Big thinking

Carrots, Sticks and George Washington


George Washington’s Farewell Address was delivered to Congress in 1796. He offered profound wisdom to our young nation and his words have value that is undiminished by time. Indeed, it reads as though Washington had a telescope to see into the 21st century and address our challenges of today. His address is wordy in its 18th century style, but it is accessible with a little concentration and it is your reading assignment this week (click here to download the PDF).

Washington had great aspirations for the country he served selflessly through war and for years after that when he would have preferred to be in retirement on his farm.  Here is a piece of his hopes for this nation:

”  .  .  .  I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.”

The question now is focused on how we are doing in maintaining our brotherly affection, maintaining a free Constitution, ensuring that every department of government is “stamped with wisdom and virtue,” and that we have the happiness and liberty sufficient to recommend democracy like ours to other nations.

There are many Americans now wanting to bring our democracy and our Constitution crashing down and they are doing so while mouthing their perversely impassioned cries of democracy and liberty. We have politicians and blatherers spouting embarrassingly flagrant and witless lies to enrage our citizens against one another and our country. So much for our brotherly affection. And we have abandoned allies and supplicated to tyrants, hardly providing a recommendation of democracy to others.

It’s possible that we’ve back-slid on the path to Washington’s aspirations for us, so our focus needs to be on restoring the pursuit of those lofty goals. Right now it appears that we’ll need both carrots and sticks to begin to move in the right direction.

President Biden hit the ground running, even in the face of the refusal of Trump administration operatives to help in the transition, even in the face of their withholding critical information, even in the face of a complete lack of prior structure to tackle our national challenges and even in the face of their denials of Biden’s achievement and authority.

We are at last on a path to get the pandemic under control and stop killing thousands of Americans daily. We are on a path to restore economic security for our people and we’ve rejoined the global fight for our planet. We are in hopes of soon having the infrastructure program we’ve declared as critical for over three decades and which will benefit all of us in many ways. And we have begun to mend international fences with our allies and put tyrannical opponents on notice. All of that will go a long way to taming the fiery beast of American anger. Perhaps that will narrow our national divisiveness and make us safer here and around the world at the same time.

All are good things, but those carrots alone won’t be enough. It’s hard to picture Michigan Militia toughs suddenly becoming placid and deciding not to kidnap the governor or storm the state capitol with assault weapons, chanting like goosestepping morons about their freedom. The Proud Boys and Oath Keepers won’t miraculously stop calling for a new civil war and threatening to once again attack Congress. Even now they’re threatening to kill Democrats. They are bent on violating Washington’s hope for us, “that [our] union and brotherly affection may be perpetual.” Preventing their violence and chaos will take more than carrots; it will take some sticks.

We need an ongoing and very robust domestic intelligence gathering engine and powerful national policing to crack down on the violent hard heads before they harm more Americans and before they bring down American democracy. That’s the tricky part, because in doing so we risk becoming a police state, compromising the very liberty Washington recommended to us and celebrated. That will be a huge challenge for a very long time.

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Follow Up to the Donald Trump Golden Calf Report

Last week I reported on the CPAC Trump golden idolatry extravaganza and hereby make a prediction based on biblical history.

The T-GOP, like the original wanderers, will take generations to forget their comfort in slavery and their supplication to a false god. Expect no quick miracles.

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Best Opinion Videos of the Week

Brianna Keilar at CNN captures the Pinocchio that Republicans are using to promote minority rule and restore Jim Crow. They are not and never will be real live boys.

And she skewers the jellyfish here.

As you watch the CNN clip, keep in mind the Rudy Question, from the movie The Rainmaker: “Do you even remember when you first sold out?”

Best Political Satire of the Week

Click me for the story

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Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so,

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The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Said John Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” So, educate me and all of us. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What’s Next?


Chinese pictograph for crisis: danger plus opportunity

Earth’s tectonic plates have been put on notice that they are likely to be pushed back to where they belong.

Perhaps there are many who didn’t pay attention or who even boycotted the inauguration, so they did not hear the words that were spoken or feel the integrity behind them. Nevertheless, the world has been told that a new banner is flying. Beneath it is another banner containing this pictograph:

The night when President Obama was declared the winner of the 2008 election, mixed with the joy and renewal of hope of that night, I felt the weight that was about to fall on that man’s shoulders. We were headlong into the Great Recession, the likes of which few living Americans had experienced. It was a financial hole so deep that it affected the entire world. Perversely, within his first month in office Senate and House Republicans were daftly criticizing Obama for having failed to fully fix the financial crisis by then.

