tolerance

The Real Issue


Reading time – 4:34; Viewing time – 6:40  .  .  .

Ed. Note: Be sure to check out our periodically published new feature, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up at the end of the regular post.

___________________________________

By now you’ve at least heard of the kerfuffle created by the remarks of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and it’s entirely possible that you’re both offended and pretty well annoyed by the whole mess. I’ve decided to weigh in only because the key issue seems to have been missed and it’s a really big issue. It’s a life and death issue.

To recap, Omar dispatched tweets and comments that triggered an explosion. They were:

Feb.10 – Responding to a tweet about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel, she tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”

Feb 11 – Responding to a question about who’s paying these Benjamins, she tweeted, “AIPAC!” referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Feb 11 – Following criticism from Democratic leadership, she tweeted a sort-of apology, saying in part, “My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”

Feb 28 – Speaking as a panel member at a DC venue she said, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. I want to ask why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA (National Rifle Association), of fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policies?”

In a recently discovered 2012 tweet she wrote, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

That’s a lot to digest, so let’s boil it down to the essentials. Omar is saying,

  1. Wealthy Jews are buying influence.
  2. AIPAC is using “Benjamins” to control Congress and the President.
  3. American Jews have “allegiance” to a foreign country, Israel, implying they are disloyal to America.
  4. Jews have some semi-occult ability to hypnotize others and cause them to do the bidding of Jews.

Let’s start with the easiest to dispel. AIPAC doesn’t make political contributions to candidates or politicians. Now on to the real damage.

The stereotype of Jews being wealthy and using their wealth to control others and thus do harm to those others has been around a long time. The same is true of the lunacy that says that Jews can “hypnotize the world” and get their way. Neither would be a big deal if it were just a few psychotics screaming such things in a rubber room. Sadly, devastatingly, it doesn’t stop there and it never has.

These hateful tropes have been believed by the uninformed, the gullible and the hateful and powerful for centuries, perhaps millennia. They have been used to justify some of the the most vile and hateful acts, including the Spanish Inquisition, pogroms across Europe and Russia, the Holocaust and tens of thousands of small scale violent events all over the world. Think: Tree of Life Synagogue.

That is to say, words matter. They have impact on people and that drives people’s actions. When the words are hateful – especially when they qualify as a Big Lie, as Omar’s do – they incite people to violence. She helped to continue the hateful lies and to support the haters’ justification of their hate and their violence. That’s the real issue.

In her weenie apology she managed to demand to be listened to as a qualification of her “unequivocal” apology. It’s a bit like apologizing by saying, “I apologize if what I said was offensive.” Kinda misses the mark of apologizing for actually being offensive.

Much of the political tap dance of both Democrats and Republicans has been an astonishing circus sideshow of posturing for political advantage. I especially love the justifications claimed by the 23 Republicans who voted against the resolution condemning hate. One stands out as the winner of the Totally Daft Award. See #3 below.

Legitimate criticism of Israel is welcome. Opposing the government or the policies is in bounds and justifiable. Spreading hate is not.

This whole thing is simpler than the political theater of the absurd would allow you to see and it’s way beyond finding Omar’s words offensive or reacting to her poorly crafted jiu jitsu apology. We need to focus on the key issue, which is the spreading of hate and the potential incitement to violence done by Rep. Omar’s words. It’s a really big issue. It’s a life and death issue.

For more on the impact of words, see this post.


You Can’t Make This Stuff Up
A short compendium of current events that are too dumb even for fiction
  1. Veteran conservative broadcaster and columnist Jane Chastain recently wrote a column titled “AOC WAS A GIRL SCOUT .  .  .  JUST SAY NO TO THE COOKIES.”
  2. Finnish investigative journalist Jessikka Aro has been courageously reporting on Russian propaganda and its troll factories for years. She was informed she was to receive the International Women of Courage Award in Washington, D.C. Then the Trump State Department learned that Aro had been critical of the President, so her award was cancelled.
  3. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said that he voted against the House resolution condemning bigotry and hate because its wording, “.  .  .  suggests America’s House of Representatives cares about virtually everyone except Christians and Caucasians.”

Sourced from Daily Kos and The Washington Post. You can look it up.

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.

In Case You’re Certain


Reading time – 5:47; Viewing time – 8:36  .  .  .

Things have been upside down, wrong, hurtful, unfair, dishonest and threatening to America. They’ve been that way for a long time and it’s high time we got about fixing things and restoring what’s right.

