rich

Hand Wringing


Reading time – 2:10; Viewing time – 3:33  .  .  .

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is conducted every 3 years and tests academic proficiency internationally. American kids haven’t progressed. “About a fifth of American 15-year-olds scored so low on the PISA test that it appeared they had not mastered reading skills expected of a 10-year-old .  .  . ” There’s more to learn and you can find a report here.

Meanwhile, students in other countries are consistently better prepared to succeed. We’ve tried various programs, including No Child Left Behind, Common Core State Standards, the Every Student Succeeds Act, Race to the Top and we’ve spent billions of dollars, but our kids are still behind.

American kids from wealthy families living in strong school districts are doing fine. Perhaps it’s the excellent schools. Maybe that performance is driven by family attitudes and expectations.

At the other end of the fixed-in-place economic teeter-totter are kids whose main academic achievement lies in falling behind not quite so much. So many schools are in disrepair, as are teaching materials and any sense of hope. That’s what happens when we attempt to operate our 21st century schools on a 17th century model.

It’s time to figure this out. And it’s time to do so without political turf grabbing or pork barrelling or ego stuffing. Perhaps then we can actually prepare our kids – all of our kids- for the 21st century.

Do you see any national leaders, say, the president, doing anything to make things better? Neither do I. And our inertia is fueling making this the Chinese century.

In an odd way, this is very much like the infrastructure programs we’ve been promised. Other than re-paving some sections of interstate highways and repairing the most dilapidated bridges, have you seen even a hint of infrastructure improvement?

During the 2016  campaign Trump promised an infrastructure program that would be “the biggest and boldest in half a century.” In 2018 he laid out a pie-in-the sky, one-page infrastructure plan. One step in that plan was “Then a miracle happens.” It wasn’t dead on arrival; it was dead before it was sent to Congress. So, there’s been nothing done. Nothing.

I confess that it’s satisfying to bash Trump for that, but we’ve been talking about this issue for decades and doing nothing about it for just as long.

It’s impeachment season, so Congress is mired in either walking or chewing gum and is unable to do both at the same time. So, regardless of impeachment outcomes, we’re certain to hear nothing more about infrastructure than some hand wringing next year. And there won’t be even that for the education of our kids.

This is what absolutist politics that views compromise as surrender does for us.

This is what treating those who disagree as though they’re enemy combatants does for us.

Unless something changes, this is what we’ll continue to get.

Think about that as you make your voting choices on November 3rd.

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NOTES:

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

 


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

Guest Essay – The Real Reason


Reading time – 4:35  .  .  .

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addendum

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

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

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


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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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Moral Values


Reading time – 3:56; Viewing time – 5:43  .  .  .

The Gallup organization does polling on lots of things, one of which is how we feel about ourselves. They just produced a report that shows that we believe our moral values aren’t good and are getting worse.

That got me to thinking about what that means. What are our moral values? I don’t recall seeing them posted on any wall. We listed some values in the Declaration of Independence. Maybe those are the ones.

The Republicans have been claiming to be the party of “family values” for decades, but I don’t remember any clarification of what that means, which makes that claim nothing more than a bumper sticker like, “I’ve been to Wall Drug.”

The American divorce rate has hovered around 50% for decades, but is now decreasing, this due entirely to Millennials, so marriage commitment likely isn’t a driver of our notion that our moral values are getting worse.

Both violent crime and property crime in this country have been dropping for decades, according to Pew Research, Gallup and many others. Perhaps that says something about our notion of honesty and how sticky that is. That doesn’t seem to be the cause of our worsening self-image, either.

So, exactly which moral values do we view as bad and getting worse? And does that apply to all of us or to some of us most especially? I think it’s the latter.

I think that outside of our government, no Americans are ripping children from their mothers and then leaving them in cages or in vans. I think that outside of our government most people keep their word, they don’t stab friends in the back and they don’t cozy up to people they know are bad guys. I think that most of us have the courage to stand up for what’s right and to oppose what’s wrong.

And I believe that hasn’t changed much over the decades. We have roughly the same proportion of heroes and cowards, honest people and crooks and all the rest as in years past. What’s changed is our notion about how we are, far more so than how we’ve actually changed. And if that’s correct, then where are we getting these notions of how we’re morally slip-sliding away? I think we need to look to leadership.

