political stupidity

Sometimes The Truth Hurts

Reading time – 2:13; Viewing time – 3:04  .  .  .

A friend offered a link to a New York Times article entitled “Democrats Are Playing Checkers While Trump Is Playing Chess.” He wrote, “The president’s manipulation of racial, cultural and economic anxiety will continue to serve him well politically. Until it doesn’t.”

So I read the article and recommend that you do, too. Here’s my reply.

Yeah, well, the truth hurts. I agree with all of this, albeit with frustration in my heart.

I see at least three pieces. First, is the substance of the issues that are important to people, like the crumbling of our towns and cities when people are displaced by rapid global changes; like the demographic upheaval caused by the incremental national shifting to a non-white majority; like the loss of manufacturing jobs, the majority of which are attributable to technology and innovation.

Second, there is the fear people feel over all these issues. Nobody has solved the globalization issue, for example, and it leads to fear, then anger, then irrational, self-defeating behavior, like Brexit and Trump. Christian whites have privileges that are incrementally being challenged, the reaction to which manifests itself in the extreme of neo-Nazis chanting, “Jews will not replace us” and in white supremacist hate spewing and in voter suppression fueled by anger and indignation over our nearly nonexistent voter fraud.

Third – and I’ve been saying this for a long time – Democrats are HORRIBLE at messaging. Recognizing that Ds have some good ideas, the way they present them is at times incoherent, uninspiring, self-defeating, inconsistent, punch-less and at times insulting. I’ve often wondered if anybody at the DNC has taken even an elementary course in marketing.

“I’m with her” – really? Assuming the notion of the Hillary team was that such language would rally women and feminist-sympathizing men to the D side, that pretty much slapped everyone else in the face, because nobody but family and close friends of Hillary were all about her. We humans are all about ourselves and the D’s messaging completely failed to recognize that.


Tara Thomas at the coffin of her Green Beret husband, Shawn, killed in Niger in February, 2017

Another way the truth hurts is when we see that the President of the United States has failed to honor those who sacrifice their lives for our country. Perversely, in their death they make it possible for him to lie about caring about them. Their death preserves the freedom for him to falsely accuse former Presidents of having blown off our fallen military people. Their coming home in flag-draped coffins gives him the freedom to make condolences to the families of our military dead all about himself.

How long will the 38% tolerate his behavior?

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

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

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

Reasons Why

Reading time – 2:01; Viewing time – 3:12  . .  .

I’m on a continuing quest to figure out how we politically polarized Americans can begin to talk with one another. To that end, I’m spending time with Trump voters, asking why they voted as they did. Here are some of the main reasons I’m hearing:

  • – Anyone but Hillary
  • – Wanted a conservative Supreme Court pick
  • – Angry at the establishment for all the broken promises and were attracted by a non-politician
  • – Didn’t want a 3rd Obama term

There’s no question that some Trump voters responded to his dog whistle racist comments, his refusal to repudiate hate groups and his calls for violence. But if you’re accusing all Trump voters of being racist, you’re a huge part of the problem of our national inability to work together. Stop it.

Because it’s critical that we Americans work together right now.

The President of the United States is engaging in petty schoolyard bully taunts with the infantile and diabolical leader of North Korea. You already know that Trump has called Kim Jong Un “Rocket man” and has threatened to totally destroy North Korea. Kim has called Trump “a mentally deranged U.S. dotard” and the stupid stuff fires back and forth daily. All of that would be laughable, were it not for the nuclear bombs that are a part of the threats.

There’s more, of course, but one reader texted to me that, “NEVER did I imagine that in my lifetime I would lose sleep over dying by being blown up.” That is what Trump’s bellicose rhetoric has done to a lot of people. It might be excusable if there were the faintest hope that there was an actual strategy to eliminate nuclear weapons in North Korea, but Trump has never shown the slightest interest in anything more sophisticated than name calling. So much for there being a strategy. Where does that leave the rest of us?

Ultimately, safety in the world is the key issue – nothing else matters if the nukes start flying – and Trump has undermined our sense of safety in the world. Do you suppose that the chest thumping that Trump’s rhetoric stimulates in his base is worth the threat of nuclear annihilation?

The long term version of the same thing is global warming. It’s going to get us – our children and grand children, really – and the longer we tolerate a president and 54 senators who deny global warming, the worse things will be. That’s why our participating in the guidelines of the Paris Climate Agreement matters, even if the Denier-in-Chief wants to make political hay with his base by scoffing at this mortal threat to humankind.