The starting point for this post is that those two sentences apply to the feelings of both far righties and far lefties. Likely, you don’t like that, but almost nobody gets up in the morning scratching their chin as they think of how they can be dishonest, unpatriotic and evil. Which means that all the stuff you think “they” do that looks crazy comes from a conviction they hold that they’re doing what’s right. Yes, I know that makes no sense. It’s much more fun to simply see them as bad and wrong, but what if there were people who disagree with you but are just as wanting to do the right thing as you are, even though their right thing looks wrong to you?

Well, that’s where we are. In fact, that’s where we’ve always been. Our system was made to work this way. If you’re a progressive or liberal (pick your label) you might be surprised to learn that there are lots of conservatives who are honest and smart and who hold solid notions. One of those people is my friend, John Calia.

John wrote a couple of comments on my last post, “Conservatives and Grandchildren,” and I asked his permission to use his second comment for this post, too.

In an earlier blog, “How Ya Gonna Pay For That?“, I posited that sometimes it isn’t a simple straight line from what we want to how we’re going to pay for it or even if we should pay for it. Just saying, “The government will pay for it” is a red, white and blue shot in the foot, because simply loading a cost onto government gets handled in only three possible ways: 1. you and I pay more taxes, or; 2. we put it on the government credit card (i.e. we borrow), so that our children for seven generations will pay even more taxes, or; 3. we cut other government programs and services. And yes, it really is that simple.

But government policies and practices aren’t that simple and I’m offering John’s comments to make that case.

John has invoked the words of progressive economist Robert Reich, who recommended eliminating the corporate income tax. Before you hyperventilate, read what he said. It’s a bit thick if you’re not a tax expert, but be sure to read the last sentence carefully. I’ve edited John’s offering from Reich for brevity. You can read the entire piece in the Comments section at the bottom of my Conservatives and Grandchildren post here.

John wrote, “Here’s what liberal economist Robert Reich (Sec. of Labor under Clinton) said about corporate income taxes in his 2008 book [Supercapitalism]:

“In reality, the corporate income tax is paid—indirectly—by the company’s consumers, shareholders, and employees.

“It’s inefficient because interest payments made by corporations on their debt are deductible from their corporate income tax while dividend payments are not. This creates an incentive for companies to .  .  .  retain earnings rather than distribute them as dividends. The result, in recent years, has been for many corporations to accumulate large amounts of money that the company then uses to purchase other companies or to buy back its shares of stock.

“Logically, there is no reason why [stockholders’] ‘corporate’ earnings should be taxed differently than their other earnings. Abolishing the corporate income tax and treating all corporate income as the personal income of shareholders would rectify this anomaly.”

Abolish the corporate income tax? That’s heresy to progressives! But wait – that was a liberal economist recommending that.

The point I want to make is that nearly everything is more complex than we want it to be and sometimes best answers and solutions have the appearance of being counter to our beliefs. Just being reactionary really doesn’t serve us well.

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Click me.

John has a frustrating and, really, an annoying way of being reasonable with his mostly conservative opinions, which at times leave me with not much more of a response than a huffy, “Oh yeah?” Have a look at this post by John on his website and see for yourself. Your instant reaction may be to disagree and then, quite surprisingly, find that this conservative writer is – I’ll say it again – annoyingly reasonable.

AOC and others have offered what they are calling the Green New Deal (you can download a copy here). It has been cheered by progressives and pilloried by conservatives and, because of its lump sum extreme policy recommendations, it may be the vehicle that ensures Donald Trump’s reelection. My view is that it doesn’t represent much sustainable policy, is counter-productive, whimsically dismisses cost and unintended effects, is long on lofty ideas and extremely short on tangible actions and it crazily attempts to reinvent the universe over a period of 10 years, all this outlined in just 14 double-spaced pages. If this resolution were to somehow pass the House and Senate and get signed by the president, it would have no force of law. Nevertheless, I’m glad it exists.

We have some vexing and even terrible challenges before us, nearly all of which we refuse to solve. My hope is that this crazy document will start a worthwhile conversation that leads to a few desperately needed solutions. For that to happen will require that a lot of people leave their certainties behind and open themselves to other points of view. It’s a bit like progressives reading my pal John’s offerings and being surprised, finding that his notions are – dare I say it again? – reasonable.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to see how reasonable you can be and, in the process, open your thinking about our national needs and how we’re going to meet them.

From The Onion. Click me

Here’s the one caveat: This call to being reasonable and open to other points of view DOES NOT extend to plainly hateful behavior, anti-constitutional actions, self-serving promotion that excludes (i.e. discriminates against) anyone or efforts to harm our democracy or the fundamental principles of our country. For any of those conditions, feel free to be closed-minded, antagonistic and energetically advocating for your opposing solutions that actually are solutions and which don’t harm others. Here’s an example of this caveat.

