Conservatism

Clarity From a Choir

Reading time – 3:57; Viewing time – 5:13  .  .  .

It’s an amateur choir, but the sound these folks make is stunning. They performed for years under the leadership of their much beloved director, who died suddenly and unexpectedly.

The search for a new director began and they found an interesting guy. He and the board came to a decision about a new vision for the choir, deciding that rather than being solely about music there was a grander service for them to provide. That vision laid clear the path forward.

Everyone in the choir auditioned to remain and, although it was hard to do, some were asked to leave. They simply couldn’t clear the performance bar necessary for the vision of the future.

And it’s working, because the choir is even better than before. Answering the “What do we want?” question first made the “How can we improve?” question easy to answer.

That’s the point. There must be a vision of a better future in order to make sound decisions about how to solve problems and overcome challenges. The test is always about which choice best moves us toward what we want, that better future.

David Brooks writes in his June 27 piece, The G.O.P. Rejects Conservatism, “The current Republican Party has iron, dogmatic rules about the role of government, but no vision about America.”

For example, Republicans chant the mantra “small government, low taxes,” which sounds appealing and which they have never practiced at the federal level in my lifetime. More important, that mantra only describes the government they want. It’s a tactic for something, but they never say what that is.

Now let’s get to the other side of the aisle.

The Democrats can’t seem to articulate much of anything about a vision for America, either. Like the Republicans, they are clear about certain issues. For example, there seems to be a consensus about health care being a right of all Americans, but that isn’t a description of a vision for a better America. It’s a tactic to accomplish something. What does that better America look like according to the Democrats?

Once we Americans agree on what we want, then a sensible discussion can begin about how to achieve that. Absent a vision, we wind up squabbling over individual issues with no concept of how or whether the various tactics help move us toward that vision.

I still like the Jeffersonian statement in the first few sentences of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Do we as a nation still hold those truths to be self-evident? If that’s the vision, then the solutions to our challenges must be measured against that vision. Honestly, I never hear a discussion that sounds even remotely that grand, yet that is what is needed if we are to get beyond selfish squabbling and solve our very complicated challenges.

Let’s take this one step further.

What if the people now in charge have a very different vision for the future of America than you do? What if you’re being played right now to benefit those holding the reins? Don’t imagine this as a propeller hat notion, because that happens regularly around the world and right here in America, too. For example, while we were grieving over 9/11, George W. Bush used that tragedy as an excuse to invade Iraq and get draconian, un-constitutional laws passed in order to spy on you.

To flesh this out more clearly, have a look at Naomi Klein’s work on governments using public shock to advance their power grabbing. Here’s a link to her short video. Watch it when you think your bones can tolerate being rattled.

Rachel Maddow almost got punked by government-planted fake news last week. This is really sneaky stuff – your government planted fake news in her inbox in order to discredit the press in general and Maddow in particular when she aired the lies. Perhaps they did that because she’s been steadfast in reporting on the Russian hacking story. Had Maddow taken the bait of that fake Top Secret document, the Discreditor-in-Chief would have railed against the press and we would likely be left with one less watchdog over government at a time when we need all the members of our press A-team suited up. Here’s a link to the reporting.

Both the Maddow and Klein pieces bear heavily on a vision for America and you likely won’t like the vision these pieces point to. For more on this read Seth Abramson’s Twitter string and you’ll understand more fully how compromised America’s future is becoming.

Many thanks to C. H. for pointing me to these pieces.

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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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Jax New Rules

amer-united-1-10-17

JUST A FEW SEATS LEFT – LAST CHANCE TO REGISTER – RSVP NOW AND SET YOUR DVR TO RECORD PRESIDENT OBAMA’S FAREWELL ADDRESS

Reading time – 2:47 seconds; Viewing time – 3:54  .  .  .

Safety note to readers and viewers: This commentary registers 7.4 on the Snark-O-Meter.

With honor to Bill Maher for the format, here are Jax New Rules starting on January 20:

electric-chair-2Jax New Rule – People have to stop saying they’re pro-life if they continue to support the death penalty.

