lies

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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NOTES:

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

JA


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

Guest Essay – The Real Reason


Reading time – 4:35  .  .  .

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addendum

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

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

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


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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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Root Cause


Reading time – 4:21; Viewing time – 6:26  .  .  .

The VA tells us that roughly 22 vets commit suicide every day – one every 65 minutes.

There are suicide hotlines, wringing of hands and, of course, the ever-present thoughts and prayers of politicians who refuse to do anything about the problem.

Let’s agree that almost none of the veteran suicides would occur had those vets not gone to war and been carrying those horrific memories and terrible injuries. We drug them, talk therapy them, buddy them and use other means to help them carry on, but those are all swatting at symptoms. If we really want to prevent veteran suicides, the solution is forehead-slappingly obvious: DON’T SEND THEM TO FIGHT MEANINGLESS, UNWINNABLE WARS.

Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan ever attacked the United States, nor did they pose an existential threat. We started wars against them based on lies. Even our vets know that neither the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan nor even Syria were worth fighting. Sadly, Colin Powell was correct in invoking the Pottery Barn rule about the invasion of countries: You break it, you own it. We’ve owned these for 17 years. And our military people continue to be brutalized because of that and the suicides go on.

Recognize, too, that the millions of Muslim migrants who have fled to European countries did so for survival, escaping life-threatening conditions caused by the destabilizing of the region. We did that. Europeans now struggle with the vexing symptoms of a deluge of migrants.

Keep all of that top-of-mind as Donald Trump bumbles with Iran.

Fix the root cause and we won’t have to swat at symptoms.


We went to a wonderful outdoor summer concert featuring a Chicago cover band. It was held in a town with a large Hispanic population. Families were picnicking, friends were talking and children were playing. Front and center near the stage kids were turning cartwheels, dancing and running around. Hispanic kids. They were doing exactly the same things that white kids, Asian-American kids, African-American kids – all kids – do. And it was unmistakable that those Hispanic kids were just like the kids we’ve locked up in our horrid detention facilities, recently labeled concentration camps. They certainly are concentrated to the point of inability of the people to even lie down to sleep.

There are thousands of Hispanic children in these detention camps in Texas and Florida. They’re being held in prisons in Illinois, Wisconsin and elsewhere, too. I don’t know these kids personally, but I’m betting they’d rather be at a summer concert turning cartwheels.

You’ve seen the reports, so you know that those places are grossly overcrowded, sanitation is terrible, sickness is spreading and reports of abuse continue. Beyond the insanity of locking up blameless kids, we can’t even manage to follow our own rules, like the 72-hour maximum detention rule.

We can come up with lots of programs to deal with the influx of migrants. Trump decided to focus efforts solely on the cruelty of terrorizing children, locking up moms, bogging down the asylum process, sending our military to the border, bullying Mexico and threatening families in the U.S. with surprise deportation. As horrific as all of Trump’s cruelty is, fighting it is more swatting at symptoms.

The vast majority of migrants are leaving Central America because of wars, gang violence and lack of food in their countries. They are seeking asylum – refugee status – in the U.S. in order to keep themselves and their families alive and safe. Absent those threats in their home countries, they would stay there and we wouldn’t have the migrant crisis we’ve created.

The way to deal with the root causes is obvious: support those Central American countries to stop the violence and ensure that their people have food to eat. Oddly, Trump has cut support designed to do those very things, making far worse the problems we say we want to solve.

Yes, it will cost money. So does the migrant crisis that we forced into being.

Fix the root cause and we won’t have to swat at symptoms.


Donald Trump doesn’t care about the harm he does to black- and brown-skin people, especially if they are refugees on our southern border. This is in stark contrast to his treatment of the undocumented 579,000 Europeans in the U.S. illegally, about whom he says and does nothing. Apparently, the immigration crisis isn’t about being undocumented; it’s about being non-white.

He demonstrates nearly daily that he is a racist, the most recent example being his vile attacks on four freshman congresswomen.*

He rejects Muslims and is especially adept at demeaning women, especially powerful women. He harms people and just doesn’t care.

From The Other 98% – click me

We all know that, so whatever the next outrage from this Presidentis Horribilis, just get over it. Stop the insanity of hoping this time things will be different, the battered wife fantasy. It won’t be different. It will never be different. Trump is mentally damaged goods.** He is incapable of caring about anything beyond what he perceives will best serve himself. Get over obsessing over his abhorrent behavior.

And get over obsessing about spineless Republican legislators who haven’t the moral courage to call out Trump for his pathological cruelty.**

Fix the root cause and we won’t have to swat at symptoms.


*The way you know this is the greatest country in the world is because we allow people to say and believe insanities like:

  1. “We all know AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists, they hate Israel, they hate our own country  .  .  . ” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
  2. “Anyone who says the president told members of Congress to go back to where they came from is lying.” Matt Wolking, Trump 2020 campaign manager.
  3. After saying that Trump can’t be a racist because he appointed Elaine Chao to be Secretary of Transportation, Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff said, “So when people write that the president has racist motives here, just look at the reality of who is actually serving in Donald Trump’s cabinet.” Note that Elaine Chao is the wife of Senate majority leader “Grim Reaper” Mitch McConnell.
  4. “Montanans are sick and tired of listening to anti-American, anti-Semite, radical Democrats trash our country and our ideals. This is America. We’re the greatest country in the world. I stand with .” Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT)

In the context of the current storm of hate from the president we are told by a current Gallup survey that white Americans view people of color as less American than themselves. “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Pogo

** Be sure to catch the Guest Essay in the July 24 edition for clarity about this.


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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,

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

Another Effort to Understand


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

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

The email read,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Focus


Reading time 3:18; Viewing time – 4:05  .  .  .

