Rights

I Didn’t Want To Write This Post


Reading time – 4:54; Viewing time – 6:18  .  .  .
I didn’t want to write this post. I want to be better than this, to be evolved and enlightened. I want to be patient and understanding and have equanimity, but that just isn’t happening. Not now and perhaps not for a very long time.

I’m mad as hell.

I’m sick of weenie politicians offering their damned “thoughts and prayers.” I’m nauseated by the spinelessness of our leaders who are, instead, followers of the biggest financial donors. I’m sickened by elected officials who value their political life far more than the actual lives of attendees at religious ceremonies and little children in school. The core value of these officials seems to be, “Let ’em all die, as long as I get re-elected.”

I attended what was offered as a healing ceremony at my synagogue on Sunday morning. The kids attending Sunday School were brought in for the last 15 minutes of the proceedings and as I watched their little bodies make their way to open seats I couldn’t help but realize that these kids have now been taught to be afraid all the time, everywhere. And that’s absolutely not okay.

Nobody has ever solved the riddle of how to take fear and hate and anger from the hearts of our citizens, so I don’t have any notion that the riddle will be solved now. What I do believe is that we can open our eyes to the reality all around us and start to deal with it.

The Anti-Defamation League keeps track of anti-Semitism in America and reports that anti-Semitic incidents were up 57% in 2017 over 2016, with the highest increases occurring in the first 3 months of the year. It’s interesting to note that these spikes in acts of hatred occurred during and just after Donald Trump’s inauguration. Then the acts of hate spiked again following the “Unite the Right” neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, which was conducted by “fine people,” according to our president.

Trump is the obvious and easy-to-name provocateur of intolerance because of his well documented incitements to hate and violence. His wooden recitation of words from a Tele-prompter that were written by someone else means nothing, because everyone knows he’s completely disingenuous in his sympathy and is only mouthing the words. The withholding of his vilification of others barely lasted an hour following his Tele-prompter charade, when he was back to naming enemies and demeaning them. We’ve always had a problem of hatred in this country, but we’ve often had a leader upon whom we could count to call upon our better angels. Now, we don’t.

And it’s missing from many of our elected leaders, too, especially those who spinelessly refuse to stand up to Trump.

For those who desperately want to deny the one-sidedness of the incitement to hate and violence that lives in our politics and our country, I have a question for you: What is it that you’re pretending not to know? Perhaps you’ll like my question better in this form: What is it that is right before you every day that you refuse to see and refuse to hear?

If you call yourself a Republican I invite you to examine if that’s really true. The Republican Party of Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and H. W. Bush is long gone. There are still some ugly echoes from them, like the overt racism of Nixon and the racial stereotyping by Reagan (recall his self-serving lie, saying there were “welfare queens” in Chicago), but the basic conservatism of any and all of them is gone, regardless of the Republican label in use by others today.

Today’s Republican Party is the party of discrimination, the withholding of rights, hatred and the impoverishment of middle class and poor Americans and anyone who is not from white, Christian European stock, and the violent perps feed off that. If the things in that list don’t describe you, then renounce your membership in that party right now, because the Republicans of today abandoned you in favor of protecting their own asses and in the process they lost any semblance of moral standing and the right to a place of leadership. And it’s not just the discrimination that’s a problem.

They’ve sold out to the gun lobby because that gets them big donations for their campaigns. Were they honest they would declare the number of people who they figure can be butchered by semi-automatic weapon carrying angry people before they’ll stand up for sensible gun safety laws. Don’t look for that declaration, though, because going public with that would upset their big money donors.

Eleven people were killed and many more were wounded in the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday, this in the name of blaming Jews for the miserable life the killer had made for himself. It’s the same pattern as for the butchery in the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and the Sikh temple in Milwaukee and the LGBTQ partiers at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and those little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the people at the Las Vegas concert. Nearly all those dead bodies can be attributed to the cowardice of our elected officials to stand up and lead.

I went to the healing ceremony on Sunday and found no healing. I’ll get to that someday. Right now I’m mad as hell and I don’t give a damn about politicians’ “thoughts and prayers.” I want action.

For more following our most recent massacre, be sure to read Howard Fineman’s essay and Bari Weiss’ essay, too.

