military industrial complex

Lethal Misdirection For The Ultimate Goal

Reading time 3:29; Viewing time – 6:07  .  .  .

He trundled out his list of astonishingly unqualified candidates for cabinet posts, at least three of whom have previously vowed to eliminate the agencies they would now oversee. His chief strategist is a white supremacist, alt-right bigot and Trump has put him on the National Security Council.* He announced his National Security Advisor pick, a former general who is extreme enough to have been forced to resign from the Defense Intelligence Agency and who is foolish enough to have habitually retweeted insane stuff.

He put a gag rule on multiple agencies of government and fired both the acting Attorney General and the Acting Director of Immigration Enforcement.

Then the Muslim ban was announced and we showed up at airports by the thousands in solidarity with refugees and immigrants. Lawyers toted their laptops to airports and gave free help to those stuck there. No way we’ll stand for crushing a Presidential heel into the face of the Statue of Liberty.

Trump’s Supreme Court justice nominee is so far to the right that when he was in high school he joked about founding a club called “Fascism Forever,” although The Daily Mail claims he really did it. That’s a keenly important attitude for a megalomaniac president’s Supreme Court justice, but not so much for the rest of us. It’s time to stiffen senatorial spines – call your senators and tell them.

And let’s not forget that Trump’s Secretary of State is great buddies with our sworn enemy, Vladimir Putin, who is stepping up military aggression in the Ukraine. At the same time Trump is removing sanctions on Russia. And Trump has already insulted the leaders of at least four of our allies, Mexico, Australia, Germany and Canada.

We’re distracted by the blizzard of substantial issues pouring from the White House, none of which appears to have been thought through but which, in the aggregate, keep us engaged in a frenetic readjustment of our focus. So, we miss the political coup that’s underway, and that is the real deal, and it’s incrementally happening by keeping us distracted. The open door to the coup is the next misdirection and it is going to have global consequences for decades.

On February 1 National Security Advisor Mike Flynn came to the White House daily briefing and made a belligerent threat to Iran in the wake of their having tested a ballistic missile. He put the Iranian government “on notice.” That doesn’t leave much room for the U.S. to maneuver if the Iranians launch another missile.

That’s exacerbated by President Trump having fired nearly all of our State Department staff, all the way down to those who issue visas. Those now gone were the folks in charge of diplomacy, which, as you’ll recall, is what we formerly used to avoid war.

Here’s an historical reference. George W. Bush came to the White House determined to take down Saddam Hussein. Whether that was because that dirty varmint said something bad about Bush’s daddy or because he just figured Saddam was too bad to stay in power or whether he thought he could remake the middle-east in the democratic image of America, we likely will never know. What we do know is that he seized upon the tragedy of 9/11 and blamed Saddam, saying he was in cahoots with al-Qaeda (which was nonsense, because al-Qaeda is fanatically religious and Saddam was secular and seen by al-Qaeda as apostate) and he also told us that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, all evidence to the contrary be damned. The point is that Bush lied. He manufactured reasons to start a war and it had nothing to do with our national security.

And we’re seeing Trump do that same thing right now.

Clearly, we don’t want Iran to have either ballistic missile or nuclear weapon technology. This has to be dealt with, but leaving ourselves no tools but military action assures more war with no way out. And Flynn having immediately gone public with a threat that sounds a lot like a schoolyard taunt, leaves the Iranians no way to back down while saving face. Alternatives to war have all but vanished.

This is all complicated by our president being incapable of reassessing or admitting he made a mistake or acknowledging that he is anything but infallible and the smartest person (“I’m speaking to myself about foreign policy, because I have a very smart brain“). Just remember that he told us that he knows more than the generals. And our judges. And the climate scientists. And all our diplomats. And all our negotiators. And all our education experts. Call him the god-like Kim Jong-Trump.

Trump is edging us to the precipice of another war that has nothing to do with our national security. The war dead will stay dead and real people will grieve and we will stay mired in the death and destruction and debt. And Trump has his reason.

He will use our mass protests against war – and yes, we will protest – as sufficient reason to declare martial law. All of this – the discrimination, the dismantling of our governmental institutions, gag rules and firings, stealing the Supreme Court, the insulting of our allies and giving relief to our avowed enemy and the coming war itself – all these distractions exist so that this President can become the American dictator. Then the coup will be complete and our democracy will be over.

Click here for more. Thanks to PV for the pointer.