It’s been quite a month – all just this week! – as the outrageous deluge from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue goes on. It’s been this way with Trump since way before the 2015 escalator “Look at ME!” stunt, when he announced with his customary ignorant certainty what he had just fabricated, claiming Mexico was sending us rapists and murderers.

He had spent years fomenting Birtherism. And he had bought the back page of section 1 of the New York Times and called for the execution of the Central Park Five. He did this after they had been cleared by DNA evidence. Yet in customary Trumpian doubling down of his boneheaded statements, he continued to call for the execution of these men.

Just this week Trump declared that he would/wouldn’t contact the FBI if a foreign government or individual offered dirt on a political opponent. For sure he’d “have a look,” he told us.

The point is that accepting anything even just to “have a look” is the crime, not the value of the information to a campaign. He also told us that Iran was behind the attack on two oil tankers, offering no evidence but his expansive declaration while ignoring evidence to the contrary. He took credit for various healthcare pluses, like reductions in the cost of prescription drugs, which hasn’t happened. All of that and far more was just Thursday and Friday.

The point is that Trump is the master of garnering attention by saying and doing outrageous things. He is the P. T. Barnum of our time.

We all love the sensational. It’s why the local news motto is “If it bleeds, it leads.” It’s why when you click on The Weather Channel you’re smacked in the face with multiple sensational pictures and headlines and it’s why supermarket tabloids sell.

We’re suckers for clickbait. Trump provides it 24/7 and the world watches. The trick is to ignore the merely outrageous and pay attention to the dangerous and the cruel:

– Like his saying it’s okay for political campaigns to accept anything of value from foreign sources. Yes, I know it’s just words, but this matters to our upcoming election, because it’s another “Russia, if you’re listening” invitation.

– Like fabricating a run up to war with Iran.

– Like putting yet more children in cages.

– Like defending Kellyanne Conway over her dozens of obvious violations of the Hatch Act – this because “she’s loyal.”

– Like ordering all agencies to cut scientific advisory boards by at least one-third.

– Like hosting a conference of climate science deniers at the Trump International Hotel.

I had breakfast recently with a couple of highly educated, highly accomplished women who each declared that they don’t watch the news. They are the latest in a continuing string of intelligent people I have heard say the same thing.

They are weary of the continuous barrage of political warfare and the painful to watch Trumpian cruelties and stupidities. They are way past overload from political bickering and lying, so they’ve tuned out. And that’s a problem for them and for America.

In some measure, many of us have become numb to the continuing outrage, which leaves us vulnerable to the dangerous things slipping past us.

This isn’t a circus freak show that we can ignore; it’s our country.

So our job is to let the outrageous and freaky stuff go. Focus on the things that can hurt us and damage our democracy.

Pence Visits Conversion Therapist for Routine Gay-Preventative Check-Up. Click me for the story.



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

Public Opinion


  • Reading time – 2:29  .  .  .

You know what George Santayana  said:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

confirmed by “Metaphors Be With You”, by Dr. Mardy Grothe, page 301

The world has had innumerable returns to authoritarianism, as though we believe that a strongman leader can and will fix our ills, but history teaches us that more often than not those leaders deliver far worse suffering.

Now, with our ignorance of how to deal with globalization and the internet and with authoritarian-led nations seeking to do us harm, a huge minority of our fellow citizens want a tough guy leader for our country. It’s possible many of our 320 million people have forgotten the past – you know, like when our Founding Fathers led a rebellion against an authoritarian despot, King George III.

I know little about Walter Lippmann, his writings and his politics, but I came upon this quote recently:

“Men who have lost their grip upon the relevant facts of their environment are the inevitable victims of agitation and propaganda. The quack, the charlatan, the jingo  .  . .  can flourish only where the audience is deprived of independent access to information.”

from “Liberty and the News“, 1920, by Walter Lippmann

That was penned a generation after Santayana and it suggests something insidious, something far more dangerous than the forgetfulness to which Santayana speaks. It suggests leadership that intentionally manipulates what we see, hear and are able to learn. It’s fed by the lack of a free and independent press. It’s fed by the demeaning and slandering of the people and institutions that report on leaders and hold them accountable.

Forming the basis of the Almond–Lippmann consensus about public opinion are three assumptions:

Public opinion is volatile, shifting erratically in response to the most recent developments. Mass beliefs early in the 20th century were “too pacifist in peace and too bellicose in war, too neutralist or appeasing in negotiations or too intransigent”

Public opinion is incoherent, lacking an organized or a consistent structure to such an extent that the views of US citizens could best be described as “nonattitudes”

Public opinion is irrelevant to the policy making process. Political leaders ignore public opinion because most Americans can neither “understand nor influence the very events upon which their lives and happiness are known to depend.”

Lippmann later recanted these views, as he saw that the public was far more clear-headed about the Vietnam war than were politicians.

Nevertheless, re-read those three points and imagine what political manipulation of the news can do to public opinion. Think about what undermining our free press can do to enable leaders to pervert democracy. Then think about why so often Americans are ignored in public policy making on issues like gun safety, climate warming, healthcare and so many others where the overwhelming majority of the public doesn’t get what it wants.

Rosa Parks: Nevertheless, she persisted.

Are you okay with that?

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

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.

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:

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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:

  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.

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