In his closing comments for his report on the southern border last Thursday, Chris Hayes perfectly captured what’s going on by saying:

“It’s not about the border, and it never has been.

“The wall is not the issue. The issue is what this country as a whole looks like, and who gets to call it theirs.”

Click here or here or here or here for fact checking on what Trump said during his rambling Rose Garden announcement of a national emergency for the non-emergency at our southern border. Be clear that his words are not just self-serving fantasy; they betray the hateful truth, that the solitary goal of Trump’s vanity wall and his bogus claims of crisis and emergency on our border is to keep brown people out of the US. It is akin to his hateful Muslim ban. These are exactly the kind of things described in my caveat about which you and I and all of us must never be reasonable and never tolerate.

In the absence of such hateful things, let’s all be a little less certain and maybe – just maybe – we can start to make things better.

Late addition to this post

For a reasonable example of considering various points of view, have a look at the lead editorial in today’s New York Times about healthcare here.

                     ————————————

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.

Simplistic Solutions From 2,789 Years Ago


Reading time – 4:09; Viewing time – 5:40  .  .  .

“The history of the Great Wall of China began when fortifications built by various states during the Spring and Autumn [period] (771–476 bc) and Warring States periods (475–221 bc) were connected by the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, to protect his newly founded Qin dynasty (221–206 bc) against incursions by nomads from Inner Asia.“

So begins the Wikipedia narrative about the Great Wall. It was a successful defensive measure against warring neighbors and was military state-of-the-art in the first millennium BC.

That was then and, of course, this is now. We don’t have warring neighbors or incursions by nomads from Inner Asia or anywhere else to worry about. Furthermore, a physical wall simply isn’t a barrier to anyone today, given that those who would enter the U.S. illegally have all heard of ladders, tunnels and boats. Nevertheless, our unimaginative president is attempting to fix his imagined 21st century crisis with a 771 BC solution.

Trump continues to threaten to declare a national emergency over what is plainly not an emergency. He would then steal $5.7 billion from places where Congress had appropriated it and would use that to build his useless wall and starve other needs. While he will attract an immediate court challenge that likely will stop him, he’ll proceed anyway. When he’s stopped he’ll wallow in his victimhood, because that’s what self-centered autocrats do.

Next, from MarketWatch:

“Lawmakers, already in a protectionist mood, responded to the pain of the Great Depression by passing the infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, which raised duties on hundreds of imports.

“Meant in part to ease the effects of the Depression by protecting American industry and agriculture from foreign competition, the act instead helped prolong the downturn. Many U.S. trading partners reacted by raising their own tariffs, which contributed significantly to shutting down world trade.”

That is to say, Trump is now using failed tariff policies from nearly 100 years ago to solve a trade problem that doesn’t even exist in the way he naively describes it. His tough guy behavior may feel good to some for a moment, but it eventually becomes self-defeating. Just ask Harley Davidson and our soy bean farmers.

Trump thinks and acts simplistically, regardless of the complexity of an issue. His solutions are always puffery and brute force and they’re entirely lacking even a whiff of insight from higher level cognitive functioning. Sadly, our international opponents are playing three dimensional chess while Trump is smashing checkers with a big hammer.

Whatever may be his mental issues that caused him to lie over 6,000 times during his first two years in office, the real issue is not Trump’s lying. The real issue is Trump’s lack of recognition of the truth. It means nothing to him. He seems to believe that all he has to do is to say something and Voila! – it becomes true. For Trump, reality is just a minor obstacle to walk over. It’s what autocrats always do. For more on this, refer to Putin, Xi, Duerte, Erdoğan, Hitler and Stalin.

The rise of autocracy around the world has been well documented and it represents a clear and present danger because autocracies have a way of creating wars. Millions suffer and die. Everything is made worse.

Not long ago I wrote,

The worst thing, though, is the ongoing drumbeat of how awful our government is, including blatant lies by legislators and by polarized commentators, like Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones. That has led to a very angry citizenry. And that has led to the election of a president who is incrementally tearing down the very things that make this country work, including our democracy itself. Somehow, his supporters, otherwise good, solid folks, are so angry that they are willing to ignore Trump’s crazy.

