Domestic Policy

Potpourri v11.0 – The “How Can We Be This Stupid?” Edition


Reading time – 3:41  .  .  .

Yeah, I know this sounds like conspiracy craziness, but .  .  .

Dr. Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, has been kicked out of his post. Reports STAT, “Bright’s career has largely centered around vaccine and drug development. His work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focused on influenza viruses, antiviral drugs and tests.” Sounds like the kind of guy we need right now.

But reports are that Dr. Bright and Bob Kadlec, the current HHS assistant secretary for – get this – preparedness and response, had a little conflict. In fact, Bright foolishly pointed out the homicidal stupidity of recommending hydroxychloroquine to treat patients with COVID-19. That’s the drug prescribed by Dr. Trump and recommended by the prime time Fox News clueless hysterions and which hasn’t been shown to be effective against this virus but has been shown to kill patients.

Let’s see: A doctor, an expert scientist in his field, had the temerity to say something truthful and important that Trump didn’t like. Rather than listening to this guy who actually knows something, Trump and his know-nothings instead did what they always do. They always purge the best people – in this case, a really Bright one, in both senses of the word – and replace them with Trump hacks, like the know-nothing former Labradoodle breeder who is now the senior lead on the Health and Human Services (HHS) coronavirus task force. In this hour of our desperate need, what could possibly go wrong?

Actually, it sounds like a conspiracy to ensure things really do go wrong. Truly stupid.


No matter what the President says, DON’T drink me.

A reader wrote to me,

I’m reading about the latest bill passed to send $ to “SMALL” businesses. Every article mentions that the prior bill ran out of money in 3 weeks because the majority of money was sent to “LARGE” corporations. So, my question is: why is there no one in public office demanding that the government require the large corporations to return the $ so that it can be redirected to the smaller businesses, which were the intended recipients of the $ in the first place? What am I missing here?

If those large businesses fell within the program guidelines (guidelines that were created to support small businesses), then where was the oversight among all those professionals when the guidelines were created? Surely, someone should have been charged with assuring the money would go to the right companies. Seems like a slam dunk job to me.

Dear Reader,

And DON’T inhale me. No, really.

Thanks for your comments. I have no satisfactory answers. Nevertheless, I offer this:

  1. I have not heard of anyone in a position to do anything about it say a word suggesting a give-back.
  2. To the best of my knowledge, those larger businesses fell within the guidelines of the federal program – even the hedge fund operators who sucked cash from the trough. It’s crazy that these folks who clearly don’t need help could do that legally. Where, indeed, was the oversight?
  3. The larger companies commonly have a strong relationship with their bankers and they have the in-house professional expertise to apply for money from the program. Not so much for the mom and pop shops or small manufacturers. That effectively aced a lot of them out of the program.
  4. The whole thing was chaos, because the program was suddenly dumped on banks with very little in the way of direction to process these loans. Like so much during the Trump era, it was ready, fire, aim, only this time it was Congress that did it. They were in such a hurry to get money to businesses that they failed to be more clear in the process to ensure they’d help the little guys and not the hedge fund managers.

Gotta give Congress credit for earnestly wanting to help small businesses. But there was something stupid about the guardrails for the program. Do you suppose that’s fixed in the next tranche of funding?


In this time of crisis, we need the President standing a post on that wall. Instead he’s playing a constant game of Top That Lie.

On Thursday of last week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested, ”  .  .  .  that states hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak should be allowed to seek bankruptcy protections rather than be given a federal bailout.” This was specifically aimed at diminishing Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and pension obligations of the states. From reader John Anderson ([email protected]):

Today Mitch McConnell suddenly got concerned about government spending.

He was not concerned after the so called tax cut bill.

He was not concerned after the recent stimulus bill.

He was not concerned when the Senate passed another stimulus bill yesterday.

Today, he WAS concerned. He talked about the need to cut spending. For him that means cutting Social Security and Medicare. Not cutting Defense Spending. He’s said that before. Only a partial scare there.

Now the SCARY part.

He suggested that maybe, just maybe, states should be allowed to declare bankruptcy. He didn’t suggest that states could default on bonds. For him, bankruptcy of the states means they would reduce or completely default on the pensions for all people who earned those pensions – millions of police, fire, state parks employees, road crews, teachers, librarians, city employees and all others drawing state or local funds. If you’re one of those people who had to forego pay increases for the promise of future income (a pension) and who kicked in their own money to the fund, THIS IS SCARY.

I mentioned this a few years ago when Illinois attempted to change the pension terms. The Illinois Retired Teachers Association sued (Quinn v. Hearon) and won in a unanimous decision. When I wrote about this, some responses to my article were hostile, but consider this.

After WWII, Stalin took care of the USSR’s war debt by declaring that the USSR was going to write those war bonds off and thanked the Soviet citizens for their contributions. That’s essentially what McConnell wants to do to those on Social Security and Medicare and clearly thinks that the states should declare bankruptcy and default on the pension obligations to their former employees.

Responding to John, per IllinoisPolicy.org, “In fiscal year 2019, state estimates of Illinois’ total unfunded pension liability rose to $137 billion.” That’s just for the state pensions and doesn’t include city or county obligations; furthermore, the state is broke. And dealing with coronavirus is digging an even deeper hole.

