integrity

What’s At Stake


Reading time – 3:01  .  .  .

We’re a hotly divided country, entrenched in our certainties. Whether we say it or not, we see compromise as a dirty thing.

On the other hand, we all know right from wrong and there isn’t a lot of disagreement about it, once we get past our rationalizations.

The House Intelligence Committee hearings are exposing obvious wrongdoing by Donald Trump. It isn’t just that the witnesses are offering plain-to-see facts of his guilt, Trump famously preened as he bragged about his criminal behavior. So, the hearings aren’t about questions of guilt. Rather, the hearings are about what is truly bedrock in America.

Here is the oath of office to which every member of Congress swore:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

Note that no person is named, other than the person being sworn in. They don’t swear allegiance to a king. They don’t swear allegiance to a president. They swear allegiance to the Constitution of the United States. The United States is alone among the nations in this kind of oath and it declares for all to see that we are a nation of laws and not a nation of men.

That concept is being sorely tested in this era of Trump. Clearly, Trump is all about Trump and uses anything and anyone around him for self-aggrandizement. He demands loyalty to him. The test of our time is what or who our members of Congress will protect and defend. What is at stake is the rule of law and the Constitution itself.

If Trump is allowed to get away with his obvious criminal behavior, we will have established a new bedrock for this nation, a bedrock of personality, not of law; of high office for personal benefit, not for the benefit of the nation.

These hearings, then, are about deciding what kind of nation we will be. President Trump has no voice in this. We The People have an indirect voice by telling our members of Congress where we stand, what we want, how we see things. However, only the members of Congress have a vote.

Members of the House have the first vote. They alone will decide whether to impeach the President. The issue is whether the Republican members will look at the facts and vote accordingly, or whether they will cave to political pressure and vote to protect the President. In that way they will decide whether we are a nation of laws or a nation of a man.

If the House impeaches the President, the Senate will decide whether to convict the President such that he will “.  .  .  be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Again, there isn’t a doubt about Trump’s guilt. However, there is grave doubt whether the members of the Senate have the courage to act in accordance with their solemn oath of office. They know and we know the truth. The question will be whether knowing that will be enough to cause them to do the right thing.

Everything – the Constitution and the rule of law and our very republic – depends on what they do.

Surely, our Republican Members of Congress see that Trump is guilty of many offenses and crimes. Right now the issues are extortion, bribery, withholding of funds in violation of the direction of Congress and multiple counts of obstruction of justice. Then there’s witness tampering, campaign finance violations, profiting from the Presidency (emoluments), collusion, advocating political and police violence, abuse of power, persecuting political opponents, violating immigrants’ rights and more.

So, Trump’s unfitness for office and his criminality are plain to see. What holds Republicans back from the obvious right path is fear of backlash from their extreme constituents. So, their choice is to do the right thing, which will require that they dare to lose their position and power, or to destroy the rule of law and sell out our country.

That’s what’s at stake.

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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.

Unmasking in the Theater


Reading time – 3:33  .  .  .

The House will hold all-hands-on-deck hearings into the impeachment of President Donald Trump. This has been a long time coming, considering all the blatantly illegal and un-Constitutional and un-presidential things he’s done. Indeed, just his refusal to investigate and take action against Russia for interfering in our 2016 election should have been enough to show even Republicans his unsuitability for office and his suitability for being sent away. Alas, that didn’t happen.

It didn’t happen when Robert Mueller submitted his report, which specifically cited ten (TEN!) cases of obstruction of justice perpetrated by Donald Trump. Just get that obstruction of justice is illegal in federal law and in every state, county and municipality in the United States. Still, Trump hasn’t been held to account. Now, though, there’s a chance for that to happen.

There isn’t even a hint of doubt that Trump attempted to get a foreign government to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, the political opponent he fears most. That’s a crime. And there isn’t a doubt that he held up money headed to Ukraine, money that was supposed to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian invasion. Trump used that money to extort the president of Ukraine, to get him to “play ball” solely for the political benefit of Donald Trump. Extortion, like soliciting election help from a foreign government, is a crime.