At the same time, we were enmeshed in two wars, both of which had been avoidable and which now were intractable, with no foreseeable exit. And it was clear that Obama would face nothing but fierce opposition from Republicans.

Perhaps you recall the reports of the Republicans who met at a restaurant on the night of his election and decided that their number one job was to “Make Obama a one-term president.” Their focus wasn’t to restore our national economy and get Americans back to work. It wasn’t to end the wars and bring our troops home. It wasn’t to form a more perfect union. Their celebration of our most recent exercise in democracy was to commit to obstructing progress and to regain power for themselves.

Obama passed the Affordable Care Act in his first two years, but not much more over the following 6 years, as a blizzard of Republican filibusters and dead letter legislation hampered any progress to overcome our enormous national challenges. Now, the challenges are even greater for President Biden.

There is the pandemic, our cratered economy, damaged international relations, compromised national security, the global climate threat, domestic terrorism and, oh yes, two intractable wars, plus much more. Biden’s first two years better be greatly productive and felt strongly by the American people, or his remaining time in office could be stifled in the same way as Obama’s. Refer again to the pictograph at the top right of this post.

From Ezra Klein’s brilliant essay, Democrats, Here’s How to Lose in 2022. And Deserve It:

But now Democrats have another chance. To avoid the mistakes of the past, three principles should guide their efforts. First, they need to help people fast and visibly. Second, they need to take politics seriously, recognizing that defeat in 2022 will result in catastrophe  .  .  .  And, finally, they need to do more than talk about the importance of democracy. They need to deepen American democracy.

Our nation is terribly sick, both medically and culturally. Not much, especially the economy, will get better until we stop the pandemic. Biden has rightly put that at the top of his to-do list, and doing so will meet Klein’s first imperative of fast and visible benefit to the people. To accomplish that he and his team will have to do something Trump’s team failed to do about the pandemic: deliver on the promise. No more bumbling. Making things more difficult is that Biden will have a lot of obstacles to overcome to get that or anything else done, and the Republican obstruction machine has already cranked up.

Now that a Democrat is in the White House they have suddenly discovered how awful deficits and debt are, just as they did in 2009 when Obama arrived. They didn’t seem particularly interested in such things when George W. Bush started two wars and cut taxes or when Trump squandered $2 trillion to enrich already rich people. Their now-regained fiscal stinginess is one of their favorite obstacles to progress that they love to place in front of Democrats.

Sen. Josh Hawley unconscionably raises an encouraging power fist to Trump’s mob of insurrectionists

Sen. Josh Hawley (he of the power fist salute to American domestic terrorists) objected without cause to a Biden secretary appointment. I’m not in Hawley’s head, but I suspect that he’s hoping to become the inheritor of Trump’s “base” and run for President on the White Supremacist ticket in 2024. There are plenty of other Republican senators and congressmen/women with equally overriding self-serving motives, who openly embrace extremist, hate-fueled conspiracy lies and who are just as power hungry.

With Chuck Schumer at the helm of the Senate we won’t have to worry about a pile up of ignored legislation, like the stacks of folders of House-passed legislation in McConnell’s office. Nevertheless, the filibuster remains for Republicans to use to stop necessary things from happening. Eliminating it will be difficult and doing so is a double edge sword that may prove to be harmful in the long term. But with it in place for obstructionists to use, all we’re left to count on is a sufficient cadre of Republican senators who will put country first. Bear in mind that hope is not a strategy and, by itself, simply can’t get the job done.

What can help, of course, are executive orders, many of which Biden signed in the afternoon following his inauguration. It’s a good start toward neutering the enormous list of Trump’s unscrupulous and unconscionable actions.

Ending the pandemic and embarking, for example, on a Rooseveltian infrastructure program will heal us medically and put Americans back to work, even as it will require bi-partisan cooperation. It will be a huge step toward the culture change and economic recovery we so desperately need.

That alone won’t cool off all the red hot, militant crazies, but people with money in their pockets are far less angry, not least because they feel a sense of dignity and of being in control of their own lives. Re-engaging everyone in such personal ways will be fast and visible to the public and will strengthen our entire country.

We hold the promise in our hands. It’s up to us to make that promise come alive. In the words of Amanda Gorman, “If only we are brave enough to be it.”

