religion

President Bush Got One Right

Doofus George at the DoorReading time – 44 seconds  .  .  . 

I was frequently embarrassed by the way George W. Bush presented the United States to the world. He said some inane things. He mispronunciated [sic] words. He displayed his doofus look with regularity, making me wonder what, if anything, was going on inside his head.

One of the things he said that seemed patently stupid was his claiming that Islamic fundamentalists hate us because of our freedom. Really? It wasn’t because we had spent decades supporting despotic middle-east rulers who made the lives of their people miserable and often too short? It wasn’t because Palestinians, their religious brothers, were suffering and, as the Islamists saw it, because we support Israel? It wasn’t because they wrapped their politics in their violent religion and saw us as infidels?

Interestingly, while all those reasons are true, we in the West really are hated for our freedom – in a certain sense.

Islam is an absolutist religion. You either believe and obey or you are an infidel. There is no middle ground, no wiggle room for changed circumstances or new information. Qur’anic  law mandates harsh penalties, so for true believers, their explanation (not justification, but their explanation) for brutality and murder is, “Allah requires me do it.”

Their personal responsibility is solely to obeying directives from 7th century Arabia, as recorded 150 years after the Prophet Muhammad died. You  might want to read any of the books by Ayaan Hirsi Ali for clarity about that and on the drivers of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The point is that the 9/11 killers and the ISIL members now committing atrocities believe that they are doing God’s work. They see themselves as holy. They are motivated by their notion of right as spelled out in the Qur’an and interpreted literally. Because what they do is for Allah and is at Allah’s direction, there can be no compromise. And that’s exactly why they will be ever-dangerous to people in the west and why there is no room for negotiation with them.

To them we are infidels, unholy, dirty and perverse in the eyes of God because we afford ourselves the freedom to believe as we choose, to live with individual free will – personal freedom. That is why, oddly enough, George W. Bush actually got this one right.

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

It’s Obvious

Reading time – 76 seconds  .  .  .

Long time reader DL offered in a private email that he sees me as an iconoclast and that I help people to realize the obvious. That’s a compliment, right?

iconoclast –  a person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions. – Apple Dictionary, v2.2

I’m not confident that I attack cherished institutions, as I’m not sure that any institutions are cherished any longer. Okay, perhaps that last sentence did attack cherished institutions.

On the other hand, and as you already know, I commonly attack cherished beliefs, like the notion that there is anything of benefit to trickle-down economics, except to further stuff the pockets of the already wealthy. That cherished belief and many other common wisdom, common knowledge notions deserve to be skewered. We need for them to be sliced and diced and dumped into a landfill for ultimate decomposition so that they cannot be brought back and used to harm those in the future who will be sadly unaware of the destructive power of these harmful cherished beliefs.

And there are other cherished beliefs that I stab, like all religious extremist beliefs. People who hold these cherished beliefs are guilty of the murder of hundreds of millions of people and, oddly, people of most major religions are guilty of these atrocities. There is no more effective and motivated killer than one whose cherished belief is that God wants him to kill all who don’t see things in the killer’s delusional way. There are plenty of people who screech the message to kill, literally or politically, doing it from the pulpit and the airwaves and the halls of government.

Another favorite is the cherished and arrogant belief that, “I got it right, so if you disagree, you’re wrong. Maybe bad, too.” For clarity about the ultimate outcome of such thinking, refer to the paragraph above.

Consider the politics of destruction. And the rejection of science and learning. And the refusal to solve problems and instead to allow people to suffer and to die in favor of self-centered jockeying for political advantage.

And allowing big money interests to poison and subvert our democracy. We’ve gone through many iterations of learning this lesson, then forgetting and then re-learning it, then forgetting the lesson yet again. We don’t seem to be able to keep in mind how very harmful it is and to take steps to permanently slay this ruinous beast. There is more.

Like the much-too-human and completely predictable “it’s all about me” attitude of politicians and the certainty of the corruption of politicians by big money.

And the craziness of self-destruction through citizen laziness, sub-consciously assuming that someone else will handle things to our liking. Or that they won’t, but that we’re powerless, so there’s no use in taking action. Or that just being disinterested in broader issues and instead being focused solely on our over-filled lives somehow makes sense.