The reason there isn’t a question as to whether Trump did all that is because he bragged that he did it. It was a voluntary confession and a voluntary release of the edited transcript of his phone call with the Ukrainian president that shows him doing it. Trump’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney bragged about Trump’s illegal actions, too. He said that quid-pro-quo extortion is ordinary stuff and that we should all just, “Get over it.”

But, of course, we haven’t gotten over it, because the president soliciting or accepting anything of value from a foreign government IS ILLEGAL! The reason it’s illegal is because doing so corrodes our democracy, undermines our values and invites even worse criminality in the future. And it makes the United States of America subject to pressure from and possible control by foreign governments. The Framers knew that well and it is why they included this prohibition in the Constitution itself.

That’s what makes it so fascinating to watch Republicans twist themselves into pretzels trying to defend this clearly criminal president and his clearly criminal actions.

We have heard infantile “It’s not fair” whining from many Republicans, notably and most recently from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). He whined about how unfair it is that:

    • Trump hasn’t been allowed to present his case. (That’s true. Because what was done by the House Intelligence Committee was neither a court proceeding nor a debate. It was an inquiry seeking information, just as is done by a grand jury.)
    • The House Intelligence Committee hearings were done in closed session. (That’s true, too. That’s how such things have always been done, including when Republicans were digging for dirt – any dirt – on Bill Clinton.)
    • The House has issued more subpoenas than enacted laws. (That’s only true if you take into consideration that the entire stack of bills passed by the House is in a pile in a corner of Mitch McConnell’s office because he won’t bring them to the Senate for a vote. Besides, such numbers have nothing to do with the impeachment inquiry, which makes this objection idiotic.)
    • The Democrats want to kill democracy. (Yes, he said that. It isn’t worthy of further comment.)
  • The Republicans spent the duration of the House Intelligence Committee hearings complaining about the undemocratic secrecy of it all. Hearings should be public, they said. So, a vote was taken last week to hold public hearings in the full House, the very thing Republicans said that we must do. The proposal would give Republicans exactly what they said they wanted, and every Republican voted against it.
  • Republicans know what Democrats, Independents, iron workers, Popsicle peddlers in the parks, CEOs, mill workers, investment bankers, 7-11 attendants and everybody else knows: Donald Trump is a criminal. It’s just that some people rationalize that for their own imagined benefit.
  • Like the Republican legislators who dread a primary challenge and who cower in fear of Trump’s playground brat name calling. They do the dance to protect their own asses and in that process they abandon democracy and the Constitution they swore to protect and defend. And they know that’s what they’re doing.
  • This impeachment business will be, more than anything, a test of integrity.
  • So, watch the proceedings. They will be the greatest political theater on the planet. And they will be the greatest public unmasking of legislator frailties you’re likely to see – ever.

————————————


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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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.

What I Wish He’d Said


Reading time – 2:04  .  .  .

Chairman Adam Schiff

Speaking to the House A/V technician while covering his microphone and pointing toward the Republican Members of Congress who are not members of the House Intelligence Committee but are in the room:

Please turn off their microphones.

To all:

These proceedings have been invaded by people who don’t belong here, several dozen members of Congress who are not part of these closed door hearings. It is to them that I address these remarks.

Your Animal House sit-in stunt may achieve some delay to these proceedings, but we will complete our work. What you are doing is not just rude and disrespectful. It is far more significant than that and I have three points to make to you.

First, your having brought your cell phones with you into these proceedings is a breach of national security because, as you know, your phone can be hacked whether it is turned on or off. That is why House rules prohibit you from bringing your phone into any hearing, which is to say, you’ve wantonly breached House protocol, too.

I recall distinctly the days when the Republican Party trumpeted its belief in and support for our national defense. Its members were staunch, toe-the-line champions of the security of our country and I wish that were still so. Your actions here today suggest that it is not.

