suffering

Funding the Wall


Reading time – 3:15; Viewing time – 5:04  .  .  .

In reviewing my posts of the past couple of years I find that there’s a lot of “This ain’t right” stuff and a much smaller offering of “Hey, this is cool!” or “Aren’t we humans oddly interesting?” Sadly, the reason is obvious: the dangerous and harmful Trumpian outrages are all around us and push-back is critical.

So, once again I long for our country to be “re-saned” (no, that’s not a word, but you get it) so that we can get back to being America and stop playing defense against the full time Trumpian assaults on reality. Meanwhile, it’s our duty to attend to these outrages in order to minimize damage. Here’s just one from this past week.

Mark Esper was a vice-president of government relations for Raytheon, a defense contractor. Apparently, being a lobbyist was just the right experience to make him the very best person to be Secretary of Defense under Trump. He brought the lobbying skills he honed at Raytheon to his present gig at the White House in order to be an official Trump Swamp Cootie.

Trump insists on building his useless vanity wall on our southern border, the one we were told that Mexico was going to pay for. Not so strangely, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said, “Nuh-uh” to Trump’s ridiculous demand of payment.

After that Congress also refused to fund his (did I mention?) stupid wall, so Trump declared a state of national emergency in order to undermine Congress. He got Esper to agree to give him $3.6 billion from the Defense Department budget for his wall. The money will come from much needed construction projects for our military, including readiness projects in support of our NATO allies.

Vladimir Putin likes that we’ll be one step behind. That gives him the opportunity to seize yet more eastern European nations. And Putin continues to pursue his nuclear explosion producing, Mach 8 nuclear powered cruise missiles. The complete lack of U.S. push-back means that he faces no international condemnation for the radiation from his exploded folly that’s poisoned the area next to Finland.

If you’d like to see which national defense needs will be abandoned, click here. Be sure to look for the idiotic comments of Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), which he said in support of Trump’s Defense Department thievery, including this contorted gem:

“It is important that Congress now restore the military construction funding diverted for border security. Failing to do so only forces our troops to pay for political discord in Washington.”

It may have hurt your brain to read that. That’s because it’s bat-shit crazy.

Trump also is diverting emergency funds from FEMA in order to build his purposeless wall. He’s specifically withholding disaster relief from Puerto Rico, which hasn’t recovered from Hurricane Maria two years ago, largely because – wait for it – Trump has withheld about 80% of the funds that Congress allocated for disaster relief for those people.

As of this writing the southeast coast of the U.S. is taking a pummeling from Hurricane Dorian following the devastation it caused to the Bahama Islands. The Bahamians endured almost two days of cat 5 winds – over 185 miles per hour – torrential rain and hurricane ocean storm surges.

In addition to the Puerto Rico money he plans to steal, Trump is going to further deplete FEMA in order to fund his vanity wall, making relief and recovery for those were hurt worst anywhere from difficult to impossible. We might have enough left in FEMA’s piggy bank for the Carolinas. As for the Bahamians and Puerto Ricans, I’m sure those people can wait until next fiscal year for funding to help them. Just tell the Bahamians to take a number and get in line behind the Puerto Ricans. It’s really no problem, because most of those people aren’t from Norway, anyway.

Sarcasm aside, Trump is preparing to build 175 miles of unneeded wall by sacrificing desperate hurricane survivors, NATO, our 3-branch governmental structure, national defense, our military people and world order. This isn’t just more of his stupid lies. We can ignore what he says, even his idiotic Sharpie-modified hurricane map. But we better pay attention to what he does, because he is intent upon assaulting American values, our safety and our democracy itself.

That’s why we pay attention to his outrages.

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NOTES:

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

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

Guest Essay – The Real Reason


Reading time – 4:35  .  .  .

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addendum

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

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

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


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

How Did We Get Here? and “The Wag”


Reading time – 3:58; Viewing time – 5:40  .  .  .

  • How did we get to the point:

– where ripping babies from their mothers’ arms is tolerated?

– where we refuse those kidnapped kids soap and a toothbrush and there isn’t universal outrage?

– where disrespecting our allies and cozying up to adversaries is thought to be good foreign policy?

– where allowing fossil fuel exploration in Monument Valley is considered a good idea?

– where pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement is deemed sound policy for our children and grandchildren?

– where there could be a discriminatory citizenship question on the national census? The Constitution calls for no such thing.

– where Russia could invade and disrupt our national election and the president refuses to confront, much less punish the offender?

