freedom

Absolutely


Finger pointingReading time – 91 seconds  .  .  . 

To the best of my ability to understand them, our far right religious conservatives believe:

  1. That they got it right – about God, about religion, about right and wrong, good and bad.
  2. That anyone who disagrees with point #1 is wrong and eternally damned, because there’s no heaven for them.
  3. That this should be a Christian nation, but not because of what demographics indicate. Rather, they think this should be an expressly Christian America ruled by biblical laws – a theocracy – because of what they think God has said to them.
  4. That following their notion of biblical laws is both required and it is self-justification for pretty much anything.
  5. That compromise in any way from the above is unholy and, therefore, intolerable.

Now, substitute Islam for Christianity, the Qur’an for the Bible and make a geographic adjustment. Somebody please tell me what the difference is between these two groups of fundamentalist, absolutist, arrogant people. I say “arrogant” because these absolutists seem to be saying, “I’m not just right; I’m divinely right.” That’s a lot of turf grabbing for a mere mortal.

Setting aside the Islamist fundamentalists for the moment, explain to me how to deal with the Christian absolutists, because they are making a lot of noise and politicians are getting elected by sucking up to them. Then the politicians are incrementally distorting America to create the theocracy the absolutists want, as recently happened in Indiana. That’s why we need to know how to deal with these people, because this isn’t supposed to be a theocracy, regardless of what Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum  and Sen. Ted Cruz want you to believe. Check with Thomas Jefferson and his pals about that and you’ll see that it’s true.

As for the Islamist fundamentalists, we have the same intractability problem with them. Their world view is steeped in centuries of absolutism, making it a brain contortion to deal with them for those from a Western culture. It’s complicated, frustrating work and every step of every path is fraught with cultural impasses and Through The Looking Glass contradictions.

If you’d like to explore how difficult this is, read Mark Bowden’s remarkable bookGuests of the Ayatollah  Guests of the Ayatollah, which chronicles the Iran hostage crisis. This book was recently recommended to me personally by one of the former hostages whom I met while delivering a leadership workshop. It is a major insight into a critical piece of recent American history. The double benefit of reading this book is getting a peek into the tent of militant Islamic culture in the MIddle-East and its apparent house-of-mirrors world view. Indeed, it provides some understanding of what we will be dealing with for a very long time and with a great deal at stake.

Back once more to our American far right religious conservatives, we need to deal with the challenge they bring, because if this is to remain America, it’s critical that we both stop and roll back the absolutists’ spread of theocracy. What are your thoughts? Post them in the Comments section below.

Source: The Guardian at //www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/mar/23/ted-cruz-presidential-campaign-evangelical-christian-voters-gay-marriage-values

Source: The Guardian, March 23, 2015

Note: Click on the bar chart on the left from The Guardian for an expanded view. One way to interpret the results of this poll is that of the 58% of American voters who identify as white and Christian, roughly 2/3 of them see themselves as Republicans and are susceptible to the theocratic appeals espoused by the Bible-thumpers. That’s very dangerous for a democratic (small “d”) America, as these people are reliable voters and because it assaults the First Amendment. That Amendment is part of the U.S. Constitution, which the far right religious conservatives say with fierce absolutism that they honor. That yes-we-do-no-we-don’t  support of the Constitution is the same kind of up-is-down logic used by militant Islamists. Are you afraid yet?

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

Stupidity


Governor Mike Pence - IN Photo: Robert Sheer/The Star

Governor Mike Pence – IN
Photo: Robert Sheer/The Star

Reading time – 39 seconds  .  .  .

This was a tough week for Indiana Governor Mike Pence. He took major heat from private citizens, corporate movers and shakers, liberals, conservatives – pretty much everyone but those who identify with pandering, hate-spewing, Joe McCarthy wannabee Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). It was all about the new legislation in Indiana that enshrines into law the right to practice outright discrimination against certain citizens and even provides the protection of the courts for offenders. Didn’t we put away America’s original sin with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965? Didn’t we agree as a nation that discrimination wasn’t okay, that it was blatantly unconstitutional?

Side note: Somebody please explain to me why we need a Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The way I heard it was that the First Amendment covers that.

