political stupidity

Guest Essay – The Real Reason


Reading time – 4:35  .  .  .

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addendum

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

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

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


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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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Root Cause


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

From The Other 98% – click me

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Focus


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Like fabricating a run up to war with Iran.

– Like putting yet more children in cages.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Pounding and Flip-Flopping


Reading time – 4:51; Viewing time – 7:30  .  .  .

It’s a fundamental courtroom practice:

If the facts are on your side, pound on the facts.

If they aren’t on your side, pound on the law.

If the law isn’t on your side, pound on the table.

The House Judiciary Committee met last week to debate issuing a citation of contempt of Congress to Attorney General William Barr for his failure to produce an unredacted version of the Mueller Report and the underlying evidentiary materials, as well as for his failure to appear before the committee. Of course, the debate was bifurcated along party lines and what I found most interesting is what the Republicans did to make their case against contempt citations.

They brought up all manner of what they decried are unfair or unethical issues, including Hillary Clinton’s emails, FBI leadership, FBI spying and investigating (isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?), Barr’s courage to obey a law that actually doesn’t apply to the contempt of Congress issue, the Steele Dossier (none of which has been disproven), Christopher Steele’s having talked with Russians, various officials lying under oath, James Comey’s perfidy and other real or fantasy offenses.

NONE OF THAT HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH WILLIAM BARR FAILING TO RESPOND TO CONGRESSIONAL SUBPOENAS. IT’S ALL WHATABOUTISM.

That’s what people do when they don’t have a leg to stand on.

Don’t let their passion or the intensity of their fatuous bloviating or the panoply of unrelated issues distract you. This is solely about obeying the law. That sounds very conservative, don’t you think? How come the Republicans don’t like it? Try this.

The Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee likely feel duty bound to protect the Republican administration, regardless of what some individuals in that administration have done. That’s one of the more odious parts of party politics and it’s one of the things that causes voters’ blood to boil or drives them to simply tune out, believing, “They’re all crooks.”

Here’s what’s at stake in this subpoena/contempt citation case:

The important thing: The oversight function of Congress is impossible to conduct without the necessary information. The purpose of a subpoena is to elicit that information from reluctant witnesses. Which is to say, it doesn’t matter whether the president or his lapdog attorney general like it; Barr has to obey the subpoena and the law in order for our system to work.

The critical thing: What is at stake is the rule of law itself! If Barr and Trump get away with refusing subpoenas, then our rule of law is finished. So is justice in America, because it will be clear that obeying the law no longer matters. Say hello to tyranny.

Here’s the current reality:

Those Republican committee members don’t have the facts on their side. Barr has plainly and obviously stonewalled his subpoenas. That’s a punishable no-no. So they can’t pound on the facts.

Those committee members also don’t have the law on their side. The law is clear that citizens must obey a subpoena. So, those representatives can’t pound on the law.

All they have left is pounding on the table. And that’s what they did during the House Judiciary Committee contempt citation hearings and what they’re doing still.

You can expect the same behavior from Republican senators if a resolution of impeachment arrives in their chamber. That’s pretty much what we saw during the blizzard of filibusters the Republicans mounted to fight anything Obama promoted. They didn’t have the facts and they didn’t have the law, so they pounded on the table.

Critical note to Democrats: if positions were reversed, we’d see the same behavior from Congressional Democrats, although they’d probably smile more and be ever-so empathetic. Nevertheless, forget about feeling smug and disdainful about the other guys. This is party politics S.O.P.

Impeachment update  .  .  .

In 2017 I had the simple clarity that Trump should be impeached because he is a criminal, that he’s obviously guilty of violating the Emoluments Clause, obstruction of justice and possibly of treason for conspiracy with the Russians and for his refusal to take any action to prevent ongoing attacks by Russia. Then I considered what a President Pence might do and I wasn’t so sure that impeachment was best.

The first thing Pence would do is pull a Gerald Ford and pardon Trump and his entire crime family for felonies they have or may have committed. It’s unthinkable that they might get away with their self-aggrandizing criminality, so I changed my mind on impeachment. Now, though, there’s another worry.

Trump has started a march to war with Iran. Separating out his wag-the-dog gambit, starting that war will result in a lot of people dying and suffering and it likely will be a war that will last for many years, just like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, because there’s no way out. It appears that the only way to prevent that is to remove Trump from office before he can fire the first shot. That calls for impeachment, so back we go.