– where the president refuses to do anything to stop further cyber assault on our country and even invites it – and somehow we aren’t all enraged?

– where we yawn when yet another Cabinet Secretary resigns in disgrace?

– where birthright citizenship – you know, the 14th Amendment – would be under attack? Note: The 14th Amendment is probably why you are a United States citizen.

– where we tolerate reversing EPA standards, such that fossil fuel extractors no longer have to report or reduce methane emissions? Methane is 84 times more powerful at global warming than carbon dioxide.

– where picking fights with other countries is considered a good negotiating strategy?

– where a continuing presidential attack on freedom of the press is somehow held to be patriotic?

– where defying subpoenas is in any way a debatable thing?

– where arbitrary tariffs slapped on friends is tolerated?

– Where witnesses before Congressional committees can avoid testifying by claiming “absolute immunity,” an immunity that doesn’t exist in law?

This list could be far longer and likely you can add to it.

We’ve always had divided government, with impassioned politicians at times saying stupid stuff.* This isn’t about that. This is about the amazing reality that we got to the point where, for example, ripping babies from their mamas as a tool to discourage immigration is open for debate.

KEY POINT: Not one of the items on this list is a whine about Trump being crude, disrespectful, ignorant and an assault on decency. They aren’t even a complaint about his well over 10,000 lies since taking office. And every one of them has substantive impact on Americans – like you – and on our nation as a whole.

KEY OTHER POINT: It’s so very easy to pin all that on Trump, but he only has the power to do those things because of a supportive – or at least compliant – citizenry and, correspondingly, a meek and cowardly Republican Congress.

KEY QUESTION: In order to get out of this craziness we have to be able to both define it and identify what brought us here. What’s your notion? Post it in the Comments block and we’ll help one another learn.

FUN FACT: Roughly 63 million people voted for Trump (or they voted against Hillary) in 2016. On that same day, over 90 million voting age Americans stayed home.

FUN FACT QUESTION: Can you think of something you can do so there isn’t a repeat of that in 2020? I knew you could.

Late Addition

I’ve warned repeatedly (here and here, for example) that we are at risk of Donald Trump pulling a “wag the dog” scam to ensure he gets reelected. Now it appears that he’s doing it.

He has backed Iran into a corner with enough sanctions to hobble its economy and withdrawn from the JCPOA. Then Trump complained because Iran said that it would restart its uranium enrichment program, the very thing the JCPOA prevented.

So, he sent a carrier group and 2,500 troops to the area. Then on Thursday he ordered military strikes on Iran in response to Iran having downed a U.S. reconnaissance drone. He called off the attack before damage was done, claiming that killing 150 people with his attacks wouldn’t be a proportional response. We don’t know if that cancellation was actually just a stunt to make Trump seem to be a humanitarian, but since Trump is all about the theater of things, it very well could have been just that.

Recognize that Trump is constantly opaque in his dealings, leaving everyone wondering about his motives and goals, and almost certainly he sees the situation with Iran as a pissing contest that he has to win. A lot of his supporters like his kind of brainless muscular response, which drives the danger meter pointer closer to catastrophe.

You better make sure your senators and Congress people stand up to what looks like the newest Gulf of Tonkin fraud, or we’ll get involved in yet another unending middle east war and a lot of people will die.


*Stupid stuff is the blatantly obvious false or misleading statement. It’s the filibustering of a reporter to avoid his/her question. It’s the whataboutism that is designed to avoid having to deal with the truth or to denigrate an opponent. It’s the whole cloth fabrication that comes in a small throwaway line or a sweeping, dramatic denial of reality. Stupid stuff.



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

Tipping Point


Reading time – 2:10; Viewing time – 3:14  .  .  .

America in the 1930s was anti-immigrant, anti-black, anti-Semitic and probably some other anti’s. And of course we have a well documented history of excluding Chinese, Catholics, Irish, Italians – you name it and we’ve been against it at some time. The piece where I want to focus now, though, is the American attitude toward Jews before World War II.

Kristallnacht, a November night in 1938 of viscous Nazi violence against Jews, was seen as abhorrent by the vast majority of Americans. Yet later that same week, Gallup polled Americans about whether we should open our borders to those seeking refuge from Germany and 72% said no. Two months later 67% of Americans opposed a bill to admit child refugees from Germany. We wouldn’t even lift a finger to save children. It took the revelations of the Holocaust – 6 million people murdered – to reach a tipping point and begin to change public opinion.

