right wing

I Can’t Believe I’m Writing This


TrumpReading time – 57 seconds  .  .  .

I’m bugging myself by writing this, as it is yet more free attention for Donald Trump. He doesn’t deserve it, but our national dysfunction does. So, Mr. Crazy Hair, here it comes.

First, read this. It is an excellent essay by marketing genius Bruce Terkel. He’s a frequent guest on FoxSnooze, so, while I don’t know Bruce’s politics, it’s clear that many on the right hear his views and likely not so many on the left. His view on self-promoting, dishonest Donald are worthy of your review, though, regardless of your political hue.

Meanwhile, my addition to the discussion is about how disconnected most Americans are, such that they have any interest in Donald Trump and his manipulation of public attention. Nobody – and I mean that in the absolute sense – should be paying him any attention, because he is nothing but a bad circus sideshow barker enticing people to a freak show. That people pay to get into Trump’s sideshow tent says more about their lack of seriousness about our very serious challenges than it does about Trump’s value. Sadly, our big media rushes its reporters and cameras into that tent and tells us that what they’ve found is breaking news. Cue the dramatic music and serious faces of TV anchor people.

So, big media, grow up. Put on your big boy and big girl pants and start behaving like adults. Cover the real news. Stop pandering to just plain stupid sensationalism.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

And, American voter, wake up and heed the words of Thomas Jefferson:

“An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight.”

Pay attention to the real news, because we have real challenges that require “an enlightened citizenry.” Stop allowing yourself to be sucked into the brainless vortex of useless sensationalism.

Does that apply to you? Almost certainly not, because you make sure that you’re informed. You’re interested enough to read this blog. But you know people to whom this does apply. Now you have the tools. Give ’em a wake up by passing along this blog.

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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.

Far Too Much Love


Reading time – 64 seconds  .  .  .

Concord, New Hampsire, June 26, 2015

Seventeen announced and presumptive Republican presidential candidates for the 2016 election, all campaigning in New Hampshire today, hastily called a press conference in response to the Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex marriage throughout America. Surrounded by the presidential wannabees, Mike Huckabee spoke from prepared text, saying,

“I’m speaking for all of us when I say that this is a very sad day for America. Everyone knows that there is far too much love in America and this airhead ruling by the Supreme Court that makes same sex marriage legal in all 50 states threatens to expand what already has flooded our land. And the story is even worse than that.

“We all agree that it’s sad that those nine people were gunned down in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, but now some southern states are talking about getting rid of the Confederate battle flag. That flag was created and hoisted up the capitol flag posts as honorable resistance to the menace to the United States made by the civil rights movement and in honor of the Confederate dead in the War of Northern Aggression. We were just keeping their memories alive and it had nothing to do with slavery. No, really. The very suggestion of allowing full citizenship of those people now smacks of – what? – maybe respect? It’s just too much.

“Now we may be on the brink of getting ready to think about possibly preparing to have a tentative conversation about immigration – immigrants! – as though there might be room in this country for those people. That would be a horrendous abdication of our centuries old superiority over other people. How can we tolerate dropping that and allowing some liberal wave to drown our red, white and blue conservative bones?

“Perhaps it is time for term limits for our Supreme Court justices. It might even be time to begin impeachment proceedings against a few of them.

“I say again, there is far too much love in America and we are on a slippery slope toward destruction of what we hold dear. It is time to stand strong against this invasion, this attack on our establishment.”

With that the presidential candidates left the room, refusing to take reporters’ questions, although Donald Trump was heard to say that this issue is “huge.” In reply, Rick Perry admitted that he didn’t know what the issue is.

Note: The above is satire. However, Huckabee actually did lose it following the Supreme Court decision. Read about his brainless rejection of the First Amendment here.

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Addendum

Writing for the majority in the same sex marriage case (officially Obergefell v. Hodges right side of the SCOTUS home page under Recent Decisions), here are the closing comments of Justice Anthony Kennedy:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the  highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

“The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

“It is so ordered.”

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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.

Extreme Agreement


Don't turn this over to corporate lawyers

Don’t turn this over to corporate lawyers

Reading time – 61 take-action seconds  .  .  .

It’s almost midnight on the Doomsday Clock to sell out our children  .  .  .

