responsibiliy

The Indispensable Nation


Reading time – 3:56  .  .  .

It’s time to take a break from talk of impeachment, contempt of Congess citations, subpoenas, obstruction of justice, picking a fight with Iran and the unending daily tsunami of outrageous behavior – not because those things aren’t important, but because there are other critically important things to consider that are easy to overlook because of our continuing self-inflicted reign of terror. A 50,000 foot view is one of those things.

George Packer wrote a piece for The Atlantic this month entitled “Elegy for the American Century: A report On The Decay of Pax Americana.” I confess that reading it brought into full light my ignorance of the complexities of the Balkan war, the complicated rivalries and borders, the centuries old grievances. More than that, though, it brought greater clarity to how we – the United States – have ceased to be the indispensable nation and have become globally unreliable.

– We now disrespect and even insult our allies

– We now embrace brutal dictators, the very people whom our allies worry about and because they have looked to us for leadership

– We renege on treaties and agreements

– We focus enmity on defenseless people

– We allow buffoonery to go unchecked, making us the object of international mockery and scorn

– We foment divisiveness and hate within our own country, showing people in other countries that we can’t be relied upon because we simply don’t have it together

The United States was the only major power with an intact industrial base following WW II and we created a new world order. The Soviet Union was our continuing enemy, but they could only affect world order through military oppression. We had the goods, as well as the strength to stand up to the bad guys and western democracy flourished. That’s all changed now, though, because we have told the world that we can no longer be counted on.

Angela Merkel just told Europeans that the post-war world order is over and called for Europe to stand up to China, Russia and the US! Something has radically changed and it very clearly isn’t for the better.

Below is an excerpt from Packer’s piece focusing on this very thing.

“If you ask me when America’s long decline began, I might point to 1998. We were flabby, smug, and self-absorbed. Imagine a president careless enough to stumble into his enemies’ trap and expend his power on a blue dress. Imagine a superpower so confident of perpetual peace and prosperity that it felt able to waste a whole year on Oval Office [sex]. Not even al-Qaeda, which blew up two American embassies in East Africa that August, could get our serious attention—Clinton’s response, a barrage of cruise missiles, was derided left and right for following the script of Wag the Dog. The Republicans decided that destroying the president was more urgent than the national interest, and they attacked his every move at home and abroad. Our leaders believed they had the luxury to start tearing one another apart, and they’ve never stopped. Did any country ever combine so much power with so little responsibility? Slowly, imperceptibly at first, we lost that essential faith in ourselves.

“The American century ended in Baghdad and Helmand, in Aleppo and Odessa, and in Beijing. It also ended in Wisconsin and in Silicon Valley and, maybe above all, in Washington, D.C. It ended from overreach and exhaustion, rising competition, the rapid changes and broken promises of globalization, and the failure of our own middle-class democracy, which, when it was thriving, gave us an influence that exceeded even our power.

“Another place where the American century ended was Bosnia.

“Twenty years after Dayton [the peace talks that ended the war in Bosnia], five years after [Richard] Holbrooke [the US Assistant Secretary of State leading the Dayton peace talks] died when his aorta tore open .  .  .   a woman in Sarajevo named Aida began to experience insomnia. Though she had lived through the entire siege, she never counted herself among the hundreds of thousands of Bosnians with post-traumatic stress disorder, but now, two decades after the war, she lay awake night after night, unable to take her eyes off the American presidential campaign on TV. Something about the people at Donald Trump’s rallies was deeply familiar to Aida—their clothes, their faces, their teeth, the men’s mustaches, the women’s hair and makeup, the illogic of their grievances, their rage, their need for an enemy .  .  .  Moments in the American campaign brought up uncanny counterparts from those years in the Balkans. Late one night, during the Republican National Convention, Aida suddenly heard the voices of 1 million Serbs in the streets of Belgrade shouting for the head of a Kosovar leader—“Arrest Vllasi! Arrest Vllasi!”—while Milošević cupped his ear and goaded them: “I can’t hear you!” In Cleveland they were chanting “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

“After the Cold War, grand strategists proposed various scenarios for the future of the world: liberal capitalist triumph, the clash of civilizations, great-power rivalry, borderless anarchy. Nationalism didn’t make the short list.

“The warlords turned out to be ahead of their time. Kurt Bassuener, an American expert on Bosnia, calls Trump “America’s first Balkan president.” His public performances sound like translations from the Serbian. For Aida, Trump’s rule told her that Bosnia no longer has anyone to count on. Europe ceased being a noble idea when populist demagogues put up razor-wire fences to keep out refugees. Now the American idea is gone, too. [Said Aida,] ‘After the United States’ values collapsed, who’s there to look up to?'” [all emphasis mine]

Who, indeed?

