leadership

What’s the Proper Word For That?


Reading time – 3:02; Viewing time – 4:40  .  .  .

Some folks find the sport of curling exciting to watch. On the other hand, the subtlety and beauty of the game are pretty well lost on me. That gives credence to what Sly Stone told us in his song Everyday People, declaring,

 

Or as Henry David Thoreau so elegantly explained it:

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

Yet as different as we Americans are, there are some things on which there is universal agreement and we are in lock-step about them. Alarmingly, we’re very late in getting serious about one of them. Here are the facts:

    • The Russians hacked Clinton, DNC and Podesta emails and used them to attack our 2016 election for the sole benefit of candidate Donald Trump. And Trump welcomed the help.
    • The Russians sent its troll farm into our social media, infesting it with false and distorted propaganda. They reached 126 million Americans. That’s almost as many of us as turned out for the 2016 election. They did it to ensure the election of Donald Trump. And Trump welcomed the help.
    • The Russians attempted to hack into the voting machines of all 50 states and lifted complete voter registration databases from at least two of them. Trump was good with that, too.

All of that happened and Trump still refuses to take action against the Russians either to penalize them for what they’ve done or to prevent them from further manipulation of our democracy.

What’s the proper word for that?

We Americans are in complete agreement that it isn’t okay for foreign powers to attack us. We think that one part of patriotism is to be dedicated to protecting and defending the Constitution and our nation. The oath of office that every federal employee takes requires them to do that protecting and defending. That includes our legislators and the President, yet that isn’t what is happening.

The President overtly declares – falsely – that there was no Russian meddling in our 2016 election. His absurd assertion flies in the face of the Special Counsel investigation findings and all 17 agencies of our intelligence community, which declare unequivocally that not only did the Russians cyber-invade, but that Trump willfully accepted illegal help from them. And Trump has invited yet more attacks by the Russians for his 2020 campaign.

What’s the proper word for that?

That is compounded by the “Grim Reaper” – his own label – Mitch McConnell, or “Moscow Mitch,” as Joe Scarborough has called him. There are bills ready for a vote in the Senate that would create action to protect and defend our country, but McConnell refuses to allow any such legislation to come to the floor of the Senate for a vote. *

Millions of Americans have put their lives on the line to protect and defend what Trump and McConnell are giving away.

Those men whom we trusted with so much power to do the right things for our nation are easing the path for a hostile foreign power to attack our nation and crush our democracy. What they’re doing is a little like the sweepers in a curling match making a path of least resistance. Only, in curling, it’s just a game. In our democracy, it’s our entire way of life that’s at risk and these men are refusing to protect our country.

They are violating their oath of office and our trust. They are co-conspirators in the willful disarming of the United States as an enemy attacks.

And arguably, Trump and McConnell are al Qaeda’s best friends, too, because they are aiding in the destruction of the core of western democracy, exactly what Osama bin Laden attempted to do.

What’s the proper word for that?

Please pass this along to both your Trump supporting friends, as well as your “I could never vote for a Democrat” friends so they can double-check how they are being double-crossed.



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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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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.

Hoping For Clarity From Sunday Times Readers


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

Still struggling to understand .  .  .

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

Vote for Trump Again, or Switch?

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

Mr. Tom Edwards of Live Oak, TX wrote,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

How Did We Get Here? and “The Wag”


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

  • How did we get to the point:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– where arbitrary tariffs slapped on friends is tolerated?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Late Addition

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

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

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

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

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


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



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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!).
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Thanks!

 


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

Moral Values


Reading time – 3:56; Viewing time – 5:43  .  .  .

The Gallup organization does polling on lots of things, one of which is how we feel about ourselves. They just produced a report that shows that we believe our moral values aren’t good and are getting worse.

That got me to thinking about what that means. What are our moral values? I don’t recall seeing them posted on any wall. We listed some values in the Declaration of Independence. Maybe those are the ones.

The Republicans have been claiming to be the party of “family values” for decades, but I don’t remember any clarification of what that means, which makes that claim nothing more than a bumper sticker like, “I’ve been to Wall Drug.”

The American divorce rate has hovered around 50% for decades, but is now decreasing, this due entirely to Millennials, so marriage commitment likely isn’t a driver of our notion that our moral values are getting worse.

Both violent crime and property crime in this country have been dropping for decades, according to Pew Research, Gallup and many others. Perhaps that says something about our notion of honesty and how sticky that is. That doesn’t seem to be the cause of our worsening self-image, either.

