suffering

Slavery


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

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

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The 13th Amendment reads,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Immigration and Border Security Plan


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

Air Traffic Control (ATC)

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Federal Corrections officers

Coast Guard

Customs & Border Patrol (CBP)

State Department

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 


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

Potpourri v 6.0


Reading time – 4:32; Viewing time – 6:38  .  .  .

Good news! This is a safe place, because there’s no coverage of Russian conspiracy, plea deals, Trump fact checking, stupid tweets, emoluments, an unworthy AG, sucking up to Saudi Arabia and Putin, obstruction of justice, temper tantrums at the G20-Argentina, a $50 million penthouse bribe or even anything about Melania’s jacket. Have a pleasant Sunday

 

In my last post, This Is Going To Be A Challenge, I suggested that staying the course to right this ship-of-state, to move our democratic wagon in the right direction will take determination, focus and sacrifice. That’s made more difficult by our historically new insistence on instant gratification. That’s what is going to make this a bigger challenge.

I’m reading Jon Meacham’s new book now, The Soul of America (thanks go to LP for the pointer), and I found this in his introduction:

In the best of moments, witness, protest, and resistance can intersect with the leadership of an American president to lift us to higher ground. In darker times, if a particular president fails to advance the national story – or worse, moves us backward – then those who witness, protest, and resist must stand fast, in hope, working toward a better day.

It looks like we might be in one of those “darker times” right now, but we’re getting some traction. Don’t be fooled, though, into believing that the prize is won. It took us decades to go this low and it’s going to take a long, hard pull to once again begin to create a more perfect union. Our challenge is to stay the course.


The annual Global Climate Report mandated by Congress was just published and our unenlightened president promptly dismissed it. He made it crystal clear that he doesn’t believe in climate warming or human acceleration of it and he let us know that his gut is smarter than everyone else’s brains. His dismissal of the report comes at a time of national devaluation of science, suspicions that climate scientists are on the take and general distrust of anything and everything that smacks of “the establishment.”

Well, Katherine Hayhoe just isn’t okay with that, oddly being a believer in facts and reality. She has plenty to say about global warming, science and the idiocy of pretending that disasters aren’t just around the corner. Watch any of her videos on her YouTube web page, GlobalWeirdingSeries.com. Be sure to scroll down to the video entitled “Climate change, that’s just a money grab by scientists, right?” That will answer some of the self-serving blather of denial you hear daily from the knuckle draggers. Regardless, be clear that global warming and human contribution to it don’t care if you believe in them. They’re happening just the same.

And, as long as you’ve decided you want to dip a toe into the warming waters of climate change, have a look at  “Why do we need to change our food system?” prepared by UN Environment. Here’s a hint: methane released from livestock poop contributes more to global warming than does all of what comes from the tail pipes of our cars.


Larry Kudlow made his chops as a TV financial talker. Somehow that qualified him to become Donald Trump’s Director of the National Economic Council. Right now he’s putting lots of effort into convincing us that there’s no recession in sight. The economy’s great, he tells us. Wall Street is happy. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, have a look at this piece and, after reading it, come back here and let us know about your confidence in Larry Kudlow’s proficiency in accurate economic predictions.

Hint: It’s terrible. As bad, he’s a devoted supply-sider and has been since Reagan. That’s the same as trickle-down economics. Exactly how much has trickled down to you over the past 40 years of supply side lies? And Kudlow thinks that’s great.

Note: Our just-passed former President George H.W. Bush called it “voodoo economics.” He was right.


Finally, I have a solution to a couple of our problems, tackling them both in one brilliant strategy. One is our immigration problem, which for some odd reason only seems to be an issue in connection with non-white people and non-Christian people. The other is our need for a lot more firefighters. Here’s my solution.

It’s impossible to fail to notice that the frequency and severity of wild fires in our western states continues to accelerate and fighting these fires is enormously labor intensive. These fires appear suddenly and just as suddenly we have a need for huge numbers of firefighters and we just don’t have enough of these fine folks.

The solution to both the immigration and firefighter insufficiency challenges is to give immigrants green cards and training to become firefighters. The green card will remain valid only as long as they answer the call when they’re needed, which is likely to be multiple times per year, or they reach a pre-determined age for retirement from the task.