Here’s Robert Reich with the imperative.

Some of the misdirection is subtle. Here’s the Washington Post’s Why Trump’s focus on ‘Islamic terrorism’ misses the point entirely and why it will lead to truncated freedom of the press.

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In Other News

*Reuters is reporting that President Trump is removing white supremacist, alt-right groups including the KKK, Aryan Nation and neo-Nazis from the national terror watch list. Read the report all the way down to the chart, where you’ll see that these domestic terrorist groups are twice as likely to commit violence in America as al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists.

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

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

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

Jax New Rules

amer-united-1-10-17

JUST A FEW SEATS LEFT – LAST CHANCE TO REGISTER – RSVP NOW AND SET YOUR DVR TO RECORD PRESIDENT OBAMA’S FAREWELL ADDRESS

Reading time – 2:47 seconds; Viewing time – 3:54  .  .  .

Safety note to readers and viewers: This commentary registers 7.4 on the Snark-O-Meter.

With honor to Bill Maher for the format, here are Jax New Rules starting on January 20:

electric-chair-2Jax New Rule – People have to stop saying they’re pro-life if they continue to support the death penalty.

Jax New Rule – Americans who demand the defunding of Planned Parenthood may no longer claim that they care about women, especially poor women, and they have to stand on street corners handing out condoms.

repeal-and-what

Copyright Stantis, Chicago Tribune, 2017

Jax New Rule – Now that the Republicans control the presidency and both chambers of Congress, they can vote for roughly the 62nd time to repeal Obamacare, even as they have nothing to replace it and won’t for at least two years – that’s according to their own calculations – they have to take ownership of the healthcare outcomes of the millions of people who will no longer have access to healthcare at all. Furthermore, the Republicans will be required to provide grave markers for these millions, bearing the inscription, “I arrived here early, thanks to the Republicans.”

stoned-womanJax New Rule – Absolutist Bible thumpers must stop their cafeteria use of biblical rules and henceforth must follow all of them and in their literal meaning. So, if on your wedding night you learn that your wife is not a virgin, you must stone her to death and return the body to her father. And when you yourself commit adultery, your friends and relatives must stone you to death.

And finally,

Jax New Rule – Republicans who don’t aggressively investigate and penalize Vladimir Putin and Russia for their computer hacking and selective leaks omj-3f what they found, and for attempting to influence our 2016 election and our democracy itself may no longer wear the label of patriot nor claim they’re for muscular national defense.

For decades the Republicans have been presenting themselves to the American people as the true patriots, the ones who believe in the most robust national defense and who always fought for more money for the Pentagon, regardless of whether the Pentagon even wanted it (e.g. the F-35 Joint Task Strike Fighter). Whenever some foolish Democrat would suggest using some of those billions of defense dollars for something non-military they were ridiculed by Republicans as being weak-kneed, unpatriotic and willing to sacrifice the lives of our brave military men and women.

wp-putin-ordered-hackBut now that we’ve caught Putin with his hand in our ballot boxes, only a small handful of legislators is speaking up. Where did all that chest thumping go? What happened to their boasts of patriotism now that the President will be of their party and he’s in Putin’s pocket?

We all understand Trump’s continuing denial of the Russians having influenced the election. After all, if they did sway the election, it would be clear thatwt-3 Trump doesn’t really have the mandate he falsely boasts of having. It would be clear that he’s an illegitimate president. No, Trump has to tweet his denials of Russian influence on the election because his overblown ego couldn’t handle the truth.

But what of the many Senators and Representatives who are much too quiet now and should be calling for retribution, sanctions and greater protections for our country? Where are they? Where’s that stiff patriotic spine they’ve bragged about since the start of the Cold War?

Jax new rule for this Congress is this: Put up or shut up.

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

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

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

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

ptsd2Reading time – 3:46; Viewing time – 6:44  – longer than most, still respectful of your time  .  .  .

NOTE: Email addresses listed in the prior blog have been repaired. If that kept you from taking action, please make your voice heard right now – tomorrow is too late.

Let’s see what we have now for Trump administration picks to run our country – just a little taste test. Note that the first three do not require Senate confirmation. We’re stuck with them.

Steve Bannon is Trump’s Chief Strategist. Bannon is the former chairman of Breitbart News, an Alt-Right (i.e. White Supremacist, hate mongering, lying) website of – dare I say it? – scum bucket fake news stories and attacks. And this guy will have the President’s ear full time. What could possibly go wrong? Late addition: Click here and scroll down to section IV to learn about Bannon’s possibly treasonous activities that would invite Russia into the White House.