So, exactly which moral values do we view as bad and getting worse? And does that apply to all of us or to some of us most especially? I think it’s the latter.

I think that outside of our government, no Americans are ripping children from their mothers and then leaving them in cages or in vans. I think that outside of our government most people keep their word, they don’t stab friends in the back and they don’t cozy up to people they know are bad guys. I think that most of us have the courage to stand up for what’s right and to oppose what’s wrong.

And I believe that hasn’t changed much over the decades. We have roughly the same proportion of heroes and cowards, honest people and crooks and all the rest as in years past. What’s changed is our notion about how we are, far more so than how we’ve actually changed. And if that’s correct, then where are we getting these notions of how we’re morally slip-sliding away? I think we need to look to leadership.

Note that the tens of thousands of Brits who demonstrated weren’t protesting America; they were protesting Trump. Clearly, they see the real moral values problem.

Johnson gave us the Vietnam War. Nixon gave us Watergate. Ford gave us absence of accountability. Carter gave us a wimpy handshake. Reagan gave us supply side economics and Iran-Contra. H.W. Bush gave us “Read my lips.” Clinton gave us Monica. W. Bush gave us two unnecessary – some say illegal – wars that continue to be U.S. tar babies. Trump gave us endless lies and corruption, brainless deconstruction of what makes our country work, continuing abuse of migrant children and his wearying narcissism. And most of these presidents gave us stagnant wages for all but a fabulously wealthy few and invested them with grossly out-sized power and influence.

Yes, I know I left Obama off this list. I just can’t seem to conjure his horrible scandal, betrayal or criminal behavior. Although there was that tan suit that so infuriated Congressional Republicans.

Here’s my point. I think that the constant drumbeat of horrible leadership that stabs our intuited moral values in the back warps our thinking about ourselves.

That doesn’t relieve us of our responsibility for having elected these presidents and members of Congress who fall so terrilbly short. That’s on all of us. If our notions about our moral values are to improve, the responsibility lies with us and what we do. We can start to make things better by voting. And I don’t mean just the 60% who typically show up for presidential elections. I mean the other 40%, too. Then perhaps we’ll feel better about our moral values when we’ve ousted the greatest violator of them all, as well as his enablers.

My pal David Houle is a futurist. That means that while you’re doing whatever you do throughout the day, he’s researching what’s to come. His recent post suggests that things are and will be changing dramatically, specifically as we move beyond 20th century thinking into 21st century thinking. Have a look at his post and see what you think.

Just get that only a few years ago the Green New Deal wasn’t a remote possibility even for discussion. Recall Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth and how he and his notions were mocked. Neither was Medicare for all open for discussion, nor was immigration reform or prison reform or gun safety and so many other issues. Our changing cast of characters in government to people with 21st century thinking has already changed the discussion and change in action can’t be far behind. It’s likely we’ll feel differently about ourselves as all this unfolds. Stand by for a new Gallup report in a few years – it’s going to look very different.

Final unrelated point: Read David Brooks’ essay “The Coming GOP Apocalypse.” And before you cheer on that apocalypse, do a gut check on your belief in diversity. America needs Republicans. It’s just that they got lost in the woods of self-important chest thumping a few decades ago and can’t hear anyone else over the sound of their certainties. What we need is not their demise; we need them to come to their senses.

So, find an old school conservative friend and convince them to run for office to save our nation from today’s so-called Republicans.

Many thanks to JC for the pointer to Brooks’ essay.

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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!

 

 


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

Fake President – and Memorial Day


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

The Fake President Part

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

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

From the AP:

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

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

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

Click me

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

From the New York Times:

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

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

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

From Twitter:

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

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

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

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

In contrast, here’s the truth.

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

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

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

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

Click me for a larger view

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

The Memorial Day Part

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

You and I can do better than that.

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

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

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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.

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

The Indispensable Nation


Reading time – 3:56  .  .  .

It’s time to take a break from talk of impeachment, contempt of Congess citations, subpoenas, obstruction of justice, picking a fight with Iran and the unending daily tsunami of outrageous behavior – not because those things aren’t important, but because there are other critically important things to consider that are easy to overlook because of our continuing self-inflicted reign of terror. A 50,000 foot view is one of those things.

George Packer wrote a piece for The Atlantic this month entitled “Elegy for the American Century: A report On The Decay of Pax Americana.” I confess that reading it brought into full light my ignorance of the complexities of the Balkan war, the complicated rivalries and borders, the centuries old grievances. More than that, though, it brought greater clarity to how we – the United States – have ceased to be the indispensable nation and have become globally unreliable.

