leadership

Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead – Or Is She?

Reading time – 1:01  .  .  .

Hooray Alabama! Hooray America! Ding, dong, the wicked witch is dead!

Yes, in deep red Alabama the voters told Roy Moore to go home. On his horse, in a car, on foot, whatever. “Just go home, Roy.” And that surely is a victory for sanity and decency.

Click me

I’m pretty much an optimist, but have a look at the final results in this chart. 650,436 Alabamians – 48.4% of voters – voted for the homophobe, the twice-bounced judge who doesn’t obey the law, the alleged, well documented child sexual predator, the Islamophobe, the xenophobe, the nostalgic-for-slavery candidate. Without the disgusting sexual predator accusations, this hate-filled thug likely would have won.

While Alabama is not fully representative of any other state, it does provide instruction as to the ability of Americans to rationalize and compartmentalize shameful, hateful attitudes and behaviors, and there is a lot of shameful, hateful stuff in this country. Proof: a self-aggrandizing, self-obsessed, continuously offensive congenital liar became President of the United States by spewing vitriol.

So, immerse yourself in the glow of victory in Alabama, a win for decency in America, for as long as you like – say, 45 minutes. Then get back to the reality that we need to deal with the root causes of our national disaffection from one another, our intentional dysfunction and our willful embrace of our basest instincts. Alarmingly, that describes 37% of us nationally.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

Duplicity

Reading time – 2:56; Viewing time – 4:27 .  .  .

The congressional act that followed the 1995 Oslo Accords called for the U.S. to recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel, as well as move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv. There was an escape clause in the act that allowed the President to delay recognition and the move by 6 months. That escape clause has been exercised twice a year ever since – until now. There are at least two noteworthy observations to make about these events.

When Bill Clinton first exercised the escape clause in 1996 he was viciously attacked by Republicans, notably by Senator John Kyle (R-AZ) and Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS, now the bankrupting governor of his state), claiming that Clinton was in contempt of Congress. You may recall that this was during the Newt Gingrich, Contract With America era, when the Republicans in Congress made it clear that they had the sole objective of opposing anything Clinton.

What was so very odd is that each time George W. Bush signed that same escape clause, which he did 16 times, neither Kyle nor Brownback nor any other Republican seemed to have a problem with that. And that same kind of duplicity on every issue is exactly what happened in the Obama era, those heady Republican days when Mitch McConnell reminded us that job one for Republicans was ensuring that Obama would be a one-term President. Let’s look at this type of behavior in another context.

During the Clinton presidency Gingrich and his howlers appointed Ken Starr to be Independent Counsel to investigate Clinton’s dealings in the failed real estate deal known as Whitewater. Finding nothing legally actionable there, Starr proceeded to investigate every nuance of both Clintons for five years and continued to find nothing actionable until the the Monica Lewinsky affair at last allowed them to smear the President publicly. There were no Republicans then claiming that Starr’s wandering investigation was a witch hunt. There were no objections to partisan digging for dirt, no attacks on the Department of Justice, no wailing of improper actions on the part of the Independent Counsel.

Now, though, there is a chorus of Republicans in Congress with abhorrent accusations against both the FBI and Robert Mueller, as he conducts his investigation into Trump campaign collusion with the Russians. It’s the same kind of duplicity as for the Jerusalem issue. That leads to the second point.

I’ve scoured sources looking for an upside to the U.S. of Trump’s declaration of formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel. That’s something that most nations have not done, this in an effort to avoid becoming an obstacle to a peaceful solution to the strife in the region. What is the possible good that will come of recognizing Jerusalem as the capitol and of moving the embassy?

Trump’s declaration has surely been good for militant Palestinians and Muslims around the world, as they have already reacted with demonstrations and violence. Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli hardliners like the in-your-face value that comes of Trump’s declaration, but what about value for the U.S.?

All I can find of value here is the pleasure that so-called Evangelicals derive from some self-satisfying biblical notions they hold, as well as the glee of hard-core Trump supporters for his sticking it to somebody. That might garner more votes for Roy Moore to become Senator Pedophile and keep that Alabama Senate seat Republican. That, in turn, may help Trump to further destroy American culture and values. Truly, I have not found a single benefit to the United States beyond that, if you can truly call those benefits.

