political stupidity

An Exercise in Deadly Stupid


Reading time – 1:59  .  .  .

It’s been the silence, the acquiescence of the Republicans in Congress that has been so dispiriting all along.  In large measure, that has been about their tolerating Trump’s constant stream of lies, inanities and his boundless cruelties. The acquiescence that matters, though, has been over things like Trump’s criminal behavior and his stark violations of the Constitution. Now, though, he’s done more than talk stupid, undo anything Obama had his name on and announced he’ll convene the G7 at his Doral property next year. Even some Republicans are regaining a voice.

Because of his complete lack of ability to craft carefully considered policy and his refusal to listen to anyone with subject knowledge, friends and allies are getting killed and we have proven ourselves untrustworthy in the eyes of the world. Note that “killed” isn’t a reality TV phenomenon. It is permanent, perhaps a concept Trump is unable to understand and he has his fingerprints on the lethal weapons that killed our allies.

This isn’t just the rude pushing aside of the leader of Montenegro. It wasn’t just the insults aimed at Trudeau or Macron or May or Merkel. It wasn’t the idiotic trade tariffs on our friends. It wasn’t the sucking up to Putin and dismissing of the entire U.S. intelligence community.

We supported the Kurds who fought ISIS. They’re the people who put a lid on that murderous retro society that loves to conduct public beheadings and the Kurds lost 11,000 men and women doing it. All we did was to supply the tools. Then Trump got one phone call from the president of Turkey and he sicced the dogs on the Kurds.

Trump has done all he can to undermine NATO, embolden vicious despots and especially to promote Putin’s interests. With his brilliant back stabbing of the Kurds he’s made Putin the king maker in Syria and ceded the entire MIddle-East to Putin and to Iran. And Trump has pushed Erdoğan into Putin’s influence as well. That’s Erdoğan, president of Turkey, a NATO ally.

Angele Merkel may have been right when she said that Germany may now be the indispensable nation. What ally could possibly trust the U.S.? And why would Trump go to such outrageous lengths to undermine the interests of The United States?

See what conservative columnist Ross Douthat has to say about this in “Trump Is a Weak Man in a Strongman’s World”.

 

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
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Thanks!

NOTES:

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

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

Against Their Own Interest – and Syria Stupidity


Reading time – 3:47  .  .  .

A lot of barrels of ink have been emptied in an effort to explain why some American voters – largely rural people – consistently vote against their own interests. This predates Donald Trump, although he has been a beneficiary of it and has exploited it masterfully. My understanding of what appears to be a key driver of self-destructive behavior has largely been focused on the betrayal so many Americans feel. It’s borne of the obvious abandoning of promises made to them by various levels of government officials, especially those in our federal government.

Do you remember all those years of John Boehner, then Speaker of the House, declaring that the number one priority was, “Jobs, jobs, jobs”? The only bill passed to create more jobs while he was speaker was specifically for military veterans, and Boehner had to be shamed into passing that. Where did that leave the rest of our forgotten Americans?

They feel used for their tax money and abused by the system, so they’re angry. They’re naturally attracted to the angriest voice with the simplest solutions. They fear “others” who may be as far away as another country or as near as the closest big city.

And they don’t like immigrants, fearing they’re here to freeload off our public assistance programs. There are yet other ways Trump voters feel ripped off, because they don’t get a benefit from government programs – or at least they don’t believe that they do. Turns out, not surprisingly, that their disaffection is more elaborate than that.

Monica Potts wrote a stunning piece in the New York Times entitled “In the Land of Self-Defeat“. If you’ve ever puzzled over why people do what looks to you to be self-destructive, you’ll want to read this piece.  Potts quotes Katherine J. Cramer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin – Madison:

“The way these folks described the world to me, their basic concern was that people like them, in places like theirs, were overlooked and disrespected,” she wrote in Vox, explaining that her subjects considered ‘racial minorities on welfare’ as well as ‘lazy urban professionals’ working desk jobs to be undeserving of state and federal dollars. People like my neighbors hate that the government is spending money on those who don’t look like them and don’t live like them — but what I’ve learned since I came home is that they remain opposed even when they themselves stand to benefit.”

These folks have a “prevailing sense of scarcity,” so spending tax dollars on what to them are non-essentials is craziness. Indeed, Potts’ article was triggered by a hotly contested county issue about a proposed pay increase for a new librarian to $25 per hour. It was defeated. These folks contract their view to a very individual focus – you might call it extreme libertarian – which leaves them wondering why they should pay for that librarian if they and their family aren’t going to use the library.

