right wing

A Modest Proposal – v2.0

Indiana

Indiana

Reading time – 59 seconds  .  .  .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Howard Beale character, “Network,” MGM, 1976

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop Pretending It’s Not Happening

Can you identify this?

Can you identify this?

Reading time – well worth it  .  .  . 

Something’s going on. You can feel it even if you can’t name it. Things are changing from what they used to be or should be or could be to what you don’t want them to be.

We humans aren’t very good at noticing small changes. Incremental stuff just doesn’t reach our consciousness until it accumulates into something big and we become aware of it well after the fact.

And that’s what is happening to America. There have been lots of changes over the past 35 years and especially since 9/11. Now, if you take a good look, eyes wide open, you won’t recognize your country.

Tom Englehardt wrote a stunning piece in his blog www.TomDispatch.com in an effort to make some sense of what you already sense but as yet have no words to describe. His piece is reprinted below with permission. Pay special attention to his last sentence: “Stop pretending it’s not happening.”

READ THE POST BELOW. IT IS VITALLY IMPORTANT. THAT’S WHY THESE SENTENCES ARE IN ALL CAPS.

Print Tom’s brilliant essay, grab your second cup o’ joe and settle into your reading chair for 15 minutes. Some things that haven’t made sense will suddenly begin to take on a solid form. Just be forewarned that you may not like it.

Thanks to JL for pointing us to Tom’s clarity.

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Tomgram: Engelhardt: Is a New Political System Emerging in This Country?

The New American Order 
1% Elections, The Privatization of the State, a Fourth Branch of Government, and the Demobilization of “We the People” 
By Tom Engelhardt

Have you ever undertaken some task you felt less than qualified for, but knew that someone needed to do? Consider this piece my version of that, and let me put what I do understand about it in a nutshell: based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name.

And here’s what I find strange: the evidence of this, however inchoate, is all around us and yet it’s as if we can’t bear to take it in or make sense of it or even say that it might be so.

Let me make my case, however minimally, based on five areas in which at least the faint outlines of that new system seem to be emerging: political campaigns and elections; the privatization of Washington through the marriage of the corporation and the state; the de-legitimization of our traditional system of governance; the empowerment of the national security state as an untouchable fourth branch of government; and the demobilization of “we the people.”

Whatever this may add up to, it seems to be based, at least in part, on the increasing concentration of wealth and power in a new plutocratic class and in that ever-expanding national security state. Certainly, something out of the ordinary is underway, and yet its birth pangs, while widely reported, are generally categorized as aspects of an exceedingly familiar American system somewhat in disarray.

1. 1% Elections

Check out the news about the 2016 presidential election and you’ll quickly feel a sense of been-there, done-that. As a start, the two names most associated with it, Bush and Clinton, couldn’t be more familiar, highlighting as they do the curiously dynastic quality of recent presidential contests.  (If a Bush or Clinton should win in 2016 and again in 2020, a member of one of those families will have controlled the presidency for 28 of the last 36 years.)

Take, for instance, “Why 2016 Is Likely to Become a Close Race,” a recent piece Nate Cohn wrote for my hometown paper.  A noted election statistician, Cohn points out that, despite Hillary Clinton’s historically staggering lead in Democratic primary polls (and lack of serious challengers), she could lose the general election.  He bases this on what we know about her polling popularity from the Monica Lewinsky moment of the 1990s to the present.  Cohn assures readers that Hillary will not “be a Democratic Eisenhower, a popular, senior statesperson who cruises to an easy victory.”  It’s the sort of comparison that offers a certain implicit reassurance about the near future.  (No, Virginia, we haven’t left the world of politics in which former general and president Dwight D. Eisenhower can still be a touchstone.)

Cohn may be right when it comes to Hillary’s electability, but this is not Dwight D. Eisenhower’s or even Al Gore’s America. If you want a measure of that, consider this year’s primaries. I mean, of course, the 2015 ones. Once upon a time, the campaign season started with candidates flocking to Iowa and New Hampshire early in the election year to establish their bona fides among party voters. These days, however, those are already late primaries.

The early primaries, the ones that count, take place among a small group of millionaires and billionaires, a new caste flush with cash who will personally, or through complex networks of funders, pour multi-millions of dollars into the campaigns of candidates of their choice.  So the early primaries — this year mainly a Republican affair — are taking place in resort spots like Las Vegas, Rancho Mirage, California, and Sea Island, Georgia, as has been widely reported. These “contests” involve groveling politicians appearing at the beck and call of the rich and powerful, and so reflect our new 1% electoral system. (The main pro-Hillary super PAC, for instance, is aiming for a kitty of $500 million heading into 2016, while the Koch brothers network has already promised to drop almost $1 billion into the coming campaign season, doubling their efforts in the last presidential election year.)