Of course, this is all the result of kicking the can down the road for many decades – generations, really – refusing to fund the liability and stealing from the fund when desired. This is equal opportunity stupidity, proudly done by both Republicans and Democrats and Illinois isn’t the only state where this is happening.

Nevertheless, this bankruptcy thing is stupid on a world class level. Congratulations are due to Mitch McConnell for cavalierly flipping off 50 states and their present and former employees. On the other hand, he’s inadvertently helping to turn red states blue.


© Joshua A. Bickel/The Columbus Dispatch, via Associated Press. Protesters gathered at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio.

Finally, we have to pay homage to the many rugged individualist Americans who, with AR-15s and testosterone proudly on display, proclaim we mustn’t tread on them. They bellow in thunderous voices that we can’t tell them what to do, as they ascend the steps of our state capitols to loudly proclaim their demands.

They’re insisting on an end to our punishing stay-at-home orders and that we “open up” our economy and let them get back to work to earn their pay and re-assert control of their lives. Let us all raise a vinyl-gloved fist in solidarity with these true descendants of the original Revolution, as they wave their Nazi and Confederate flags on the sidewalk.

There is a powerful message in their behavior, as they make a mosh pit of protest, absent masks and gloves. The message is their nomination of themselves for the 2020 Darwin Awards.

These awards are given annually to people who have helped the most to improve our gene pool by removing themselves from it. And surely many of these angry protesters will fall in the Battle of the Daft, having been infected by contagious fellow protesters. Sadly, we soon won’t be able to identify these COVID-19 volunteers from others, because once a ventilator tube goes down a throat and a plastic mask covers a face, everyone looks pretty much the same.

How can we be this stupid?

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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!

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. Refreshing when someone wants to get the facts right, eh?
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Coronavirus For Dummies


Reading time – 3:41; Viewing time – 5:30  .  .  .

Imagine that in your town nobody has smoke detectors. The only way the fire department knows to come out and battle a fire is when they can see flames shooting through a roof. But when another house goes up in flames somewhere else in town and the flames are shooting through that roof, the firefighters have to divide their forces to battle the second blaze. Then houses catch fire on either side of both houses that were already aflame, because fire is very contagious. Then those fires spread to even more houses and the firefighters are soon stretched beyond their limits.

There was no early warning of any of these fires because there are no smoke detectors anywhere in the entire town. Yet with quick notice of a small fire from a smoke alarm in the kitchens of those first two houses, all those houses could have been saved. In fact, most would never have even become warm. Too bad nobody anticipated the obvious need and purchased and installed smoke detectors.

So it is with coronavirus. We don’t have the test kits, the immunological version of smoke detectors, so the fire of COVID-19 continues to spread, our people are falling victim to this deadly disease, we’re running out of places to store the body bags and our healthcare workers are stretched beyond their limits.

On April 16 Dr. Birx was once again on the president’s nightly circus sideshow and she smiled and happily told America that we have over a million test kits. Three days later on Meet The Press Vice President Pence proudly proclaimed that we have over 2 million test kits. But go to any hospital or doctor’s office and ask them if they have test kits for their patients and you’ll find out that they don’t have any or they have only a very few to ration for special circumstances.

Even if it’s true that we have two million test kits, they aren’t where they’re needed, and there are way too few of them to test sufficiently in order to protect 330,000,000 Americans. Indeed, in a report published last week by the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University they wrote,

“We estimate that steady-state testing levels that would permit replacing collective stay-at-home orders as the main tool for disease control with a testing—tracing-and-warning—supported-isolation, or TTSI, methodology will eventually need to reach a capacity to test 2 to 6% of the population per day, or between 5 and 20 million people per day.“[emphasis mine]

Please stop complaining about stay-at-home.

Simple math tells us that Vice President Pence’s proud declaration of our having 2 million test kits means that the total number of kits available in the entire country is enough to meet our national needs for between 2 – 9.6 hours. Then we’ll be out of testing capacity completely. We’ll be left solely with stay-at-home as our only prevention tool, except for those states where their governors refuse even that and, back to the metaphor, they instead encourage playing with matches.

You can read a most accessible review of the Harvard report here or download the full report here. The key point is the difference between what is actually needed in order to protect us and the pitiful efforts of our federal government.

The brother of a dear friend was in a memory care facility. He had some underlying health issues as well, so when he became infected with coronavirus, it only took a few days for him to waste away and then die alone. There had been no visitors allowed in the facility for weeks, so he must have been infected by a member of the staff. We may never learn who was carrying the virus that killed him because no tests were or are available to identify carriers, so the infecting goes on to yet others to become sick and perhaps to die.

So, I say with dripping, angry sarcasm, “Thanks a lot, Mr. President, for your intentional refusal to make coronavirus testing our national priority and available everywhere, rejecting the very thing all the experts have insisted for months was mandatory if we were to curb this pandemic. We might have been able short circuit the spread of this awful disease and spare my friend’s brother’s life had you done your job.”

Mixing metaphors, Russian roulette virus dodging is all we’re left with because of the failure of our national leadership. This has already sickened additional hundreds of thousands of Americans and killed more of us, infected by others who don’t know they’re carriers. But they would know if there were robust testing protocols in place. We would all be safer, but we aren’t safer.