Now we’re facing a different cry for relief from persecution. Poor people from Central America are arriving at our southern border pleading for asylum so they won’t have to go back to their war-torn, brutalizing countries where there is nothing to eat.

We’ve watched as this administration has cut aid to those countries, making conditions still worse. We’ve seen how this administration has slow walked applications for asylum, arrested border crossers and failed to properly provide for those it incarcerates.

We’ve heard the official hate speech and seen children separated from their mothers and fathers. This administration told us that this cruelty was a “deterrent” to more migrants coming to America. We’ve seen the reports of overcrowding of children in cages and of kids kept locked in vans for a day and a half. Now we’re seeing Mexico being bludgeoned into housing migrants who are trying to find refuge in the U.S., while at the same time this administration uses this humanitarian crisis that it created to strong-arm Mexico into buying more U.S. stuff. Meanwhile, desperate asylum seekers suffer.

The question for us is this: When does it get so bad that all of us stand up and say “No more!” Where is that tipping point? How much suffering will be so much that it isn’t just a bunch of do-gooders shutting down the Tornillo child prison, but the overwhelming majority of us call out our official cruelty and demand proper, humane treatment for these people?

”  .  .  .  for it is a habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not fancy.” Thucydides

Perhaps our hoping for better isn’t enough. Perhaps thrusting aside this savage reality we do not fancy isn’t enough, either. Maybe it’s time for action.

Late Addition

Herblock cartoon, 1954. Click me for a larger view.

Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) was a reprehensible fraud who ruined the lives of many Americans with his phony charges of them being, having been or having sympathy for communists. Among his famous dalliances from truth was the piece of paper he would brandish, claiming that on it was a list of names of known communists in the State Department.

The piece of paper was just a piece of paper. For all we know it was McCarthy’s shopping list. McCarthy just used the convention as a prop to secure himself attention and fame by menacing others. He was eventually censured by the Senate and died a miserable drunk with hepatitis.

Click me for the story

On Tuesday, President Trump pulled the same reprehensible fraud by brandishing a single folded sheet of paper taken from his breast pocket and waving it before members of the press, claiming it was the agreement just forged with Mexico. He wouldn’t show the agreement because he would let Mexico make the announcement, he told us.

Just one thing: there is no new agreement with Mexico. The agreement was secured long ago – there’s nothing new – and once again the great negotiator has achieved nothing except for laying yet another fraud on the American people.

Just for fun – from The Onion. Click me

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

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

Public Opinion


  • Reading time – 2:29  .  .  .

You know what George Santayana  said:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

confirmed by “Metaphors Be With You”, by Dr. Mardy Grothe, page 301

The world has had innumerable returns to authoritarianism, as though we believe that a strongman leader can and will fix our ills, but history teaches us that more often than not those leaders deliver far worse suffering.

Now, with our ignorance of how to deal with globalization and the internet and with authoritarian-led nations seeking to do us harm, a huge minority of our fellow citizens want a tough guy leader for our country. It’s possible many of our 320 million people have forgotten the past – you know, like when our Founding Fathers led a rebellion against an authoritarian despot, King George III.

I know little about Walter Lippmann, his writings and his politics, but I came upon this quote recently:

“Men who have lost their grip upon the relevant facts of their environment are the inevitable victims of agitation and propaganda. The quack, the charlatan, the jingo  .  . .  can flourish only where the audience is deprived of independent access to information.”

from “Liberty and the News“, 1920, by Walter Lippmann

That was penned a generation after Santayana and it suggests something insidious, something far more dangerous than the forgetfulness to which Santayana speaks. It suggests leadership that intentionally manipulates what we see, hear and are able to learn. It’s fed by the lack of a free and independent press. It’s fed by the demeaning and slandering of the people and institutions that report on leaders and hold them accountable.

Forming the basis of the Almond–Lippmann consensus about public opinion are three assumptions:

Public opinion is volatile, shifting erratically in response to the most recent developments. Mass beliefs early in the 20th century were “too pacifist in peace and too bellicose in war, too neutralist or appeasing in negotiations or too intransigent”

Public opinion is incoherent, lacking an organized or a consistent structure to such an extent that the views of US citizens could best be described as “nonattitudes”

Public opinion is irrelevant to the policy making process. Political leaders ignore public opinion because most Americans can neither “understand nor influence the very events upon which their lives and happiness are known to depend.”

