discrimination

Against Their Own Interest – and Syria Stupidity


Reading time – 3:47  .  .  .

A lot of barrels of ink have been emptied in an effort to explain why some American voters – largely rural people – consistently vote against their own interests. This predates Donald Trump, although he has been a beneficiary of it and has exploited it masterfully. My understanding of what appears to be a key driver of self-destructive behavior has largely been focused on the betrayal so many Americans feel. It’s borne of the obvious abandoning of promises made to them by various levels of government officials, especially those in our federal government.

Do you remember all those years of John Boehner, then Speaker of the House, declaring that the number one priority was, “Jobs, jobs, jobs”? The only bill passed to create more jobs while he was speaker was specifically for military veterans, and Boehner had to be shamed into passing that. Where did that leave the rest of our forgotten Americans?

They feel used for their tax money and abused by the system, so they’re angry. They’re naturally attracted to the angriest voice with the simplest solutions. They fear “others” who may be as far away as another country or as near as the closest big city.

And they don’t like immigrants, fearing they’re here to freeload off our public assistance programs. There are yet other ways Trump voters feel ripped off, because they don’t get a benefit from government programs – or at least they don’t believe that they do. Turns out, not surprisingly, that their disaffection is more elaborate than that.

Monica Potts wrote a stunning piece in the New York Times entitled “In the Land of Self-Defeat“. If you’ve ever puzzled over why people do what looks to you to be self-destructive, you’ll want to read this piece.  Potts quotes Katherine J. Cramer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin – Madison:

“The way these folks described the world to me, their basic concern was that people like them, in places like theirs, were overlooked and disrespected,” she wrote in Vox, explaining that her subjects considered ‘racial minorities on welfare’ as well as ‘lazy urban professionals’ working desk jobs to be undeserving of state and federal dollars. People like my neighbors hate that the government is spending money on those who don’t look like them and don’t live like them — but what I’ve learned since I came home is that they remain opposed even when they themselves stand to benefit.”

These folks have a “prevailing sense of scarcity,” so spending tax dollars on what to them are non-essentials is craziness. Indeed, Potts’ article was triggered by a hotly contested county issue about a proposed pay increase for a new librarian to $25 per hour. It was defeated. These folks contract their view to a very individual focus – you might call it extreme libertarian – which leaves them wondering why they should pay for that librarian if they and their family aren’t going to use the library.

The comments about immigrants particularly caught my attention and left me with a stark clarity that I’ve had for a long time: Too many of us have forgotten where we came from. By that I mean our immigrant forebears – our grandparents or great-grandparents who came here penniless and unable to understand English. We’ve forgotten their struggles and don’t seem able to glue our ignored past onto the plight of today’s refugees.

And another thing  .  .  .

Many thanks to S.S. for pointing to the tweet. Click the pic

Eliminating ISIS (or ISIL) has largely been accomplished except for a couple of strongholds in northern Syria. It has been done with American money and technology and Kurdish blood and lives.

As of this writing, President Trump has pulled all of our troops out of Syria. The decision was made following only a single phone call with President Erdoğan of Turkey. He didn’t consult with anyone who actually knows something about the situation in Syria. And he made the decision with no consideration of the likely outcomes of U.S. withdrawal.

The Turks hate our allies, the Kurds, and see them as their blood enemy. The U.S. pulling out of Syria will leave the Kurds without protection against the modern army and air power of the Turks, who will almost certainly swoop in and slaughter the Kurds – it’s already begun. And it will leave Syria firmly in the hands of our adversaries, Russia and Iran, and ISIS will be free to rebuild.

Have you noticed how many things Trump does that help Putin and Russia and simultaneously hurt our friends and allies?

This is so bad that even Republicans in Congress are pushing back. It’s a shame that they’re so late in finding their backbones.

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NOTES:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

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

This Has To Be Said


Reading time – 3:29; Viewing time – 5:08 .  .  .

It is more than reasonable to say that we are living in perilous times in America.

It has been a long time since life has been as perilous as it is right now if your skin is black or brown.