I have written (here and here or click Fascism in the Categories list to the right) about the threat of creeping fascism in this country and have seen nothing to indicate that progress has been made to reverse the weakening of our democracy. It continues as predicted by Henry Wallace, Franklin Roosevelt’s next to last vice-president, and we’ve been warned repeatedly by various clear-headed thinkers that, “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” That sounds a lot like Trump’s appeals to “his base.”

Have a look at what former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has to say about this. Then think about whether it’s okay to have a simplistic president solving 21st century challenges with 3-millennia old solutions and all the rest of his crazy, the way autocrats always do. Then think about a wag the dog gambit to keep him in power, like the looming opportunities for war in Argentina and Iran. How are we going to prevent that? If we fail, Trump may have enough time to tear everything down.

                   ————————————

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.

I Didn’t Want To Write This Post


Reading time – 4:54; Viewing time – 6:18  .  .  .
I didn’t want to write this post. I want to be better than this, to be evolved and enlightened. I want to be patient and understanding and have equanimity, but that just isn’t happening. Not now and perhaps not for a very long time.

I’m mad as hell.

I’m sick of weenie politicians offering their damned “thoughts and prayers.” I’m nauseated by the spinelessness of our leaders who are, instead, followers of the biggest financial donors. I’m sickened by elected officials who value their political life far more than the actual lives of attendees at religious ceremonies and little children in school. The core value of these officials seems to be, “Let ’em all die, as long as I get re-elected.”

I attended what was offered as a healing ceremony at my synagogue on Sunday morning. The kids attending Sunday School were brought in for the last 15 minutes of the proceedings and as I watched their little bodies make their way to open seats I couldn’t help but realize that these kids have now been taught to be afraid all the time, everywhere. And that’s absolutely not okay.

Nobody has ever solved the riddle of how to take fear and hate and anger from the hearts of our citizens, so I don’t have any notion that the riddle will be solved now. What I do believe is that we can open our eyes to the reality all around us and start to deal with it.

The Anti-Defamation League keeps track of anti-Semitism in America and reports that anti-Semitic incidents were up 57% in 2017 over 2016, with the highest increases occurring in the first 3 months of the year. It’s interesting to note that these spikes in acts of hatred occurred during and just after Donald Trump’s inauguration. Then the acts of hate spiked again following the “Unite the Right” neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, which was conducted by “fine people,” according to our president.

Trump is the obvious and easy-to-name provocateur of intolerance because of his well documented incitements to hate and violence. His wooden recitation of words from a Tele-prompter that were written by someone else means nothing, because everyone knows he’s completely disingenuous in his sympathy and is only mouthing the words. The withholding of his vilification of others barely lasted an hour following his Tele-prompter charade, when he was back to naming enemies and demeaning them. We’ve always had a problem of hatred in this country, but we’ve often had a leader upon whom we could count to call upon our better angels. Now, we don’t.

And it’s missing from many of our elected leaders, too, especially those who spinelessly refuse to stand up to Trump.

For those who desperately want to deny the one-sidedness of the incitement to hate and violence that lives in our politics and our country, I have a question for you: What is it that you’re pretending not to know? Perhaps you’ll like my question better in this form: What is it that is right before you every day that you refuse to see and refuse to hear?

If you call yourself a Republican I invite you to examine if that’s really true. The Republican Party of Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and H. W. Bush is long gone. There are still some ugly echoes from them, like the overt racism of Nixon and the racial stereotyping by Reagan (recall his self-serving lie, saying there were “welfare queens” in Chicago), but the basic conservatism of any and all of them is gone, regardless of the Republican label in use by others today.

Today’s Republican Party is the party of discrimination, the withholding of rights, hatred and the impoverishment of middle class and poor Americans and anyone who is not from white, Christian European stock, and the violent perps feed off that. If the things in that list don’t describe you, then renounce your membership in that party right now, because the Republicans of today abandoned you in favor of protecting their own asses and in the process they lost any semblance of moral standing and the right to a place of leadership. And it’s not just the discrimination that’s a problem.

They’ve sold out to the gun lobby because that gets them big donations for their campaigns. Were they honest they would declare the number of people who they figure can be butchered by semi-automatic weapon carrying angry people before they’ll stand up for sensible gun safety laws. Don’t look for that declaration, though, because going public with that would upset their big money donors.

Eleven people were killed and many more were wounded in the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday, this in the name of blaming Jews for the miserable life the killer had made for himself. It’s the same pattern as for the butchery in the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and the Sikh temple in Milwaukee and the LGBTQ partiers at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and those little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the people at the Las Vegas concert. Nearly all those dead bodies can be attributed to the cowardice of our elected officials to stand up and lead.