Meanwhile, connect the dots to congressional Republicans. Where is their outrage over Trump sabotaging the possibility for peace in the Middle East? What happened to conservative calls for what serves this country?

This isn’t my father’s Republican Party and we are the worse for that.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

For Alabama Voters – And The Rest of Us

Reading time – 2:29; Viewing time – 4:31  .  .  .

John Pavlovitz is a blogging minister, a posting pastor, who regularly comments on what’s going on. He recently published an open letter “To The 100 Million Americans Who Didn’t Vote;” I highly recommend it to you because he’s nailed a central point of what has driven our circumstances.

In that essay he wrote:

I’ve heard every reason and excuse, every justification and motivation [for not voting] and I honestly don’t disregard them—it’s just that none of them seem to be worth this unequivocal mess we currently find ourselves stuck in.

Angry people vote – they’re motivated, so they show up. When those of us who aren’t angry decide not to vote, we leave the choice of our leaders to those angry people and they choose based upon which candidates have the most prominently extended middle finger. That leaves out of their consideration things like candidates’ capabilities, moral fiber, fitness for office, vision for America and any sense of caring about the people or the country. That’s a really big problem.

Tuesday there is a choice to be made in Alabama. One of the candidates is an accused pedophile and stalker and abuser of women. He has twice been removed from the Alabama Supreme Court for his refusal to obey the law. He glorifies slavery, hates gays and Muslims and worse. The other candidate is pretty much a normal guy, except that in deep red Alabama he’s a Democrat.

It is beyond outrageous that the President of the United States and the Republican National Committee have endorsed the pedophile, the stalker and hater who doesn’t obey the law. That’s because the official Republican view is that this hateful man is better than an unblemished Democrat.

And that’s what America has come to, in part because of 100 million eligible voters who refused to show up on election Day. This isn’t about laying guilt; it’s about declaring fact.

Let’s be fair and admit that the gut level baseness represented by our abhorrent current reality is the BIG deal. It just wouldn’t have been made manifest so  horribly without the passive approval of those who didn’t show up to vote and instead allowed power to go to this amoral Congress and administration. That has permitted them to make enormous strides in destroying all that we hold dear.

Surely, we have to deal with the real issues. Meanwhile, we have to stop the drivers of our destruction.

So, citizens of Alabama, your number has been called and you’re up. Your country and the world are counting on you to make the right choice for the America we believe in. Show up on Tuesday.

And another thing – This may not be popular to say, but .  .  .

We have decades of reacting to women accusing men of stalking, rape, abuse, molesting, groping, grabbing and all manor of predatory behavior and not believing them. We’ve allowed law enforcement that should have been protecting women to instead make it SOP to blame the victims. He said – She said has mostly been settled with humiliation for women and in favor of He.

Now we’re convicting men in the court of public opinion solely on the basis of accusation and the outfall is enormous. Separating out of this discussion the cases where there’s clear evidence of wrongdoing, as in Roy Moore, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein and perhaps Al Franken, is just an accusation enough to derail a life?

Let me poke at this a bit. What if some of those anonymous accusers are really political operatives for the other side? What if some of the Me-Too folks are pissy at all men and act out of a perceived opportunity to do some men-bashing? I had an experience of that from a woman I barely knew, whom I had not wronged in any way – she later agreed to that – but who tried to beat me up anyway.

This is not to diminish in any way the importance of this issue, nor the legitimate grievances of women who have been abused. But whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

Emerson Was Right – Twice

Reading time – 1:21; Viewing time – 2:09  .  .  .

Chris Matthews’ new book about Bobby Kennedy ends with the words of John Glenn, former astronaut and senator from Ohio, relating his taking Kennedy’s children to their home following the assassination of their father and staying the night with them. He found himself in Kennedy’s study and saw on his desk a collection of poems and essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson, a couple of which Kennedy had marked in the margin. Emerson wrote,

“If there is any period one would desire to be born in, is it not the age of Revolution; when the old and the new stand side by side and admit of being compared; when the energies of all men are searched by fear and by hope; when the historic glories of the old can be compensated by the rich possibilities of the new era? This time, like all times, is a very good one if we but know what to do with it [emphasis added].”