Second, you know quite well that these hearings are closed door because the Attorney General seems to have become the attorney for this president instead of attorney for the country. He is unwilling to appoint a special counsel to investigate these matters. Were there a special counsel he or she would convene a grand jury in order to take depositions like those being taken here. And you know that all grand jury hearings are done in closed door sessions, just as this committee is operating. These hearings aren’t secret – Republican Committee members are in attendance and are participating committee members at all times. And you also know that this is the way the Nixon and Clinton impeachment proceedings began. Odd that you object to the same practices today.

Finally, we are conducting this investigation because the rule of law and the Constitution itself are under attack – you know this quite well. So, I invite you to gather your children and grandchildren and tell them what you did to honor your oath of office when the rule of law was under attack. Tell them what you did when the call went out to protect and defend the Constitution. Let them know how stiff your spine was when your country called on you to stand and be counted.

Now it’s time for you to leave.

 

————————————

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!

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.

2020 Presidential Debate


Reading time – 3:39  .  .  .

Transcript of Presidential Debate, October 6, 2020

Anderson Cooper:

Mr. President, to pick just one issue, in the summer of 2019 you claimed that Alabama was at risk of a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian, when your own National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center had made it clear days earlier that the hurricane would travel north along the Atlantic coast and wouldn’t come anywhere near Alabama. Why did you warn Alabamans to take shelter from a hurricane that was not going to arrive? And who drew that obviously forged Sharpie bubble onto a National Weather Service map?

President Trump:

You’re wrong as usual, Anderson. Wrong. That’s just more fake news, fake news, everybody. CNN should lose its license because of all the fake news you spread. You and the rest of the fake news are the enemy of the American people. The enemy. Fake news. There it is for everyone to see, folks. Fake news.

The people of Alabama were at severe risk, so I bravely stepped up for them. I protected my people. I’m a hero. There was a severe risk. The National Weather Service said so. They made the Birmingham office apologize and say I was right. You ought to report on that, Anderson, instead of the fake news you tell people. You’re fake news, Anderson. Fake news. And I’m a hero.

AC

Senator Warren, you have 30 seconds for your rebuttal.

Senator Warren:

Well, that’s a perfect example of the president saying things that aren’t just false. but are easily disproven. That raises the key question of this election.

Mr. President, for you to repeatedly say things that are so obviously false leaves us with only two possible explanations:

  1. You are not just ignorant, but willfully so. And in your not knowing, you haven’t the sense to keep your mouth shut. Or,
  2. You know the truth but speak contrary to it. That is to say, you lie.

Which is it, Mr. President? Please tell the American people: are you ignorant or are you a liar?

DT

Well, there you go, Pocahontas, speaking with a forked tongue. Everyone knows you’re not trustworthy, not at all trustworthy. You’re just like Hillary. Just like Hillary. She’s untrustworthy and you’re just like her. Untrustworthy.

And you’re a socialist. We’re Americans, but you’re a socialist. You’re not even a true American. You’re not like us. You’re a socialist.

People are saying – I’m hearing this every day – people are saying that you lied your way into Harvard. That you  lied. And you told American business people that they didn’t build their businesses, that those hard working business people didn’t build their businesses. Who built their businesses, you? I don’t think so. I don’t think so at all. You’re against everything American. You just aren’t American. People are saying this.

And you’d be a disaster dealing with Kim Jung Un, this I can tell you. This I can tell you. A disaster.

AC

Senator Warren, you may respond.

EW

I have to admit that with your reply to my question, Mr. President, you’ve shown us a 3rd and even a 4th possible explanation for you saying so many thousands of false things. Number 3 is that you’re an imbecile. Number 4 is that you are mentally deranged, a psychopath.

You didn’t answer my question, so let’s try this once again. We now have 4 possible explanations for your thousands of false statements. Which one explains your dishonesty, Mr. President? Are you ignorant, a liar, an imbecile or a psychopath?

AC

Mr. President would you care to respond to Senator Warren?