Clearly, I don’t know what is in Pence’s heart. I don’t know if he really believes that his Bible thumping, not-very-Christian fundamentalist primary voters really should be able to practice discrimination. I don’t know whether Pence thinks he and his viscerally motivated, neo-cortex-light state legislators believe their own self-righteous proclamations of religious purity. I couldn’t know if Pence would get off on hearing some Indiana florist proclaim proudly, “I’ll serve who I damn well please and the rest can go to hell, ‘cus that’s where my religion says they’re headed.” We all want to feel powerful and in control, so maybe Pence would go for that.

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood

Regardless, discrimination is wrong. It sucks up to the most ignorant among us and makes us all stupid.

“Stupidity is the same as evil if you judge by the results.” Margaret Atwood

Have a nice day, Governor Pence.

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


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

Stop Pretending It’s Not Happening


Can you identify this?

Can you identify this?

Reading time – well worth it  .  .  . 

Something’s going on. You can feel it even if you can’t name it. Things are changing from what they used to be or should be or could be to what you don’t want them to be.

We humans aren’t very good at noticing small changes. Incremental stuff just doesn’t reach our consciousness until it accumulates into something big and we become aware of it well after the fact.

And that’s what is happening to America. There have been lots of changes over the past 35 years and especially since 9/11. Now, if you take a good look, eyes wide open, you won’t recognize your country.

Tom Englehardt wrote a stunning piece in his blog www.TomDispatch.com in an effort to make some sense of what you already sense but as yet have no words to describe. His piece is reprinted below with permission. Pay special attention to his last sentence: “Stop pretending it’s not happening.”

READ THE POST BELOW. IT IS VITALLY IMPORTANT. THAT’S WHY THESE SENTENCES ARE IN ALL CAPS.

Print Tom’s brilliant essay, grab your second cup o’ joe and settle into your reading chair for 15 minutes. Some things that haven’t made sense will suddenly begin to take on a solid form. Just be forewarned that you may not like it.

Thanks to JL for pointing us to Tom’s clarity.

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Tomgram: Engelhardt: Is a New Political System Emerging in This Country?

The New American Order 
1% Elections, The Privatization of the State, a Fourth Branch of Government, and the Demobilization of “We the People” 
By Tom Engelhardt

Have you ever undertaken some task you felt less than qualified for, but knew that someone needed to do? Consider this piece my version of that, and let me put what I do understand about it in a nutshell: based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name.

And here’s what I find strange: the evidence of this, however inchoate, is all around us and yet it’s as if we can’t bear to take it in or make sense of it or even say that it might be so.

Let me make my case, however minimally, based on five areas in which at least the faint outlines of that new system seem to be emerging: political campaigns and elections; the privatization of Washington through the marriage of the corporation and the state; the de-legitimization of our traditional system of governance; the empowerment of the national security state as an untouchable fourth branch of government; and the demobilization of “we the people.”

Whatever this may add up to, it seems to be based, at least in part, on the increasing concentration of wealth and power in a new plutocratic class and in that ever-expanding national security state. Certainly, something out of the ordinary is underway, and yet its birth pangs, while widely reported, are generally categorized as aspects of an exceedingly familiar American system somewhat in disarray.

1. 1% Elections

Check out the news about the 2016 presidential election and you’ll quickly feel a sense of been-there, done-that. As a start, the two names most associated with it, Bush and Clinton, couldn’t be more familiar, highlighting as they do the curiously dynastic quality of recent presidential contests.  (If a Bush or Clinton should win in 2016 and again in 2020, a member of one of those families will have controlled the presidency for 28 of the last 36 years.)

Take, for instance, “Why 2016 Is Likely to Become a Close Race,” a recent piece Nate Cohn wrote for my hometown paper.  A noted election statistician, Cohn points out that, despite Hillary Clinton’s historically staggering lead in Democratic primary polls (and lack of serious challengers), she could lose the general election.  He bases this on what we know about her polling popularity from the Monica Lewinsky moment of the 1990s to the present.  Cohn assures readers that Hillary will not “be a Democratic Eisenhower, a popular, senior statesperson who cruises to an easy victory.”  It’s the sort of comparison that offers a certain implicit reassurance about the near future.  (No, Virginia, we haven’t left the world of politics in which former general and president Dwight D. Eisenhower can still be a touchstone.)