The bad news about both playing nuclear chicken and ignoring global warming is that initially each will cause great suffering and millions of deaths. The good news is that after a while each will cease to be an issue.

And that’s why it’s critical that we Americans work together right now.

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Stay clear-headed about efforts to stop nuclear proliferation (I.e. more countries getting nukes and playing nuclear chicken with us). Read this, especially the last paragraph, and this. Thanks go to S.S.and J.C. for the links. Also, read this from The Gallup Organization.

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

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

Read More…

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

Un-Republican

Reading time – 2:58; Viewing time – 4:31  .  .  .

I used to think of myself as a Republican – an Eisenhower Republican. At this point, though, I don’t know what it means to be a Republican. Or a conservative. It seems that extreme-ism is the battle cry of the 21st century and now the Republican Party is casting off any semblance of moderation and even simple respect for opposing views.

Ronald Reagan told us he was a true conservative. He believed in small government and low taxes. Then he bloated the federal government and raised taxes six times. What’s conservative about that?

David Stockman was Reagan’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, who famously declared in an interview for The Atlantic entitled “The Education of David Stockman,” that, “I mean, Kemp-Roth [Reagan’s 1981 tax cut] was always a Trojan horse to bring down the top rate…. It’s kind of hard to sell ‘trickle down.’ So the supply-side formula was the only way to get a tax policy that was really ‘trickle down.'” In other words, trickle-down was a ruse to get tax cuts for rich people. That dishonesty created decades of stagnation for middle class and working people. What’s conservative about that?

George W. Bush started two avoidable wars against countries that did us no harm. Then, instead of raising the taxes needed to pay for his wars like every other war president in American history, he drastically reduced taxes, which assured massive debt in the trillions of dollars. What’s conservative about that?

Then the Tea Partiers came and shut down our government to prevent the raising of the national debt limit. The debt limit was and is about authorizing the issuing of debt instruments so that we can pay for what we’ve already purchased – essentially it’s about keeping our word to pay our bills. The Tea Partiers – Republicans all – tried to make us into a dead beat nation. What is conservative about that?

Restrictive voting laws have been enacted in many states to prevent our almost non-existent voter fraud. The effect of these laws is to prevent tens – perhaps hundreds – of thousands of legal voters from voting. That’s anti-Constitutional, so what is conservative about that?

Kris Kobach, the face of dishonest voter fraud claims.

Now Kris Kobach, the former flame-throwing Secretary of State of Kansas who made his bones by railing against non-existent voter fraud, is heading a commission – a fraudulent commission (also here and here). He and his band of liars and thieves are trying to institutionalize voter suppression, this from the federal level. Be clear that this is yet another Republican Trojan horse, in that the real purpose of the Kobach Commission is to extend the last gasp of control for a vanishing white majority. What’s conservative about the pernicious lies of these lying liars (thank you, Al Franken, for the descriptive words)? What’s conservative about stripping voting rights from the young, the old, the poor and those of color?

The Republican Party has verbally championed conservatism, but it seems to want to conserve the kinds of things that are at odds with anything that is conservative or even patriotic. Whatever happened to loyalty and justice and the rule of law, the kinds of things that Republicans used to want to conserve? They keep telling us that they’re the party of Lincoln, but they do things that Lincoln would have found both abhorrent and illegal.

Charlie Christ, former Republican governor of Florida, switched parties, declaring that he didn’t leave the Republican Party; rather, the Republican Party left him. He’s right. So are all the other former Republicans, like Rep. Patrick Murphy (now D-FL) and those who threw up their hands in disgust and quit, like former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN). Perhaps today’s Republican Party needs a new name: The Un-Repubican Party.

Wait, though. We the People keep electing these extremists, so, sadly, we’re getting what we deserve. Perhaps we have to wake up and smell the Constitution. Otherwise, we can start calling ourselves We the Un-People.

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

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

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

Disambiguation – DACA Edition

Reading time – 1:03  .  .  .

The story is now smothered by news of the impending hurricane in Florida, but you know what happened. President FBI Target decided that decency and good sense have no place in our immigration system, so he announced that he is cancelling DACA effective March, 2018. He claims that will help to ease our unemployment, strengthen our borders, raise wages, eliminate terrorism, remove criminals from our shores, bring an end to cable news and cure male pattern baldness. Okay, I made up the last two. But he did promise all the rest.