That’s what’s next.

For more, be sure to read Sheila Markin’s post here.

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Finally

From poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

These are hard times and it’s difficult to know what to do and where to start. What is important is simply that we start. That we ring the bells that still can ring. We will never run out of naysayers, vapid criticism and self-serving idiocy. What’s important is that we refuse to let such things impede progress.

Follow Leonard Cohen’s advice. Today is a good day for that.

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Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so,

  1. Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe and pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) Use the simple form above on the right.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Said John Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” So, educate me and all of us. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Chinese Century via Bioweapon


Reading time – 4:10  .  .  .

I’ve written many times about the likelihood of this becoming the Chinese century and the many things we’re doing (or not doing) to make that a reality. We pay a huge price for our shortsightedness and small thinking.

We’ve been complacent since our 1950s dominance of the world economy, riding our then-intact manufacturing base, the only country in the world to have one. Then we pretended for decades that the world economic power it created for us still existed. But it didn’t and it doesn’t and we’ve actually enthusiastically created the path for our economic demise through short term thinking and behavior. That’s why so many millions of manufacturing jobs disappeared. And our constant kicking the can down the road instead of rebuilding and enhancing our infrastructure has left us weak. Now, though, there’s another more urgent threat to our world leadership.

Bob Woodward’s book Rage includes an examination of Covid-19 and it details comments from Robert O’Brien, National Security Advisor. Before you dismiss him out of hand because he is just another of Trump’s revolving door cavalcade of advisors, read what follows, lifted directly from Woodward’s book (p. 333), referencing comments by O’Brien on June 11, 2020:

O’Brien continued, “It appears that they closed down travel all through China so that this disease couldn’t get to Shanghai or Beijing and other key cities. But at the same time they’re letting other folks travel from Wuhan to all over Europe and infected Europe and infected the United States. That’s not good. But whatever happened the Chinese have repurposed it into a bioweapon. And they’re using it, they’re attempting to take advantage of Covid to gain a geopolitical advantage over the United States and the free world, and to displace the United States as the leading power in the world.” [emphasis mine]

O’Brien said since Covid “hit the whole world, they’re using it with what they call their wolf diplomacy and for a long time they were attempting to trade PPE to get access for Huawei [5G provider with systems that allow the Chinese government to spy on users, including us] into countries. They were bullying countries into thanking them. They were bullying countries into saying things about the U.S. But overall, the theme is that they, as an authoritarian government, with all their surveillance state and their concentration camps and all that sort of thing, offer a better alternative for the world, a more efficient alternative, a kind of weird nationalistic, technocratic alternative to the world that’s better than liberal democracy. And Covid is an example of why the world should embrace China and Chinese values, and the Chinese form of hybrid capitalistic-mercantilist-communist government.

O’Brien said, “they’re taking every measure possible during this crisis to displace the United States. And we’ve got a hell of a fight on our hands.” [emphasis mine]

O’Brien concluded the consequences were dire. “If we lose our economic edge and we lose our economic might and stay closed for too much longer, we might be in a position where we couldn’t stay ahead or maybe we’d get behind and couldn’t catch up.”

CDC chief Dr. Robert Redfield had something to say about this, too (p. 332):

“It was difficult to understand how China had aggressive travel restrictions within China, and yet did not move to any travel restrictions” for people who wanted to leave China and go abroad, Redfield said.

“They really locked down Wuhan at one point. I think they quarantined over 11 million people. You couldn’t go from Wuhan to Beijing, but you could go Wuhan to London.”

Trump has done little to deal with the Chinese efforts beyond childish name calling. There have been no aggressive steps to lead Americans to safe behaviors to counter the pandemic; worse, he has given dangerous advice and helped to spread the disease. Nothing has been done at the federal level to make it safe to “reopen” our economy or begin to rebuild our economic might, which puts us further behind.

We are in the international fight of our lives – for our lives. We either face the reality of Chinese economic, military and political might or we will become a second rate nation.

This is the challenge the Biden administration faces on day one, even as we’re hobbled by disease. We’re all going to have to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time and we’ll have to stop fighting ourselves immediately, or the consequences for us will be terrible. We’ll have to face up to the danger before us and stop whining about a little inconvenience or even large personal impacts and instead support one another through our health and economic suffering and recovery. Prosperity and international leadership will require universal sacrifice for our common good. The question that will stay with us is whether we still have it in us as a nation to do that.

