patriotism

This Will Require Fast Action

Reading time – 2:11; Viewing time – 3:08  .  .  .

Nobody is above the law, right? Are you sure? Because there is a mountain of evidence that President Trump and his band of outlaws have done some nefarious things, so Robert Mueller is investigating them, but so far our Republican Congress is mostly mute about Trump’s apparent lawbreaking, his incompetence and the various ways he has failed his oath of office. As he does so, your President and loud Republican voices on the Hill are attacking our FBI, the Justice Department, Robert Mueller and those on his staff. That is to say, they are doing their best to assault and disempower the very people we count on to enforce our laws and to ensure that we have justice in our land.

Of course you know that Trump implored former FBI Director James Comey to back off the FBI investigation into felon Michael Flynn. That investigation was about possible collusion and conspiracy with the Russians by the Trump campaign and possibly Trump himself to hack our 2016 election in favor of Trump. The day after Trump leaned on Comey to back off and Comey refused to cave in, Trump fired Comey. Then he went on national television and announced publicly that he had fired Comey to stop the investigation into him and his campaign staff. That’s obstruction of justice and it’s a crime. A high crime. The same crime that drove Richard Nixon from office so that he wouldn’t have to face impeachment.

For weeks Trump has been denigrating Robert Mueller and talk of Trump firing Mueller is rampant. If he were to do that, do you suppose that might impede the investigation into the Russians invading one of our most cherished rights and Trumpian complicity, that firing Mueller might obstruct justice? Given that you believe that justice is a good thing and that nobody is above the law, if Trump fires Mueller, what are you going to do about it?

Yes, there is something you can do about it. CLICK HERE and review the MoveOn.org registration page, find a rapid response demonstration in your area. By registering you’ll be set up to receive the GO notice if and when Trump decides to break the law by firing Mueller.

This is not a partisan issue, nor is it a lefty-righty issue. This is not about pro- or anti-Trump. It’s not about coastal elites versus citizens living between the mountain ranges. This has nothing to do with race or religion or gender or preference or guns or immigration or taxes or international treaties or pipelines or clean water or the location of our embassies. This is about whether anyone is above the law. This is about justice. This is about the America you believe in.

So, do it now – CLICK HERE and provide just a few pieces of information and you’ll be ready. Did I mention to CLICK HERE? Did I also mention to do it now? Right. Do it now. CLICK HERE.

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

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

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

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

Reading time – 1:01  .  .  .

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

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

Click me

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duplicity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Will It Take To Fix Our Dumb?

Reading time – 2:53; Viewing time – 4:14  .  .  .

It’s time for a break from today’s Strange Hysteria Involving Trump (you work on the acronym). Let’s focus on something important we can improve together.

The New York Times recently posted an editorial entitled “President Trump, Please Read The Constitution,” with the first 14 Amendments printed alongside the essay. Timothy Egan followed up with a scathing op-ed commentary “We’re With Stupid,” focused on the willful ignorance of our citizenry.

What Egan has written about our national cluelessness is appalling because he’s right. How many Americans could pass the test given to immigrants, a passing grade for which is required to become a new citizen? I suspect that many Americans not only don’t know the basics of citizenship, they don’t want to know. Instead, I’m guessing that a lot of us want to hunker down in the self-satisfaction of piss-off and rail against the machine with no concern for the consequences of our actions. I’m not always above that behavior either. Still, I don’t think tearing everything down Bannon-style is the answer.

When did we stop teaching civics to our children and more powerfully, through the conscious behavior of parents? If you’re of a certain demographic (say, Boomers), you were formally taught civics in high school and it’s quite likely that your parents voted. But now only about one-half of eligible voters (roughly 60% in Presidential years, 40% in off-year elections) bother to vote, leaving our elections to the extremists, who are angry and often clueless. Where did our sense of citizenship go?

Now and then some of my readers disagree with what I post and that’s good. We need the views of lots of people if we’re to make sense of our reality, if we’re to do something about our common refusal to respect one another and if we’re to make good choices.

Most of the people who read my screeds are living in the same bubble I am, but pretty much all of the readers of these posts have a sense of citizenship. They can name the branches of government and a dozen presidents and the oceans on our borders. They understand the establishment clause and they’re clear that the Civil War was about slavery, meaning money and power. How come so many millions of Americans (apparently including Gen. Kelly) don’t know that? We pay a terrible price for our self-applied blinders.

Sadly, I think that it will take a generation or two to clear our thick fog of ignorance. Where should we start?