Ever since the Supreme Court opened up the ultimate floodgates with its 2010 Citizens United decision, each subsequent election has seen record-breaking amounts of money donated and spent. The 2012 presidential campaign was the first $2 billion election; campaign 2016 is expected to hit the $5 billion mark without breaking a sweat.  By comparison, according to Burton Abrams and Russell Settle in their study, “The Effect of Broadcasting on Political Campaign Spending,” Republicans and Democrats spent just under $13 million combined in 1956 when Eisenhower won his second term.

In the meantime, it’s still true that the 2016 primaries will involve actual voters, as will the election that follows. The previous election season, the midterms of 2014, cost almost $4 billion, a record despite the number of small donors continuing to drop. It also represented the lowest midterm voter turnout since World War II. (See: demobilization of the public, below — and add in the demobilization of the Democrats as a real party, the breaking of organized labor, the fragmenting of the Republican Party, and the return of voter suppression laws visibly meant to limit the franchise.) It hardly matters just what the flood of new money does in such elections, when you can feel the weight of inequality bearing down on the whole process in a way that is pushing us somewhere new.

2. The Privatization of the State (or the U.S. as a Prospective Third-World Nation)

In the recent coverage of the Hillary Clinton email flap, you can find endless references to the Clintons of yore in wink-wink, you-know-how-they-are-style reporting; and yes, she did delete a lot of emails; and yes, it’s an election year coming and, as everyone points out, the Republicans are going to do their best to keep the email issue alive until hell freezes over, etc., etc.  Again, the coverage, while eyeball gluing, is in a you’ve-seen-it-all-before, you’ll-see-it-all-again-mode.

However, you haven’t seen it all before. The most striking aspect of this little brouhaha lies in what’s most obvious but least highlighted.  An American secretary of state chose to set up her own private, safeguarded email system for doing government work; that is, she chose to privatize her communications.  If this were Cairo, it might not warrant a second thought.  But it didn’t happen in some third-world state.  It was the act of a key official of the planet’s reigning (or thrashing) superpower, which — even if it wasn’t the first time such a thing had ever occurred — should be taken as a tiny symptom of something that couldn’t be larger or, in the long stretch of history, newer: the ongoing privatization of the American state, or at least the national security part of it.

Though the marriage of the state and the corporation has a pre-history, the full-scale arrival of the warrior corporation only occurred after 9/11.  Someday, that will undoubtedly be seen as a seminal moment in the formation of whatever may be coming in this country.  Only 13 years later, there is no part of the war state that has not experienced major forms of privatization.  The U.S. military could no longer go to war without its crony corporations doing KP and guard duty, delivering the mail, building the bases, and being involved in just about all of its activities, including training the militaries of foreign allies and even fighting.  Such warrior corporations are now involved in every aspect of the national security state, including torture, drone strikes, and — to the tune of hundreds of thousands of contract employees like Edward Snowden — intelligence gathering and spying.  You name it and, in these years, it’s been at least partly privatized.

All you have to do is read reporter James Risen’s recent book, Pay Any Price, on how the global war on terror was fought in Washington, and you know that privatization has brought something else with it: corruption, scams, and the gaming of the system for profits of a sort that might normally be associated with a typical third-world kleptocracy.  And all of this, a new world being born, was reflected in a tiny way in Hillary Clinton’s very personal decision about her emails.

Though it’s a subject I know so much less about, this kind of privatization (and the corruption that goes with it) is undoubtedly underway in the non-war-making, non-security-projecting part of the American state as well.

3. The De-legitimization of Congress and the Presidency

On a third front, American “confidence” in the three classic check-and-balance branches of government, as measured by polling outfits, continues to fall.  In 2014, Americans expressing a “great deal of confidence” in the Supreme Court hit a new low of 23%; in the presidency, it was 11%, and in Congress a bottom-scraping 5%.  (The military, on the other hand, registers at 50%.)  The figures for “hardly any confidence at all” are respectively 20%, 44%, and more than 50%.  All are in or near record-breaking territory for the last four decades.