Sadly, this is simply another set of Trumpian bald-face lies that politicize the fate of people who are innocent of any wrongdoing on their part. You know who they are – people brought here as children who had no say in the decision to arrive and no way to refuse. They only know America and American English. They were on the playground with your kids, on the soccer team, the school orchestra and in the chess club. They worked minimum wage jobs for pocket money or to save for college. They enlisted in our military and started businesses. Yes, those people. And now Trump wants to kick them out.

The good news is that, unlike Trump, you have a sense of decency. That’s why you’ll read this piece by President Obama, then go to this website and follow the simple instructions to make your voice heard.

Because betraying our American values is not okay with you.

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Finally, if you’ll be in the Chicago area on October 4, come join us for a presentation by Mike Papantonio, host of Ring of Fire Radio. Here’s a link to get tickets. Space is limited, so, “Don’t you wait and be too late.” This promises to be a terrific evening for those who still actually think.

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

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

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

Another Modest Proposal

Reading time – 1:46; Viewing time – 3:07  .  .  .

In the wake of the Charlottesville tragedy, many in the white supremacist, neo-Nazi, and KKK hate clubs are calling for an all-white North America. They offer little clarity about what they would do with the hundreds of millions of non-whites and non-Christian whites now living between the southern border of Mexico and the Arctic Circle, but there is little doubt that those in the sewer of hate have marshaled both of their collective brain cells and have managed to make a declarative statement that they want all those not just like them to be gone from North America. I have a better and easier solution.

The state of Alaska is way larger than Texas and only has about 742,000 residents, so there are vast spaces that are totally uninhabited. Let’s carve out an area of, say, 100 square miles somewhere in the vast, bleak northern third of the state, a section that’s without oil, and give it to the skinheads and the idiots with white hoods. We’ll keep it fenced with the technology of Trump’s “beautiful wall” in order to keep the haters away from the rest of us.

Inside the wall they can light torches, burn crosses, carry loaded guns and threaten one another to their hearts’ content. Maybe we can relocate the Robert. E. Lee statue there, along with the one of Jefferson Davis and the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first pinhead grand wizard of the KKK. Let them fly Confederate and Nazi flags, hold Kristallnacht festivals and show one another that they are proud, goose stepping morons. That area has extremely long nights in the winter, so they’ll have lots of time for their brainless tiki-torch parades.

The haters will then have what they want, their all-white piece of North America. Given their violent solutions to all problems, they will likely cull their own herd and eventually will no longer be of any consequence to the rest of us. Best of all, we won’t have to suffer their feigned victim-hood, their manufactured rage and the hate that they vomit onto innocent Americans.

One last comment  .  .  .

Those who fought for the Confederacy were traitors. They fought for the right to have and abuse slaves. There was nothing remotely noble about their cause.

It may be pleasing to some needing to self-justify to honor those traitors of long ago, but traitors are criminals and are subject to execution, so why would we not apply the appropriate posthumous remedy of obscurity to Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis and the rest of the leaders of the traitorous Confederacy?

Tear down all the memorials to the Confederacy. Keep the truth in our history books (no, it was not a northern war of aggression) and call the Confederacy exactly what it was: a traitorous insurgency and selfish grab for the right to enslave other people.

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

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

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

Placating the Haters

Reading time – 1:38 seconds; Viewing time – 2:19  .  .  .

Click for the story and video on CNN

The recent massacre in Charlottesville, Virginia brought out the worst of Donald Trump – again. Here’s coverage from CNN quoting Trump’s speech:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” Trump said during a short statement from his private golf club in New Jersey. “It has been going on for a long time in our country — not Donald trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.”

The President did not mention white nationalists and the alt-right movement in his remarks, and later called for a “study” of the “situation.” [emphasis added]

Once again Trump failed to apply the words “racist” and “racism” and “antisemitism” and”bigotry” and “violence” solely to the white supremacists, where it belongs. Once again he has failed to call out the haters, except this time he made them sound as though they’re equivalent to those who object to and protest the hatred. Yes, he equated those protesting hate with a murderer in a silver Dodge Charger and the skinheads across the street.

Trump has claimed that he’s the least racist person you’ve ever seen, but he discriminated against blacks in his New York buildings. He was happy to have David Duke’s endorsement and had to be pressured into disowning it. He’s called Mexicans rapists and tried to exclude all Muslims from America. Perhaps it’s his bigotry that causes him to issue mealy-mouth, disingenuous statements about those who harm innocents who aren’t of Christian European ancestry.