Surely, ours is a time of revolution, a time of massive upheaval in our country and the voices of change are loud and intractable. Oddly, the voices resisting the din of the revolutionaries aren’t embedded in the status quo, but instead are calling for their own change. Returning to the way we were seems to be dissatisfying to all.

That, then, focuses us on Emerson’s final sentence: “This time, like all times, is a very good one if we but know what to do with it.” Who, indeed, has what it takes to declare, “THIS is what we will do with it”? I don’t think a hate-filled, exclusionary specter will do, nor do I believe that just being against things is adequate. Our times call for wisdom in the face of our daily cacophony. We need a visionary who can see both the forest and all the trees, who can make sense of our reality and show us the better tomorrow we’ll build together. Then, in Emerson’s words, we’ll know what to do with it.

The other passage Kennedy had marked in his copy of Emerson’s poems and essays is critical to our time and will remain so:

“Always do what you are afraid to do.”

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!

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

(Mostly) Quick Hits – They’re Linked, I Promise

Reading time – 6:49; Viewing time – 9:59  .  .  .

First, a heads-up for the impatient: The lede is buried at the end of this post.

A Really Tough Time for Republicans

Judge Roy Moore was removed from the bench twice for flaunting our laws in favor of his absolutist religious beliefs. Yes, he was an Alabama Supreme Court judge who disrespected the rule of law – that’s why he was removed from the bench – did I mention “twice”? Apparently, in Alabama that’s not a disqualifier for becoming a United States Senator. As you know, though, the story gets far worse.

Several women have gone public, accusing Moore of sexually violating them and  most were minors when the accused sexual predator allegedly violated them. We’re talking pedophilia. Here are some peculiars about this:

  1. There are only allegations of Moore’s wrongdoing – nine as of this writing – there have been no legal proceedings. If we still believe in innocent until proven guilty (and that’s questionable, given the Trump hysteria of “lock her up”) why are so many calling for Moore’s political lynching?
  2. We all know he’s a slime ball, with a history of his absolutist views being the only ones he deems of value, and his taking a million dollars from his charity for his personal use. He’s hurt both the Constitution and a lot of people and has that self-righteous stink of a hypocrite. That makes it easy to leap to a public opinion conviction of this guy.
  3. Donald Trump has slithered his tweets about how awful are the two wrongdoings of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).  Oddly, even with the multiple accusations of Moore’s pedophilia, Trump hasn’t said a thing about him. That’s a mistake. I believe that the best thing that can happen is for Trump to weigh in on Moore’s alleged sexual predatory behavior. After all, other than Harvey Weinstein, Trump is the guy with the most experience in this field. Okay, that was snark.
  4. Why aren’t all Republicans leaping at the opportunity to fry Roy Moore? This is a political no-brainer.
  5. This is a really tough time to be a Republican with a spine, with a moral compass, with a drive to do what’s right for others and for our country. If such folks stand up for what’s right, the extremists will fire them from from their jobs in Congress and the state houses. That’s because about half of us – most of the reasonable, centrist Americans – don’t bother to vote, leaving to the extremists the decisions about who goes to Congress and our state houses. The solution to this is obvious. So, help a good-guy Republican by showing up and voting for the reasonable folks in every election.

Education

George W. Bush created the No Child Left Behind plan, which forced teachers to instruct students how to take standardized tests, rather than teaching them what they need in order to succeed in life. The name of that plan is something we all support and encourage, so the spinmeisters did their job. The only problem is that No Child Left Behind left millions of children behind.

Speaking of our children being successful, it seems we don’t actually want that to happen. We continue to provide the majority of funding for our schools through property taxes, which is a great plan if the properties are in a wealthy area. It doesn’t work quite as well if the area is poor, because that results in low tax revenue for schools and inadequate resources for turning out well educated kids. That’s how we systematically condemn poor kids to poverty and our country to less than our best possible future.

Leadership

Being clear about what’s going on and about what needs to be done is hard work. Someone needs to stand up and declare, “THAT WAY!” and it isn’t at all obvious who’s up to the challenge. The call has to be inspirational and it must be clean and crisp and memorable so that we maintain focus and continue putting one foot in front of the other and in the right direction. But that call seems as yet uncrafted. In the face of challenges all around us, which way should we go? And who will you follow?