DT

You know, Pocahontas likes to get people to think that she’s some kind of genius, but she’s no genius. No genius. She’s not even smart. She’s not a smart person.

The economy is great. It’s just great. People have jobs. Lots of jobs. So many jobs that people are sick of jobs. Manufacturing jobs are coming back to the U.S. and my tariffs have brought China to its knees. That’s how powerful I am. I’m a very powerful person. And I still have a great relationship with President Xi – he likes me very much. He called me twice yesterday. Twice. We have a great relationship. He likes me very much.

The stock market is at record highs. But she doesn’t understand that. She’s not too smart. Record highs. I told you I’m a genius and now you see it. I’m so smart – I’m a genius. She’s not too smart. This I can tell you.

If she becomes president we’ll still be at war in 2024 because she can’t stand up to the Taliban. She’s not a strong person. And she doesn’t know a thing about how to negotiate. I’m the most powerful negotiator. That’s why I’m the chosen one to deal with these things. I’m very powerful. She’s not strong. She’s very weak. I’m very powerful. I’m the best negotiator.

EW

This is absolutely googly-eye crazy.

Unemployment is up 1.5% over the past 12 months, the Dow is down 17% and not even one manufacturing job has been repatriated to the U.S. Because of your tariffs our family farms have gone bankrupt at a rate not seen since the Great Depression. You’ve ruined our economy, you’ve hurt hard working Americans and your cruelty to people seeking asylum has shattered our credibility around the world. No amount of fantasy from you will change these facts.

Your negotiations with the leaders of the most dangerous nations on Earth have given them status and power they couldn’t have gained any other way, while we in the United States have gained nothing. You get photo-ops with tyrants and the United States is left in danger.

And nobody cares whether President Xi likes you.

Nobody likes being lied to, either, so please tell the American people why you tell them so many false things.

DT

I’m not even going to talk to you. These things are things you can’t understand. Maybe you would if you were a smart person, but you’re not smart. Not smart at all. I’m a genius and you’re not even smart.

Maybe you’d get it if you were a deal maker, a great negotiator like me, but you’re not. You’re not. There’s no point explaining things to you. You’d be a disaster as president. A disaster. Imagine her dealing with the Iranians or even Justin Trudeau. She’d be a disaster. This I can tell you. This I can tell you.

EW

I’m not even going to talk to you“? Is that how you deal with leaders of nations? With the heads of the Cabinet? Is that how you work with Congressional leaders to deal with the challenges and opportunities America faces? “I’m not even going to talk to you“?

Gotta admit that, what with your refusal to meet with Robert Mueller and your illegal stonewalling of Congressional subpoenas, you did deal with Mueller and the House Judiciary Committee that way. What’s next, threatening to hold your breath until you turn blue?

AC

We’re going to break. When we return we’ll look at what to do about the tens of thousands of refugees from Central America still at our southern border and the thousands of children still locked up.

DT

She’d be a disaster. This I can tell you. And CNN is fake news. Enemy of the people. Fake news. People are saying that only I can lead this nation. People are saying that. And it’s true. This I can tell you: only I can make America great again.

EW

OMG

Finally,

Saudi oil fields were attacked by cruise missiles and the U.S. administration has claimed that the missiles came from Iran. The president and vice president have used words like “locked and loaded” and made other threatening statements toward Iran in reaction to the attack. Here’s the question.

The Saudis have the largest military in the middle-east and are quite capable of taking whatever retaliatory action they deem necessary. The United States has not been attacked. So, why is the Trump administration threatening retaliatory military action against Iran?

 

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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,

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!

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.

Funding the Wall


Reading time – 3:15; Viewing time – 5:04  .  .  .

In reviewing my posts of the past couple of years I find that there’s a lot of “This ain’t right” stuff and a much smaller offering of “Hey, this is cool!” or “Aren’t we humans oddly interesting?” Sadly, the reason is obvious: the dangerous and harmful Trumpian outrages are all around us and push-back is critical.