This is what happens when those we count on to promote the welfare of all of us instead put on a daily circus sideshow, complete with monkeys in suits doing tricks and a magician spouting lies to distract us. This is what happens when a president abdicates his responsibilities to the American people in favor of blaming others and wailing about imagined grievances, most of which have nothing to do with our critical national need. This is what happens, back to the metaphor, as our houses burn to the ground and the president refuses to make smoke detectors available and even waits for weeks to send out the fire trucks, all this as my friend’s brother died alone.

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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!

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. Refreshing when someone wants to get the facts right, eh?
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

JaxPolitix: Cynical Edition v1.0


Reading time – 2:30; Viewing time – 3:53  .  .  .

The number crunchers tell us that once infected, blacks in this country are at least 6 times more likely to die from coronavirus than whites. It’s worse for Hispanics than whites, too. There has been much hand wringing about this lately and ties to historical  realities have been offered to explain this fatal discrepancy. We have to do better, they say.

But actually, no, we won’t do better. We never do. Here’s an analogy.

Sandy Hook happened and it punched us in the national gut, because these were little children whose bodies were ripped apart by bullets from an assault rifle. Columbine hadn’t been enough to move us to action to ensure our children’s freedom from gunfire death, partly because the victims were teenagers and we aren’t quite as protective of older children. And the Pulse Nightclub slaughter didn’t move us to action either, because, hey, they were just gays. This one, though, the murder of so many little white kids, touched our hearts in ways that are locked into us from ancient times, so it would propel us to do something to prevent another ghastly, horrible massacre, of course.

How’d that work out for us? Did anything happen to protect our little ones or anyone else? You know the answer.

The discussion now isn’t about domestic terrorists murdering children; it’s about the way we set up people of color to suffer and die, including from coronavirus. It’s the stinking education given to so many of them in rotting buildings with decades old text books. It’s the poor training, the minuscule job opportunities, the low wages, the unavailability of healthcare, the living where people breathe toxic exhaust from upwind industrial plants and where there are food deserts that offer nothing to eat but crap. The reasons go on and on and the point is that we haven’t done anything about the things that leave people of color at significant risk, we aren’t doing anything about that and we won’t do anything about that.

Whites will be a minority in this country in just a few years and there is a mad rush to suppress non-whites in order for the soon-to-be white minority to retain power, like the blatant voter suppression efforts in red states. We’re incrementally becoming South Africa and apartheid will be our culture. Those in power are carrying on our 400 year tradition of suppressing “others.”

America is a Europe-centric, white, Christian majority country. We tolerate others, but only barely. That leads to a Muslim ban, a declaration of “shit-hole countries” with little push-back from most of those with the greatest power, Native American subjugation, a southern border “f**k you” wall, gross immigrant detention facilities inhabited by families torn apart and all the rest of our abominable actions toward those in America who aren’t from European white Christian stock. Some relative few wail in protest. But as with our gunning down of first graders, those in power steadfastly do nothing to make things better.

So, with this coronavirus ravaging the world; with our body count into the tens of thousands and likely headed to the hundreds of thousands; with our Commander in Chief pushing to get us back out and infecting one another soon because a temporary goose to the Dow is good for his reelection chances; with the same orange buffoon saying we’ll be lucky if we hit numbers of dead in the hundreds of thousands and he doesn’t care that a disproportionate number of our dead will be non-white (hey, that’s good for his election chances, too.); don’t expect anyone with the power to help “others”  to make any efforts to stop the kill off of people of color in America. Because, honestly, we just don’t care about them.


Late Addition

In the most recent of Donald Trump’s bizarre 2-hour daily press briefings he announced the cutoff of U.S. funding for the World Health Organization, claiming it was for their “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.” It was typical Trump blaming of others for the very same destructive things he does. This time it was for his foot dragging and lying that has caused thousands more deaths. Next time, who knows? What we do know is that the blame game will go on, as Trump claims he isn’t responsible for anything. Because, honestly, he just doesn’t care.

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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!

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 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Fact Checking And What It Means


Reading time – 3:51  .  .  .

In his presser of March 19 Donald Trump said things that are factually untrue. Sad to say, they have enormous impact. For example,

From STAT:

Trump ”  .  .  .  said a new drug for Covid-19, yet to be proved safe and effective, was now ‘approved or very close to approved.’ Another, also not approved for coronavirus, would be ‘available almost immediately,’ in part because using it is ‘not going to kill anybody.’

“Then, minutes later, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Stephen Hahn, took the dais in the White House briefing room and delicately walked back each one of Trump’s statements.”

So much for treatments for our COVID-19 sufferers.

Trump announced from that same podium that millions of hospital masks are on the way. When asked for specifics he barked, “We aren’t a shipping clerk.” He’s probably right about his mean-spirited shipping clerk blurt, because hospitals and clinics aren’t receiving shipments of masks. And they aren’t just running out of masks, they’re begging people to sew masks for them at home. Because of that, our healthcare workers are at heightened risk of becoming hospital patients themselves. So much for millions of hospital masks on the way. That’s the kind of harmful impact Trump’s lies have in this crisis.

Here’s the big one: He said that we knew nothing about COVID-19 until very recently because the Chinese hid the information.