Monopoly (not the board game)

The Justice Department case against Microsoft 17 years ago for anti-competitive practices is the most recent enforcement of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, legislation designed to prevent monopoly. The  purpose of that act was to keep excessive economic power from being concentrated in too few hands, because otherwise society – that’s the rest of us – would be harmed. Ronald Reagan essentially terminated the Sherman Anti-trust Act through non-enforcement and not much has been done to prevent anti-competitiveness since then, even as large corporations buy competitors and consolidate power for themselves and largely at the expense of you and me. Think: airlines; investment companies; accounting firms; pharmaceutical companies; and banks.

Taxes

You already know that the basic fact of the proposed Republican tax plan is primarily a cash giveaway to the rich. That’s accomplished by taking benefits from poor and working class Americans. The Republicans are claiming that this corporate and rich people’s mattress-stuffer bill will deliver the wondrous magic of driving economic growth, new and better jobs for Americans and rising income for all. Plus, everybody gets their own pony in the back yard. But what if all the goodies (other than the cash gift to the wealthy) are really just a phantom that was dreamed up years ago in order to sell trickle-down?

Bruce Bartlett was a key guy in creating the trickle-down myth in the 1980s, so he knows something about this. Read his piece in the Washington Post, where he ‘fesses up to having been a true believer in trickle-down and now unmasks the fraud that it is. He pulls back the curtain about the claim that reducing taxes primarily on the wealthy will result in rising income for working Americans. Be sure to pass along his piece to your fiscally conservative brother-in-law and be sure to remind him of the $1.5 trillion debt the Republicans’ plan will create. That should make for a spirited Thanksgiving discussion.

Banking

The Glass-Steagall Act was passed following the Great Depression as a preventative against some reckless banking practices that helped lay waste to our economy and devastate millions of Americans. In 1999 that law was repealed, allowing investment banks, commercial banks and insurance companies to merge and invent heretofore unimaginable products that put the entire world on the precipice of economic disaster.  There have been many calls for the big banks to be broken up since then, precisely because they enjoy de facto monopoly of our financial world and can pose an existential threat to our country. Those break ups haven’t happened and the banking instruments that put our economy in peril in 2008 are vastly larger today. What do you suppose might happen?

Freedom

It’s time to pay attention to what’s going on and make sense of it all. Here’s a sampling of what some very wise people had to say about that.

Our government . . . teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. Justice Louis Brandeis

He Screwibus Union

The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion. Edmund Burke

The people of every country are the only safe guardians of their own rights, and are the only instruments which can be used for their destruction. And certainly they would never consent to be so used were they not deceived. Thomas Jefferson

If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.  W. Somerset Maugham

We need clear, rational thinking and action in order to protect what we hold dear. Who would have thought that doing so would require courage on the part of those in Congress?

What we’ve seen so far are extensive connections to Russia and fatuous lies told about those connections by nearly everyone high in the Trump administration. What has been confirmed by 17 intelligence agencies of the U.S. is that Russia hacked of our election and tried to influence the votes of millions of Americans. Instead of believing our own experts, Trump believes Putin when all he offers is, “nuh-uh.” Trump maintains a submissive, lapdog posture toward Putin and his manipulation of and access to information makes it look like there’s been a bloodless coup, a Russian theft of America.

You are incrementally being put at greater risk by powerful people concerned solely with their own wealth and power and apparently without the slightest concern for our country. I assure you that staying quiet about this, doing an ostrich, will allow more harm to be done to you and to America. Robert Mueller is doing his job, but that may not be enough. Perhaps it’s time for you to stand up and speak up.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!

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

Reality

Reading time – 4:46; Viewing time – 7:03  .  .  .

My pal John Calia comments now and again on these posts and he recently declared me to be a far left liberal. “Not so!” I protested, and proceeded to show him a bunch of my views on issues about which the vast majority of Americans agree. For example,

We want sensible gun safety legislation.

We want big money out of our politics.

The wealthy should pay their fair share – and it’s more than they’re paying now.

