lies

Exceptionalism

The Louisa, Portland, OR Yes, that's the roof

The Louisa, Portland, OR
Yes, that’s the roof

Reading time – 61 seconds  .  .  .

America is an exceptional country in many ways. The problem is that without a mindfulness about it, we can easily assume that America is exceptional in every way. That myopia can lead to the arrogance of dismissing the ideas, capabilities and the accomplishments of others, which many do as a matter of course, and that can lead directly to a Chinese 21st century. Follow the logic.

There are many people in America who look down on the French. They seem to consider them to be backward or unproductive or lazy. But I ran across this short article about the French, courtesy of S.G. (thanks for the pointer), and it seems that they are doing something about global warming, energy consumption and beautification of their cities all at the same time.

The French government has mandated that buildings being constructed in commercial zones must have roofs that include plantings, solar panels or both. These “green roofs” are popular in several other countries, too, but the technology has not been widely embraced in the U.S. Sadly and self-defeatingly, this technology might be further ignored, since it’s the French now leading the way. After all, we prefer our “freedom fries” over those lowly French fries. Okay, that part was snarky, but the American dismissing of the French is quite real.

The Germans supply 4% (and the number is climbing) of their energy needs with renewable technology, but we resist that path, mostly because our energy companies make their money by burning fossil fuels and use their profits to turn the heads of our legislators. On top of that, many Americans wouldn’t want to emulate the Germans.

Come to think of it, we probably wouldn’t want to emulate the Swedes either, since theirs is a socialist state, meaning they don’t have a single good idea in their whole country. I guess we should ignore all of Europe. That isn’t snark, as our legislators routinely invoke that very sentiment.

And we routinely assume that because the Chinese are communists that our superior attitude toward them is warranted. Our leaders imply that we can just ignore the enormous hydroelectric plant they are constructing on the Yangtze River to bring electric power to the entire central portion of their country. We can close our eyes to their modern cities that make ours look like medieval hamlets and their ground transportation system that makes ours seem archaic. They are pouring hundreds of billions of yen – actually, our dollars – into building infrastructure across their country while our politicians dither in Washington solving no problems, mounting no challenges and watching our own infrastructure crumble, all the while telling us about American exceptionalism. There is, indeed, something exceptional about that, but it isn’t good exceptional; it’s bad exceptional and that is what will lead to a Chinese 21st century.

The problem with American exceptionalism is that we assume a superiority that isn’t warranted everywhere. That doesn’t make us exceptional.

But we could be.

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

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Hey Good Cop: Where Are You?

Rodney King Beaten By LA Cops

Rodney King beaten by LA cops

Reading time – 77 seconds  .  .  .

An open letter to the good cops of America

When Rodney King was blasted by a Taser and then had the stuffing beaten out of him by four Los Angeles cops, what did you have to say about that? Did you speak out?

Mike Brown on the street in Ferguson, MO

Mike Brown on the street in Ferguson, MO

After Officer Darrin Wilson killed Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, why didn’t we hear your concern about Wilson’s actions? Why was the only public statement made by Ferguson cops focused on creating a legal defense fund for Wilson? What about Mike Brown?

Walter Scott attempts to flee in North Charleston, SC

Walter Scott is shot in the back in North Charleston, SC

This week Officer Michael Slager put 8 bullets into the back of Walter Scott in North Charleston, SC. Scott was attempting to flee, but his overweight, 50-year-old body could barely manage a jogging pace. Nevertheless, Officer Slager decided that his own life was in danger as Scott ran away from him and he shot Scott to death. Then he placed evidence near the body to make it look like he had justification for murdering Scott. We’ve all seen the video of the episode. So have you, good cop. Where is your voice of outrage over this? Where are you?

Francis Pusok being beaten by sheriff's deputies near San Bernadino, CA

Francis Pusok being beaten by sheriff’s deputies near San Bernadino, CA

Also this week, cops in San Bernadino, CA apprehended Francis Pusok after a car, foot and horseback chase ended in the high dessert. Pusok flattened himself face down on the ground, spread eagle, making it clear that he was surrendering. For his effort he got Tased, beaten with fists and clubs and kicked repeatedly in the head by 10 deputies. Other than Sheriff John McMahon saying that there will be an investigation and that the deputies were put on administrative leave, there simply haven’t been any voices of good cops raised in protest over the outrageous violence of the obviously bad cops.

In fact, when bad cops act out there never are voices raised by good cops. Is the fraternal bond so stupidly strong that good cops refuse to speak out against their own bad actors? If it is, then there is something dreadfully wrong with that fraternity. If this were a social fraternity on a college campus, it would be expelled.