The comments about immigrants particularly caught my attention and left me with a stark clarity that I’ve had for a long time: Too many of us have forgotten where we came from. By that I mean our immigrant forebears – our grandparents or great-grandparents who came here penniless and unable to understand English. We’ve forgotten their struggles and don’t seem able to glue our ignored past onto the plight of today’s refugees.

And another thing  .  .  .

Many thanks to S.S. for pointing to the tweet. Click the pic

Eliminating ISIS (or ISIL) has largely been accomplished except for a couple of strongholds in northern Syria. It has been done with American money and technology and Kurdish blood and lives.

As of this writing, President Trump has pulled all of our troops out of Syria. The decision was made following only a single phone call with President Erdoğan of Turkey. He didn’t consult with anyone who actually knows something about the situation in Syria. And he made the decision with no consideration of the likely outcomes of U.S. withdrawal.

The Turks hate our allies, the Kurds, and see them as their blood enemy. The U.S. pulling out of Syria will leave the Kurds without protection against the modern army and air power of the Turks, who will almost certainly swoop in and slaughter the Kurds – it’s already begun. And it will leave Syria firmly in the hands of our adversaries, Russia and Iran, and ISIS will be free to rebuild.

Have you noticed how many things Trump does that help Putin and Russia and simultaneously hurt our friends and allies?

This is so bad that even Republicans in Congress are pushing back. It’s a shame that they’re so late in finding their backbones.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

NOTES:

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

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

Balance – Eventually


Reading time – 1:50; Viewing time – 2:31  .  .  .
The plain-spoken admission of facts is usually refreshing. Yet what we’ve learned over the past few years is that clear speech sometimes falls galaxies away from refreshing. And sometimes there is no price that’s paid for being a very bad boy, even when there’s plain admission of wrongdoing.

There are exceptions, of course, like the Trump University fraud, for which Trump paid a $25 million settlement shortly after the 2016 election. Before that he bankrupted his 4 casinos and walked away leaving his bank holding an empty bag. People who deal with Trump have a way of getting hurt, while he skates free, as though he’s entitled to impunity.

So far, as candidate and president, Trump has gotten away with nearly everything, including his wrongdoing that has been on public display and his admitting to the facts of his wrongdoing – like his quid pro quo manipulation of the president of Ukraine and his inviting China to interfere with our 2020 election and so much more. He’s very much like the quite corrupt Colonel Jessup in the movie A Few Good Men.

Jessup’s attitude is the same as Trump’s, the assumption that he can justify anything, including manslaughter, brag about it and get away with it. Go ahead and watch the 4-second clip – you’ll remember the scene.

Consider that Jessup’s playing fast and loose with the law at last caught up with him. This time his plain-spoken admission of the facts didn’t allow him to get away with his criminal actions and he went to jail.

Now Trump is on the way to being impeached, in large measure because of his plain-spoken admission of his wrongdoing. It remains to be seen if he will be convicted in the Senate. In the end, though, conviction or not, he will be indicted for a lot of crimes and he will go to jail.

What goes around comes around and the universe always balances things out. It just doesn’t always do it on the timetable we prefer and a lot of people – even an entire country – get hurt along the way. Nevertheless, Trump is on the way to getting what he has long deserved. Our job is to stay the course of justice to see that he gets it.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

NOTES:

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

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

Brutal – By The Numbers


Reading time – 3:50; Viewing time – 4:55  .  .  .

I’ve long believed that the hope for the world is our young people. Here are two reasons why I see things that way:

  1. We adults have made the terrible messes we’re in and we steadfastly refuse to do anything to make things better.
  2. Our young people won’t stand for our self-destruction and hypocrisy.

Sure, they’re idealistic, just like you and I used to be – remember? Then life intervened and we started making compromises. We all do. Now we’re at the point where the majority of us tolerate non-stop lying and cheating and stealing. Some of us wring hands over that, but a majority of our citizens and, indeed, a majority of the world, sits in stupefyingly dull states of semi-consciousness, our vision sorely compromised by the complex mess we’ve created. We act as though consequences don’t exist, as though what has been will always be and even as though that would be okay – it wouldn’t be – and as though there is no price for ignoring the startlingly obvious threatening realities all around us.

