upset it’s causing people in the industrialized world. We haven’t come close to figuring out what to do about this and not long ago it led to Brexit, a knee-jerk reaction by millions of displaced and angry Brits who responded to the uninformed, visceral calls of a braying bully. Just wipe the board. Smash what is. Vent the frustration. There’s a connection of that to what happened here last November.

Jill Filipovic provided insight in her recent essay in the New York Times. Here’s the Monopoly and Brexit connecting paragraph:

Resentful of the changing order of things, some men have simply leaned in to chaos. If the system no longer serves them, it will at least be fun to blow it all up. Which is exactly why the old rules of political engagement don’t work with Mr. Trump or his base.

There are millions of frustrated, angry Americans for whom the American Dream, the bubble idea of the way things work and will be, has burst. It’s a bit like teens who rebel when they at last learn that the world doesn’t remotely correspond to the fairy tales they were told to believe in. There is a mountainous, “IT”S NOT FAIR!” resentment and the echoes of that primal scream get reinforced every day.

There is no question whether the system is equitable; it’s not. For example, you already know about the great productivity gains of the past few decades and how nearly all of the wealth from those gains has gone to the rich, while workers have stagnated or moved downward on the economic ladder. All those globally displaced workers know it, too, and they’re living with the consequences of both globalization and economic unfairness. Little wonder they want to “wipe everything from the board with both hands, sending houses and hotels, tokens and the Chance cards flying.”

Steven Bannon may have left the White House staff, but he continues to be one of Trump’s advisors. Frighteningly, Bannon is specifically dedicated to bringing it all crashing down. Just look at what has already happened to our dramatically understaffed State Department and the other agencies of government that make this country function. We don’t have people in place to do what needs to be done.

I don’t know what Steven Bannon’s and Donald Trump’s psychological issues are, but these destroyers are incrementally wiping the board into chaos. Put some thought into what will fill the void. It’s a different game when you can’t even find the houses and hotels, the tokens and Chance cards that went flying and you probably won’t like what happens.

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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.

Un-Republican


Reading time – 2:58; Viewing time – 4:31  .  .  .

I used to think of myself as a Republican – an Eisenhower Republican. At this point, though, I don’t know what it means to be a Republican. Or a conservative. It seems that extreme-ism is the battle cry of the 21st century and now the Republican Party is casting off any semblance of moderation and even simple respect for opposing views.

Ronald Reagan told us he was a true conservative. He believed in small government and low taxes. Then he bloated the federal government and raised taxes six times. What’s conservative about that?

David Stockman was Reagan’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, who famously declared in an interview for The Atlantic entitled “The Education of David Stockman,” that, “I mean, Kemp-Roth [Reagan’s 1981 tax cut] was always a Trojan horse to bring down the top rate…. It’s kind of hard to sell ‘trickle down.’ So the supply-side formula was the only way to get a tax policy that was really ‘trickle down.'” In other words, trickle-down was a ruse to get tax cuts for rich people. That dishonesty created decades of stagnation for middle class and working people. What’s conservative about that?

George W. Bush started two avoidable wars against countries that did us no harm. Then, instead of raising the taxes needed to pay for his wars like every other war president in American history, he drastically reduced taxes, which assured massive debt in the trillions of dollars. What’s conservative about that?

Then the Tea Partiers came and shut down our government to prevent the raising of the national debt limit. The debt limit was and is about authorizing the issuing of debt instruments so that we can pay for what we’ve already purchased – essentially it’s about keeping our word to pay our bills. The Tea Partiers – Republicans all – tried to make us into a dead beat nation. What is conservative about that?

Restrictive voting laws have been enacted in many states to prevent our almost non-existent voter fraud. The effect of these laws is to prevent tens – perhaps hundreds – of thousands of legal voters from voting. That’s anti-Constitutional, so what is conservative about that?

Kris Kobach, the face of dishonest voter fraud claims.

Now Kris Kobach, the former flame-throwing Secretary of State of Kansas who made his bones by railing against non-existent voter fraud, is heading a commission – a fraudulent commission (also here and here). He and his band of liars and thieves are trying to institutionalize voter suppression, this from the federal level. Be clear that this is yet another Republican Trojan horse, in that the real purpose of the Kobach Commission is to extend the last gasp of control for a vanishing white majority. What’s conservative about the pernicious lies of these lying liars (thank you, Al Franken, for the descriptive words)? What’s conservative about stripping voting rights from the young, the old, the poor and those of color?

The Republican Party has verbally championed conservatism, but it seems to want to conserve the kinds of things that are at odds with anything that is conservative or even patriotic. Whatever happened to loyalty and justice and the rule of law, the kinds of things that Republicans used to want to conserve? They keep telling us that they’re the party of Lincoln, but they do things that Lincoln would have found both abhorrent and illegal.