These cherished beliefs are the things I write about and they are real and they are harmful to us all, but you already realize that, because it’s obvious.

Thanks, DL, for your comments. To you and to all readers, put your thoughts in the “What Do You Think?” section below both today and in response to future posts (freebie subscribe on the right side of this column) in order to help all of us be better informed and to gain a clearer perspective on reality.

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

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

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

The Question

Pope Francis arriving in US - CBS News

Pope Francis arriving in US – CBS News photo

Reading time – 72 seconds  .  .  .

Pope Francis is visiting the United States this week and there is a question that begs an answer. Here are the facts.

  • By the time his visit is complete he will have been received at the White House and will have visited the homeless.
  • He will have addressed both a joint session of Congress and the United Nations.
  • He will have said mass multiple times for well over a million people, doing so both in English and in Spanish and he will have visited the birthplace of American democracy in Philadelphia.
  • He will have been serenaded by both Andrea Bocelli and Aretha Franklin and he will have visited prisoners in the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility.
  • He will have gone on parade through Washington DC and Central Park in New York and hundreds of thousands of Americans will have seen him.

Not all the people who show up to see the pope will be Catholic. They are not all there to pay homage to their religious leader, yet they come by the hundreds of thousands. They inconvenience themselves, standing and waiting for hours, often in profound discomfort – some overnight – just to catch a glimpse of him.

The question is: Why do people do that?

The answer: hope.

You don’t have to be a Catholic to want a piece of what this pope represents. You just have to have a hunger for something that you can’t seem to find, something that gnaws at you and creates a hollow spot within that is frustrated for something substantial.

We’ve come to a time in America and in much of the rest of the world when our challenges seem overwhelming, when cooperation has been displaced by crude hostility. Neither our politicians nor those in Great Britain, Israel, Greece and many other countries seem to be able to carry on a civil conversation, much less solve problems.

We are far more than weary of the selfish, greedy posturing of politicians, lobbyists, and of slick marketing lies. We are far more than weary of self-destructive denials of reality and the rejection of learning. We are far more than weary of being marginalized and of seeing the hopes for our children crushed under the heel of brutes. Little wonder we feel nearly hopeless.

Pope Francis arrived in America with a message. It isn’t one of proselytizing or bible-thumping and, in fact, other than the masses he will say, his message isn’t particularly religious.

Even without saying a word his message is one of hope. It is a message we hunger to hear. It is a message we want our leaders to hear and act upon.

We need hope for a better tomorrow. It is the only way forward and every one of us knows that in our bones.

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

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

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

Spirit

Reading time – 47 seconds  .  .  .

Religion is all about rules laid down by people who lived a long time ago, rules commonly called dogma. Those people said (or somebody else said) that the words of their dogma were given to them by God or inspired by God. It is an act of faith to believe what cannot be proven, like the holiness of those written words. Billions of people make that leap of faith willingly. That is their religion.

Spirituality is different. It has no rules. There is no dogma and it requires no faith. It is simply about how we live our lives and the energy and passion we put into the world. Whether we’re living in the tiny cracks of life or on the mountain tops, we are all spiritual. The only question is whether we recognize it and the effect of our spirit on ourselves and on others.

And that is what has me troubled these days, as we see that about 30% of people who self-identify as Republicans say that they support Donald Trump. He lashes out in mean spirited ways and declares his judgment of doom on those he doesn’t like. He has simplistic and misleading answers for any question and everything is metaphorically punctuated with a middle finger. The more he does his crazy, angry dance, the more Republicans seem to like him. Compounding that are the other candidates who carpet bomb the country with their negativity, their mean attacks and their outright lies. Each of them has followers, too.

What is that saying about the spirit of all these followers? Not their religion. I’m talking about the spirit in them. It’s looking pretty mean and angry, judgmental and vindictive.

Spirit is about how we live our lives. We demonstrate our spirit in that way and it appears that a lot of Americans are living in very dark ways. That’s an evil spirit that affects all of us.

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

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

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

Some Get That It’s Hotter

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Reading time – 53 seconds  .  .  .