The military draft used to connect citizens to the country and to a personal sense of duty, but it’s long gone. Should there be some mandatory public service for all so that we connect our citizens to our country?

Should voting be mandatory? It is in Australia.

Egan suggests that passing the immigrant test be required in order to get a high school diploma. How about a universal requirement to pass a semester of civics in order to get that diploma? Is it time to bring that back? (Check out your own state’s requirements here.)

Should we require that school books contain a respect for science? I mean, the theory of gravity is, indeed, a theory, but challenging it on that basis makes no sense. Sadly, that’s the kind of thing that is going on, as “intelligent design” or “creationism” is offered in some schools as an equal to “just the theory” of evolution. That kind of willful rejection of knowledge leads to all sorts of befuddlement, which suggests  .  .  .

What would you say to mandatory training of high school students in critical thinking and have it specifically focused on the concepts and duties of citizenship?

C’mon, you’re a thoughtful person. Help me out with this. Jot your ideas in the Comments section below.

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

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

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

Emerson Was Right – Twice

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Always do what you are afraid to do.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Really Tough Time for Republicans

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

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

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

Education

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

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

Leadership

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

Monopoly (not the board game)

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

Taxes

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

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

Banking

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

Freedom

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

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

He Screwibus Union

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monopoly – The Game

Reading time – 2:49; Viewing time – 4:03  .  .  .

You’re 12 years old and you’re playing Monopoly with a few friends. One of them is “that guy” – the one who nearly always wins. You’ve played your best, but you’re watching your pile of cash disappear, as you land on yet another of his hotel properties. Your frustration grows and you find you have an urge to wipe everything from the board with both hands, sending houses and hotels, tokens and the Chance cards flying. Been there, done that. And we have a national case of that same frustration.

Many of us watched in horror last November when a thoroughly unqualified narcissist won the election to be President of the United States, commander of the nuclear codes. It took a while for the reality of events to fully register and the press has been chock-a-block with attempts to explain how this could have happened ever since that most fateful of days. How, indeed, could Americans have elected a schoolyard bully, a misogynist, a liar, an adulterer, a know-nothing, a destroyer of things? Last week I found a likely explanation.

I’ve written several times about the enormous impact of globalization and the profound upset it’s causing people in the industrialized world. We haven’t come close to figuring out what to do about this and not long ago it led to Brexit, a knee-jerk reaction by millions of displaced and angry Brits who responded to the uninformed, visceral calls of a braying bully. Just wipe the board. Smash what is. Vent the frustration. There’s a connection of that to what happened here last November.

Jill Filipovic provided insight in her recent essay in the New York Times. Here’s the Monopoly and Brexit connecting paragraph:

Resentful of the changing order of things, some men have simply leaned in to chaos. If the system no longer serves them, it will at least be fun to blow it all up. Which is exactly why the old rules of political engagement don’t work with Mr. Trump or his base.

There are millions of frustrated, angry Americans for whom the American Dream, the bubble idea of the way things work and will be, has burst. It’s a bit like teens who rebel when they at last learn that the world doesn’t remotely correspond to the fairy tales they were told to believe in. There is a mountainous, “IT”S NOT FAIR!” resentment and the echoes of that primal scream get reinforced every day.

There is no question whether the system is equitable; it’s not. For example, you already know about the great productivity gains of the past few decades and how nearly all of the wealth from those gains has gone to the rich, while workers have stagnated or moved downward on the economic ladder. All those globally displaced workers know it, too, and they’re living with the consequences of both globalization and economic unfairness. Little wonder they want to “wipe everything from the board with both hands, sending houses and hotels, tokens and the Chance cards flying.”

Steven Bannon may have left the White House staff, but he continues to be one of Trump’s advisors. Frighteningly, Bannon is specifically dedicated to bringing it all crashing down. Just look at what has already happened to our dramatically understaffed State Department and the other agencies of government that make this country function. We don’t have people in place to do what needs to be done.

I don’t know what Steven Bannon’s and Donald Trump’s psychological issues are, but these destroyers are incrementally wiping the board into chaos. Put some thought into what will fill the void. It’s a different game when you can’t even find the houses and hotels, the tokens and Chance cards that went flying and you probably won’t like what happens.

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

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

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

You’re Occupado This Saturday

Reading time – 4:04; Viewing time – 5:41  .  .  .

Get a head start on the weekend: This is Sunday’s Disambiguation on Thursday so you’ll be ready for Saturday.