We don’t have thousands of our citizens clamoring for those fire fighting jobs, but new immigrants would be grateful to have them.

The result of this program will be that we’ll get the help we need to fight our ever-growing requirement for firefighters, the immigrants will become part of our melting pot instead of a solution-less problem and we can get out of the business of ripping children from their mothers and tear gassing people whose crime is that they want to work to support themselves and their families. The only downside to this plan is that Donald Trump will have to find someone else to hate.

Do you think that’s nuts? Okay. These are real and demanding challenges, so pen your idea below.

Yes, really. You and I know that we have to do better than we’re doing now and our leadership in Washington seems to be solely focused on discrimination and hand wringing. That’s why it’s up to us. So, take a stab at this.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Potpourri v5.0


Reading time – 2:55; Viewing time – 3:47  .  .  .

I attended a demonstration last week in Naples, FL. This was one of the over 1,000 demonstrations spread among all 50 states protesting the Matt Whitaker appointment as acting Attorney General, seen as the first concrete step to Trump neutering the Mueller investigation.

We were on a corner of busy US Highway 41. People brought signs and many driving by honked horns in support. The most important moment for me was when a guy in a pickup truck drove by, windows open, and yelled, “I’m for Trump. I got a job.”

And, of course, he’s right. The righties will point to that and declare that’s proof that Trump is great for America. The lefties will point to the rock steady growth of the economy since 2009 and say it was inevitable. I say that this guy just helped us to understand why people voted for Trump.

It’s about the dignity of work. It’s about being able to care for yourself and your family. It’s about not having anxiety over every dollar. It’s about pride of accomplishment. And millions of Americans have been locked out of all of that.

They aren’t all racists or stupid or deplorable or blind or morally bankrupt or anything more or less than human. And too many of the college educated and urbane just don’t seem to get it. Pal J.C. offered a link to a David Brooks essay that suggests that there may be better ways to see ourselves and to build something of lasting value, rather than continuing on our path to extreme Us-Them.

Democrats who can’t seem to figure out how to appeal to red state America don’t get it. Hillary didn’t get it. Tom Perez, head of the DNC, doesn’t get it. Maybe what that guy in the pickup truck wanted to say is that none of us has to be wrapped in a self-righteous cocoon and all of us care how we’re treated.

Can we stop talking about how Democrats can win votes in red states? How about figuring out what’s really going on in peoples’ lives – all people – and deal with those challenges?

Read Brooks’ essay and post your comments below.

“When small men attempt great enterprises, they
always end by reducing them to the level of their mediocrity.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

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The CDC tells us that there were 200,000 opioid related deaths in the U.S. from 1999 – 2016. They also tell us that the rate of those deaths in 2016 was 5 times what it was in 1999. That’s not good.

Lethal dose

Now the FDA has approved a new drug, trade name Dsuvia, a new form of sufentanil. It is 10 time stronger than today’s opioid, fentanyl. One of the justifications for its approval is that it’s claimed that it is valuable for treating pain from battlefield injuries when an IV can’t be used. Said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, “The military application for this new medicine was carefully considered in this case.”

Perhaps. But given our record of failing to keep a tight rein on supplies of these powerful drugs and the consequences to hundreds of thousands of now dead people, I’m wondering how we’ll prevent things from becoming far worse.

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Finally, perhaps you’ve heard pundits talk about Trump being entirely transactional and wondered what that meant. Branding expert Scott Galloway recently posted a video that explains that clearly and the section of his video dealing with that is posted below. You’ll instantly appreciate the difference between strategic (vision-centered) versus tactical (transactional). If you’d like to view his full post (most is non-political), click here.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

There’s Only One Message


Reading time – 2:49; Viewing time – 4:01 .  .  .

– with a special message from Carl Reiner

VOTE!

Everything else is secondary. Read Tom Friedman’s piece – he explains it better than I can.

Just a few more comments.