Cohn may be right when it comes to Hillary’s electability, but this is not Dwight D. Eisenhower’s or even Al Gore’s America. If you want a measure of that, consider this year’s primaries. I mean, of course, the 2015 ones. Once upon a time, the campaign season started with candidates flocking to Iowa and New Hampshire early in the election year to establish their bona fides among party voters. These days, however, those are already late primaries.

The early primaries, the ones that count, take place among a small group of millionaires and billionaires, a new caste flush with cash who will personally, or through complex networks of funders, pour multi-millions of dollars into the campaigns of candidates of their choice.  So the early primaries — this year mainly a Republican affair — are taking place in resort spots like Las Vegas, Rancho Mirage, California, and Sea Island, Georgia, as has been widely reported. These “contests” involve groveling politicians appearing at the beck and call of the rich and powerful, and so reflect our new 1% electoral system. (The main pro-Hillary super PAC, for instance, is aiming for a kitty of $500 million heading into 2016, while the Koch brothers network has already promised to drop almost $1 billion into the coming campaign season, doubling their efforts in the last presidential election year.)

Ever since the Supreme Court opened up the ultimate floodgates with its 2010 Citizens United decision, each subsequent election has seen record-breaking amounts of money donated and spent. The 2012 presidential campaign was the first $2 billion election; campaign 2016 is expected to hit the $5 billion mark without breaking a sweat.  By comparison, according to Burton Abrams and Russell Settle in their study, “The Effect of Broadcasting on Political Campaign Spending,” Republicans and Democrats spent just under $13 million combined in 1956 when Eisenhower won his second term.

In the meantime, it’s still true that the 2016 primaries will involve actual voters, as will the election that follows. The previous election season, the midterms of 2014, cost almost $4 billion, a record despite the number of small donors continuing to drop. It also represented the lowest midterm voter turnout since World War II. (See: demobilization of the public, below — and add in the demobilization of the Democrats as a real party, the breaking of organized labor, the fragmenting of the Republican Party, and the return of voter suppression laws visibly meant to limit the franchise.) It hardly matters just what the flood of new money does in such elections, when you can feel the weight of inequality bearing down on the whole process in a way that is pushing us somewhere new.

2. The Privatization of the State (or the U.S. as a Prospective Third-World Nation)

In the recent coverage of the Hillary Clinton email flap, you can find endless references to the Clintons of yore in wink-wink, you-know-how-they-are-style reporting; and yes, she did delete a lot of emails; and yes, it’s an election year coming and, as everyone points out, the Republicans are going to do their best to keep the email issue alive until hell freezes over, etc., etc.  Again, the coverage, while eyeball gluing, is in a you’ve-seen-it-all-before, you’ll-see-it-all-again-mode.

However, you haven’t seen it all before. The most striking aspect of this little brouhaha lies in what’s most obvious but least highlighted.  An American secretary of state chose to set up her own private, safeguarded email system for doing government work; that is, she chose to privatize her communications.  If this were Cairo, it might not warrant a second thought.  But it didn’t happen in some third-world state.  It was the act of a key official of the planet’s reigning (or thrashing) superpower, which — even if it wasn’t the first time such a thing had ever occurred — should be taken as a tiny symptom of something that couldn’t be larger or, in the long stretch of history, newer: the ongoing privatization of the American state, or at least the national security part of it.

Though the marriage of the state and the corporation has a pre-history, the full-scale arrival of the warrior corporation only occurred after 9/11.  Someday, that will undoubtedly be seen as a seminal moment in the formation of whatever may be coming in this country.  Only 13 years later, there is no part of the war state that has not experienced major forms of privatization.  The U.S. military could no longer go to war without its crony corporations doing KP and guard duty, delivering the mail, building the bases, and being involved in just about all of its activities, including training the militaries of foreign allies and even fighting.  Such warrior corporations are now involved in every aspect of the national security state, including torture, drone strikes, and — to the tune of hundreds of thousands of contract employees like Edward Snowden — intelligence gathering and spying.  You name it and, in these years, it’s been at least partly privatized.

All you have to do is read reporter James Risen’s recent book, Pay Any Price, on how the global war on terror was fought in Washington, and you know that privatization has brought something else with it: corruption, scams, and the gaming of the system for profits of a sort that might normally be associated with a typical third-world kleptocracy.  And all of this, a new world being born, was reflected in a tiny way in Hillary Clinton’s very personal decision about her emails.