FACT: The Chinese did hide information, which is why we didn’t hear about it in November 2019.

FACT: A World Health Organization epidemiologist sent warnings about COVID-19 on January 9; the CDC got the word out on January 6; the Canadians announced the coming of this pandemic in December 2019.

Everyone knew this was coming.

The result of this administration and President Fantasyland ignoring the international warnings and all the data is that WE ARE TWO MONTHS BEHIND IN TAKING ACTION. Whatever we’re doing in March could have been done in January and hospitals would have masks by now, and doctors might even have test kits.*

Well in advance of the arrival of this disease we knew plenty and increasingly knew more about it. We knew it was potentially deadly, that it spread from person to person in much the same manner as the flu and that if we didn’t take strong, positive action that very bad things would happen. And we knew that we had to protect our healthcare workers or it would become a double whammy of them becoming yet more sick people and fewer healthcare workers available to provide care.

We knew that significant respiratory ailments were part of the symptom package of this disease, so we knew we would need way more masks, respirators, ventilators, oxygen generating equipment and hospital beds. And we would need hundreds of millions of test kits. But as late as last Friday we were still getting magical thinking from President Fantasyland that this disease would suddenly, magically disappear. And the fictions keep on coming.

We’ve had the data from China and South Korea for a month and a half and from Italy since February. We know how this disease is passed, how fast this virus spreads and we know what these countries have done to tame it and the effects those actions have had. We’re not flying blind, except for the willful ignorance of this President and our federal government. And it’s not just the White House making things worse.

The House passed a bill on March 14 to help people affected by this disease with both cost coverage for testing (if the test kits ever show up) and for treatment (if that ever arrives) and economic help to offset reduced incomes. The Senate knew this bill was on the way, but Mitch McConnell put the Senate in recess so they couldn’t even have a look at it until 4 days later. In other words, they wasted half a week in protecting Americans.

The result of all of that is that thousands of people are infected and some will die who might never have contracted the disease at all, had we taken proper precautions early on.

Trump has spent his life in self-promotion and is using COVID-19 to do more of that. He is now calling himself a “wartime president,” perhaps for the cachet he think it bestows upon him. He always deflects and blames others, so he’s calling this a “foreign virus” and the “Chinese virus,” which are handy names to use so that people blame the Chinese and not him for the rapid spread of this disease.

Indeed, he always invokes an enemy, like caravans and Muslims and the press and immigrants and Democrats and Nancy Pelosi and more. That keeps his followers from focusing on his ineptitude and culpability and engenders undeserved sympathy. And now all his victim-hood, flights of fancy, finger pointing, magical thinking, and outright lying are producing only four things:  a more devastated economy; more fear; more sick Americans; and more dead Americans.

One of the key reasons people voted for Trump in 2016 is that he wasn’t a politician. This was at a time when the Congressional approval rating was just 13% (it’s only 21% now). We’d had it, or, in Bernie-speak, we were sick and tired of politics as usual. So, we brought in a circus barker. And we sure didn’t get a politician.

A politician would have known to get in front of this disease before it became a pandemic that would destroy political careers. In the process of covering his own ass, a politician in charge during this crisis would have covered ours.

But no such luck for us. We’re stuck with brainless magical thinking and quarantining ourselves, with millions laid off and disaster at the doorstep of every hospital in the country.

So, if this sounds like an angry post, you damn well know why.


P.S. #1: 20 – 25% of Americans don’t trust experts. What do you suppose that will mean for our national fight for heath measures to stop COVID-19 when these people are fed a continuous stream of hateful, anti-expert lies by the President?

P.S. #2: Click here to watch the Trump version of P.T. Barnum’s Greatest Freak Show On Earth.

* P.S. #3:

Q. Why doesn’t President Trump order the construction and supply of massive numbers of COVID-19 test kits?

A. Because we’d find out how dramatically worse our situation is, how many more people are sick and his numbers won’t look good. Always remember: It’s all about Trump looking good. The hell with sick people and their needs.

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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!

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 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Destiny


Reading time – 2:46  .  .  .

President Trump has not just bungled facts, spewed false happy talk and continued to lie his way through his presidency and this pandemic. He has also made clear that he is not responsible for anything that’s happening if he thinks it might make him look bad.

He told us that he’s not responsible for our total lack of preparedness for COVID-19 or for its reach or for the severity of its impact, this in the face of his having completely disbanded our Pandemic Response Team and cut funding for the CDC in 2018. The people he canned are the very people who made up the very team that could have minimized our suffering due to COVID-19, had they been in place and had they proper funding and authority. Of course, the President would also have had to listen to them, follow their advice and not say stupid stuff. There was never much of a chance of any of that happening.

So, here’s a little snark from last Sunday’s post, in case you missed it. It is not offered because of the snark; it is offered because this is our reality.

As Granny struggles in her hospital bed, gasping for just a little more air from her respirator for her pneumonia-soaked lungs, her MAGA hat wearing family is gathered around her. They know this is the end and they weep for their love of her and for their looming loss. Suddenly, the lights go blue-black, the walls begin to shake, and the ceiling speakers boom in Darth Vader’s voice: “It is your des-ti-ny.” And they tremble in their horror and their fear, because all at once they realize that this is what they chose.*

It didn’t have to be this way for Granny, but we made it this way. We made this our destiny.