Rience Priebus, former head of the Republican National Committee with an exceptionally fluid connection to facts and reality, has been named as Trump’s Chief of Staff. That means that Priebus will largely be in charge of who and what comes before the President of the United States. What could possibly go wrong?

Michael Flynn has been named Trump’s National Security Advisor. Flynn is the guy who was fired from the Defense Intelligence Agency for his flamboyant and fatuous notions and ways. He had the astoundingly poor judgment to retweet anti-Semitic comments and to tweet fake news 16 times in the last few months. He even had the complete lack of sense and absence of good judgment to tweet baseless, brainless nonsense about non-existent Hillary emails, supposedly connecting her with money laundering and sex crimes with children (the so-called “Pizzagate”). With Flynn as the nation’s National Security Advisor, what could possibly go wrong?

Jeff Sessions is Trump’s nominee for Attorney General. This is the same Jeff Sessions who was rejected for a federal judgeship a few years back because he’s a racist and a segregationist. As a senator from Alabama, he’s opposed nearly every piece of immigration legislation that’s come before him. The AG is the one in charge of deciding which cases will be prosecuted – that is to say, which laws will be enforced. With a segregationist and anti-immigrant in charge of our civil rights laws, again, what could possibly go wrong?

Scott Pruitt to head the E.P.A. is a noteworthy choice. As the Oklahoma Attorney General he sued the E.P.A. repeatedly and berated it, saying it was anti-energy. He dislikes E.P.A. regulations – you know, those pesky things that, for example, keep corporations from polluting our water – and he is a de facto climate warming denier. With those bona fides at the head of the agency, what could possibly go wrong?

Dr. Ben Carson is Trump’s pick to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Carson has repeatedly declared that he has no experience in running anything other than a neurosurgery. While his doctoring skills may be fine, they don’t qualify him to run any agency of government at any level. He’s clueless. So, what could possibly go wrong there?

Retired General James Mattis is Trump’s pick for Defense Secretary. Most acknowledge that Mattis is a capable fellow, but he retired only three years ago from the military and our laws require that he be separated from the military for at least seven years to hold such a position (it used to be ten years). Oddly, Trump seems to believe that flaunting the law is okay (go figure). But the seven year limitation is there for a reason – so that we maintain civilian control over our military. Conservatives should be all over this as a flagrant attempt to violate the law and Mattis should go find something to do that is both useful and legal. Otherwise, we will have codified lawbreaking. What could possibly go wrong from that?

Betsy DeVos is Trump’s nominee to be Education Secretary. This is the same Betsy DeVos who wants to reform education to “advance God’s kingdom” and wants to use “school choice” to do that. Be clear that school choice means vouchers of public money doled out to spend on kids’ education in private religious schools. So much for separation of church and state. There’s way more to DeVos’ lunacy, but the key here is that she is an opponent of public education, a religious zealot who wants to run this country according to the laws of the Bible (are you ready to stone adulterers?) and she’s Trump’s pick for Education Secretary. What could possibly go wrong?

Saving the most insane for last, Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon/Mobil, is the nominee for Secretary of State. He proudly signed a $500 billion deal with Vladimir Putin and his government’s 70% share of Russia’s state oil company to drill in the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico. Tillerson was awarded Russia’s BFF (Best Friends Forever) award by Putin himself. Everyone agrees that national defense, the security of our nation, is the primary job of the federal government. How is this guy, who cozies up to our key adversary, going to look out for America’s national security interests? Oh, and by the way, Trump wants John Bolton to be Tillerson’s sidekick. That’s the same John Bolton who thinks we should nuke Iran and insists to this day that Saddam Husein had the weapons of mass destruction that reality has proven never existed. With Tillerson and Bolton at the Department of State, what could possibly go wrong?

There are more nominations we can examine (including a nominee for Treasury Secretary who’s direct from Goldman Sachs, a woman to head the Small Business Administration who’s a reality TV mogul, heading World Wrestling Entertainment, a Labor Secretary who opposes overtime pay and is anti-labor, an Energy Secretary who wants to eliminate the Department of Energy – the list goes on) but the point is clear.

