Foreign Policy

Thinking About Long Term Ramifications


Reading time – 4:33; Viewing time – 7:08  .  .  .

Ed. note: Read to the end – there are two treats waiting for you there.

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First, a heads up.

I talked with a woman who is involved with supply at our local hospital. I offered supplies I have on hand, including a handful of masks and a couple of large boxes of vinyl exam gloves. She said that they are in the process of setting up a receiving station for donations and will be posting on their website what their needs are expected to be. It’s not too big of a leap to expect that all 6,146 hospitals in the country will need that kind of help. So, call your local hospital or clinic or look at their website and find out what they need. You just might have it.

As this woman told me,

“We can see the train is coming fast and we’re still laying tracks.”

If they are going to be able to help others – perhaps even you – they need our help NOW. Pick up the phone.

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Everyone is stressed both by the immediate changes in our lives due to the coronavirus and by the unknown that seems to be all around us. It certainly is waiting for us up ahead.

I’ve been thinking about possible longer term ramifications of this pandemic on levels beyond our day-to-day lives. There are a lot of areas to explore and right now I want to have a look at how some might exploit this upheaval-by-pandemic for their own benefit and to the detriment of us.

First to come to mind is Donald Trump. Given that his sole focus is on what is good for himself, I can easily imagine him using this national emergency to cancel the general election in November and make himself king. Congress and the courts are going to have to grow a spine in order to stop such an outright theft of America and I have my doubts about whether they’re up to it. Trump-Republican legislators have shown conclusive proof that aren’t capable of the task and we have to wonder if the Trump-stuffed Supreme Court would would have the courage to decide against him. Trump has toyed with this idea of never leaving office and that was before there was a pandemic he could use as an excuse.

Next on the list is Russia. I don’t know what Vladimir Putin might try, but he’s all about self-enrichment and restoring his country to USSR status on the world stage (read: ego puffing). His methodology doesn’t much include growing Russia or the welfare of his people, but instead he’s all about taking down other countries. It’s the classic inferiority-complex bully tactic – making someone else less-than in order to be on top. Perhaps he’ll have Russian tanks invade neighboring countries while we’re weak. There’s nothing new about Russia doing that sort of thing. Maybe he’ll extort European countries by withholding Russian gas and oil next winter. I’m not clear what he might do to take down western democracies including the U.S., other than stealing elections using his cyber thugs, but I bet he is.

China is entirely about world domination and the U.S. is both its biggest obstacle and its easiest tool. They will come out of the pandemic months before the U.S. with a billion and a half workers who are healthy, hungry and subservient to their manipulative, diabolical government. China has issued government subsidies to help Chinese companies under-price American goods and they took over 3.7 million jobs from the U.S. just since 2001. Plus they’re holding $1.1 trillion of U.S. debt, about a quarter of our total foreign debt. That’s a lot of leverage. Would they crack down on Hong Kong or swallow Taiwan during America’s time of weakness? As with Russia, I’m not clear what they might do to harm others for their benefit, including harming the U.S., but I’m confident President Xi is.

What about North Korea? The coming months might be just the time when Kim will make a move on South Korea to annex it, to create “One Korea,” knowing that the U.S. is only hobbling along in a weakened state and can’t or won’t do much about it.

Here are the key questions:

  1. Who in our government is thinking about such things? Given the bumbling, reactionary, transactional nature of this administration, is anyone thinking strategically and beyond next Thursday?
  2. Are there plans on the shelf to deal with these threats and are they up to date? If not, who will do something about that and when?
  3. Will anyone pull the trigger on these plans if one outcome of doing so is unfavorable to Trump’s personal welfare (e.g. no Trump Tower-Moscow)?

Who and what else do you think might be in position to seize advantage over the U.S. in the next 1 – 3 years? Put your notions in the Comments section to help us all see clearly.


Now, a Long Term Ramifications Mini-Feature

There’s something about we human beings that, whatever the issue, we typically don’t really get it until it’s relatable to us personally.

So it was for Pharaoh enduring the plagues, Exodus tells us. He wasn’t motivated until the 10th plague, the slaying of the firstborn, which took his own son. Then it was personal enough for him. That’s when he got it.

That same inability to get it without feeling a personal impact is with us today.

