totalitarianism

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 we’re going to stop that? If we fail, Trump may have enough time to tear everything down.

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

A Picture In Three Dots


Reading time – 3:36; Viewing time – 4:44  .  .  .

There was massive anger on the part of Bernie supporters after the DNC took several steps that assured that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee for president in the 2016 election. The result of that was a lot of Bernie voters who protested by refusing to vote for Hillary. Some voted for a 3rd party candidate who had no chance to win; some just stayed home.

Separate from the Bernie protesters, there are huge numbers of people who never vote. When asked why, a common explanation is, “My vote doesn’t matter.” But is that claim about one person’s vote not counting really true? I wondered about that notion, so I did some investigating. The chart below is the result.

The last column shows the number of additional votes it would have taken per precinct in each of three swing states in order for Hillary to have won the election. That’s not votes switched from Trump to Clinton; switching votes would cut in half the number of votes needed per district to defeat Trump. This is simply the very small number of voters per precinct in three states – 6 maximum- which would have changed the election, the country and the trajectory of the entire world. And our federal workers would not have been unpaid for over a month.

The FBI would have been functioning at full strength and with full resources to protect our country. Coast Guardies and their families wouldn’t have had to eat handouts. Children wouldn’t have been going without medical care. Renters wouldn’t be facing eviction. TSA agents wouldn’t have been sleeping in their cars or skipping meds. But all that happened because we got Trump and all the drama and destruction he’s caused.

It seems that just a handful of people who thought their vote didn’t matter were wrong; their vote mattered a lot. That’s one dot.

Do you remember the Steele Dossier? It’s the work product of former British MI-6 agent Christopher Steele. The dossier is an intelligence report that contains raw (i.e. un-analyzed) information about Trump and his links to Russia. Some of the material is quite sensational and it’s no surprise that Trump and all who supported him have attacked and ridiculed the dossier. But there’s just one thing: none of it has been found to be in error.

In a detailed review in Lawfare released in mid-December and written by Chuck Rosenberg and Sarah Grant, they step through the dossier and compare it to what has been learned through public documents, Robert Mueller’s pleadings and various other sources. Steele’s work stands up. Item by item his raw intelligence has proven to be true.

Let’s be both clear and fair: Not everything in the Steele Dossier has been confirmed. It’s just that everything that has been reviewed for verification has been confirmed. Nothing has been disproven. Not the conspiracy to affect our election. Not the suspicious money movements. And not the Trump Tower Moscow project and its connections to the Kremlin.

You’re well aware that Donald Trump will say and do anything that he thinks serves him and he never lets truth or reality stand in the way of his mouth. So, you can be confident that there will be more denials from Trump and his administration and his transition and campaign personnel about the content of the dossier as more details are confirmed. The facts, though, consistently tell us that the dossier is true and accurate, leaving us with the inescapable conclusion that Donald Trump really is far worse than you think. That’s the second dot.

Let’s connect all of that to a third dot to see a picture.

We learned in the run up to the the election that Steve Bannon, Trump’s chaos whisperer and closest advisor, was wanting to “tear down” the entire establishment of the United States. Can you think of a more effective, non-lethal way to “bring it all crashing down” – Bannon’s words – than to paralyze the FBI, the Justice Department and all the rest of government that makes our country function?

It seems that the dossier is true and the events detailed in it led to the intermediate step of a shutdown of our government. That’s just what Steve Bannon and Vladimir Putin would have ordered Trump to do. And sadly, we let that happen.

That’s the third dot that makes this picture really scary.

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

Wag the Dog


Reading time – 3:24; Viewing time – 4:37  .  .  .

This is from the Sunday New York Times:

“At [national security advisor John] Bolton’s direction, the National Security Council asked the Pentagon last year to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran .  .  .”

Let’s put this into perspective.