It seems fair to say that in recent years Congress has been engaged in a process of de-legitimizing itself.  Where that body once had the genuine power to declare war, for example, it is now “debating” in a desultory fashion an “authorization” for a war against the Islamic State in Syria, Iraq, and possibly elsewhere that has already been underway for eight months and whose course, it seems, will be essentially unaltered, whether Congress authorizes it or not.

What would President Harry Truman, who once famously ran a presidential campaign against a “do-nothing” Congress, have to say about a body that truly can do just about nothing?  Or rather, to give the Republican war hawks in that new Congress their due, not quite nothing.  They are proving capable of acting effectively to de-legitimize the presidency as well.  House Majority Leader John Boehner’s invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to undercut the president’s Iranian nuclear negotiations and the letter signed by 47 Republican senators and directed to the Iranian ayatollahs are striking examples of this.  They are visibly meant to tear down an “imperial presidency” that Republicans gloried in not so long ago.

The radical nature of that letter, not as an act of state but of its de-legitimization, was noted even in Iran, where fundamentalist Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei proclaimed it “a sign of a decline in political ethics and the destruction of the American establishment from within.” Here, however, the letter is either being covered as a singularly extreme one-off act (“treason!”) or, as Jon Stewart did on “The Daily Show,” as part of a repetitive tit-for-tat between Democrats and Republicans over who controls foreign policy.  It is, in fact, neither.  It represents part of a growing pattern in which Congress becomes an ever less effective body, except in its willingness to take on and potentially take out the presidency.

In the twenty-first century, all that “small government” Republicans and “big government” Democrats can agree on is offering essentially unconditional support to the military and the national security state.  The Republican Party — its various factions increasingly at each other’s throats almost as often as at those of the Democrats — seems reasonably united solely on issues of war-making and security.  As for the Democrats, an unpopular administration, facing constant attack by those who loath President Obama, has kept its footing in part by allying with and fusing with the national security state.  A president who came into office rejecting torture and promoting sunshine and transparency in government has, in the course of six-plus years, come to identify himself almost totally with the U.S. military, the CIA, the NSA, and the like.  While it has launched an unprecedented campaign against whistle blowers and leakers (as well as sunshine and transparency), the Obama White House has proved a powerful enabler of, but also remarkably dependent upon, that state-within-a-state, a strange fate for “the imperial presidency.”

4. The Rise of the National Security State as the Fourth Branch of Government

One “branch” of government is, however, visibly on the rise and rapidly gaining independence from just about any kind of oversight.  Its ability to enact its wishes with almost no opposition in Washington is a striking feature of our moment.  But while the symptoms of this process are regularly reported, the overall phenomenon — the creation of a de facto fourth branch of government — gets remarkably little attention.  In the war on terror era, the national security state has come into its own.  Its growth has been phenomenal.  Though it’s seldom pointed out, it should be considered remarkable that in this period we gained a second full-scale “defense department,” the Department of Homeland Security, and that it and the Pentagon have become even more entrenched, each surrounded by its own growing “complex” of private corporations, lobbyists, and allied politicians.  The militarization of the country has, in these years, proceeded apace.

Meanwhile, the duplication to be found in the U.S. Intelligence Community with its 17 major agencies and outfits is staggering.  Its growing ability to surveil and spy on a global scale, including on its own citizens, puts the totalitarian states of the twentieth century to shame.  That the various parts of the national security state can act in just about any fashion without fear of accountability in a court of law is by now too obvious to belabor.  As wealth has traveled upwards in American society in ways not seen since the first Gilded Age, so taxpayer dollars have migrated into the national security state in an almost plutocratic fashion.

New reports regularly surface about the further activities of parts of that state.  In recent weeks, for instance, we learned from Jeremy Scahill and Josh Begley of the Intercept that the CIA has spent years trying to break the encryption on Apple iPhones and iPads; it has, that is, been aggressively seeking to attack an all-American corporation (even if significant parts of its production process are actually in China).  Meanwhile, Devlin Barrett of the Wall Street Journal reported that the CIA, an agency barred from domestic spying operations of any sort, has been helping the U.S. Marshals Service (part of the Justice Department) create an airborne digital dragnet on American cell phones.  Planes flying out of five U.S. cities carry a form of technology that “mimics a cellphone tower.” This technology, developed and tested in distant American war zones and now brought to “the homeland,” is just part of the ongoing militarization of the country from its borders to its police forces.  And there’s hardly been a week since Edward Snowden first released crucial NSA documents in June 2013 when such “advances” haven’t been in the news.