Mark and Heaven Frilot of Kenner, LA weren’t much moved by claims from our medical community of the coming and rapidly spreading pandemic and many in their town scoffed at warnings, believing them to be just political ploy. They did that right up to the moment when Mark wound up in the hospital and was diagnosed with COVID-19. He hasn’t been able to breathe on his own since then and friends and colleagues are wondering if contact with him has caused them to be infected. Heaven and her neighbors aren’t scoffing at the virus now, but it had to come up close and personal for them to really get it.

As the author of the report about Mark and Heaven Frilot writes, “Crises are political only until they are personal.” And people scoffing and refusing to believe the experts until they themselves are touched by this disease will inevitably be cavalier or worse about transmission. Their flip disregard will make it spread faster and farther. This age of disbelief in science, learning, experts and provable fact is fertile ground for enormous suffering and unnecessary death. And that’s a very long term ramification.

You can  read the full story about the Frilots here.

* From Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889):

“Words realize nothing, vivify nothing to you, unless you have suffered in your own person the thing which the words try to describe.”


Finally, from the “I wish I were making this up” file  .  .  .

At his press conference on Monday, March 23 President Trump explained that George Washington kept two desks and implied that one was used to run his personal business, the other for Presidential duties. He compared himself to Washington and whined that nobody complained about what Washington did.

Then he reminded everyone for the umpteenth time that he has refused the presidential salary and whined yet again that no one has thanked him for doing that.

In other words, in a time of worldwide sickness and death and economic hardship, a time of disruption and fear when all in this nation are looking for leadership, someone to trust to have their welfare in his heart, someone with clarity to lead us out of this darkness, instead it’s all about Trump and how he’s a poor victim.

Yes, many of our governors and mayors are stepping up and providing wonderful leadership, but there are some things only the federal government can do. We need reason to have confidence that they’re being done to the very best of our ability as a nation. We’re still looking for that.

Leadership is a peculiar thing and it’s most necessary in times of crisis. If it doesn’t show up soon, what are the long term ramifications of that?


P.S. #1 – Read Elizabeth Warren’s requirements for the proposed government bailout. Then see P.S. #2.

P.S. #2 – From the “How Does This Make Sense?” file: Does it make any sense to you that Congress is preparing to spend $2 TRILLION of our money – I mean yours and mine – without so much as a single public hearing or floor debate? That everything is being done in secret? That 80% of Americans don’t trust or approve of the job performance of the very people working in dark corners to spend us into unfathomable debt? What are the long term ramifications of that?

P.S. #3 – How ’bout something to make you smile? In this time of great stress, watch this. It will brighten your day. Many thanks to JA for the tip. And for sure listen to Neil Diamond sing Sweet Caroline, adjusted for our current circumstances. You supply the descending “bum-bum-bum”.

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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.

Brats and Beer


Reading time – 1:47  .  .  .

On March 8 I gave a heads up about what we can expect from Republicans in the upcoming general election campaign. I wrote,

The Democratic nominee can expect filth, lies, false associations, fear mongering, muck making, more lies, voter suppression, plus nonstop lies.

And it has already begun.

Do you remember the six (yes, SIX!) House investigations of Hillary Clinton over the Benghazi incident? And the other four? We wasted millions of dollars investigating an evil Republican fantasy. Every one of those gratuitous hearings found Hillary guilty of nothing – NOTHING! What the dishonest Republicans managed to do was to keep a very sad incident before the public for years, sliming Clinton with implied guilt. We don’t know if or how many voters were turned against Clinton by that wretched performance of deceit, but the Republicans are doing it again.

Ron Johnson (R-WI) is the Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has been investigating Joe and Hunter Biden and their connections to Ukraine for months. They have been doing that in spite of the fact that the proper agencies have investigated and found absolutely nothing untoward was done by either Biden – NOTHING! But the Republican smear campaign is already rolling and in high gear.

What is clear as can be is that the Republican toadies for Trump want to keep the Biden-Ukraine connection in the public eye until, say, November 4 with the goal of smearing Joe Biden as they did Hillary. As abhorrent as that is, there is good news embedded in it.

Ron Johnson is running for re-election this fall. The good people of Wisconsin don’t like dishonesty and are already less than crazy about him (approval rating of 28%). They may very well send him packing. In Wisconsin, after all, they know when the beer has gone flat and the bratwurst is rotten.

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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.

Trump’s Folly v2.0


Reading time – 2:37  .  .  .

In the chaos of Trump’s attempt to instigate war with Iran, we’re left with contradictions and confusion. Trump and his people continue to offer crazy non-justifications for the assassinations and they further spin mayhem.

