suffering

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.

It’s Us


Reading time – 2:50; Viewing time – 4:09  .  .  .

A recent study has found a most hopeful truth about our country. In The Reinvention of America, James Fallows writes,

Serious as the era’s problems are, more people, in more places, told us they felt hopeful about their ability to move circumstances the right way than you would ever guess from national news coverage of most political discourse. Pollsters have reported this disparity for a long time. For instance, a national poll that The Atlantic commissioned with the Aspen Institute at the start of the 2016 primaries found that only 36 percent of Americans thought the country as a whole was headed in the right direction. But in the same poll, two-thirds of Americans said they were satisfied with their own financial situation, and 85 percent said they were very or somewhat satisfied with their general position in life and their ability to pursue the American dream. Other polls in the past half-dozen years have found that most Americans believe the country to be on the wrong course—but that their own communities are improving.

That’s positive news. So, even as we we snarl at one another over our political craziness and the spittle flies with our snarky certainties about “those others”, in fact we’re doing okay on the local level where we actually engage with one another and recognize our shared humanity. When we’re just folks, most of us seem to be okay together and we’re making our way through life pretty well, which brings us to how that happens.

Mark Rigby is the Assistant Principal for Operations at Niles West High School, a large suburban Chicago school with an astonishing diversity among its student population. The folks charged with the welfare of these students, as at every school in America, are acutely aware of many threats that can shake the stuffing out of everyone. Still, these leaders carry on in the best tradition. Here’s a recent post from Mark. He sent this to the faculty and administrators at NWHS:

In the spirit of sharing, I ran across this memorandum from a Mr. C.J. Price, who was peripherally in charge of Parkland Memorial Hospital during the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and all the ensuing calamitous events that followed. He penned this beauty on 27 November 1963:

“What is it that enables an institution to take in stride such a series of history jolting events? Spirit? Dedication? Preparedness? Certainly, all of these things are important, but the underlying factor is people. People whose education and training are sound. People whose judgment is calm and perceptive. People whose actions are deliberate and definitive. Our pride is not that we were swept up by the whirlwind of tragic history, but that when we were, we were not found wanting.”

We in education have a tendency to fall back on “policy and procedure” when discussing events that take place. As Mr. Price says above, what really matters when the rubber meets the road and the balloon goes up and we are up against it, is you. I read this and thought of Niles West and wish each of you to know the importance of what you contribute each day. We are rarely found wanting, and our students are most fortunate.

I think Mark and Mr. Price are on to something: the critical factor is us.

We are the people who make our neighborhoods and our communities work. We’re the ones who step up and help each other when the hurricane or tornado hits, when another angry, crazy person guns down our innocents or when the creek overflows or a neighbor is ill. To borrow Mark Rigby’s phrasing, we are rarely found wanting when it’s close to home and we are all most fortunate for that.

Many thanks to Mark Rigby for allowing me to share his words.

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Ed. note: I don’t want your money 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.

The Republican Juggernaut Against Government


Reading time – 2:10  .  .  .

In a recent conversation, a friend wondered why working-class voters vote for politicians and support policies that are at odds with their own interests. It’s my belief that these voters don’t think through the situation. All they recognize is that a program of small government and low taxes sounds good. That’s the promise that has been lied to them. But the promised decrease in taxes means that there is less money to pay for the services that taxpayers want. That’s the part they don’t see and nobody tells them it’s coming.

George Will has said for years that Americans want about $300 billion more in services than they’re willing to pay for. That, of course, leads to politicians telling otherwise sensible Americans that they can have those services without paying for them – just, “Vote for me!”

And we do. We all like something for nothing. And that’s what it looks like we’re getting as we vote for small government and lower taxes. It’s only later that we learn that our child’s school room has 37 kids, the books are 36 years old, the roof leaks and the walls are water damaged and the boys bathroom is out of service and the teacher has to buy the paper and markers for the kids, as well as the Band-aids for bruised knees. Then the teachers reach the point where their personally funding the education of everybody’s kids is unsustainable and they wind up in the rotunda of the West Virginia or Oklahoma state house carrying signs. That is when, in a stunning admission of failure, the governor says he doesn’t have money to pay them more or to upgrade schools.