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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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

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

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

“How Ya Gonna Pay For That?”


The original announcement for this post lost its link to the full post. To quote Bullwinkle, “This time for sure!


Reading time – 5:01; Viewing time – 6:56  .  .  .

The “How ya gonna pay for that?” question is an important and even vital question for any policy decision. The Democrats are promoting bold new initiatives now and there’s a price tag for everything, so let’s look at what that means for a couple of issues.

We’ve taken several stabs at fixing our over-priced healthcare system. It is vast and there is enormous money at stake, so the medical establishment universally opposes any changes. Indeed Obama had to bribe the medical establishment to get the ACA passed. Still, the studies are clear that:

  1. We have the costliest healthcare system in the world BY DOUBLE.
  2. Our outcomes are largely no better than and are sometimes worse than those in other countries.
  3. The great cost of our healthcare causes millions of Americans to go without.
  4. Over 50% of personal bankruptcies are due to catastrophic illness.

These things are facts and they are not in dispute. And they are what drives progressives to propose things like universal healthcare, Medicare for All, single payer and various other names for “everybody gets to see a doc when they need one, regardless of their ability to pay, and nobody goes bankrupt because of catastrophic illness.”

Paul Waldman wrote a most interesting essay in The Washington Post looking into this concept and acknowledged that universal healthcare will cost a lot, like $32.7 trillion over 10 years. That’s a lot of money and asking how we’ll pay for that is mandatory. What Waldman points out is that to answer the “How ya gonna pay for that?” question, “You have to compare what a universal system would cost to what we’re paying now.” Very sensible.

And what we’re paying now is about $50 trillion over 10 years. Someone please help me to understand how $32.7 trillion for universal healthcare is a worse deal than the $50 trillion cost we’re on a slippery slope to spend. Read Waldman’s essay for more and be sure to look at the bar chart. You’ll understand it instantly.

Sometimes, the answer to “How ya gonna pay for that?” requires holistic rather than linear thinking.

Last thought about healthcare: put some thought to how we’ll control costs if a universal healthcare program leaves Americans with no skin in the game – i.e. no sense of cost containment responsibility simply because they aren’t charged when they receive care. Metaphorically, how do we avoid promoting in users of our healthcare system the attitude of the reckless driver who says, “I don’t care – this car is just a rental.”

Next, let’s look at progressives’ proposal for free college tuition at state schools.

First, let’s dispel the nonsense that it’s free. It may not bear direct costs to entering students, but the money to fund tuition will have to come from somewhere. Likely we and, indeed, if they have held jobs, even entering freshmen will have to pay through taxes in some form. So, progressives, please stop calling it free tuition.

From Wikipedia:

“In 1965 the far-reaching Elementary and Secondary Education Act (‘ESEA’), passed as a part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty”, [and] provided funds for primary and secondary education .  .  .”

Fundamentally, we decided that being economically competitive required extra education, so we funded it.

Times have changed and this is the 21st century. We have world competition the likes of which would be incomprehensible to our forebears of the last century. Indeed, China graduates three times more engineers every year than the U.S; further, both China and India have far more STEM graduates every year than the U.S. We’re falling behind.

We can resist change, wallow in our familiarity and ignore what’s all around us, but the price we’ll pay for that will be gigantic. This will be the Chinese century and we will be a follower nation instead of the leader, with all the implications that attach to that. We can either get with the program and make college more affordable, like we did with high school in the last century, or we can make ourselves irrelevant. Which is why publicly paid college tuition makes sense.

There are other reasons as well, like the insufficient numbers of workers who are qualified for the millions of jobs that are now going unfilled. Those jobs going wanting hobbles our economy. And it also means that we don’t have the highly educated people we need to protect our nation. The answer to “How ya gonna pay for that?” comes, in part, by acknowledging that it is both an economic and a national security nonnegotiable.

The dollar answer is the same one as when we moved to universal high school. We simply roll up our sleeves and find the best way to pay for it. That doesn’t necessarily mean through property taxes, because that system has turned out to be an impediment to millions of kids. It does mean that we have to have a really good answer to the question.

Sometimes things simply must be done and asking “How ya gonna pay for that?” can be a major roadblock instead of a sensible question.

Last thing  .  .  .

President Trump delivered his delayed State of the Union address and bragged about his miraculous transformation that has supercharged our economy. Further, he worked very hard to make us afraid of the imagined brown hordes crossing into our country from the south and how it’s worse now than ever.

To put these issues into perspective (think: reality),

  1. Have a look at fact checking of his claims, and
  2. Have a look at fact checking of Stacey Abrams’ response, and
  3. Have a look at the graphs below that are from actual Earth-based data from reliable sources. Note the trends and how they’ve stayed steady since the Great Recession 10 years ago and then decide for yourself who gets the credit. Hint: It isn’t Trump.