We oppose privatization of Social Security.

The Earth is warming at a dramatic pace and humans are a key driver of that. We need a climate moon shot if we’re to be able to live in what are now our coastal cities.

Russia is not our friend and we must take action to protect our democracy.

Stop lying to us about “trickle-down economics.” We’ve seen this movie over and over for 40 years and we know how it ends, and it’s not well for almost all of us. Instead of the same old stupid stuff, do something that actually helps the lower 99%, like,

Pass an infrastructure bill to rebuild America.

No more unnecessary wars – and stop the ones we’re in.

There is lots more, but my notions seem to coincide with middlin’ views, methinks. John challenged me to take the quiz on the Pew Research site, so I did. Lo and behold, they say I’m a Solid Liberal, along with 15% of the American public. That’s far left, not centrist. I could look for a second opinion, but that feels more like a desperate attempt to prove I’m right, rather than just accepting reality. My friend Ozzie sensibly instructs, “Reality always wins. Our job is to get in touch with it.” Inconvenient, perhaps, but he’s right.

Annoyingly, there is a lot about our current reality that plagues us and we better get in touch with it. You know about the reality of the Trump craziness that pits Americans against one another and focuses on outrage and petty victimization, while creating roadblocks to accomplishing anything to deal with our vexing problems.

At the same time, though, Trump enjoys huge support from ordinary Americans, irrespective of his terrible job performance rating (that’s down to 36.9%). That support leads to Congressional spinelessness, Senators McCain, Corker and Flake notwithstanding. Indeed, the legislators in Congress who live in scandalously gerrymandered districts keep getting reelected in spite of our disdain for Congress (now with just a 13% approval rating). They don’t fear a challenge from the other party, but are terrified at being primaried from the right by an angry extremist candidate. That’s because we’re living in the era of Extended Middle Finger America. Indeed, as Victor Davis Hanson wrote in the National Review, ”  .  .  .  Trump is a symptom of widespread disgust  .  .  . What created him was furor at a smug, entrenched Republican political establishment.”

Arguably, this anger at the establishment began long ago with the assassination of President Kennedy and the Warren Commission’s apparent whitewash of an investigation. It was abetted by the lies of Lyndon Johnson about the war in Vietnam and the lies and crimes of Richard Nixon and the resignation over corruption charges of his Vice-President. It surely was helped along by Bill Clinton’s – let’s call them dalliances.

Our anger was nurtured by Ronald Reagan, who told us that the 9 most feared words in America are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” He told us that, “Government is the problem.” He repeatedly encouraged us to be angry at our government. Actually, we had some solid reasons to be angry.

When the I-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis we were delivered a very clear heads-up that we have infrastructure problems, yet precious little has been done in the intervening 10 years to protect the American people and ensure our solid presence in the world. In contrast, former third-world countries are modernizing at a ferocious pace, leaving us less competitive in this global economy. That’s a huge trust killer for us, just as our refusal to fix our education system and governmental infighting to prevent poor people from receiving good healthcare undercut our belief in our systems.

Gasoline was poured on the flames of anger at government by Newt Gingrich’s madness in rabidly attacking Bill Clinton on everything and shutting down the government; then George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lied us into two unnecessary wars. It was worsened by John Boehner telling us that it was all about “jobs, jobs, jobs” and yet opposing every attempt to create legislation that would encourage job growth. The furies were angered still further by a Republican Congress that was solely focused on ensuring that Obama had no wins, instead of looking out for the American people.

The worst thing, though, is the ongoing drumbeat of how awful our government is, including blatant lies by legislators and by polarized commentary by the likes of Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones. That has led to a very angry citizenry. And that has led to the election of a president who is incrementally tearing down the very things that make this country work. Somehow, his supporters, otherwise good, solid folks, are so angry that they are willing to ignore Trump’s awfuls. They have and continue to be prepared to elect representatives and senators who spew vitriol.

All of that is backward looking. What will we do about it?

I don’t have the answers, but I’m confident that what is called for is inspired and inspiring leadership in a new direction. We need a Lincoln to call upon our better angels. And we need insightful ideas that are offered in inspiring ways. Who will do that?