I went to the healing ceremony on Sunday and found no healing. I’ll get to that someday. Right now I’m mad as hell and I don’t give a damn about politicians’ “thoughts and prayers.” I want action.

For more following our most recent massacre, be sure to read Howard Fineman’s essay and Bari Weiss’ essay, too.

Correction: While she lived through those years, Rose Mallinger, the 97 year old shooting victim originally mentioned in this post, was not a holocaust survivor. Apologies for the error. JA

————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Today


Reading time – 2:09; Viewing time – 3:32  .  .  .

The landing at Normandy, June 6, 1944

Today is the 74th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Nazi occupied Europe. It was carried out on the beaches of Normandy in France and was and remains the largest invasion of anything, anywhere, at any time and was paid for with enormous amounts of blood to ensure our freedom today. If you know one of the few remaining veterans of that day, thank them for making it so that as you grew up you weren’t speaking German. And do it very, very soon. It’s far too easy to wait too long.

There is another event to honor today and that is the anniversary of the day Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. That day deserves our understanding.

The more I learn formally and through simple human experience, the more I see how critically important are the fraternal twins hope and caring. We humans crave them both and with them can do and endure anything and without them all is lost.

You can test the caring part by examining how you feel about someone who plainly doesn’t care about you. Likely, you don’t care much about them, either. You don’t want to be in relationship with them and you certainly aren’t motivated to support them. On the other hand, when someone does care about you, you know it and you care about them and are engaged and willing – even enthusiastic – to support them. That’s the power of caring.

The hope part is perhaps more ethereal, more difficult to pin down, but we know it when we feel it.

In 1968 we were locked in a cold war that threatened to end life on this planet. At the same time, we were bogged down in the endless slaughter of the war in Vietnam, with 500,000 of our military people there. Every day we saw the films of the carnage and got the report of our dead – the “body count.” We deeply needed something to give us hope.

Then Bobby Kennedy was running for President. He didn’t have the charisma of his older brother. He didn’t have the glamour or anywhere near the experience in elective office. But he had something far more valuable: He cared and we knew it and he gave hope to millions.

It was impossible to miss the depth of his caring for Americans, especially the downtrodden, the poor. Even his detractors saw that and his depth of caring was what we needed as we struggled through the horrors of the war in Vietnam, the social upheavals at home and the inept leadership of President Johnson. Bobby Kennedy represented hope in plain sight from our miserable, helpless leadership and from our national feelings of hopelessness.

And that is why the country grieved so when he was killed. We may have grieved more for him than for his assassinated brother; at the very least we grieved in an intensely heartfelt way. When John Kennedy was killed it was a loss of innocence for a generation. When Bobby Kennedy was killed it was a profound loss of hope for the nation. And that is why we remember starkly that awful day in June, 1968.

Bobby Kennedy’s death reminds us always to seek leaders who care about us and give us hope. That caring and hope are what make everything possible.

————————————

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.

————————————

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.

Leadership and The Tax Bill


Reading time – 5:12; Viewing time – 8:03  .  .  .

Others, nearly everyone, really, are doing a fine job of chronicling the insane Trump administration as revealed by Michael Wolff in his “best seller before it’s even released” book, Fire and Fury, and the stupid reactions of the Temper-Tantrum-Tweeter-in-Chief. So, I’ll have a look at a different piece of the crazy.

Following the passage of the “Actually, Not The Biggest Tax Reduction in History Act”, the Republicans in Congress and the Vice President fell all over themselves praising Donald Trump and his near-magical leadership, his blinding brilliance and his deal-making wizardry. That sucking up was rekindled last week when replays of Orrin Hatch debasing himself in this way were shown following his announcement of his retirement. With their over-the-top praising, these Republicans insulted and embarrassed:

  • – Themselves
  • – The Republican Party
  • – Congress
  • – The United States of America
  • – You and me
  • – All humans with any sense of self-respect
  • Every exceptional leader throughout history – go see the current film Darkest Hour for an example of great leadership. Then compare and contrast. If you were inclined to fawn over Trump before, you won’t be afterward.

Mom would have said to these suck ups, “Shame on you, Trump fawners. Shame on you.” But today unethical, false, phony and sleazy words and deeds go wanting for perps who will own up to their bad behavior. Nevertheless, Mom would have been right.

Perhaps you think I’m exaggerating to make a point, but I mean this exactly as stated. This is the kind of praise that Supreme Marshall and Dear Leader of the People’s Republic of Korea demands from his citizens and his goose-stepping military. This is the kind of sycophantic obsequiousness (thank you, Allan Shuman, for the words) worthy of cowards, fools and invertebrates. The suck up was so great that it’s amazing they didn’t all pass out from oxygen deprivation. Next will be a Caligula-worthy announcement of Trump-as-god.