Trump showed up on that enormously painful day after having been asked to stay away by the Mayor of Pittsburgh, the rabbi of the synagogue where 11 people were killed and 6 were injured and 70,000 residents of Pittsburgh (over 23% of the city’s population). He was specifically dis-invited by the grieving families, but he showed up anyway. Really, though, why would he accede to the wishes of those grieving people, when he has a photo-op moment? Everything is always about Trump, regardless of the consequences to others.

Gail Collins wrote of Trump that, “His rhetorical high point probably came when he went to the synagogue where 11 people were murdered and didn’t say anything.” Translation: Every time Trump opens his mouth something bad comes out.

Last week Trump released a 45-second ad that is blatantly racist and lacks even the slightest hint at subtlety. It is bald faced fear mongering. Except for the assertion that Luis Bracamontes is an illegal immigrant convicted of killing two cops, every other statement in the ad is false. What is noteworthy is Trump’s having yet again shown us that there is no bottom to his low.

Trump and the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee lied and cheated their way to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. When Trump was asked about his lying throughout the process, he told a reporter, “We won” – that’s all that mattered.

Now you know every thing you need to know about Trump. Everything is solely about Trump winning. Protecting our country and preserving our democracy mean nothing to him. Getting more power and wealth for Trump is all that matters. Truth, reality, propriety, morality, honesty, rules, impact on others – none of it matters because everything is always about Trump getting more of what he wants. That’s his reason for going to Pittsburgh when he was specifically asked not to come. That’s how we get a blatantly dishonest, 45-second fear mongering, anti-immigrant ad 5 days before the mid-term election. That’s how Brett Kavanaugh, accused by multiple women of sexual assault, makes it onto the Supreme Court. Clearly, for Trump the end justifies the means. And the means are the manipulation tools he uses without regard for the suffering he causes others and the damage he does to our democracy.

The destruction of democratic America and the establishment of Trump as autocrat is what he is working to create every day. And that is the America our spineless Republican Congress is allowing to come about through its cowardice and refusal to check Trump.

And that is why there is only one message:

VOTE!

Here’s Carl Reiner’s message for you:

I’m not customarily or historically a partisan. I care about issues and principles. If you must, sneer at me as unrealistic and disparagingly call me a Boy Scout. No problem here. But this election comes so plainly in a desperate moment for our country that most issues and policies are at best secondary. The only issue on which to focus is to save our democracy, and you can’t do that with sniveling, cowardly Republicans controlling Congress.

Vote for Democrats who will stop Trump’s destruction of our democracy.

Vote for Democrats who will begin to restore the underpinnings of our democracy that Trump has compromised.

VOTE!

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Here’s another message from a lifelong Republican. Have you noticed how many have the same message for you? Have you noticed how many lifelong Republicans have left that party because the party left them and no longer remotely promotes their values?

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Potpourri v4.0


A partial compendium of Trumpian distractions designed to keep your eye off the ball. Click the image for a larger view.

Reading time – 3:03  .  .  .

I just re-read Thomas Friedman’s essay on artificial intelligence and it brought back a question I heard posed in connection with self-driving cars and trucks: How will we deal with one million truck drivers when they’re suddenly put out of work?

We’ve experienced a loss of jobs for a long while, primarily due to automation and, less so but still significantly, due to outsourcing to cheaper labor. There’s a difference in perception and reactivity between slow changes like those, and the sudden change that AI is bringing. We haven’t done well dealing with that long term loss of jobs, so how will we deal with a much more sudden loss of one million jobs?

That’s just one complex issue stacked onto so many more in our rapidly changing world. Nobody in the history of the world has faced globalization as we’re experiencing it and it has impacted us in dramatic ways. Nikil Saval’s essay in The Guardian is a must read on this issue.

Most importantly, we have to recognize the impact globalization has had and will continue to have on an extremely fearful citizenry. That fear has already led to Brexit and the rise of what’s being called populism around the world, both of which are isolationist tactics designed to return to an unattainable past. We have to find solutions and admit that they don’t lie in fictions about a fairy tale past or in an imagined dystopian future, and our solutions can’t be found by demonizing others. This is truly hard stuff that will require us to work together to find solutions.


He’s nuts. No, I really mean he’s nuts. Dan Wallace lays it out for you with a simple clarity befitting a centrist with a penchant for – what else? – clarity.