Click any chart for a larger view.

GNP
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Illegal Border Crossings
Source – U.S. CBP & NPR

Unemployment rate.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Note To Readers and Commenters

There has been no small battle waged on the Jax Politix website in order to balance your ease of commenting with blocking the torrent of spam that attempts to clog the system. It seems that the methods used to tighten up spam filtering can make it more difficult for you to post comments. I believe we’ve made significant progress and the Comments function is working properly and easily.

So, please share your ideas, reactions, suggestions and wisdom for all to learn and grow and do so without fear of endless identifications of street signs, cars, buses, dogs and intersections. Many apologies for your frustration – and thanks for your patience.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

The Reason


Reading time – 3:45; Viewing time – 4:46  .  .  .

Bill Maher’s first guest on his program on January 25 was Ann Coulter. She is one of the far right Republican talking heads that Donald Trump periodically takes orders from.

Coulter’s shtick is sensationalist anger and hate and she does it quite well. The point of mentioning this is to direct you to watch that segment of Maher’s show (here) and observe Coulter’s tactics. Here’s a short list:

She talks non-stop, refusing to pause to allow for a normal back-and-forth. She specifically talks over others, appearing to attempt to overpower any opposition with her machine gun mouth.

Her immediate response to a valid criticism is ”whatabout-ism,” where instead of addressing a question or comment, she attacks someone in the opposition to make them seem worse. She never deals with the hard question she’s been asked or she just dismisses it as irrelevant.

She name calls. She demonizes. She revels in her verbal cruelty. That brings her attention, cheers from fellow haters and she gets the satisfaction of knowing she’s angering progressives.

I’m not a professional, but I’m guessing she just might have some control issues, some anger issues and even some daddy issues. And no, that wasn’t snark.

Remember that this is one of the people Trump listens to and whose bidding he sometimes does. Ann Coulter is one of the mean girls whom Mom told you to stay away from. Mom was right. Coulter and Trump are wrong.

Not unrelated to Coulter and her mean spirited far right media friends is the issue of The Reason. I’m talking about what’s behind all the Trump cronies lying to Congress, the FBI and anyone who will stand still and listen. Most of what they lie about isn’t illegal stuff on the surface, which begs the question, then, of why they would lie. What’s the reason for their apparently unnecessary dishonesty? What are they protecting?

Rachel Maddow has done a nice job of exploring this and she’s right to do it. Almost certainly getting to the bottom of this will take the release of Robert Mueller’s report. But you can be sure that all those felons were lying for a really important reason and it’s next to impossible to avoid believing that The Reason doesn’t have to do with protecting Trump and themselves from the exposure of a very large conspiracy involving some truly terrible crimes.

As I’ve cautioned many times before, keep your eye on the ball. Let no distraction, however bright and shiny, divert your focus from The Reason. That includes you refusing to react to the hollow sensationalism of Ann Coulter or any other Trump rationalizers.

From The Onion, of course. Click for the article.

Finally, we end this post on an important story. The reason that it’s important is because it declares to ourselves and to the world who we are and puts the lie to the terrible things people say and do to divide us.

Joseph Walker was 72 years old when he died of natural causes. Mr. Walker had served in the Air Force in Vietnam from 1964 – 1968 and received an honorable discharge. There doesn’t seem to be much record of him beyond that time. He had no family and no known friends, so when he died it looked as though his funeral would be unattended.

News about Mr. Walker spread on social media and a call went out for people to come so that he wouldn’t be buried alone. And over 1,000 people showed up at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery for this man they didn’t know. There were veterans and active duty military. There were people of various ages and races. There was even a flyover.

Marc George of the Christian Motorcyclists Association officiated. George said,”Today, we give him honors, [this] man whom no one apparently knew, but whom no one wanted to forget  .  .  .  once upon a time, like a lot of us other vets, he signed a blank check for our nation.”

And so we relearn who we really are. Over and over, we show that we care. On Monday we honored Joseph Walker and, in the process, we honored one another. Keep Mr. Walker in mind the next time you hear one of those hate mongers spewing vitriol. We’re way better than that. We show up for one another. Kudos to the 1,000 for reminding us who we are.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Potpourri v7.0 – Shutdown Edition


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Slavery


Reading time – 5:16; Viewing time – 8:10  . .  .

This post is longer than usual, but stay with me. I promise you’ll be rewarded.

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The 13th Amendment reads,

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Good idea. Too bad we’re violating that amendment right now.