Though it’s a subject I know so much less about, this kind of privatization (and the corruption that goes with it) is undoubtedly underway in the non-war-making, non-security-projecting part of the American state as well.

3. The De-legitimization of Congress and the Presidency

On a third front, American “confidence” in the three classic check-and-balance branches of government, as measured by polling outfits, continues to fall.  In 2014, Americans expressing a “great deal of confidence” in the Supreme Court hit a new low of 23%; in the presidency, it was 11%, and in Congress a bottom-scraping 5%.  (The military, on the other hand, registers at 50%.)  The figures for “hardly any confidence at all” are respectively 20%, 44%, and more than 50%.  All are in or near record-breaking territory for the last four decades.

It seems fair to say that in recent years Congress has been engaged in a process of de-legitimizing itself.  Where that body once had the genuine power to declare war, for example, it is now “debating” in a desultory fashion an “authorization” for a war against the Islamic State in Syria, Iraq, and possibly elsewhere that has already been underway for eight months and whose course, it seems, will be essentially unaltered, whether Congress authorizes it or not.

What would President Harry Truman, who once famously ran a presidential campaign against a “do-nothing” Congress, have to say about a body that truly can do just about nothing?  Or rather, to give the Republican war hawks in that new Congress their due, not quite nothing.  They are proving capable of acting effectively to de-legitimize the presidency as well.  House Majority Leader John Boehner’s invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to undercut the president’s Iranian nuclear negotiations and the letter signed by 47 Republican senators and directed to the Iranian ayatollahs are striking examples of this.  They are visibly meant to tear down an “imperial presidency” that Republicans gloried in not so long ago.

The radical nature of that letter, not as an act of state but of its de-legitimization, was noted even in Iran, where fundamentalist Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei proclaimed it “a sign of a decline in political ethics and the destruction of the American establishment from within.” Here, however, the letter is either being covered as a singularly extreme one-off act (“treason!”) or, as Jon Stewart did on “The Daily Show,” as part of a repetitive tit-for-tat between Democrats and Republicans over who controls foreign policy.  It is, in fact, neither.  It represents part of a growing pattern in which Congress becomes an ever less effective body, except in its willingness to take on and potentially take out the presidency.

In the twenty-first century, all that “small government” Republicans and “big government” Democrats can agree on is offering essentially unconditional support to the military and the national security state.  The Republican Party — its various factions increasingly at each other’s throats almost as often as at those of the Democrats — seems reasonably united solely on issues of war-making and security.  As for the Democrats, an unpopular administration, facing constant attack by those who loath President Obama, has kept its footing in part by allying with and fusing with the national security state.  A president who came into office rejecting torture and promoting sunshine and transparency in government has, in the course of six-plus years, come to identify himself almost totally with the U.S. military, the CIA, the NSA, and the like.  While it has launched an unprecedented campaign against whistle blowers and leakers (as well as sunshine and transparency), the Obama White House has proved a powerful enabler of, but also remarkably dependent upon, that state-within-a-state, a strange fate for “the imperial presidency.”

4. The Rise of the National Security State as the Fourth Branch of Government

One “branch” of government is, however, visibly on the rise and rapidly gaining independence from just about any kind of oversight.  Its ability to enact its wishes with almost no opposition in Washington is a striking feature of our moment.  But while the symptoms of this process are regularly reported, the overall phenomenon — the creation of a de facto fourth branch of government — gets remarkably little attention.  In the war on terror era, the national security state has come into its own.  Its growth has been phenomenal.  Though it’s seldom pointed out, it should be considered remarkable that in this period we gained a second full-scale “defense department,” the Department of Homeland Security, and that it and the Pentagon have become even more entrenched, each surrounded by its own growing “complex” of private corporations, lobbyists, and allied politicians.  The militarization of the country has, in these years, proceeded apace.

Meanwhile, the duplication to be found in the U.S. Intelligence Community with its 17 major agencies and outfits is staggering.  Its growing ability to surveil and spy on a global scale, including on its own citizens, puts the totalitarian states of the twentieth century to shame.  That the various parts of the national security state can act in just about any fashion without fear of accountability in a court of law is by now too obvious to belabor.  As wealth has traveled upwards in American society in ways not seen since the first Gilded Age, so taxpayer dollars have migrated into the national security state in an almost plutocratic fashion.