One price of doing that, though, is the probability of angering a lot of Americans who will see Trump as a victim and will vote in a Congress that might continue to dismantle the things we care about, a Congress which will deny climate warming. They will continue the assault on Roe v. Wade, on voting rights and will enact yet more wealth inequality measures. All of that and more are existential threats to liberal democracy and to our entire planet. That price is so large that it augers for leaving Trump in office until the end of his term in order to prevent a backlash Congress, even knowing that he will issue anticipatory pardons to all his co-conspirators.

Yes, I realize that I’m flip-flopping on the issue of impeachment and I don’t like it any more than you do.

This impeachment business is more complicated and has more consequences than I want it to have. I believe in the rule of law and apologize not one bit for being a Boy Scout about my horror over the assault on our moral character that we continue to endure.  But frustrating as it would be to refrain from stopping the subversive criminal in the Oval Office, preempting Trump with impeachment might do more harm than good. Clearly, this is a hold your nose moment in American history.

Click the pic for the report in The Onion

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

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

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

Live From The Valley


Reading time – 6:39; Viewing time – 9:12  .  .  .

Washington D.C. (mostly)
Election Announcement

I’m not a registered Democrat, but like Bernie Sanders, I caucus with them. That’s why I’m announcing my candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.

I thought I’d have more time for this, at least enough to put together an exploratory committee. But what with our never-ending campaigns, I don’t even have time to learn what an exploratory committee does. And there’s no chance to line up mega-donors now, either, because they’re already taken.

So, I’m left to make this major announcement via blog post. Good news for you: You’re the first to learn of this. Not even my wife knows about this yet. Man, I hope she won’t be angry.

Anyway, Kamala, Elizabeth, Bernie, Amy, Beto, Joe, Eric, Pete, Kirsten, John, Jay, Cory, Julián, Tulsi, John, Marianne, Wayne, Tim and Andrew, it’s nice to be in such a large and non-exclusive club.

Worry Announcement, or, Are We Really This Stupid?

What do you suppose Americans worry about the most: Illegal immigration? Foreign terrorists? Brown skin people from south of the border or Muslims? Nope, it isn’t nearly that dopey.

According to a current survey by the Gallup Organization you and I worry about healthcare more than anything else. Take a look at the chart below or, better yet, click on it for an expanded view of the chart and the complete Gallup report. Here’s another.

Healthcare is our biggest worry for the 5th year in a row. Oddly, our president has decided to do a full court press next year to increase our worry by repealing and replacing Obamacare. There’s just one thing: In the 9 years since the ACA passed the Republicans have tried dozens of times to repeal Obamacare and they haven’t succeeded, even when they were in control of the Senate, the House and the presidency.

Even worse – and that’s “worse” as in: both destructive and hypocritical – they’ve had 9 years to come up with a replacement healthcare plan for the “replace” part of “repeal and replace” and they’ve sat on their hands. They have no replacement or even the beginning of an outline for a replacement plan. So, if Trump gets his way, he and the Republicans will repeal Obamacare and replace it with NOTHING.

Then some of us will die needlessly, some will go bankrupt and pre-existing conditions won’t be covered, just like it was before the ACA. So, you better worry that if Trump and the Republicans get their way, there will be no replacement healthcare plan and you may have no healthcare at all.

Puerto Rico Aid Announcement

The president just announced that we have supplied $91 billion of aid to Puerto Rico, which means that we really didn’t totally blow off the survivors of that terrible hurricane that killed 3,000 Americans.

That’s good news, indeed, except for one little detail: the actual, real world, fantasy-free number is just 12% of Trump’s claimed amount. That aid has barely scratched the surface of what’s needed and it hasn’t provided food for the one-third of the population that’s going hungry.

Trump continues to astound all sentient beings with his constant lying and his ease in inflicting cruelty on people who desperately need help. Maybe he should go back to San Juan and toss out a couple more cases of paper towels to a crowd of suffering people to once again show his true support.

Proud State Announcement

It’s understandable if you think of North Carolina only as the leader in Republican crafted voter suppression, voting fraud and generally crazy politics. For example, former Republican Governor Pat McCrory blamed his loss in the 2016 election on non-existent voter fraud and refused to leave the governor’s mansion. Turns out his real electoral problem was his zeal for the infamous “Bathroom Bill.”