Jax New Rule – Americans who demand the defunding of Planned Parenthood may no longer claim that they care about women, especially poor women, and they have to stand on street corners handing out condoms.

repeal-and-what

Copyright Stantis, Chicago Tribune, 2017

Jax New Rule – Now that the Republicans control the presidency and both chambers of Congress, they can vote for roughly the 62nd time to repeal Obamacare, even as they have nothing to replace it and won’t for at least two years – that’s according to their own calculations – they have to take ownership of the healthcare outcomes of the millions of people who will no longer have access to healthcare at all. Furthermore, the Republicans will be required to provide grave markers for these millions, bearing the inscription, “I arrived here early, thanks to the Republicans.”

stoned-womanJax New Rule – Absolutist Bible thumpers must stop their cafeteria use of biblical rules and henceforth must follow all of them and in their literal meaning. So, if on your wedding night you learn that your wife is not a virgin, you must stone her to death and return the body to her father. And when you yourself commit adultery, your friends and relatives must stone you to death.

And finally,

Jax New Rule – Republicans who don’t aggressively investigate and penalize Vladimir Putin and Russia for their computer hacking and selective leaks omj-3f what they found, and for attempting to influence our 2016 election and our democracy itself may no longer wear the label of patriot nor claim they’re for muscular national defense.

For decades the Republicans have been presenting themselves to the American people as the true patriots, the ones who believe in the most robust national defense and who always fought for more money for the Pentagon, regardless of whether the Pentagon even wanted it (e.g. the F-35 Joint Task Strike Fighter). Whenever some foolish Democrat would suggest using some of those billions of defense dollars for something non-military they were ridiculed by Republicans as being weak-kneed, unpatriotic and willing to sacrifice the lives of our brave military men and women.

wp-putin-ordered-hackBut now that we’ve caught Putin with his hand in our ballot boxes, only a small handful of legislators is speaking up. Where did all that chest thumping go? What happened to their boasts of patriotism now that the President will be of their party and he’s in Putin’s pocket?

We all understand Trump’s continuing denial of the Russians having influenced the election. After all, if they did sway the election, it would be clear thatwt-3 Trump doesn’t really have the mandate he falsely boasts of having. It would be clear that he’s an illegitimate president. No, Trump has to tweet his denials of Russian influence on the election because his overblown ego couldn’t handle the truth.

But what of the many Senators and Representatives who are much too quiet now and should be calling for retribution, sanctions and greater protections for our country? Where are they? Where’s that stiff patriotic spine they’ve bragged about since the start of the Cold War?

Jax new rule for this Congress is this: Put up or shut up.

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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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

ptsd2Reading time – 3:46; Viewing time – 6:44  – longer than most, still respectful of your time  .  .  .

NOTE: Email addresses listed in the prior blog have been repaired. If that kept you from taking action, please make your voice heard right now – tomorrow is too late.

Let’s see what we have now for Trump administration picks to run our country – just a little taste test. Note that the first three do not require Senate confirmation. We’re stuck with them.

Steve Bannon is Trump’s Chief Strategist. Bannon is the former chairman of Breitbart News, an Alt-Right (i.e. White Supremacist, hate mongering, lying) website of – dare I say it? – scum bucket fake news stories and attacks. And this guy will have the President’s ear full time. What could possibly go wrong? Late addition: Click here and scroll down to section IV to learn about Bannon’s possibly treasonous activities that would invite Russia into the White House.

Rience Priebus, former head of the Republican National Committee with an exceptionally fluid connection to facts and reality, has been named as Trump’s Chief of Staff. That means that Priebus will largely be in charge of who and what comes before the President of the United States. What could possibly go wrong?

Michael Flynn has been named Trump’s National Security Advisor. Flynn is the guy who was fired from the Defense Intelligence Agency for his flamboyant and fatuous notions and ways. He had the astoundingly poor judgment to retweet anti-Semitic comments and to tweet fake news 16 times in the last few months. He even had the complete lack of sense and absence of good judgment to tweet baseless, brainless nonsense about non-existent Hillary emails, supposedly connecting her with money laundering and sex crimes with children (the so-called “Pizzagate”). With Flynn as the nation’s National Security Advisor, what could possibly go wrong?

Jeff Sessions is Trump’s nominee for Attorney General. This is the same Jeff Sessions who was rejected for a federal judgeship a few years back because he’s a racist and a segregationist. As a senator from Alabama, he’s opposed nearly every piece of immigration legislation that’s come before him. The AG is the one in charge of deciding which cases will be prosecuted – that is to say, which laws will be enforced. With a segregationist and anti-immigrant in charge of our civil rights laws, again, what could possibly go wrong?