Correction: While she lived through those years, Rose Mallinger, the 97 year old shooting victim originally mentioned in this post, was not a holocaust survivor. Apologies for the error. JA

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

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

Who Cares?


A partial compendium of Trumpian distractions designed to keep your eye off the ball. Click the image for a larger view.

Reading time – 2:59; Viewing time – 4:17  .  .  .

North Dakota Republican lawmakers must think they’re in Texas or North Carolina, because they’re pursuing the same kinds of voter discrimination that’s become so popular with voter suppressionists in those other states.

They passed voter suppression tactics designed to stomp on the rights of 40,000 Native Americans. Here’s where it gets really weird: they started their discrimination after early voting had already begun.

Gotta give points for creativity to the North Dakota Republicans, because all the voter suppression actions in most other states has been to keep black, brown and poor people from voting, but not in North Dakota. Their anti-Constitutional genius is designed to keep poor Native Americans down. It seems that all those broken treaties over the centuries didn’t constitute enough cruelty to satisfy the supremacist power thirst of these Republicans. And the story gets worse.

Native Americans challenged that law in Federal court, which stopped it. But then the Republican North Dakota Secretary of State appealed to the Eighth District Court, which reversed the lower court and allowed the discriminatory law to stand. That decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, which decided that the law should go into affect.

So, who cares? We don’t care about Native Americans any more than we cared about Puerto Ricans when the hurricane slashed through that island and killed 2,975 Americans. None of them is from white European stock, so who cares?


Then there’s the deceit of the Kavanaugh debacle. Read the letter from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s lawyers posted halfway down the HUFFPost article. You’ll come away with clarity about the fundamental dishonesty of the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. To wrap a bow around that, here’s a link to a video of Donald Trump mocking Dr. Blasey Ford. His words aren’t only cruel; they’re utterly false. But really, if you’re in power, who cares?


A football coach, an athletic director and fifteen high school kids were killed and yet more were injured by a gunman at Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, FL on Valentine’s Day this year. Don’t even try to imagine how you would cope if one of your children had been shot dead at school, because unless you’ve lived it there isn’t even a remote possibility that you understand. But Fred Guttenberg does and he knows that doing something to help is what must be done. Guttenberg’s daughter, Jaime, was one of those killed that awful day in Florida.

Jaime was a dancer and she often helped those in need. She was small in stature, but took action to stop bullying. She simply cared about doing things to help others, so Fred created a foundation to do just that. It’s called Orange Ribbons for Jaime and I urge you to take a look. Watch Fred’s short video on the About page of the foundation’s website. Then take action to be like Jaime – do something to help others, like contributing to this foundation. Fred is completely transparent about what the foundation supports and, not surprisingly, that includes common sense gun safety reforms.

And support March For Our Lives, too. You remember David Hogg, Cameron Kasky and Emma Gonzalez – those kids who are wise beyond their years and who both broke your heart and filled it, as they spoke out on that day of murder in Parkland. They’re still speaking out and you can believe that they won’t stop until we defeat the gun lobby, whose only care is the profit to be made selling yet more guns. They won’t stop until we decide as a country that our children’s lives are more precious than unlimited arsenals in the house of any angry nut bag in this country. Chip in to help this movement.

Because the answer to the question “Who cares?” is you.

#WeAreTheMob
#WeWillVote

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Women For Trump


Reading time – 2:50; Viewing time – 3:43  .  .  .

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

It is a fact that a significant number of American women support Donald Trump and, given his history of misogyny, that begs the question of why they would do that.

Some are clear that they abhor everything they believe to be true about Hillary Clinton, so anyone else was a better choice in the last election. Indeed, maybe they are able overlook what they see in Trump that seems disagreeable to them. Perhaps they imagine that he doesn’t really believe everything he’s said and all that has been reported that he’s done. Perhaps these women were willing to overlook all of that simply because of their loathing of Clinton. Perhaps there’s more.

Many women have watched as our Congress has managed to paralyze itself so that the problems these people face never get addressed, much less solved. They have had it with politicians of all stripes lying to them, making promises they never intend to keep and just using them for their own purposes. They are convinced that the news media is nearly universally biased and lacks integrity. In short, anything that smacks of “the establishment” is not to be trusted and should be overthrown, replaced.