It’s self-defeating to live in, “.  .  . the sublime relief of deferred responsibility, the soft, violence of willful ignorance,” as phrased by Lindy West in a marvelous piece in the New York Times. Her reference was to the normalization of the hate of the alt-right, but the phrase works well for all of our current reality.

Back to my friend, Ozzie. The companion piece to “Reality always wins” is this:

If you want to know the future, create it.

What is the future reality you want? The time to start creating it is now.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!

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

General Kelly Won’t Save Us

Be sure to read this to the end, lest the bright, shiny objects distract your view.

Reading time – 2:47; Viewing time – 4:25  .  .  .

General Kelly gave a heartfelt and impassioned presentation this week, invoking the death of his son in the line of duty. And he talked about what happens to the bodies of our fallen, as they are returned home for burial with honor. (Sidenote: Watch Kevin Bacon in the movie Taking Chance here or via your favorite online provider for a better understanding of how we honor our young men and women who have died in the line of duty.) Kelly’s presentation was all very patriotic, very heroic and astonishingly cynical.

For General Kelly to have used the sad death of his son and our empathy for the general to cover for the despicable attitude of disrespect shown by the President to a grieving widow is a profound assault on everything that smacks of decency.

I, and likely you, offer our condolences and caring to General Kelly for his profound loss. We care about him both as a father who has lost a son and a soldier who has lost one of his own. That stands, regardless of what he has done to cover for our amoral President. And it doesn’t excuse it.

General Kelly is now in the politics business. It is both our right and our duty as citizens to question what he says and does. That has become especially important now that he has formally joined the ranks of the Trump Prevaricators, an unholy club including Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, Steve Mnuchin and others for whom verifiable, obvious truth carries no meaning. Let go of your hope that General Kelly will save us from Trump’s lunacy. That just isn’t going to happen.

It’s easy to get sucked into railing about the distortions, fantastical idiocies and outright lies of Trump and his fawning servants, but it would be a terrible mistake to do that.

You’re correct in seeing all the Trump craziness as craziness, but it’s actually far worse than that. Read Tom Friedman’s piece to better understand the strategy-less operations of this White House – make that of Trump – that leads to such staggeringly inappropriate – and at times self-destructive – behavior. Note that the “self” in the self-destructive behavior is you and me and America.

Next up in your government’s screw-you game is the long awaited tax reform bill that is actually a tax cut program for the fabulously wealthy. The Senate Republicans have barely managed to jam through a tax bill and toss it over the transom to the House to start the process of creating the detail of the next enrichment program for the rich. As usual it’s presented as a boon to working people and no, the Rs would never propose a bill that would primarily benefit already wealthy people and large corporations.

Except that what we know about this new iteration of dishonesty from Paul Ryan and the others owned by big special interests is that their plan will do exactly the opposite of what they claim it will do. In fact, it will strip a trillion-and-a-half dollars from Medicare and Medicaid – that means from you and me and from poor people – and deliver it to the super-rich in the form of tax breaks. Read Paul Krugman’s description and you’ll understand what rubes the Republicans apparently think we all are.

Here’s the key.

While all of these things and more are substantive, while issues of great importance and lasting impact are at stake, all of it pales in comparison to the Russian hacking and influencing of our election. And even that might be secondary to Trump and his team of bandits conspiring with the Russians to steal the election. That will be bigger if it’s true, because then we will know that we have lost America.

General Kelly won’t save us from our rot from within. That job is up to all of us.

So don’t allow yourself to be distracted by Trump’s bright, shiny and outrageous objects. Keep your eyes focused on the truth of what really happened.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!

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

Sometimes The Truth Hurts

Reading time – 2:13; Viewing time – 3:04  .  .  .

A friend offered a link to a New York Times article entitled “Democrats Are Playing Checkers While Trump Is Playing Chess.” He wrote, “The president’s manipulation of racial, cultural and economic anxiety will continue to serve him well politically. Until it doesn’t.”

So I read the article and recommend that you do, too. Here’s my reply.

Yeah, well, the truth hurts. I agree with all of this, albeit with frustration in my heart.