Galileo Galilei published Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems in 1632 in order to defend his heliocentric theory of the universe, his theory being based upon his scientific findings. For his exacting efforts he found himself tried and convicted by the Roman Inquisition for being “vehemently suspect of heresy.” He spent the last nine years of his life under house arrest because of his reprehensible notion that the Earth is not the center of the universe.

It took over 400 years – into the 1950s – for the Catholic Church to admit that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution just might be a useful and credible scientific notion. Pope Paul VI rejected all forms of contraception except abstinence (Q: What do you call couples who  use the rhythm method of birth control? A: Parents). Pope Benedict XVI told us in 2009 that condoms would make the HIV/AIDS scourge worse, not better.

The history of the Catholic Church accepting and embracing advances in knowledge is rather spotty.

But now Pope Francis, the new guy, has a very different view of science, even proposing the crazy notion that our planet actually is warming and that we humans are making things worse. Go ahead and read his Encyclical Letter and you just might be amazed that it was written by a pope. Apparently, this pope doesn’t have his head stuck in the understandings of 2,000 years ago and really gets that we’ve learned a few things along the way.

Wouldn’t it be just great if our climate denying legislators had as much sense?

Worse, if they do have as much sense but continue to act as though they don’t, what is motivating that behavior? Another way to ask the question is, “Who benefits from their baseless denials?” As always, follow the money.

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

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

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

Absolutely

Finger pointingReading time – 91 seconds  .  .  . 

To the best of my ability to understand them, our far right religious conservatives believe:

  1. That they got it right – about God, about religion, about right and wrong, good and bad.
  2. That anyone who disagrees with point #1 is wrong and eternally damned, because there’s no heaven for them.
  3. That this should be a Christian nation, but not because of what demographics indicate. Rather, they think this should be an expressly Christian America ruled by biblical laws – a theocracy – because of what they think God has said to them.
  4. That following their notion of biblical laws is both required and it is self-justification for pretty much anything.
  5. That compromise in any way from the above is unholy and, therefore, intolerable.

Now, substitute Islam for Christianity, the Qur’an for the Bible and make a geographic adjustment. Somebody please tell me what the difference is between these two groups of fundamentalist, absolutist, arrogant people. I say “arrogant” because these absolutists seem to be saying, “I’m not just right; I’m divinely right.” That’s a lot of turf grabbing for a mere mortal.

Setting aside the Islamist fundamentalists for the moment, explain to me how to deal with the Christian absolutists, because they are making a lot of noise and politicians are getting elected by sucking up to them. Then the politicians are incrementally distorting America to create the theocracy the absolutists want, as recently happened in Indiana. That’s why we need to know how to deal with these people, because this isn’t supposed to be a theocracy, regardless of what Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum  and Sen. Ted Cruz want you to believe. Check with Thomas Jefferson and his pals about that and you’ll see that it’s true.

As for the Islamist fundamentalists, we have the same intractability problem with them. Their world view is steeped in centuries of absolutism, making it a brain contortion to deal with them for those from a Western culture. It’s complicated, frustrating work and every step of every path is fraught with cultural impasses and Through The Looking Glass contradictions.

If you’d like to explore how difficult this is, read Mark Bowden’s remarkable bookGuests of the Ayatollah  Guests of the Ayatollah, which chronicles the Iran hostage crisis. This book was recently recommended to me personally by one of the former hostages whom I met while delivering a leadership workshop. It is a major insight into a critical piece of recent American history. The double benefit of reading this book is getting a peek into the tent of militant Islamic culture in the MIddle-East and its apparent house-of-mirrors world view. Indeed, it provides some understanding of what we will be dealing with for a very long time and with a great deal at stake.

Back once more to our American far right religious conservatives, we need to deal with the challenge they bring, because if this is to remain America, it’s critical that we both stop and roll back the absolutists’ spread of theocracy. What are your thoughts? Post them in the Comments section below.