You know about the Muslim ban. You know about the rejection and even jailing of people applying for asylum in the U.S. You know about our state-run kidnapping of children. You know about voter suppression, mostly of people of color and of poor people, which is done to fight nearly nonexistent voter fraud. Read this report about the most recent effort at governmental discrimination. All of these are battles in the war against “others” to perpetuate control by those in power.

If you’d like to learn what all that “othering”, all that denial of rights leads to, read this piece at Harper’s Bazaar. Systematic discrimination has a logical and diabolical end and you won’t like it if that shows up here.


Speaking of state-run kidnapping of children, that problem is worse than you might suspect. The number of migrant kids in federally contracted facilities is 5 times what it was last year at this time – 12,800 kids. You need to read this piece to understand that more fully. For now, give credit to our government for its astonishing ability to swat at symptoms instead of root causes, to make innocents suffer and to provide disincentive to relief for those kids.

One last comment on this. These kids are being held in “federally contracted facilities.” That means that they are privately owned and run prisons, like our state and federal detention facilities built to house the largest number of prisoners in any country ever.

Many of these prisoners are serving absurdly long sentences for minor drug offenses. Had they been white, hundreds of thousands of these people would never have been jailed or would have received minimal sentences. On the other hand, this ongoing insanity is an excellent way to suppress the vote of poor people and people of color, which benefits the wealthy. And it does one more thing: it’s good for business, like the prison business, which makes for great campaign funding.


Finally, there are tens of thousands of tons of plastic garbage floating about our oceans and the mess causes many problems. Dealing with that is a vexing issue, but someone is at last doing something about it.

A 2000 foot long floating boom has been constructed that is designed to encircle the plastic garbage so that it can be recovered and recycled. It’s headed for its first real world test right now and you can read about it here. Pretty cool!

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Distractions In Action


Reading time – 4:02 .  .  .

Last week the Distractor-in-Chief issued an official Presidential policy statement. Of course, it came via tweet, wherein he boldly declared in all capital letters,

The Iranian leader was so thoroughly cowed by the President’s capital letter tweet that he replied that all Iranians are “unimpressed.”

And so go the current threats of suffering, war, annihilation and any other menace Trump can conjure. This sounds quite a bit like the Rocket Man threats from just a few months ago. Why would this president pick this fight? And what does it mean to the United States? Try these explanations.

First and foremost, Trump got disastrous push-back over his secretive suck up sessions with Vladimir Putin and their joint press conference in Helsinki. That included getting harsh criticism from Republican legislators, “the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.” His Congressional control was looking a bit shaky, even after Trump flip-flopped multiple times trying to reinvent what happened in Helsinki to make himself sound better. Clearly, he had to do more.

So, he had the official government transcript of the Trump-Putin press conference altered, removing a reporter’s key question to Putin, to which Putin responded that he had wanted Trump to win the 2016 election and that he had directed his agents to help to make that happen. Regardless of that exchange having been recorded by news services all over the world, you wouldn’t find it in the published American government transcript until after Trump was caught lying by his omission. Then the transcript was reconstituted. Welcome to the Official American Age of Disinformation. Be clear that you are the intended dupe.

Even that wasn’t enough to stop some Republicans from criticizing Trump’s undermining of our intelligence services and his refusal to confront Putin. He had to find a way to redirect Republicans.

Threatening nuclear war is quite attention getting, so off he went to the Twittersphere to attack the Iranians. Try this visual: Shortly after tweeting apocalyptic taunts, picture Trump on the deck of an aircraft carrier where he’s all about declaring his dominance over the Iranians, about how tough he is and that his button is bigger than President Rouhani’s. Nobody is talking about Helsinki any more. The Republican Congress is once again his Congress. Mission of Distraction Accomplished.

Here’s a second reason for Trump to have picked this fight with Iran. The mid-term elections are just 100 days away and Trump wants several victories to brag about by November in order to get Republicans elected so that he retains control of Congress. That way they can continue to be his lapdog in the destruction of our democracy.