Trump promised to drain the swamp, but instead has brought before us establishment types and billionaires who are blatantly at odds with the agencies they would lead. Given the power in their hands, each would worsen the condition of ordinary (read: not billionaire) Americans. There is nothing that can be done to excise those who do not require Senate approval; that swamp will remain polluted. For all the rest,

senators-stop

Otherwise, we will, indeed, find out exactly what could go wrong.

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

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

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

3 Q & As and The Supreme Court

supreme-court-minus-1Reading time – 1:49; Viewing time – 2:56  .  .  .

Much has been said about the long term consequences of the 3 – 5 Supreme Court Justice appointments that will be made over the coming 4 to 8 years by the next president. Whatever your notion of the type of Court we should have, factor the following into your voting decision making.

Donald Trump has spoken recklessly and cruelly by demeaning women, Gold Star families, POWs, Mexicans, Muslims and the disabled.

1. Two-part question: As President, what might he say about Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Peña Nieto of Mexico or President Erdoğan of Turkey? And is that a Presidential role model you want for your little ones?

Trump lost almost a billion dollars in one year. It’s not uncommon for businesses to have a bad year, but one billion dollars? Oddly, he says he is such a good businessman that he alone can lead our economy to greatness.

2. Does that make any sense to you?

Trump has spoken carelessly about the use of nuclear weapons, declaring that we should give them to at least 3 nations that are currently non-nuclear. Doing so would greatly increase the likelihood of America-hating extremists getting their hands on nuclear weapons. He has also said that he might use nuclear weapons in a first strike capacity. Such loose talk about nuclear weapons makes national leaders around the world far more than uneasy and it’s not difficult to imagine an adversary like North Korea (with its stunningly psychotic leader Kim Jong-un) perceiving that President Trump would nuke them, influencing them to strike us first.

3. Do you really want a Commander in Chief who is cavalier about nuclear weapons?

I’m no flag waver for Hillary Clinton and I have serious concerns about her as President. On the other hand,

1. She has some positive traits as a roll model and won’t insult women, men, members of minorities or the disabled, members of the opposition or international leaders.

2. She has a plan for the economy that, while imperfect, will have some good overall effect.

3. She won’t get us nuked by North Korea, nor will she start World War III.

That is to say, our choices this year may be dreadful, but these are the choices we have. We can eventually recover from brutish insults and wanton discrimination; from an insane economic policy that will add $10 T to the national debt; and from Supreme Court decisions we disagree with. We can’t recover from a nuclear war. That trumps everything, so stop sweating the Supreme Court decisions.

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

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

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

Memorial Day In Two Parts

Arlington Cemetary

This essay was originally posted on Memorial Day, 2012 and is offered today (with some updating) as a reminder of what this holiday is about. For more, have a look at Fred Rasmussen’s article in The Baltimore Sun. Some of his data is different from mine; no matter, though, as the meaning is intact.  JA

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1. Our War Dead

It was originally called Decoration Day, a formal day of remembrance of the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War. The refreshing of their graves was the order of the day. It became known as Memorial Day in 1967 and was declared to be in honor of the American dead from all of our wars. That federal re-naming packaged all of the individual honoring ceremonies for our war dead and all the individual traditions practiced around the country into a neater package, something that apparently was important in 1967. In addition, the date of remembrance was shifted from May 30 to the last Monday in May so that there would be a 3-day weekend.

We no longer conscript our young into military service and instead rely upon a voluntary corps of warriors, leaving the rest of us to follow the imperative of our former president in time of war, that we go shopping. That’s handy, as shopping is more pleasant than thinking about our young crawling through the desert and being shot at.

Then we see a soldier in desert fatigues walking through the airport, wearing his boots, the color of desert sand, his camouflage backpack hung from his shoulders, and we know he’s either on his way to or from trouble and war becomes real to us. It’s already quite real to that GI in desert fatigues.

Memorial Day is not for that soldier. It is for those who have died. What is poignant is that the soldier in the airport might be one of those whom we remember next year.

Memorial Day is intended to be a somber event, a Decoration Day for refreshing graves. It is not about parades with circus clowns to entertain us or political clowns to promote themselves. It is about the renewal of our individual and collective memory of those who can no longer march, lest we forget them.

2. Making More War Dead

If we care to think deeper, Memorial Day is also an opportunity to ask if what we want is to be in a near-perpetual state of war, as has been the case since the Korean War began in 1950. After all, war is what creates the dead women and men whom we remember on Memorial Day.