News also regularly bubbles up about the further expansion, reorganization, and upgrading of parts of the intelligence world, the sorts of reports that have become the barely noticed background hum of our lives.  Recently, for instance, Director John Brennan announced a major reorganization of the CIA meant to break down the classic separation between spies and analysts at the Agency, while creating a new Directorate of Digital Innovation responsible for, among other things, cyberwarfare and cyberespionage.  At about the same time, according to the New York Times, the Center for Strategic Counter terrorism Communications, an obscure State Department agency, was given a new and expansive role in coordinating “all the existing attempts at countermessaging [against online propaganda by terror outfits like the Islamic State] by much larger federal departments, including the Pentagon, Homeland Security and intelligence agencies.”

This sort of thing is par for the course in an era in which the national security state has only grown stronger, endlessly elaborating, duplicating, and overlapping the various parts of its increasingly labyrinthine structure.  And keep in mind that, in a structure that has fought hard to keep what it’s doing cloaked in secrecy, there is so much more that we don’t know.  Still, we should know enough to realize that this ongoing process reflects something new in our American world (even if no one cares to notice).

5. The Demobilization of the American People

In The Age of Acquiescence, a new book about America’s two Gilded Ages, Steve Fraser asks why it was that, in the nineteenth century, another period of plutocratic excesses, concentration of wealth and inequality, buying of politicians, and attempts to demobilize the public, Americans took to the streets with such determination and in remarkable numbers over long periods of time to protest their treatment, and stayed there even when the brute power of the state was called out against them.  In our own moment, Fraser wonders, why has the silence of the public in the face of similar developments been so striking?

After all, a grim new American system is arising before our eyes.  Everything we once learned in the civics textbooks of our childhoods about how our government works now seems askew, while the growth of poverty, the flatlining of wages, the rise of the .01%, the collapse of labor, and the militarization of society are all evident.

The process of demobilizing the public certainly began with the military.  It was initially a response to the disruptive and rebellious draftees of the Vietnam-era.  In 1973, at the stroke of a presidential pen, the citizen’s army was declared no more, the raising of new recruits was turned over to advertising agencies (a preview of the privatization of the state to come), and the public was sent home, never again to meddle in military affairs.  Since 2001, that form of demobilization has been etched in stone and transformed into a way of life in the name of the “safety” and “security” of the public.

Since then, “we the people” have made ourselves felt in only three disparate ways: from the left in the Occupy movement, which, with its slogans about the 1% and the 99%, put the issue of growing economic inequality on the map of American consciousness; from the right, in the Tea Party movement, a complex expression of discontent backed and at least partially funded by right-wing operatives and billionaires, and aimed at the de-legitimization of the “nanny state”; and the recent round of post-Ferguson protests spurred at least in part by the militarization of the police in black and brown communities around the country.

The Birth of a New System

Otherwise, a moment of increasing extremity has also been a moment of — to use Fraser’s word — “acquiescence.”  Someday, we’ll assumedly understand far better how this all came to be.  In the meantime, let me be as clear as I can be about something that seems murky indeed: this period doesn’t represent a version, no matter how perverse or extreme, of politics as usual; nor is the 2016 campaign an election as usual; nor are we experiencing Washington as usual.  Put together our 1% elections, the privatization of our government, the de-legitimization of Congress and the presidency, as well as the empowerment of the national security state and the U.S. military, and add in the demobilization of the American public (in the name of protecting us from terrorism), and you have something like a new ballgame.

While significant planning has been involved in all of this, there may be no ruling pattern or design.  Much of it may be happening in a purely seat-of-the-pants fashion.  In response, there has been no urge to officially declare that something new is afoot, let alone convene a new constitutional convention.  Still, don’t for a second think that the American political system isn’t being rewritten on the run by interested parties in Congress, our present crop of billionaires, corporate interests, lobbyists, the Pentagon, and the officials of the national security state.

Out of the chaos of this prolonged moment and inside the shell of the old system, a new culture, a new kind of politics, a new kind of governance is being born right before our eyes. Call it what you want. But call it something. Stop pretending it’s not happening.

Copyright 2015 Tom Engelhardt

Reprinted by permission

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Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (Haymarket Books).

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

A Bubble Waiting to be Popped

Rudy Giuliani

Associated Press

Reading time – 54 seconds  .  .  .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

A New Hope For Republicans

NutsReading time – 39 seconds  .  .  .