For example, a Marine Corps. General wrote a letter to the Iraqi government declaring our upcoming exit from that country. Then the Trump mouthpieces and the Pentagon unwound that. They just can’t get their story straight. Pundits have repeatedly declared that the Trump administration doesn’t have its act together. I think that’s wrong.

I think an act is all they have together. It’s international bumbling by treating foreign relations as a reality TV show. It’s everything as a transaction and never having a strategy or clarity about lasting goals. It’s vacuous chest thumping and braying of non-truth as though just saying something would make it so. That act is all they have and they have that together all the time.

It’s substance that they don’t have together. Every day they show the world that they aren’t even close to a path of substance. It’s pretending to be powerful instead of actually being powerful.

Trump instigated tit-for-tat attacks on Iran. Iran said they wouldn’t pursue more strikes if the U.S. did not retaliate for their ballistic missile attacks, which harmed nobody and damaged nothing. That’s Iran dictating terms to Mr. Tough Guy, who always has to hit back harder and hit last. Trump can’t allow himself to appear to be controlled by Iran, so he made an address that was as bellicose as possible and made it sound like Iran had caved. He repeated several lies about President Obama, too, most notably claiming Obama give Iran the money to build a bomb.

As is Trump’s standard, he performed self-puffery and generally tried to sound like the meanest S.O.B. in town. He even jammed the stage with military people wearing all their medals. It was a very Tough Guy visual. But not even Congress is convinced this was anything but a brainless episode, even after a long overdue briefing.

In fact, Mike Lee (R-UT) called it the worst military briefing he had heard in 9 years. He was greatly and appropriately offended over being told not to debate or question the administration’s handling of Iran. Even Rand Paul (R-KY) ripped the briefing. It was reported that when the questions became difficult, the briefers walked out.

So, we still don’t have justification for the assassination of Suleimani – nobody does – other than that he was a bad guy. We’ve known that for decades and took no action against him for obvious reasons. Why was it necessary to do such a provocative thing just now?

The timing  can be explained by Trump needing to distract from his impeachment. This whole thing is a Trumpian bag of self-serving lunacy. And there might be even more to it.

Vladimir Putin just happens to be in the middle-east right now. This is the perfect time for him to step in and be the peacemaker, the statesman. That will solidify Russia’s power and influence in the region and will essentially eliminate America’s.

The tail is now fully wagging the dog and we ask again, why does everything lead back to Putin?


PS – This morning Joe Scarborough went off on Trump over his taking off 1 of every 3 days during his presidency to play golf at his resorts at taxpayer expense and promoting his properties in the process. Would that such a topic were what’s most important now .  .  .

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

Trump’s Folly


Reading time – 3:23  .  .  .

With impeachment on his doorstep driving further mental instability, Trump needs a new and powerful distraction. That’s paired with his need to appear to be the always-wins tough guy. That’s a very dangerous combination.

I have warned about Trump doing a “wag the dog” (here, here, here and elsewhere) in order to help ensure his reelection. After all, there’s nothing like war to get Americans to forget about a current scandal and to line up in support of a leader, regardless of how wrong-headed he is. Think: George W. Bush and his war in Iraq. And his war in Afghanistan, where the goal posts kept getting moved further away.

Now in a major act of chest thumping, Trump has assassinated Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani and killed others, too. These aren’t just acts of war, but are face slaps to the Iranians as well, and Iran is vowing retaliation. When they act, Trump is sure to hit back harder and draw us ever deeper into a prolonged conflict.

Recall the Powell Doctrine, forged from lessons learned from the pain of the war in Vietnam. According to Secretary (formerly General) Colin Powell, all of these questions must be answered in the affirmative before military action is taken:

  1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  7. Is the action supported by the American people?
  8. Do we have genuine broad international support?

Decide for yourself if you think we have eight YES answers for dealing with Iran by using our military power. I count only one.

Don’t imagine that this conflict with Iran won’t eventually include the use of nuclear weapons, because Trump has threatened to use them repeatedly. He will claim that nukes are required in order to stop Iran from building its own nuclear bombs. These are the very bombs Iran was not building before Trump pulled the U.S. out of the JCPOA (the “Iran nuclear deal”) and the very ones Iran has vowed to resume building now that we’ve killed Suleimani. He will tell us that Iran plans to use their nuclear bombs on New York and in the “heartland” or some other allusion to Trump country.