Note that the tens of thousands of Brits who demonstrated weren’t protesting America; they were protesting Trump. Clearly, they see the real moral values problem.

Johnson gave us the Vietnam War. Nixon gave us Watergate. Ford gave us absence of accountability. Carter gave us a wimpy handshake. Reagan gave us supply side economics and Iran-Contra. H.W. Bush gave us “Read my lips.” Clinton gave us Monica. W. Bush gave us two unnecessary – some say illegal – wars that continue to be U.S. tar babies. Trump gave us endless lies and corruption, brainless deconstruction of what makes our country work, continuing abuse of migrant children and his wearying narcissism. And most of these presidents gave us stagnant wages for all but a fabulously wealthy few and invested them with grossly out-sized power and influence.

Yes, I know I left Obama off this list. I just can’t seem to conjure his horrible scandal, betrayal or criminal behavior. Although there was that tan suit that so infuriated Congressional Republicans.

Here’s my point. I think that the constant drumbeat of horrible leadership that stabs our intuited moral values in the back warps our thinking about ourselves.

That doesn’t relieve us of our responsibility for having elected these presidents and members of Congress who fall so terrilbly short. That’s on all of us. If our notions about our moral values are to improve, the responsibility lies with us and what we do. We can start to make things better by voting. And I don’t mean just the 60% who typically show up for presidential elections. I mean the other 40%, too. Then perhaps we’ll feel better about our moral values when we’ve ousted the greatest violator of them all, as well as his enablers.

My pal David Houle is a futurist. That means that while you’re doing whatever you do throughout the day, he’s researching what’s to come. His recent post suggests that things are and will be changing dramatically, specifically as we move beyond 20th century thinking into 21st century thinking. Have a look at his post and see what you think.

Just get that only a few years ago the Green New Deal wasn’t a remote possibility even for discussion. Recall Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth and how he and his notions were mocked. Neither was Medicare for all open for discussion, nor was immigration reform or prison reform or gun safety and so many other issues. Our changing cast of characters in government to people with 21st century thinking has already changed the discussion and change in action can’t be far behind. It’s likely we’ll feel differently about ourselves as all this unfolds. Stand by for a new Gallup report in a few years – it’s going to look very different.

Final unrelated point: Read David Brooks’ essay “The Coming GOP Apocalypse.” And before you cheer on that apocalypse, do a gut check on your belief in diversity. America needs Republicans. It’s just that they got lost in the woods of self-important chest thumping a few decades ago and can’t hear anyone else over the sound of their certainties. What we need is not their demise; we need them to come to their senses.

So, find an old school conservative friend and convince them to run for office to save our nation from today’s so-called Republicans.

Many thanks to JC for the pointer to Brooks’ essay.

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

Simplistic Solutions From 2,789 Years Ago


Reading time – 4:09; Viewing time – 5:40  .  .  .

“The history of the Great Wall of China began when fortifications built by various states during the Spring and Autumn [period] (771–476 bc) and Warring States periods (475–221 bc) were connected by the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, to protect his newly founded Qin dynasty (221–206 bc) against incursions by nomads from Inner Asia.“

So begins the Wikipedia narrative about the Great Wall. It was a successful defensive measure against warring neighbors and was military state-of-the-art in the first millennium BC.

That was then and, of course, this is now. We don’t have warring neighbors or incursions by nomads from Inner Asia or anywhere else to worry about. Furthermore, a physical wall simply isn’t a barrier to anyone today, given that those who would enter the U.S. illegally have all heard of ladders, tunnels and boats. Nevertheless, our unimaginative president is attempting to fix his imagined 21st century crisis with a 771 BC solution.

Trump continues to threaten to declare a national emergency over what is plainly not an emergency. He would then steal $5.7 billion from places where Congress had appropriated it and would use that to build his useless wall and starve other needs. While he will attract an immediate court challenge that likely will stop him, he’ll proceed anyway. When he’s stopped he’ll wallow in his victimhood, because that’s what self-centered autocrats do.

Next, from MarketWatch:

“Lawmakers, already in a protectionist mood, responded to the pain of the Great Depression by passing the infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, which raised duties on hundreds of imports.