Or maybe it’s because this president’s ratings are in the tank – he only has support from 37% of Americans – his “base” – and he can’t afford to lose any more popular support, so he continues to placate the haters. That is to say, once again, he’s made it all about Trump, the president with absolutely no sense of morality and no purpose other than self-aggrandizement, all this as our people bleed in the street.

In Other News

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

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

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

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

Figure It Out

Reading time – 3:57; Viewing time – 6:38  .  .  .

We have yet another edition of the interpretation game, “I think what the President meant was  .  .  .” His “fire and fury” ad lib has spawned no end of pols, politicians and pundits pretending they can get into the President’s very unusual brain and interpret his most recent inane statement, trying to make rational sense of Trump’s irrationality. Listen for the interpretation game words following his next tweet designed to take the focus off the investigation into his possible collusion with the election hacking Russians. Those who take the bait and respond to his 140-character stupid stuff will use the exact words, “I think what the President meant was  .  .  .” That’s the moment you’ll know that listening further is a waste of your life.

It’s so sad that the President of the United States requires so much interpretation and guesswork in order to have any hope of understanding his meaning. Actually, it’s far worse than that. Be sure to read through to the last section of this post for the existential implications.

Thom Hartmann recently asked a question on his radio show, inquiring of callers whom they would prefer as President, Donald Trump or Mike Pence. In this era of expected impeachment, that was a thought provoking question and some interesting views emerged. Here’s my short list:

Donald Trump:

He is a non-stop chaos creator and his actions are dangerous for us and for the world.

Trump’s dalliances with non-reality are an impediment to solving our national problems.

Under the spell of Stephen Bannon, Trump is working to “bring the establishment crashing down,” which means he wants to eliminate much of what we think of as good things, like education, the environment, healthcare, our fundamental functions of government, the press and more.

There is a danger that we’ll become weary of Trump’s crazy and destructive behavior and stop paying attention. That’s when the really bad stuff will happen.

Trump is incompetent enough to start a nuclear war.

Mike Pence:

He’s a serial liar.

Pence wants to make the United States of America a Christian theocracy. Forget about whether you like the idea; it’s unconstitutional. And you better hope he isn’t an Armageddon crazy.

When Pence was Governor of Indiana he was proud to discriminate against the LGBTQ community as though doing so were somehow constitutional. He is holy unhinged.

I have no basis for saying this, but I think it’s possible that Pence has enough competence to avoid nuclear war. But that’s just a guess.

What all of that and more means is that neither Trump nor Pence is a good choice. Still, impeachment will happen before January 20, 2019 (my best guess) – or Trump will resign so that he can declare he’s a victim, proceed to demonize his detractors with scathing tweets and otherwise lie constantly and have his signature temper tantrums.

On the other hand, should Trump somehow escape the Mueller noose, he may run again in 2020 and will obliterate Pence the same way he did “Little Marco”, “Low energy Jeb” and “Lyin’ Ted”. Try these for Trumpian slime-names:

“Plastic Pence”

“Boring Mike”

“Do nothing Mike”

“Back-stabbin’ Mike”

“Drop the Mike”

It’s unlikely you’ll actually have to choose between Trump and Pence. Nevertheless, weigh in with your view of these very flawed characters in the Comments section below. Which one would you prefer in the West Wing? Note that “Choice E, None of the above” is not an option for this exercise.

In Other News  .  .  .

The healthcare craziness in Congress has quieted, but the issue is not settled. To understand where We The People see this, have a look at the Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll of August 11, 2017. Here’s one of the charts from this most interesting report.There is much to learn from the poll and this chart highlights one of the key points. Note the resistance among Trump supporters to making the ACA work. It’s that consistent 30-something percent of Americans who back Trump no matter how wacky, insulting or dishonest his behavior. Meanwhile, a significant majority of Americans now like the ACA and want its weak points fixed.

Congress: Do you hear us?

And finally  .  .  .

President Trump has flexed his ego muscles by threatening Kim Jung-un and North Korea. He’s done that using inflammatory, belligerent language much like a schoolyard bully. Trump never backs down, regardless of how obvious it is that what he has done is counterproductive or dishonest, so instead of finding a way for diplomacy to work, he has instead suggested that his threats may have been, of all things, too mild. All of his chest thumping has been done in the total absence of any direct diplomacy. There are no talks underway with North Korean officials. We have no means of dialogue with them. We don’t even have an ambassador to South Korea because Trump has refused to appoint one.