This is exactly the kind of stupid stuff that has to stop if we’re to come together as a nation. It’s not just the polarizing “we’re so right” self-congratulations and the “Trump is my Dear Leader” sucking up; it’s that the vast majority of Americans didn’t want any of what is in that tax act and are more negative about it than we were about either the Clinton or H.W. Bush tax increases, this even as the sucking up continues.

If you want to see how bad this bill is, have a look at Thomas Edsall’s review of the analyses done by professional number crunching people, the type of resource the Republicans DID NOT call upon for guidance in writing the bill. Be sure to note the very real cruelty built into this fraud of a tax reform. If you want to see what Corporate America has announced it will do with its upcoming windfall, read this piece from Reuters and you’ll put aside any hope that this forked-tongue tax reduction was ever about job and wage growth. For context on all of this, have a look at Christopher Ingraham’s very clear piece about wealth distribution in America and you’ll understand how undemocratic and counter-productive this bill is for nearly all Americans. And to understand How Republicans Learned to Sell Tax Cuts for the Rich, read Isaac Martin’s piece.

Donald Trump and many Republicans in Congress went to great lengths to tell we Americans that the tax plan would primarily benefit ordinary Americans, yet that is untrue. Every independent study of the plan tells us that at least 80% of the tax benefit goes to the wealthiest 1% of Americans, while our poor and working class children will be saddled with an additional $1 to 1.5 trillion of debt in order to send all that money to already rich people.

Trump repeatedly told us that the tax plan will not benefit him or his wealthy friends, but that’s factually wrong, too.

There are only two possible ways to understand Trump and the Congressional Republicans telling us these false things:

  1. These guys are ignorant of the facts. They are either too lazy to learn the truth or too dim witted to recognize it and then too foolish to keep their ignorant mouths shut. Or,
  2. They know the truth and are intentionally telling us something at odds with the truth. This is commonly called lying. It’s why you got grounded. It’s why you felt ashamed of yourself and you learned not to lie. It’s possible Trump and the Congressional Republicans had a different kind of upbringing and consequently they just don’t recognize what ashamed feels like or what they’re supposed to do about it.

Let’s be clear that I think neither my judgment about the colossal fawning over Trump, nor my bashing of this miserable tax bill, nor the DC types lying about it are in conflict in any way with the “come together” message of my last post of 2017. We are supposed to discern between what is good, fair and truthful versus what is simply reprehensible. The fawning and the tax bill and the lying are reprehensible.

And another thing  .  .  .

Last September President Trump pulled the plug on DACA – The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly known as the Dreamers policy. It affects about 700,000 people who were brought to this country as children, who have known no other country, who speak English the same way you do and who are doing the same things your children do and likely you did. They’re now in school or working jobs and hoping to advance, just like you did. In every respect except for the geography of their birth, they’re as American as you.

Let’s see if we can bring the impact of Trump’s plug-pulling down to a manageable number that’s easy to relate to.

Every three minutes 2 Dreamers – maybe one them is a friend of yours – lose their protection from deportation. Every three minutes 2 more Dreamers live in fear of ICE agents banging down their door and hauling them away.

Is that okay with you? Just in case it isn’t, it’s important that you know that nobody in power listens to Dreamers because they have no political muscle, so they need you to speak up on their behalf. Call your senators and representative and tell them what you want. Tell them that if they don’t do what you want that you will fire them this coming November.

Note, too that 39% of American children – that’s 9 million kids – get their healthcare through the CHIP program, which our leader also cancelled in September. That means that state-by-state, all those kids will lose their healthcare. Add these cute but poor 9 million children to the list of people our government doesn’t care about. Go ahead and tell your legislators what you want done about that, too.

Oh, and by the way, fundamentally the same “Who cares about you?” message is still being delivered by our government to everyone in Puerto Rico – that’s 3.4 million people. 50% of the people there still don’t have electricity and many have no clean water and little food. People are still dying from the aftermath of the hurricane and we’ve pulled the bulk of our support services from the island. You might want to mention that, too, when you make your calls to your legislators.

Exactly when did the Republican Party become the “Who cares about you?” party?

Just for fun  .  .  .

from The Onion, of course!

————————————

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 Year-End Message About Making Things Better


Reading time – 2:21; Viewing time – 3:49  .  .  .