Are we supposed to understand the frustration of deputies chasing on foot over rocks and up mountains after a bad guy and then accept that they get to vent their frustration on the guy who caused the chase and that it’s okay for them to beat him to unconsciousness? If you think that, good cop, then you are badly misguided. And you are part of the problem.

Here’s the thing: If you can’t keep your emotions in check so that you act professionally at all times, then find another line of work, because you aren’t worthy of the public’s trust, nor worthy of authority over anyone else.

On the other hand, you likely know quite well the difference between right and wrong. We’re just not hearing about it from you. We’re not hearing your outrage over the brutality of the bad cops. We’re not hearing you press for special prosecutors in cases of police misconduct so that the cozy relationship between cops and prosecutors doesn’t short circuit justice. All we are hearing is your thunderous silence in the face of the reprehensible behavior of your fellow cops.

It’s time to stand up and be counted for what is right, good cop. Where is your voice? Where are you?

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

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Stop Pretending It’s Not Happening

Can you identify this?

Can you identify this?

Reading time – well worth it  .  .  . 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. 1% Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. The De-legitimization of Congress and the Presidency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. The Demobilization of the American People

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

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

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

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

The Birth of a New System

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

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

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

Copyright 2015 Tom Engelhardt

Reprinted by permission

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

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Chores

Raking LeavesReading time – 59 seconds  .  .  . 

Were you required to do chores around the house when you grew up? Chances are, you were. When I was a kid, chores were simply what had to be done and we all had a hand in the work.

I recall that once in an moment of teenage male iderntity seeking I balked at doing the dishes after dinner because, I had decided, that was women’s work. My dad listened calmly, then pointed out that there were no girls in the family and my mother was busy with other things and we didn’t have a maid, so get over here and do the damn dishes. That cured me of such nonsense permanently. Note that I learned to be a really good dishwasher.

And mower of lawns, shoveler of snow, taker out of the garbage and many other chores. All of that was simply the way things were.

Mom had a moment of clarity for me one time when I complained about having to do some chore. She said that was alright. But no chores, you don’t eat. I got the point quickly and it’s a point that has relevance today.

In a recent article Why Children Need Chores by Jennifer Breheny Wallace she reports on several studies that tell us that doing chores, ” . . . helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance  .  .  .  ” She further reports that, “Chores also teach children how to be empathetic and responsive to others’ needs.”

Can you think of a group of people who lack a sense of responsibility? Perhaps those same people seem to have no empathy and are completely unresponsive to the needs of others?

I can’t help but wonder if a lot of those in Congress got away with not doing chores when they were kids. They certainly aren’t doing their chores now, like passing budgets without self-imposed crises, voting on a new attorney general, overhauling our immigration system, passing sensible gun safety legislation, amending the Constitution to get the big money out of our politics and bringing our education system into the 21st century.

And it’s not just the current mix of slugs in Congress. This has gone on for at least the past eleven Congresses, most notably when there was a Democrat in the White House and Republicans flexed obstructionist muscles in Congress.

Somebody metaphorically hand those lazy children a rake, a dishcloth or a lawn mower and tell them to get to work. Perhaps they should be given Mom’s instruction, that they won’t be allowed to eat until they do their chores.

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

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

A Bubble Waiting to be Popped

Rudy Giuliani

Associated Press

Reading time – 54 seconds  .  .  .

Rudy got it right: President Obama wasn’t raised like he was and he probably doesn’t love America like Rudy loves America and maybe, as Rudy said, he doesn’t love Rudy, either. For example:

Rudy’s dad – Harold Giuliani – was a convicted felon (robbery) and spent a year and a half in Sing Sing prison. His felony record got him out of serving in WW II. President Obama’s father figure was his maternal grandfather, who served in Patton’s army in World War II, the one Harold Giuliani missed.

Rudy married his second cousin, then later divorced her on the grounds that she was his second cousin. Yes, he really did that. He let his second wife know that he wanted a divorce by announcing it at a press conference. He was already dating his third wife-to-be at the time. In contrast, President Obama is married to his first and only wife. That’s different love for sure.

Rudy’s are just more of the extremist bubbles that need to be popped repeatedly, because people like Rudy Giuliani, Ted Cruz (R-TX), Donald Trump and others keep re-inflating them, like:

Bryan Fischer, former Director of Issue Analysis for the American Family Association made a career of bubble creation, telling us, “Counterfeit religions – alternative religions to Christianity – have no First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.” He specifically said that Jews have no right to practice their religion in America and must convert to Christianity if they immigrate. He also said that mosques should not be built in America.

Not to be outdone, David Lane, also of the American Family Association said, “America was founded by Christians for the glory of God and the Christian faith.”