– We now disrespect and even insult our allies

– We now embrace brutal dictators, the very people whom our allies worry about and because they have looked to us for leadership

– We renege on treaties and agreements

– We focus enmity on defenseless people

– We allow buffoonery to go unchecked, making us the object of international mockery and scorn

– We foment divisiveness and hate within our own country, showing people in other countries that we can’t be relied upon because we simply don’t have it together

The United States was the only major power with an intact industrial base following WW II and we created a new world order. The Soviet Union was our continuing enemy, but they could only affect world order through military oppression. We had the goods, as well as the strength to stand up to the bad guys and western democracy flourished. That’s all changed now, though, because we have told the world that we can no longer be counted on.

Angela Merkel just told Europeans that the post-war world order is over and called for Europe to stand up to China, Russia and the US! Something has radically changed and it very clearly isn’t for the better.

Below is an excerpt from Packer’s piece focusing on this very thing.

“If you ask me when America’s long decline began, I might point to 1998. We were flabby, smug, and self-absorbed. Imagine a president careless enough to stumble into his enemies’ trap and expend his power on a blue dress. Imagine a superpower so confident of perpetual peace and prosperity that it felt able to waste a whole year on Oval Office [sex]. Not even al-Qaeda, which blew up two American embassies in East Africa that August, could get our serious attention—Clinton’s response, a barrage of cruise missiles, was derided left and right for following the script of Wag the Dog. The Republicans decided that destroying the president was more urgent than the national interest, and they attacked his every move at home and abroad. Our leaders believed they had the luxury to start tearing one another apart, and they’ve never stopped. Did any country ever combine so much power with so little responsibility? Slowly, imperceptibly at first, we lost that essential faith in ourselves.

“The American century ended in Baghdad and Helmand, in Aleppo and Odessa, and in Beijing. It also ended in Wisconsin and in Silicon Valley and, maybe above all, in Washington, D.C. It ended from overreach and exhaustion, rising competition, the rapid changes and broken promises of globalization, and the failure of our own middle-class democracy, which, when it was thriving, gave us an influence that exceeded even our power.

“Another place where the American century ended was Bosnia.

“Twenty years after Dayton [the peace talks that ended the war in Bosnia], five years after [Richard] Holbrooke [the US Assistant Secretary of State leading the Dayton peace talks] died when his aorta tore open .  .  .   a woman in Sarajevo named Aida began to experience insomnia. Though she had lived through the entire siege, she never counted herself among the hundreds of thousands of Bosnians with post-traumatic stress disorder, but now, two decades after the war, she lay awake night after night, unable to take her eyes off the American presidential campaign on TV. Something about the people at Donald Trump’s rallies was deeply familiar to Aida—their clothes, their faces, their teeth, the men’s mustaches, the women’s hair and makeup, the illogic of their grievances, their rage, their need for an enemy .  .  .  Moments in the American campaign brought up uncanny counterparts from those years in the Balkans. Late one night, during the Republican National Convention, Aida suddenly heard the voices of 1 million Serbs in the streets of Belgrade shouting for the head of a Kosovar leader—“Arrest Vllasi! Arrest Vllasi!”—while Milošević cupped his ear and goaded them: “I can’t hear you!” In Cleveland they were chanting “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

“After the Cold War, grand strategists proposed various scenarios for the future of the world: liberal capitalist triumph, the clash of civilizations, great-power rivalry, borderless anarchy. Nationalism didn’t make the short list.

“The warlords turned out to be ahead of their time. Kurt Bassuener, an American expert on Bosnia, calls Trump “America’s first Balkan president.” His public performances sound like translations from the Serbian. For Aida, Trump’s rule told her that Bosnia no longer has anyone to count on. Europe ceased being a noble idea when populist demagogues put up razor-wire fences to keep out refugees. Now the American idea is gone, too. [Said Aida,] ‘After the United States’ values collapsed, who’s there to look up to?'” [all emphasis mine]

Who, indeed?

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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:

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  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.

Pounding and Flip-Flopping


Reading time – 4:51; Viewing time – 7:30  .  .  .

It’s a fundamental courtroom practice:

If the facts are on your side, pound on the facts.

If they aren’t on your side, pound on the law.

If the law isn’t on your side, pound on the table.