Scott Pruitt to head the E.P.A. is a noteworthy choice. As the Oklahoma Attorney General he sued the E.P.A. repeatedly and berated it, saying it was anti-energy. He dislikes E.P.A. regulations – you know, those pesky things that, for example, keep corporations from polluting our water – and he is a de facto climate warming denier. With those bona fides at the head of the agency, what could possibly go wrong?

Dr. Ben Carson is Trump’s pick to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Carson has repeatedly declared that he has no experience in running anything other than a neurosurgery. While his doctoring skills may be fine, they don’t qualify him to run any agency of government at any level. He’s clueless. So, what could possibly go wrong there?

Retired General James Mattis is Trump’s pick for Defense Secretary. Most acknowledge that Mattis is a capable fellow, but he retired only three years ago from the military and our laws require that he be separated from the military for at least seven years to hold such a position (it used to be ten years). Oddly, Trump seems to believe that flaunting the law is okay (go figure). But the seven year limitation is there for a reason – so that we maintain civilian control over our military. Conservatives should be all over this as a flagrant attempt to violate the law and Mattis should go find something to do that is both useful and legal. Otherwise, we will have codified lawbreaking. What could possibly go wrong from that?

Betsy DeVos is Trump’s nominee to be Education Secretary. This is the same Betsy DeVos who wants to reform education to “advance God’s kingdom” and wants to use “school choice” to do that. Be clear that school choice means vouchers of public money doled out to spend on kids’ education in private religious schools. So much for separation of church and state. There’s way more to DeVos’ lunacy, but the key here is that she is an opponent of public education, a religious zealot who wants to run this country according to the laws of the Bible (are you ready to stone adulterers?) and she’s Trump’s pick for Education Secretary. What could possibly go wrong?

Saving the most insane for last, Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon/Mobil, is the nominee for Secretary of State. He proudly signed a $500 billion deal with Vladimir Putin and his government’s 70% share of Russia’s state oil company to drill in the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico. Tillerson was awarded Russia’s BFF (Best Friends Forever) award by Putin himself. Everyone agrees that national defense, the security of our nation, is the primary job of the federal government. How is this guy, who cozies up to our key adversary, going to look out for America’s national security interests? Oh, and by the way, Trump wants John Bolton to be Tillerson’s sidekick. That’s the same John Bolton who thinks we should nuke Iran and insists to this day that Saddam Husein had the weapons of mass destruction that reality has proven never existed. With Tillerson and Bolton at the Department of State, what could possibly go wrong?

There are more nominations we can examine (including a nominee for Treasury Secretary who’s direct from Goldman Sachs, a woman to head the Small Business Administration who’s a reality TV mogul, heading World Wrestling Entertainment, a Labor Secretary who opposes overtime pay and is anti-labor, an Energy Secretary who wants to eliminate the Department of Energy – the list goes on) but the point is clear.

Trump promised to drain the swamp, but instead has brought before us establishment types and billionaires who are blatantly at odds with the agencies they would lead. Given the power in their hands, each would worsen the condition of ordinary (read: not billionaire) Americans. There is nothing that can be done to excise those who do not require Senate approval; that swamp will remain polluted. For all the rest,

senators-stop

Otherwise, we will, indeed, find out exactly what could go wrong.

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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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

A Man for Any Season

Seal_of_the_United_States_National_Security_Agency.svgReading time – 2:31; Viewing time – 3:26  .  .  .

In the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001 the people of the United States were in the mood for a few things; chief among them was security. Not long afterward President George W. Bush started the National Security Agency’s warrant-less wiretapping program. Bush’s own Justice Department later reported that it could not certify the legality of that program, a euphemistic way of saying that the program was illegal.

The program had a hard stop date of March 11, 2004 and needed a sign-off by the Attorney General in order for the program to continue under the terms of its original authorization. Shortly before the reauthorization deadline, Attorney General John Ashcroft became quite ill with what was diagnosed as gallstone pancreatitis and doctors had removed his gall bladder. He lay in intensive care, a very sick man.