Yet, the Tar Heels are even more creative than that. They’re button-busting proud of the craftiness revealed by the recent indictment of Greg Lindberg, a major political donor, plus a couple of his associates and state GOP chairman and former congressman Robin Hayes for bribery through an insurance scheme.

These guys should have known that the FBI has no sense of humor about people lying to them, but lying repeatedly to the FBI is one of the indictments against them, as is attempting to bribe the current state insurance commissioner. U.S. Rep. Mark Walker was identified in the indictments as “Public Official A.” He was the recipient of $150,000 in political donations from Lindberg, but he’s not under indictment. Yet.

But just a second: the North Carolina Republicans may not have a monopoly on creativity. The current North Carolina Democratic Party chairman was the insurance commissioner during the time of some of this scandal. We’ll see if he, too, becomes a candidate to be a ward of the state.

Stay tuned, as this likely will prove to be the basis of a super hero movie – a Marvel Comics “State Dumb Stuff” thriller, staring Captain Greed.

Many thanks to DN for bringing this inspired piece of graft to our attention. It gives us all a renewal of appreciation for the human gift of imagination.

Special Award Announcement

You may recall Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who, in a rant against Dreamers declared that,

“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another hundred out there who weigh a hundred and thirty pounds—and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling seventy-five pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

That was quite the visual image and just the thing to introduce a new congressional award.

On Tuesday of this past week Rep. Steve King was presented the first ever “Congressional Bag Full of Stupid Award.”

In a dignified ceremony on the floor of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi began the proceedings by playing a video of King’s remarks. She then recounted his many dalliances with racism, white supremacy and fantasized hate.

Pelosi expressed concern that King’s years of commuting between Iowa and DC had left him with a huge bulge on the side of his head from carrying 75 pounds of stupid across the Iowa border into Illinois. She said that she hoped that his upcoming stupidectomy surgery would be successful. However, she warned that the medical community is united in the opinion that you can’t fix stupid. She said, “We all hope that this surgery will cause Steve’s stupid to go into remission for a while.”

At last and in a sincere and heartfelt closing, Pelosi recognized King for his well earned award and wished him a fine and very remote retirement beginning in January 2021.

And finally,

From the You Can’t Make This Stuff Up File
A short compendium of dumb current events that are too unbelievable even for fiction
  1. Vile, hateful, wacko conspiracy nut case Alex Jones is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by parents of children murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. He’s floating a defense that he has a “form of psychosis” that causes him to believe that certain events were staged. He says his psychosis was brought on by government and media lies, causing him to feel like “.  .  .  a child whose parents lie to him over and over again. Pretty soon you don’t know what reality is.” So, Alex Jones, the grand perp of hateful, harmful conspiracy theories that fattened his wallet dramatically, is a poor victim.
  2. Fox and Friends unveiled a new geographic phenomenon when it boldly declared. “TRUMP CUTS AID TO 3 MEXICAN COUNTRIES.” That came as startling news to those who erroneously thought there was only one country named Mexico.

Live, on the ground in the Valley of Stupid, I’m Jack Altschuler.
                 ————————————

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

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

Venezuela and Existential Threats


Reading time – 5:07; Viewing time – 7:30  .  .  .

First, my only comment on the topic of the cherry picked, sentence fragmented Mueller report is that I want the full report – all of it including the appendices – both for the complete, un-predigested information so that I can draw my own conclusions and so that we won’t imagine a Justice Department cover up engineered by Trump’s hand-picked protector.

As of this writing Attorney General Barr has indicated he will release the complete Mueller report by mid-April. There will be redactions, perhaps lots of them. Some will be to protect ongoing investigations. Some redactions will be for national security reasons. Some will be to avoid causing embarrassment to “peripheral innocent people.” I have no clue why that’s more important than instilling confidence in the report for a skeptical public. Absent such confidence, we’re facing an existential threat to our democracy.

If you need insightful commentary on the entire Russia issue, including Mueller’s report, read pal Dan Wallace’s comments. Now to the issue of Venezuela.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story about Russia’s power play in Venezuela. Putin sent 100 troops there to prop up dictator Nicolás Maduro. In reaction to that, reader JC asked if there was anyone left in Washington who understands the Monroe Doctrine or remembers the Cuban Missile Crisis. My answers: no and no.