Gen. Colin Powell warned us against doing military stupid stuff in his Powell Doctrine decades ago. It’s grounded in the painful lessons of Vietnam and, while it has weathered criticism for being incomplete, it’s hard to disagree with Powell’s cautionary message. Sadly, we’ve pretty much ignored it time and again.

Not stated in the Powell Doctrine is another of his admonitions, the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it. And so we do in Iraq and Afghanistan, the longest wars in our history. Now John Bolton, always eager to flex US muscle, has asked for plans to strike Iran.

Can you imagine Donald Trump being a calming voice of reason to tether John Bolton to reality? Neither can I. If Bolton gets his way we will break yet another country where we will then be in perpetual war. And this story gets worse.

We are mired in the longest government shutdown in US history. The president is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to overpower Congress and get his useless wall. You need to understand what such a declaration can mean.

In a time of declared national emergency the president has vast powers. Here’s a partial list:

Suspend the Constitution – yes, SUSPEND THE CONSTITUTION!

Redirect money in blatant conflict with Congressional intent

Declare martial law

Deploy our military in-country

Seize control of the internet

Shut down communications (telephone, radio, television, etc.)

Freeze bank accounts – including yours

Suspend habeas corpus (i.e. imprison Americans without charge and without due process of law – Think: Guantanamo in Des Moines, IA)

Control the states’ voter databases

Sanction Americans without charge and leave them without recourse

Effectively, the president can become a monarch. Perhaps Trump will prefer autocrat or generalissimo or kommisar or general secretary or chairman. Regardless of the label, it will be the end of American democracy.

This president has repeatedly shown that he has no regard for Constitutional limits, much less respect for legislative and cultural norms. He’s given us no reason to believe that he would refrain from outrageous behavior following his declaring a national emergency. And with the help of Mitch McConnell for the past two  years, Trump has packed the courts and his cabinet with people who likely would refuse to stand up to him.

A declaration of national emergency, whether for his fantasy claims of crisis at our southern border or for a pending or hot conflict with Iran or Argentina would be just the thing for Trump to consolidate power. Beyond fulfilling Trump’s bottomless ego needs, such a declaration will completely divert attention from his conspiracies with Russia. It’s the ultimate distraction and, perhaps, the negation of any investigation into his possible criminal activity.

Did I mention that this story gets worse? It does.

We never vote leaders out of office during war time and very rarely during any other national emergency. The only contrary example I can think of is Herbert Hoover, who lost the 1932 election to Franklin Roosevelt for his mishandling of the Great Depression. Nevertheless, the point for us now is to be clear that a declaration of national emergency, regardless of the justification Trump uses, would likely ensure Trump’s reelection in 2020, if, indeed, we even have another election.

And that will make Vladimir Putin very happy. His only regret will be that he won’t have any more kompromat on Trump, because exposing Trump’s money laundering, his tax fraud, his obstruction of justice and his treason will no longer matter.

Wag the dog.

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

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

There’s Only One Message


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

– with a special message from Carl Reiner

VOTE!

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

Just a few more comments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that is why there is only one message:

VOTE!

Here’s Carl Reiner’s message for you:

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

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

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

VOTE!

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Potpourri v4.0


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

Reading time – 3:03  .  .  .

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

It’s All About That Tiger


A partial compendium of Trumpian distractions designed to keep your eye off the ball. CLICK HERE to see how they anticipate distracting you from what they don’t want you to see. CLICK THE IMAGE for a larger view.

Reading time – 3:12; Viewing time – 4:34 .  .  .

We human beings are perfectly designed to react instantly to dangers before us. That’s a really useful trait when the sabre tooth tiger shows up at the mouth of your cave. That’s self- and species-preservation in one neat package and it’s part of what made it possible for you to be born.So we’re adept at dealing with threats that are in our faces.

The contrasting point is that the same sabre tooth tiger that we know is over the hill but is not currently in sight elicits not one bit of reaction from us. Out of sight of the cave, off our threat radar screen, to mix metaphors by tens of thousands of years. [Actually, tens of millions of years. ed.] Interestingly, our threat alert system, complete with the threat ignoring non-response of what isn’t in our faces right now, continues in you and me today and it’s a powerful obstacle to meeting our challenges.