New reports regularly surface about the further activities of parts of that state.  In recent weeks, for instance, we learned from Jeremy Scahill and Josh Begley of the Intercept that the CIA has spent years trying to break the encryption on Apple iPhones and iPads; it has, that is, been aggressively seeking to attack an all-American corporation (even if significant parts of its production process are actually in China).  Meanwhile, Devlin Barrett of the Wall Street Journal reported that the CIA, an agency barred from domestic spying operations of any sort, has been helping the U.S. Marshals Service (part of the Justice Department) create an airborne digital dragnet on American cell phones.  Planes flying out of five U.S. cities carry a form of technology that “mimics a cellphone tower.” This technology, developed and tested in distant American war zones and now brought to “the homeland,” is just part of the ongoing militarization of the country from its borders to its police forces.  And there’s hardly been a week since Edward Snowden first released crucial NSA documents in June 2013 when such “advances” haven’t been in the news.

News also regularly bubbles up about the further expansion, reorganization, and upgrading of parts of the intelligence world, the sorts of reports that have become the barely noticed background hum of our lives.  Recently, for instance, Director John Brennan announced a major reorganization of the CIA meant to break down the classic separation between spies and analysts at the Agency, while creating a new Directorate of Digital Innovation responsible for, among other things, cyberwarfare and cyberespionage.  At about the same time, according to the New York Times, the Center for Strategic Counter terrorism Communications, an obscure State Department agency, was given a new and expansive role in coordinating “all the existing attempts at countermessaging [against online propaganda by terror outfits like the Islamic State] by much larger federal departments, including the Pentagon, Homeland Security and intelligence agencies.”

This sort of thing is par for the course in an era in which the national security state has only grown stronger, endlessly elaborating, duplicating, and overlapping the various parts of its increasingly labyrinthine structure.  And keep in mind that, in a structure that has fought hard to keep what it’s doing cloaked in secrecy, there is so much more that we don’t know.  Still, we should know enough to realize that this ongoing process reflects something new in our American world (even if no one cares to notice).

5. The Demobilization of the American People

In The Age of Acquiescence, a new book about America’s two Gilded Ages, Steve Fraser asks why it was that, in the nineteenth century, another period of plutocratic excesses, concentration of wealth and inequality, buying of politicians, and attempts to demobilize the public, Americans took to the streets with such determination and in remarkable numbers over long periods of time to protest their treatment, and stayed there even when the brute power of the state was called out against them.  In our own moment, Fraser wonders, why has the silence of the public in the face of similar developments been so striking?

After all, a grim new American system is arising before our eyes.  Everything we once learned in the civics textbooks of our childhoods about how our government works now seems askew, while the growth of poverty, the flatlining of wages, the rise of the .01%, the collapse of labor, and the militarization of society are all evident.

The process of demobilizing the public certainly began with the military.  It was initially a response to the disruptive and rebellious draftees of the Vietnam-era.  In 1973, at the stroke of a presidential pen, the citizen’s army was declared no more, the raising of new recruits was turned over to advertising agencies (a preview of the privatization of the state to come), and the public was sent home, never again to meddle in military affairs.  Since 2001, that form of demobilization has been etched in stone and transformed into a way of life in the name of the “safety” and “security” of the public.

Since then, “we the people” have made ourselves felt in only three disparate ways: from the left in the Occupy movement, which, with its slogans about the 1% and the 99%, put the issue of growing economic inequality on the map of American consciousness; from the right, in the Tea Party movement, a complex expression of discontent backed and at least partially funded by right-wing operatives and billionaires, and aimed at the de-legitimization of the “nanny state”; and the recent round of post-Ferguson protests spurred at least in part by the militarization of the police in black and brown communities around the country.

The Birth of a New System

Otherwise, a moment of increasing extremity has also been a moment of — to use Fraser’s word — “acquiescence.”  Someday, we’ll assumedly understand far better how this all came to be.  In the meantime, let me be as clear as I can be about something that seems murky indeed: this period doesn’t represent a version, no matter how perverse or extreme, of politics as usual; nor is the 2016 campaign an election as usual; nor are we experiencing Washington as usual.  Put together our 1% elections, the privatization of our government, the de-legitimization of Congress and the presidency, as well as the empowerment of the national security state and the U.S. military, and add in the demobilization of the American public (in the name of protecting us from terrorism), and you have something like a new ballgame.