Source: The Guardian at http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/mar/23/ted-cruz-presidential-campaign-evangelical-christian-voters-gay-marriage-values

Source: The Guardian, March 23, 2015

Note: Click on the bar chart on the left from The Guardian for an expanded view. One way to interpret the results of this poll is that of the 58% of American voters who identify as white and Christian, roughly 2/3 of them see themselves as Republicans and are susceptible to the theocratic appeals espoused by the Bible-thumpers. That’s very dangerous for a democratic (small “d”) America, as these people are reliable voters and because it assaults the First Amendment. That Amendment is part of the U.S. Constitution, which the far right religious conservatives say with fierce absolutism that they honor. That yes-we-do-no-we-don’t  support of the Constitution is the same kind of up-is-down logic used by militant Islamists. Are you afraid yet?

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

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

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

A Modest Proposal – v2.0

Indiana

Indiana

Reading time – 59 seconds  .  .  .

The clarity came to me in a blinding flash of the obvious and we can thank Governor Mike Pence (R-IN) for being the spark that ignited the flash.

We are beset by haters and Pence showed us another dimension to that, as he signed into law a bill that will allow Indianans to discriminate and to use religion as their excuse. In fact, religion won’t just be their excuse; it will be their legal justification. How proud Pence’s mother must be of him for his endorsing a law to legalize hate and discrimination. But that leaves us wondering what to do with those Indiana haters to whom Pence is sucking up.

There are haters in the North Carolina legislature, too. They think it’s a great idea to take away the right to vote from poor people and minority people. And one of their senators (Thom Tillis) thinks it’s government overreach to require food service workers to wash their hands after going to the bathroom. He must hate a lot of people, because it’s clear that he really doesn’t care about the ebola infection you’ll get. BTW – how were those McDonald’s fries?

Let’s not forget the haters in Congress who think it’s a good idea to shut down the government in some “I’m so powerful” chest thumping display of infantile temper tantrum. They actually don’t care if they shut down the USDA and FDA and you end up eating tainted food and taking poisonous meds. Lost at sea? Too bad, because the Coast Guard is on mandatory cutbacks.

Really, the haters are everywhere and they are infecting our country. Clearly, there is only one thing to do: Give them their own state. Let’s choose Indiana, since that state has the current lead in hating.

We’ll require all the haters from around the country to move to Indiana. They can buy the houses of those sensible Americans who will be moving to other states. To be sure that we don’t allow for future infections of hatred elsewhere, we’ll divert the funds from the project at the Mexican border and build a big wall all around the entire state of Indiana to keep those people and their hatred right there.

The haters will have free reign to live as they please, inventing laws that dribble hate throughout the state. Giving full vent to their hate will probably mean they will cull the herd, removing the weak haters so they don’t dilute the gene pool. It should only take three generations or so for them to reduce their numbers to just a handful of very lonely haters who may agree to an extended rehabilitation program and be slowly reintegrated into sane society. If not, we can leave them, say, Evansville, IN, a border town we can quickly enclose with parts from the rest of the state wall that we will be able to remove.

Howard Beale, from the movie "Network," MGM, 1976

Howard Beale character, “Network,” MGM, 1976

Don’t dismiss this idea out of hand, because it might be very attractive to the poison spewers. And it just might send a message to our elected officials that we won’t tolerate their self-serving stupid stuff, that there are consequences to their words and actions and that we are watching and listening.

We’ll follow the imperative of Howard Beale, telling them,

“We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take this any more!”

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

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

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

A Bubble Waiting to be Popped

Rudy Giuliani

Associated Press

Reading time – 54 seconds  .  .  .

Rudy got it right: President Obama wasn’t raised like he was and he probably doesn’t love America like Rudy loves America and maybe, as Rudy said, he doesn’t love Rudy, either. For example:

Rudy’s dad – Harold Giuliani – was a convicted felon (robbery) and spent a year and a half in Sing Sing prison. His felony record got him out of serving in WW II. President Obama’s father figure was his maternal grandfather, who served in Patton’s army in World War II, the one Harold Giuliani missed.

Rudy married his second cousin, then later divorced her on the grounds that she was his second cousin. Yes, he really did that. He let his second wife know that he wanted a divorce by announcing it at a press conference. He was already dating his third wife-to-be at the time. In contrast, President Obama is married to his first and only wife. That’s different love for sure.