This is what the people voted for, perhaps without recognizing those inevitable consequences. But the citizens of Kansas, the land of Gov. Brownbeck’s miserably failed experiment in state strangulation, could have told them this was coming.

We can be fooled very easily. George W. Bush sold his tax reduction plan by sending a check for $300 (or $600 if you made more money) to every taxpayer. That cash in hand – seemingly something for nothing – sold his  plan to give away billions of dollars to rich people. Slick politics, indeed. That blunder was magnified as he lied us into two wars at the same time, which meant that we not only had a bigger cost to run the country, but we had hamstrung ourselves with less revenue for the fundamental services Americans want.

Oh, wait – I forgot that the reduction of taxes on rich people would pay for itself because of the stimulus to the economy that Bush’s tax reduction would create. We’re still waiting for that windfall to reach the rest of us. Worse, our 115th Congress and President Trump just fooled us into this very same tax deceit once again with a tax plan that ensures that 83% of the tax reduction benefit goes to our ultra-wealthy citizens.

That false promise of small government and low taxes has brought us trillions of dollars of debt, a grotesque equity imbalance and our kids still aren’t getting a good education, except in high income neighborhoods.

The Republican juggernaut against government has consequences. Failing our children is one of them.

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Ed. note: I don’t want your money 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.

If You Ever Were a Kid


Reading time – 2:32; Viewing time – 3:51  .  .  .

There is something peculiar about we human beings, in that we often don’t really “get it” unless we relate events to ourselves. For example, when we see the devastation of a hurricane in Houston, we don’t fully understand and have to see the suffering up close and personal to begin to imagine what it would be like for ourselves if we were in those circumstances. That’s what it takes for us to “get it.”

March For Our Lives – Chicago

So it is with March For Our Lives, as most of us have not been directly touched by gun violence. The Parkland community, all the people of New Town and Aurora and San Bernardino and Orlando and Las Vegas do get it because they’ve lived it. Here’s how you can start to get it:

  • If you have a child or a grandchild,
  • if you know someone who is a school kid, or
  • if you ever were a kid,

Click me for the Sun-Times story

then imagine someone with an AR-15 showing up and firing over 100 bullets in 6 minutes 20 seconds and killing and maiming dozens of kids you know. Just imagine the hallway in your high school that seemed so ordinary; then suddenly someone shows up and sprays bullets from his assault rifle into your friends and maybe into you and you’re lying in the blood.

Are you starting to get it yet?

Left column has names of kids killed this year. The reverse side is entirely filled with the names of the rest of the kids killed this year.

At the Chicago March For Our Lives, all the presenters were students. Here is what they want you to know.

“We call BS” – Emma Gonzalez – Click and watch the video

They are sick deep into their souls from the murders of their friends and family members. Their pain is etched into their faces and they suffer every day.

In case you’re white, they want you to understand that black and brown skin is not bullet proof and that they feel the agony of danger and loss just like you would.

They want you to know that they will out-live you and they will vote in huge numbers. Further, they will not stop until they get the safety they want for themselves, for their little brothers and sisters and for their children to come.

Some say enough is enough, but that isn’t right because there is no “enough” bullet-riddled children. There is only the reality of the suffering and dying that has no purpose. There are the suicides that are made so easy by the presence of a gun. There is the insanity that we tolerate only because it hasn’t come close enough to ourselves to feel it.

But it probably came close enough to your heart in Parkland, FL. And at Sandy Hook Elementary School when you found out those little 6 year old bodies had multiple bullets ripped through them. And at Columbine.

You probably “get it” because you were a kid once. You remember the classes and the hallways and you knew who the brooding, angry kid was. Maybe you can imagine that kid coming to school to wreak his vengeance for his imagined wrongs – maybe wrought on you just because you happened to be in the hallway between classes.