On the night of March 10, 2004, the night before the reauthorization deadline, White House Counsel Alberto R. GoSeal_of_the_United_States_Department_of_Justice.svgnzales (the same legal counsel who had declared that waterboarding was not torture and was, therefore, legal) and President Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr. were on their way to Ashcroft’s intensive care bedside to strong arm him into signing the re-authorization that he had refused to sign prior to becoming ill. Ashcroft’s deputy Attorney General was James Comey, who was acting Attorney General due to Ashcroft’s incapacitation. When Comey learned what was about to happen he rushed to the hospital and prevented the strong arming, while at the same time refusing to sign the re-authorization.

Bush later authorized the illegal surveillance himself and caused it to continue. That was the last straw and Comey and the rest of the top officers in the Attorney General office were prepared to resign en-mass, refusing to be a part of an administration that would subvert the law. Bush then backed off, agreeing to make changes to the program.

400px-US-FBI-ShadedSeal.svgThat is the same James Comey who issued a blistering assessment of the use of private email servers by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and at the same time said that his FBI team found no evidence of criminal intent and recommended that no legal action be taken against Clinton.

This is the same James Comey who stood his ground during the hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, as several Republican members attempted to impugn Comey’s integrity, suggesting political considerations bent his judgment and that he allowed for a double standard of justice, one for the Clintons and another for everyone else.

James Comey

FBI Director James Comey

We now seem to have an overabundance of people focused solely on political advantage for themselves, who want to warp the understanding of events into whatever fantasy serves them and whose spines seem to be a bit too flexible. They don’t care whom they trample or how they crush integrity.

In contrast, how refreshing it is to find a man like Comey who stands up, speaks truth to power, saying, “Not on my watch.”

For full details of the 2004 hospital confrontation, read the Washington Post report here.

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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: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

A Reality Check for Trump Voters

Reading time – 67 seconds; Viewing time – 2:34  .  .  .

You’re flashing the bird at the “establishment” – the authority figures, the big money kids, the guys in the expensive suits and power ties. They have been screwing you for so long that you can’t even remember when you weren’t being screwed. You have no recollection of the last time anyone from any establishment said something that didn’t ring phony. You’re mad as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore.

Got it. You’re right – you are being screwed.

And you’re being screwed in ways you might not realize.

Because the crazies with the megaphones have been tweaking your nose over immigration, God, guns and gays. They’ve been fanning your flames with absolutist junk, like, “You’re either with us or you’re not an American” and they have made your blood boil. And all the time they were doing their misdirection trickery they were picking your pocket.

It started with Reagan’s “supply-side economics,” which was supposed to “trickle down” wealth to you from the fat cats. How’s that been working for you? The answer is that it’s not working at all, because the fat cats kept it all for themselves. And they’re still keeping it and protecting their rights to keep their claws deeply embedded into your wallet, thanks to the laws your legislators enacted that created tax breaks only for already wealthy people. You didn’t catch even a little break.

They told you that it was all about jobs, jobs, jobs. That sounded good. Then they defeated every attempt at job-creating legislation except the one for vets. And the Republicans had to be shamed into passing that.

That’s right: They distracted you with tweaky social issues while they ate your lunch. And they’re still eating your lunch.

Just get this: Donald J. Trump has been and is an integral part of the establishment misdirection scheme that got your pocket picked. His claws are holding your cash and he’s proposed cutting taxes even more for the rich kids – but not for you. Trump won’t be trickling any money down to you.

You know a phony when you see one, even if he sounds like a really good circus sideshow barker. So, when November comes around, put your hand on your wallet and keep it there as you vote.

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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: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Pruning

Reading time – 69 seconds; Viewing time – 2:53  .  .  . 

Pundits and non-pundits alike have been continuously baffled, as Trump has brayed out his fact-less, mean-spirited, anti-Constitutional idiocies. Why don’t people abandon him as he proves yet again that he hasn’t a thought in his head, other than promoting Trump? That seemed to be a continuously repeating departure from the norm of candidate stupid stuff harming or killing a campaign. Wuzzup?

Turns out it wasn’t and isn’t a departure from the norm. When people are angry it’s pretty standard that their concern over being respectful or even being accurate vanishes. Our country was founded with a huge piece of resentment powering the revolution. But is there a chasm of stupid that’s just too wide for even Trump followers to leap?

He may have found it this week, as he managed to anger everyone on both sides of the abortion issue. Not even angry people like it when their mouthpiece demeans them and lies about an issue they care about.