“Meant in part to ease the effects of the Depression by protecting American industry and agriculture from foreign competition, the act instead helped prolong the downturn. Many U.S. trading partners reacted by raising their own tariffs, which contributed significantly to shutting down world trade.”

That is to say, Trump is now using failed tariff policies from nearly 100 years ago to solve a trade problem that doesn’t even exist in the way he naively describes it. His tough guy behavior may feel good to some for a moment, but it eventually becomes self-defeating. Just ask Harley Davidson and our soy bean farmers.

Trump thinks and acts simplistically, regardless of the complexity of an issue. His solutions are always puffery and brute force and they’re entirely lacking even a whiff of insight from higher level cognitive functioning. Sadly, our international opponents are playing three dimensional chess while Trump is smashing checkers with a big hammer.

Whatever may be his mental issues that caused him to lie over 6,000 times during his first two years in office, the real issue is not Trump’s lying. The real issue is Trump’s lack of recognition of the truth. It means nothing to him. He seems to believe that all he has to do is to say something and Voila! – it becomes true. For Trump, reality is just a minor obstacle to walk over. It’s what autocrats always do. For more on this, refer to Putin, Xi, Duerte, Erdoğan, Hitler and Stalin.

The rise of autocracy around the world has been well documented and it represents a clear and present danger because autocracies have a way of creating wars. Millions suffer and die. Everything is made worse.

Not long ago I wrote,

The worst thing, though, is the ongoing drumbeat of how awful our government is, including blatant lies by legislators and by polarized commentators, like Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones. That has led to a very angry citizenry. And that has led to the election of a president who is incrementally tearing down the very things that make this country work, including our democracy itself. Somehow, his supporters, otherwise good, solid folks, are so angry that they are willing to ignore Trump’s crazy.

I have written (here and here or click Fascism in the Categories list to the right) about the threat of creeping fascism in this country and have seen nothing to indicate that progress has been made to reverse the weakening of our democracy. It continues as predicted by Henry Wallace, Franklin Roosevelt’s next to last vice-president, and we’ve been warned repeatedly by various clear-headed thinkers that, “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” That sounds a lot like Trump’s appeals to “his base.”

Have a look at what former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has to say about this. Then think about whether it’s okay to have a simplistic president solving 21st century challenges with 3-millennia old solutions and all the rest of his crazy, the way autocrats always do. Then think about a wag the dog gambit to keep him in power, like the looming opportunities for war in Argentina and Iran. How are we going to prevent that? If we fail, Trump may have enough time to tear everything down.

                   ————————————

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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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.

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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. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish that goal requires reaching a lot of people, so:

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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Perversion


Reading time – 4:41; Viewing time – 6:43  .  .  .

First they were the “silent majority.” Then they were “values voters,” which seemed to imply that those who didn’t see things exactly their way had no values. Now they’re “the base” or “Evangelicals.” Regardless of the label, they were and are focused on being a minority holding power over the heathen majority as though it’s a religious imperative. It’s a most exclusionary position, as in “I’ve got it and you can’t have it.” Whether it’s citizenship, civil and voting rights, power, superiority – it doesn’t matter. It’s all about we-who-are-right-and-good-and-godly versus all the people who are wrong and less-than and probably unpatriotic, too. Whatever advances their agenda is okay.

Paul Weyrich was the Dean Wormer of voter suppression.

Paul Weyrich, a conservative commentator and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, declared the Republican marching orders in August, 1980 while speaking to the Religious Roundtable, saying,

“I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

Republicans have been pursuing Weyrich’s repressive dictum tied to a fairy tale of religious purity ever since. They’ve made claims of massive voter fraud without any evidence to suggest that it even exists and have warned of dire consequences to our country if the “wrong” people are allowed to vote. They’ve quite ably reduced opposing voter turnout by:

– Purging voter roles for spurious reasons, primarily of people of color and the poor

– Purging voter lists of people only because they haven’t voted in the past few elections