For our legislators: Don’t even think about offering thoughts and prayers or weasel-words. Get on the right side of history or start updating your résumé, because these people are going to send you home.

By the way, in the 17th school shooting in the first 80 days of this year – that’s one every 4 days –  a kid shot two students at Great Mills High School in Maryland five days ago. One of them was a 16 year old girl the shooter knew. She died on Thursday. She could have been your daughter. She could have been you.

Now you “get it.” It’s time for sweeping change.

All photos from March For Our Lives – Chicago, March 24, 2018.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

The 1960s and Now


Reading time – 3:00; Viewing time – 4:24 .  .  .

Times were dark and we were heading down the dismal spiral of the Vietnam war. There was the draft and all the guys knew that we would spend a minimum of two years in the military. It’s just the way things were. And there was a problem with that.

World War II had been a patriotic cause to protect our country and the world from the most evil of all evils. It was a “good war”. Vietnam bore no resemblance to that and not many boomers were anxious to slog through rice paddies and get shot while serving in “Johnson’s war,” a conflict that had no patriotic reason. Most of us felt at risk. Mortal risk.

And that’s what lit the fires of protest, the shouting, the anger, the demonstrations, the confrontations with the establishment. Vietnam simply wasn’t a “good war” and certainly wasn’t worth killing others or dying for. If they wanted boomers to go to war, they needed a much better reason. Let Johnson be the first president to lose a war, we said. Better that than any of us losing our lives for no patriotic reason.

We were agitated. We were engaged. And we were completely misunderstood by older generations who simply couldn’t make sense of us. They wanted to know what all those protest songs were about. Why were we so angry and how come we didn’t do as we were told the way they had? And why didn’t we just abandon our resistance in the face of the titanic force of the way things were?

The answer, of course, is that it was personal. President Johnson was coming for me and he was going to get me killed for no good reason. It doesn’t get more personal than that and that’s the key point.

Like us, the astonishingly clear students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School feel that same mortal risk and they are agitated and they are engaged. They are protesting and they are demonstrating. And, just as for the boomers in the 1960s, it’s personal. They will not go away. They will not be silent. And they will not knuckle under to the titanic force of the way things are.

Here is what politicians better figure out really fast:

  1. This generation gets it and it’s personal and they refuse to wear a bulls eye on their backs.
  2. It isn’t just the students at one Florida high school; it’s every high school and college kid across the nation. If you doubt that, watch for the head count at March For Our Lives on March 24. Better yet, show up.
  3. These kids can and will vote. And don’t dismiss the high school sophomores and juniors: They’ll be voting in the 2020 election.
  4. This generation of Americans will vote in bigger numbers than previous generations and they will outlive all of us. They will get their way.

We boomers had our day, but there were some civil rights advances, the Vietnam war and the draft went away and our fire went out. We became complacent and learned to play the game.

Now, though, our Gen-Zs, like the kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, are politically aware and they are mobilized. So are many of the Gen-Ys. Together, they are the hope for our nation’s future.

President Obama told us in 2008 that, “We are the people we’ve been waiting for.” He was right. And on February 22, just 8 days after the MSD High School massacre he told that entire generation, “We’ve been waiting for you. And we’ve got your backs.” He’s right again.

Memo to politicians: Get on the right side of history or get run over.

Memo to Wayne LaPierre, executive director of the NRA: In your red-fanged address to the CPAC conference you said, “We are never talking about an armed resistance against the socialist corruption of our government.” Was your implied threat intentional?

Just know, Wayne, that as you rail against any and all actions that might actually make our students safer, rest assured that they aren’t advocating armed resistance against you either.

See how personal this gets?

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

The Bullet-Head Zone


CPAC Conference, 2018

Reading time – 1:52; Viewing time – 3:03  .  .  .