While significant planning has been involved in all of this, there may be no ruling pattern or design.  Much of it may be happening in a purely seat-of-the-pants fashion.  In response, there has been no urge to officially declare that something new is afoot, let alone convene a new constitutional convention.  Still, don’t for a second think that the American political system isn’t being rewritten on the run by interested parties in Congress, our present crop of billionaires, corporate interests, lobbyists, the Pentagon, and the officials of the national security state.

Out of the chaos of this prolonged moment and inside the shell of the old system, a new culture, a new kind of politics, a new kind of governance is being born right before our eyes. Call it what you want. But call it something. Stop pretending it’s not happening.

Copyright 2015 Tom Engelhardt

Reprinted by permission

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Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (Haymarket Books).


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

Our Bridge


ChurchillReading time – 69 seconds  .  .  .

You really need to take the time:

– To hear the words of John Lewis, a man who marched on Bloody Sunday and whose thanks that day was a fractured and bleeding scull. His reward – and ours – is that he has served in Congress, a representative of South Carolina, since 1987. South Carolina! That would have been impossible, unthinkable in the context of the American South of the 1960s.

– To hear President Obama, whose entire life story would have been impossible without the courage of the few hundred who marched up that awful bridge on that terrible day. Those marchers could not have envisioned a Black president, but they made a path through the darkness of hate that Barack Obama could walk.

The struggle for human rights, for voting rights, for simple human dignity is not over in America. If you doubt that, consider what it means to be a Black teen and get gunned down for carrying a package of Skittles while wearing a hoodie and for the gunman to walk free. Imagine how it feels to be unable to provide for your family because you’re the last hired and the first fired. Feel the frustration and hopelessness of a parent who knows that their kids are getting a lousy education because those with money have put their kids into private schools and when they fled the public schools they left them to rot.

On October 29, 1941 the British were weary from years of the Battle of Britain. On that day, Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed the boys at the Harrow School where Churchill had attended years before. He spoke only a short time and, as he so often did, he found the words to buoy the spirits of an embattled nation, to help his people muster the strength to carry on. He told the boys,

“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

We have work to do in America, because today there are people with apparently overwhelming might who are creating new obstacles to voting. They are standing on the necks of those who have come to be known as Dreamers. And they are keeping 95% of the wealth for themselves and leaving a paltry 5% for all the rest of us.

This is our bridge. This is our fight. This is our time.

Never give in.

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

Were You There?


fiftiethlogoReading time – 22 seconds  .  .  .

You know the tune, so sing along.

It was fifty years ago today

Dr. King taught all of us to say,

Freedom’s going in and out of style

And oppression is so very vile.

So may I introduce to you

The truth you’ve known for all these years:

You and I still have to stop the Pharaohs.

Okay, Lennon and McCartney had other things in mind when they wrote Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But the point is that the passage of time and the consistency of message run true and today the message runs through Selma, Alabama. What is significant is that the story of Selma and all that it symbolizes is exactly the same as the story of the biblical Exodus. The struggle for freedom is never over. In every day and in every age new tyrants rise up to oppress the people and today is no different.

I was just 18 and very young in 1965 and did not participate in the march. My childhood pal Frank Levy is the same age as I am but in 1965 he was older and far wiser. He was there and he writes about it in his essay this weekend and has given me permission to share it with you. I encourage you to read it – just click on the PDF link for a download – and decide for yourself if there is something calling you. Then post your comments below for the benefit of others.

[prettyfilelink size=”” src=”//cdn.bluelinermarketing.com/managed/uploads/sites/8/2015/03/Passover-and-Selma.pdf” type=”pdf”]Passover and Selma[/prettyfilelink]

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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. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


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

A New Hope For Republicans


NutsReading time – 39 seconds  .  .  .

The Republican Party has fractured along the “it’s your fault” lines and each faction is devoid of any characteristics of the Eisenhower Republican Party. It was Eisenhower who proposed and promoted the now-crazy notion that there are a bunch of things that we need to do collectively, like the Interstate Highway system.  He expanded Social Security because Americans really needed that. And in a most outrageous Republican moment by today’s standards, he raised the minimum wage because we really needed that, too. Nobody has seen anything similar from Republicans since Ike’s time.