As you’ll recall from high school American history class, the Monroe Doctrine prohibits further European colonialism in the Western Hemisphere.

At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Soviet Chairman Nikita Khrushchev was cultivating Cuba as a client state, effectively making it a colony of the Soviet Union, the very thing prohibited by the Monroe Doctrine. Soviet missiles armed with nuclear warheads on that island made it an existential threat to the United States.

While President James Monroe couldn’t have imagined nuclear weapons, he and his contemporaries were clear that the presence of European military might this close to home was an existential threat to our nascent country. The Monroe Doctrine was and is about our national security.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis there were thoughtful, careful men in charge who insisted upon best intelligence and carefully considered approaches to the challenges we faced. They had the strength of character to resist knee-jerk military actions and they prevented a catastrophic war.

This time there’s a reality TV personality in charge who doesn’t read, who is incapable of assembling complex thoughts, who doesn’t review the President’s Daily Brief, so he doesn’t know what’s going on, who doesn’t have sufficient self-control to resist temper tantrums and who needs to be seen as the biggest, baddest tough guy. He is supported by Secretary of State John Bolton, who never saw a conflict he didn’t want to escalate into war. As bad, we have a horrendous record of starting conflicts without any plan to end them.

For example, George W. Bush dim-brain/lied us into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with phantom promises of quick success and happily-ever-after flowers tossed at our troops by Iraqis. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared Iraqi oil would pay for the whole thing. None of that happened.

What was foreseeable but which they refused to foresee was the global refugee problem they triggered and which the world lives with quite unsteadily now. It is a key outfall of Bush’s lies and we still don’t have a plan to end those wars.

Now that Russia has sent its troops into Venezuela we are in a situation not unlike the Cuban Missile threat from the Soviet Union. President Trump backs Maduro’s challenger Juan Guaidó. How will Trump stop Russia from both keeping Maduro in power and from having that military foothold in the Western Hemisphere that is specifically forbidden by the Monroe Doctrine?

In point of fact, Trump has been a disaster of a negotiator for the U.S. He’s been a patsy with nothing to show for his capitulations to Russia and North Korea. Worse, he’s been a lapdog for Putin, who is now threatening Trump’s tough guy posturing.

Trump has told Putin to back off. If Trump tries to negotiate with Putin to get him to do that, Trump’s past negotiating prowess suggests that it probably will look like hollow posturing that leaves Russian troops in place in Venezuela with an escalating military presence in the Western Hemisphere. If instead Trump sends troops in support of Guaidó, we’ll be faced off against the Russians and troops on both sides are likely to be killed. And there won’t be an exit plan from the conflict.

What could possibly go wrong?

And another thing  .  .  .

The Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee called for Adam Schiff (D-CA) to resign his chairmanship of the committee, based on the same kind of Republican partisan brainlessness that we’ve seen for years. Schiff replied with a kind of muscular statement rarely heard from Democrats. Watch the whole thing here.

Last thing .  .  .

Chris Hayes interviewed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“AOC”) on Friday. Here’s a link to a string of videos from that interview. I urge you to watch all of them for one reason. It’s not so that you’ll agree with or find ways to pick apart the Green New Deal or find ways to cheer or criticize her. I want you to think on a higher level.

Specifically, watch and listen in order to understand why she has so completely captured the public imagination. Our Gen X, Y and Z citizens see our politics in the way that Emma Gonzalez sees our embedded intransigence over gun safety: “We call B.S.”

AOC speaks for an overwhelming majority of Americans, regardless of how much you may fundamentally disagree with her policy ideas or fear your own loss of power.

To Our Legislators:

Get on board with working with people who see the future far differently than you do. If you don’t want to do that, I suggest that you polish your résumé in preparation for entry into an exciting new career. That’s because these folks know that they’ll be the ones who will live with the consequences of what we’re creating right now, so they have a far more powerful interest in a sustainable future. We have created an existential threat to them and they won’t let us mess it up any more.

                   ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

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

In The Center of the Bulls Eye


Reading time – 4:49; Viewing time – 6:15  .  .  .

My pal Dan Wallace commented sagely about my last post, Time To Chill?, and included links to a couple of his own posts. I heartily recommend that you read them by clicking through to my post, scroll down to his comments and then link to his essays. They explain in a compelling fashion what’s critically important and what you know in your bones to be true.