The President’s in-your-face behavior is happening in this context of no possibility for diplomacy, which leaves few choices to Kim Jung-un. Trump has backed him into a corner where if he caves in to Trump’s threats, he will lose face on the international stage. He just may feel that there is more honor and ego protecting in striking out militarily and causing millions to die, rather than to cave in to the American tough talker. All those deaths will occur because of Trump’s self-imposed limitation that our only international negotiating tool is military force.

And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who refuses to recruit a full and capable diplomatic team, tells us to sleep well. Good luck with that.

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

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

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

Harry Potter and What We Are

Reading time – 2:40; Viewing time – 3:44  .  .  .

  • “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” J.K. Rowling, from Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets.

Let’s imagine that Rowling has offered a valuable insight – that it’s our choices that show who we truly are – and consider these points:

  1. Donald Trump has refused to say anything to suggest that he fully agrees with his 17 national security agencies that the Russians hacked not just Hillary Clinton’s and John Podesta’s emails, but also sought to affect our national election. He has compounded that by offering no leadership to counter this ongoing invasion of America by a foreign adversary. He’s dismantling our cyber security oversight and has had more friendly involvement with covertly hostile Russian officials than he’s had with anyone else.
  2. Trump brought top Russian officials into the Oval Office, this in the absence of an American translator. While there he passed top secret espionage information to them, which put Israeli intelligence people in peril.
  3. Trump met for an hour at the G20 dinner with Vladimir Putin. The only other participant in the conversation was Putin’s translator. That means that Trump doesn’t know what was relayed from him to Putin, nor can he know what Putin actually said.
  4. Rex Tillerson is incrementally dismantling the State Department. You know, the people who conduct U.S. diplomacy.
  5. Betsy DeVos is working to dismantle public education.
  6. Scott Pruitt is dismantling the EPA, including the Clean Water Act. Drink up.
  7. I don’t know what Rick Perry is doing to the Department of Energy, about which he knows next to nothing. What we can be sure of is that he wants to eliminate the department, this according to his “Oops!” moment at a Republican debate in 2016.
  8. Trump and the Republicans pound the blatantly false drum beat that Obamacare is dead. Now Trump wants to eliminate it, provide nothing to replace it and leave millions of Americans – 1 in 10 of us – adrift with no access to medical care but the emergency room.
  9. Trump continues to blow off our allies and cozy up to Putin. This is particularly vexing because the Republicans have spent decades telling us that they are the muscular protectors of America against the bad Russians and that the Democrats are weak-kneed and can’t be counted on to stand up to the bad guys. Now, though, the Republicans seem to have Kryptonite strapped to them and they’re mute about Trump’s “love-the-Russians” behavior.
  10. The Onion had a touching and troubling take on what we’re doing about immigration. Watch it here.
  11. Now we hear that Trump is investigating presidential pardons for his staff, his family and for himself, even though nobody has officially been charged with a crime. He’s also working to discredit the Special Counsel and his team and has threatened to fire Robert Mueller. All we’ve heard has come from eyebrow raising pundits. We’ve heard nothing from members of the President’s party. Where is the outrage?

There’s more, of course. The point is that our choices – our actions – declare what we are, just as J.K. Rowling said. What are we saying about who we are?

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

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

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

Separation Anxiety

Reading time – 3:29; Viewing time – 4:50  .  .  .

We long ago decided that the First Amendment limitation declaring clearly that, “Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” no longer meant “separation of church and state.” Back in 1956 our enemy was the godless Soviet Union, so we proved we were holier than they were by turf-grabbing God and stamping “In God We Trust” on our currency and any other place the ink would stick. That was far more chest-puffing than the emotionless E Pluribus Unum, which actually had served us well as the motto of the U.S. since 1782. We sure showed those commies something.

The problem, of course, is that there are millions of Americans who don’t trust in the God envisioned by the red-baiters of the 1950s and who should have been protected from that Yoda-phrased motto by the clear implication of the First Amendment. It had long been interpreted as not just freedom of religion, but also freedom from religion.

Fifty years later that didn’t matter to George W. Bush, who promoted public support of religion through what he called “faith-based initiatives.” Translation: Give public tax money to churches. Sadly for the Constitution, that worked – Bush and the Bible thumpers won that round, too.

And they’re winning more ground still. Just this month the Supreme Court decided that public funds could not be withheld from a Missouri religious school which needed to repave its daycare playground surfaces. Once again that means pubic tax dollars will be going to a church.