In the wake of the slaughter of 17 students and teachers and the wounding of 14 others in Parkland, FL, Wayne LaPierre, the executive director of the NRA, gave a speech to the attendees of the CPAC conference. This is the association that used to be the home for conservatives, but now is primarily composed of hair-on-fire righties.

In his speech he equated gun ownership with God, claimed that having guns is the most important of our rights and reasserted the official NRA certainty that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, so let’s arm kindergarten teachers and have shoot-outs in the hallways.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Nearly every “fact” that LaPierre stated is untrue.
  2. His wholly unsupported accusations and opinions are based on a false and intentionally misleading interpretation of the Second Amendment. It was and is promulgated by the NRA in order to spike gun sales for the firearms industry. More on that in a future post.
  3. LaPierre’s job is to stoke righty fervor, so he gave a red meat speech to a hall of red meat eaters. That explains his tone.

These red meat eaters don’t represent American values, as 94% of Americans want universal background checks – that means for all transfers of ownership of all firearms. That includes when grandpa gives his old hunting rifle to his grandson.

Nearly all Americans, including the overwhelming majority of NRA members, want gun ownership prohibited for all convicted violent felons, mentally disturbed people, those on the terror watch list, domestic violence perps and the like. 74% of Americans want assault weapons and high capacity magazines banned. And nobody outside the NRA thinks a gun battle in the school hallway is a good idea.

Go ahead and watch LaPierre and listen to his fascism-worthy speech. Again, it’s his job to stoke gun fervor with high volume and he’s good at that. Just get that he and those like him are not just allowing, but are indirectly inviting more kids to get killed in our schools, more movie and concert attendees to be mowed down and more church, synagogue and mosque goers to be murdered.

I’ll say it again: A vote for an NRA backed candidate is a vote for dead children.

VOTE in your primary and in the general election on November 8. First check to see which candidates have taken money from the NRA (here’s a link to all NRA money recipients) and vote against these people. *

This is another chapter in the “Big Money controls Congress and you don’t count” story of the destruction of our democracy. You can shut down that story. And you can save our kids.

VOTE!

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    Click me

  • * This is actually tougher than it sounds. Have a look at this and note the distribution of NRA funds: only $1 million of the $59 million the NRA spent to warp our politics and our democracy in the 2016 election was for direct contributions. For example, the recipient list shows they gave Marco Rubio $9,900, but their total spend for him on TV ads and SuperPAC contributions was in the millions of dollars. So, when Cameron Kasky asked Rubio to promise to never take another dollar from the NRA, Rubio weaseled. Rubio is a great talker. Too bad we can’t trust him.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

A Challenge For Moderates


Reading time – 4:51; Viewing time – 7:44  .  .  .

Preface

If in these darkly polarized times you and I aren’t in the same bubble, if our notions about politics, policies and what it means to be an American aren’t in lock step, try this on for size and decide then how far apart our bubbles really are.

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The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday arrived and with it a number of references to his Letter From A Birmingham Jail. Oddly, I had not read it before, so I had a look and was stunned at how much of what he had to say in 1963 resonates in various ways with the America of today. He wrote,

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Do you believe that to be true? Are we interconnected? If we do harm to one of us, are we all affected?

Dr. King wrote of the clear obstacle that segregationists were to progress, the obvious discrimination they practiced, the brutality and the subjugation of an entire race of people in our country. As striking was King’s grave disappointment with what he called “white moderates”. He wrote:

“.  .  .  the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Klu Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;”  .  .  .  Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection”

The white moderates of King’s time have been supplanted today in part by legislators who spinelessly refuse to stand up to the infantile bully on our national playground, as he acts to harm our citizens and demeans whole continents of people. They are the representatives, senators and even the cabinet members who bald face lie for the president, leaving their integrity far behind and all of us worse off for their cowardice. This is the greater frustration and bewilderment, magnified tenfold by those who stand silent to the outrages.