Trump was never a viable contender in a general election and I predict that he has now sealed his fate as a failed primary election contender. You can stop worrying about a President Trump. And there’s more.

Now that the DC Madam’s lawyer has promised to release records that he asserts will impact the 2016 presidential race and implicate someone as a “client” of this so-called, high-end escort service, be prepared for a bit more pruning of the ranks of contenders. Confession: I do hope that the soon-to-be-found out john is a self-righteous, Bible-thumping, wrapped-in-the-flag type. I just love the unmasking of a hypocrite.

Note, though, that we’re electing a commander in chief and not our national pants zipper monitor, so a private dalliance shouldn’t be a job dis-qualifier now, anymore than it should have been for Bill Clinton. On the other hand, we as a nation haven’t fully moved past our Puritan roots, so our neurotic sexual hang-ups will continue to rule. I guess we didn’t turn all the way around that corner in the ’60s.

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BTW:

  1. As of April 1, 2016 $412 million has been raised by SuperPACs in support of the remaining presidential candidates. The SuperPAC Billionaires for Bernie has raised exactly $0. What do you think of that?
  2. Yes, I know they stole your country and you want to take it back, especially if you live in a deeply red state and your neck is the same color. Read This Before You Say Anything Else About ‘Taking Back America’. Thanks FL for the pointer.

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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: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Edward R. Murrow Was Right

Edward R MurrowReading time – 46 seconds; Viewing time – 2:46  .  .  .

Said Edward R. Murrow, “Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.”

Imagine if Donald Trump understood that. Or Ted Cruz. Or Mitch McConnell or Chuck Grassley or Sarah Palin or any of the long list of people whose notion of public service is:

  1. To block any progress on anything other than bulking up the wallets of already rich people, and
  2. Saying ludicrous, flagrantly false things designed to stoke fear and anger in people who are already fearful and angry.

It was during Bill Clinton’s presidency that the Republican party went full bore obstructionist. It became the party of “no” and offered absolutely nothing that would make America better, nothing to “form a more perfect union.” Republicans were solely about clawing for power via public confrontation, even opposing things they had previously championed.

Their philosophy was perfected during the Obama presidency, as Republican lawmakers and a few others gathered at an exclusive DC restaurant on inauguration night, January 20, 2009. The purpose of the meeting was to declare their strategy to defeat Obama in every way, to deny him any victories, regardless of the stupidity of their actions and the cost to our country.

Mitch McConnell went public with that, telling us his number 1 goal was to make President Obama a 1-term president, making clear that anything to make things better for the country or for the American people was secondary. It was all about a Republican power grab. Indeed, they would refuse to do the very jobs they were hired to do and instead would focus solely on partisan warfare. For them, cooperation and compromise meant that everyone else must cave in and agree with them 100%.

None of that strategy would have made sense or been wise had it been heard at the end of the bar. It surely was a clarion call to self-destruction that was heard halfway around the world and that didn’t make it any wiser.

It still isn’t wise and we’re living with that stupidity right now, as McConnell refuses to vet a Supreme Court nominee. He claims that presidents in an election year never make such appointments. That’s absolutely true, except for Anthony Kennedy, who was appointed in Reagan’s last year in office. In fact, one of every three presidents has made a Supreme Court appointment in an election year.

Sadly, Murrow was right.

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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: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Stop Obsessing About the How

Reading time – 61 seconds; Viewing time – 2:54  .  .  .

Bernie Sanders is telling us that he wants Americans to have universal health care – single payer. He is challenged by those on the left, the center and the right, asking how he’s going to get that done.

Donald Trump tells us he’s going to deport 11 million undocumented residents now in the U.S. The math for that works out to 7,534 people to be deported every day of a 4-year presidential term. How will he do that?

Ted Cruz has a plan to completely re-make the federal tax system. It would reduce the income of the government by $8.6 trillion over a decade. At the same time, he plans to dramatically increase money for the Defense Department and the National Security apparatus. The math simply doesn’t come anywhere near to working, so how will he do that?

Marco Rubio disapproves of increasing the national debt limit, but he doesn’t explain how the United States will avoid default on existing debt without raising the limit. By what magic will we not become a deadbeat nation?

Hillary Clinton has accepted many millions of dollars from big money influencers, including the fossil fuel industry, big Pharma and big banks. How will she lead without being influenced by those massive campaign contributions and the money sure to arrive for the purpose of funding her second term?