The latest Star Wars film is in theaters now and it’s terrific. Like all the films in the series, it deals with some universal issues, like good versus evil, acceptance of uncomfortable truths, the shattering of illusion and the complexity of human beings.

Nearly all the main actors participated in an interview for the New York Times and Andy Serkis, who plays the evil Supreme Leader Snoke, commented on the motivations of those with power. He said,

”.  .  .  leaders are fearful people, because when you’re in a position of maximum power, you can only lose power. And that fear drives nearly all decisions. That fear then makes you aggressive. It makes you want to destroy others. It makes you unable to see or care about others.”

While the interview discussion was about a character in a science fiction movie, can you think of a real life person who answers Serkis’ description? And how is that working for us? More on that later.

Adam Driver plays the part of a conflicted bad guy in the film and had some cogent remarks, too. He said,

”When I meet people who are unable to hear the other side, who not only think they’re right but they’re justified, then there’s no end to what they would do to make sure that their side wins .  .  . When you feel morally justified, that feels more long-lasting and more unpredictable.”

Here’s the hard part.

If Driver is right, that people who believe they’ve grabbed the moral high ground would do anything to ensure that their side wins, then if they’re on the other side of our politics from you and me, they’re dangerous. But what if you and I think we’re right and believe we’re holding the moral high ground and we’re sure that we are morally justified?

If we’re going to solve America’s problems, if we are to create a better tomorrow, every one of us is going to have to give up the absolutist views of our own moral purity, and that just isn’t something that’s easy to do. When we’re certain that we’re right, that we have the moral high ground, compromise feels dirty and makes us feel like we’re sellouts. But it’s the only way forward that isn’t self-destructive.

So, I ask myself if I can shed my certainty that I’m right. If I can’t do that, then I’ll continue to see those who disagree as wrong and, as Steely Dan puts it in their song Hey Nineteen,

  • ”No, we can’t dance together.”
  • “No, we got nothing in common.”
  • “No, we can’t talk at all.”

And that leads to still more polarization and a worsening of our problems.

I have a lot of confidence that Andy Serkis is right about people with great power in their hands, that they are fearful and that their fear drives their decisions, makes them aggressive and wanting to destroy others and they’re devoid of care about others. It is my belief that the drivers and behaviors he describes are exactly what we see from Donald Trump every day. He and his fear are wounding us and our republic.

When I consider Adam Driver’s words I can’t help but reflect on the demonizing I’ve done of, say, Donald Trump and his voters and supporters, and certainly of those in his administration. It’s hard to disagree with their actions and do it with the enormous force that feels necessary in order to resist what feels evil, and not at the same time succumb to judging and demonizing.

But that’s my challenge – and perhaps yours, too – if we are to make things better

————————————

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.

Sometimes The Truth Hurts


Reading time – 2:13; Viewing time – 3:04  .  .  .

A friend offered a link to a New York Times article entitled “Democrats Are Playing Checkers While Trump Is Playing Chess.” He wrote, “The president’s manipulation of racial, cultural and economic anxiety will continue to serve him well politically. Until it doesn’t.”

So I read the article and recommend that you do, too. Here’s my reply.

Yeah, well, the truth hurts. I agree with all of this, albeit with frustration in my heart.

I see at least three pieces. First, is the substance of the issues that are important to people, like the crumbling of our towns and cities when people are displaced by rapid global changes; like the demographic upheaval caused by the incremental national shifting to a non-white majority; like the loss of manufacturing jobs, the majority of which are attributable to technology and innovation.

Second, there is the fear people feel over all these issues. Nobody has solved the globalization issue, for example, and it leads to fear, then anger, then irrational, self-defeating behavior, like Brexit and Trump. Christian whites have privileges that are incrementally being challenged, the reaction to which manifests itself in the extreme of neo-Nazis chanting, “Jews will not replace us” and in white supremacist hate spewing and in voter suppression fueled by anger and indignation over our nearly nonexistent voter fraud.

Third – and I’ve been saying this for a long time – Democrats are HORRIBLE at messaging. Recognizing that Ds have some good ideas, the way they present them is at times incoherent, uninspiring, self-defeating, inconsistent, punch-less and at times insulting. I’ve often wondered if anybody at the DNC has taken even an elementary course in marketing.

“I’m with her” – really? Assuming the notion of the Hillary team was that such language would rally women and feminist-sympathizing men to the D side, that pretty much slapped everyone else in the face, because nobody but family and close friends of Hillary were all about her. We humans are all about ourselves and the D’s messaging completely failed to recognize that.