Charlie Christ, former Republican governor of Florida, switched parties, declaring that he didn’t leave the Republican Party; rather, the Republican Party left him. He’s right. So are all the other former Republicans, like Rep. Patrick Murphy (now D-FL) and those who threw up their hands in disgust and quit, like former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN). Perhaps today’s Republican Party needs a new name: The Un-Repubican Party.

Wait, though. We the People keep electing these extremists, so, sadly, we’re getting what we deserve. Perhaps we have to wake up and smell the Constitution. Otherwise, we can start calling ourselves We the Un-People.

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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.

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.

Not Knowing


Reading time – 4:15; Viewing time – 6:10  .  .  .

It takes time to sort through the chaos and begin to see what is truly there. George Will at last did exactly that and explained it in his column of May 3, when he wrote of President Trump, ”  . .  .  the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something.”

We humans are profoundly uncomfortable with not knowing. We make up stories in a nanosecond to fill voids in our understandings and you’ll find yourself doing it many times a day if you know what to look for. For example:

  • You’re driving down the highway when the car in the next lane suddenly swerves into your lane, cutting you off. There’s a good chance you’ll be yelling something like, “Idiot!” just as though you actually know something about the other driver’s mental limitations. But it’s just your fantasy.
  • or
  • Your high school age kid has a curfew of midnight and it’s 1:15AM. She’s not home and there’s been no phone call. Do you think, “Gosh, I’ll bet she’s having a great time at the party”? Not a chance. You’re reaching for your phone and wondering where to call first, the police or the hospital. Either way, you’ve made up a story.

We all make up stories because we’re more comfortable with our fictions than with not knowing. And so it is with trying to understand Donald Trump’s behavior.

Dozens of mental health professionals have weighed in, finding him wanting of certain higher brain functions and social skills. We’ve called Trump many names in an effort to explain what drives his detached-from-reality, self-serving, cruel and sometimes questionably legal behavior, but George Will seems to have identified something that leans against the heart of the matter. Trump really doesn’t know what it is to know something. He just makes stuff up.

Be clear that what drives Trump’s disability is far less important than limiting him so that in his inability to actually know something he doesn’t permanently damage what’s important.

Which brings us to Trump’s obvious attempts to obstruct justice.

  1. He fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York as he was investigating possible wrong-doing by Trump’s HHS Secretary Tom Price, as well as Trump’s primary flag-waver, Fox News. Further, Bharara had jurisdiction over Trump Tower in New York.
  2. He finagled Rep. Devin Nunez (R – Political Suicide) into making a fool of himself and, in the process, neutering the House Intelligence Committee’s efforts to investigate Trump’s possible conspiracy with the Russians to turn the presidential election his way.
  3. He fired Sally Yates, Acting Attorney General, when she both refused to defend Trump’s clearly unconstitutional Muslim ban and she warned Trump of Mike Flynn setting himself up for blackmail by the Russians. That would imply a link to Trump. Clearly, Yates had to go.
  4. And now, just as James Comey had gone to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein asking for additional resources for the expanding investigation into Trump’s possible conspiracy with the Russians, Trump fired him*, giving a clumsy and implausible justification for the sacking (click here for the documentation).
  5. Furthermore, don’t forget Trump’s continuing attack on the Fourth Estate, the people of the press, who are the watchdogs to keep government accountable. He viciously and baselessly attacks the press at every opportunity in order to undermine your confidence in them when they report negative things about him.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Donald Trump neutralizes anyone who starts to get close to the truth about him. That ought to shiver your timbers; it surely shivers those of our democracy.

As for the challenges of reporting on Trump, have a look at what Russian reporter Alexey Kovalev had to say about covering Trump’s bromance idol Putin and see if anything sounds familiar. This is what it’s like covering lying, manipulative autocrats.

Not knowing causes us to make up stories to fill in the blanks and it’s all too easy to focus on doing that, but making up stories is insufficient if we’re to have a democracy. We need an independent investigation of Trump and his cronies now. Go to Rep. Jerry Nadler’s (R-NY) page for MoveOn.org and sign the petition calling for exactly that. Here’s why.

Last week I attended a meeting hosted by Rep Brad Schneider (D-IL) focusing on gun violence in the U.S. There I asked a question about what it will take to get a gun safety bill onto the floor of the House and Senate for an up-or-down vote so we can hold our legislators accountable. He said it would take two things. First, it will take new leadership. That makes sense, since it’s the leader of each chamber of Congress who decides what bills will come to the floor. Second, he said it will take the power of the people. We must make our voices heard.