The Republican Party has fractured along the “it’s your fault” lines and each faction is devoid of any characteristics of the Eisenhower Republican Party. It was Eisenhower who proposed and promoted the now-crazy notion that there are a bunch of things that we need to do collectively, like the Interstate Highway system.  He expanded Social Security because Americans really needed that. And in a most outrageous Republican moment by today’s standards, he raised the minimum wage because we really needed that, too. Nobody has seen anything similar from Republicans since Ike’s time.

What we have seen is a continuous march toward who-cares-about-you? Perhaps more accurately, what has been so thoroughly demonstrated by Republicans over the past four decades is an attitude of “we-don’t-care-about-you.” Today’s “it’s-your-fault” lines are just demarcations within the Republican “we-don’t-care-about-you” belief system and the American people are quite tired of that.

That is why I am formally joining the Republican Party and founding a new faction, the AWACOE party, or, Americans Who Are Capable Of Empathy. Not surprisingly, it’s pronounced “A Wacko.”

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t expect to find many Republicans who are interested in joining. Actually, I’m not confident there are many Republicans capable of clearing the basic human bar for entry. Well, to be fair, I personally know some and they are fine people. Likely, there are some in Congress and in our state houses, too. It’s just that they are consistently drowned out by the big mouths, the haters and the dividers.

Regardless of the membership numbers in this new party, you can count on me to soldier on as the flag bearer for the AWACOEs, hoping to restore the clarity that America isn’t just for those who have theirs. It’s also for those striving to achieve. And that is not a wacko idea.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

Breaking News

lightningReading time – 74 seconds  .  .  . 

In what some are calling a bold move, President Obama held a press conference today and declared, “Political silly season is officially over. No more of it. Not on my watch.” Then he grounded all Republican extremists in Congress, mandating that they report to detention hall every day from 4:00 – 7:00PM. “That should help to reduce the number of dumb things they say on cable news while standing in the Rotuda, acting as though they are saying something intelligent,” President Obama explained.

He further said that the detentions are to be enforced in perpetuity or until an detention inmate writes one thousand times, “I will never again promote extremist propaganda, not even on Fox News, and I will say ‘I’m sorry’ to every American I’ve offended.” After that, if they go back to their former ways, the President said he will invoke his executive authority to re-start the entire process, but that he will double the penalty to two thousand written apologies and two consecutive lifetime sentences in detention hall.

Interviewed by Sean Hannity on his Fox News program, Sarah Palin was wild-eyed and speaking at a pitch audible only to dogs. She said that she was devastated by this news, exclaiming, “Who will I play with after school?”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) looked particularly vexed after hearing the President’s announcement. Fresh from the recent Iowa “Look At Me” event sponsored by self-promoter Steve “calves like cantaloupes” King (R-IA), Cruz made the letter Z with each of his eyebrows in perfect mirror image of one another and announced that he was going to tell on the President. Said  Cruz,”The President is gonna be sorry.”

Question by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer if his objection to the President’s actions was just the standard Republican opposition to everything the President favors or if it was possibly racially motivated, Cruz responded, “This is America and we believe all presidents should be born in this country, not in Kenya.” Blitzer apparently thought the segment was over, but was heard to say, “Huh?”

After lurching for his bottle of water, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) reached over and patted Cruz on the back, congratulating him for his comment, all the while staying in front of the camera. Rubio cautioned that he is, ”  .  .  .  not a scientist, but if 97% of political scientists say that political stupid stuff is man made and is on the rise, there might be something to that.” He cautioned, though, that, “Such things require more study but we shouldn’t divert federal funds into that sinkhole while the needs of large banks are going wanting.” He also said, “Diplomatic recognition of Cuba was  .  .  .  ” His voice trailed off and became nearly inaudible as he was looking over his shoulder and saw that President Obama was watching him and mouthing the words, “I see everything you do.”

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

Hogs and Bread

RJoni Ernsteading time – 51 seconds

Freshman Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) delivered one of five Republican responses to the President’s State of the Union address on January 20, 2015, and it’s a good thing she did. Mitch McConnell told us that she was the perfect person to deliver the establishment Republican rebuttal and, clearly, he was right.

Bear in mind that this is the same woman who campaigned vigorously to win her Senate seat and convinced Iowans that she has the necessary experience for that job by reminding them that she grew up castrating hogs. See the connection?

Okay, no you don’t because there isn’t one. It appears that she was trying to show herself as “just plain folks,” someone Iowans, overwhelmingly farmers and ranchers, could relate to. Don’t you want someone like to you represent you in the Senate? Of course you do, and so do Iowans. So they sent the Iowa Castrater-in-Chief to Washington, bringing along all the legislative and leadership abilities her well established personal skills imply.