After we nuke Iran, you don’t suppose that Iranian survivors will want revenge, do you? Or that they would use a bomb on us if they had one?  Or that we might become the world’s most reviled nation?

Meanwhile, in the face of the Suleimani assassination and the conflict escalation it promises, Congress has yet again fallen pitifully into its standard partisan divide that is self-neutering. There is no bi-partisan movement to re-assert Congressional control of war making and stop executive branch overreach. There is no adult in the aggregate of the Capitol building.

He was always an extreme bad guy, but there were solid reasons why neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama assassinated Suleimani. Those facts haven’t changed, but Trump, in his standard transactional behavior, pulled the trigger. Having done that won’t stop or even slow any planned attacks by Iranian surrogates, because if these plans exist, they’re already in progress. Neither will it interfere with Iranian military hierarchy, as Suleimani was replaced within a day. What it has done is to change the focus in this country from impeachment to hostilities in the middle-east. Wag the dog.

There are millions of Americans, especially Evangelicals, looking forward to Armageddon. Trump’s wag the dog folly could get them there – and all the rest of us, too.

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

Hitting Back


Reading time – 3:12  .  .  .

From the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. carried out airstrikes against an Iranian-backed Shiite militia group in Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon said the strikes targeted three of the Kataib Hezbollah militia’s locations in Iraq and two in Syria, and were in response to an attack on Friday in which more than 30 rockets were fired at an Iraqi military base near Kirkuk. That incident killed a U.S. contractor and wounded four U.S. troops.

We all get that: they hit us, so we hit back. We’ve known that dynamic and that it’s okay since we were little kids. It’s Human Being 101. Everybody thinks themselves an innocent victim and therefore justified in”hitting back.” But when I read that piece I couldn’t help but wonder about the predictability of the consequences and whether there might be better ways.

History consistently shows us that “hit back” behavior frequently leads to escalated “hit back” from the other side. After all, in their eyes their initial hitting wasn’t the beginning, but, rather, a “hit back” for some slight or wrong they believe was visited upon them. We’ve seen this movie before and we know how it ends. And we know that it always starts again.

Diplomacy has been our primary tool to avoid violent conflict and it has worked quite well countless times. However, right now we’re a bit limited in what we can do in this realm, as our State Department has been gutted of many of its most senior and capable people by the present administration. That’s compounded by a president who is incapable of thinking strategically and who dismisses anything that isn’t some international version of children fighting on the playground. He’s even played “I dare you” over nuclear weapons. That doesn’t sound like a good way to resolve conflict.

So, we’re hamstrung by the human desire to hit back, the lack of alternative critical resources and a leader whose tool bag contains only the knee-jerk reaction to punch others in the nose harder.

We could hope for Congressional action to limit the administration’s war powers, but that’s unlikely in our present political environment. We can just wait for the election in November and then vote cooler heads to both the White House and to Congress, but they won’t have any power for over a year. That’s a lot of time for a tantrum prone president to cause a lot of violence, this as he’s spurred Iran to crank up its atomic bomb manufacturing and North Korea is set to test its intercontinental ballistic missiles to show the world what tough guys they are.

I don’t think escalating war technology will allow us both to continue “hit back” behavior and to survive. We need some better answers right now.

Finally,

Have a look at what contributing opinion writer Kent Greenfield, writing for the Louisville Courier Journal, has to say about Sen. Mitch McConnell and the upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate. Give consideration to how McConnell’s declarations about that process might impact his re-election and overall control of the Senate in 2021. Bear in mind that McConnell is the manipulator who blocked the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in order to spite President Obama and to bend the court further to the right. That and his present promise to violate his oaths and much more are what has powered McConnell past Ted Cruz to be the country’s most disliked senator. That’s quite an accomplishment.

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Ed. note: We need 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.

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.

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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.

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.

Against Their Own Interest – and Syria Stupidity


Reading time – 3:47  .  .  .

A lot of barrels of ink have been emptied in an effort to explain why some American voters – largely rural people – consistently vote against their own interests. This predates Donald Trump, although he has been a beneficiary of it and has exploited it masterfully. My understanding of what appears to be a key driver of self-destructive behavior has largely been focused on the betrayal so many Americans feel. It’s borne of the obvious abandoning of promises made to them by various levels of government officials, especially those in our federal government.