But our young people aren’t mired in the goo we’ve used to blind ourselves. They see perfectly and clearly what is all around us and they won’t tolerate it. Here are just two examples:

  1. The Parkland kids stood up and called B.S. They continue to push for Never Again and are driving the decades overdue overhaul of our murderous assumptions about gun rights and to push for legislation to begin to stop our free flow of blood.
  2. You saw the beginning of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg’s quest to reverse global warming. She started by sailing to America instead of riding in a fossil fueled airplane. Then she addressed the United Nations and spoke the outrage her generation feels for what we older people have done to their future: “HOW DARE YOU?” she demanded.

These people won’t be denied and they shouldn’t be, because they are going to live – or die – with the consequences we dump on them and they’ll suffer much longer than those of us now raiding the planet for short term gain and those of us who blunder along, oblivious to the realities of the climate changes and the gun massacres that threaten us every day.

To be clear and fair, two generations ago we boomers were like today’s young people. We made “the establishment” end the war in Vietnam, abolish the military draft and lower the voting age to 18. Then we became what we are now, an obstacle to meeting our existential challenges.

This is brutal talk – I get that. But our condition is increasingly brutal and we can’t afford more exercises in self-sabotage. So, I’ll tell you what we need to do in a simple 3-step formula:

  1. Identify and work for candidates for all elective offices who think young, act young and aren’t burdened by self-destructive legacy mindsets, because we can’t solve 21st century problems with 19th and 20th century thinking.
  2. Vote for those candidates. And make sure others do, too – your buds, your family, your FaceBook friends, co-workers, casual acquaintances, people sharing the elevator with you, the cashier at the supermarket, the dog walkers, bicycle riders, joggers, walkers and shufflers in your neighborhood – make sure all of them vote for these right-thinking candidates.
  3. Once they’re in office, dog their tracks to ensure they’re doing what we need them to do. No back-sliding. No wimping out. This is no time for cowardice.

Does that sound like a lot of work? Well, citizenship is work. But what is at stake is survival. Don’t believe me?

  1. Ask any of the survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School, or the Tree of Life Synagogue, or the Gilroy Garlic Festival, or Columbine High School, or the Orlando night club, or Sandy Hook Elementary School, or Gabby Giffords.
  2. Ask the people living in the squalor of what’s left of the Bahamas or, for that matter, Puerto Rico, or the survivors of the Thousand Oaks fires, or the people in Houston whose homes are now submarines, or the people in Miami Beach whose streets are flooded even when it’s not high tide.

We are in a fight for survival, and refusing to fight is not an option. And really, a little political action just isn’t all that hard to do.

We can do this. Now, let’s get to work.

————————————

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!

NOTES:

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

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

2020 Presidential Debate


Reading time – 3:39  .  .  .

Transcript of Presidential Debate, October 6, 2020

Anderson Cooper:

Mr. President, to pick just one issue, in the summer of 2019 you claimed that Alabama was at risk of a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian, when your own National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center had made it clear days earlier that the hurricane would travel north along the Atlantic coast and wouldn’t come anywhere near Alabama. Why did you warn Alabamans to take shelter from a hurricane that was not going to arrive? And who drew that obviously forged Sharpie bubble onto a National Weather Service map?

President Trump:

You’re wrong as usual, Anderson. Wrong. That’s just more fake news, fake news, everybody. CNN should lose its license because of all the fake news you spread. You and the rest of the fake news are the enemy of the American people. The enemy. Fake news. There it is for everyone to see, folks. Fake news.

The people of Alabama were at severe risk, so I bravely stepped up for them. I protected my people. I’m a hero. There was a severe risk. The National Weather Service said so. They made the Birmingham office apologize and say I was right. You ought to report on that, Anderson, instead of the fake news you tell people. You’re fake news, Anderson. Fake news. And I’m a hero.

AC

Senator Warren, you have 30 seconds for your rebuttal.

Senator Warren:

Well, that’s a perfect example of the president saying things that aren’t just false. but are easily disproven. That raises the key question of this election.

Mr. President, for you to repeatedly say things that are so obviously false leaves us with only two possible explanations:

  1. You are not just ignorant, but willfully so. And in your not knowing, you haven’t the sense to keep your mouth shut. Or,
  2. You know the truth but speak contrary to it. That is to say, you lie.

Which is it, Mr. President? Please tell the American people: are you ignorant or are you a liar?