I see at least three pieces. First, is the substance of the issues that are important to people, like the crumbling of our towns and cities when people are displaced by rapid global changes; like the demographic upheaval caused by the incremental national shifting to a non-white majority; like the loss of manufacturing jobs, the majority of which are attributable to technology and innovation.

Second, there is the fear people feel over all these issues. Nobody has solved the globalization issue, for example, and it leads to fear, then anger, then irrational, self-defeating behavior, like Brexit and Trump. Christian whites have privileges that are incrementally being challenged, the reaction to which manifests itself in the extreme of neo-Nazis chanting, “Jews will not replace us” and in white supremacist hate spewing and in voter suppression fueled by anger and indignation over our nearly nonexistent voter fraud.

Third – and I’ve been saying this for a long time – Democrats are HORRIBLE at messaging. Recognizing that Ds have some good ideas, the way they present them is at times incoherent, uninspiring, self-defeating, inconsistent, punch-less and at times insulting. I’ve often wondered if anybody at the DNC has taken even an elementary course in marketing.

“I’m with her” – really? Assuming the notion of the Hillary team was that such language would rally women and feminist-sympathizing men to the D side, that pretty much slapped everyone else in the face, because nobody but family and close friends of Hillary were all about her. We humans are all about ourselves and the D’s messaging completely failed to recognize that.


Tara Thomas at the coffin of her Green Beret husband, Shawn, killed in Niger in February, 2017

Another way the truth hurts is when we see that the President of the United States has failed to honor those who sacrifice their lives for our country. Perversely, in their death they make it possible for him to lie about caring about them. Their death preserves the freedom for him to falsely accuse former Presidents of having blown off our fallen military people. Their coming home in flag-draped coffins gives him the freedom to make condolences to the families of our military dead all about himself.

How long will the 38% tolerate his behavior?

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!

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

Our Turn

Reading time – 2:18; Viewing time – 3:02  .  .  .

I observed an incremental shift toward authoritarianism during the Bush years. The John’s – Bolton and Ashcroft – scared me as much as Cheney did. I didn’t see that kind of power shift during the Obama years, although I could have been misled by his intelligence and his reasonable manner.

Now, though, we have a Destroyer-in-Chief, who is incrementally doing sociopath Steve Bannon’s work of eliminating anything that smacks of what we used to call “the establishment.” You know, the systems that promote the general welfare and the rest. Many of the Presidential Cabinet heads are dedicated to eliminating their departments (like DeVos, Price, Perry and Pruitt) and many of the rest are headed by diabolical or drone types (like Mnuchin, Carson and Zincke). Most of what I read from progressives and centrists about the actions of these powerful people is in opposition to the things they’re doing, like allowing oil drilling in the arctic refuge, cutting support for public education and food for poor children and eliminating regulations that prevent industrial pollution. While all of that opposition is important, I’m much more interested in what happens after the infrastructure take-down.

That is to say, what does all the trashing of the established order create? What will fill the vacuum? The answer that keeps coming up is fascism, autocracy, dictatorship. Pick a word that is in direct opposition to democracy and it will do.

When I met with some activists against fascism shortly before Trump took office I agreed with them in principle, but their notions seemed a bit wing-nutty extremist to me and I wasn’t ready to sign on. Now, though, the evidence has continued to accumulate and the picture is becoming clearer that we are on the road to the end of our democracy. That has fueled the change in my thinking.

Have a look at this poster about fascism. It was created during the Bush/Cheney years and is frighteningly accurate today.

If you really want to be informed, click through to the links accompanying the poster and read more. Then let us know how you’re feeling about democracy’s chances.

We must continue to protect our fragile experiment in democracy, because the work will never be done. The Founders thought it was pretty well done in 1789 when the Constitution was ratified, but in the 1950s Joe McCarthy got away with trashing the Constitution until some courageous people found their spine and stopped him.

Today Big Money has bought our democracy and the system hasn’t produced leaders with the spine to stop it yet. Reality is telling us every day that very bad things are happening and we need people to step up. It’s our turn now.

LATE ADDITIONS
  1. Go to http://www.RefuseFascism.org/.
  2. The Washington Post ran ran a story today entitled “When democracies are under attack, it’s time to rein in executive power.” Here are a couple of quotes from the piece:

”  . .  .  democracies erode not from military intervention or revolutions, but from the expansion and abuse of power by elected leaders.”
“.  .  .  political constraints are the strongest and most consistent predictors of democratic survival.”