We aren’t living in the Jim Crow south anymore, but Republicans across the country are using various means to take the vote away from people of color, from our young and from our elderly. Their voter ID laws and the closing of poling places and voter registration offices are today’s version of a poll tax or literacy test or having to divine the correct number of jelly beans in a jar in order to vote. These are the “people of ill will” today, the present day thieves of the right to vote and the right to be a full and equal citizen of our country.

Sadly, the “white moderates” of today aren’t standing up to these thieves. They are Americans who sit at home instead of fiercely protesting the cruelty that is in front of them. They refuse to recognize that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” They are those who live in their self-imprisoned ignorance of, “What can one person do?” They sympathize silently and then change the channel on the television, numbing themselves into apathy. They are the ones who go along to get along, who won’t make waves and who avoid conflict, even in the obvious screaming need for conflict with what is plainly wrong.

King made clear that, ”  .  .  .  freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Yet those in power refuse to listen to those being oppressed today, as our citizens’ voting rights are stolen from them simply because those who are doing the stealing are allowed to get away with it by those who don’t demand justice. There is more.

A reader of these essays wrote privately in reply to my recent post, “Leadership and the Tax Bill”, reminding me of Emma Lazarus’ poem, The New Colossus. It is inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. We all know the end of the poem, but it deserves to be read in its entirety.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
.
Every one of us save Native Americans is either an immigrant or is descended from immigrants who were welcomed by this Mother of Exiles. That means that your family wasn’t born here, but instead came here from somewhere else, surely for good reason. Perhaps their decision to leave all they had known was famine or discrimination or poverty or war and it’s quite likely your people weren’t royalty. Almost surely they were poor people, perhaps peasants, exiles. They were tired and poor and yearned to breathe free. They might even have been the wretched refuse of the teeming shore of a shithole country. If they were to try to come here today, would they be admitted? Would we lift up our lamp beside our golden door for your people? Would you allow your own ancestors to immigrate to America?
.

If you would, then you are not allowed to be what Dr. King called a “white moderate”, a passive presence. In fact, you aren’t allowed to be a moderate at all. If you would allow your family to breathe free here, then you must stand up for today’s immigrants.  And you must stand against the vote thieves ripping apart our democracy. You must mount the battlements and fight the loud and cruel oppressors of today.

Emma Lazarus’ voice is calling for you to take action, to lift our lamp beside our golden door.

Dr. King implores you to not be a moderate, but to stand up to injustice, because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and that includes justice for you.

At the Women’s March – Chicago 20, 2018. The woman holding this sign said that she now knows she would have been a conductor in the underground railroad, saved Anne Frank and more. She knows that she could not stand idly by in the face of injustice. I don’t know her name, but I’m grateful for her courage, her passion and for being a role model.

Your own family is calling you – counting on you – to speak up in their name, the very name you bear.

From “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown:

Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.

Back to my comments in the Preface: What would happen if we – you and I – were to join our bubbles that we imagine to be so far apart and we refuse to be moderate?

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

A Special Message to Congress on Your Win


Reading time – 2:05; Viewing time – 2:54  .  .  .

Dear Congress:

Well, really not all that dear.

This week we had a train wreck in Washington, as an Amtrak train flew off the tracks near Tacoma. People have been injured and some have died; perhaps yet more will die.

We’ve had another train wreck in Washington, as our Republican majority Congress (that means YOU, Republican senators and congresspeople) has managed to pass tax legislation that will further injure an enormous number of Americans and will allow many of us to die prematurely.

In both cases you who are in charge seem to have forgotten that your job is to protect and serve the people and to do it with care.

With the passage of the Republican-only, so-called tax reform act, once again you have managed to do exactly the opposite of what the American people want you to do.

By an overwhelming majority we Americans disapprove of your hateful bill and wanted you to stomp it to death. You didn’t do that.

Study after study have shown that we want sensible gun safety laws, universal healthcare, protection of our national parks and wilderness areas, clean air and water, excellent public education, an end to our endless wars, a solid battle against global warming and more; but you consistently deliver the opposite.