Rudy’s are just more of the extremist bubbles that need to be popped repeatedly, because people like Rudy Giuliani, Ted Cruz (R-TX), Donald Trump and others keep re-inflating them, like:

Bryan Fischer, former Director of Issue Analysis for the American Family Association made a career of bubble creation, telling us, “Counterfeit religions – alternative religions to Christianity – have no First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.” He specifically said that Jews have no right to practice their religion in America and must convert to Christianity if they immigrate. He also said that mosques should not be built in America.

Not to be outdone, David Lane, also of the American Family Association said, “America was founded by Christians for the glory of God and the Christian faith.”

Wayne LaPierre of the American Rifle Association continues the drumbeat that President Obama is coming to take away your guns.

There is absolutely no reality-based data to support any of those claims.

Pages could be filled with false, dishonest, flagrantly incorrect, self-serving echo chamber bubbles like these and they won’t be going away any time soon, because the bubble makers know that constant repetition, even of the loony stuff, will persuade some to their side. It’s the Big Lie method of manipulation.

So, this is a bit like Whack-A-Mole, in that we can pop Rudy’s latest bubbles, but they will be floated again and again. Your job is to keep your pin sharp and pop them whenever you hear them.

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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. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

Republican Judge Hanen

Judge Hanen

Republican Judge Andrew S. Hanen

Reading time – 43 seconds  .  .  . 

Judge Andrew S. Hanen, a Republican judge in Republican Texas, heard testimony from the attorneys representing 26 Republican governors seeking to stuff President Obama’s executive order limiting deportations back into the president’s face. Republican Judge Hanen granted the Republican plaintiff’s petition on procedural grounds – i.e., a technicality – and did not deal with the substance of the executive order.

Before filing, the plaintiffs, those 26 Republican governors, went venue shopping for the best state in which to find the most sympathetic hearing, the best city in which to file their case and the best courtroom and judge to whom they would plead their case and they zeroed in on Republican Judge Hanen in Brownsville, TX. Their selection was doubly insightful, because the inevitable appeal of his limited and superficial ruling will be in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is in Republican New Orleans, Louisiana. Are you seeing a pattern here?

Republicans have been accused of having no compassion for our Dreamers or for the migrant workers who are sometimes viciously exploited. While that might be an accurate depiction of some Republicans, their apparent callousness really has nothing to do with the concerted effort by these 26 Republican governors and the Republicans in the House and Senate to thwart President Obama’s immigration efforts. There are two reasons for their actions and neither has anything to do with compassion.

First, Republicans continue to want to do everything possible to ensure that President Obama has no victories of any kind, regardless of the good sense of his proposals, so they oppose anything he supports.

Second – and this is the big one – Republicans are on their way to extinction. Here’s how TalikingPointsMemo described their coming tipping point in a 2012 piece:

The government also projects that in five years, minorities will make up more than half of children under 18. Not long after, the total U.S. white population will begin an inexorable decline in absolute numbers, due to aging baby boomers.

So, old white guys (the great majority of the Republican Party) are in the process of losing their majority and, consequently, their grip on power, money, control and domination.

Republicans have demonstrated for decades that they are bereft of new ideas for meeting America’s challenges or for grabbing hold of 21st century opportunities, so they can’t appeal to voters on the basis of their great solutions or clarity of the best way forward. The only way they can stay in power is to steal elections (like in 2000 and 2004) or to deprive voting rights from people who naturally tend to vote for Democrats, like people of color. Eliminating their votes by deporting Hispanics is a sure fire way to help prevent Republicans from being overpowered by future Democratic voters.

And that’s why Republicans want to deport over 12 million people and why Republicans oppose any path to citizenship and why Republicans want to kill the president’s executive order and send our Dreamers packing. For dinosaur Republicans who can already see that demographic meteor in the sky, it’s the species survival instinct played out in the political arena. They don’t hate Hispanics; they just want to continue to dominate them.

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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. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

We’re Solving The Wrong Problem

Reading time – 119 seconds  .  .  . 