Lippmann later recanted these views, as he saw that the public was far more clear-headed about the Vietnam war than were politicians.

Nevertheless, re-read those three points and imagine what political manipulation of the news can do to public opinion. Think about what undermining our free press can do to enable leaders to pervert democracy. Then think about why so often Americans are ignored in public policy making on issues like gun safety, climate warming, healthcare and so many others where the overwhelming majority of the public doesn’t get what it wants.

Rosa Parks: Nevertheless, she persisted.

Are you okay with that?

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

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

The Price of Memory Loss


Reading time – 3:10; Viewing time – 4:35 .  .  .

Here are a couple of examples to make a point.

First, whatever your position on the issue of abortion, just for the moment set aside your religious or moral views, as well as your notion of rights, and focus on practicality.

Regardless of public memory, a lot of abortions really did occur prior to the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. For wealthy women, abortions might have been quietly performed in the examination rooms of their OB/GYNs. For others that option wasn’t available, so abortions often were done in a filthy office or back alley by untrained brutes. Many women suffered greatly from complications like severe infections and even loss of fertility. Some bled to death.

When Roe was decided, abortions came out of those filthy offices and back alleys and moved to safe medical facilities. A lot fewer women experienced complications and far fewer died. That’s the practical piece.

It’s easy to wag fingers about abortions if you don’t have a memory of how bad it was before Roe, which is not to say that all who oppose abortion are unjustified; rather, it’s to say that if Roe is overturned, as is de facto incrementally happening, there will be a huge uptick in the use of filthy offices and back alleys. The price of our memory loss is that a lot of women will suffer and some will die because we no longer remember how bad it really was.

Here’s another example of the practical effect and the price of the loss of historical memory. This comes from Gershom Gorenberg’s piece in The American Prospect:

“As historian Tony Judt showed in Postwarhis great work on recent European history, the Western European welfare states created after 1945 were not products of wild idealism. They were the ‘insecure child of anxiety.’ People understood that the political extremism of the 1930s was ‘born directly of economic depression and its social costs. Both Fascism and Communism thrived on social despair, on the huge gulf separating rich and poor.’ The welfare state was a means to keep the black-shirts and brown-shirts in the past.

“One reason, perhaps, that America built so much less of a welfare state was that it was not left so shattered by the war. Obamacare was a very late, partial effort to fill in the most glaring gap, the lack of a national health-care system. Trump hasn’t given up on destroying that.

“But then, Trumpism is a new movement born of social despair and the renewed gulf between rich and poor. Despair sells the tickets to Trump’s mass rallies, and anger handles the amplifiers for his hateful rants. [emphasis mine]

“How is it that a large minority of Americans could vote for this man, or that a majority of Britons could have voted to leave the European Union, or that the new authoritarianism is rising in European countries wounded so deeply seven and eight decades ago by the old authoritarianism?

“I won’t argue that there’s just one reason. But I suggest that a major contributing reason is that eight decades or nine is the span of a human life. Someone who was 13 in September 1939 is 92 or 93 years old today. We are running out of people who can give firsthand testimony of the war itself, much less of the political madness that gave birth to the war. The last earthquake was so long ago that too many people have forgotten the purpose of the strict building code that followed it.”

With a loss of historical memory we humans have a way of reverting to old ways that were terrifyingly destructive. That’s easy to do with leaders spouting slogans and shibboleths and wild promises of restoring the greatness of some mythical, fictional past. But those slogans, shibboleths and wild promises have a way of making us blind to the full reality of the suffering and destruction they bring about.

The point is that the price of memory loss, whatever the issue, is far too great. That is why we – all of us – must remember.

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

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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Live From The Valley


Reading time – 6:39; Viewing time – 9:12  .  .  .

Washington D.C. (mostly)
Election Announcement

I’m not a registered Democrat, but like Bernie Sanders, I caucus with them. That’s why I’m announcing my candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.

I thought I’d have more time for this, at least enough to put together an exploratory committee. But what with our never-ending campaigns, I don’t even have time to learn what an exploratory committee does. And there’s no chance to line up mega-donors now, either, because they’re already taken.

So, I’m left to make this major announcement via blog post. Good news for you: You’re the first to learn of this. Not even my wife knows about this yet. Man, I hope she won’t be angry.