It doesn’t matter whether Trump issues threats to Iran or makes his standard misleading or flagrantly false claims of victory, like the phantom denuclearization promises he claims to have elicited from Kim Jong-un. He only needs enough material to make outrageous claims. He does that 6.5 times per day as his standard, so this should be easy for him.

Trump has already torn up the JCPOA – the multi-lateral, anti-nuclear Iran deal – and, in consequence, given the tacit go-ahead to Iran to continue to develop nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. That will conveniently allow him to declare Iran to be far more dangerous so that he can threaten even more menacingly. We rarely remove leaders in times of national peril, so Trump’s lunatic threats to Iran are helpful to his job security in 2020.

He’s tweeting tough, just as he did with North Korea. Look for a summit with Iran, or at least an invitation. Even if the Iranians decline, Trump will declare that he’s the tough guy, the winner, and they are the wimps in the face of his toughness.

Should that summit take place, expect Trump to announce yet more phantom promises and victories, thus proving that only Trump can do these things. That’s not true, though, because any fool can give away safety and get nothing in return.

If there are talks with Iran they will happen just before the mid-term elections and for the sole purpose of manipulating voters into electing Republicans. Trump has no plan for Iran; all he has is a bagful of useless idiocies and vague, grandiose promises and threats. His only uses for Iran are to use it to retain his own power and to distract us from the lickspittle he is to Putin.

What all that means to the United States is yet more unprepared chaos driven by unforced error and self-serving misdirection. The consequences of that Trumpian chaos are ever-expanding authoritarianism and the deliberate undermining of our own country in a very dangerous world.

Distractions in action.

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

    YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

    Thanks!


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

Populism and Obi-Wan


Reading time – 2:59; Viewing time – 4:06  .  .  .

Here’s Jax definition of populism: Mob behavior gussied up with a slick political cover.

Trump’s base is entirely populist, calling for extreme reaction to any issue and blunt force solutions to all problems. Think: Muslim ban; kidnapping children; building a $38 billion wall; embracing white supremacy and more.

Here are some characteristics of populism:

We are poor, innocent victims and that gives us the right to attack the imagined meanies who we fantasize have victimized us.

There is only “us” and “them” and we have to repress “them” or they will take over and victimize “us.”

There is always an enemy to demonize and dehumanize and blame for every problem. It’s never our fault and it’s never simply new cultural circumstances or the result of technological or global change. (See the cartoon below.)

All problems can be solved by hitting harder.

New thinking and fresh ideas are never contemplated or even welcome. Truth, facts and reality are no more than minor inconveniences, bumps in the road to greater power grabs.

Subtlety? What subtlety? We don’ need no stinking subtlety. We don’ need no stinking diplomacy. Or regulations to stop those who would exploit us. Or a press or justice system to hold leaders accountable. What accountability?

We are demanding of and slavish to an autocratic leader, a hero to worship, a strongman to idolize.

Perhaps democracy – rule by the people either directly or through democratically elected representatives – is an anomaly in human existence. Perhaps we are globally on the way back to monarchical, even dictatorial rule as our human default. The key is to envision what that looks like when we tear apart our hard won rights and structures, the foundations of freedom we’ve spent centuries building.

Our ancestors rebelled against the tyrant, King George III. You learned about that in your history classes, and his kind of tyranny is the world standard in the absence of democracy. In a monarchy, the people are rarely happy and most often are oppressed by the ruling class. That’s only attractive if you’re part of that ruling class. If you’re Dorothy from Kansas, not so much.

So, to the 27% of Americans who think that the government kidnapping of infants and children is okay, who think that shoving a thumb in the eye of our international friends is a good idea, who want to cozy up to tyrannical enemies of our country and who want to dismantle all of government and the judicial and press foundations that check executive excesses, you better be careful what you wish for. You just might get it and you will not like it and your grandchildren will curse you for your blindness.

Populism is driven by and generates great rushes of testosterone fury. It creates huge clouds of the sensation of being powerful, of sticking it to someone. But when those clouds lift we’ll be left with the tyranny of oppression.

To be clear, Trump and his minions are our challenge now. But to step back and look at a bigger picture, there is always a tyrant waiting to steal the reins of power and commit horrible acts and steal our democracy for himself. That can only happen if we allow the 27% to have their way.