So, once again I long for our country to be “re-saned” (no, that’s not a word, but you get it) so that we can get back to being America and stop playing defense against the full time Trumpian assaults on reality. Meanwhile, it’s our duty to attend to these outrages in order to minimize damage. Here’s just one from this past week.

Mark Esper was a vice-president of government relations for Raytheon, a defense contractor. Apparently, being a lobbyist was just the right experience to make him the very best person to be Secretary of Defense under Trump. He brought the lobbying skills he honed at Raytheon to his present gig at the White House in order to be an official Trump Swamp Cootie.

Trump insists on building his useless vanity wall on our southern border, the one we were told that Mexico was going to pay for. Not so strangely, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said, “Nuh-uh” to Trump’s ridiculous demand of payment.

After that Congress also refused to fund his (did I mention?) stupid wall, so Trump declared a state of national emergency in order to undermine Congress. He got Esper to agree to give him $3.6 billion from the Defense Department budget for his wall. The money will come from much needed construction projects for our military, including readiness projects in support of our NATO allies.

Vladimir Putin likes that we’ll be one step behind. That gives him the opportunity to seize yet more eastern European nations. And Putin continues to pursue his nuclear explosion producing, Mach 8 nuclear powered cruise missiles. The complete lack of U.S. push-back means that he faces no international condemnation for the radiation from his exploded folly that’s poisoned the area next to Finland.

If you’d like to see which national defense needs will be abandoned, click here. Be sure to look for the idiotic comments of Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), which he said in support of Trump’s Defense Department thievery, including this contorted gem:

“It is important that Congress now restore the military construction funding diverted for border security. Failing to do so only forces our troops to pay for political discord in Washington.”

It may have hurt your brain to read that. That’s because it’s bat-shit crazy.

Trump also is diverting emergency funds from FEMA in order to build his purposeless wall. He’s specifically withholding disaster relief from Puerto Rico, which hasn’t recovered from Hurricane Maria two years ago, largely because – wait for it – Trump has withheld about 80% of the funds that Congress allocated for disaster relief for those people.

As of this writing the southeast coast of the U.S. is taking a pummeling from Hurricane Dorian following the devastation it caused to the Bahama Islands. The Bahamians endured almost two days of cat 5 winds – over 185 miles per hour – torrential rain and hurricane ocean storm surges.

In addition to the Puerto Rico money he plans to steal, Trump is going to further deplete FEMA in order to fund his vanity wall, making relief and recovery for those were hurt worst anywhere from difficult to impossible. We might have enough left in FEMA’s piggy bank for the Carolinas. As for the Bahamians and Puerto Ricans, I’m sure those people can wait until next fiscal year for funding to help them. Just tell the Bahamians to take a number and get in line behind the Puerto Ricans. It’s really no problem, because most of those people aren’t from Norway, anyway.

Sarcasm aside, Trump is preparing to build 175 miles of unneeded wall by sacrificing desperate hurricane survivors, NATO, our 3-branch governmental structure, national defense, our military people and world order. This isn’t just more of his stupid lies. We can ignore what he says, even his idiotic Sharpie-modified hurricane map. But we better pay attention to what he does, because he is intent upon assaulting American values, our safety and our democracy itself.

That’s why we pay attention to his outrages.

————————————

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!

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.

Here’s Why, Mr. Towns, and More


1965

2004

Reading time – 3:58; Viewing time – 5:19  .  .  .

In the 1965 movie classic The Flight of the Phoenix (with a remake in 2004) there is a clash of personalities between the pragmatic airplane captain and a most particular aeronautical engineer. In understated frustration, the engineer at last says to the captain, “Mr. Towns, you behave as though stupidity were a virtue. Why is that?”

I’ve asked that question about Donald Trump many times. Now I think I have an answer.