That happens when millions of us speak up – our power is in our numbers – and it’s why you’re going to sign Jerry Nadler’s petition. Go ahead, do it now. Then call your senators and representative, telling them to demand an independent prosecutor.

Breaking news .  .  . CLICK ME

Not knowing isn’t an option – because you know.

In an interview with Lester Holt on May 11, President Trump characterized James Comey as a “showboat” and “grand-stander.” Is it possible that Trump fired Comey, in part, because he was getting too much attention and Trump wants it all for himself? No, that isn’t snark and I’m not kidding. I’m wondering if that’s part of the motivation for firing Comey for this attention craving president.

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

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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.


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

Love Thy Who?


Reading time – 3:43; Viewing time – 5:41  .  .  .

At an evening meeting on April 20th the discussion drifted to the issue of our political divide. The characterization of Trump voters included words like moron, racist, ignorant and a few other choice descriptors. The demonizing fell from lips as easily as rain from the sky – or manure from a barnyard animal – my protestations notwithstanding.

It’s just a guess on my part, but I don’t think character assassinations will be anything but destructive, this in a time when more than ever we need to come together to solve perhaps the largest accumulation of Gordian knot challenges we have faced.

Our vexing political divide is the focus of this post.

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Ezra Klein and Alvin Chang did a report on the issue of political identity – our political divide – for Vox entitled “Political identity is fair game for hatred”: how Republicans and Democrats discriminate. They found what you already know to be true, that we politically polarized Americans seem to be unable even to talk with our neighbors who hold political views different from our own. People are even selecting where they will live based upon whether the neighbors are politically aligned with them. And woe be to a daughter or son who marries someone with membership in the other political party.

The dysfunction we see among politicians is exaggerated because we tend to elect zealots; however, we’re not doing a very good job ourselves of even tolerating our “other party” neighbors, much less loving them. Indeed, we seem to be in an age where “other-ing” is not just accepted, but is encouraged.

In my pal Brian Muldoon’s book, The Heart of Conflict, he identifies what he sees as the fundamental reason people are so often unable to talk about differing religious beliefs without the conversation devolving into conflict. He says that it’s because any challenge to our fundamental beliefs challenges our sense of identity and that shakes our tectonic plates, so we go into fight-or-flight mode the same way our caveman ancestors treated threatening saber tooth tigers.

It appears that our political views have reached the same kind of base-of-the-skull level. As Klein and Chang write in their article, “  .  .  . rising political polarization was showing something more fundamental than political disagreement – it was tracking the transformation of party affiliation into a form of personal identity that reached into almost every aspect of our lives.”

It seems to me that invites fight-or-flight into arenas where there are no actual mortal threats; nevertheless, we treat ordinary opinions – like political differences – in the same life-or-death manner we do religious differences.

In the face of this we’re told to love our (“different from me”) neighbors. That’s a tough assignment for we human beings.

Nevertheless, that is the assignment. Should we fail to complete the assignment and get a great grade, our democracy will be at mortal risk. We better figure out how to do something other than fighting or fleeing.

In other news

House Joint Resolution 48 is what we need. It’s what I’ve been calling for in my presentations to groups all over the country since that dark January day in 2010. This is a cure for the deepest ailment of our democracy.

HJR 48 is a bill to reverse the tsunami of corporate and fat cat cash in our politics that was unleashed by the disastrous Citizens United decision. The bill currently has 23 cosponsors; that’s where you come in.

Call your representative now and request that s/he cosponsor this critically important bill. Do this even if your representative is already a cosponsor – they need your support for this.

To find your rep’s phone number, go to www.House.gov and enter your zip code in the box in the top-right corner of the page. Then pick up your phone, dial it and tell the nice staffer who answers that you are a constituent and you want your rep to cosponsor HJR 48.

Do it now, and we’ll slay this mother of our political dysfunction.

Finally, we have a whole new level of stupid coming from Washington. From The Root:

Paul Reickhoff

According to the Military Times, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) has drafted legislation that would charge soldiers $100 a month for access to the GI Bill. The bill would deduct a total of $2,400 from each soldier’s paycheck to make them eligible.

“Pushing this GI Bill tax proposal on troops in a time of war is political cowardice,” said Paul Reickhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America “Some politicians would rather make backroom deals than raise taxes or find other ways to support our troops as bombs continue to fall overseas.”

Let’s see, the geniuses in DC want to send our young off to fight and die for the oil we have to stop using if we’re to avoid hard boiling the planet, and also in order to fill monstrous political egos. As a way to say thanks, our legislators want to tax our troops.