He ended his comments saying that he’s sad that we are where we are and he supposed that I am, too. Here’s how I replied:

Sad, yes. And more. Here’s a short story to illustrate.

The gorilla sat calmly in his habitat, separated from the visitors at the zoo by a wide and deep moat. A child climbed the fence and was on the top of the moat wall on the gorilla’s side of the fence. That’s when the gorilla stood up and bellowed, beat his chest and jumped up and down, scaring the child back to where he belonged.

When our security and our identity are challenged it’s right for us to be angry and on the offense. That has nothing to do with sad; it’s about appropriate aggressiveness to protect what we hold dear.

That’s the job before us right now – to protect what we hold dear.

Here’s a set of 4 tweets from Paul Krugman, posted on January 18, 2019:

“A thought about where we are as a nation: We’re living in the age of unsurprising revelation. Is there anyone who doesn’t already believe that Trump-Putin-treason is a real thing? Even Trump loyalists surely know it’s true. They just think it’s an OK price for the racism. 1/

“The question instead is when and whether the evidence will become so dramatic, so blatant, that Trump’s defenders won’t feel able to keep pretending they don’t know. That is, it’s not really about what we learn but about how it plays out. 2/

“Think of the Steve King story as a dress rehearsal. Everyone knew what he was, and has for years. Somehow, though, we reached a tipping point where GOP leaders felt they had to say, “We’re shocked, shocked to find open racism going on in our party!” 3/

“I don’t know if we’ll ever reach that sort of tipping point with Trump. But even if we do, remember: they’ve known all along, but were willing to sell out America as long as it was convenient. 4/”

That means that in the face of the abject failure of those we rightly count on, we – you and I – must use appropriate aggressiveness to protect what we hold dear.

At last there are the beginnings of honest-to-goodness, Constitutionally mandated oversight. What is sadly unsurprising is the volume of brainless, absurd opposition to that oversight in pursuit of protecting He Who Must Be Obeyed by Republicans.

It’s unsurprising because these legislators know that if they don’t toe the line to protect Trump they’ll get primaried from the right in their next election and Trump will stomp on their skulls; so for them, protecting Trump trumps all. Clearly, their careers in politics are far more important to them than, say, ensuring our democracy or safeguarding the Constitution, which they swore to protect and defend.

Please don’t complain that Krugman and I are unfairly bashing Republicans. If the Democrats were doing this, I’d be skewering them mercilessly, but they aren’t. It’s just the Republicans now, so they’re the ones who get pinned to the center of the bulls eye to be targets for the truth.

So, what can we do?

Here’s a set of three offerings devoid of right versus left and R versus D conflict. These are about bringing us together to protect and defend what we hold dear, what we must protect and defend, because those guys aren’t doing their job.

    1. Watch this video from Represent.us. It’s focused on ending the bi-partisan corruption that infests our government. I know you’re entirely on board with wanting to end the corruption of our politics, so watch the video. It goes down easy and is very much of a piece with the Money, Politics & Democracy programs I deliver.
    2. Read Jason Stanley’s book How Fascism Works. Buy it from your locally owned, ma & pa book store to support them and your town. And don’t put it on the stack of books you’ll get to “some day.” Read it now – it’s that timely. And while you’re at it, get a copy of How Democracies Die.
    3. If you’re in the Chicago area, attend Jason Stanley’s talk on March 23. Here’s a link to RSVP. For budget sensitive patriots: It’s a freebie. And contributions are welcome.

Frank Bruni had a fine piece in last Sunday’s New York Times in which he dug into what’s behind the anti-vaxxers’ refusal of the very things that can protect their children. It isn’t that they don’t love their children; it’s more insidious and deadly than that. It’s that they don’t love truth.

That is the age we are living in, a kind of anti-Enlightenment era, in which the search for so many is for propaganda that supports our opinions instead of searching for provable reality, feel-good stories instead of truth, and anger instead of resolution. Don’t get too smug about this, though, because I think we’re all candidates for at least some that description.

Too many of our elected officials have played to this dumbed-down version of Americans and these legislators are the very people who have abdicated their responsibilities in Congress.

This stuff matters because of what you hold dear, so now is the time to be appropriately aggressive to protect it.

Click to join me on March 23 for this fascinating and informative event.

                   ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

 


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

Do They Even Remember?