– Closing offices, making it difficult to register to vote

– Closing polling places making it difficult to vote

– Challenging ballots due to minor errors, like omitting a middle initial

– Dirty tricks, like sending mailings with the wrong date or place for voting

– Requiring IDs that many poor people simply don’t have

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

– Refusing to accept IDs that many people do have

– Rejecting voter registrations on ridiculous technicalities

– Redistricting (gerrymandering) that effectively neuters votes

– Claiming voter fraud with absolutely no evidence of it having occurred

– Packing the courts with right wing judges who allow these perversions to stand

Voter suppression advances the control and wealth of the minority to the detriment of the majority, which perverts our democracy. Right now there is no equivalency on the Democratic side, although there has been in the past. But there is perversion equivalency somewhere else: it’s the Big Money influence on our politicians and our democracy. Now, that’s an equal opportunity perverter.

There’s a reason you’re paying crazy high prices for your meds. It’s because the pharmaceutical industry lobbies in the form of direct and indirect cash support for politicians. That monetary influence reduces their inclination to do anything that the big companies wouldn’t like, such as opposing mergers and acquisitions that reduce competition. The near-monopoly created by those mergers allows and even encourages med makers to raise prices. And it’s actually worse than that.

In economic terms, pharmaceutical price hike damage is compounded by what’s called inelastic demand. That means that your purchases won’t be reduced if the price goes up because your life depends on those meds.

We have plenty of anti-trust (i.e. anti-monopoly) laws on the books, but they’re pretty much ignored. There was the breakup of AT&T in the 1980s (which has by now been largely negated) and the Microsoft suit in the 1990s, but not much else for decades. Meanwhile, the mergers of major companies continue.

Many of our air carriers have merged, like Continental being absorbed by United and US Air was bought by American and, unsurprisingly, ticket prices are rising. And if the T-Mobile and Sprint merger is allowed to happen, and regardless of which carrier you now use, what do you suppose that will mean for your cell phone bill? That’s right: it will go up.

And it’s not just your financial burden that might be affected.

The gargantuan size of companies resulting from allowing already big companies to merge can be a contributor to a decline in democracy and even a rise of fascism. Here’s how it works.

When we feel powerless, we look for someone to lead us back to a feeling of being in control of our lives and our country. But the autocratic leader we choose then partners with the huge companies to get their loyalty and support. In return, those companies get to avoid accountability for their actions and we pay the price.

In the end, we’re left even more powerless and our democracy will have been perverted. Read Tim Wu’s piece “Be Afraid of ‘Bigness.’ Be Very Afraid.” Bigness – monopoly – warps government, which perverts democracy and invites autocracy, which steamrolls you.

This discussion wouldn’t be complete without making clear that all of our perverting craziness is for the purpose of the ultra-wealthy few keeping and grabbing even more power by undermining our democracy. The drum major for that band is, of course, Donald Trump. But all those denials of rights of our citizens are part of the perversion.

It’s in Trump’s interests to kneecap the system that’s in place and to diminish those in his path. He went on a tweet storm last week bashing Robert S. Mueller and the FBI. You owe it to yourself to review CNN’s clear-headed, examination of what he tweeted. As you read it, be clear that his is not just a temper tantrum. It’s a perversion of our democracy.

————————————

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:

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

If Only Someone Could Name One


Reading time – 2:15  .  .  .

It’s time to focus on Trump’s policies and policy actions and what they mean to us.

“America First” is more a campaign bumper sticker than a strategy, so that’s not a helpful guide. All I’ve been able to find are Trump’s various tactics to accomplish  .  .  .  something. Here are some examples.

I can’t name Trump’s foreign affairs policy. I do know that:

He moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thereby shoving a big U.S. thumb in the eye of all Palestinians and most Arabs and further undermining the possibility of lasting peace in the region. And he pissed off a lot of Muslims, creating a new recruiting poster for ISIS and al Qaeda. Not helpful to us.

He fired off a bunch of missiles at Syria, killing many people while avoiding hitting many of Assad’s chemical weapon stockpiles and production facilities, so the multi-million dollar fireworks show was essentially no help in stopping Assad from gassing his people. We did make some more fervent enemies.

He continues to play softball with Putin and his oligarchs, even after all the plain, visible evidence that Russia, an avowed enemy of the United States, cyber-attacked America. You fill in the blanks as to what that means to our democracy.