Keeping our military busy shooting bullets and rockets has been very good for business for the war matériel companies and they would be financially much worse off if we stopped expending ordinance in foreign lands.

Having our Defense Department spend more than do the next 15 industrialized countries combined doesn’t seem to enhance our safety. To be sure, we need a robust national security, but angering the rest of the world with our heavy-handed military response to all conflict doesn’t help us, so why would we keep doing what we’re doing?

If you want an answer to that question, heed the advice offered by Deep Throat: Follow the money. When you arrive at clarity (it won’t take long), decide if that’s the America you want. If it isn’t, you better stand up and speak out, because if you don’t, that’s the America you’ll get.

Silence will make certain that we continue to fill far too many graves with our young and then remember them on the last Monday in May. Too bad they won’t be here to know they are appreciated.

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

What If It’s Worse?

Reading time  – 61 seconds; Viewing time  – 2:08  .  .  .

Hanion’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity, but don’t rule out malice”. Robert J. Hanion

I’m going around the country and presenting my program, Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want, and I never get push-back from audiences. Mostly, they tell me that they appreciated my program, that I did a great job and that they didn’t realize things were as awful as they are.

While I appreciate the kudos, I’m mostly struck by their realization of how they personally are being affected by our pay-to-play politics and that they are just beginning to get it. This morning I got chills, as it dawned on me,

What if it’s worse than I thought and I’m just beginning to get it? What if all I’ve been seeing is the tip of the iceberg of our legalized system of political bribery?

What I know is that freshman legislators are instructed by the RNC and the DNC to spend 4 hours a day dialing for dollars and another hour or two daily pressing the flesh of big donors.

What I know is that industries that invest a lot of money in our legislators get favored in our laws and regulations.

What I know is that you and I are not getting:

  • – the gun safety legislation we want
  • – the legislation to deal with global warming that we want
  • – the healthcare service delivery and outcomes we want
  • – the student debt reform we want
  • – the job training and job growth we want
  • – the reform of our prison-industrial complex that we want
  • – the voting rights we want
  • – the lead-free drinking water we want

And that’s just a small sampling of the list of things that we Americans overwhelmingly want and are not getting. It’s all because our pay-to-play politics makes otherwise good people in Congress vote contrary to the desires of we the people.

Vote for the reformers.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: 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.

Stupidity – a Reminder

Reading time – 77 seconds; Viewing time – 3:18  .  .  .

Ed. note: This post was originally published in summer, 2015, but this is the start of our primaries and it’s time to pay attention and take action.

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Said Harlan Ellison, “The most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.” That is cynical and harsh, yes, but there surely is an element of truth to be found in that statement. Let me offer a simple syllogism:

Doing self-destructive things is stupid.

We Americans are doing self-destructive things.

Therefore, we Americans are stupid.

Perhaps your mind is instantly pushing back on that condemnation. Fair enough, yet here is a short, off-the-top-of-my-head list to make my case:

  1. We are largely ignoring the threat of climate warming that shows us every day that the planet is going to hard boil us. Evidence of our folly: We subsidize fossil fuel industries and pay scant lip service to non-carbon based energy sources, all of which makes things worse.
  2. After nearly forty years of failure, we still practice the same supply-side, trickle down economics that has forced millions of Americans into poverty. Worse, we keep electing the same self-serving politicians who perpetuate this reverse Robin Hood of ensuring the stuffing of the pockets of the wealthy and subsistence and hopelessness for the masses.
  3. We have waged roughly 50 years of near-continuous war, largely because we have tolerated a spineless Congress that abdicates its responsibility and caves to the war profiteers.
  4. We have allowed our state governments to abdicate their financial responsibilities for the deferred pay owed to state workers. That may put millions into retirement age peril by denying them the pensions they earned.
  5. The First Amendment gives us freedom of speech and that includes the right to lobby Congress. However, we have allowed huge corporations not to just speak, but to control our laws and regulations. That has given us more guns and murders per capita than any other western nation, crops that are designed primarily to resist ever-greater applications of toxic pesticides, rather than delivering safe, nutritious food  – the list could go on and on.
  6. We have passively allowed the need for huge amounts of money to control our elections so that now we hear more about campaign fund raising than we hear from candidates about their proposals for the betterment of America.

All of that and more goes on because we fail to show up on election day. That’s self-destructive. stupid.

Your primary election is coming up soon – here’s a link to a primary election calendar. Find yours and put it on your personal calendar. Do it now.