Betsy DeVos is the latest in the string of would-be reformers of education who just doesn’t get it. She has never attended a public school, having always been in the silver spoon club, nor so much as served on a public school board, so she really has no knowledge of the purview of her department of government. In her educational myopia she thinks that privately owned charter schools and parochial schools are the answer to the problems our education system is facing. Said another way, De Vos wants to give billions of dollars of public tax money to church-owned, church-run schools. In this era of fuzzy-brained legislators and a loud evangelical section of the citizenry, she just might get away with that. Doing so won’t meet our educational challenges, but it will further erode the separation of church and state.

The undermining of the Bill of Rights goes in other directions, too. President Trump wants to revamp our libel laws so he can sue the press whenever he doesn’t like their coverage of him. He publicly demeans and attacks the press, nearly always without justification, so that now our approval of the very people who hold public officials accountable including the President is down to less than one-third. How long do you suppose it will be until the press gets muzzled by an autocratic boot crushing the First Amendment guarantee against the abridgement of freedom of the press?

The moral of this story is that our rights were a very good idea, but only for a while, and they’re no longer rights at all. Many far righties are pushing for a Constitutional Convention so they can remake our entire national framework to their liking. Who do you suppose you’ll run into as you follow the money to learn who will benefit from the abandoning of our rights, the elimination of environmental protections, the shedding of food and pharmaceutical oversight and the denial of climate change? You can trust that it’s the usual suspects, the ones with the very deep pockets. The rights and protections these extremists seek to destroy are no longer even a speed bump on the road to discarding the Constitution entirely.

Frighteningly, we may not be able to count on many of our elected officials to stop that. David Frum clearly outlines the peril in this piece. And former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul makes clear that we cannot count on the President to protect us, either. Former Treasury Secretary Laurence Summers agrees.

With our Republican legislators each scrambling to be the last one to find a spine, the 2018 election looks to be of even greater importance than was the election in 2016. Those of us who continue to believe that the Bill of Rights is a really good thing for America and Americans have our work to do.

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

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

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

Bluster and Garbage

Reading time – 2:11; Viewing time – 3:18  .  .  .

North Korea launched a rocket this week that appears to have the capabilites of an intercontinental ballistic missile – that is to say, with sufficient fuel, it could span continents. Be clear that ours is the first continent to the east of North Korea.

Surely, Trump consulted his generals to learn what they saw as our options for response to North Korea’s missile launch. But given the decimation of the ranks of our State Department by Trump, what is your confidence that he also consulted our top diplomats or our State Department personnel in Seoul, South Korea before launching missiles in the face of Kim Jong-un?

We’ve been cautioned repeatedly not to pay attention to what is said by Trump administration people, but instead to pay attention to their actions. The actions related to North Korea that we’ve seen President Trump take so far include:

– sending an aircraft carrier to within striking distance of North Korea

– parking a pair of nuclear submarines off the coast of North Korea

– and firing a pair of ballistic missiles from South Korea this week

These are repeated tweaks to the nose of the infantile North Korean dictator. It’s likely he doesn’t want to be embarrassed on the world stage, so how do you imagine he will react to Trump’s actions? Exactly how is anyone now safer or more secure because of Trump’s responses?

George W. Bush famously put little stock in diplomacy, preferring instead to swagger on the world stage with a nuke tucked into each holster of his gun belt. He started wars with two countries, neither of which posed a clear and present danger to the United States, nor did either attack us, but Bush did show the world who’s boss. Donald Trump has similar disdain for the power of subtle diplomacy and he similarly blusters, wanting to be seen as macho.

While in Poland before the G20 meeting, Trump was asked about military action against North Korea. He declared, “I have some pretty severe things that we are thinking about.” That’s swagger and bluster and we are left to worry about what follows such threatening talk.

The history books are fat with the descriptions of the devastating consequences to humanity due to leaders who swagger and bluster. The difference now is that within easy reach of such leaders are intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs.

In the original Star Wars movie the three main characters take refuge in the garbage bay of an enemy star ship. Luke says that things could be worse. That’s when the walls of the bay begin to close on them and they realize they are in a trash compactor. Han Solo replies to Luke, “Things are worse.”

And so they are for the United States, as, in the absence of diplomacy, we veer ever-closer to military conflict with North Korea. Should that happen, it will be a humanitarian disaster.

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

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

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

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