DT

Well, there you go, Pocahontas, speaking with a forked tongue. Everyone knows you’re not trustworthy, not at all trustworthy. You’re just like Hillary. Just like Hillary. She’s untrustworthy and you’re just like her. Untrustworthy.

And you’re a socialist. We’re Americans, but you’re a socialist. You’re not even a true American. You’re not like us. You’re a socialist.

People are saying – I’m hearing this every day – people are saying that you lied your way into Harvard. That you  lied. And you told American business people that they didn’t build their businesses, that those hard working business people didn’t build their businesses. Who built their businesses, you? I don’t think so. I don’t think so at all. You’re against everything American. You just aren’t American. People are saying this.

And you’d be a disaster dealing with Kim Jung Un, this I can tell you. This I can tell you. A disaster.

AC

Senator Warren, you may respond.

EW

I have to admit that with your reply to my question, Mr. President, you’ve shown us a 3rd and even a 4th possible explanation for you saying so many thousands of false things. Number 3 is that you’re an imbecile. Number 4 is that you are mentally deranged, a psychopath.

You didn’t answer my question, so let’s try this once again. We now have 4 possible explanations for your thousands of false statements. Which one explains your dishonesty, Mr. President? Are you ignorant, a liar, an imbecile or a psychopath?

AC

Mr. President would you care to respond to Senator Warren?

DT

You know, Pocahontas likes to get people to think that she’s some kind of genius, but she’s no genius. No genius. She’s not even smart. She’s not a smart person.

The economy is great. It’s just great. People have jobs. Lots of jobs. So many jobs that people are sick of jobs. Manufacturing jobs are coming back to the U.S. and my tariffs have brought China to its knees. That’s how powerful I am. I’m a very powerful person. And I still have a great relationship with President Xi – he likes me very much. He called me twice yesterday. Twice. We have a great relationship. He likes me very much.

The stock market is at record highs. But she doesn’t understand that. She’s not too smart. Record highs. I told you I’m a genius and now you see it. I’m so smart – I’m a genius. She’s not too smart. This I can tell you.

If she becomes president we’ll still be at war in 2024 because she can’t stand up to the Taliban. She’s not a strong person. And she doesn’t know a thing about how to negotiate. I’m the most powerful negotiator. That’s why I’m the chosen one to deal with these things. I’m very powerful. She’s not strong. She’s very weak. I’m very powerful. I’m the best negotiator.

EW

This is absolutely googly-eye crazy.

Unemployment is up 1.5% over the past 12 months, the Dow is down 17% and not even one manufacturing job has been repatriated to the U.S. Because of your tariffs our family farms have gone bankrupt at a rate not seen since the Great Depression. You’ve ruined our economy, you’ve hurt hard working Americans and your cruelty to people seeking asylum has shattered our credibility around the world. No amount of fantasy from you will change these facts.

Your negotiations with the leaders of the most dangerous nations on Earth have given them status and power they couldn’t have gained any other way, while we in the United States have gained nothing. You get photo-ops with tyrants and the United States is left in danger.

And nobody cares whether President Xi likes you.

Nobody likes being lied to, either, so please tell the American people why you tell them so many false things.

DT

I’m not even going to talk to you. These things are things you can’t understand. Maybe you would if you were a smart person, but you’re not smart. Not smart at all. I’m a genius and you’re not even smart.

Maybe you’d get it if you were a deal maker, a great negotiator like me, but you’re not. You’re not. There’s no point explaining things to you. You’d be a disaster as president. A disaster. Imagine her dealing with the Iranians or even Justin Trudeau. She’d be a disaster. This I can tell you. This I can tell you.

EW

I’m not even going to talk to you“? Is that how you deal with leaders of nations? With the heads of the Cabinet? Is that how you work with Congressional leaders to deal with the challenges and opportunities America faces? “I’m not even going to talk to you“?

Gotta admit that, what with your refusal to meet with Robert Mueller and your illegal stonewalling of Congressional subpoenas, you did deal with Mueller and the House Judiciary Committee that way. What’s next, threatening to hold your breath until you turn blue?

AC

We’re going to break. When we return we’ll look at what to do about the tens of thousands of refugees from Central America still at our southern border and the thousands of children still locked up.

DT

She’d be a disaster. This I can tell you. And CNN is fake news. Enemy of the people. Fake news. People are saying that only I can lead this nation. People are saying that. And it’s true. This I can tell you: only I can make America great again.