I can’t name Trump’s economic policy. I do know that:

He has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum coming from some of our closest allies and trading partners (the EU, Canada, Mexico), incentivizing them to retaliate. That is to say, he’s started a trade war. It is forecast to raise prices in the U.S. and cost many thousands of American jobs. And that makes Putin smile.

During the 2016 election campaign Trump promised to bring jobs back from China. He recently visited with President Xi and oddly declared that ZTE, manufacturer of cheap cell phones that China uses to spy on America, had a problem and we had to support them and save 70,000 jobs – in China. Immediately thereafter China made a $500 million cash infusion to Trump’s private resort project in Indonesia. The results are fewer American jobs and unlawful emoluments for the president, which further erodes our system of justice.

Trump enthusiastically promoted and signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which decreases federal taxes for most people for a short while and lowers taxes for corporations in perpetuity. 83% of the personal tax savings go to the super-wealthy and the Act will create $1.5 trillion of national debt. Do the math for your kids.

I don’t know what Trump’s civil and voting rights policy is. I do know that:

One of his first acts as President was to create the Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity and make former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach its lead. Both the charter of the committee and Kobach’s personal purpose are to end the non-existent scourge of voter fraud by preventing lawful but poor or non-white U.S. citizens from voting.

Trump has tried three times to prevent Muslims from entering the U.S. That’s a subversion of the First Amendment protection of freedom of religion.

Trump’s immigration practices are designed to prevent anyone but white, European Christians from entering the U.S. To enforce this, he has instituted the practice of ripping thousands of children from their parents when they show up at our southern border to apply for entry. Are you okay with that, Mom?

And of course there is Trump’s tweeted temper tantrum against Samantha Bee for her crude statement about Ivanka, matched with his complete absence of criticism of Roseanne Barr for her most recent racial slur. Apparently, bad mouthing Ivanka is inexcusable, but racial hate speech is okay anytime.

I can’t name Trump’s policy regarding preserving and protecting our democracy. I do know that:

He has carried on an unrelenting demonizing of our system of justice and the agencies that ensure that we are safe, like the Justice Department and the FBI, this for his stated purpose of undermining public confidence in those agencies.

He has attacked our press with his stated purpose of undermining pubic confidence in our Fourth Estate so that the American people won’t believe negative reporting about Trump.

There’s just a snapshot in understated terms of Trump’s policies. My promise to you is that I’ll henceforth do my level best to avoid reactions to Trump’s temper tantrum tweets and his constant stream of lies. Instead, I will focus exclusively on preserving our democracy and on his policies. Now, if only someone could name one of those policies  .  .  .

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Ed. note: I don’t want your 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 the goal requires reaching many thousands of people, so:

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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Got It


Reading time – 3:39; Viewing time – 5:22  .  .  .

Question 1

In 2012 President Obama signed the Executive Order on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – DACA. He did this both because it was the right way to treat these folks and because the Republican Congress was dedicated solely to opposing anything Obama endorsed, regardless of its inherent value. That meant that an Executive Order was the only way to get this – or really, anything – done.

Last September President Trump reversed Obama’s Executive Order with one of his own. His justification was the flimsy excuse that Congress should create a law about this. He gave them 6 months to get that done and, of course, nothing has been done by this Congress for over 9 months. Why would Trump do that?

Question 2

Kim Jong-un asked for a meeting with Trump and Trump leaped to agree. The “rocket man” taunt and the juvenile schoolyard brag that Trump’s button was bigger that Kim’s were gone, replaced by gracious statements about the murderous North Korean dictator. Then Trump sent a letter to Kim calling off the June 12 meeting because Kim had said a mean thing about Vice-President Pence. Why would Trump do that?

Question 3

Trump slapped significant tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from our best friends, Canada, Mexico and the countries of the European Union. He justified his actions with false claims about our balance of trade. The allies we are presently abusing in this way are in the process of establishing their own retaliatory tariffs on American products, especially our agricultural exports, and China is thrilled with us making ourselves an unreliable trading partner. Our economists and financial types have made clear that the trade war Trump has started will cause the net loss of tens of thousands of American jobs – maybe hundreds of thousands – and create higher prices for all of us. Why would Trump do that?