It has never before been this perilous to attend a movie, go to school, party in a bar, attend an outdoor concert, go to church or synagogue or mosque, shop at a mall, attend a festival or buy school supplies.

It has never been this perilous for our glorious experiment in self-rule – our democracy – since the Revolution.

Click the picture

Perhaps you were enraged when we saw pictures of children packed into cages for days or even weeks, prohibited from bathing or having fresh clothing or receiving medical care or brushing their teeth or even having their dirty diapers changed.

If you didn’t feel that punch in the gut from that violation of the demand of evolution that we protect our young, I offer this:

Click the picture

They came for the Native Americans.

They came for the Japanese.

They’ve come for the Hispanics.

They always come for the Blacks.

They came for the Muslims and Jews and will do so again.

They don’t come only for the children.

If you think that’s hyperbole, wake up to the facts: that’s the way it always happens.

It’s time for you and I and all of us to stand up and take action to stop the bullying, the demeaning, the marginalizing, the exclusion, the violence, the killing, the ruination of families, the traumatizing of children and the destruction of our democracy itself.

Do you have doubts about these things happening?

If you doubt my claim about advancing personal peril, read any history book. This stuff is happening in front of your eyes right now and willful blindness is not an option.

Click the pic

Click the pic

If you doubt my claim about the threats to our democracy, read conservative writer Charles Krauthammer’s essay, The Authoritarian Temptation in his posthumously published book “The Point Of It All.” Unfortunately, Krauthammer didn’t survive long enough to see how terribly our democracy has been undermined by Trump incrementally dismantling the foundations of our democracy and society itself. It’s damaged by a White House staffed with self-serving, hateful tyrants and Trump suck-ups, as well as by our spineless Congress. If you want to understand this more fully, read “How Democracies Die.” It will help your understanding of how tyrants get away with assault on whole categories of people.

Today’s perpetrators in America are white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis and others who tell themselves that they’re the True  Americans. That means that the rest of us are less than “True Americans.”

These haters are the very people who have been killing innocents for decades, some for centuries, while we refuse to have the political backbone to deal with these criminals. Instead, politicians now whine about video games and mental health programs so that the extremists can keep their assault rifles and 100-round magazines to kill additional “less than True Americans.”

Yet today’s primary perpetrator is the President of the United States. He tells the white supremacists and neo-Nazis that they are “very fine people.” He’s the same president who tried to ban all Muslims from entering our country and who is systematizing cruelty against Hispanic people. The threat to all of us is both from far right violent perpetrators and our own government.

Daryl Johnson was the Senior Domestic Terrorism Analyst at the Department of Homeland Security and the ATF. His team produced a report in 2009 outlining the reality of the white nationalist threat. He was terrifyingly accurate. Worse still, as I said, is that the domestic terrorism we’re seeing is encouraged by tacit support from our government.

Have a look at Johnson’s 2009 report, which you can download here. Then read a summary of the very disturbing events surrounding his report and this op-ed by Johnson himself from 2017.

So much violence and damage has already been done and we need to take aggressive action if we are to prevent the worst. That’s especially critical with an unhinged violence stoker and authoritarian tyrant wannabe in the White House.

If we are to be safe, if this democracy and the foundations of our society are to endure, it’s time for you and I to stand up and to speak up. I’m doing it. Now it’s your turn.


“To sin by silence when we should protest,

Makes cowards out of men.”

                                         Ella Wheeler Wilcox

————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
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Thanks!

NOTES:

  1. Writings quoted or linked to my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


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

Guest Essay – The Real Reason


Reading time – 4:35  .  .  .

Reader Dan Wallace has an insightful take on our American condition that is happily devoid of the hystrionics, name calling and partisan posturing of many. He offered it as a comment to my Hoping for Clarity From Sunday Times Readers post, but it was likely missed by many. His views are too important to be missed, so his essay is presented here. Read it and nod affirmatively and enthusiastically. JA


I was not a Trump voter for the reason given below. But it was, and I believe remains, the primary reason not to vote for him.