This time you managed to put yet more billions of dollars into the pockets of already rich people, create an additional $5,000 of debt for every one of we 320 million Americans and you dumped the burden primarily on the backs of our poor and middle-class children. Congratulations on successfully sucking up to your rich donors, padding your own pockets and the pockets of the President and blowing off the rest of us.

You Republicans passed this junk legislation without any input from Democrats, with no input from tax experts and with no hearings in Congress, listening only to yourselves and those rich interests that have their hands up your back. This is exactly why we don’t trust you.

See if you can answer these three simple questions:

  1. We want you to do things cooperatively and help to end our culture wars, not to make them worse. Exactly what is your problem with that?
  2. How you can be so dumbfoundingly deaf to the voices of the people?
  3. 81% of Americans disapprove of you (that’s you, personally) and the job you’re doing. Can you figure out why?

C’mon now, Republican congresspeople – you’ve been in charge for 7 years and ought to know by now what we the people want. Yet we’ve known for a long time that you don’t want to hear from us, but we want to hear from you. Answer my questions.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin


Reading time – 3:16; Viewing time – 4:51  .  .  .

Maureen Dowd gave her Sunday column to her conservative brother Kevin on November 26 and we learned that he isn’t tired of winning. I’m sure that’s true, as Trump hasn’t won anything, but Kevin Dowd’s remarks deserve comment, so this is a letter to him.

You begin, Kevin, by telling us, “Every time I hear Neil Gorsuch’s name, I smile.” Hold that grin, Kevin, because you would never so much as know Gorsuch’s name were it not for Mitch McConnell’s bedrock dishonesty. We keep hearing that elections have consequences, and so they do. Barack Obama was elected President twice, which means that he had dibbies on who to send to the Supreme Court. Does your smile fade just a bit because you know that Merrick Garland, however you may dislike his views, rightly should be there? Is getting your way more important than following the rules?

You admire Trump for his resilience against “an unrelenting and unfair press” – really? The press is supposed to be unrelenting – you remember: the Fourth Estate holding politicians’ feet to the fire – and it has been unrelenting with every President you can remember, so get over that. And tell me about the unfair reporting from the mainstream press. Not the wacko stuff from the publications telling us about the woman with three breasts and the guy who was abducted by aliens who probed his navel. You’ll easily find reports that condemn Trump for his malfeasance or a stupid tweet or his more than five lies per day, but none of that is unfair. C’mon, name just one unfair report.

Until this week Kim’s rockets could only hit the west coast, so you wrote, “we’re probably alright until he can hit a red state.” Did you actually write that? Is that some kind of comfort for people in red states, willing to sacrifice the people of Washington, Oregon and California – any blue state – as long as it doesn’t nuke the red-staters?

You claimed that Trump is undoing Obama’s executive orders, and so he is. The problem is that he’s doing it just to spite Obama and there is no strategy or even any logic that goes deeper than that. He’s getting his federal judge nominations through because McConnell blocked more of Obama’s nominations than any Senate leader in history.

Thank you for your admission that, “The N.F.L. players were disrespecting the American Flag  .  .  .” because you reveal your bias for refusing to see what is right in front of you.

Thank you, too, for pointing out that while we haven’t seen a direct connection between Trump and Russia, Mueller’s investigation has found collusion with Hillary and the D.N.C. on the dossier. You also snarkily claim that she has several donors on Mueller’s staff, “ready to offer legal advice.” The public evidence continues to mount of nefarious Trump connections with Russia and your comment is about how crooked Hillary is? Classic switch and attack, but your comments have nothing to do with Trump’s likely illegal and treasonous activity. Nice job, too, of urging the prosecution of Loretta Lynch and James Comey. Got nuthin’ to do with crooked Donald, but it’s a fine distraction from what’s important.