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Earlier this year the Muslim Student Alliance of Niles West High School in Skokie, IL presented Truths to Combat Hate: Islamophobia Edition. The presentation concluded with the following prompt:

Click the banner – you’ll understand why when you’ve finished reading this Disambiguation

“What is the one thing you wish all non-Muslim members of your community knew or understood?”

The prompt was an opportunity to provide student voice and to broaden the collective understanding of the Muslim community. Here’s what some of the Muslim students had to say (edited lightly):

“I hate ISIS, too.”

“Muslims love Jesus. Also, I love everybody and hate terrorism as much as you guys do.”

“I do not wear my hijab because I am forced to. I wear it because I feel the most comfortable in it. So please stop asking me if I want to take it off.”

“No, I don’t wear my headscarf in the shower.”

“Terrorism is not a religion.”

“We as Muslims experience a lot of hate. And if not direct hate, then side glances, back stabs, and unfair judgments.”

“Jihad doesn’t mean suicide bombing white people. Jihad means the spiritual struggle within oneself against sin.”

“Washing my hands, feet, and face in the bathroom is part of the process for me to be able to pray. It’s not because I don’t own a shower.”

“Muslims are friendly people and you should not be afraid of us. At least to get to know us before you judge us.”

Hmmm  .  .  .  maybe Muslims are a lot like you and me. Kudos to the kids for speaking up and for their clarity.

Please pass this along to your intolerant friends and family members and after they’ve read it, ask them what they learned. If they just can’t be comfortable without having an enemy to hate, then tell them to find a different one. How about Vladimir Putin? Or the Koch brothers? Or the obstructionists in Congress?

Many thanks to the Muslim Student Alliance and the administration at Niles West High School for permission to share this with you, because  .  .  .

A fundamental need under authoritarian rule is to have an enemy, someone who is “other” and whom you can blame for any misfortune or suffering you bear – you know, a scapegoat – like the Muslims Trump demonizes. Oh, and those wonderful kids at Niles West High School – they’re the very people he wants you to fear and hate and keep out of America. There’s nothing like an enemy to both inspire passion and get everyone lined up behind the authoritarian. As Darth Vader instructed, “You don’t know the power of the dark side.” Turns out he was right.

And it’s being used to manipulate you every day. It’s what’s behind Trump’s Muslim ban and his declaration that Mexicans are rapists and murderers and his demonization of the press. He’s trained his 38% to respond to those dog whistles and it’s powerful stuff – they’re the power moves of an authoritarian – so powerful that we are incrementally sliding into fascism.

Something that any mental health professional will tell you is that victims always victimize. For example, if someone was victimized as a child, odds are enormous that he will victimize others when he’s an adult. I don’t know what happened to the haters who showed up in Charlottesville or to Dylann Roof or to Donald Trump, but one thing is clear: There is a lot of hate and victimization going on and it is leading this country in a very dark direction.

Trump is just the key actor now, but there are plenty more.* Trump’s thirst for power and his concurrent attacks on others whom he perceives as an enemy is exactly what Kim Jung-un does in North Korea. And in Trump’s infinite neediness for power and approval, he is incrementally dismantling the foundations of our democracy. Exactly what do you think will fill that void?

Mark November 4 on your calendar right now because you’re occupado that day. Click here to access the November 4 It Begins web page. Read it, scan down to Find an event near you, then sign up and show up. That’s how we begin to stop the slide into fascism and start the return to democracy. That’s how we begin to counter the victimization. That’s how we begin to stop the hate.

*BTW – Steve Bannon is on a weight loss program now, looking prettier already. As you watch him spew his hatred, keep and eye open for a presidential run from him in 2020.

Bonus selection

General John Kelly stupided out his views on the Civil War, defending Robert E. Lee and declaring that the war wasn’t about slavery. Instead of listening to him and others attempt to rewrite history with their self-serving snapshots of well treated, happy slaves, treat yourself to some facts by reading the string on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Twitter feed here. Scroll down to the Oct. 31 entry that begins, “Regarding John Kelly’s creationist theorizing on Lee and the Civil War,” and then read up the string. Be sure to watch the embedded video by Col. Ty Seidule. Many thanks to David Leonhardt of the New York Times for his heads-up to this enlightening string.

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

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

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

Reality

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

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

We want sensible gun safety legislation.

We want big money out of our politics.

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

We oppose privatization of Social Security.

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

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

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

Pass an infrastructure bill to rebuild America.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you want to know the future, create it.

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

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

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

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

General Kelly Won’t Save Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the key.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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