I founded an industrial water treatment company and ran it for 25 years. We would have monthly meetings to discuss what was going on, plans for future endeavors – standard business stuff. And there was one person in the company who had a way of derailing almost any discussion. He would interject a comment that was far off-topic or just plain nuts, and progress would come to a halt. It took me a long time to get past my boundless annoyance with his behavior and come to understand what was really going on.

This guy was profoundly uncomfortable in his own skin and needed lots of attention. And the only way for him to feel safe was to keep everyone else off balance. Hence, his discussion mangling behavior.

Now about the president  .  .  .

Trump constantly says things that upset others, that jar stability, that unhinge focus, that make heads spin. He lies with every breath and is cruel and has frequently contradicted himself multiple times within a single sentence. He repeats his crazy talk over and over, as though to convince himself that his fantasies are reality. All of these things keep everyone else off balance. And they keep the world focused on him, feeding his desperate need for attention. Perhaps the little man in the big White House has to do that in order to feel safe in the world.

Keeping everyone else off balance doesn’t require the work of consultation with experts on vital issues, or having sound strategy for dealing with complex challenges, or giving even momentary consideration to consequences. All he has to do is to supply a constant stream of lunacy. It’s a truly brilliant tactic to avoid being found out – to keep others from knowing he’s just a scared, insecure fraud.

In addition  .  .  .

The Trump administration has published a final rule change – the “public charge” bastardization of the 1999 rule regarding immigrants receiving benefits. This new rule effectively says we only want rich, educated immigrants. Others need not apply.

One result of this new rule is that immigrant families are afraid to get their kids vaccinated against infectious diseases, because receiving public assistance in any form will count against them when it’s their turn for a green card.

If putting immigrant kids at risk by withholding cheap vaccinations doesn’t trip your trigger, just get that this cruel policy of this hateful president is putting your children at risk.

Next, some math  .  .  .

As has been noted recently – and you may remember this from 7th grade science class – trees breathe, taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. In doing so, they become a carbon sink, or storage facility, sequestering carbon in their wood. Because of that remarkable facility, they counter global warming.

As such, It has been estimated that we can dramatically reduce global warming by planting 1 trillion trees worldwide. There are about 8 billion people in the world, so basic math says that to accomplish that level of planting, every person on earth will have to plant 125 trees. That’s challenged by the number of people living in areas where trees just don’t grow, so the number trees the rest of us will have to plant will have to be higher.

The Amazon rain forest is said to be the lungs of the planet, supplying about 20% of the planetary carbon dioxide-oxygen exchange, but vast areas of that life giving forest are burning. That is releasing huge quantities of carbon dioxide into the air and undermining the area’s future capability to store carbon because the trees are gone.

That 125 trees per person number is going up. Better start planting.

And finally  .  .  .

President Trump has repeatedly inquired about using a nuclear bomb to stop hurricanes. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has explained that not only would dropping a nuke not stop a hurricane, it would make the storm radioactive and spread that radioactivity over places where lots of people live.

Just so you know.

Note: My video math is off by a decimal point. The printed number – 125 trees per person – is correct. Apologies for my limited access to fingers. JA

————————————

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!

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.

What Are We Missing?


Reading time – 3:20  .  .  .

The daily outrages and incessant infantile furies create a barrier to focusing on important but non-urgent issues. Indeed, this post is being written just 10 days after the weekend massacres in El Paso and Dayton. This is during the ongoing intransigence of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. On full display are his dual betrayals of, 1. refusing to bring legislation to the floor of the Senate for a vote to defend against foreign invasion of our democracy, and, 2. refusal to bring any gun safety legislation to a vote. Happening at the same time is the President’s lying and misleading about both issues. But his behavior is so consistent that it’s hardly worth a yawn. Still, he’s the president, so his narcissism-on-display does suck up our national focus.

We have to make time to shine a light on the important but non-urgent issues. These things beg for answers, so let’s look at one as a placeholder for all: our gargantuan healthcare complex and changes we don’t notice.