Answers

Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that his M.O. for negotiating is to take away something the other party has and wants. He figures that the other party will then bargain to get back what they had, giving Trump something he wants in the process, effectively at no cost. And all of that happens without Trump having any regard for the harm he does to others.

  1. Trump took away DACA and used that takeaway to bargain for his useless “beautiful wall.” He didn’t get the wall, but in the process of his manipulation he deported some and traumatized all 700,000 DACA people.
  2. Trump took away the North Korean summit so he’d look like he has the upper hand. What he got was a vague statement about de-nuclearization, so Trump said the meeting was now a go. Kim won’t eliminate his nuclear weapons, so Trump has fooled himself with his own stunt. And Kim will get exactly what he wants: international legitimacy and maybe sanctions relief. Foolishly, Trump will brag that only he could have done this. He might be right about that. But now millions will suffer and the world will continue to live in the shadow of Kim’s nuclear ambition. And all those bad things will happen even if Trump walks away from the summit. President Xi of China loves that.
  3. Trump slapped tariffs on our friends. Watch for Trump’s demand that they foot more of the cost of NATO as the key to terminating the tariffs. In the process he will have shredded decades, even centuries of built up goodwill, much to the pleasure of Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s negotiating strategy – got it.

Just keep in mind that Trump’s self-proclaimed genius for deal making led to six bankruptcies and a lot of very angry people. At the national and international level, abusing people is a really bad thing not likely to be forgotten by those angry people. That will have long term negative consequences for America.

Related to this, see the USA Today piece on Trump’s business relationships with top foreign leaders. And don’t miss the end of the ban on exclusions for preexisting conditions, coming soon to a medical insurance plan near you. What do you suppose Trump wants for his wealthy buddies in exchange for us keeping our insurance coverage?

As always, follow the money.

And Another Thing

Click me for the full story

The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta has issued a report, “Suicide Rising Across the US“. Two things jump out of the report:

  1. The primary tool for suicide is firearms. I’m guessing that easy accessibility and ease of use are key factors in that. Thanks so much, NRA sponsored legislators.
  2. The states with the highest rates of suicide are largely states Trump won. Correlation? Dunno, but it looks most curious. And lethal.

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Ed. note: I don’t want your 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 the goal requires reaching many thousands of people, 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.

Common Wisdom v2.0


Reading time – 2:50; Viewing time – 3:52  .  .  .

This post has waited a year to be published for the obvious reason that so much craziness occurs constantly that some important things get left behind.

In a May 31, 2017 article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, Why Do The Young Reject Capitalism?, by Warren A. Stephens, the claim was made that our colleges and universities are bastions of lefty-ism that teach our young pups to hate capitalism. The letters to the editor that followed on June 11 were all in agreement, one of them even declaring that our children have been “on the dole” all their lives, so of course they expect others to do the work. It’s all a very tidy package of stereotypes. There’s a palpable self-satisfaction of all the writers pointing fingers at and judging colleges and students who just don’t get the pure perfectness of unfettered capitalism and who are probably harming we who do get it.

But where is the substantiation for the claim that higher education in America is anti-capitalism and teaches our students to be freeloaders? It’s easy to make the sweeping claims, but doing so doesn’t make those claims true, any more than what’s-his-name accusing President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower made his evidence-free claims true.

Young people have always worn their idealism on their shirtsleeves – you did, too – but does their idealism mean that our schools are teaching them to hate capitalism and be bums? That common wisdom may be common but I see no evidence of wisdom. Somebody please show me the unbiased research that justifies such claims. Otherwise, Warren A. Stephens, you can just shut up.

Everyone knows that our popular press is lefty. In a June 17, 2017 piece for the New York Times entitled Notes on A Political Shooting, which was prompted by the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise and security people at a baseball practice, Ross Douthat casually wrote, “But because our centrist elites are actually center-left there is a constant, involuntary tug toward emphasizing what’s wrong on the right-wing side of the spectrum and excusing what’s wrong on the other.” Apparently, those centrist elites are torqued until they’re lefty blue and we are all misled by their slant.