Simply put, comparing Trump’s publicly visible behavior to the available checklists for psycho/sociopathology, all indications are that he is psychopath, a sociopath, a person experiencing anti-social personality disorder, a malignant narcissist, or something along those lines. The exact term does not matter. That there is something seriously wrong with this guy is obvious and does matter. The right answer for someone like this is to feel sorry for him and to help him if we can, while minimizing the damage he can do. It is not to elect him (or keep him as) President of the United States.

For some reason it is considered unseemly to talk about this. I do not understand why. Choosing not to talk about it is like sitting down to dinner at a table that has a giant moose on it and pretending there’s no moose. There is. Step one in getting rid of the moose is admitting there’s a moose.

The view that there is something seriously wrong with Donald Trump is held by people as diverse as George Conway and Keith Olbermann. Unlike them, I am not a newcomer to it. I was virulently anti-Hillary in 2016. But I argued at the time, and I still do, that given a choice between venal and crazy, the right answer is to put 100 clothespins on your nose and vote for venal because it is at least predictable and is not necessarily oriented toward tyranny. While not all psychopaths become tyrants, all tyrants start as psychopaths.

Every now and then the American people make the mistake of putting into office someone with a severe mental disease or defect. The last time we did that was 1968. It took 6 years, but the institutions ultimately worked and we removed him from office.

We need to do that again, but the stakes are far higher now. We have an enormous division between those who have been left behind by globalization and those who have not. We have not figured out how we as a nation will compete in a truly globalized world. We have enacted policies that have driven the disparity of wealth to the sort of level that provokes insurrection. We have the least efficient healthcare system of any industrialized nation and continue to play the fiddle while it threatens to bankrupt us. In order to avoid dealing with those unpleasant realities, we have given ourselves a false sense of prosperity by fueling our economy with debt, something in which both parties have been equally and joyfully complicit. That accumulated debt is now so large that resolution of it likely will eventually require devaluation of the dollar, which will turn us into something like Greece or Venezuela. Meanwhile, we are experiencing a change in our environment that has the capacity ultimately to threaten the survival of our species (Moose #2).

These are serious issues and we should get about the business of addressing them in a serious way. The solutions will not be simple. There is plenty of demagoguery to go around, on both the left and the right. None of it helps. But one thing we should all be able to agree on: Having a psychopathic buffoon in the White House makes all of this worse, not better.

Addendum

On Wednesday of last week, Trump “met with” a group of about 25 refugees in the Oval Office. Presumably, this was a photo op intended to make him look empathetic. The problem is that it was captured on video, and one thing he clearly is not is empathetic.

The video shows Trump’s interaction with Nadia Murad, a Yazidi refugee who won the 2018 Nobel Peace prize for bringing her horrific story to the world and for fighting to stop the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. Her story includes ISIS raiding her village, killing her mother and six of her brothers, taking her captive, holding her as a sex slave and subjecting her to rape and torture.

The remarkable thing about this video is not Trump’s abject ignorance, unpreparedness and stupidity (after Murad tells him twice that ISIS killed her family, he asks, “So where are they now?” – Yes, really – watch the video.). Rather, it is that the President of the United States can listen to this story and show absolutely no empathy for the human being standing in front of him and for the appalling suffering and loss she experienced. If that lack of empathy doesn’t make someone a psychopath, then what the hell does?


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

Hoping For Clarity From Sunday Times Readers


Reading time – 3:50; Viewing time – 5:15  .  .  .

Still struggling to understand .  .  .

It isn’t customary for me to spend much time reading the letters to the editor in the Sunday New York Times, but the headline last Sunday grabbed my eyeballs:

Vote for Trump Again, or Switch?

Those who plan to switch were doing so for the standard reasons of Trump’s incompetence, dishonesty, cruelty and endangerment of our country and the world. I’m particularly interested, though, in what those who intend to vote for Trump again had to say. What are they seeing that I’m missing? What do they value that I’m blind to?