In an article in the New York times entitled It’s Time for T.S.A. Workers to Strike, authors Barbara Ehrenreich and Gary Stevenson show us what’s happening to our federal workers. They are prevented by law from striking, a point which was firmly made by Ronald Reagan, who fired 11,000 striking PATCO workers in 1981. They were demanding better wages and shorter working hours, as the high stress of their air traffic control jobs and overlong work hours were literally killing them. Those are good reasons to demand better, but their contract said that they couldn’t strike and they paid the price. This time, though, it’s different.

Ehrenreich and Stevenson make the case for a T.S.A. strike on the basis of violation of the 13th Amendment. Likely they identified the T.S.A. workers out of all federal workers as the ones who should strike because their striking would shut down our air traffic system and grind much of our economy to a halt. It would be enormously expensive for industry, so their strike would likely cause great pressure on government to get the shutdown resolved fast. The logic of a 13th Amendment triggered strike, though, applies to all federal workers who are forced to work during this shutdown. I’m not advocating a strike, but forcing people to work and refusing to pay them is most bad ju-ju.

The complaint isn’t about better pay, better working conditions, shorter hours or anything typical. This is about paying people as agreed. Yet they are being forced to work without pay. That’s called slavery.

Should any of our federal workers strike, there surely will be a lawsuit initiated by the Justice Department. It will be an interesting case. Let’s do a thought experiment about that.

The government will be asking for a temporary restraining order to force workers back on the job immediately. Surely, they’ll quote contract law that says the workers agreed not to strike and are thus prevented from doing so. They’ll say that the government will pay workers in full when the shutdown is over and that the promise of future pay satisfies the contract.

From Stat, a Boston Globe publication. Sen. Dick Durban has called on HHS Secretary Nielsen to resign. Click the pic to download the report.

The defense will likely also quote contract law and make clear that the government has violated its obligations, thus nullifying the contract and freeing workers to strike. They’ll also make the Constitutional case that the government is practicing slavery in direct violation of the 13th Amendment. They might claim civil rights violations by the government as well.

The only difference between old fashioned slavery and the circumstances of today’s federal workers is that today the workers are being given a promise of being paid on some unspecified future date that could be years from now. Imagine being a federal worker and having to tell your landlord that you’ll pay your rent – some day. How well do you think that will work for you?

The way our thought experiment case is decided or the shutdown itself is ended will dramatically affect not just the workers, but our entire nation. Here are some examples:

1. Absent a quick resolution to the shut down, thousands of federal workers, whether striking or not, will find permanent full time work elsewhere because they have bills to pay. They will not be coming back to those federal jobs ever. But we need airport security, food inspectors, a fully functioning FBI and State Department, air traffic controllers and the rest. These are skilled jobs and we don’t have a bench, especially in this full employment economy. Who will do the work to make our nation function?

2. The shutdown is costing billions of dollars and, if it continues a while longer it’s projected by the President’s own economic people that it will cancel out national economic growth for the year.

3. Depending upon how this shutdown ends, we’ll be making a powerful statement about our national values. We’ll be declaring with our actions who and what we care about and we’ll be setting a precedent for the future. There will be lasting impact.

There’s more, of course, but think about the callous way our people are being treated. You’ve seen the up close and personal reports, like the woman who is trying to stretch her insulin supply because she doesn’t have money for more; and the workers who are trying to decide whether to buy food for their families or pay the electric bill; and the family with two kids, both of whom have medical issues and they’ve have run out of money to properly care for their kids; and the hundreds of thousands who now or in the very near future will be unable to pay the rent or the mortgage or the car payment. Still, they’re expected to show up and work without pay.

It’s hard to comprehend that we’re dealing with slavery in America in the 21st century.


A friend of mine is a federal worker – an air traffic controller. He’s one of those people who is dedicated to serving and works every day to keep you safe when you fly and he’s working without being paid. He’ll miss his second paycheck four days from now. I reached out to him early this week to see if there is something we can do to support him and his family. Here’s his reply:

Thank you for reaching out. This shutdown is definitely weighing on me more than the previous ones I have been a part of. This is the longest one in history and there is no trying to figure out a solution. This has turned into a school yard shouting match.

It is hard to go to work – and do my job – not knowing when I will be compensated for it. I will continue to work my scheduled shifts – my overtime shifts – the holidays – and do everything that is asked of me. I am proud of what I do and I will continue to do it.

The show of support from our union brothers and sisters from around the globe has been amazing. I have been treated to meals by the Allied Pilots Association and the Irish Air Traffic Controllers Association. The controllers in the Great White North [Canada] have taken it upon themselves to send pizzas to US facilities. Local businesses are reaching out – creditors are being understanding – some banks are offering 0% interest loans (as long as you pay them back within a certain time period). What is helping is the amount of publicity this is getting as a whole.