What we have seen is a continuous march toward who-cares-about-you? Perhaps more accurately, what has been so thoroughly demonstrated by Republicans over the past four decades is an attitude of “we-don’t-care-about-you.” Today’s “it’s-your-fault” lines are just demarcations within the Republican “we-don’t-care-about-you” belief system and the American people are quite tired of that.

That is why I am formally joining the Republican Party and founding a new faction, the AWACOE party, or, Americans Who Are Capable Of Empathy. Not surprisingly, it’s pronounced “A Wacko.”

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t expect to find many Republicans who are interested in joining. Actually, I’m not confident there are many Republicans capable of clearing the basic human bar for entry. Well, to be fair, I personally know some and they are fine people. Likely, there are some in Congress and in our state houses, too. It’s just that they are consistently drowned out by the big mouths, the haters and the dividers.

Regardless of the membership numbers in this new party, you can count on me to soldier on as the flag bearer for the AWACOEs, hoping to restore the clarity that America isn’t just for those who have theirs. It’s also for those striving to achieve. And that is not a wacko idea.

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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. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


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

Piñatas


Ed. note: Please help – see the note below and pass this along so that we make the kind of difference that needs to be made. America thanks you.

Reading time – 41 seconds  .  .  .

There they stand, the hopeful – hopeless? – wielders of sticks, lurching and whacking at the piñatas of political issues, wishing that their mighty blows will crack open and let drop at their feet an action figure costume. They believe that costume will grant them unlimited power and control and that the Oval Office will magically be theirs.

Say hello to today’s pretenders to the throne in 2016. And pay special attention to their ultra-crafty remaking of themselves, frequently in perfect contradiction (“to say against”) of other intentionally misleading, ultra-crafty things they’ve said to some different audience. Perhaps they believe that recording devices have not yet been invented. More likely, though, they believe we are too ignorant, lazy or stupid to notice. But notice we will, as the fact checkers have their way and the action figure costumes fall apart, revealing the disingenuous self-promoter beneath who doesn’t want to serve, but only to denigrate, bully and line others’ pockets with cash at your expense.

The whacking at piñatas would be humorous and entertaining, were it not for the destruction it causes.

The key as you endure the inane political rhetoric of this hyper-extended (make that “never-ending”) election season is that nearly all of the blather is about the self-serving candidates, never about you nor about America except in some childish idealistic or apocalyptically frightening way. Our job is to find one who speaks to our circumstances and to the betterment of America. If you and I fail in this we will be kicking The Dream to the gutter for a sackful of nothing and relegating America to suffer a self-deluded figurehead and all the abandonment of the American people that implies.

Get up and get active.

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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. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


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

Je Suis . . . Ironic


Charlie HebdoEd. note: Please help – see the note below and pass this along so that we make the kind of difference that needs to be made. America thanks you.

Reading time – 47 seconds  .  .  . 

The irreverent Charlie Hebdo satirists, both cartoonists and journalists, have, in the face of profound, bottomless grief led the way for the rest of the world in a breathtaking way. Their new magazine cover shows the Prophet Muhammad weeping as he holds a sign that reads, “Je Suis Charlie”. What makes the cover breathtaking is that above the Prophet they have written, “TOUT EST PARDONNE”. Roughly translated, they are telling their attackers, the murderers of their colleagues, the violent, religion despoiling Islamist terrorists, “We forgive you.”

Could you possibly do that were you in their place? Can you do it from your place now?

There is an odd twist to this, courtesy of Anonymous, the worldwide hacker group that has hacked into nearly everything, including the NSA. This band of iconoclasts, this buster of world order has now pledged to hunt down Islamist radicals. In a stunning video they tell the extremists, “We are tracking you down. We will find you and not leave you any rest.” They vow to shut down every violent extremist Twitter feed, propaganda video and more. They announce boldly, “We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”

Unlike Anonymous, Charlie Hebdo forgives. My guess, though, is that the staff members won’t forget, and that’s as it should be.

And here is the irony: How pleasingly odd it is that the members of this hacker organization Anonymous, who have compromised our National Security Agency, are now on our side in the hunt for Islamist terrorists. Their agenda is their own and this portion of their agenda is in pitch perfect concert with freedom loving people everywhere, even those running the NSA. Perhaps now “Nous Sommes Anonymous.”