Do you remember all those years of John Boehner, then Speaker of the House, declaring that the number one priority was, “Jobs, jobs, jobs”? The only bill passed to create more jobs while he was speaker was specifically for military veterans, and Boehner had to be shamed into passing that. Where did that leave the rest of our forgotten Americans?

They feel used for their tax money and abused by the system, so they’re angry. They’re naturally attracted to the angriest voice with the simplest solutions. They fear “others” who may be as far away as another country or as near as the closest big city.

And they don’t like immigrants, fearing they’re here to freeload off our public assistance programs. There are yet other ways Trump voters feel ripped off, because they don’t get a benefit from government programs – or at least they don’t believe that they do. Turns out, not surprisingly, that their disaffection is more elaborate than that.

Monica Potts wrote a stunning piece in the New York Times entitled “In the Land of Self-Defeat“. If you’ve ever puzzled over why people do what looks to you to be self-destructive, you’ll want to read this piece.  Potts quotes Katherine J. Cramer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin – Madison:

“The way these folks described the world to me, their basic concern was that people like them, in places like theirs, were overlooked and disrespected,” she wrote in Vox, explaining that her subjects considered ‘racial minorities on welfare’ as well as ‘lazy urban professionals’ working desk jobs to be undeserving of state and federal dollars. People like my neighbors hate that the government is spending money on those who don’t look like them and don’t live like them — but what I’ve learned since I came home is that they remain opposed even when they themselves stand to benefit.”

These folks have a “prevailing sense of scarcity,” so spending tax dollars on what to them are non-essentials is craziness. Indeed, Potts’ article was triggered by a hotly contested county issue about a proposed pay increase for a new librarian to $25 per hour. It was defeated. These folks contract their view to a very individual focus – you might call it extreme libertarian – which leaves them wondering why they should pay for that librarian if they and their family aren’t going to use the library.

The comments about immigrants particularly caught my attention and left me with a stark clarity that I’ve had for a long time: Too many of us have forgotten where we came from. By that I mean our immigrant forebears – our grandparents or great-grandparents who came here penniless and unable to understand English. We’ve forgotten their struggles and don’t seem able to glue our ignored past onto the plight of today’s refugees.

And another thing  .  .  .

Many thanks to S.S. for pointing to the tweet. Click the pic

Eliminating ISIS (or ISIL) has largely been accomplished except for a couple of strongholds in northern Syria. It has been done with American money and technology and Kurdish blood and lives.

As of this writing, President Trump has pulled all of our troops out of Syria. The decision was made following only a single phone call with President Erdoğan of Turkey. He didn’t consult with anyone who actually knows something about the situation in Syria. And he made the decision with no consideration of the likely outcomes of U.S. withdrawal.

The Turks hate our allies, the Kurds, and see them as their blood enemy. The U.S. pulling out of Syria will leave the Kurds without protection against the modern army and air power of the Turks, who will almost certainly swoop in and slaughter the Kurds – it’s already begun. And it will leave Syria firmly in the hands of our adversaries, Russia and Iran, and ISIS will be free to rebuild.

Have you noticed how many things Trump does that help Putin and Russia and simultaneously hurt our friends and allies?

This is so bad that even Republicans in Congress are pushing back. It’s a shame that they’re so late in finding their backbones.

————————————

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.

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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.

2020 Presidential Debate


Reading time – 3:39  .  .  .

Transcript of Presidential Debate, October 6, 2020

Anderson Cooper:

Mr. President, to pick just one issue, in the summer of 2019 you claimed that Alabama was at risk of a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian, when your own National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center had made it clear days earlier that the hurricane would travel north along the Atlantic coast and wouldn’t come anywhere near Alabama. Why did you warn Alabamans to take shelter from a hurricane that was not going to arrive? And who drew that obviously forged Sharpie bubble onto a National Weather Service map?

President Trump:

You’re wrong as usual, Anderson. Wrong. That’s just more fake news, fake news, everybody. CNN should lose its license because of all the fake news you spread. You and the rest of the fake news are the enemy of the American people. The enemy. Fake news. There it is for everyone to see, folks. Fake news.

The people of Alabama were at severe risk, so I bravely stepped up for them. I protected my people. I’m a hero. There was a severe risk. The National Weather Service said so. They made the Birmingham office apologize and say I was right. You ought to report on that, Anderson, instead of the fake news you tell people. You’re fake news, Anderson. Fake news. And I’m a hero.

AC

Senator Warren, you have 30 seconds for your rebuttal.