In her perfect-person-to-deliver-the-Republican-rebuttal function, she continued to help us to relate to her by telling us that in growing up she only had one good pair of shoes and that Mom would tie bread wrappers around her shoes and ankles during wet weather to protect her footwear. That leaves us with an unusual visual of her in the hog pen while wearing bread wrappers.

After that she told us that the Keystone Pipeline project is a jobs bill – she actually called it “the Keystone jobs bill” – never mentioning that it is an oil pipeline proposal designed solely to benefit a Canadian oil company. She failed to acknowledge that the plan is for all the oil to be exported from our Gulf Coast, so it will never provide for American energy needs. She also failed to mention that at most there would only be 35 permanent jobs created by this “jobs bill.”Wonder Bread

That’s what you get when the perfect person to deliver the establishment Republican rebuttal is a person whose qualifications are that she castrated hogs and wore bread wrappers on her feet.

For more on Sen. Ernst, read Andy Borowitz’s satire here. (Thanks to FL for pointing me to Borowitz.)

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

The Usefulness of a Scalise Apology

What does this man actually believe?

What does this man actually believe?

Ed. note: Please help – see the note below and pass this along so that we make the kind of difference that needs to be made. America thanks you.

Reading time – 33 seconds  .  .  .

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) has been busted for having presented to a conference hosted by the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (or EURO), a white supremacist organization led by David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

(Snarky parenthetical note: Could there be a more stupid title than “grand wizard”? Would that make the grand wizard’s followers weenie wizards? Do they holster their magic wands when they enter the Dungeon of Hate? Back to Scalise and EURO)

This is a group, the members of which, are all warm and fuzzy for white people of European extraction – except Jews, whom they hate. They hate blacks, Asians, Native Americans, Central and South Americans. They only like white, Euro-Americans. Did I mention that they are led by David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan? Does it seem inappropriate to you that a representative in Congress might address such an organization, thus implying its legitimacy?

That’s how it seems to Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who is calling for Scalise to apologize for his address to that racist, bigoted group in 2002. Lewis misses the point.

While an apology might be nice, it isn’t useful moving forward because right now we are left to speculate about Scalise’s current beliefs and what they might mean for the people of the United States. What we really need is for Scalise to declare his true beliefs. We need to hear him state unequivocally that he is not a racist or bigot, that he believes that all men are created equal and that all deserve equal treatment, protections and opportunity. We need him to declare abhorrent and repugnant any form of bigotry and any type of discrimination. We need to hear him say – from the heart – that he rejects all of David Duke’s hateful principles.

After that, an apology such as that called for by Rep. Lewis might be believable. Maybe.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

Rodney, Treyvon, Michael Brown and Us

Reading time – 87 seconds  .  .  . 

After a high speed car chase, five LA cops took positions around Rodney King. Four of them beat the crap out of him while the fifth just watched and made no attempt to intercede. The four were charged in state court with assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force. They were acquitted. Two of them subsequently went to prison following their convictions in federal court for civil rights violations. Apparently, along with King, some civil rights were beaten up by those thugs. The other three cops got away with savagely beating a defenseless man.

Armed only with a package of Skittles and a soft drink, Treyvon Martin was gunned down by George Zimmerman, who claimed he was “standing his ground.” That, it seems, is the thing to do after identifying someone as a bad guy through positive identification of his hoodie, then stalking him. Zimmerman got away with murder.

Now Officer Darren Wilson has managed to avoid even a trial following his killing of Michael Brown.

When St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch announced the grand jury’s decision and delivered his ass covering statement, I flashed on a video that was released shortly after Brown was killed. It showed two construction workers who just happened to be working next to the killing zone. They are shown yelling at Officer Wilson, saying, “His f****** hands were up.” Another voice yells, “He was no f****** threat at all.” These guys were clearly aghast that the cop kept shooting at a submissive and wounded Brown. BTW, they are white guys. It seems some white guys in Missouri know the difference between right and wrong. I’m wondering if any St. Louis County officials do.

We know that the prosecutor presented both sides of the case, the prosecution and the defense, to the grand jury, something that is pretty much never done. The prosecutor’s job is to get an indictment and that’s always – except this time – done by presenting only the incriminating evidence. And after Officer Wilson gave his contradictory, inconsistent and self-serving testimony, the prosecutors didn’t even cross-examine him. That’s not the path to an indictment. What was McCulloch thinking?