For now – we are okay. That may change. If this drags on, we may be forced to reach out to friends and family for financial support. We (luckily) aren’t quite there yet.

Thank you for reaching out – this has (and continues to be) a rough time and it helps to know we have a wonderful support system with some amazing people.

Please don’t let this only be a heartwarming story of people supporting others. Find a way to do your part, like overpaying your tab at the restaurant that’s providing free meals to federal workers and their families, or reaching out to someone you know who might need help, or donating to a local food bank or one of the GoFundMe sites. People are hurting and coming together in times of need is what we Americans do. It’s time for action.

————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Immigration and Border Security Plan


Reading time – 5:19; Viewing time – 7:05  .  .  .

Ever since the flamboyant down escalator “look at me” event in 2015, it has been our new normal to have a minimum of a week’s worth of hair-in-fire news every day. Giving credit where it’s due, Trump is supremely good at getting attention and he does that by saying and doing outrageous things. Sadly, much of his grasping for attention has no relationship to truth or reality and that comes with consequences.

It’s no surprise that President Trump is now braying dumpster-loads of nonsense and accusations about immigration and border security. He vomits fantasy statistics, makes up cause and effect relationships that bear no resemblance to anything on planet Earth and accuses all who disagree with him of not caring about border security. That includes all Democrats who, by virtue of their refusal to fund his useless wall, clearly demonstrate that they don’t care about the rapists, murderers and drug smugglers that Trump tells us are crossing our southern border illegally. Pay no attention to the contrary facts from Customs and Border Patrol. Further, he tells us that his 7th century BC wall is an integral part of his plan for reform of immigration and border security.

Plan? Did he say “plan?” Yes, he did. Repeatedly. So what is his plan?

Click here and review the President’s in-depth reform plan, complete with the strategies and tactics needed to enhance our national security and for the fair and responsible changes needed to our immigration system.

Just kidding. Trump’s “plan” is just a list of accusations, “we should” statements, and a litany of “ain’t-it-awfuls” that demonize everyone but Trump. There’s even something about supporting “nuclear families,” meaning mom, dad and the kids. His plan says we should keep them together, unlike his own “zero tolerance” policy of ripping children from the arms of their mothers. No other sponsorship should be allowed, Trump’s plan tells us. He calls it “chain migration” and that has to stop. Interestingly, had such a policy been in effect a short while ago, Melania’s Slovenian parents would have been prevented from coming to America and would not have become naturalized American citizens last year.

There is no plan. Nothing. There is only red meat thrown to Trump’s base.

To understand that you have to understand something about Donald Trump. He cares about only one thing: what’s best for Donald Trump. He has no capacity for integrity, empathy, patriotism or norms of any kind. He gleefully tears down any structure because it keeps opponents off balance. His inner talk is solely about how to grab advantage for himself and it isn’t moderated by anything you learned in kindergarten. Apparently, he was absent that year.

Trump’s government shutdown is happening for exactly the reason you think it is: so that Trump can look and feel like a tough guy and curry favor with his base because that’s good for Trump. The harm his actions does to others has no influence on his words or actions.

 

I want to be both fair and clear about Trump’s flagrant falsities. There are two possible explanations:

  1. He knows the truth and is intentionally saying things that contradict the truth. We commonly call that lying. Mom grounded you for a century when you did that. Or,
  2. He is ignorant of the truth and not only doesn’t have the sense to keep his mouth shut, but proudly makes stuff up that he thinks benefits himself. He’s gloriously pleased to declare that he’s smarter and knows more than anyone else about everything, so there’s no need for him to ever seek counsel from experts.

So, he’s either a liar or he’s too senseless to shut up and get help. Either way we are the worse for it. Indeed, he is destabilizing the world, so everyone is the worse for this imposter of a human being.

Don’t look for Trump to do what’s best for the United States or for you. If either of those should happen it will be completely accidental, like an infinite number of monkeys sitting at an infinite number of word processors for an infinite amount of time. Sooner or later the monkeys will accidentally produce the Great Books.

Similarly, sooner or later Trump might stumble upon doing the right thing, but it will be way too late for hundreds of thousands of our federal workers, their families and the diner down the road where those workers won’t be eating or tipping their waitress. And it will be too late for 44,000 furloughed Coast Guard personnel and the 6,000 forced to work without pay, all of whom should instead be focused on protecting our shores.*

Trump has no plan for national security or immigration reform. His wall is solely a desperate grab to benefit himself. So, stand strong against the $5.6 billion down payment on the (minimum) $59.8 billion wall that won’t protect us from anything. And make sure your Repubican senators and representatives stand strong, too. The Republicans will come along when there’s enough pressure, so apply some.