Here’s the point: You’ll never get a satisfactory answer to “How?” from any of the candidates. Nobody can tell you how a Democrat as president will get what they want through a Republican Congress. Nobody can tell you how an absolutist Republican president would accomplish his absolutist ends with the filibuster alive and well in the Senate.

All you can get is an idea of what these people believe in and the direction they would take the United States if they could take it some place. Decide for yourself if their values and ideas match yours (or if they are totally cuckoo bird) and stop fretting about the “How?” stuff, because most of what is promised during a campaign will never be done.

And VOTE. Illinois, Florida, Ohio, Missouri and North Carolina primary elections are on Tuesday, March 15. Show up and VOTE.

Here’s some happy news: If you’re an Illinois resident and are not already registered to vote, you can register on election day. Yes, we have same-day registration now, so bring a few forms of ID, like your drivers license, passport, student ID, credit card, utility bill with your name on it – you only need one, but bring more just in case. Show up at your poling place and you’ll be able to register and VOTE right then and there.

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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: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Question Still Haunts Us

Ed. note: This was my response to a letter from a friend, updated only very slightly, and was posted three months before the 2012 general election. Sadly, the question still haunts us.
 

Reading time – 3:34; Viewing time – 8:36  .  .  .

Thanks so much for your comments.  I completely and enthusiastically agree  .  .  .  You said we have bigger fish to fry and we certainly do have enormous financial issues.

We really have been living beyond our means for decades and our politicians (both R’s and D’s) have done a good job of protecting their jobs instead of doing their jobs and, in the process, they have led the public to believe that there is a free lunch.  We, the public, somehow went along with them when, to paraphrase Richard Pryor, the politicians said to us, “You gonna believe me or your lying good sense?” And we believed them. Go figure.

Notwithstanding the stupidity of all parts of that dynamic, my original comments that perhaps seemed polarized were and are intended to be focused on the broader issue. You used the word “reprehensible” and it is both apt and at the heart of my meaning. Here are a few data points, all of which raise a singular question.

The Republicans, led by Ted Cruz, held hostage the entire nation – even the entire world economy – to their fiscal demands. I understand that it was a leverage point, but the debt ceiling and a new budget are two entirely different things and the authorization to increase the debt ceiling should have been done as an independent issue. It should have been done immediately in order to declare our resolve to remain the standard for the world economy. Threatening financial disaster can be seen in another way: It is a statement of the kind of America the Republicans are trying to create. Is that really who we Americans are?

Conservatives Reagan, Bush I & Bush II, each in his time, ran up the biggest deficits/debt in the history of the world. Reagan and Bush I increased taxes to pay for their spending. Bush II instead both decreased taxes and started two unnecessary wars. All of that pushed us to the brink of financial disaster. Is that really who we Americans are?

Recall for a moment the Reagan-initiated frenzy for deregulation, a Republican mania that continues today. That led directly to the financial collapse of 2008 and, yes, D’s were complicit in that. All those trillions of bail out dollars are gone and with no accountability and nearly no mechanisms to prevent another round of “too big to fail.” Strangely, the Republicans are howling for still more deregulation which would put us at ever greater risk. Is that really who we Americans are?

A violent storm went through my area this morning and a power line was downed by a broken tree limb just a block from my house. The police were out in the violent storm within minutes, cordoning the area and protecting everyone from the continuous blast of 600 volt sparking and fire. Before heading to my basement due to a tornado warning, I saw more flames from another direction, called 911 and was connected to the fire department. I reported the situation and a bunch of guys saddled up and headed out in a fire truck, this while most of us were huddled in our basements from the continuing storm.

Consider, too, the school teachers to whom we entrust most of our kids’ education and those who drive snow plows through blizzards so we can go where and when we want. All these people protect and support us, including in dangerous situations and often in terrible conditions. They are also the people who the Republicans want to strip of some of their pay, their pensions, their right to bargain collectively and the Republicans want to lay off a bunch of them, too. In Wisconsin, Scott Walker wants to take nearly all of the savings from the heavy load put on the backs of Wisconsin cops, firemen, teachers and others and give it to rich people. Is that really who we Americans are?

Paul Ryan wants to kill Medicare, send everyone and their money to a few private medical insurers and leave millions of those who need health care adrift in their poverty. 70% of the savings from his plan to kill Medicare would go directly to rich people and corporations. Is that really who we Americans are?