The House Judiciary Committee met last week to debate issuing a citation of contempt of Congress to Attorney General William Barr for his failure to produce an unredacted version of the Mueller Report and the underlying evidentiary materials, as well as for his failure to appear before the committee. Of course, the debate was bifurcated along party lines and what I found most interesting is what the Republicans did to make their case against contempt citations.

They brought up all manner of what they decried are unfair or unethical issues, including Hillary Clinton’s emails, FBI leadership, FBI spying and investigating (isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?), Barr’s courage to obey a law that actually doesn’t apply to the contempt of Congress issue, the Steele Dossier (none of which has been disproven), Christopher Steele’s having talked with Russians, various officials lying under oath, James Comey’s perfidy and other real or fantasy offenses.

NONE OF THAT HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH WILLIAM BARR FAILING TO RESPOND TO CONGRESSIONAL SUBPOENAS. IT’S ALL WHATABOUTISM.

That’s what people do when they don’t have a leg to stand on.

Don’t let their passion or the intensity of their fatuous bloviating or the panoply of unrelated issues distract you. This is solely about obeying the law. That sounds very conservative, don’t you think? How come the Republicans don’t like it? Try this.

The Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee likely feel duty bound to protect the Republican administration, regardless of what some individuals in that administration have done. That’s one of the more odious parts of party politics and it’s one of the things that causes voters’ blood to boil or drives them to simply tune out, believing, “They’re all crooks.”

Here’s what’s at stake in this subpoena/contempt citation case:

The important thing: The oversight function of Congress is impossible to conduct without the necessary information. The purpose of a subpoena is to elicit that information from reluctant witnesses. Which is to say, it doesn’t matter whether the president or his lapdog attorney general like it; Barr has to obey the subpoena and the law in order for our system to work.

The critical thing: What is at stake is the rule of law itself! If Barr and Trump get away with refusing subpoenas, then our rule of law is finished. So is justice in America, because it will be clear that obeying the law no longer matters. Say hello to tyranny.

Here’s the current reality:

Those Republican committee members don’t have the facts on their side. Barr has plainly and obviously stonewalled his subpoenas. That’s a punishable no-no. So they can’t pound on the facts.

Those committee members also don’t have the law on their side. The law is clear that citizens must obey a subpoena. So, those representatives can’t pound on the law.

All they have left is pounding on the table. And that’s what they did during the House Judiciary Committee contempt citation hearings and what they’re doing still.

You can expect the same behavior from Republican senators if a resolution of impeachment arrives in their chamber. That’s pretty much what we saw during the blizzard of filibusters the Republicans mounted to fight anything Obama promoted. They didn’t have the facts and they didn’t have the law, so they pounded on the table.

Critical note to Democrats: if positions were reversed, we’d see the same behavior from Congressional Democrats, although they’d probably smile more and be ever-so empathetic. Nevertheless, forget about feeling smug and disdainful about the other guys. This is party politics S.O.P.

Impeachment update  .  .  .

In 2017 I had the simple clarity that Trump should be impeached because he is a criminal, that he’s obviously guilty of violating the Emoluments Clause, obstruction of justice and possibly of treason for conspiracy with the Russians and for his refusal to take any action to prevent ongoing attacks by Russia. Then I considered what a President Pence might do and I wasn’t so sure that impeachment was best.

The first thing Pence would do is pull a Gerald Ford and pardon Trump and his entire crime family for felonies they have or may have committed. It’s unthinkable that they might get away with their self-aggrandizing criminality, so I changed my mind on impeachment. Now, though, there’s another worry.

Trump has started a march to war with Iran. Separating out his wag-the-dog gambit, starting that war will result in a lot of people dying and suffering and it likely will be a war that will last for many years, just like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, because there’s no way out. It appears that the only way to prevent that is to remove Trump from office before he can fire the first shot. That calls for impeachment, so back we go.

One price of doing that, though, is the probability of angering a lot of Americans who will see Trump as a victim and will vote in a Congress that might continue to dismantle the things we care about, a Congress which will deny climate warming. They will continue the assault on Roe v. Wade, on voting rights and will enact yet more wealth inequality measures. All of that and more are existential threats to liberal democracy and to our entire planet. That price is so large that it augers for leaving Trump in office until the end of his term in order to prevent a backlash Congress, even knowing that he will issue anticipatory pardons to all his co-conspirators.

Yes, I realize that I’m flip-flopping on the issue of impeachment and I don’t like it any more than you do.