I don’t have any notion that anyone can quickly change the visceral drive of the mobs that are the populism of this country. The Obi-Wan that is our only hope lies within the rest of us.

Click me for a larger image

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Evolution


Herbert Spencer

Charles Darwin

Reading time – 1:49  .  .  .

After reading Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species, Herbert Spencer coined the term “survival of the fittest” to mark the core meaning of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. That perfectly captures the clarity that  those who were afraid of poisonous reptiles avoided them and survived to produce offspring; those who didn’t have that innate fear died from snake bites and didn’t make babies. It works the same way for fear of heights, spiders and the sound of something going bump in the night. And nothing is more powerful to ensure the survival of the species than the universal, instantaneous protection response for our young ones. Think: mama brown bear and her cubs. Or any father or mother and their babies. People just like you.

And that is why we’re horrified by the catastrophe of human suffering of mothers, fathers and children that President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have engineered on our southern border. This manufactured crisis is designed to pressure Democrats to support Trump’s idiotic wall and his targeted discrimination against black and brown people – those from “shithole countries.” Babies ripped from their mothers’ arms are just pawns in Trump’s game. He hasn’t a moral compass or the slightest compassion for those who suffer, because all he recognizes is that which serves himself.

That is why you must demand that your senators and congressperson do what you elected them to do and what they agreed to do: check executive excess. Their job is to demand an end to this inhumane discrimination. Tell them to vote for the Keep Families Together Act. And it’s critical that they allow absolutely no concession to Trump at all. The message has to get through that Trump will not benefit from his mistreatment of innocents.

Here’s contact info for your legislators:

Senate: Go to www.senate.gov and use the lookup on the top of the page.

House: Go to www.house.gov and use the lookup on the top of the page.

or call (202) 224-3121, the main switchboard for all of Congress.

Calling is more powerful than an email or text. Tell the friendly staffer that you want your legislator to make Trump stop his inhumane treatment of people on our southern border and to refuse to negotiate with Trump about this.

Our belief in right and wrong is on the line. And, if you listen closely, you’ll hear the imperative of evolution – what made you possible – calling your name.

P.S. Even as you make your calls, be sure not to let this diabolical kidnapping of children distract you from the Russian hacking and possible Trump conspiracy and other wrongdoing.

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

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

Thanks!


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

Still Looking For the Up-Side


Reading time – 1:41; Viewing time – 2:38  .  .  .

President Trump has made good on yet another brain dead campaign promise, this time by moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. There was a formal ceremony to recognize the change and it included words from a pastor who has publicly announced that all Jews are going to hell, comments from know-nothing, double-dealing Jared Kushner and self-satisfied chest thumping from hard line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Donald Trump on video.

After decades of U.S. Presidents having the good sense to avoid a declaration of Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel (check out this post), Donald Trump has once again trashed well thought out policy in favor of smashing and breaking everything in sight and in the process has managed to jump into a smoldering pile of terrible.

Even as the lovely embassy ceremonies were proceeding, Gazans were conducting a massive protest just a few miles away, where dozens of Gazans were killed and thousands wounded by Israeli forces. It won’t stop – there will be more violence triggered by the U.S. embassy move, because it is seen in the Palestinian and entire Arab world as the full embracing of Israel by the U.S. and the total abandonment of Palestinians. Indeed, Turkey has recalled its ambassador to the U.S. in protest. The obvious dissing of Palestinians is exactly why Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama exercised the escape clause of the Oslo Accords and did not move our embassy.

Once again, though, Donald Trump has made clear that all he cares about is making transactional deals and that he has no concept of strategy or consequences. He’s actually ignorant enough to believe that he’s just achieved something worthwhile.

Instead, Trump has told the Palestinians that the U.S. is no longer an honest broker for peace, leaving them without hope, so they have nothing to lose by being violent. It is what all people without hope eventually do.

When Trump first announced in December, 2017 his intention to move the U.S. embassy, I asked for help to understand the up-side to the U.S. of such a move, because I couldn’t see a thing of value. Nobody offered anything. Crickets.

So, once again I invite you to offer the up-side of this for the United States. Please put your notions in the Comments section below.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

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