In Michigan, the Republican controlled state government has decided that they have the right to take over any local governmental body in the state if the geniuses in Lansing decide that the locals need their help. [Update: Take a look at the Flint, MI lead-poisoned kids to get an idea of what a fine job those geniuses are doing.] They have effectively stripped voting rights from entire communities and imposed a dictatorship on the state. Is that really who we Americans are?

In Arizona, former governor Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe Arpaio enshrined discrimination into the law and into desert concentration camps. Is that really who we Americans are?

Rand Paul says that it’s immoral that we helped the victims of Hurricane Katrina. That pretty much captures the America he and so many of the hair-on-fire R’s want us to become. Is that really who we Americans are?

The Republicans voted in lock step to continue to give tax breaks to the biggest oil companies which have the greatest profits in the history of the world. Huh?

Everything I see tells me that the Republican party wants to turn the clock back to the days of the robber barons. Life was very good then for the very rich. For everyone else, well, it wasn’t so good. The Republicans seem to be in favor of anything to kill those hated programs that help people who need help. Yes, I know there are plenty of dim-witted and even self-defeating programs that never should have been started or which have long outlived their usefulness. And don’t misunderstand me:  There is nothing wrong with being rich. The wrong is in excluding everyone else.

The financial burden from the past is enormous and vexing. The financial challenge of the future will look different from the free lunch nonsense to which we are accustomed. There is plenty of fixing to do. The key, though, is our clarity of vision of who we want to be – our national True North. That direction is being decided right now, in part, by people doing reprehensible things. The reprehensible behavior is not one-sided, of course. The bulk of it that I see, though, comes from the right.

I wish I could find one of those moderate Republicans you mentioned who has the backbone to speak what s/he believes, rather than what they thought would get votes from “the base” and who would offer reasonable centrist views. I’m hoping that you are incorrect about them being extinct, but instead find that they are in hiding, waiting for the chest thumping storm of temper tantrum insanity to pass. I will welcome an honest exchange that focuses on making a better America.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I believe we are right now at an important crossroads in the battle for the soul of America. We are in a defining moment of setting a vision – a self-image – of who we Americans really are.

In my Money, Politics & Democracy presentations I break the news about our American vision in this way:

We are crafting the America our children and grandchildren will inherit – and we’re doing it right now!

We better get about the task. We better speak up about the task, because:

If you don’t make your voice heard, people who want a very different America from the one you want will be heard, because they will be the only ones talking.

Speak up! In the Comments section below. With your friends, your family and, yes, even your crazy brother-in-law. Speak up or you and your children will have to put up with what you’ve tolerated.

 

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What Are We Becoming?

Confederate Battle FlagReading time – 46 seconds; viewing time – 2:07  .  .  .

We’re seeing many more Confederate stars and bars, now that Donald Trump has assumed the mantle of Leader Of the Crazy Opposition (acronym: LOCO). These are the terminally angry people who want to return America to their America, whatever it is they imagine that was. But let’s check out what that really means.

There are a number of things that conservatives hold dear and value more and in different ways than do liberals. One is loyalty.

While we all value loyalty, it’s a huge value for righties and the further right you look, the more fervently you’ll find that loyalty is embraced. But the original stars and bars waving Confederates were so insanely reactive with their “You can’t tell me what to do!” tantrums that they crossed the line and made themselves traitors. There is no loyalty in that. It is the ultimate betrayal.

Conservatives also place huge value on individual freedom. Who wouldn’t? But the original Confederates believed in individual freedom only for themselves and they demanded slavery – the complete lack of freedom – for millions of people. They had good reasons for that, of course. It gave them a sense of power to have that kind of control over others. Far more important, though, is the financial gain they received by not having to pay laborers to work their fields. Reasonably translated, they sold their declared personal value of individual freedom, sold out themselves, for money. They chased their greed, no less than our 1% chase their greed today. That’s ironic, because today’s stars and bars wavers hate today’s greedy 1%-ers for doing what the original Confederates did.

So, please, if you want to wave your Confederate flag, don’t tell me that it’s about individual liberty or freedom or loyalty. The damned thing stands for slavery, greed and disloyalty  .  .  .  and the millions of Americans motivated to wave that flag are supporting Donald Trump.

What are we becoming?

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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