Some of the cost of complacency is incremental, like the chipping away at our industrial base; some happens faster. Regardless, complacency is a guarantee of our demise. I’m reminded of Hemmingway’s words in The Sun Also Rises, when his character is asked how he went bankrupt. He replied, “Gradually, then suddenly.”

We love to think of ourselves as extraordinary, that we are blessed with American exceptionalism. As gratifying to us as that may feel, we undermine ourselves with our self-congratulation. As I wrote in one of the essays referencing this becoming the Chinese century,

The problem with American exceptionalism is that we assume a superiority that isn’t always warranted. That doesn’t make us exceptional.

But we could be.

We’re already late in building 21st century America. It’s time to take action, to accept the necessary sacrifices and get on board that train to the future. And it better be a high speed train. The chief obstacle to that will be obstructionist Republicans in Congress who may rediscover the awfulness of deficits, now that a Democrat will be in the White House. They are in the way of our exceptionalism.

Mitch McConnell is the leader of the Republican wall of obstruction to progress. His Senate filibustered nearly everything Obama tried to accomplish for the first six years of the Obama administration, including efforts they themselves had championed before January 20, 2009. They effectively eliminated a fundamental tenet of our society: majority rule. For the two years after that McConnell was the majority leader in the Senate and he refused to bring most legislation proposed by Obama or any Democrat to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

We are paying the price for that wall to progress right now and McConnell’s obstructionism is going to continue during the Biden administration. There’s only one way to limit the damage he and his Republican agents of despair can do to America and the pain they inflict on you and me. It is to put Senate leadership into the control of Democrats so that the obstructions to progress can be minimized and we can begin to build our 21st century.

The January 5 double Senate run-off elections in Georgia give us the opportunity to create a 50-50 headcount in the Senate, which will strip Senate leadership and much of the power to obstruct from McConnell. For that to happen we have to do everything in our power to remove the two corrupt sitting senators from Georgia and replace them with honest brokers for We the People. Your part is to help to make that happen.

Go to this link and do all you can. If you’d like to understand this more, I strongly suggest that you read Sheila Markin’s excellent post.

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Ed. note: It has been said that the soon-to-be former president has lived in our heads rent-free for over 5 years, starting with his birtherism slander. That is what constant outrageousness and sensationalism can do, as every circus sideshow barker knows. But our national eviction notice has been posted. The squatter will be gone on January 20 and there’s a permanent

sign for him and every other ego-maniacal tyrant. I recommend that you post a similar sign for your own head.

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Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so,

  1. Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe and pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) Use the simple form above on the right.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Dear Bernie and Elizabeth


Reading time – 3:34  .  .  .

Dear Bernie and Elizabeth,

Here’s the key question: Do you want Democrats to lose the 2020 Presidential election to Donald Trump, as well as lose the opportunity for Democrats to control the Senate? You’re on a path to do both even if you don’t get the nomination.

There isn’t much in politics that appears to me to be simple, but this one does. Here’s how it breaks down in the general election:

  1. Lefties and far lefties will vote for you no matter what you say or do.
  2. Righties and far righties will vote against you no matter what you say or do. Bear in mind that there are more on this side of the center than on the left and their voting percentage is higher than on the left, too.
  3. Most of the center-left will vote for you and most of the center-right will vote against you.
  4. The very center is where it’s at –  they are the 8% of all voters who will decide the election.

Every time you say, “free tuition,” “Medicare for all,” “student debt forgiveness” or mention anything else that sounds like a  giveaway, all they hear is socialism, which they frighteningly equate with communism, bigger, more intrusive and clumsy government and higher taxes. And they really don’t like it when you tell them that you’re going to snatch the medical insurance away from 149 million Americans and replace it with some pie-in-the-sky program. People don’t like to be mangled by takeaways. And they don’t like to be flim-flammed, which is what Medicare-for-all feels like to a lot of Americans.

Regardless of how fervently you believe in progressive causes, you’re pushing away the very people needed to win the election. And however unfair it may be, even if Joe Biden wins the nomination, your socialism, bigger government and higher taxes proposals will stain him. You’ll see Republicans constantly wide-eyed and yelling “SOCIALISM!” as though they’re Paul Revere patriots yelling, “The British are coming!”

No need to believe me about the voting toxicity of far left policy proposals. Have a look at what The Gallup Organization’s work tells us about this.