Anyway, Kamala, Elizabeth, Bernie, Amy, Beto, Joe, Eric, Pete, Kirsten, John, Jay, Cory, Julián, Tulsi, John, Marianne, Wayne, Tim and Andrew, it’s nice to be in such a large and non-exclusive club.

Worry Announcement, or, Are We Really This Stupid?

What do you suppose Americans worry about the most: Illegal immigration? Foreign terrorists? Brown skin people from south of the border or Muslims? Nope, it isn’t nearly that dopey.

According to a current survey by the Gallup Organization you and I worry about healthcare more than anything else. Take a look at the chart below or, better yet, click on it for an expanded view of the chart and the complete Gallup report. Here’s another.

Healthcare is our biggest worry for the 5th year in a row. Oddly, our president has decided to do a full court press next year to increase our worry by repealing and replacing Obamacare. There’s just one thing: In the 9 years since the ACA passed the Republicans have tried dozens of times to repeal Obamacare and they haven’t succeeded, even when they were in control of the Senate, the House and the presidency.

Even worse – and that’s “worse” as in: both destructive and hypocritical – they’ve had 9 years to come up with a replacement healthcare plan for the “replace” part of “repeal and replace” and they’ve sat on their hands. They have no replacement or even the beginning of an outline for a replacement plan. So, if Trump gets his way, he and the Republicans will repeal Obamacare and replace it with NOTHING.

Then some of us will die needlessly, some will go bankrupt and pre-existing conditions won’t be covered, just like it was before the ACA. So, you better worry that if Trump and the Republicans get their way, there will be no replacement healthcare plan and you may have no healthcare at all.

Puerto Rico Aid Announcement

The president just announced that we have supplied $91 billion of aid to Puerto Rico, which means that we really didn’t totally blow off the survivors of that terrible hurricane that killed 3,000 Americans.

That’s good news, indeed, except for one little detail: the actual, real world, fantasy-free number is just 12% of Trump’s claimed amount. That aid has barely scratched the surface of what’s needed and it hasn’t provided food for the one-third of the population that’s going hungry.

Trump continues to astound all sentient beings with his constant lying and his ease in inflicting cruelty on people who desperately need help. Maybe he should go back to San Juan and toss out a couple more cases of paper towels to a crowd of suffering people to once again show his true support.

Proud State Announcement

It’s understandable if you think of North Carolina only as the leader in Republican crafted voter suppression, voting fraud and generally crazy politics. For example, former Republican Governor Pat McCrory blamed his loss in the 2016 election on non-existent voter fraud and refused to leave the governor’s mansion. Turns out his real electoral problem was his zeal for the infamous “Bathroom Bill.”

Yet, the Tar Heels are even more creative than that. They’re button-busting proud of the craftiness revealed by the recent indictment of Greg Lindberg, a major political donor, plus a couple of his associates and state GOP chairman and former congressman Robin Hayes for bribery through an insurance scheme.

These guys should have known that the FBI has no sense of humor about people lying to them, but lying repeatedly to the FBI is one of the indictments against them, as is attempting to bribe the current state insurance commissioner. U.S. Rep. Mark Walker was identified in the indictments as “Public Official A.” He was the recipient of $150,000 in political donations from Lindberg, but he’s not under indictment. Yet.

But just a second: the North Carolina Republicans may not have a monopoly on creativity. The current North Carolina Democratic Party chairman was the insurance commissioner during the time of some of this scandal. We’ll see if he, too, becomes a candidate to be a ward of the state.

Stay tuned, as this likely will prove to be the basis of a super hero movie – a Marvel Comics “State Dumb Stuff” thriller, staring Captain Greed.

Many thanks to DN for bringing this inspired piece of graft to our attention. It gives us all a renewal of appreciation for the human gift of imagination.

Special Award Announcement

You may recall Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who, in a rant against Dreamers declared that,

“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another hundred out there who weigh a hundred and thirty pounds—and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling seventy-five pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

That was quite the visual image and just the thing to introduce a new congressional award.

On Tuesday of this past week Rep. Steve King was presented the first ever “Congressional Bag Full of Stupid Award.”

In a dignified ceremony on the floor of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi began the proceedings by playing a video of King’s remarks. She then recounted his many dalliances with racism, white supremacy and fantasized hate.

Pelosi expressed concern that King’s years of commuting between Iowa and DC had left him with a huge bulge on the side of his head from carrying 75 pounds of stupid across the Iowa border into Illinois. She said that she hoped that his upcoming stupidectomy surgery would be successful. However, she warned that the medical community is united in the opinion that you can’t fix stupid. She said, “We all hope that this surgery will cause Steve’s stupid to go into remission for a while.”