Wayne LaPierre of the American Rifle Association continues the drumbeat that President Obama is coming to take away your guns.

There is absolutely no reality-based data to support any of those claims.

Pages could be filled with false, dishonest, flagrantly incorrect, self-serving echo chamber bubbles like these and they won’t be going away any time soon, because the bubble makers know that constant repetition, even of the loony stuff, will persuade some to their side. It’s the Big Lie method of manipulation.

So, this is a bit like Whack-A-Mole, in that we can pop Rudy’s latest bubbles, but they will be floated again and again. Your job is to keep your pin sharp and pop them whenever you hear them.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

We’re Solving The Wrong Problem

Reading time – 119 seconds  .  .  . 

Nobody on the right, left or center disputes that a primary job of our federal government is national defense, ensuring our security in a dangerous world. ISIS or ISIL or Islamic Caliphate – whatever you want to call it – has incrementally and brutally plunged the Middle East into a conflagration of Middle East versus West, Sunni versus Shiite, believers versus infidels and seventh century versus twenty-first century reality. We have decided that this is a clear and present danger to America and have correspondingly sent our drones on attack and our munitions to Kurd and Syrian rebels.

The debate rages, though, hawks versus others, about putting American “boots on the ground.” We cannot fight effectively or have useful intelligence without those boots on the ground, the hawks tell us. So, as we fight that Middle East war with every non-boot-on-the-ground method we can think of, we are solving the problem about how to win that war by asking if we should put boots on the ground. Why are we doing that?

And why have we paid homage to a newly deceased, despotic Saudi ruler who thought that beheading was a good idea? And why did we invade Iraq?

The answer to all those questions is the same: oil.

We are still energy dependent on oil from the Middle East and Iraq has one of the largest known reserves of oil in the world. The Saudis have a huge reservoir of oil, so we continue to support the House of Saud, the people from whom 15 of the 19 airplane hijackers came to kill over 3,000 people in America. Upheaval in that area threatens our hydrocarbon supply, so we install  ( like the Shah of Iran) and prop up (like the House of Saud) some very unusual people.

The problem about whether to send ground troops to the Middle East to defeat ISIS is the wrong one on which to focus. The right one is this: “What are the strategies that will make the United States energy independent so that we will never again get drawn into oil wars in the Middle East?

President Nixon made a big deal about the importance of weaning us off foreign oil. In 1973, the year of the so-called Arab Oil Embargo, 20% of our oil needs came from other countries. Following that event our dependence soared to over 40%, where it still stood in 2012. The number has been whittled down a bit since then, but we are still hugely dependent upon others, some of them oil-rich, reprehensible dictator states. So, we continue to endanger our military people in an effort to keep a finger in the dyke of the natural state of chaos in the Middle East in order to protect the supply of oil we covet. When we ask the question of whether there should be American military boots on the ground in that area, we are caving in to an assumption that we must remain entrapped by the angry passions of seventh century animosities so that we can have cheap oil.

We cannot continue to burn fossil fuels indefinitely, this for two reasons. First, we are cooking our planet and ourselves in the process. Second, there is a finite supply of fossil fuels. Even if we have a 100 year supply, those fossil fuels will eventually be gone. We better have good solutions well before that time.

So, again, the right problem to solve is: “What are the strategies that will make the United States energy independent?

Engineers have told us that a 100 square mile grid – just 10 miles by 10 miles – of solar collectors in our desert southwest can produce enough electricity for all of Southern California and we are doing something about that. If we were to cover around 4 percent of all deserts with solar panels, we could generate enough electricity to power the world. Germany, one of the cloudiest countries in Europe, managed to craft a program for energy independence which included putting solar collectors on the roofs of its houses and those now supply 4.5% of their total energy needs. In America we have gigantic wind farms and have good locations for many more. Smart grid technology is in our hands to dramatically reduce transmission losses and do even more than that. These are just some of the ideas that have been proposed, some acted upon, and there are other technologies in development.

The strategy we need and eventually will employ is a current day version of the Manhattan Project, an all-in program to engineer and then build a new American energy system. And sooner is way better than later.

We’ll need fossil fuels in some measure for a long time to come, so don’t completely dismiss the pretty blonde in the black pants suit who lies to you about how safe hydraulic fracturing is, because we need the gas. On the other hand, it’s way past time to find ways to do it safely. It’s way past time to figure out how to transport oil without sliming the Yellowstone River and others due to ruptured pipelines.

And it’s way past time to stop telling ourselves what we can’t do or what we can’t afford to do.