Reading time – 2:28; Viewing time – 3:43  .  .  .

In the 1997 movie The Rainmaker, Matt Damon plays the part of a rookie attorney up against an army of lawyers for the defense. He attempts to take depositions from employees of the company he’s suing, but is repeatedly told that the people he intended to depose are no longer with the company. It’s clear from the proceedings that the defense is employing slimy tactics to thwart Damon’s efforts. At last he asks the chief defense lawyer, “Do you even remember when you first sold out?” That question has sad application today.

In Sheila Markin’s current post she writes,

Republican Senators know full well how dangerous Trump is and say so behind closed doors, but they will not act to counter him because they think their constituents support Trump. These Senators believe they need to follow the will of their voters and that if they do not, they will face a primary challenger. They may be right. Notice that Lindsey Graham used to push back against Trump but when he did that his poll numbers with Republicans were in the dumper. It was clear that he could get primaried. Now that he is a Trump sycophant, his approval with Republicans in his state is up to 70%. Instead of defending democracy, instead of teaching his constituents to think differently, Graham has gone to the dark side.

Think about Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and his transparent antics last year. As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, instead of doing his job of leading a serious investigation into possible nefarious Russian connections to the Trump administration and campaign committee, he put all his efforts into protecting Trump. That included his laughable theatrics about an urgent “newly discovered” memo, which we learned shortly thereafter he had picked up from the White House the evening before. He refused to subpoena or even call many key witnesses and prevented the challenging of witnesses who refused to answer questions, claiming a privilege that doesn’t exist. Some witnesses lied and weren’t held accountable.

I understand the self-preservation urge these legislators feel, but that wasn’t part of their oath of office. They swore quite specifically to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Even if they don’t think the President is an enemy, 17 of our intelligence agencies have stated unequivocally since 2016 that Russia and its agents cyber attacked and are continuing to cyber attack the United States. That shifts them from the category of adversary to enemy of our country.

Many of our Republican legislators have turned a blind eye to that. They have refused to carry out the actions required by the oath of office to which they swore and instead, through their inaction, have supported the obstructions created by this president. And he remains the target of a counter-intelligence investigation for very threatening reasons. Perhaps the refusal of these legislators to stand up to Trump, even for national security reasons, really will ensure they won’t get primaried. But what about our country?

These people know exactly what they’re doing.

Do they even remember when they first sold out?

Late addition:

Watch the vote in the House on the bill to stop the President’s national emergency power grab. There is nothing conservative about such a move; indeed, when President Obama did things far less of a reach he was excoriated by Republicans, so they should vote to stop Trump, one and all. But most won’t.

Then watch the delay shenanigans in the Senate on that bill. They will pull every procedural trick out of obscurity to avoid taking a stand. When the delays are exhausted, the bill might pass, but many Republicans will vote against it – or I should say, they will refuse to stand up to Trump. As The Rainmaker attorney asked, “Do they even remember when they first sold out?”

                      ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!

 


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

In Case You’re Certain


Reading time – 5:47; Viewing time – 8:36  .  .  .

Things have been upside down, wrong, hurtful, unfair, dishonest and threatening to America. They’ve been that way for a long time and it’s high time we got about fixing things and restoring what’s right.

The starting point for this post is that those two sentences apply to the feelings of both far righties and far lefties. Likely, you don’t like that, but almost nobody gets up in the morning scratching their chin as they think of how they can be dishonest, unpatriotic and evil. Which means that all the stuff you think “they” do that looks crazy comes from a conviction they hold that they’re doing what’s right. Yes, I know that makes no sense. It’s much more fun to simply see them as bad and wrong, but what if there were people who disagree with you but are just as wanting to do the right thing as you are, even though their right thing looks wrong to you?

Well, that’s where we are. In fact, that’s where we’ve always been. Our system was made to work this way. If you’re a progressive or liberal (pick your label) you might be surprised to learn that there are lots of conservatives who are honest and smart and who hold solid notions. One of those people is my friend, John Calia.

John wrote a couple of comments on my last post, “Conservatives and Grandchildren,” and I asked his permission to use his second comment for this post, too.