This impeachment business is more complicated and has more consequences than I want it to have. I believe in the rule of law and apologize not one bit for being a Boy Scout about my horror over the assault on our moral character that we continue to endure.  But frustrating as it would be to refrain from stopping the subversive criminal in the Oval Office, preempting Trump with impeachment might do more harm than good. Clearly, this is a hold your nose moment in American history.

Click the pic for the report in The Onion

                                                     ————————————

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.

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

Wag The Dog – v2.0


Reading time – 2:55; Viewing time – 4:23  .  .  .

Ed note for viewers:

Be sure to read the Late Addition Comment at the end of this post. It is material that is not included in the video.


I’ve warned of an upcoming “Wag the Dog” move by Trump (here and here) and it appears that he’s now teed that up.

The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln last month in the Mediterranean Sea off Spain. It has been rerouted to the Persian Gulf. Credit: Cati Cladera/EPA, via Shutterstock. Click the pic for the complete story

Trump and his war-drum-pounding national security advisor John Bolton, a man who never saw a place where he didn’t want to start a war, have ordered an aircraft carrier group and bombers to the Persian Gulf, “.  .  .  to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.” Bear in mind that Bolton stridently promotes regime change in Iran, a policy which didn’t work so well for us in Iran’s neighbors, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “It is absolutely the case that we’ve seen escalatory action from the Iranians, and it is equally the case that we will hold the Iranians accountable for attacks on American interests.” Further, he said, “The fact that those actions take place, if they do, by some third-party proxy, whether that’s a Shia militia group or the Houthis or Hezbollah, we will hold the Iranians — Iranian leadership — directly accountable for that.”

That sounds a lot like we’re on track for an iteration of the August 10,1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, a response to an attack on a U.S. Navy destroyer by North Vietnamese torpedo boats which never happened. The story was a complete fraud.

That phantom attack was used as an excuse to allow President Johnson to escalate the Vietnamese civil and anti-colonial war into a full blown U.S. war without requiring Congress to put on its big boy and big girl pants and declare war. That fraud-inspired U.S. involvement killed 58,000 Americans and untold hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese. The important point for now is that we’ve never turned out a president in time of war. Johnson was reelected 3 months after his fraud.

Click me

Trump is highly unlikely to win reelection in 2020 without help and we already know that he has no hesitation to do whatever serves him, regardless of the cost to others or to The Constitution. So, keep your focus on his belligerence, his lies and the excuses coming from the White House for attacking Iran.

That new war will start before November 3, 2020. And our amoral president and our spineless members of Congress, most of whom have never served in war, will once again fail to honor their oath of office. They will send someone else’s kids into harm’s way. We’ll have started another war that’s impossible to end and the Air Force base in Dover, Delaware will once again ramp up its unloading of flag draped coffins.

But that’s okay, because Trump will have wagged the dog and been reelected.

And just in case Trump’s contemptible wag the dog reelection scheme doesn’t look strong enough to him next year, don’t be surprised if he declares a state of national emergency, citing his war in Iran, and cancels the 2020 election. That will be the end of our glorious experiment in self-rule. R.I.P. American democracy.

Finally,

That Trump is an enemy of democracy is indisputable, what with his blatant and flamboyant breaking of our laws and complete disregard for democratic norms. But he’s not alone and I’m not talking now about other autocrats.

You absolutely must read Carole Cadwalladr’s post in The Guardian and watch her embedded TED talk. You’ll come to understand more deeply and clearly how the Russians bent our 2016 election, how the engineers of fraud choreographed Brexit to the detriment of all of Great Britain and how broken is liberal democracy around the world.

Click for the story

Read, then watch. Then take action, because democracy is a participation sport and, as Thom Hartmann says, “Tag! you’re it!”

Late addition  .  .  .

Trump pulled out of the JCPOA, effectively dissing our European allies in that agreement, and at the same time daring Iran to go nuclear. Now Trump’s additional sanctions on Iran will cause that country’s economy to shrink by 6% this year – that’s over last year’s 3.9% contraction –  while inflation may reach 40%. How long would any nation tolerate that?

In most circumstances, Trump does a hyperbolic, over-the-top declaration of what he will build or do and then does nothing to create policy to make anything happen. In the case of Iran, he is creating just the right policies and pushing just the right buttons to start an unnecessary war.

This is exactly what Congress is designed to prevent. Better contact your senators and representative now.

Like I said, “Tag! You’re it!”

      ————————————

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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