Last Friday the President bragged about non-existent tests for COVID-19 and about drive-thru testing sites that are nothing but fantasy. He has no plans to enlist the Army Corps of Engineers to transform buildings to meet the enormous hospital capacity we’ll need in just a couple of weeks. There’s no action to re-purpose unused manufacturing capacity to build the ventilators, hospital protective gear or anything else that is already in desperately short supply. The result of this ineptitude is that more people will die for lack of testing and care.

The differentiator that is invisible to Trump is that this isn’t a reality TV show, a make believe land where he can make up stuff and it becomes so, where everyone goes out for drinks after the taping. This isn’t a Hollywood movie where murdered characters get up after doing a scene and go home at the end of the day. This is real life and death and the people who will die from this virus will never go out for drinks or ever go home again because they will stay dead. Worse, more will die because of Trump’s ineptitude and dishonesty, including Granny.

This pandemic is completely over the head of this President and this time it isn’t a little thing like a trillion dollar gift to his rich pals. This time it is life or death for countless Americans. He is incompetent to discharge the duties of his office, including protecting the citizens of this country.

Back to the Star Wars metaphor:

Both Darth Vader and the evil Emperor told Luke Skywalker that joining with them was his destiny. With just the force of his will he refused both of them and that destiny and eventually set things right throughout the galaxy. We can do that. We can refuse the destiny of so many Americans gasping their last breaths due to COVID-19. We can lead our country and the world to set things right.

It’s about our choices as a nation and the consequences our choices bring. We can make our own des-ti-ny. That’s always been the American way.

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Finally, the people of Italy are just ahead of us in dealing with this killer disease. Here is a video message from them that you’re sure to want to watch .

Second finally, Mike Pence proudly claimed on Monday that we have a million COVID-19 test kits out right now. Great – perhaps that’s true. Only 319 million to go.

Really finally, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. Large gatherings are prohibited, so drink a Guinness in your kitchen and be your own parade.


* The legal thing: The Empire Strikes Back (from which this clip is taken) and all other movies are copyrighted material. I pay royalties to be allowed to use movie clips legally both here and in my leadership keynotes and workshops. Just thought you might like to know.

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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!

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 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

How The Country Was Lost – in Retrospect


Reading time – 4:03  .  .  .

It started well before the 2016 election. It started with birtherism.

The formal start of Donald Trump’s campaign began with a vile slur against Mexican people coming to this country. That was the first clear indication of the torrent of hate mongering to come. It continued with his Muslim ban and all his racial, ethnic and religious dog whistles and outright verbal attacks, including his infamous Charlottesville “good people on both sides” slur.

His declaration that we need more immigrants from Norway made it clear that the only people who would be welcome immigrants would be white European Christians. His ongoing marginalization of minority populations powerfully served to divide and even polarize the citizens, which weakened opposition to Trump and continues to this day.

During the 2016 campaign Trump repeatedly claimed that the election was rigged. He attacked the FBI, especially James Comey. Then he praised the FBI when Comey, announced – twice – the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails right before the election. When Trump won the election, oddly enough, the election was no longer rigged.

Not much later Trump resumed his back stabbing of Comey because he wouldn’t pledge fealty to Donald Trump, instead sticking with his oath to protect and defend the Constitution, which included investigating Russian interference in the election. That’s when Trump declared that the FBI was both corrupt and demoralized because of corrupt, weak leadership and resumed his attacks on Comey, eventually firing him and demanding that he be investigated for some imagined wrongdoing. What is significant about all the criticism is the profound effect it had in undermining public confidence in government.

Over the next four years the attacks on government and the undermining of our institutions were constant, including attacks on the press as “fake news,” which had the effect of reducing people’s trust in those who hold public officials – like the President – accountable. He gutted the State Department, brutally criticized “the generals”, fired everyone who showed so much as a raised eyebrow of disagreement and installed Trump loyalists throughout his Cabinet. That many had been lobbyists for the industries they were now to monitor was a plus for Trump and his control.

The undermining of government was powerfully enforced through vitriolic verbal attacks, many scandalous accusations and a continuous tweet storm of rage. His angry supporters, roughly 38% of the population, loved it. His raised middle finger tantrums spoke for them and their sense of betrayal and their disgust with government. It was tolerated by many centrists because of weak, ineffectual opposition.

Republicans were terrified of crossing him because of his verbal attacks and the certainty that they would get “primaried,” the dynamic that prevented his removal from office following his impeachment. This is exactly how a minority wrests power from the majority.

During the impeachment proceedings numerous State Department and military people testified under subpoena, even though Trump had ordered all Executive Branch personnel to refuse to testify as part of his stonewalling of the investigation. His response following the Senate refusal to convict him was to fire all who had testified and even some who had not. That created a powerful deterrent to anyone who might otherwise speak up in the future, giving Trump complete power over them.

Only one more thing was needed to secure absolute power: control of the judiciary and the intelligence community, the departments of government that have the power to investigate him. After that, there would be no impediment left to stop Trump’s assuming total control of the country.