Nobody on the right, left or center disputes that a primary job of our federal government is national defense, ensuring our security in a dangerous world. ISIS or ISIL or Islamic Caliphate – whatever you want to call it – has incrementally and brutally plunged the Middle East into a conflagration of Middle East versus West, Sunni versus Shiite, believers versus infidels and seventh century versus twenty-first century reality. We have decided that this is a clear and present danger to America and have correspondingly sent our drones on attack and our munitions to Kurd and Syrian rebels.

The debate rages, though, hawks versus others, about putting American “boots on the ground.” We cannot fight effectively or have useful intelligence without those boots on the ground, the hawks tell us. So, as we fight that Middle East war with every non-boot-on-the-ground method we can think of, we are solving the problem about how to win that war by asking if we should put boots on the ground. Why are we doing that?

And why have we paid homage to a newly deceased, despotic Saudi ruler who thought that beheading was a good idea? And why did we invade Iraq?

The answer to all those questions is the same: oil.

We are still energy dependent on oil from the Middle East and Iraq has one of the largest known reserves of oil in the world. The Saudis have a huge reservoir of oil, so we continue to support the House of Saud, the people from whom 15 of the 19 airplane hijackers came to kill over 3,000 people in America. Upheaval in that area threatens our hydrocarbon supply, so we install  ( like the Shah of Iran) and prop up (like the House of Saud) some very unusual people.

The problem about whether to send ground troops to the Middle East to defeat ISIS is the wrong one on which to focus. The right one is this: “What are the strategies that will make the United States energy independent so that we will never again get drawn into oil wars in the Middle East?

President Nixon made a big deal about the importance of weaning us off foreign oil. In 1973, the year of the so-called Arab Oil Embargo, 20% of our oil needs came from other countries. Following that event our dependence soared to over 40%, where it still stood in 2012. The number has been whittled down a bit since then, but we are still hugely dependent upon others, some of them oil-rich, reprehensible dictator states. So, we continue to endanger our military people in an effort to keep a finger in the dyke of the natural state of chaos in the Middle East in order to protect the supply of oil we covet. When we ask the question of whether there should be American military boots on the ground in that area, we are caving in to an assumption that we must remain entrapped by the angry passions of seventh century animosities so that we can have cheap oil.

We cannot continue to burn fossil fuels indefinitely, this for two reasons. First, we are cooking our planet and ourselves in the process. Second, there is a finite supply of fossil fuels. Even if we have a 100 year supply, those fossil fuels will eventually be gone. We better have good solutions well before that time.

So, again, the right problem to solve is: “What are the strategies that will make the United States energy independent?

Engineers have told us that a 100 square mile grid – just 10 miles by 10 miles – of solar collectors in our desert southwest can produce enough electricity for all of Southern California and we are doing something about that. If we were to cover around 4 percent of all deserts with solar panels, we could generate enough electricity to power the world. Germany, one of the cloudiest countries in Europe, managed to craft a program for energy independence which included putting solar collectors on the roofs of its houses and those now supply 4.5% of their total energy needs. In America we have gigantic wind farms and have good locations for many more. Smart grid technology is in our hands to dramatically reduce transmission losses and do even more than that. These are just some of the ideas that have been proposed, some acted upon, and there are other technologies in development.

The strategy we need and eventually will employ is a current day version of the Manhattan Project, an all-in program to engineer and then build a new American energy system. And sooner is way better than later.

We’ll need fossil fuels in some measure for a long time to come, so don’t completely dismiss the pretty blonde in the black pants suit who lies to you about how safe hydraulic fracturing is, because we need the gas. On the other hand, it’s way past time to find ways to do it safely. It’s way past time to figure out how to transport oil without sliming the Yellowstone River and others due to ruptured pipelines.

And it’s way past time to stop telling ourselves what we can’t do or what we can’t afford to do.

We can’t afford not to do this, because if we fail to put that stake in the ground we will be consigning our patriotic military people to endless deaths, dismemberment, disfigurement and a lifetime of post traumatic stress disorder. We will be dooming future generations of Americans to second tier status in the world and the loss of the American Dream. Those are some of the things that happen when we put boots on the ground in the Middle East to prop up despotic rulers sitting on a big puddle of oil that we want, instead of solving the right problem and taking action to change the game.

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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. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

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