The real value of your essay, Kevin, is the way you have displayed the Trump supporter mindset – the deflections from core issues, the conscious enthusiasm to ignore outrageous wrongs, the blissful attitude that if it doesn’t hurt you directly it’s okay and your impenetrable blinders for harm to others.

But here’s the thing, Kevin: there are others out here beyond your skin who are affected by his behavior and do have a problem with things like encouraging hatred, cancelling DACA, multiple vacuums where strategies should be, taunting a murderous nuclear dictator, trying to trash the only thing standing between us and a nuclear Iran, pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord as though we aren’t on our way to frying the planet, his trying to refuse healthcare to tens of millions of Americans, his letting the people of Puerto Rico suffer because Trump’s pals on Wall Street want money and his trying to pass a tax bill that primarily enriches wealthy people and does so on the backs of poor and working class Americans and leaves us with a $1.5 TRILLION debt.

Ah, Kevin, it must be nice and comfy to ignore the harm this President is doing and just bask in the glow of the raised middle finger that is Trump nation.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!

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

(Mostly) Quick Hits – They’re Linked, I Promise


Reading time – 6:49; Viewing time – 9:59  .  .  .

First, a heads-up for the impatient: The lede is buried at the end of this post.

A Really Tough Time for Republicans

Judge Roy Moore was removed from the bench twice for flaunting our laws in favor of his absolutist religious beliefs. Yes, he was an Alabama Supreme Court judge who disrespected the rule of law – that’s why he was removed from the bench – did I mention “twice”? Apparently, in Alabama that’s not a disqualifier for becoming a United States Senator. As you know, though, the story gets far worse.

Several women have gone public, accusing Moore of sexually violating them and  most were minors when the accused sexual predator allegedly violated them. We’re talking pedophilia. Here are some peculiars about this:

  1. There are only allegations of Moore’s wrongdoing – nine as of this writing – there have been no legal proceedings. If we still believe in innocent until proven guilty (and that’s questionable, given the Trump hysteria of “lock her up”) why are so many calling for Moore’s political lynching?
  2. We all know he’s a slime ball, with a history of his absolutist views being the only ones he deems of value, and his taking a million dollars from his charity for his personal use. He’s hurt both the Constitution and a lot of people and has that self-righteous stink of a hypocrite. That makes it easy to leap to a public opinion conviction of this guy.
  3. Donald Trump has slithered his tweets about how awful are the two wrongdoings of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).  Oddly, even with the multiple accusations of Moore’s pedophilia, Trump hasn’t said a thing about him. That’s a mistake. I believe that the best thing that can happen is for Trump to weigh in on Moore’s alleged sexual predatory behavior. After all, other than Harvey Weinstein, Trump is the guy with the most experience in this field. Okay, that was snark.
  4. Why aren’t all Republicans leaping at the opportunity to fry Roy Moore? This is a political no-brainer.
  5. This is a really tough time to be a Republican with a spine, with a moral compass, with a drive to do what’s right for others and for our country. If such folks stand up for what’s right, the extremists will fire them from from their jobs in Congress and the state houses. That’s because about half of us – most of the reasonable, centrist Americans – don’t bother to vote, leaving to the extremists the decisions about who goes to Congress and our state houses. The solution to this is obvious. So, help a good-guy Republican by showing up and voting for the reasonable folks in every election.

Education

George W. Bush created the No Child Left Behind plan, which forced teachers to instruct students how to take standardized tests, rather than teaching them what they need in order to succeed in life. The name of that plan is something we all support and encourage, so the spinmeisters did their job. The only problem is that No Child Left Behind left millions of children behind.

Speaking of our children being successful, it seems we don’t actually want that to happen. We continue to provide the majority of funding for our schools through property taxes, which is a great plan if the properties are in a wealthy area. It doesn’t work quite as well if the area is poor, because that results in low tax revenue for schools and inadequate resources for turning out well educated kids. That’s how we systematically condemn poor kids to poverty and our country to less than our best possible future.