In an earlier blog, “How Ya Gonna Pay For That?“, I posited that sometimes it isn’t a simple straight line from what we want to how we’re going to pay for it or even if we should pay for it. Just saying, “The government will pay for it” is a red, white and blue shot in the foot, because simply loading a cost onto government gets handled in only three possible ways: 1. you and I pay more taxes, or; 2. we put it on the government credit card (i.e. we borrow), so that our children for seven generations will pay even more taxes, or; 3. we cut other government programs and services. And yes, it really is that simple.

But government policies and practices aren’t that simple and I’m offering John’s comments to make that case.

John has invoked the words of progressive economist Robert Reich, who recommended eliminating the corporate income tax. Before you hyperventilate, read what he said. It’s a bit thick if you’re not a tax expert, but be sure to read the last sentence carefully. I’ve edited John’s offering from Reich for brevity. You can read the entire piece in the Comments section at the bottom of my Conservatives and Grandchildren post here.

John wrote, “Here’s what liberal economist Robert Reich (Sec. of Labor under Clinton) said about corporate income taxes in his 2008 book [Supercapitalism]:

“In reality, the corporate income tax is paid—indirectly—by the company’s consumers, shareholders, and employees.

“It’s inefficient because interest payments made by corporations on their debt are deductible from their corporate income tax while dividend payments are not. This creates an incentive for companies to .  .  .  retain earnings rather than distribute them as dividends. The result, in recent years, has been for many corporations to accumulate large amounts of money that the company then uses to purchase other companies or to buy back its shares of stock.

“Logically, there is no reason why [stockholders’] ‘corporate’ earnings should be taxed differently than their other earnings. Abolishing the corporate income tax and treating all corporate income as the personal income of shareholders would rectify this anomaly.”

Abolish the corporate income tax? That’s heresy to progressives! But wait – that was a liberal economist recommending that.

The point I want to make is that nearly everything is more complex than we want it to be and sometimes best answers and solutions have the appearance of being counter to our beliefs. Just being reactionary really doesn’t serve us well.

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Click me.

John has a frustrating and, really, an annoying way of being reasonable with his mostly conservative opinions, which at times leave me with not much more of a response than a huffy, “Oh yeah?” Have a look at this post by John on his website and see for yourself. Your instant reaction may be to disagree and then, quite surprisingly, find that this conservative writer is – I’ll say it again – annoyingly reasonable.

AOC and others have offered what they are calling the Green New Deal (you can download a copy here). It has been cheered by progressives and pilloried by conservatives and, because of its lump sum extreme policy recommendations, it may be the vehicle that ensures Donald Trump’s reelection. My view is that it doesn’t represent much sustainable policy, is counter-productive, whimsically dismisses cost and unintended effects, is long on lofty ideas and extremely short on tangible actions and it crazily attempts to reinvent the universe over a period of 10 years, all this outlined in just 14 double-spaced pages. If this resolution were to somehow pass the House and Senate and get signed by the president, it would have no force of law. Nevertheless, I’m glad it exists.

We have some vexing and even terrible challenges before us, nearly all of which we refuse to solve. My hope is that this crazy document will start a worthwhile conversation that leads to a few desperately needed solutions. For that to happen will require that a lot of people leave their certainties behind and open themselves to other points of view. It’s a bit like progressives reading my pal John’s offerings and being surprised, finding that his notions are – dare I say it again? – reasonable.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to see how reasonable you can be and, in the process, open your thinking about our national needs and how we’re going to meet them.

From The Onion. Click me

Here’s the one caveat: This call to being reasonable and open to other points of view DOES NOT extend to plainly hateful behavior, anti-constitutional actions, self-serving promotion that excludes (i.e. discriminates against) anyone or efforts to harm our democracy or the fundamental principles of our country. For any of those conditions, feel free to be closed-minded, antagonistic and energetically advocating for your opposing solutions that actually are solutions and which don’t harm others. Here’s an example of this caveat.

In his closing comments for his report on the southern border last Thursday, Chris Hayes perfectly captured what’s going on by saying:

“It’s not about the border, and it never has been.

“The wall is not the issue. The issue is what this country as a whole looks like, and who gets to call it theirs.”

Click here or here or here or here for fact checking on what Trump said during his rambling Rose Garden announcement of a national emergency for the non-emergency at our southern border. Be clear that his words are not just self-serving fantasy; they betray the hateful truth, that the solitary goal of Trump’s vanity wall and his bogus claims of crisis and emergency on our border is to keep brown people out of the US. It is akin to his hateful Muslim ban. These are exactly the kind of things described in my caveat about which you and I and all of us must never be reasonable and never tolerate.