The general election for all of us is on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Put that date on your calendar now, too.

Then VOTE! Can’t find a great candidate? Then pick the least bad one, because failing to vote isn’t an act of rebellion: it’s surrender.

Failing to vote is, well, stupid. And you’re too smart to do that. So, show up and vote.

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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.

This Is My Country

Edmund Burke, 1723 - 1792. MP and supporter of the American Revolution

Edmund Burke, 1723 – 1792. MP and strong supporter of the American Revolution

Reading time – 3.5 minutes; viewing time – 8:15  .  .  .

Necessary preface:

Je Suis Paris

In solidarity with the people of France in this terrible moment

This offering has been scheduled for quite a while and has been pushed back until today because of more pressing issues. Now we have a most pressing issue, the unholy slaughter of innocents in Paris on Friday night. Almost oddly, that makes this essay more urgent, because one of the reasonable, if self-destructive, reactions to a threat is the surrender of liberty in the frantic search for security. Recall that Hitler came to power via a free, democratic election.

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One thing worth noting about reality is how stubborn it is: denial doesn’t change it; wishing away the unpleasant parts doesn’t disappear them. Little children playing peek-a-boo cover their eyes so that they cannot see you. What is notable is that their momentary inability to see you causes them to believe that you’re actually not there. They fail to recognize the reality – the you that remains even when they don’t see. Reality. It’s stubborn.

Almost precisely eleven years ago Rev. Davidson Loehr of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, TX published an essay entitled Living Under Fascism. I urge you to click through and read it but caution you to first be sure that you are brave enough to face reality. Your courage to look won’t change reality. It will, however, change you.

In his essay, Loehr quotes a scholarly political science work, writing,

In an essay coyly titled “Fascism Anyone?,” [click here to download the PDF] Dr. Lawrence Britt, a political scientist, identifies social and political agendas common to fascist regimes. His comparisons of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Suharto, and Pinochet yielded this list of 14 “identifying characteristics of fascism.” .  .  .  See how familiar they sound.

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism

Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos [sic], slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights 

Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause

The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military

Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism

The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

6. Controlled Mass Media

Sometimes the media are directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media are indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security

Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined

Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected

The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed

Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts

Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment

Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption

Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections

Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

This list will be familiar to students of political science. But it should be familiar to students of religion as well, for much of it mirrors the social and political agenda of religious fundamentalisms worldwide. It is both accurate and helpful for us to understand fundamentalism as religious fascism, and fascism as political fundamentalism. They both come from very primitive parts of us that have always been the default setting of our species: amity toward our in-group, enmity toward out-groups, hierarchical deference to alpha male figures, a powerful identification with our territory, and so forth. It is that brutal default setting that all civilizations have tried to raise us above, but it is always a fragile thing, civilization, and has to be achieved over and over and over again.

Consider Britt’s challenge: See how familiar these things sound. Has the creep of fascism by our political creeps given you the creeps? Not yet? Well, uncover your eyes, because pretending that this scourge is not here hasn’t, doesn’t and won’t make it go away.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil

is for good men to do nothing.

Edmund Burke

This is my country. And yours. And it needs us to stand up and speak up.Flag with Clouds

 

That’s why there’s a flag right here.

Thanks go to JL for pointing out Loehr’s essay.

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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.

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder – v2.0

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder - a Republican affliction

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder – a Republican affliction

Reading time – 70 seconds  .  .  .

Boyhood pal Frank Levy offered a comment to last Sunday’s blog, Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder, focused on how Republicans work to divide Americans. His question is worthy of consideration and comment. Here is what he wrote:

I don’t have a comment, only a question – what is it about the 158 richest families in America that the Republicans feel they must build their entire economic policy around what they think these people want? I get that they help them win elections every 4 years, but in reality these families provide nothing of substance to individual Republicans, their friends, or their families.

In order to address Frank’s question, let’s separate Americans into two groups: politicians plus very wealthy people; and regular, non-super wealthy Americans.

For politicians and very wealthy people there is a plain and simple, very powerful system in place. Elections are hideously expensive, making the groveling for money from people who have lots of 220px-Serpiente_alquimicait consume 50% of the time and energy of politicians. The largess of those money baggers makes politicians beholden to them, so politicians do their bidding. The donors get regulations and legislation they want to maximizes their profits, laws like those that: cripple the regulatory power of the EPA, allowing ever greater air, water and land pollution; severely limits the ability of consumers to sue corporations for the harm they cause; and the absence of limitations of who should be able to own firearms, allowing for the continuation of our national massacre. The wealthy people then use a little of their enlarged stash of cash to fund the campaigns of their next hand-picked politicians. It’s a toxic cycle of life thing. But, of course, you knew all that.