There are lots of reasons that people who have seen the ugly fine print of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TTP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) don’t like them. Here is a short list:

  1. Millions more American jobs will be sent overseas, just as happened with NAFTA.
  2. American wages and benefits will be cut, our standard of living will continue to fall and tens of thousands more Americans will be dumped into poverty.
  3. The environment will be irreparably harmed by inadequate or nonexistent regulation in third world countries.
  4. These deals will help big business and will harm American small businesses where 80% of Americans work.
  5. The Fast Track provision gives this president and every president too much power.

That’s why Americans overwhelmingly oppose these deals. Truly, though, as important as all of those are, they pale in comparison to this:

Adopting these trade deals will relinquish American sovereignty to a panel of three corporate lawyer/lobbyists.

Yes, really. Don’t take my word for it. Have a look at the examination of this issue by James Surowiecki in The New Yorker magazine. Perhaps you think this is just a lefty issue, so have a look a what a slew of righties have to say about this. And I can’t believe that I’m offering a link to what Phyllis Schlaffly has to say, but here it is. They all dislike these deals and for the same reason.

Okay, the righties also hate them just because President Obama is in favor of them. But they don’t like the idea of relinquishing American sovereignty any more than you do. So, even the extremes agree. Still, there’s all that big corporate money twisting the arms of legislators to approve these deals.

So the issue is getting our legislators to wake up and do what they were sent to Washington to do – represent you and me. And they will be voting again on Fast Track. That’s why you must

CONTACT YOUR SENATORS TODAY

Do it here:           http://www.senate.gov/

Just enter your state in the top right corner of the web page, then click GO. Then click the Contact line for each of your senators.

In Illinois, call:

Sen. Dick Durbin   (202) 224-2152
Sen. Mark Kirk      (202) 224-2854

Tell them or copy/past into your email:

I am a constituent and I want you to vote NO on all votes related to the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, including Fast Track. Defeat these bad deals for Americans.

Email or call now. And forward this blog to your righty and lefty buddies so that they take action, too.

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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.

Get Government Out of Our Lives


ChaffetzReading time – 47 seconds  .  .  .

On April 15 Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) proposed H.R. 1563, a bill that would require federal workers to certify that their tax records aren’t delinquent, this under threat of dismissal. Chaffetz wants to make sure that those hoards of federal employee tax evaders with debt so large and so delinquent that, ”  .  .  .   [it] may be collected by the Secretary [of the Treasury] by levy or by a proceeding in court,” are brought out of the shadows and put in stocks in the public square. Alright, Jason. You are one tough dude!

And his bill flies in the face of workers’ rights to keep their tax records private and wholly ignores the fact that another department of government – the Treasury – is already monitoring and collecting delinquent taxes. Chaffetz’s bill appears to duplicate efforts, burden citizens, violate rights and is punitive. So, why would he introduce such apparently lame brain legislation that appears to run counter to the Republican “less government” mantra?

It turns out that, “.  .  .  the bill’s requirements apply to employees of the executive and legislative branches, as well as to those in the U.S. Postal Service and the Postal Regulatory Commission.” Hmmm, the U.S. Postal Service is included. Could that be a clue?

Just a few years ago our insightful and ever-vigilant Congress drafted a bill that requires the Postal Service to amass billions of dollars to ensure the pensions of postal workers. It projects the need so many decades into the future that the U.S. Postal Service is putting away retirement funds for workers who have not yet been born. That bill was designed to burden the Postal Service with such a crushing load of debt that it would become bankrupt; then the Republicans’ favorite free marketers could privatize it, cut services, raise rates and make lots of money.

Chaffetz’s bill is just another Republican effort to drive the privatization of all of our government functions in order to enrich their pals. Any time you want to understand this kind of stupid stuff, just follow the money.

And here’s the kicker: The rate of tax delinquency of postal workers is less than half that of the general public. These are solid citizens paying their fair share, but Jason Chaffetz, resolute soldier in the Republican war on government (this primarily for the benefit of rich people), wants to use government muscle to double up on efforts to humiliate and penalize these people.

Jason, your mother must be very proud.

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

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


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

A Modest Proposal – v2.0


Indiana

Indiana

Reading time – 59 seconds  .  .  .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Howard Beale character, “Network,” MGM, 1976

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

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

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

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

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


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

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.

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