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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. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


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

Every Life is Precious


Reading time – 71 seconds  .  .  .

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal  .  .  .” My life is precious and if we’re all created equal, then all lives are precious. It’s a simple syllogism and we all believe it. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Really?The Nation Tweet

The city of New York officially observed several minutes of silence starting at 2:07PM on December 23, 2014 for Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, cops assassinated in Brooklyn, NY by a mentally ill man with a gun. They also dimmed the lights of Christmas trees in New York for five minutes starting at 9:00PM that night, this, too, in honor of those slain officers. Oddly, the city did not similarly honor Eric Garner, who was choked to death by a gang of New York City cops and whom the New York City paramedics didn’t so much as touch, much less try to resuscitate. Perhaps we have a sliding scale of preciousness.

Back in the days when Chevy Chase did the Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live!, one bit went roughly like this:

“This just in: A Japan Airlines 747 crashed on takeoff from Tokyo International Airport, killing all 379 passengers and crew. But it’s okay, because there were no Americans on board.”

It’s always a relief when it isn’t us, as when we find that the fire trucks are parked at someone else’s house or that the tsunami struck half-way around the world. While we care about the suffering of the relatives of the 747 crash victims and the people living where the fire trucks are parked and the survivors of the tsunami, the farther away from us geographically and relationally, the less invested we human critters tend to be – the less precious those lives seem to be to us. That’s why those television commercials imploring us to donate money to help malnourished, pathology stricken children are so graphic and have that wailing music playing in the background. It’s what it takes to get through to us.

So, to be accurate, we don’t care to the same extent about every life until we can at least relate in a personal way or imagine ourselves in similar circumstances. For any of us to be moved to action we have to feel it – the preciousness of life – maybe our own – and that presents us with a challenge that we must overcome if America is to solve its problems.

So many young people today are disinterested in current affairs and tune in only to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for their news, and then really only for the humor. A tiny fraction of them vote, even as many of our elected officials act for self-aggrandizement instead of for the benefit of those same disinterested young people. Their preciousness seems to be less important to elected officials than it should be and that puts our next generation at risk.

We’re not going to change human nature, so young people today who are disinterested in current affairs are going to stay that way unless something precious to them is at risk, like themselves. Likely it’s opaque to them how today’s affairs dramatically and sometimes diabolically limit their future lives. But they will run this place in just a few short years, so it falls to us to figure out how to get through to them so that they feel it enough to take action.

We must do that because every life is precious, including the lives of people who will inherit what we leave to them and who don’t yet feel the peril that’s right around the corner.

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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. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


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

An Open Letter To . . .


Reading time – 32 seconds  .  .  .

.  .  .  our lip-flapping, self-serving senators and representatives

Caution: Contains snark. Sensitive readers should man up.

___________________________________________________

Let me say with all due respect and appropriate decorum that:

– Pretending that continuing to refuse to have relations with Cuba enhances American security is idiotic.

– Treating Cuba differently than we treat any other repressive regime has completely failed to influence Cuba to change any of its policies and hoping otherwise is folly. Get over it.

– Refusing to have diplomatic relations with any country (i.e. refusing to be in dialogue) ensures that nothing good will happen.

– Limiting Cuban cigar imports to what is smuggled into America and believing that will pummel the Castros into submission is brainless.

– Treating Cuba as though it is still a Soviet satellite state suggests you’ve had complete amnesia for the past 25 years.

– Continuing a policy that has so obviously and consistently failed will not cause things to get better. (Note to legislators: Slapping your forehead and exclaiming “Duh!” right now is appropriate.)

– Having a hissy fit over at last having a dialogue with Raul Castro is grandstanding, self-serving politics that abdicates your responsibilities to the American people.

Special note for Sen. Marco Rubio (R. – Moon): Your pretty face doesn’t imply any mental ability or even common sense. Grow up. Learn something before it’s too late.

End of open letter.

Action Alert to readers: When you hear anyone in Congress telling you that the sky is falling now that President Obama has had the courage to do what generations of presidents before him should have done, change the channel, turn the page or click the “Off” button immediately. Then pass this message along to those you love and respect as an act of compassion, because nobody should have to listen to that drivel.

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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. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


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

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