Click for WomenForTrump

At root, they are furious over being taken for granted, never being listened to and consistently muzzled so that they don’t have a voice. They feel disrespected. Blown off. Rejected. Trump rails against all parts of “the establishment”, so these folks feel validated as he leads them by metaphorically raising a middle finger.

I haven’t much to say to dissuade them of their feelings. Well, maybe just a couple of things, but nothing to suggest that they haven’t been disrespected, blown off and rejected. Just try these questions on for size – not in the abstract, but, if you’re a woman for Trump, for you personally.

It’s pretty clear that Donald Trump believes that he has special permission to do pretty much whatever he wants because he’s a “star”. He’s said exactly that. But if you’re a woman, that means he believes he can do as he wants with you, which means that whatever your age or your attributes, he thinks he can grab you whenever and wherever he wants. So, the first question is how would it sit with you if he groped you?

For the second question, let’s agree that it’s pretty clear from what he’s said repeatedly that he has a cavalier attitude about nuclear weapons. Perhaps he thinks he can nuke Iran and that there would be no retribution visited upon your town by Iranian survivors or perhaps other nuclear powers. Would it be okay with you to be vaporized in a mushroom cloud of Iranian retribution?

Maybe being groped by Trump or nuked by Iranians are far enough away in your imagination that such things aren’t compelling reasons to refuse to support Trump. Perhaps his flicking a middle finger at “the establishment” is so satisfying and delightful as to be overpowering and supplanting of all forms of doubt. If so, then project just these two horrible things – being groped or being nuked – onto your daughter or your little granddaughter. Don’t think for a moment that couldn’t happen, because he bragged about walking into the dressing rooms of naked teenage beauty contest girls. What if one of them were your daughter or your granddaughter? What if she were home when the nuke hit?

Is that flick of a middle finger still enough to overpower your doubt?

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

    YOUR ACTION STEPS:

    1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
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Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Bad For America


Reading time – 1:53 seconds; Viewing time – 2:47  .  .  .

In yet another 5-4 decision the Supreme Court has allowed Trump’s Muslim travel ban to stand. And by the same margin the Court allowed Ohio to continue to purge its voter roles of poor people and people of color. 5-4 is the same margin by which the Court allowed Texas and North Carolina Republican gerrymandering to suppress minority voting to stand.

Click for the Snopes fact check

It’s highly unlikely that any of those decisions would have gone this way had Merrick Garland been on the bench instead of Neil Gorsuch. That is exactly why Mitch McConnell sees his lie-filled theft of choice from President Obama to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Court as his proudest moment.

This is yet another example of the dishonesty that undermines our values and drives Americans to distrust government. It’s another lie that is easily exposed, like what @edelweisspirat showed us last week in what is perhaps the greatest tweet ever to expose Trumpian dishonesty:

Well, yeah, Melania, we really do care. Why don’t you?

He’s captured in just a few words the insanity of what Trump and the far right use in place of integrity and good sense. Just get that the lies and dishonesty have consequences, like those 5-4 decisions that incrementally steal freedoms from Americans.

Things are about to get worse now that Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced that he will retire from the Supreme Court on July 31. McConnell has announced that he plans to jam through Trump’s nominee quickly, this in the face of his logic in 2016 that there should be no new Supreme Court pick in an election year in order to, “let the people speak.” Somehow, his disingenuousness that prevented Obama’s pick doesn’t apply now that there’s a Republican in the White House.

There is no Senate filibuster to keep another Trump nominated far righty from the bench, and that will almost certainly lead to accelerated loss of our rights. And that pick will be a stepping stone to authoritarianism: there will be no way to stop Donald Trump’s wrongdoing and our accelerated spiraling into fascism.

What a proud day this must be for those who favor bullying, dishonesty and disorder over democracy; who favor party loyalty and their own position over patriotism. It appears that the righty extremist ends justify their means. Good for them. Bad for America.

Click me

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Populism and Obi-Wan


Reading time – 2:59; Viewing time – 4:06  .  .  .

Here’s Jax definition of populism: Mob behavior gussied up with a slick political cover.

Trump’s base is entirely populist, calling for extreme reaction to any issue and blunt force solutions to all problems. Think: Muslim ban; kidnapping children; building a $38 billion wall; embracing white supremacy and more.