STAT, the daily briefing from The Boston Globe focusing on healthcare related issues, reported on August 12,

“A new report from UnitedHealth Group finds that hospital prices increasing at current rates could end up costing $250 billion over the next decade. The report says that prices set by hospitals for services  — and not physician salaries or how much hospital services get used — are what’s driving up patients’ spending. Between 2013 and 2017, for instance, hospital prices increased by 19% while the cost of physician services increased by half that amount.”

To put that into perspective, healthcare accounted for 17.9% of GDP in 2017 and inflated 3.9% that year to a total of $3.5 trillion, or $10,739 per person. We spend a crazy amount of money battling injury and disease and this report says the cost to do that is getting far worse.

The un-examined tidbit that seems like a throwaway in this report is that over that same 4-year period the cost of physician services increased by almost 10%. Did we receive 10% greater value? Why should we pay the extra 10%?

Silly question. We pay it because healthcare isn’t like deciding which car to buy or whether now is a good time to install an energy efficient furnace. There isn’t a marketplace of cost competitive choices for doctors and when you need healthcare you need it now, regardless of your ability to pay.

That’s compounded by most of us getting a major portion of the cost of our healthcare from a third party – an insurance company – so we may only see the co-pay and be ignorant of the true cost. The result is that doctors and hospitals can charge what they want. There will be some moderation of the cost as the insurance companies arm wrestle with doctor and hospital office managers over their invoices, but that’s pretty much it.

We are so accustomed to the price of healthcare going up, reflected in our insurance premiums that may right now be getting deducted from your paycheck, that we don’t even squawk any more. Millions are so accustomed to the ever-escalating cost system that they won’t even look at alternative ways to fund our healthcare or ameliorate its cost.

Extending our willful blindness about our pockets being picked begs an answer to how many other ways we’ve allowed ourselves to become numb, as others eat away at our financial well being. That stuff is bankrupting us, so the question begging for an answer is, “What are we missing?”

Bonus Section

In that same edition of STAT they report,

“President Trump announced late last month a plan to import drugs from Canada to help lower Americans’ prescription costs, and Canadians are not happy about it.”

Just think for a moment about the multiple crazies of this. First, most of those drugs are made in the U.S. and exported to Canada at substantially reduced cost, where they are sold for somewhat more sane prices to consumers. Trump wants to create a massive importation of those same drugs back into the U.S., thus effectively swatting at symptoms and refusing to deal with the root cause. And it’s worse than that.

The predictable Canadian backlash to this vacuum-headed idea is driven by shortages of drugs in Canada. Reports STAT,

“You are coming as Americans to poach our drug supply, and I don’t have any polite words for that,” said Amir Attaran, a professor at the University of Ottawa. Read more here.

This is just another of Donald Trump’s strategy-vacant ideas without any thought to consequence to others, especially to our strong ally and second biggest trading partner.

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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.

Vision


Reading time – 3:42; Viewing time – 4:39  .  .  .

The second round of over-populated candidate debates will occur this week. Instead of hearing them snipe at one another, jockey for position or clutch desperately for air time, here’s what I want from the candidates.

Vision is the “THAT way” clarity that guides us in both the best of times and the worst. We have a national vacuum where that direction should be and that leads to proposals that are foolish and often self-defeating and which leave us adrift in the hot air that is today’s sound bite politics. Our leaders, whose task it is to name it and keep us focused, are vision-challenged in our hyper-partisan, post-reality swamp, so we wander about without direction.

We are a fractious and largely confused people, often acting only on impulses borne of the amygdala, the “reptile brain,” which is acutely tuned to fear. That leaves us vulnerable to the demagogue’s exploitation, as we mindlessly react to the most recent fear mongering. That causes us to lose our ability to stay true to our values. It turns out that Darth Vader was right when he said:

Jamelle Bouie makes that clear in his essay The Joy of Hatred, wherein he speaks of, “our history of communal, celebratory racism.” Communal and celebratory, indeed. We’ve seen that in Donald Trump’s chanting crowds, with their nearly all white faces smiling and reveling in the dark side of rejecting “others.” That isn’t the least bit helpful to our American condition or to our possibilities and it is utterly without hope for the future.