Douthat’s claim of a lefty press is made as a given, and others make that claim, too, but is there any truth to it? Where is the unbiased study that says overall our so-called “elites” – does that mean journalists? – are lefties? It certainly isn’t true at The Wall Street Journal or The Arizona Republic or The Chicago Tribune or The Manchester Union Leader or The Orange County Register, all of which are editorially righty publications, and there are many others. Nearly all of our talk radio is either conservative or extremist right fringe. I’m not convinced of the wisdom of Douthat’s common wisdom. Somebody please show me the research that justifies his claims. Otherwise, Ross Douthat, you can just shut up, too.

The claims of left-leaning anti-capitalism of our colleges, our students and elites are easy to make, but I want someone to substantiate them with actual factual facts. Not an “everybody knows” justification, but empirical data. You know – like science-y stuff. Until then, my wisdom about these claims of common wisdom is that the wisdom part is missing. These are yet another set of stories told over and over until people come to believe the claims, without having any justification that’s grounded in reality on planet Earth.

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Ed. note: I don’t want your 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 the goal requires reaching many thousands of people, so:

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

D’oh!


Reading time – 3:09; Viewing time – 4:28  .  .  .

Trump’s temper tantrum list – and this is just a short, partial list – came to me in a true Homer Simpson moment. Here’s what he’s done:

  • – Backed the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accords, a plan for global climate protection that was agreed to by 195 nations
  • – Eliminated the 2012 CAFE standards that would dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels that contribute to global warming
  • – Backed the U.S. out of the TPP, thus giving enormous leverage on international trade to China, yet another step toward the U.S. becoming Number 2
  • – Cancelled DACA, putting nearly a million kids and young adults at risk by betraying them
  • – Opened our national parks and other protected lands and oceans to fossil fuel exploration
  • – Backed the U.S. out of the JCPOA, a successful, single focus agreement that prevents Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, leaving us a future choice between accepting Iran as a nuclear state or starting a war
  • – Promoted and signed a tax plan that overwhelmingly (85%) benefits already very wealthy people and corporations and blows off the rest of us in just a few years

This started when President Obama committed the greatest of sins, the most heinous of indictable crimes when he mocked Donald Trump at White House Correspondents Dinners (here at about 20 minutes).

Trump, a whining, sniveling little victim always, was infuriated and we know that whenever he thinks he’s been wronged (which is pretty much every day) he goes into full court press attack mode. And that’s what he’s been doing since he got his hands on the reins.

Trump has stupidly, childishly, clumsily done everything possible to erase the legacy of Barack Obama. The sole exception occurs whenever he can blame anything, whether real and imagined, on his predecessor. It doesn’t matter a whit to Trump if what he does harms our people or our country or the entire planet. He doesn’t care if he puts us at risk of civilization destroying nuclear war or any other consequence as long as he can diminish Barack Obama. That is the tyrant child we have as a president.

And another thing  .  .  .

Many Republicans in Congress and our nominally Republican president hate the very notion of helping poor people. “It’s your fault,” and “Help yourself,” intoned the pizza king presidential candidate, Herman Cain. Conservatives hate welfare, like the food stamps that make it so that poor children have something to eat.

Making that cruelty to our most at-risk people even worse are the slimy  reforms proposed by conservatives. People like Paul Ryan call for welfare changes that they brand with chest thumping, patriotic sounding names and then they lie about their programs and the adverse effect they’ll have on poor people. That’s the slime.

Repealing all welfare is likely politically impossible, but there must be a solution somewhere to this anathema to the conservative soul. Well, I just happen to have a solution that should satisfy everyone.

A kid in a family with an out of work coal miner dad in West Virginia doesn’t have the same resources for building an economically successful life as, say, little Donald Trump did. He began life with huge wealth in his lap, and just look at what he claims to have built from that. It’s obvious from that comparison – the poor kid in West Virginia and the rich Donald in New York – that the solution to our welfare mess is for everyone to start with a fortune.

That is why I propose that we give every current and future poor person a one-time $1 million stake to use to create their own life of wealth. Just imagine the millions of Americans with enormous wealth that this insightful program will produce. We’ll do away with all other welfare programs and that will make conservatives happy.

Best of all, the rest of us won’t have to listen to any more disingenuous and slimy conservative welfare reform schemes.

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Ed. note: I don’t want your 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 the goal requires reaching many thousands of 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.

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