*In my January 2 post I detailed a metaphorical federal worker, Mike, a postman, and erroneously said that he was not being paid due to the government shutdown. Eagle eye reader JC pointed out that the Postal Service is separate from other government agencies, is self-funded and postal workers are being paid. To make the metaphor work properly, please reread the essay and substitute a worker from any of these government agencies, because none of them is being paid.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

Air Traffic Control (ATC)

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Federal Corrections officers

Coast Guard

Customs & Border Patrol (CBP)

State Department

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

When you head to the airport for your flight this week, consider this: our TSA agents, who are supposed to catch the bad guys and keep them off your flight, and the Air Traffic Controllers, who keep planes from going bump in the night, are distracted while working because they can’t pay the rent or their mortgage or the car payment and will soon have trouble putting food on the table for their kids. How are you feeling about flying now? Be sure to let your legislators know.

————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 


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

What’s Next


Click me for a larger view

Reading time – 4:45; Viewing time – 6:48  .  .  .

I’ve been wondering about the important actions we should expect from the 116th Congress.

Adam Schiff (D-CA), the incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has promised a real investigation into Russian meddling in our 2016 election. That will be in stark contrast to the investigation led by committee chair Devin Nunes (R-CA and Chief Trump Weenie). Under Nunes’ chairmanship, all efforts to actually investigate were thwarted by Nunes. Perhaps this time we’ll get some truth about what happened and who’s responsible. The committee might even investigate Russia’s meddling in our 2018 election. They could generate some ideas about how to protect our nation. That would be refreshing.

There are other committees which will have to start their work anew because of Republican obstruction for the past two years. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) will be the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Do you suppose he’ll be able to find anything worthy of investigation?

Rep Elijah Cummings (D-MD)* will chair the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  Looking at the mess he’s facing, Cummings said, “The oversight job after two years of Donald Trump is like coming upon a 73-car pileup on the highway.” Read this for context. The chief issue soon to be before us, though, is impeachment.

Trump has laid his obstruction of justice and his violations of the emoluments clause in plain sight. That’s plenty of reason to start an impeachment action. It seems likely, though, that there won’t be enough courage in the Republican controlled Senate to convict our presidential perp. Finding enough starch in Republican spines may have to await the Robert Mueller report, recently predicted to arrive in February. That’s when things will become even more weird.

Trump has made Matthew Whittaker the acting attorney general, which may compromise justice. For a long time Whittaker has gone out of his way to criticize and attack the Mueller investigation. There’s no question about his prejudice. Whittaker is anything but an honest broker. Further, he has refused the direction of the Justice Department Ethics Committee to recuse himself from the Mueller inquiry. Democrats have promised to call for Whittaker’s removal from office in January, but that won’t fix this problem.

That’s because Trump has nominated William Barr to be attorney general and Barr is similarly negative toward the Mueller investigation. He is another less than honest broker. Clearly, Trump is stacking the deck to avoid justice. He’s making it questionable whether Mueller’s report will ever see the light of day or whether our government will take action. If you believe in a nation of laws and not of men, this situation should send shivers up your spine.

Democratic leadership has determined that keeping Trump’s malfeasance in the news, death by a thousand cuts over the next two years, will help Democrats in the 2020 elections. The problem with that is that it means that no impeachment efforts will be made and Trump will remain in office for another two years. Decide for yourself what two more years of Trump’s self-serving, ignorance-based chaos will do to our country and to the world.

Decide, too, what it would mean for our country if Trump is removed from office and Mike Pence becomes President. This is the same guy who Indianans were turning out of office in 2016 because of his radical beliefs and complete disregard for the truth. Picture him as president, recommending “pray away the gay” treatment for our LGBTQ citizens. He did that when he was governor of Indiana. That ought to send shivers up your spine, too.

That leaves us with no good option for our next two years, so we have to choose the least bad solution. Here’s how to do that.

There is room for debate about the proper role of the federal government, but everybody believes that ensuring the safety and security of our nation is its primary job. For guidance on this, read Gen. Jim Mattis’ resignation letter. Note his clarity about standing with our allies and opposing those who would do harm to us or our allies and how important that is for our national security.

Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice wrote:

“.  .  .  Mr. Trump himself — has dealt the death blow to effective policy making. The president couldn’t care less about facts, intelligence, military analysis or the national interest. He refuses to take seriously the views of his advisers, announces decisions on impulse and disregards the consequences of his actions. In abandoning the role of a responsible commander in chief, Mr. Trump today does more to undermine American national security than any foreign adversary.”

We are substantively less secure now than we were two years ago. So, too, are our allies, the nations Trump has effectively told we will not stand with in case of trouble. These are the same nations who stood with us following 9/11, the only time in the history of NATO that Article 5 has been invoked. That’s the “collective defense” section of the NATO charter.