Tara Thomas at the coffin of her Green Beret husband, Shawn, killed in Niger in February, 2017

Another way the truth hurts is when we see that the President of the United States has failed to honor those who sacrifice their lives for our country. Perversely, in their death they make it possible for him to lie about caring about them. Their death preserves the freedom for him to falsely accuse former Presidents of having blown off our fallen military people. Their coming home in flag-draped coffins gives him the freedom to make condolences to the families of our military dead all about himself.

How long will the 38% tolerate his behavior?

————————————

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.

Love Thy Who?


Reading time – 3:43; Viewing time – 5:41  .  .  .

At an evening meeting on April 20th the discussion drifted to the issue of our political divide. The characterization of Trump voters included words like moron, racist, ignorant and a few other choice descriptors. The demonizing fell from lips as easily as rain from the sky – or manure from a barnyard animal – my protestations notwithstanding.

It’s just a guess on my part, but I don’t think character assassinations will be anything but destructive, this in a time when more than ever we need to come together to solve perhaps the largest accumulation of Gordian knot challenges we have faced.

Our vexing political divide is the focus of this post.

———————————

Ezra Klein and Alvin Chang did a report on the issue of political identity – our political divide – for Vox entitled “Political identity is fair game for hatred”: how Republicans and Democrats discriminate. They found what you already know to be true, that we politically polarized Americans seem to be unable even to talk with our neighbors who hold political views different from our own. People are even selecting where they will live based upon whether the neighbors are politically aligned with them. And woe be to a daughter or son who marries someone with membership in the other political party.

The dysfunction we see among politicians is exaggerated because we tend to elect zealots; however, we’re not doing a very good job ourselves of even tolerating our “other party” neighbors, much less loving them. Indeed, we seem to be in an age where “other-ing” is not just accepted, but is encouraged.

In my pal Brian Muldoon’s book, The Heart of Conflict, he identifies what he sees as the fundamental reason people are so often unable to talk about differing religious beliefs without the conversation devolving into conflict. He says that it’s because any challenge to our fundamental beliefs challenges our sense of identity and that shakes our tectonic plates, so we go into fight-or-flight mode the same way our caveman ancestors treated threatening saber tooth tigers.

It appears that our political views have reached the same kind of base-of-the-skull level. As Klein and Chang write in their article, “  .  .  . rising political polarization was showing something more fundamental than political disagreement – it was tracking the transformation of party affiliation into a form of personal identity that reached into almost every aspect of our lives.”

It seems to me that invites fight-or-flight into arenas where there are no actual mortal threats; nevertheless, we treat ordinary opinions – like political differences – in the same life-or-death manner we do religious differences.

In the face of this we’re told to love our (“different from me”) neighbors. That’s a tough assignment for we human beings.

Nevertheless, that is the assignment. Should we fail to complete the assignment and get a great grade, our democracy will be at mortal risk. We better figure out how to do something other than fighting or fleeing.

In other news

House Joint Resolution 48 is what we need. It’s what I’ve been calling for in my presentations to groups all over the country since that dark January day in 2010. This is a cure for the deepest ailment of our democracy.

HJR 48 is a bill to reverse the tsunami of corporate and fat cat cash in our politics that was unleashed by the disastrous Citizens United decision. The bill currently has 23 cosponsors; that’s where you come in.

Call your representative now and request that s/he cosponsor this critically important bill. Do this even if your representative is already a cosponsor – they need your support for this.

To find your rep’s phone number, go to www.House.gov and enter your zip code in the box in the top-right corner of the page. Then pick up your phone, dial it and tell the nice staffer who answers that you are a constituent and you want your rep to cosponsor HJR 48.

Do it now, and we’ll slay this mother of our political dysfunction.

Finally, we have a whole new level of stupid coming from Washington. From The Root:

Paul Reickhoff

According to the Military Times, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) has drafted legislation that would charge soldiers $100 a month for access to the GI Bill. The bill would deduct a total of $2,400 from each soldier’s paycheck to make them eligible.

“Pushing this GI Bill tax proposal on troops in a time of war is political cowardice,” said Paul Reickhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America “Some politicians would rather make backroom deals than raise taxes or find other ways to support our troops as bombs continue to fall overseas.”

Let’s see, the geniuses in DC want to send our young off to fight and die for the oil we have to stop using if we’re to avoid hard boiling the planet, and also in order to fill monstrous political egos. As a way to say thanks, our legislators want to tax our troops.

Yes, really.

Bonus Section

Watch this Vox piece for clarity about cable news manipulation and the advancement of “alternative facts.”

————————————

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

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

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

1 2 3 5  Scroll to top