Global warming is already causing problems worldwide, but recognizing adverse patterns made worse by our climate warming behaviors and seeing that as a threat is a pattern that’s difficult to feel. It’s much like ignoring that sabre tooth tiger that’s over the hill: it’s easy, because we don’t feel the threat from what isn’t in our faces.

The out-of-sight syndrome gives climate warming deniers the engine to fold arms and dig in heels. The same is true of the massive bee kill-off that threatens to greatly affect food supplies worldwide. Food is still plentiful in grocery stores, so we don’t see the threat, but scarcity is just over the hill. That out-of-sight location allows our EPA, for example, to refuse to deal effectively with pesticides that are killing bees – pollinators – at an alarming rate and the EPA has now pushed back its review of the toxin neonicotoid yet another year.*

Key Point: There are many issues that we decide in favor of benefit now, like jobs, money and comfort, because we’re unable to see over the hill to a future where the threat arrives right in our faces.

Click me

There are ways to help deniers to see the threat that’s over the hill and which is going to imperil all of us. Read Chip and Dan Heath’s excellent book Switch in order to understand how to help people to embrace change when they simply don’t feel the imperative. Hint: You have to help them feel the imperative.

That sabre tooth tiger really is going to present himself to us in many forms and venues and he really is just over the crest of that hill and he really is headed our way. That’s why we have to replace our spineless Congress so that we prepare for the challenges that will be in our faces very soon. It’s all about that tiger.

Two More Things  .  .  .

Last week your president announced that he plans to cancel a 2.1% COLA wage increase for about 1.5 million civilian federal workers. He claimed that the cost is fiscally unacceptable, or some other justification that attempted to sound policy-based, but there just might be a different reason for his digging into workers’ pockets. Try out this theory of Trump’s motivation to stiff our federal workers.

Dozens of Republican members of Congress are at significant risk of losing their jobs in the upcoming mid-term election. Imagine the great cry that will come from these at-risk politicians, wailing about the great pain that will be inflicted upon their constituents. They’ll posture in front of any camera that’s handy until at last – roughly 10 days before the election – the president will relent, saying that these fine Republican lawmakers, looking after their people’s best interests, have convinced him to restore the wage adjustments. He’ll magnanimously declare that these Republicans should be re-elected.

Wait until October 28th before you call me a conspiracy nut.

Finally, John McCain was eulogized by family, friends and colleagues. My most powerful and likely enduring memory is clear – perhaps you hold it similarly. It was of his life and message of duty, service, dedication to something much larger than ourselves. It was the repeated clarity that our future – something that is so much larger than ourselves – depends upon what we do today and that as citizens, it’s up to us. What will you do today?


*If you download the PDF from “EPA’s Policy Mitigating Acute Risk to Bees from Pesticide Products you’ll learn that, “This policy represents the EPA’s recommended labeling statements to mitigate acute risks to bees from pesticide products. This policy is not a regulation or an order and, therefore, does not legally compel changes to pesticide product registrations.” In other words, it’s 35 pages of “here are some labeling ideas.” The bees remain at risk.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Only Donald Trump


Reading time – 1:10  .  .  .

President Trump has said repeatedly that only he can do various things. As laughable as that has seemed, it recently set me to thinking about whether there might be some accuracy to his boasts. Here’s a list of what comes to mind as things only Donald Trump could have done:

  1. He’s made racist, weaselly, mean-spirited, hypocrite Jefferson Beauregard Sessions into a sympathetic character.
  2. In his mania to erase all of President Obama’s accomplishments and legacy, he double-crossed the Dreamers.
  3. In his mania to erase all of President Obama’s accomplishments and legacy, he pulled us out of the JCPOA, giving tacit approval to Iran to build nuclear bombs.
  4. In his mania to erase all of President Obama’s accomplishments and legacy, he pulled us out of the Paris Climate Agreement and is encouraging the burning of coal and the removal of pollution protections.
  5. He has criminalized asylum seekers and kidnapped hundreds of children.
  6. He has lied to the American public an average of 6.5 times per day for over 19 months.
  7. He has alienated all NATO countries.
  8. He has started multiple trade wars.
  9. He has expanded economic inequality.
  10. He has abandoned the people of Puerto Rico – Americans, every one.
  11. He has embraced white supremacists and emboldened them to ever more public hatred and violence.
  12. He has wiped his dirty boots on the First Amendment through his Muslim ban.
  13. He has negotiated away the safety and security of the United States and possibly the entire world and received nothing in return from North Korea. I have previously argued that any idiot could have done this, but no idiot would have been this idiotic.
  14. He has insulted the leaders of Mexico, Canada, Great Britain, Germany – where else?

Honestly, I think he may be right. He may be the only one who can do this stuff.

What am I missing? Add to this list in the Comments section below.

  • ————————————

    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.

Breaking Point, or


How Trump Successfully Diverted Attention From His Kidnapping of 3,000 Children

Reading time – 4:49;  Viewing time – 7:35  .  .  .

I’ve been pretty hard on Congressional Republicans in my recent posts, but I’m questioning if that’s still justified. Perhaps things are beginning to change, although Thomas Friedman doesn’t think so, nor does James Comey.

We’ve wondered over and over about which shameless Trump outrage would at last do him in; none has. Not the Access Hollywood grab brag; not the “nice people on both sides” Charlottesville racism; not the job-killing tariffs; not the attacks on our FBI and Justice Department; not his 6.5 lies per day; not the firing of James Comey specifically because Comey refused to truncate the FBI investigation into Russian hacking of our election and possible Trump campaign collusion; not the betrayal and abuse of Dreamers; not the attacks on our allies; not the kidnapping of children; no outrage has stopped the runaway Trump train. Now, though, I’m wondering afresh if we’ve reached a breaking point and I’m daring to be disappointed yet again.

Trump has consistently sided with Putin over our intelligence services regarding Russian hacking. Now, though, The New York Times is reporting that before the inauguration Trump was fully briefed by our top intelligence agencies leaders about Russian hacking and was even shown intercepted Russian military agent emails which show Putin himself was behind the entire effort to subvert our democracy. Still, Trump continues to refuse to forcefully lay the blame on Putin and punish him for his wrongdoing, much less take action to protect our 2018 election.

Is it possible that Congressional Republicans now have something in hand that is so not okay that they’ll stop being jellyfish? Well even some formerly silent Republicans are speaking out. You can read many of their comments here – it’s important that you have a look.

Congressman Will Hurd (R-TX) wrote an essay that you’ll want to read: He begins,

“Over the course of my career as an undercover officer in the C.I.A., I saw Russian intelligence manipulate many people. I never thought I would see the day when an American president would be one of them”

Newt Gingrich is pushing back, however tepidly:

Even Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is managing to counter the President and his refusal to accept the undisputed evidence of our intelligence community. Ryan said,

“They did interfere in our elections – it’s really clear,” Ryan told reporters in Washington. “There should be no doubt about that.”

“Not only did Russia meddle with our elections, they’re doing it around the world,” he said. “They did it to France. They did it to Moldova. They’re doing it to the Baltics. Russia is trying to undermine democracy itself, to delegitimize democracy, so for some reason they can look good by comparison.”

Shifting now to Democrats for one specific point  .  .  .

Having been Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton knows a thing or two about foreign affairs and has a question for Trump:

Great question. Which side do you think Trump plays for? And if you think it’s the USA, exactly what evidence can you offer to support your opinion? And, no, a MAGA hat doesn’t count. It’s just a hat.