We know that McCulloch’s prosecutors gave no recommendation to the jury as to how to charge Officer Wilson. That is odd to the point of being singular. The prosecutor always directs the grand jury to the criminal charge that is sought. McCulloch just let the members of the jury fumble through their ignorance of the law and try to figure out what to do. Now, why would McCulloch be so passive and even neglectful in his duties?

Here’s Human Being 101:

1. When we don’t have all the information, we make up stuff to fill in the blanks, because we just can’t stand not knowing. For example, when some guy cuts you off in traffic, even though all you know is that you were cut off, you instantly “know” the mental limitations of that idiot.

2. When we are anxious, afraid or angry, the stuff we make up is always negative. Trust me on this. When your kid is out past curfew and you’re lying in bed staring at the ceiling, you’re not thinking about the good time your kid is having. You’re wondering if you should call the police or the hospital emergency room.

Applying that understanding to the behavior of the prosecuting attorney, we can and probably do make up all sorts of stuff to explain what happened. My noggin goes directly to asking who benefits from this kind of sloppy prosecutorial behavior, this by a fellow with a reputation for being a strong prosecutor and also for having a racially – let’s call it “flexible” – history. This is the same guy who, when implored to appoint a special prosecutor in the Brown case in order to avoid both the substance and the appearance of bias, refused. Really, now, who benefits from that and from the deeply crappy and one-of-a-kind unusual prosecution?

I know who doesn’t benefit and it’s us, including the next unarmed kid who gets gunned down by a cop or a cop wanna be.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

Father Flannigan in Texas

Skip LeveThis is a guest essay from reader Frank Levy of Houston, TX. It was submitted as a comment to an earlier post, Father Flannigan, Your CEO and the Supreme Court, and was deemed too important to bury at the bottom of the Comments section. It is offered here for your consideration and comment.

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In Texas we are very accustomed to the “Father Flannigan phenomenon,” and much worse. Not only do we have the usual school day, pre-game, and government pre-meeting prayer, the state Republican Party primary ballot includes a statement that reads, “America is a Christian country, and Texas is a Christian state.” Voters get to agree or disagree. The “initiative” carries by over 95% every 4 years.

It is fundamentalist Christian beliefs like this that are part and parcel of the religious civil war going on across the country. The Hobby Lobby decision is but one of the skirmishes in this religious civil war.

The Hobby Lobby decision by the “Fab 5” – the 5 Catholic men on the Court – is deeply disingenuous and sharply at odds with American law and legal precedent, and imposes very real long-term negative impacts on American democracy and on Americans who believe in real freedom of religion.

On the subject of the disingenuous nature of the Hobby Lobby suit and decision – as Stephanie Mencimer noted in Mother Jones in March 2014, “a neglected aspect of the Hobby Lobby case is the fact that Hobby Lobby’s self-professed belief appeared out of nowhere just in time for them to file suit. The company admits in its complaint that until it considered filing the suit in 2012 its generous health insurance plan actually covered Plan B and Ella (though not IUDs). The burden of this coverage was apparently so insignificant that God and Hobby Lobby executives never noticed it until the mandate became a political issue.”

It should also be noted that Hobby Lobby owners held significant investments in the companies that manufactured the exact abortifacients and birth control products that were the basis of the law suit.

In short, Hobby Lobby’s “deeply held beliefs” claims are transparently bogus — as well as being scientifically invalid, since none of the methods involved are abortifacients, as Hobby Lobby claims.

In Hobby Lobby the Court handed corporations religious rights for the first time in history. As Norm Ornstein points out in the National Journal, “For the majority on the Roberts Court, through a series of rulings that favor corporations over labor or other interests, it is clear that corporations are king, superior to individual Americans — with all the special treatment in taxes and protection from legal liability that are unavailable to us individuals, and now all the extra benefits that come with individual citizenship.”

The Hobby Lobby decision also lends support to the Christian Right’s (they are neither) efforts in the new religious civil war to create a Christian theocracy in America, and to further their erroneous claims that their religious rights are being suppressed, or even outlawed.

Led by the dominion theology of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), those seeking the creation of America as an evangelical Christian nation seek to block any and all legislation that promotes real equality, as well as seeking to block legislation that opposes discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or race, especially in the areas of voting rights, access to health care, birth control and abortion and marriage, among others. These self-proclaimed Christians also oppose social programs like food stamps, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and Social Security, this based on their proclaimed religious beliefs.