Trump installed William Barr to the post of Attorney General and Barr wasted no time in becoming the personal attorney for Trump, instead of for the nation. Most notably, when the Mueller Report was released to him, Barr quickly said that he had reviewed the entire document and released a summary, in which he claimed that the report exonerated Trump of any wrongdoing, including conspiring with the Russians.

When Barr at last released the report, it was found that he had redacted so much of the Mueller report that many of Barr’s lies about it couldn’t be fact checked immediately. What was checkable was that Mueller specifically did not exonerate Trump, nor clear him of colluding with the Russians. But Barr’s dishonest summary was out for weeks before the complete report was released and that delay controlled the narrative for Trump.

Later, Barr inserted himself into Justice Department investigations with the clear intent to protect Trump’s operatives and attack his opponents. Indeed, Barr instructed federal prosecutors that all new investigations had to get approval from him or his designee, giving himself the power to protect Trump. This is precisely the way all authoritarians operate, using the legitimate mechanisms of government to dismantle its protections against abuse.

The final act of wresting total control came when the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) reported to the appropriate committees of Congress about Russian interference in the 2020 election. Even though the briefings were federally mandated, Trump fired the DNI and replaced him with a completely inexperienced Trump loyalist. In addition, he fired other long serving Intelligence Agency personnel.

With that, Trump effectively had dictatorial control over all of government. That even gave him the power to declare a national emergency and use that to cancel the 2020 election.

And that, in shorthand, is how the country was lost.


Buy and read this book. Click on it.

Critical notes for 2020 Democratic candidates who want to get elected:
  1. In order to win the 2020 election, it must be – it must only be – a referendum on Trump. You must attack and continue to attack. You must never stop putting before the public his criminality, his racism, his cruelty (at every opportunity decry his putting children in cages), his attempts to eliminate coverage for pre-existing conditions, his sell out of hard working Americans, his neutering of our national security in order to benefit Putin and the rest of his un-American outrages. Say it with me: UN-AMERICAN. Conservative and center-right voters see themselves as bedrock Americans, so this labeling of Trump will drive a wedge between them and the un-American president. Say it again: UN-AMERICAN.
  2. You must stop the circular firing squad. Paraphrasing Ronald Reagan, you must obey the 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Democrat. Don’t do Trump’s work for him. Ever.
  3. Of course the primary election is important, BUT, every word you say in the primary season can and will be used against you in the general election. So, if you want to win the general election – you’re going to hate this –  you must stop promoting far left policies and memes, regardless of how fervently you believe in them. That includes Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, free college tuition, erasing student debt, socialism, calling out to “brothers and sisters” and the rest. Promoting those things will ensure that you only get the votes you already have from your base. You’ll drive away all the other votes that you need in order to win in the general election and Donald Trump will be reelected. Stop pissing off the 78% of the electorate that doesn’t embrace those ideas, because you need their votes in order to win.
  4. Stop your wonkiness about policies altogether. You bore listeners (i.e. voters). Okay, your true believers love it and they cheer wildly and you puff up and ride a high with each cheer. Everyone else has changed the channel. In all debates and speeches, you must make every issue solely a referendum on Trump. Park your wonk on your desk and don’t go back to find it until the general election is over.
  5. Following the Milwaukee DNC convention when you’re the nominee, you must make the election solely a referendum on Trump. Refer to points #1 and #4 above for further clarification.

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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!

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 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

A Stroll Through Impeachment Park


Reading time – 4:21; Viewing time – 6:06  .  .  .

Contrary to his firm, clear declaration, Richard Nixon was a crook. Setting aside allegations that have a dollar sign directly attached to them, he obstructed justice. That’s a crime. He sent thieves into the night to break and enter the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, as well as to rob the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate complex. Those are crimes.

Nixon committed treason during the 1968 presidential campaign by urging the North Vietnamese not to conclude a peace treaty with the U.S., telling them they’d get a better deal from him if he were elected. That’s a crime.

None of these is about personal offensiveness or the breaking of norms. All of these are crimes. By any definition, Richard Nixon was a crook. And he was just short of certain impeachment and removal from office by the Senate when he resigned his office.

Say what you will about Bill Clinton’s ethics, his moral rectitude, if any, “crook” is hardly useful to describe him.

At the height of Newt Gingrich’s power as Speaker of the House he hired Ken Starr to investigate the Clintons – both of them. Starr’s charge wasn’t to focus on an indication of the commission of a specific crime. Rather, it was a target-of-opportunity witch hunt. He was to find something – anything – to hang around Bill Clinton’s neck.

Starr investigated everything both Clintons had touched, including the Rose law firm in Arkansas, the Whitewater land deal, the death of Vince Foster, various extramarital affairs and more and he found nothing illegal. Nothing. Then Linda Tripp, a confidant of White House intern Monica Lewinsky, called the FBI to disclose Clinton’s sexual relations with the young woman. Clinton’s actions, while perhaps repugnant, weren’t a crime.

Starr hauled Clinton before a grand jury and asked about the affair. Clinton lied, denying it. That was a crime – lying to a grand jury. And shaming Clinton into that was all that Starr could conjure after over four years of digging for dirt. There’s no question about the crime and Clinton was impeached, but the Senate made it clear that this was hardly treason, bribery or a high crime or misdemeanor. Stupid, yes. Worthy of removal from office? Come on.