If you’d like to revisit an accurate prediction of what national security would look like with Trump as President, have a look at this video from October 31, 2016 – at least watch 6 minutes starting about the 14-minute mark. You’ll find it an eerily and frighteningly precise description of what has happened since then. It’s not as though we weren’t warned.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) is onto Trump’s cave-in to Putin and is poking at what is in the back of everyone’s mind:

Trump is making the world demonstrably more dangerous with his every insult and lie about our friends and allies and with every suck up to Putin, Kim Jong-un and Xi. He is isolating our country and destroying our protections. It is impossible now to avoid the key questions:

  1. What does the United States of America get out of Trump’s capitulation to Putin and his attacks on our friends? We have some answers to that question and they aren’t pretty.
  2. What does Trump himself get out of that? The answers to this question will illuminate all. Have a look at conservative Ross Douthat’s take on this.

If President Obama were selling out America the way Donald Trump is, can you imagine any Congressional Republican whose hair would not be on fire? The volume of the outrage would be deafening. The calls for impeachment and imprisonment would be continuous.

The thing is, in that scenario, the Republicans would be right. Their indignation would be justified. Their red, white and blue righteous fury would befit the wrongdoing.

But this isn’t Obama’s malfeasance; it’s Trump’s. So, where is the Republican hair-on-fire, the outrage, the indignation and righteous fury and the calls for impeachment and imprisonment? Perhaps they are starting, albeit slowly. Maybe we’re hearing the first crack of the breaking point.

The Republicans in Congress have both the power and the obligation to take action to stop this treachery, this betrayal of our country. Pray that Trump’s sell-out of the United States and all of western democracy is the breaking point for Republicans and that they at last stand up against Trump’s treason. Better yet, call them and demand that they do their job.

Trump’s deception, his double-dealing, his breach of faith and trust constitute a clear and present danger that threatens America. That is why over the past week you shifted your attention away from 3,000 kidnapped children; Trump is a master of distraction. Stay focused on democracy, because worse distraction is on the way and you may be tempted to forget Helsinki by next week. Don’t do it – for the sake of our democracy.

  • ————————————

    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:

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Pretending Not To Know


Reading time – 1:31; Viewing time – 2:19  .  .  .

Do you remember when Republicans held themselves out as the solid bulwark against the Russians? When Republicans represented that they were the true defenders and stiff backbone of our country? When Republicans made it clear that anything remotely less than hostile to the Russians was unpatriotic? I do, too.

I remember Richard Nixon, the “commie-baiter,” and Ronald “Tear down this wall!” Reagan. Those were the days when Republicans had spine. They were all about tough talk and standing up to the Russians.

Now, though, we have an enemy of our country, those same Russians, attacking us with cyber warfare and undermining our most cherished values and rights. Our president steadfastly refuses to stop them and most Congressional Republicans are silent about that.

Trump continues to attack and embarrass our allies. He imposes tariffs on our best friends to no economic benefit to us and, in fact, to our detriment. He attacks NATO, the alliance that has kept the west strong for seven decades.

He receives ongoing, concrete proof that Vladimir Putin has directed his henchmen to undermine America. They’ve gone about it with electronic guns blazing and Trump sits on his hands. Trump continues to treat Putin like his Godfather, as in: Corleone. He meets with Putin when there are no other Americans present, leaving us to wonder about the harm he allows to be done to our country. Who are the Republicans speaking out against that? What are they doing to protect us? What happened to their spine?

Buy this book and read it.

Yeah, Republicans, I get that Trump will tweet mean, untrue things about you if you don’t support him. We all know that you’ll get primaried from the right if you don’t suck up to Trump or at least keep quiet. But this isn’t about Trump’s constant lying or his disgracing of the Presidency. This is about confronting and stopping threats to our very democracy. This is the time to stand up and be counted. If we don’t stop this now, there may not be a second chance.

So, tell me, Republicans in Congress, what is it that you’re pretending not to know?

  • ————————————

    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.

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

Populism and Obi-Wan


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

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

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

Here are some characteristics of populism:

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

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

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

All problems can be solved by hitting harder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click me for a larger image

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

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