Mr. Tom Edwards of Live Oak, TX wrote,

“Yes! I’ll be voting for Donald Trump again and proudly so. Why? He is the classic American underdog story. He not only has to combat the raging left with its “give away the store” mentality, but also 95 percent of the media, which is hellbent on reporting something ominous in his every twitch and sneeze and tweet.

“Get over yourselves, guys! He might not fit your preconceived ideals of presidential, but that’s just fine with me. The ball is moving forward and that’s what’s important.”

Mr. Edwards left me less informed than I had hoped. For example, he somehow sees Trump as an underdog. This is the same New Yorker who started with millions, was propped up by his daddy with yet more millions and who managed to leverage his being constantly financially coddled into bankrupting four casinos and two other businesses. In what way was/is he an underdog? And why is Trump’s imagined underdog-ness a compelling reason for Mr. Edwards to vote for him?

Mr. Edwards also apparently sees Trump as a victim, specifically of the media. If Trump is a victim, why is that a reason to vote for him? Further, I want to ask him if he felt the same way as other presidents were being fried by the media.

Mr. Edwards is fine with Trump not fitting The New York Times’ “preconceived ideals of presidential” and it appears from his tone that he has an attitude toward the media over those very ideals. Exactly what preconceived ideals is he thinking of? He doesn’t help us to understand, leaving us to imagine that massive cruelty, constant lying and inviting foreign intervention into our elections, while not presidential, is okay with Mr. Edwards. I need help understanding why he’s good with that.

Another writer, Mr. Alexander Goldstein of Brooklyn, NY used most of his letter to attack ideas from the left. That’s okay, I suppose, in that the survey invited reasons to switch from Trump or to continue to support his candidacy, which thereby invited reasons not to switch. Fair enough. But the solitary focus on attacking others – “whataboutism” – is a constant for Trump supporters and it completely misses the point.

To be fair to Mr. Goldstein, he offered one positive reason to stay with Trump, writing,

“Donald Trump has taken bold, unprecedented steps on foreign policy and trade  .  .  . “

I have to agree with that. But just what are those bold, unprecedented steps to which Mr. Goldstein refers? Attacking our friends and allies? Cozying up to autocrats and murderers? Imposing tariffs that are both sadistic and masochistic at the same time? Picking fights as his opening gambit in negotiations, none of which have proven to benefit America? Come on, Mr. Goldstein, get specific so that we can learn something.

Otherwise, Mr. Edwards and Mr. Goldstein have done what nearly all Trump supporters do. They:

  1. Emulate Trump, offering bold claims and they offer no substance to support those claims, and
  2. Make claims that aren’t true at all, and
  3. Attack others with whataboutism and commonly use that as a deflection.

Whatever clarity I’ve found from these Sunday Times readers is more inferred than laid bare.

The support of Trump – not of conservatism, but of Trump – doesn’t seem to be firmly rooted in policy or achievements. Rather, it appears that it is an almost entirely visceral thing, a witch’s brew of anger, testosterone and “other-ism” borne of betrayal and a longing for power. Supporters are satisfied that he is fighting – raging against the machine that they believe has betrayed them – and they don’t really seem to care whether he wins his fights, as long as he continues to duke it out. And they don’t really seem to care who gets hurt in the process, either.

To fully understand the impact of what all that brings us, read Eugene Robinson’s clear-headed piece, This Is the Reality of Trump’s America in The Washington Post.


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

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

Another Effort to Understand


Reading time – 1:47; Viewing time – 3:13  .  .  .

I sent out a notification to about 50 of my neighbors to alert them to the opportunity to make a statement with Lights for Liberty this Friday evening. This is in protest of the treatment of detainees in horrible conditions in ICE/CBP camps. (Scan to the bottom of their website to find a location near you.) Aware that I was taking a chance because I don’t know the political views of most of my neighbors, I invited all recipients of my email to advise me if my outreach was unwelcome and I’d send them nothing further. I received one response to my invitation.