Here are some characteristics of populism:

We are poor, innocent victims and that gives us the right to attack the imagined meanies who we fantasize have victimized us.

There is only “us” and “them” and we have to repress “them” or they will take over and victimize “us.”

There is always an enemy to demonize and dehumanize and blame for every problem. It’s never our fault and it’s never simply new cultural circumstances or the result of technological or global change. (See the cartoon below.)

All problems can be solved by hitting harder.

New thinking and fresh ideas are never contemplated or even welcome. Truth, facts and reality are no more than minor inconveniences, bumps in the road to greater power grabs.

Subtlety? What subtlety? We don’ need no stinking subtlety. We don’ need no stinking diplomacy. Or regulations to stop those who would exploit us. Or a press or justice system to hold leaders accountable. What accountability?

We are demanding of and slavish to an autocratic leader, a hero to worship, a strongman to idolize.

Perhaps democracy – rule by the people either directly or through democratically elected representatives – is an anomaly in human existence. Perhaps we are globally on the way back to monarchical, even dictatorial rule as our human default. The key is to envision what that looks like when we tear apart our hard won rights and structures, the foundations of freedom we’ve spent centuries building.

Our ancestors rebelled against the tyrant, King George III. You learned about that in your history classes, and his kind of tyranny is the world standard in the absence of democracy. In a monarchy, the people are rarely happy and most often are oppressed by the ruling class. That’s only attractive if you’re part of that ruling class. If you’re Dorothy from Kansas, not so much.

So, to the 27% of Americans who think that the government kidnapping of infants and children is okay, who think that shoving a thumb in the eye of our international friends is a good idea, who want to cozy up to tyrannical enemies of our country and who want to dismantle all of government and the judicial and press foundations that check executive excesses, you better be careful what you wish for. You just might get it and you will not like it and your grandchildren will curse you for your blindness.

Populism is driven by and generates great rushes of testosterone fury. It creates huge clouds of the sensation of being powerful, of sticking it to someone. But when those clouds lift we’ll be left with the tyranny of oppression.

To be clear, Trump and his minions are our challenge now. But to step back and look at a bigger picture, there is always a tyrant waiting to steal the reins of power and commit horrible acts and steal our democracy for himself. That can only happen if we allow the 27% to have their way.

I don’t have any notion that anyone can quickly change the visceral drive of the mobs that are the populism of this country. The Obi-Wan that is our only hope lies within the rest of us.

Click me for a larger image

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

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

Equal Justice – and Memorial Day


Reading time – 2:17; Viewing time – 3:02  .  .  .

Slavery didn’t end in America with the close of the Civil War.

It morphed into Jim Crow and torture and lynchings and murder of every sort. It changed into poll taxes and phony literacy tests. Shortly after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965  were passed, slavery adjusted again, as Richard Nixon thumped the table announcing his tough on crime and drugs measures, which were specifically designed to disempower and imprison people of color.

Ever since that time we have been locking up black people at many times the rate of whites who have committed the same crimes – or for no crime at all. Even as that horrific assault on humanity continues, slavery has morphed yet again to deny people of color the right to vote by using phony claims of voter fraud. And all the while blacks are burdened in our justice system by the presumption of guilt over innocence.

Slavery never ended. It evolved into the cruelties and injustices of today’s America.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL is living testimony to our forgotten dead – our brutalized dead. It makes fully human the reality of the millions who were treated as less than human, tens of thousands of whom were murdered and all were forgotten.

On this Memorial Day we remember our Civil War dead and all our military people who died standing guard over our country. That is as it should be. (Read this and this.) And it is long past time that we remember our people who died for the crime of being black. The Memorial has started that remembrance, telling us their names – real people’s names – so that the dignity they were born with and which should have been theirs all along is at long last restored.

The Legacy Museum is short distance from the Memorial and is a walk through a reality that we collectively prefer to ignore; however, reality is a persistent thing and looking the other way won’t erase it. Our duty is to see it for what it is.

If this were just a walk through history it would be worthwhile and valuable, but it is much more than that. That’s because of today’s truth: we continue our brutality toward our own people.