Trump speaks and acts as though he is a disciple of Darth Vader and he is leading us backward into authoritarianism. That is the very thing that motivated the Founding Fathers to say to King George III, “No more.” While they didn’t utter those words, their actions and the Declaration of Independence made clear that was their message.

To find our way to that more perfect union and our true potential we need to regain our aspirational nature. We have to abandon our impoverishment of ourselves and stop looking through the rear view mirror. We have to restore our vision ahead. We’ve done that before, as we did under the leadership of President Kennedy, which resulted in our Apollo program successes.

During that period of our history we were in perpetual danger of civilization-ending conflict. Gaining preeminence in space was our way of saying to the world and to ourselves that we are America. Might it be possible to regain that forward looking, can-do spirit? Might we be able to articulate the inspiration of creating that shining city on the hill?

I have two essays for you that speak to that.

Lori Garver, former deputy administrator of NASA, wrote an exceptional vision for a new and critical mission for NASA and it doesn’t include sending anyone to the moon or to Mars. It is rooted in real world need that is incrementally manifesting itself in unmistakable ways.

The other essay is from David Brooks. He speaks to who we really are and who we can be. Do yourself a favor and click his link to a Langston Hughes poem.

Back to the Apollo program.

Gene Kranz was flight director for the Apollo 13 mission. A catastrophic failure of their spacecraft put the lives of the men aboard in peril. Kranz’ engineers and scientists were working to cobble together the life-sustaining measures needed to save our astronauts when Kranz is reputed to have said, “Failure is not an option.” That is still true.

Who has what it takes to inspire this nation? Who will call upon what Lincoln termed our better angels and lead us in the direction of our greatness?

What I want is for our politicians and candidates to stop the silly, often self-destructive stuff and focus on who we can be. I want them to awaken our sleeping capabilities and to light a beacon to shine on that hill and guide us all. Rarely has the need been so great.

As I watch the debates I’ll be looking for the candidate who will do that.


President Trump is obsessed with attacking opponents by using the word “infested.” His vision for America seems to be constant attack, constant degrading of others. That’s exactly the kind of future where there is no hope. That’s the kind of future that rips us apart. Click here to see what CNN’s Victor Blackwell had to say about that. Decide for yourself which vision moves your spirit.


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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.

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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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.

Blue 2020


O’ Blue, you good dog, you.

Reading time – 1:10; Viewing time – 1:57  .  .  .

We have issues. Challenges, Problems to solve. And most of them not only are not getting solved, but they are being made worse. You need only consider our manufactured humanitarian crisis at our borders for a painful example.

There has been a continuous wringing of hands, including in this column, and the people tasked with dealing with our challenges have accomplished little. It appears that we’re left solely with the imperative that this horrible, likely criminal president must go. But we haven’t had a clarity about The Candidate who can accomplish that imperative and solve our problems. Now we do.

I’m announcing that my dog BLUE is a candidate for President of the United States!

He was born in this country, so he doesn’t have a foreign country to go back to. He isn’t a communist or a socialist and is color blind, so he can’t discriminate by race. BLUE is loyal, caring, steadfast and dedicated to making the lives of others better. He is fiercely protective, so you’ll sleep well at night, knowing that BLUE is standing guard over our country.

Trump shoves Markovic of Montenegro. Click for the video.

BLUE is incapable of inflicting cruelty on refugees and would never promote a tax act that ignored every citizen but the enormously wealthy. Rather than attacking our allies, BLUE will lick their hands. And he would never push a fellow NATO member aside to get in the front row.

It’s obvious that we need a leader who respects the office of the president, is thoughtful and is dedicated to the people instead of to himself. You get it, because this is both clear and compelling.

Really, isn’t it obvious that my dog BLUE will do a much better job of being President of the United States than Donald Trump? So, let’s make this a red, white and

BLUE 2020!


————————————

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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