Which leads back to the question of impeachment and whether we can tolerate two more years of Trump’s hands on the reins. He’s a suck up to Putin, who is nuclear sabre rattling and rapidly expanding Russia’s military capabilities right now. He’s invading neighboring countries with impunity. Trump refuses to speak against that or take any action. At the same time, Trump is abandoning our friends like it’s just another of his divorces. He makes decisions based solely on what’s good for himself, not what’s best for our country.

I’m much less interested in what’s good for Democrats in 2020 than I am for what is best for our country. As bad as Pence may be, we need to get rid of Trump before he can do yet more damage. Besides, Pence may get caught up in the Mueller sting along with Trump and his family. That would bring about the very worst nightmare for members of the Republican Freedom Caucus: President Pelosi.

I’m thinking of running for president and will make the highlighted text my campaign slogan. Think it’ll work? Click the pic for a larger version.

For more on this read Sheila Markin’s report, How Trump Ends.

  • *Rep. Elijah Cummings was erroneously listed as representing South Carolina in the video post. He represents the 7th District of Maryland and I extend my apology for the error. JA

————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!

 


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

Why So Many Are Angry


Reading time – 3:59; Viewing time – 5:42  .  .  .

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was promoted as a surefire way to increase the wages of working Americans and promote the hiring of additional workers. “More than 70% of this [tax cut] will be returned to workers,” said White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, reading from official White House notes. It didn’t work out quite that way.

Corporations used far more of their tax savings on stock buy-backs than on anything that would directly benefit workers. The total used for stock buy-backs has surpassed $1,100,000,000,000 and the primary beneficiaries of that are people who are already wealthy.

Let’s try one more example.

After filing for bankruptcy, Sears closed many of its stores and the pink slips they put into workers’ pay envelopes told them that there would be no severance pay for them due to the bankruptcy. Now they’re giving out $25 million in bonuses to top executives. These are atta-boys for the very geniuses who drove the company into bankruptcy.

Want another example?

Wisconsin voters elected to boot Republican Gov. Scott Walker out of office and replace him with a Democrat. The lame duck session of the Republican state legislature then passed a series of bills designed to dramatically limit the power of the incoming Democratic governor and Walker has signed those bills into law. That keeps power in the hands of the people who lost the election and effectively thwarts the will of the people.

This post isn’t about railing against fat cats or Republicans. Rather, it’s about why we citizens are angry. It’s about real grievances rooted in the lives of millions who suffer while the powerful few enrich themselves.

I’m all for capitalism, but it, like anything, can be used to abuse, which is why we have regulations. Sometimes those regulations are ignored by those in power. Sometimes they pass laws that either directly or indirectly pad their own pockets and those of their “donor class,” often at the expense of the rest of us.

One last example.

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was President Trump’s first national security advisor. He was lobbying for a foreign government at the same time that he was receiving top secret U.S. national security briefings. What’s wrong with this picture?

Flynn lied about it. Trump tolerated it. How are you feeling about the performance of the primary job of the federal government – to protect our country and ensure national security? Flynn got $600,000 for his deceit.

When it consistently feels like you’re the screw-ee, there comes a breaking point for all of us and we get very angry. Some want to carry torches in the street and burn it all down and they will vote for whoever speaks to their rage. As long as that rage is continuously validated, all other leadership outrages can be ignored, like putting numbers on the forearms of child detainees at our border concentration camps instead of assertively dealing with the crisis of people seeking asylum.

One of the reasons we remain so very angry is the continuing Russian propaganda machine that has permeated our nation. Russia has worked to divide us, polarize us, confuse us, sow dissent and stoke our anger against anything that we used to see as bedrock of our nation. The people in our national security agencies are working to unravel that, but the most important point is that the leader of our country refuses to crack down on the Russians. Rather, he continues to create chaos – distracting, America-defeating chaos – making the stock market tumble, shaking our international alliances and making foreign autocrats applaud.

All of that and more is why so many of us are angry.

One more thing in two points .  .  .

First, the government is shut down. That isn’t about immigration. It isn’t about national security and it isn’t even about a wall. It’s entirely about Trump’s infantile ego. He declared on TV, “If I don’t get what I want, I’ll shut down the government.” (Play the audio below for the recording.) That has absolutely nothing to do with what’s best for our country.

Trump is promising to hold his breath and turn blue until he gets his way. And he thinks that’s what we should care about.

How is that working for you – or for the thousands of federal workers who won’t be getting paid?