The second group of people is composed of ordinary, non-wealthy Americans. The question that puzzles so many is why these folks vote against their own interests – that’s Frank’s question. There are many answers and, interestingly, numerous studies have shown that large numbers of Americans identify with very wealthy people and believe that they will be in their ranks some day. While that clearly is not going to happen for nearly any ordinary American, those aspirations provide powerful blinders and people act irrationally – i.e., against their own interests.

The larger reason, though, for Americans voting for those who, ”  .  .  .  provide nothing of substance to individual Republicans, their friends, or their families,” is what I detailed in the preceding blog. Republicans appeal to hate and fear and that drives people to the polls to vote for those who stimulate them with their “scare ’em and save ’em” tactic. That kind of manipulation is used to sell underarm deodorant, security systems, investment services and, yes, politicians.

Listen to the words of consumer commercials (ignore the visuals) and you’ll hear the appeal to fear. Listen to a Republican running for office and you’ll hear the same thing.

So, to answer Frank’s question, there are three powerful responses that lapdog politicians running for office create as they manipulate ordinary Americans with their calls to hate and fear and get them to vote against their own interests.

First, the politicians tell those angry people that they’re right. That’s very gratifying. This has the additional benefit of letting voters feel a bit in control, this in stark contrast to their ongoing sense of powerlessness in their lives.

Second, voters get to vent their frustrations. That feels good.

Third, and most powerful, most persuasive, they imply a promise of freedom from fear. That they never deliver is quite beside the point. That the lapdog politicians stoke fear and hatred in order to get elected – courtesy of the financial muscle of their big donors – is the point.

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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.

Somebody Please Tell Me

Obama - Afganistan drawdown

October 15, 2015 – President Obama announcing he will keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan through the end of his term in office

Reading time – 69 seconds  .  .  .

We were told by President Bush that we should invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and because he was in cahoots with al Qaeda in the 9/11 attack. Besides, Saddam was a bad guy. Okay, at least he got the bad guy thing right. So we attacked a nation that had done us no harm. In fact, they had been our ally just 20 years earlier.

Before that we invaded Afghanistan. At the time I thought about the British, who tried to subdue that country (1839-1842) and were humiliated, with thousands of British killed. A hundred years later the Soviets tried to subdue Afghanistan and gave up after ten years of frustration, death and enormous expense. How is it that our leaders didn’t see the pattern? How is it that they still don’t?

We were told the invasion of Afghanistan was to go after (i.e. kill) the al Qaeda members hiding there, plus to deny al Qaeda safe haven – as though preventing their use of that geography would somehow prevent any further al Qaeda training for attacks on America. Then the purpose was somehow stretched to include driving the Taliban out of Afghanistan, or at least removing them from power. We weren’t given much of a reason for the stretch; the goal posts were just moved to include waging war against people who had not attacked us. It was the same song as with Iraq a couple of years later, including that they had been our ally just a few years earlier.

Afghanistan is a country that has never had a strong central government and which was mostly a bunch of tribal clans within Afghanistan’s geographical borders. Oddly, after deciding that we were going to drive the Taliban from power we once again adjusted our purpose for making war there to include planting a national democracy. What could possibly go wrong with that? Oh wait – that’s exactly where and how we failed in Iraq.

President Obama campaigned in 2007-2008 promising to end the war in Iraq. At least most of our troops were withdrawn, but we left behind the chaos that the world continues to deal with now. Then we were going to have all of our troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. That didn’t happen and now the President has informed us that not only will at least 5,500 troops remain in Afghanistan through the end of his second term in office, but that he will be leaving the entire mess for the next president.

What remains perfectly opaque is the reason that the U.S. should have any troops in Afghanistan. What is the compelling national security purpose of putting our troops at risk, such that some number of them will be killed and about 8 times as many will be wounded? How are we better off by intervening in that country, killing some of its people and continuing to be the chief recruiter for yet more angry Islamists to want to attack the U.S.? What is the return on our investment of trillions of dollars?

Somebody please tell me why we should continue to be at war in Afghanistan.

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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.

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