Now, things are different. Donald Trump is guilty of either extortion or bribery and maybe both. Those are crimes. He is guilty of using funds allocated by Congress to have a foreign power give him support for the 2020 election. That constitutes at least three crimes; one is the withholding of funds directed by Congress; another is abuse of power; yet another is soliciting election help from a foreign government, one of only a handful of specific crimes listed in the Constitution.

By ignoring subpoenas and ordering all from the Executive Branch of government not to testify at the House Intelligence Committee’s hearings. Trump obstructed justice. Then there are his ongoing violations of the emoluments clause in the Constitution. These are all crimes and he’s guilty of them. We know that, not only because of the clear, direct testimony by greatly respected individuals with firsthand knowledge and through documentary evidence, but because Trump has bragged about all of these crimes.

Trump’s malfeasance is far beyond Nixon’s thievery and obstructions of justice and way past Bill Clinton’s lying about his dalliances. Trump is flagrantly guilty of bribery and high crimes and misdemeanors and everyone knows it.

All this has nothing to do with Trump’s distractions, like his continuous lying, his bullying, his violations of governmental, civic and decency norms, his ethics violations or even his dereliction of duty to our national security. For those who have spent the last few years admonishing that we ignore what Trump says and instead focus on what he does, that’s exactly what is happening right now.

The House is going to impeach Trump. It’s the right thing to do if we still believe in the rule of law and in protecting and defending the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.

There’s only one question left: Do the Republicans in the Senate have even the small amount of integrity needed to do the right thing? Do they still believe in conservatism? We better hope that at least twenty of them do.

Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon. Ronald Reagan avoided responsibility for the Iran-Contra crimes. George W. Bush skated from his having started two illegal wars. If Trump is allowed to walk, our refusal to hold high officials accountable will have been permanently erased. That is why impeachment and removal from office are the right things to do.

Finally,

From pal Allan Shuman on Friday:

November 22, 56 years ago, was also a Friday. That was truly the day that the music died. There was hardly a mention today in any of the media.

John F. Kennedy was assassinated that day and that changed a generation and perhaps the entire world. Cynicism was kindled in Boomers and trust was dealt a terrible blow. We had had belief on November 21st; not so much on the 23rd.

Now Trump’s maniacal need for attention and our national acquiescence to it has stolen even that remembrance from us.

————————————


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 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

There’s More Than Impeachment Going On


Reading time – 3:22  .  .  .

Trump is supremely adept at making everything about him all the time, about being center focus perpetually. Most often he does that by being outrageous, either through his galactic dishonesty or by his actions. Some are harmful to our nation. Some are just cruel. Some get negative attention, as through impeachment hearings, during which he can do witness tampering and complain of being a victim all at the same time. The cruelty, though, that’s the stuff that offends through all the generations.

Lee Goodman is one of the people who goes beyond hand wringing about cruelty and takes action. He has been instrumental in protecting the innocent children in U.S. concentration camps, including helping to get the abhorrent Tornillo, TX and Homestead, FL child holding pens shut down. He’s still on the beat. His most recent report about our national cruelty is reproduced below as a guest essay.

Note of caution: Don’t imagine that Lee’s historical references are hyperbole, because the things we’re doing now follow a well-worn path. Think: George Santayana:

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

It’s time to remember, as well as to recognize that complacency supports that horrible repetition.


Until recently, our government allowed people from other countries to wait in the U.S. while their requests for asylum were being processed and decided. Now we make them wait on the other side of our border. Thousands of people are indefinitely stranded in places like Matamoros, Mexico, where I just returned from.

Neither our government nor the Mexican government is doing much of anything for these people. They live in small camping tents. They rely upon volunteers to bring them food. Clean water and toilets are scarce, and medical care is minimal. There is no work and no school. Our government’s policy is to let these people languish and suffer, in hopes that they will go away and that others will learn of their misery and decide not to try to come to the U.S.

Deliberately depriving people of food, sanitation, and other essentials of a decent life was the policy the Nazis followed in the 1930s and 40s in the ghettos and concentration camps. Over time during the Nazi era, what started as makeshift detention became large-scale incarceration. Dehumanization was institutionalized.

Today, child asylum seekers are no longer being detained in the U.S. in large tents the way they were at Tornillo, Texas, and Homestead, Florida. Our government has been building a series of permanent camps where children will be held. I visited an old WalMart in Brownsville, Texas where up to 1,500 immigrant children are being imprisoned. I also stopped by a warehouse in Raymondville, Texas, that is being refitted to hold 500 kids. A friend just stood outside a new prison that is under construction in El Paso, Texas, that will hold more than 500 kids. Other facilities are in the pipeline.

It took a while for the Nazis to develop their system of concentration camps. Dachau, established in 1933, became the model for later camps. What I saw in Mexico and Texas reminded me of something terrible. Our incarceration of immigrants is progressing along a terrifying trajectory. We are normalizing child abuse. We are perfecting systems that traumatize people. We are teaching the people who work at these prisons that it is OK to go along with and make money from deliberate cruelty.

I am disturbed by what I saw. But it is good that I saw it.

We have much to do.