“”We find that limiting executive power both lowers the stakes of elections and protects vulnerable minority groups from abuses of power.”

Read the piece.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!

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

P.R. and a Guest Essay

Reading time – 3:25  .  .  .

A guest essay follows a few comments on our federal “Who cares about it anyway?” crisis.


How is it possible to explain the inadequate and, reasonably labeled as cruel behavior of the President of the United States toward the people of Puerto Rico and the mayor of San Juan?

We questioned the foot dragging of federal help for victims of Hurricane Katrina, wondering if the response would have been as slow and miserly had the miserable victims holed up in the Superdome been white and had not been poor. Consider the same question in our current circumstances, substituting “had they not been Puerto Rican’s.”

Relief arrived a lot faster in both Houston and Florida last month. How come it has been so slow in Puerto Rico?

Where are the Army MASH units? Why has it taken a week and a half to dispatch a Navy hospital ship?

Why are there locked shipping containers of critically needed food, water and medical supplies sitting on a dock in San Juan instead of being opened and the supplies distributed to the hungry, thirsty people?

The mayors of cities and towns on that island are operating from vehicles instead of from their offices because many of their office buildings no longer exist. So, why are FEMA bureaucrats demanding memos from them in order to dispatch relief to the people?

This weekend citizens of Puerto Rico are dying, as there is no power for dialysis machines, no more insulin and they are drinking unclean ground water because there is nothing else available. All that horror and more is happening, while the leader of the free world tweets his venom and plays golf this weekend at his posh resort in New Jersey. Let’s call him President Reprehensible.


Guest Essay

College pal Al Shuman is something of a thinker and a stringer of words who often has something to say offline about these Disambiguations. His recent comments, though, prompted me to ask his permission to post his pennings here, suspecting that others may find them useful. See what you think and offer your notions in the Comments section below.

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I’ve almost written responses to the last couple of Disambiguation pieces and still may. I learned a new word from the last piece – I had not heard “limbic” as an adjective (or actually known its meaning) and it’s good to get new words.

What I had begun to write was that what I was reading felt like it was a transmission from my thoughts to your keyboard – all except one thing. I am sad that I no longer get a lump in my throat when I see the country celebrated (in the “usual” ways). Such events usually stir thoughts of jingoism, and I often feel uncomfortable. I get the lump now in the presence of true acts of courage, involving commitment to principle rather than an automatic performance of a ritual, which suddenly, in this moment, strikes me as akin to idol worship.

So, I am sitting in anticipation of your next piece, which I expect to be a commentary on Trump’s handling of the Puerto Rico fiasco and his shameful tweeting about the mayor of San Juan. It was not surprising, but I think that this is the lowest he’s gone and I want to put my hands over my ears and shout, “SOMEONE PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!!!” Mr. Mueller, you must have enough stuff by now; please hurry up and help bring this nightmare to an end.

And in defiance of what WE think is ALL common sense, his “base” is forever unmoved. The fact that they* feel empowered as never before provides the filter through which all events are viewed, all evidence is judged, interpreted, or dismissed. These people have too much at stake to abandon their commitment and “see the light.”

Although I think I understand what motivates these people and wish not to disrespect them, I confess that I continue to think of a wonderful line in Blazing Saddles where the Waco Kid says to Sheriff Bart, “You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the New West. You know . . . morons.”

Guilty as charged.

*Acknowledging that many Trump supporters are expressing party loyalty and/or political expediency, the “they” in this case are not those; they’re the ones whose support many of us judge makes no sense.

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Last Chance!

If you’ll be in the Chicago area on October 4, come join us for a presentation by Mike Papantonio, host of Ring of Fire Radio. Here’s a link to get tickets. Space is limited, so, “Don’t you wait and be too late.” This promises to be a terrific evening for those who continue to believe we can be better.


Best news headline of the week:

Hugh Heffner’s bedoom

Officials Investigating Hugh Hefner’s Death Suspect Foreplay

From The Onion, September 28, 2017

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

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

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