Here’s the translation:

Far left policies = BIG election loss

If Donald Trump were capable of appreciation – he isn’t – he would thank you for your far left policies.

Stop trying to turn this country into something the majority doesn’t want it to be. Wake up and smell the vote count.

Resources:

Read conservative writer Bret Stevens’ column for a clear take on what’s required to win the next presidential election. Hint: It isn’t lefty extremism and it isn’t about Trump.

Want confirmation of that from a very different perspective? Read Rahm Emanuel’s piece.

Not enough to convince you? Then read Thomas Friedman’s clear, compelling essay.

And have a look at how Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo became the first woman governor of Rhode Island. She did it by addressing the things voters worry about every day, like good paying jobs, not giveaway programs that scare them.

Trump brags about our great economy, but for millions of Americans their life experience just doesn’t match the hype. Have a look at the clarity that Steve Rattner laid out, pulling back the curtain to expose the circus barker’s fraud.

Want to win in November? Try focusing on the worries and pains of everyday life for real Americans, not what the hair-on-fire bloviators are saying. And make sure your appeal to them stays inside the limits of their beliefs about good sense.

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Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so

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

Thanks!

Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA

 


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Hand Wringing


Reading time – 2:10; Viewing time – 3:33  .  .  .

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is conducted every 3 years and tests academic proficiency internationally of 15-year-olds. American kids haven’t progressed. “About a fifth of American 15-year-olds scored so low on the PISA test that it appeared they had not mastered reading skills expected of a 10-year-old .  .  . ” There’s more to learn and you can find a report here.

Meanwhile, students in other countries are consistently better prepared to succeed. We’ve tried various programs, including No Child Left Behind, Common Core State Standards, the Every Student Succeeds Act, Race to the Top and we’ve spent billions of dollars, but our kids are still behind.

American kids from wealthy families living in strong school districts are doing fine. Perhaps it’s the excellent schools. Maybe that performance is driven by family attitudes and expectations.

At the other end of the fixed-in-place economic teeter-totter are kids whose main academic achievement lies in falling behind not quite so much. So many schools are in disrepair, as are teaching materials and any sense of hope. That’s what happens when we attempt to operate our 21st century schools on a 17th century model.

It’s time to figure this out. And it’s time to do so without political turf grabbing or pork barrelling or ego stuffing. Perhaps then we can actually prepare our kids – all of our kids- for the 21st century.

Do you see any national leaders, say, the president, doing anything to make things better? Neither do I. And our inertia is fueling making this the Chinese century.

In an odd way, this is very much like the infrastructure programs we’ve been promised. Other than re-paving some sections of interstate highways and repairing the most dilapidated bridges, have you seen even a hint of infrastructure improvement?

During the 2016  campaign Trump promised an infrastructure program that would be “the biggest and boldest in half a century.” In 2018 he laid out a pie-in-the sky, one-page infrastructure plan. One step in that plan was “Then a miracle happens.” It wasn’t dead on arrival; it was dead before it was sent to Congress. So, there’s been nothing done. Nothing.

I confess that it’s satisfying to bash Trump for that, but we’ve been talking about this issue for decades and doing nothing about it for just as long.

It’s impeachment season, so Congress is mired in either walking or chewing gum and is unable to do both at the same time. So, regardless of impeachment outcomes, we’re certain to hear nothing more about infrastructure than some hand wringing next year. And there won’t be even that for the education of our kids.

This is what absolutist politics that views compromise as surrender does for us.

This is what treating those who disagree as though they’re enemy combatants does for us.

Unless something changes, this is what we’ll continue to get.

Think about that as you make your voting choices on November 3rd.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

NOTES:

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

 


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Vision


Reading time – 3:42; Viewing time – 4:39  .  .  .

The second round of over-populated candidate debates will occur this week. Instead of hearing them snipe at one another, jockey for position or clutch desperately for air time, here’s what I want from the candidates.

Vision is the “THAT way” clarity that guides us in both the best of times and the worst. We have a national vacuum where that direction should be and that leads to proposals that are foolish and often self-defeating and which leave us adrift in the hot air that is today’s sound bite politics. Our leaders, whose task it is to name it and keep us focused, are vision-challenged in our hyper-partisan, post-reality swamp, so we wander about without direction.