Lee Goodman, November 12, 2019

Ed. note: Perhaps our national program of child abuse and human rights violations trouble you. If you’d like to connect with Lee, send your contact information to me at [email protected] and I’ll pass it along.


Finally  .  .  .

Last Thursday’s post “What’s At Stake” is a look at the impeachment proceedings from a strategic perspective. That is to say, it was about the What questions – what will we be? – not the tactical How questions.

On the same day Jon Meacham, Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas published an essay in the Washington Post entitled “It’s the Wise Men versus the Wise Guys in Trump’s America.” Like my post, it looked at the kind of country we want to be – the kind of country we are creating. I recommend both as guides to what you see, read and hear about the impeachment process, because it’s too easy and of little value to simply be reactive.

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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 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Paul Revere


Reading time – 3:30; Viewing time – 4:43  .  .  .

The last time I read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Paul Revere’s Ride (no, it isn’t entitled The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere) I was in high school. For reasons known only to the gods of random thoughts, the poem came to mind, so I looked it up and read it again, these many decades later. Somehow, this poem composed in 1860 has a new and surprising currency.

It tells of the clarity and courage of men who would not be subjugated. It names the price that would be willingly paid by those who would stand strong. It lets us know of the ordinary folk who, at a moment’s notice, were ready to do their part, to do the right thing.

You can find Longfellow’s poem here and I encourage you not to read it silently, but to read it aloud, just as Longfellow intended. Read it and marvel at its wonderful cadence, as he tells the story. I promise that you’ll be able to see the events as though you yourself had been there. I challenge you to read it full voice and embrace the way it chokes you up over the bravery of the people and over admiration for those who had the vision for something better and the courage to stand and be counted.

Had King George not been a tyrant to the colonists, we might still be British subjects. But he was a tyrant of the first order. You can read a list of his terrible abuses right here in the Declaration of Independence.

Then reflect on our current times. The actions of this president are not terribly different from those of King George.

We don’t need to ”  .  .  .  declare the causes which impel [us] to the separation,” because we don’t need separation from a foreign despot. But we surely need relief from the terrible abuses of this domestic tyrant.

Longfellow’s poem ends this way:

For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,

Through all our history, to the last,

In the hour of darkness and peril and need

The people will waken and listen to hear

The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,

And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Who will be the Paul Revere today who will ride, “Through every Middlesex village and farm,” to ring the alarm? And who will stand and be counted to protect and defend? When today’s Paul Revere comes thundering through your town and sparks fly once again from the shoes of his horse as the alarm is raised, will you be ready to stand and be counted like those ordinary folk on the “eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five”?

These are the questions of our time and they need answers now.

Noteworthy –

If you want to understand the future of ISIS without Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, read Tom Friedman’s essay, “President Trump boasts of defeating the Islamic State. He’s only showing how ignorant he is.”

And from the “I can’t believe this can be said” department  .  .  .

In President Trump’s acclimation of himself as the hero of the al-Baghdadi raid, he disclosed a treasure trove of confidential military and national security information that made heads explode in our intelligence agencies, our military and our allies. In his narcissistic rant, he gave away methods and sources that included leaking the fact that a high level ISIS individual was the inside eyes for the raid, the human intelligence (“HUMINT”). Because of Trump’s indiscriminate bragging, ISIS now knows that, too. How would you like to be that guy right now? What do you think his life expectancy is? How hard do you suppose it will be for our people to recruit the next HUMINT person?

This is the same president whose first official act was to invite both the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, and the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, to the Oval Office. He excluded American translators and all other Americans. No U.S. ears were in the room. In that meeting he exposed a covert Israeli agent. How hard do you suppose it is now to get our allies to share vital information?

And once again, why does everything Trump touches redound to Putin?

————————————


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 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Kavanaugh Lessons – Good News, Bad News


Reading time – 1:21  .  .  .

Immediately following the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her claim of having been sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) stopped to talk with reporters in the hallway outside the committee room. He went on a long, angry rant of accusations against Democratic members of the committee. He impugned Dr. Ford’s claims and falsely declared that there is no corroboration for her testimony. He demeaned the FBI by saying that they would never be able to find useful information on what happened three decades ago. He also proudly declared himself to be a victim. Later, during interrogation of Judge Kavanaugh following his own angry rant, Graham used his five minutes of questioning for a second temper tantrum.

Publishing date TOMORROW!

Graham spewed a lot of vitriol and it might seem that there’s no good news to be found there, but that isn’t so. The good news is that regardless of his occasionally seeming to be thoughtful, fair-minded and even senatorial, Lindsey Graham has once again shown us exactly who and what he is.

All the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee abused the nominating process, insulted justice, the Constitution and all Americans and voted in lock-step for Brett Kavanaugh. They continued to refuse to release any of the 100,000 documents pertaining to Kavanaugh’s record that the Republicans hid from the Democrats. They, like Lindsey Graham, have shown us once again exactly who and what they are. You can let go of your doubt. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that we’re now facing accusations that President Trump shook down the president of Ukraine in order to get dirt on Joe Biden’s son. What are the chances that Congressional Republicans will aggressively pursue this forehead-slappingly obvious abuse of power and criminal action?

Cast your vote in the Comments section below.

For further elucidation of Republican inclination to discharge their duties, read this.

————————————

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 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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