Leadership

Being clear about what’s going on and about what needs to be done is hard work. Someone needs to stand up and declare, “THAT WAY!” and it isn’t at all obvious who’s up to the challenge. The call has to be inspirational and it must be clean and crisp and memorable so that we maintain focus and continue putting one foot in front of the other and in the right direction. But that call seems as yet uncrafted. In the face of challenges all around us, which way should we go? And who will you follow?

Monopoly (not the board game)

The Justice Department case against Microsoft 17 years ago for anti-competitive practices is the most recent enforcement of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, legislation designed to prevent monopoly. The  purpose of that act was to keep excessive economic power from being concentrated in too few hands, because otherwise society – that’s the rest of us – would be harmed. Ronald Reagan essentially terminated the Sherman Anti-trust Act through non-enforcement and not much has been done to prevent anti-competitiveness since then, even as large corporations buy competitors and consolidate power for themselves and largely at the expense of you and me. Think: airlines; investment companies; accounting firms; pharmaceutical companies; and banks.

Taxes

You already know that the basic fact of the proposed Republican tax plan is primarily a cash giveaway to the rich. That’s accomplished by taking benefits from poor and working class Americans. The Republicans are claiming that this corporate and rich people’s mattress-stuffer bill will deliver the wondrous magic of driving economic growth, new and better jobs for Americans and rising income for all. Plus, everybody gets their own pony in the back yard. But what if all the goodies (other than the cash gift to the wealthy) are really just a phantom that was dreamed up years ago in order to sell trickle-down?

Bruce Bartlett was a key guy in creating the trickle-down myth in the 1980s, so he knows something about this. Read his piece in the Washington Post, where he ‘fesses up to having been a true believer in trickle-down and now unmasks the fraud that it is. He pulls back the curtain about the claim that reducing taxes primarily on the wealthy will result in rising income for working Americans. Be sure to pass along his piece to your fiscally conservative brother-in-law and be sure to remind him of the $1.5 trillion debt the Republicans’ plan will create. That should make for a spirited Thanksgiving discussion.

Banking

The Glass-Steagall Act was passed following the Great Depression as a preventative against some reckless banking practices that helped lay waste to our economy and devastate millions of Americans. In 1999 that law was repealed, allowing investment banks, commercial banks and insurance companies to merge and invent heretofore unimaginable products that put the entire world on the precipice of economic disaster.  There have been many calls for the big banks to be broken up since then, precisely because they enjoy de facto monopoly of our financial world and can pose an existential threat to our country. Those break ups haven’t happened and the banking instruments that put our economy in peril in 2008 are vastly larger today. What do you suppose might happen?

Freedom

It’s time to pay attention to what’s going on and make sense of it all. Here’s a sampling of what some very wise people had to say about that.

Our government . . . teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. Justice Louis Brandeis

He Screwibus Union

The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion. Edmund Burke

The people of every country are the only safe guardians of their own rights, and are the only instruments which can be used for their destruction. And certainly they would never consent to be so used were they not deceived. Thomas Jefferson

If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.  W. Somerset Maugham

We need clear, rational thinking and action in order to protect what we hold dear. Who would have thought that doing so would require courage on the part of those in Congress?

What we’ve seen so far are extensive connections to Russia and fatuous lies told about those connections by nearly everyone high in the Trump administration. What has been confirmed by 17 intelligence agencies of the U.S. is that Russia hacked of our election and tried to influence the votes of millions of Americans. Instead of believing our own experts, Trump believes Putin when all he offers is, “nuh-uh.” Trump maintains a submissive, lapdog posture toward Putin and his manipulation of and access to information makes it look like there’s been a bloodless coup, a Russian theft of America.

You are incrementally being put at greater risk by powerful people concerned solely with their own wealth and power and apparently without the slightest concern for our country. I assure you that staying quiet about this, doing an ostrich, will allow more harm to be done to you and to America. Robert Mueller is doing his job, but that may not be enough. Perhaps it’s time for you to stand up and speak up.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!

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

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