John Adams instructed us:

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

Go to Montgomery, AL and see the facts and evidence for yourself. Start by clicking on any picture in this blog to begin to open your eyes to the full truth. The Equal Justice Initiative has made it easy for you see the facts and the evidence. It’s time that we set ourselves on a path of equal justice for all.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

The Last Word


Reading time – 1:03  .  .  .

We stopped at the funky bookstore on the way to the island, where I picked up a novel by Gore Vidal. I had never read anything by Vidal and this book was on a stack selling at half price, so on a whim I included it with the selections already under my arm and mentally put it in the queue for beach reading.

Vidal was quite the controversial character and in addition to his books on history, culture and politics, his short stories, his plays and memoirs, he wrote a series of pulp fiction novels, including Thieves Fall Out, set in post-war Cairo. In speaking of men of treachery, a character in the book says they are, “Worse because they have no pity, only hate for the world they mean to own, to steal from the rest of us.” Sound like anyone you’re familiar with?

In speaking of the ongoing rebellion against the king, another character remarks, “Probably all a fake, staged by the government so they can lock up a few malcontents. Good play, too. Suggest it for other countries. Always a lot of sour apples in every country complaining. Fine. Let them complain. Then one day – boom! Say they started it. Lock ’em up. Do away with the lot. Only way to keep order.” Vidal describes this character as,”the last word in the Neanderthal mind.”

That was when I had an ah-HA! moment on the beach.

Our new normal is that we now have a month’s worth of president-related crises happening every day. There’s much to be said about this avalanche of crazy, including the peril that we may become accustomed to it and begin to ignore dangerous assaults on our safety, our values and the Constitution. It takes very little public apathy for Congress to go completely jellyfish and allow an arrogant, self-focused tyrant of a president to destroy all we hold dear. Will we wake up one day to hear the boom! as order is kept by a group of (mostly) men who represent the last word in the Neanderthal mind?

The answer, of course, is yes, if we allow that to happen.

Note that on Friday we learned that the Trump administration is considering stripping children from parents as a deterrent to illegal immigration on the U.S. southern border, this as about 700 children have already been taken. Neanderthal.

And it’s being done in our name.

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

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

Thanks!


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

(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.

Einstein


Reading time – 1:24  .  . .

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.Albert Einstein

I don’t know if Einstein actually said that, but I’m confident he believed it. In any scientific experiment, consistently providing the same string of inputs generates a consistently identical set of outputs. The same is true of ordinary human endeavors.

On the morning of November 6, 2017 the agencies investigating our most recent mass murder, this in Sutherland Springs, Texas, held a press briefing which included comments from a woman who lives in that horribly assaulted town. She said that what we – all of us – can do is to pray for the survivors and to support them with money donations to either of a couple of funds just established in support of the people in that community.

I’m not an expert on the subject of whether prayers offered by people around the country will provide help to the brutalized survivors. Surely, we like to think that they will. We have an innate need to help others who are suffering, so praying will at the very least serve that, as well as help to deal with this assault on our collective sense of loss of safety in the world.

What she did not address is anything that might help the next sanctuary full of church goers, or the next audience at a movie theater or concert, or the next group of children walking home from school in a dangerous inner city neighborhood, or the people on a popular bike and jogging path in a city, or the next holiday lunch gathering of coworkers, or people enjoying a nightclub, or college students walking across campus, or workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, or kids at a suburban high school, or a schoolroom full of first graders.

If we fail to change anything, we are assured of the same outcomes over and over. We’d be insane to expect anything different. We’ve seen this movie, we’ve lived it and thousands have died from it. We know it will never end unless we do something different.

The immediate defensive crouch assumed by the obstructionists to taking action is that there is no perfect solution to our self-inflicted savagery and no one thing will make all the difference.

It’s time to stop hiding behind that excuse for inaction.


The Onion puts light on our self-induced helplessness 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 and engage.  Thanks!

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

Thomas Paine Today


Reading time – 4:27; Viewing time – 6:36  .  .  .

Throughout his candidacy President Trump promised to “drain the swamp,” the fetid, stinking hole of Washington DC that had betrayed ordinary Americans. He railed against insiders, the people who made DC worthy of disdain. Then he populated his cabinet with Goldman Sachs banksters. You know, the financial masters of the universe who gambled with your money, then lost it and demanded that you cover their debts? Well, they’re in charge of part of the swamp right now and they’re continuing to grab ever more wealth for themselves and others, like Donald Trump.