The email read,

Sorry, I guess I’m on the other side. The parents/adults should not be using them [children] as pawns for illegal immigration moves. It is a sad situation, but the legal US residents should not have to pay and fix this. They should be stopped at the border and turned away unless they go through the current legal process. Unfortunately, we do not have a Congress that will address this and open borders is not the way to go. This was easy to see coming and obvious who does not want to address it.

Slow down any urge to “yeah, but” this and instead give an effort to understand.

In fact, we have been told that hapless children are being used as pawns to enter the U.S. and it is unsurprising that some believe that to be true. In fact, while I see such claims as just another Trump lie, I have no data to support that, any more than the author of that email has data to support their view.

The writer acknowledges that the situation is sad, but like millions of Americans doesn’t think we should be paying to fix the situation. I’m pretty sure that’s a common conservative view and in line with believing that we shouldn’t be footing the bill for everything that needs fixing around the world.

The writer is correct in claiming that we don’t have a Congress that will address this issue. That’s been true at least since the early days of George W. Bush’s first administration in 2001. And I agree that open borders is not the way to go.

The current legal process truly is a mess. Seeing it as “obvious who does not want to address it” makes sense in the context of the polarizing name calling and unending propaganda we’re subjected to.* The price of propaganda is very, very high. Look for more on that in this Sunday’s post.

All of this is to say that it’s not that difficult to understand a contrary view of the border mess or, really, any of the messes we have on our hands. In part, at least, we’re dealing with different realities – mutually exclusive “facts” – which makes it easy for honest people to both disagree and fail to understand one another.

Plus, everybody’s talking and pretty much nobody is listening.

Many thanks to my neighbor who “put it out there” to help me understand.



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

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

Porky Pig


Reading time – 57 seconds  .  .  .

To quote Porky Pig: “Ah-bi-dee, ah-bi-dee, that’s all, folks!”

The Supreme Court has just handed down its most blatantly political decision in a long time, or at least since the democracy killing Citizens United decision in 2010. Their stupefyingly bone-headed refusal to knock down blatantly obvious discrimination by North Carolina’s legislature will have a destructive impact that will echo across the nation.

This case was about gerrymandering designed to strip voting rights and legislative power from the poor and from minorities. The Supreme Court has opened the door for unending, unearned political control by a diminishing white majority. Its decision will have devastating impact on millions of Americans for years to come and is truly the New Jim Crow.

To the 5 justices who made this happen, I have some snark: Your mothers must be very proud.

I can’t do better than David Leonhardt’s piece in Friday’s New York Times. Click through and read it, and note his comments about the census, too.

BTW, the Times is not failing, as Emperor Trump would have you believe. It’s having some of its best years ever. They’re focused on stuff happening here on planet Earth, a concept of reality that doesn’t seem to penetrate the information-proof walls of the East Wing living quarters, which serve as Trump’s Twitter bunker. #FailingPresident.


————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

How Did We Get Here? and “The Wag”


Reading time – 3:58; Viewing time – 5:40  .  .  .

  • How did we get to the point:

– where ripping babies from their mothers’ arms is tolerated?

– where we refuse those kidnapped kids soap and a toothbrush and there isn’t universal outrage?

– where disrespecting our allies and cozying up to adversaries is thought to be good foreign policy?

– where allowing fossil fuel exploration in Monument Valley is considered a good idea?

– where pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement is deemed sound policy for our children and grandchildren?

– where there could be a discriminatory citizenship question on the national census? The Constitution calls for no such thing.

– where Russia could invade and disrupt our national election and the president refuses to confront, much less punish the offender?

– where the president refuses to do anything to stop further cyber assault on our country and even invites it – and somehow we aren’t all enraged?

– where we yawn when yet another Cabinet Secretary resigns in disgrace?

– where birthright citizenship – you know, the 14th Amendment – would be under attack? Note: The 14th Amendment is probably why you are a United States citizen.

– where we tolerate reversing EPA standards, such that fossil fuel extractors no longer have to report or reduce methane emissions? Methane is 84 times more powerful at global warming than carbon dioxide.