At last and in a sincere and heartfelt closing, Pelosi recognized King for his well earned award and wished him a fine and very remote retirement beginning in January 2021.

And finally,

From the You Can’t Make This Stuff Up File
A short compendium of dumb current events that are too unbelievable even for fiction
  1. Vile, hateful, wacko conspiracy nut case Alex Jones is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by parents of children murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. He’s floating a defense that he has a “form of psychosis” that causes him to believe that certain events were staged. He says his psychosis was brought on by government and media lies, causing him to feel like “.  .  .  a child whose parents lie to him over and over again. Pretty soon you don’t know what reality is.” So, Alex Jones, the grand perp of hateful, harmful conspiracy theories that fattened his wallet dramatically, is a poor victim.
  2. Fox and Friends unveiled a new geographic phenomenon when it boldly declared. “TRUMP CUTS AID TO 3 MEXICAN COUNTRIES.” That came as startling news to those who erroneously thought there was only one country named Mexico.

Live, on the ground in the Valley of Stupid, I’m Jack Altschuler.
                 ————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money 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 to be better informed.

Thanks!


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

Time to Chill?


Reading time – 3:47; Viewing time – 5:19  .  .  .

For at least three years some have been saying to ignore what he says and to focus instead on what he does.  Pay attention, they say, to policy stuff, actions that have impact, and ignore the stupid – even false – things he says. Just chill.

That sounds like good counsel and I’ve tried to follow it. Alas, there is no escaping that words have power to drive people to action. And some actions are brutal and even murderous.

Michelle Goldberg wrote in the New York Times, “.  .  .  Trump is a racist. This should be clear to all people of good faith, given that Trump was a leading figure in the birther movement, defended white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville, and claimed he couldn’t get a fair hearing from a judge of Mexican heritage .  .  .” Be clear that his messages are heard loud and clear by people who revel in hate.

There really weren’t “good people on both sides” in Charlottesville. It may have been just words the President spoke, but his message to haters, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and thugs of all stripes was that they’re just great folks spewing hate and doing harm to others.

The President showed up at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, even though he was specifically asked by the Rabbi and the mourners to stay away. His words were exactly what the mourners didn’t want, but he spoke anyway. His message to his fanatical followers was that it’s okay to disrespect some people, even those in the midst of the profound pain of loss. Gotta wonder how much his constant disrespect motivated the shooter.

What we’re clear about is that the President’s disrespect extends everywhere, including his hateful comments about John McCain, and his acceptance of the torturing and murder by tyrants abroad, with whom he tells us he has great relationships and he and Kim Jong-un “fell in love,” however gag-able that may be.

He doesn’t care about Otto Warmbier, who endured torture and beatings by the North Koreans that led to his death. He doesn’t care about Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who the Saudis killed, butchered and cremated. And he clearly doesn’t care about Sergei Skripal and his daughter, who were poisoned in a nerve agent attack in London. Trump takes the tyrant dictators at “their word” and finds no fault in them. What do you suppose is the message his fanatical followers get from that?

He at last got part of his Muslim ban. Then he tweeted hatefully toward Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) about her handful of anti-Semitic comments, for which she had already apologized; but he had nothing at all to say about decades of racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric from Christian Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who remains unrepentant for his hate. Got any doubt about what one religion is okay with the President and how he feels about other religions in America? That gives the cover of righteousness to the haters, making virtually any atrocity acceptable.

Click through and read this important essay.

He continues to vilify brown skin people from south of the border and blacks everywhere, while at the same time inviting more immigrants from “Norway.” Got any doubt about what color skin the President wants all Americans to have and how unwelcome others are? I wonder if his racism motivated the murderer at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston?

His words incite fear, hate and anger and he dog whistles violence at every rally. He drives division and hatred every day. And he’s managed to get 40% of Americans to listen to him and some to emulate him. That puts the rest of us at risk and you already know that sometimes people get killed. So, no, I will not ignore what he says.

All of what he says and does sends a tyrannical message of exclusion, of “us versus them.” It’s a small view of America from a small, cowardly man, but some of his followers like that and want to exclude others using violence to do so. That’s what happens in cults of personality.

Before someone starts waving their red, white and blue at me, proclaiming in righteous voice that this is the land of the free and we’re entitled to our views and opinions, even if they’re based in hate, just get this one piece: this country was established by the Founders in absolute opposition to a tyrant. This is no time to succumb to one.