Trump continues to pound the drum of accusation and demonization against the press and our judiciary. That’s convenient for any autocrat who wants to undermine the people who hold them accountable and stop their excesses. Actually, Trump sees these people as enemies and he attacks them viciously almost daily. That’s effective in numbing his “base” to the factual reports about his – let’s call them “dalliances” – from the Constitution.

Trump demanded Former FBI Director James Comey’s loyalty to him, which Comey sensibly refused. At the time Comey was looking into possible involvement of Trump and his election team with Russians who meddled with the U.S. election. Comey wouldn’t quash the investigation as Trump asked, so Trump fired him. Eliminating opposition is what autocrats do.

Click me for the nauseating video

Actually, Trump consistently demands loyalty to himself alone and doesn’t seem to recognize that all government hires – including the President – have pledged loyalty to the Constitution of the United States of America and not to the President. However, demanding personal loyalty is what autocrats do. Just recall that infinitely embarrassing (okay, vomitous) Cabinet meeting as his cabinet members took turns fawning over Great Leader. That must have made even psycho autocrat Kim Jung-un in North Korea envious.

Trump uses Twitter to maintain a constant barrage of outrageous, accusatory and false claims – the kind Kellyanne Conway promoted as “alternative facts.” Okay, you could call them lies. They keep us watching Trump’s latest shiny objects instead of his likely treasonous actions.

Trump has created a federal panel to collect all U.S. voter registration information in order to stop our nearly nonexistent voter fraud. Have you any doubt whatsoever that what he really wants to do is to restrict the voting rights of all citizens who are likely to vote against him? Remember, for an autocrat, it’s all about aggregating power.

Trump is trying to replace his chief toady, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with someone who hasn’t recused himself from all things Russia. That will allow the new AG to fire Robert Mueller and end the investigation into Trump’s and the Trump organization’s possibly illegal and possibly treasonous behavior with Russia. Trump has tweeted that he wants the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton for something or other. It seems that Trump wants the people in the Justice Department to be his very own vigilantes and the FBI his thugs. Autocrats like that.

Trump is even looking into his ability to pardon his staff, his family and himself. Should that happen, who will hold Trump accountable? Who will stop him from committing yet more crimes? Given this nearly spineless Republican Party, what else will he be able to get away with? This is the stuff of would-be dictators stacking the deck for themselves so that they can get away with anything.

Earlier in the year Trump tried to refuse all Muslims entry to the U.S., even including returning American citizens who are Muslim. Later he pared down his hate list to people from 7 Muslim-majority countries, not even one of which had attacked us. On July 26 of this year President Trump issued an executive order banning all trans-gender Americans from the military. To whom would such enemy creation and hateful actions appeal? Garry Kasparov can help us understand.

Kasparov is likely the best chess player ever and is a Putin critic. Having lived in the Soviet Union he knows a thing or two about autocrats. Here is a Kasparov tweet from the day after Trump tweeted his banning of trans-gender Americans from the military:

That’s what autocrats do. They distract us with outrageous, divisive stupidities and get us to hate each other and then lash out against one another as they go about aggregating all power to themselves. It’s classic divide and conquer.

It’s always dangerous to make comparisons to Adolph Hitler, but there are parallels here. Like Hitler, Trump won a democratic election with less than 50% of the popular vote. Like Hitler, he surrounds

Click me for the article

himself with toadies who will never confront him. Like Hitler, he undermines the rule of law. Like Hitler, he makes bombastic, false declarations that polarize citizens. Like Hitler, he constantly accuses and humiliates others in order to diminish them and to create enemies for followers to hate. Like Hitler, he neutralizes those who might have power to check him. And like Hitler, he tries to incrementally take rights from the people and aggregate power to himself.

Many have warned us about the creep of fascism in America, including me here and here. It is something that I had never dreamed could happen, yet it was foretold by Henry Wallace, FDR’s Vice-President, Professor Timothy Snyder and others. It’s happening in plain sight right now in America.

In another time of peril heaped upon us by an autocratic ruler, Thomas Paine warned us clearly that, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” And so it is today. The bugle is sounding and we must answer the call or we will lose our democracy.

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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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