We are a fractious and largely confused people, often acting only on impulses borne of the amygdala, the “reptile brain,” which is acutely tuned to fear. That leaves us vulnerable to the demagogue’s exploitation, as we mindlessly react to the most recent fear mongering. That causes us to lose our ability to stay true to our values. It turns out that Darth Vader was right when he said:

Jamelle Bouie makes that clear in his essay The Joy of Hatred, wherein he speaks of, “our history of communal, celebratory racism.” Communal and celebratory, indeed. We’ve seen that in Donald Trump’s chanting crowds, with their nearly all white faces smiling and reveling in the dark side of rejecting “others.” That isn’t the least bit helpful to our American condition or to our possibilities and it is utterly without hope for the future.

Trump speaks and acts as though he is a disciple of Darth Vader and he is leading us backward into authoritarianism. That is the very thing that motivated the Founding Fathers to say to King George III, “No more.” While they didn’t utter those words, their actions and the Declaration of Independence made clear that was their message.

To find our way to that more perfect union and our true potential we need to regain our aspirational nature. We have to abandon our impoverishment of ourselves and stop looking through the rear view mirror. We have to restore our vision ahead. We’ve done that before, as we did under the leadership of President Kennedy, which resulted in our Apollo program successes.

During that period of our history we were in perpetual danger of civilization-ending conflict. Gaining preeminence in space was our way of saying to the world and to ourselves that we are America. Might it be possible to regain that forward looking, can-do spirit? Might we be able to articulate the inspiration of creating that shining city on the hill?

I have two essays for you that speak to that.

Lori Garver, former deputy administrator of NASA, wrote an exceptional vision for a new and critical mission for NASA and it doesn’t include sending anyone to the moon or to Mars. It is rooted in real world need that is incrementally manifesting itself in unmistakable ways.

The other essay is from David Brooks. He speaks to who we really are and who we can be. Do yourself a favor and click his link to a Langston Hughes poem.

Back to the Apollo program.

Gene Kranz was flight director for the Apollo 13 mission. A catastrophic failure of their spacecraft put the lives of the men aboard in peril. Kranz’ engineers and scientists were working to cobble together the life-sustaining measures needed to save our astronauts when Kranz is reputed to have said, “Failure is not an option.” That is still true.

Who has what it takes to inspire this nation? Who will call upon what Lincoln termed our better angels and lead us in the direction of our greatness?

What I want is for our politicians and candidates to stop the silly, often self-destructive stuff and focus on who we can be. I want them to awaken our sleeping capabilities and to light a beacon to shine on that hill and guide us all. Rarely has the need been so great.

As I watch the debates I’ll be looking for the candidate who will do that.


President Trump is obsessed with attacking opponents by using the word “infested.” His vision for America seems to be constant attack, constant degrading of others. That’s exactly the kind of future where there is no hope. That’s the kind of future that rips us apart. Click here to see what CNN’s Victor Blackwell had to say about that. Decide for yourself which vision moves your spirit.


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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Earth Day Required Viewing


Reading time – 31 seconds; Viewing time – 2:07  .  .  .

I’ve been saying for a while that the Millennials will save us. That’s “us” as in our country, democracy and the entire planet. Now it turns out that even younger kids are joining them.

On this Earth Day you need to watch this video. That’s “need” as in: required viewing.

We have handed the next generations a gigantic pile of equine feces and it’s going to take all their collective brainpower to deal with this mess. On the other hand, they’re the ones who are going to have to live with the disaster outcomes we’ve engineered, so they’re more than invested in finding best solutions.

Get over any “they’re just kids” notions you may be carrying around and start to support and promote the survival heroes who are on their way to save us from our foolishness. Because we’ve proven beyond any doubt that we’re not up to the task. They are.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Potpourri v6.0


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

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

 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

As Smart as Squirrels – v1


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

Reading time 5:39; Viewing time – 7:05  .  .  .

Ed note: There never seems to be a break in the outrageous, the illegal, the assaults on democracy and the hurtful things in the news – like the Kavanaugh horror show, murder in Turkey, 6.5 Presidential lies per day, the kidnapping of children and all the rest. That makes it difficult to find space for something forward thinking, so we’ll just have to make the space.
The main body of this post was published 6 years ago and the message still fits. So, here’s As Smart As Squirrels, lightly edited for today.