Yes, really.

Bonus Section

Watch this Vox piece for clarity about cable news manipulation and the advancement of “alternative facts.”

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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.

Sir Isaac Newton and You


Reading time – 3:51 seconds; Viewing time – 5:57  .  .  .

The press is under attack, and rightly so, according to Donald Trump. He has let us know in no uncertain terms and repeatedly that those in “the media” are dishonest – so dishonest – they lie. I’m guessing that “he’s been hearing” that most are devil worshipers with unpatriotic foreign stuff in their attics. I’m sure he’s hearing that “people are saying” they may not be real Americans. Some might be black. Or Muslim. Or both black and Muslim. Bad. Sad.

President Lying-78%-of-the-Time has a penchant for falsehood. Trump’s integrity outages may have been of relatively small consequence during the campaign (except, of course, to rally attendees who got beaten up at his direction), but his dishonesty has huge consequences on the national and international stage now that he’s the president.

You need to read the Los Angeles Times 4-part editorial series The Problem With Trump. These  essays provide a level-headed and shocking analysis of what’s really going on – it’s big and everything we hold dear is at risk.

Trump’s dishonesty is happening during an era of vitriolic, polarized politics, especially in Congress, which makes constraining the worst of Trump’s lunacies next to impossible. In large measure, that is what puts everything at risk.

I’ve written several times about looming fascism in America (click on Fascism in the Categories list to the right) because of the bully in the White House and the extremists in Congress. I have seen nothing to mollify my concerns. While I don’t know if Trump is even capable of planning such a thing, I’m confident that Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner are capable of that and their influence only grows. And, no, don’t imagine for an instant that because Kushner is Jewish that he’s not capable of driving our nation to fascism. Not Nazism; fascism.

From How I Became an American by Yascha Mounk:

“Like Mr. Trump, democratically elected dictators have often believed that they don’t owe political consideration to the minorities they vilify. And, like Mr. Trump, they have often claimed that all those who challenge their rule – independent judges, critical journalists – are enemies of the people. For anybody who has studied how democracies die, the president’s dark rhetoric sounds familiar.”

Read the Los Angeles Times pieces – all 4 editorials. Now let’s connect this to a broader reality.

In a stunning piece by David Roberts for Vox.com entitled Donald Trump and the Rise of Tribal Epistemology*, Roberts lays bare the erosion of our institutions that were designed to provide the foundation upon which our society is built. He’s talking about truth, science, democratic systems and a clarity of the difference between right-doing and wrong-doing. He’s talking about the very things Trump and Bannon want to take down. And they’re not alone in their efforts toward destruction; witness how the right wing has,

  • Rejected the consensus of the world’s scientists on climate change
  • With a Democrat in the White House, the Republicans filibustered every bill
  • House Republicans routinely threaten the solvency of the country by refusing to raise the debt ceiling
  • The Senate refused to even have hearings on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee
  • Republicans united behind a serial swindler and self-confessed sexual predator – what happened to their spine?

Roberts’ piece specifically focuses on journalism and what it can do in this post-truth, post-fact, post-norms era. He writes,

“At a deeper level, healthy journalism relies on the basic institutions and norms of liberal democracy – on transpartisan authorities capable of establishing a common bedrock of facts and rules. As we’ve seen in other democracies around the world that succumb to autocracy (think Russia, Hungary, Turkey, Venezuela), the decline in institutions is both cause and consequence of authoritarianism.”

So, chicken or egg first? It really doesn’t matter if nothing is solidly reliable.

Sir Isaac Newton

Recall your 8th grade science class, where you learned about Sir Isaac Newton and his Laws of Motions, the first of which (paraphrased) was, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.” Your teacher may have demonstrated that law with a thrown ball, which would have carried out to the most distant reaches of the universe, but for that pesky gravity thing, the immediate outside force. Gravity changed the trajectory of the ball and made it accelerate in an arc toward the center of the Earth. Yes, I know that’s more science than you were looking for in a political commentary, but perhaps you remember some of that – surely you remember that Law of Motion, and that’s the main point.

Unaffected by an outside force, everything keeps going on its trajectory, and that’s true of politics, as well. So, if there is a different future that you want to see than the one we’re headed toward, there better be some force acting upon it.

YOU’RE THAT FORCE!

Get off the couch and get on the streets. Protest. Resist. Recruit. Call, text and write to your congressperson and senators. Show up at their doors. Join with others at MoveToAmend.org, CommonCause.org, Represent.US, Mayday.US and kick in a few bucks to save your democracy.

GET A POLITICAL BULLHORN AND MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

*Epistemology – The theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.

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

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

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

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