– where picking fights with other countries is considered a good negotiating strategy?

– where a continuing presidential attack on freedom of the press is somehow held to be patriotic?

– where defying subpoenas is in any way a debatable thing?

– where arbitrary tariffs slapped on friends is tolerated?

– Where witnesses before Congressional committees can avoid testifying by claiming “absolute immunity,” an immunity that doesn’t exist in law?

This list could be far longer and likely you can add to it.

We’ve always had divided government, with impassioned politicians at times saying stupid stuff.* This isn’t about that. This is about the amazing reality that we got to the point where, for example, ripping babies from their mamas as a tool to discourage immigration is open for debate.

KEY POINT: Not one of the items on this list is a whine about Trump being crude, disrespectful, ignorant and an assault on decency. They aren’t even a complaint about his well over 10,000 lies since taking office. And every one of them has substantive impact on Americans – like you – and on our nation as a whole.

KEY OTHER POINT: It’s so very easy to pin all that on Trump, but he only has the power to do those things because of a supportive – or at least compliant – citizenry and, correspondingly, a meek and cowardly Republican Congress.

KEY QUESTION: In order to get out of this craziness we have to be able to both define it and identify what brought us here. What’s your notion? Post it in the Comments block and we’ll help one another learn.

FUN FACT: Roughly 63 million people voted for Trump (or they voted against Hillary) in 2016. On that same day, over 90 million voting age Americans stayed home.

FUN FACT QUESTION: Can you think of something you can do so there isn’t a repeat of that in 2020? I knew you could.

Late Addition

I’ve warned repeatedly (here and here, for example) that we are at risk of Donald Trump pulling a “wag the dog” scam to ensure he gets reelected. Now it appears that he’s doing it.

He has backed Iran into a corner with enough sanctions to hobble its economy and withdrawn from the JCPOA. Then Trump complained because Iran said that it would restart its uranium enrichment program, the very thing the JCPOA prevented.

So, he sent a carrier group and 2,500 troops to the area. Then on Thursday he ordered military strikes on Iran in response to Iran having downed a U.S. reconnaissance drone. He called off the attack before damage was done, claiming that killing 150 people with his attacks wouldn’t be a proportional response. We don’t know if that cancellation was actually just a stunt to make Trump seem to be a humanitarian, but since Trump is all about the theater of things, it very well could have been just that.

Recognize that Trump is constantly opaque in his dealings, leaving everyone wondering about his motives and goals, and almost certainly he sees the situation with Iran as a pissing contest that he has to win. A lot of his supporters like his kind of brainless muscular response, which drives the danger meter pointer closer to catastrophe.

You better make sure your senators and Congress people stand up to what looks like the newest Gulf of Tonkin fraud, or we’ll get involved in yet another unending middle east war and a lot of people will die.


*Stupid stuff is the blatantly obvious false or misleading statement. It’s the filibustering of a reporter to avoid his/her question. It’s the whataboutism that is designed to avoid having to deal with the truth or to denigrate an opponent. It’s the whole cloth fabrication that comes in a small throwaway line or a sweeping, dramatic denial of reality. Stupid stuff.



————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
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Thanks!

 


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

Fake President – and Memorial Day


Reading time – 4:18; Viewing time – 6:54  .  .  .

The Fake President Part

He says “fake news” daily, but it isn’t about fake news, as the president and his drones would have you believe. It never was. Same for his attacks on our other institutions.

They want you to believe whatever they say that effectively undermines our sharing of power – our democracy – and I can prove it with just a few things that happened last week.

From the AP:

“WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Thursday granted Attorney General William Barr new powers to review and potentially release classified information related to the origins of the Russia investigation, a move aimed at accelerating Barr’s inquiry into whether U.S. officials improperly surveilled Trump’s 2016 campaign.”

At root, this isn’t about an investigation. There is no improper surveillance or corrupt FBI, because investigating is what the FBI does – it’s in its name – and it’s what they do to identify and catch bad guys.