Strategy is what we do. Tactics are how we do those things, so the tactics serve the strategies. Strategy serves something else: The Why – why we are doing what we are doing. It’s our vision for tomorrow and all the tomorrows after that. It’s our True North and nobody in politics is talking about that. Most of what we hear is little more than reaction, accusations, false facts, and techniques that politicians use to contort themselves into what they think will manipulate voters to vote for them and will continue the overwhelming crush of the big money carpet bombing of our democracy.

If we are to survive as a democracy, if the American Dream is to endure, indeed, if America is to continue to be America, we will have to be as smart as squirrels.

Squirrels aren’t the most intelligent animals on the planet; they’re just fuzzy rats with cute tails and tiny little brains, but they’re smart enough to know that comfortable summer and autumn days will give way to eye-crossing cold winter days and food will become scarce. That’s why they gather those acorns and stuff them away during the warm months. They know tomorrow is coming and they prepare for it. That’s a useful model for us – prepare for tomorrow – and the challenge that faces us is to be as smart as squirrels and prepare for all the tomorrows. Here’s an example.

It’s been years since we passed peak oil, the point at which half of the Earth’s oil reserves had been consumed.  It took us a little over a hundred years to do that. With the explosion of world population and all those additional people wanting to consume energy at the pace we do, it will take just a few short decades to burn through the rest of the oil. Worse, because it took 60 million years to produce the oil we’ve been burning and, since we really can’t wait another 60 million years for the supply to improve, offshore drilling and punching holes in the ground in the still pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge simply aren’t the answers to our energy needs. Worse yet is the global warming that all that fossil fuel burning creates and which is going to impact everyone on Earth before long and in severely negative ways.

We have to be smarter than that about all of our challenges and we have to think longer term. That will require clarity, direction and innovation. It will also require us to abandon our willful myopia. Absent that, we will continue to defeat ourselves, so the question that needs our focus is this: What is our long-term vision for America – our Why?

That question is intended to focus our thinking perhaps seven generations into the future so that we make the best decisions today, so that we take the best actions that move us in the right direction for the longer term, rather than just being reactive to the most recent flamboyant outrage or short term gain for the few.

Sadly, I don’t hear anyone talking about that kind of thing for America. The R’s talk about limited government and low taxes, but those are strategies, not a vision, and they offer nothing to indicate the America those strategies would create. Besides, the Rs don’t even practice those strategies. I hear the D’s talk about caring, fairness and lots of freebie stuff, but those, too, are strategies, not a vision, and it isn’t clear what they would create.

In this sound-bite-limited, tiny little attention span world we seem to have lost the ability to hold more complex ideas in mind. So, while the preamble to the Constitution is probably where we should focus our attention for a vision for America, I don’t know if that will work, since it’s a bit long to put on a bumper sticker.

Here’s a modest stab at a vision: A republic of security, liberty and prosperity for all Americans. We’ll never run out of work to accomplish that, so it satisfies the seven generation requirement of a vision. We can easily fit most of our core needs and strategies under that umbrella, like national security, fiscal policy, human rights, the general welfare and even that most hated of words, regulations. It can serve as a benchmark for decisions we must make and it might even help to eliminate some of the political fact-fabricating, pandering and other stupid stuff that overwhelms and paralyzes our politics. Offered well, it can even provide a benchmark for making wise Supreme Court picks.

I love to pick on Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). He fantasizes about a lot of crazy stuff, saying things like, “They’re gonna pull the plug on Granny.” In response to Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), who offered new allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Grassley said the allegations had “all the makings of a tabloid headline” and deserved “unqualified condemnation.” He said all of this stuff entirely without any supporting facts – just wild accusations. Imagine further one of his constituents asking him, “Senator, how does your saying such blatantly false things serve to create a republic of security, liberty and prosperity for all Americans?”

See what I mean about having a benchmark? We can test our notions and our strategies against our vision in order to be confident we’re moving in the right direction.

Surely, someone wiser than me can craft a far better long-term vision statement for America. What we need is something that isn’t in the weeds, is far sighted, doesn’t pander to wealthy interests and power grabbers and instead is focused on our entire society, our culture, our hopes, our dreams and our aspirations. When we do that, we call on what is best in America. When we fail to do that we make ourselves small and fall disappointingly short of our wonderful possibilities.

Is America as smart as I am?

So, give it a try in the Comments section below. What’s your vision for America? What should this country look like seven generations from now? What do you want your descendants in the year 2258 to be thanking you for?

We need to start moving in that direction right now. Otherwise, we’ll make ourselves dumber than squirrels.

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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 2021 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 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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