In the absence of such hateful things, let’s all be a little less certain and maybe – just maybe – we can start to make things better.

Late addition to this post

For a reasonable example of considering various points of view, have a look at the lead editorial in today’s New York Times about healthcare here.

                     ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


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

Potpourri v7.0 – Shutdown Edition


Reading time – 4:06; Viewing time – 5:34  .  .  .

It is the bright, fresh practice of the Senate of the United States of America to formally abandon all activity if the President of the United States might not like what the Senate would do. Of course, this is in stark contrast to times past when Congress was held to be a separate and equal branch of government. Now, though, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has seen the wisdom of abdicating Congressional responsibility. You can expect more acts of Senatorial disappearance as the shutdown continues or really any time it’s politically expedient.

Note that Senator McConnell is still under a Harry Potter invisibility cloak and didn’t appear to be available for comment.

Everyone knows that McConnell has stated that he won’t bring a bill to the floor of the Senate to resolve the government shutdown issue unless he knows the president will sign it. But, why is that? Try this.

A vote to open government without funding Trump’s wall is a most precarious thing for Republican senators. If they do that they will have turned their backs on Trump’s campaign promise and, correspondingly, on their constituents who voted for Trump. Senators will feel their fury in their next primary. It will be ugly and they know it.

If, on the other hand, those senators vote against reopening government, each one will immediately feel the fury of every government worker in their state, as well as the fury of the workers’ families and their friends, independents who can spell “empathy” and all Democrats in their state. That fury will be brought to every election s/he will enter for the rest of their life and they will have to resign from the Senate and become a lobbyist for Big Pharma or a defense contractor.

That’s why McConnell won’t bring a bill to reopen government to the floor for a vote if he thinks Trump will veto it. These days it’s very hard to be a Republican.


Here’s how to get the government reopened without spending billions on a useless wall designed solely for Trump’s ego. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team should offer this to Trump and announce it to the public at a press conference:

  1. Immediately reopen all of government.
  2. Immediately pay all back wages both to workers who were forced to work without pay and to workers who were furloughed.
  3. Trump will deliver a personal, hand-written note to each federal worker, written in bold Sharpie, saying, “I know I hurt you. I apologize and promise I’ll never do that again.” Okay, that isn’t going to happen. It’s just snark. I do feel better now.
  4. Funding will be provided for a bi-partisan blue ribbon committee to generate a plan to bring border security and immigration policy into the 21st century, including recommendations for permanently dealing with the DACA kids and the other 11,000,000 undocumented in the US now. The plan is to be submitted to Congress and the president within 9 months of committee inception. It is to include no recommendation tor a wall except where a wall will actually enhance border security and is to be of appropriate construction. No need for a wasteful “big, beautiful wall.”
  5. Congress is to draft a bill following the committee’s recommendations, as adjusted or amended by Congress, and vote on that bill within 6 months.

Note that Congress won’t be starting from scratch because there were efforts at immigration reform not long ago.

The beauty of this plan is that the if the president rejects it he will be telling everyone that he really doesn’t support border security or immigration reform; he only supports what makes him look like a tough guy and doesn’t care about America or Americans. There will be substantial pressure on him to agree to this plan.

Plus, the president can claim a victory, as there will be some amount of wall that will be constructed. And he can claim fiscal prudence, too, since whatever wall is recommended will likely cost a lot less than $5.7 billion and a whole lot less than the projected $59 billion for a complete Trump wall. Everyone wins.


Perhaps you recall President Trump bravely declaring, “There’s been nobody tougher on Russia than President Donald Trump.” Regardless, he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to sign off on the sanctions imposed on Russia and some oligarchs for their hacking our 2016 election.

Then in December 2018 when Congress was on holiday break he had his Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, dump in Congress’ lap a plan for sanctions removal. They had just 30 days to vote to stop that action and far fewer once congressmen and senators were back in DC. The House voted to stop the sanctions removal with a strong bipartisan showing. The Senate wimped out, falling two votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.

Every one of those nay voting senators knows that Russia is a bad actor. Every one of them knows that Russia hacked our election and deserved those sanctions. And 43 of them voted to lift the sanctions.

Someone please tell me where those brave men and women store their spines when they go to DC.

————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


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

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