Do you know someone who tells you to chill, to just get over it for the hateful and stupid things that come out of this President’s mouth? If they want to know the true value of that chill notion, click here and register to hear the expert speak on the subject. And bring that friend along – the one who tells you to chill.

Watch this now. This is no time to chill.

Click to join me on March 23 for this fascinating and informative event.

                ————————————

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.

We’re Perfectly Positioned


Reading time – 4:05; Viewing time – 5:41  .  .  .

Her husband was killed by a street shooter. Later, one of her sons was shot and killed. Relating this to the small audience brought her to tears – again. The mother’s pain she bears will never go away.

When she was able to function again she started a support group for mothers who have lost family members to street violence. There are currently about 75 members of “Sisterhood.” There could be 750,000 members because we shoot someone’s son or daughter or husband or daddy over 100 times per day, every day.

Some of the violence is due to random drive-by shootings; some is done by warring gangs; some is done by angry young people or disgruntled workers. All of it is due to something way beyond wrong.

Another presenter spoke to the audience about his family of origin. Seven kids, Mom and an abusive step-father who hit with chairs, a vacuum cleaner, whatever was handy. The presenter grew up thinking that’s just the way things were – until the night his little sister went into the bathroom to avoid their step-father’s violence and quietly hung herself with the cord of a hair dryer. That’s what random violence can do to people. The presenter now works with at risk kids, people who grew up as he did, assuming that violence was just the way people deal with their anger. Most of it isn’t done by an electrical cord. Most is by gun.

As always, the grassroots efforts are driven by people who have lived the pain and they’re doing wonderful, critically needed work to help others, holding hands and hugging to soothe the sufferers and to counsel people away from violence before they commit it and that’s good. It’s one piece of the horrific puzzle and it isn’t enough.

The cover picture of this puzzle of over 30,000 gun killings per year shows:

The lack of proper education of our kids for a successful life

Lack of employment opportunities where they are most needed

Our refusal to enact meaningful, national gun safety legislation

Our cultural idealizing and reverence for tough, macho guys (think: Charlton Heston’s “cold, dead hands” speech)

Our slavish belief in the Second Amendment as a holy thing and meaning something other than what was intended by the Founders

A political system that rewards the biggest donors instead of We the People

Our limp-wristed way of dealing with mental health

The ease with which we are distracted by the next bright, shiny object

You can likely add to this list. The point is that there are many contributing factors to our gun violence problem and no one thing is going to cure our addiction to pointless death. Still, some useful things are obvious.

Guns are the perfect tool to kill lots of people quickly. Knives kill, but imagine the killer at Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High School last year with knives instead of guns. He could have killed some kids, but there’s no way he could have killed 17 of them with knives or an axe or any other hand weapon. Getting guns out of the hands of those who should never have one will be a major step toward solving our problem. Refusing to do that enables our truly angry, hate-filled people to carry out their horrible plans.

Three years ago the FBI arrested two men who were planning a race war, expecting to bomb Black churches and Jewish synagogues. Last week they arrested a white nationalist who proclaimed, “I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on earth,” and he was prepared to attack using his armory of assault weapons if President Trump is impeached. He planned to pump himself up with steroids and opioids so he would be ready to unleash continuing carnage. The authorities managed to stop these two nut cases.

But we’ll never run out of angry men who want to do violence and stopping all of them is unlikely to happen. The question we must answer is whether we are willing to do what is necessary to stop them before they start. If we continue to make it easy to assemble an arsenal of weapons of war, if we continue to make it easy for nearly anyone with a few bucks in their pocket to buy a handgun and some ammunition, we will continue to kill the likes of the little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, high school kids at Columbine and Douglass, movie goers in Aurora, CO, factory workers in Aurora, IL, people at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, concert attendees in Las Vegas and thousands on the streets.

By February 17 there were already 43 mass shootings in the US this year. There were 5 last weekend alone. That can feel dreadful and even horrifying but might not be motivating because most it happens at a distance. That’s just how it was for that mom until her husband and son were killed. It’s up close and real personal for her now. That’s the way it always is for victims and their loved ones.

We’re perfectly positioned to get exactly the horrific results we’re getting right now. The only way to get different, better results is to do something about it.

                        ————————————

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.

Potpourri v7.0 – Shutdown Edition


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

————————————

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.

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