These new religious warriors want an America built on their repressive and narrow understanding of Christian theology. As researcher Rachel Tabachnick explains: “Instead of escaping the Earth (in the Rapture) prior to the turmoil of the end times, they [the NAR] teach that believers will defeat evil by taking dominion, or control, over all sectors of society and government, resulting in mass conversions to their brand of charismatic evangelicalism and a Christian utopia or ‘Kingdom’ on Earth.”

Their favorite, and most powerful lie used to gather fellow warriors is their lament that their religious rights are being eliminated or oppressed. A. Jay Michaelson writes in, ”Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Campaign Against Civil Rights” published by Political Research Associates in March, 2013, “While the religious liberty debate is a growing front in the ongoing culture wars, it is actually an old argument re-purposed for a new context. In the postwar era, the Christian Right defended racial segregation, school prayer, public religious displays and other religious practices that infringed on the liberties of others by claiming that restrictions on such public acts infringed upon their religious liberty. Then as now, the Christian Right turned anti-discrimination arguments on their heads: instead of African Americans being discriminated against by segregated Christian universities, the universities were being discriminated against by not being allowed to exclude them; instead of public prayers oppressing religious minorities, Christians are being oppressed by not being able to offer them.

In the “religious liberty” framework, the Christian Right attacks access to contraception, access to abortion, same-sex marriage, and anti-discrimination laws—not on moral grounds (e.g., that contraception is morally wrong or that LGBTQ rights violate “family values”) but because they allegedly impinge upon the religious freedoms of others (e.g., by forcing employers to violate their religion by providing contraception coverage).

In fact, there is not a single “religious liberty” claim made by the Christian Right that does not involve abridging someone else’s rights.

When any religious group tries to impose its beliefs on others we ought to be afraid and strenuously oppose such efforts. We need to be extremely vigilant in opposing any effort by one group to impose its beliefs on anyone else, no matter how light or innocent that imposition might be claimed to be. If you don’t want your religious beliefs questioned, then don’t impose them on others. When push comes to shove, real religious freedom can be just as simple as that.

I wonder how the Court would have voted if the Hobby Lobby suit had been filed by a Muslim, or Jewish, or Buddhist, or Hindu owned business instead of the Christian owned Hobby Lobby.

Frank Levy, M.A., MFA. is Director of Outreach Resources, which provides consulting services to local and statewide disaster and public health preparedness and response agencies and to non-profit agencies engaged in improving the lives of the most vulnerable and at-risk residents. Frank currently lives in hiding from the thought police in Tom “the Exterminator” DeLay’s Congressional district outside Houston, TX.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

Nothing Conservative To See Here – Move Along

Reading time . .  .  43 seconds

There are so many programs that the Republicans used to support, like healthcare reform, gun background checks and programs that suggest something science-y, like cap-and-trade.  For six years, though, they have been focused solely on opposing anything President Obama supports, so they have turned their backs on their own programs trying to out-testosterone one another and promoting governmental paralysis. Indeed, many Republicans used to be conservatives, but that seems to have fallen into disfavor over on the right, which is now well short of the neocortex.

The Republicans are big promoters of a fire breathing, smoke belching military. They support the troops and wave flags and insist that we continue to spend money on defense at the same rate or even more than we spent when we were engaged in a cold war opposing a country that now no longer exists. Let nobody suggest that the R’s are military wimps. They got their camo mojo on and it’s cookin’ all the time, supportin’ the troops. Conservative bedrock in action, right?

Except when our troops come home broken up, messed up and throwing up. Then the R’s aren’t so supportive of the troops. That’s when they adjust their bean counter eye shades and sleeve garters to cut budgets. That’s when it’s clear that the “political right” has departed from conservatism. Indeed, Poppy Bush would be aghast to learn that there are no compassionate conservatives.

Read Carl Gibson’s excellent article Fake Political Outrage is the Real VA Scandal and see for yourself. These R’s who are refusing to properly care for our wounded are the same right wingers who authorized “supporting out troops” by lying to the American people, trumping up “evidence” for an unnecessary war and then sending our troops into battle without body armor, without vehicle armor and without an exit plan. Then they sent another 100,000 troops to attack Afghanistan, yet another country that did not attack America. Tough beans now for the 1.6 million vets who have cycled home, need help and are applying to the VA for what was promised.

Are you looking for conservatives? Don’t bother looking at today’s Republican Party, because there’s nothing conservative to see there. Move along.

 Ed. note:  Thanks to EBC for bringing Gibson’s article to my attention.

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There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

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