We can’t afford not to do this, because if we fail to put that stake in the ground we will be consigning our patriotic military people to endless deaths, dismemberment, disfigurement and a lifetime of post traumatic stress disorder. We will be dooming future generations of Americans to second tier status in the world and the loss of the American Dream. Those are some of the things that happen when we put boots on the ground in the Middle East to prop up despotic rulers sitting on a big puddle of oil that we want, instead of solving the right problem and taking action to change the game.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

A New Hope For Republicans

NutsReading time – 39 seconds  .  .  .

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

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

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

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

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

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Breaking News

lightningReading time – 74 seconds  .  .  . 

In what some are calling a bold move, President Obama held a press conference today and declared, “Political silly season is officially over. No more of it. Not on my watch.” Then he grounded all Republican extremists in Congress, mandating that they report to detention hall every day from 4:00 – 7:00PM. “That should help to reduce the number of dumb things they say on cable news while standing in the Rotuda, acting as though they are saying something intelligent,” President Obama explained.

He further said that the detentions are to be enforced in perpetuity or until an detention inmate writes one thousand times, “I will never again promote extremist propaganda, not even on Fox News, and I will say ‘I’m sorry’ to every American I’ve offended.” After that, if they go back to their former ways, the President said he will invoke his executive authority to re-start the entire process, but that he will double the penalty to two thousand written apologies and two consecutive lifetime sentences in detention hall.

Interviewed by Sean Hannity on his Fox News program, Sarah Palin was wild-eyed and speaking at a pitch audible only to dogs. She said that she was devastated by this news, exclaiming, “Who will I play with after school?”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) looked particularly vexed after hearing the President’s announcement. Fresh from the recent Iowa “Look At Me” event sponsored by self-promoter Steve “calves like cantaloupes” King (R-IA), Cruz made the letter Z with each of his eyebrows in perfect mirror image of one another and announced that he was going to tell on the President. Said  Cruz,”The President is gonna be sorry.”

Question by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer if his objection to the President’s actions was just the standard Republican opposition to everything the President favors or if it was possibly racially motivated, Cruz responded, “This is America and we believe all presidents should be born in this country, not in Kenya.” Blitzer apparently thought the segment was over, but was heard to say, “Huh?”

After lurching for his bottle of water, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) reached over and patted Cruz on the back, congratulating him for his comment, all the while staying in front of the camera. Rubio cautioned that he is, ”  .  .  .  not a scientist, but if 97% of political scientists say that political stupid stuff is man made and is on the rise, there might be something to that.” He cautioned, though, that, “Such things require more study but we shouldn’t divert federal funds into that sinkhole while the needs of large banks are going wanting.” He also said, “Diplomatic recognition of Cuba was  .  .  .  ” His voice trailed off and became nearly inaudible as he was looking over his shoulder and saw that President Obama was watching him and mouthing the words, “I see everything you do.”

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Hogs and Bread

RJoni Ernsteading time – 51 seconds

Freshman Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) delivered one of five Republican responses to the President’s State of the Union address on January 20, 2015, and it’s a good thing she did. Mitch McConnell told us that she was the perfect person to deliver the establishment Republican rebuttal and, clearly, he was right.

Bear in mind that this is the same woman who campaigned vigorously to win her Senate seat and convinced Iowans that she has the necessary experience for that job by reminding them that she grew up castrating hogs. See the connection?

Okay, no you don’t because there isn’t one. It appears that she was trying to show herself as “just plain folks,” someone Iowans, overwhelmingly farmers and ranchers, could relate to. Don’t you want someone like to you represent you in the Senate? Of course you do, and so do Iowans. So they sent the Iowa Castrater-in-Chief to Washington, bringing along all the legislative and leadership abilities her well established personal skills imply.

In her perfect-person-to-deliver-the-Republican-rebuttal function, she continued to help us to relate to her by telling us that in growing up she only had one good pair of shoes and that Mom would tie bread wrappers around her shoes and ankles during wet weather to protect her footwear. That leaves us with an unusual visual of her in the hog pen while wearing bread wrappers.

After that she told us that the Keystone Pipeline project is a jobs bill – she actually called it “the Keystone jobs bill” – never mentioning that it is an oil pipeline proposal designed solely to benefit a Canadian oil company. She failed to acknowledge that the plan is for all the oil to be exported from our Gulf Coast, so it will never provide for American energy needs. She also failed to mention that at most there would only be 35 permanent jobs created by this “jobs bill.”Wonder Bread

That’s what you get when the perfect person to deliver the establishment Republican rebuttal is a person whose qualifications are that she castrated hogs and wore bread wrappers on her feet.

For more on Sen. Ernst, read Andy Borowitz’s satire here. (Thanks to FL for pointing me to Borowitz.)

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Piñatas

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

Reading time – 41 seconds  .  .  .

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

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

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

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

Get up and get active.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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