EW

OMG

Finally,

Saudi oil fields were attacked by cruise missiles and the U.S. administration has claimed that the missiles came from Iran. The president and vice president have used words like “locked and loaded” and made other threatening statements toward Iran in reaction to the attack. Here’s the question.

The Saudis have the largest military in the middle-east and are quite capable of taking whatever retaliatory action they deem necessary. The United States has not been attacked. So, why is the Trump administration threatening retaliatory military action against Iran?

 

————————————

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!

NOTES:

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

 


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

How To Lose an Election


Reading time – 3:52; Viewing time – 5:08  .  .  .

Set aside for the moment your notions of what you want and how you want to go about making it happen. Focus, instead, on how to win the presidential election, presented here in inverted format as the sure path to the Democrats’ loss.

Start with this: The Democrats already have all the votes of their True Believers and those a bit closer to the center. Lots of women and lots of people of color will vote Democratic for the obvious reasons. The battle is for the marginal voters, the independents and the former Trump voters who only voted for Trump because he wasn’t Hillary. Be reasonable with them and they’ll vote for the Democrat. Be foolishly partisan and extreme and they’ll vote for Trump and we’ll get 4 more years of insanity.

Key point: Change scares people and big, rapid change scares people a lot. Small incremental change is easier to tolerate, so offer that.

Marginal voters will vote for Trump if you tell them that you’re going to take away their private healthcare insurance. It doesn’t matter that he’s trying to do worse. Explaining how Medicare for All will be better for them will fall on deaf ears. Parsing out the nuanced differences between extreme plans will, at best, put voters to sleep. It will not shift a single vote to Democrats.

In order to scare away red, white and blue Americans, all you have to do is to tell them about the socialist Medicare for All program that Democrats are going to force on them. To most Americans that’s the same as telling them that Comrade Vladimir or Chairman Xi will be our next president. So, stop with the socialism, because it’s a guaranteed election loser. Explanations are useless to blunt the enormous fear that will be fostered by the threat of socialism.

In fact, for all policies, if you have to explain it, it’s a loser.

If you want to be sure that all gun owners vote against the Democrat candidate, tell them you’re going to take their guns. Regardless of what the Democrats say about military assault rifles, all you will hear from Republicans is “slippery slope”. Opponents will claim that taking their military assault rifles is just the first step to confiscating all guns and making criminals of otherwise law abiding citizens because they didn’t turn in their target pistols.

You’ll hear that a thousand times and there will be over-the-top SuperPAC ads warning of an Orwellian dystopian future and the subjugation of the people if gun confiscating Democrats have their way. Democrats will lose and Trump will win.

What about telling voters you’re going to give everyone $1,000 per month? Or $10,000 per month? Or that the solution to all problems is for the government to give away cash? Who believes this lunacy?

Another sure loser is to tell the American people that we’re going to have open borders. Seriously, now, the people are already afraid of terrorists and immigrants who they think will steal their jobs. Telling them that when you’re president you’ll make it easier for such people to just walk into the country is a guaranteed victory for Trump.

This is just a short list of actual candidate policies and positions that are enthusiastically being promoted. Every one of them will drive away millions of voters and give President Orange more time to trash our democracy, suck up to Putin and hurt yet more people.

I don’t have the sense that you can change candidate policy positions, but you can work for and vote for people in primaries who aren’t going to scare the daylights out of Americans. That will lead to a candidate who can contrast powerfully with Trump, and his bullying, cluelessness and incompetence will be on full display and he will disqualify himself.

Recall that Trump won in part because he spoke to people’s fears, many of which were borne of rapid change, like globalization. If Democrats incite people’s fears with the promise – perceived as a threat – of large, rapid change, they will have surrendered in 2020, lost the election and Trump will stay in the Oval Office for 4 more disastrous years.

Key point: Change scares people and big, rapid change scares people a lot. Small incremental change is easier to tolerate, so offer that.

Smarten up, Democrats.


Finally,

In one of life’s great ironies we learned that Donald Trump, the chosen one, is capable of making John Bolton a sympathetic character. Who would have thought it possible?

————————————

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!

NOTES:

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

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

Guest Essay – The Real Reason


Reading time – 4:35  .  .  .

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addendum

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

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

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


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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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Root Cause


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

From The Other 98% – click me

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


————————————

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

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

Focus


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Like fabricating a run up to war with Iran.

– Like putting yet more children in cages.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



           ————————————

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,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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