Second point: Trump’s tweet that he will swiftly remove our troops from Syria came as a surprise to literally everyone, including our own Defense Department. Trump intends to cede the entire middle-east to the Russians, the Turks and the Iranians and abandon our allies, the Kurds, again. That is past the line of what Gen. Jim Mattis can tolerate, so he’s leaving the Defense Department. That’s shaking up our allies because there are no longer any adults in the room.

Main point: As important as these two issues are, recognize that Trump has effectively changed the national story away from the known 17 current investigations into the Trump Crime Family. Keep your eye on the ball.

Last minute correction: I’m informed that the numbers being written on the forearms of detained kids at our southern border are being written by welfare workers. I don’t know how that makes a difference from the same thing being done by government workers, but I’m told that it does. Just get that if these kids hadn’t been separated from their parents there would be no need for Gestapo-like numbers on their arms or any other form of ID. And get that this tattooing is being done in your name.

————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish that goal requires reaching a lot of people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


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

This Is Going To Be A Challenge


Reading time – 3:50; Viewing time – 5:07  .  .  .

The experts tell us what is painfully obvious, that we’ve trained ourselves to have a short little attention span and we refuse to hone our ability to hold conflicting or complex thoughts in mind. We are impatient in the extreme.

Examples:

It used to take about 45 minutes to bake a potato. Now it takes 4 minutes in the microwave oven and we stand in front of the machine counting down the last 30 seconds and maybe opening the door before it beeps because we just don’t have the patience to wait those last 7 seconds.

The online order that took 3 minutes for you to place arrives on your doorstep in no more than 2 days. We used to be satisfied with 2 weeks.

Information on nearly anything is available in under one second and we’re surprised if it takes more than one click to find it.

No doubt you can think of more examples of our expectations for instant gratification and wish fulfillment, but let’s just admit to our near-universal impatience. That’s why this is going to be a challenge.

That kind of behavior and expectations neatly delivers to us leaders who couch every issue as a simple problem with a quick, binary choice of solutions, when in reality most of the challenges we send our representatives to solve are complex, three dimensional puzzles that require holding complex thoughts in their heads and staying focused, on-task.

Bumper sticker slogans are so much easier than six pages of explanation and they’re instantly gratifying. That encourages our leaders to deliver what Elaina Plott described as, ”  .  .  .  a warped polity whose leaders are manipulative of public opinion rather than responsive to it.” Further, she said, “Popular discourse is given [over] to extremes.”

Chris Hedges wrote about this in a 2012 essay, How To Think. By the standard of our national nanosecond attention span, his piece is long and thick. So, go ahead – test your focusing skills – read the entire excellent essay. Meanwhile, here’s a excerpt:

“Human societies see what they want to see. They create national myths of identity out of a composite of historical events and fantasy. They ignore unpleasant facts that intrude on self-glorification. They trust naively in the notion of linear progress and in assured national dominance. This is what nationalism is about—lies. And if a culture loses its ability for thought and expression, if it effectively silences dissident voices, if it retreats into what Sigmund Freud called “screen memories,” those reassuring mixtures of fact and fiction, it dies. It surrenders its internal mechanism for puncturing self-delusion. It makes war on beauty and truth. It abolishes the sacred. It turns education into vocational training. It leaves us blind. And this is what has occurred. We are lost at sea in a great tempest. We do not know where we are. We do not know where we are going. And we do not know what is about to happen to us.”

Hedges’ comments were made 4 years before Trump was elected. What’s changed in the interim is the severity of the problems we face, as well as our having achieved an increasing clarity about the looming disaster that is about to happen to us. At the same time, we’re ever more impatient.

Click the caricature for the original

If Donald Trump has served a useful purpose for the United States it surely is as a caricature of our acquiescence to ignorance and easy non-solutions to complex problems. Those things give us a chest-thumping sugar high right until the moment when reality arrives and we come crashing down, like when we learned about all those children ripped from their mothers’ arms and then put in cages. He’s shown us daily what foolishness, greed, hate mongering and dishonesty can do to a nation. Perhaps the results of the mid-term election indicate that we are beginning to see for ourselves what has happened to us. We don’t like it and we’re taking action to redirect our country.

Angry old white guys who long for a proud and pleasant but fictitious past are dying off, so my hopes are for our young to put their shoulders to the wheel and move this national wagon in the right direction. The Parkland kids are showing the way. They just received the 2018 International Children’s Peace Prize, awarded by Bishop Desmond Tutu in Cape Town, South Africa. The Millennials at www.Represent.us and the tens of thousands who canvassed for candidates in this election are showing us the way as well.

For them and us to succeed will require that we hold complex thoughts in our heads and stay focused. It means now and then we will have to accept less than instant gratification. It means we may have to live with some level of disappointment and nevertheless stay the course.

This is going to be a challenge. And it is our challenge.

————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


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

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