Recall that our nation was cyber-attacked by a hostile foreign power solely to benefit the candidacy of Donald Trump. We’d have to be idiots not to look into a possible conspiracy.

Click me

So, this new power to declassify that Trump has given to Barr (and which has never before been delegated by a president) is actually about giving Barr the power to selectively release documents, to dis-empower our intelligence agencies and invalidate conspiracy investigations. It’s about trying to make Trump’s election win appear to be earned, even as we all know it’s phony. It’s about making the FBI look corrupt. Doing so is an effort to sabotage public confidence in the FBI in particular and government in general. That’s what fascist autocrats do – they demean government so that citizen loyalty gets shifted to the leader. Buy and read this book and you’ll understand.

From the New York Times:

“WASHINGTON — Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks leader, has been indicted on 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act for his role in obtaining and publishing secret military and diplomatic documents in 2010, the Justice Department announced on Thursday — a novel case that raises profound First Amendment issues.”

The First Amendment ensures several rights and freedom of the press is one of them. It is the only thing that ensures public accountability of government officials. It is the primary bulwark against totalitarianism. And our president has thrown tantrums for years about our national press, demeaning it by calling it “fake news”. Now he’s trying to cut the legs out from under our investigative reporters.

Trump’s fake news charge isn’t about the accuracy of reporting and it isn’t made solely out of pique; it is made to decrease your confidence in the press, to make you so skeptical that you’ll only listen to one person: the president. That’s what fascist autocrats do – they demean the press so that citizen loyalty gets shifted to the leader. Buy and read this book and you’ll understand.

From Twitter:

Trump has the distinction of having such a profound absence of good judgment, that he posted this video. It is a doctored video of Nancy Pelosi, clearly an attempt to make her look old, enfeebled, perhaps mentally challenged.

This video is so transparently altered that we have to wonder why the President of the United States would have anything to do with it.

His current spat with Nancy Pelosi can be reduced to its playground bully essence, “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”

The real dynamic, though, is that Trump is trying to undermine your confidence in both the Speaker of the House and the entire Congress, leaving the president as the only one for citizens to follow. That’s what fascist autocrats do.

In contrast, here’s the truth.

The FBI and its over 35,000 people are dedicated to protecting us from bad guys. They put their lives on the line for us every day. They’re the real deal.

Our mainstream press is the real deal, too, as they dig to separate truth from propaganda and lies and hold government officials accountable.

Congress surely is more complicated, but it is the branch of government that most closely represents We The People.

Trump is working every day toward the goal of becoming an autocrat, a dictator, like his bromance buddy Vladimir Putin, whom he believes blindly and more so than our entire intelligence community. He is attempting to undermine the pillars of our government and of our democracy itself, leaving only him to follow.

Click me for a larger view

Despite Donald Trump’s inane and self-important proclamations, there is no corrupt FBI or brain-addled Speaker of the House or fake news. There’s just a fake president.

The Memorial Day Part

This is Memorial Day weekend. Sadly, our president scheduled a trip to Japan. So, instead of visiting Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier on Memorial Day as representative of all of us paying our respects, he’s going to have a press conference with Prime Minister Shinzō Abe.

You and I can do better than that.

This is the day we set aside to honor our war dead, those who, in Lincoln’s words, gave their last full measure of devotion. They are among the heroes who made it possible for us to live the lives we do, so it’s fitting that we honor them.

So, display your flag – half-mast until noon, then at the top for the rest of the day. Go to the ceremony in your town and remove your cap as the bugler plays Taps. Thank the veteran sitting next to you for having had his buddy’s back. Stand and be grateful to these people. We owe them more than we will ever be able to repay.

————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

The Nation’s Business


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

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

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

Click the pic for the essay

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

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

Click the pic for the full stupid

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

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

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

Which brings us to my favorite chant:

Q. What do we want?

A. Science!

Q. When do we want it?

A. After peer review!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final thought  .  .  .

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

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

————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

In Case You Missed It


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

               ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 


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

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