Senator Warren:

Well, that’s a perfect example of the president saying things that aren’t just false. but are easily disproven. That raises the key question of this election.

Mr. President, for you to repeatedly say things that are so obviously false leaves us with only two possible explanations:

  1. You are not just ignorant, but willfully so. And in your not knowing, you haven’t the sense to keep your mouth shut. Or,
  2. You know the truth but speak contrary to it. That is to say, you lie.

Which is it, Mr. President? Please tell the American people: are you ignorant or are you a liar?

DT

Well, there you go, Pocahontas, speaking with a forked tongue. Everyone knows you’re not trustworthy, not at all trustworthy. You’re just like Hillary. Just like Hillary. She’s untrustworthy and you’re just like her. Untrustworthy.

And you’re a socialist. We’re Americans, but you’re a socialist. You’re not even a true American. You’re not like us. You’re a socialist.

People are saying – I’m hearing this every day – people are saying that you lied your way into Harvard. That you  lied. And you told American business people that they didn’t build their businesses, that those hard working business people didn’t build their businesses. Who built their businesses, you? I don’t think so. I don’t think so at all. You’re against everything American. You just aren’t American. People are saying this.

And you’d be a disaster dealing with Kim Jung Un, this I can tell you. This I can tell you. A disaster.

AC

Senator Warren, you may respond.

EW

I have to admit that with your reply to my question, Mr. President, you’ve shown us a 3rd and even a 4th possible explanation for you saying so many thousands of false things. Number 3 is that you’re an imbecile. Number 4 is that you are mentally deranged, a psychopath.

You didn’t answer my question, so let’s try this once again. We now have 4 possible explanations for your thousands of false statements. Which one explains your dishonesty, Mr. President? Are you ignorant, a liar, an imbecile or a psychopath?

AC

Mr. President would you care to respond to Senator Warren?

DT

You know, Pocahontas likes to get people to think that she’s some kind of genius, but she’s no genius. No genius. She’s not even smart. She’s not a smart person.

The economy is great. It’s just great. People have jobs. Lots of jobs. So many jobs that people are sick of jobs. Manufacturing jobs are coming back to the U.S. and my tariffs have brought China to its knees. That’s how powerful I am. I’m a very powerful person. And I still have a great relationship with President Xi – he likes me very much. He called me twice yesterday. Twice. We have a great relationship. He likes me very much.

The stock market is at record highs. But she doesn’t understand that. She’s not too smart. Record highs. I told you I’m a genius and now you see it. I’m so smart – I’m a genius. She’s not too smart. This I can tell you.

If she becomes president we’ll still be at war in 2024 because she can’t stand up to the Taliban. She’s not a strong person. And she doesn’t know a thing about how to negotiate. I’m the most powerful negotiator. That’s why I’m the chosen one to deal with these things. I’m very powerful. She’s not strong. She’s very weak. I’m very powerful. I’m the best negotiator.

EW

This is absolutely googly-eye crazy.

Unemployment is up 1.5% over the past 12 months, the Dow is down 17% and not even one manufacturing job has been repatriated to the U.S. Because of your tariffs our family farms have gone bankrupt at a rate not seen since the Great Depression. You’ve ruined our economy, you’ve hurt hard working Americans and your cruelty to people seeking asylum has shattered our credibility around the world. No amount of fantasy from you will change these facts.

Your negotiations with the leaders of the most dangerous nations on Earth have given them status and power they couldn’t have gained any other way, while we in the United States have gained nothing. You get photo-ops with tyrants and the United States is left in danger.

And nobody cares whether President Xi likes you.

Nobody likes being lied to, either, so please tell the American people why you tell them so many false things.

DT

I’m not even going to talk to you. These things are things you can’t understand. Maybe you would if you were a smart person, but you’re not smart. Not smart at all. I’m a genius and you’re not even smart.

Maybe you’d get it if you were a deal maker, a great negotiator like me, but you’re not. You’re not. There’s no point explaining things to you. You’d be a disaster as president. A disaster. Imagine her dealing with the Iranians or even Justin Trudeau. She’d be a disaster. This I can tell you. This I can tell you.

EW

I’m not even going to talk to you“? Is that how you deal with leaders of nations? With the heads of the Cabinet? Is that how you work with Congressional leaders to deal with the challenges and opportunities America faces? “I’m not even going to talk to you“?

Gotta admit that, what with your refusal to meet with Robert Mueller and your illegal stonewalling of Congressional subpoenas, you did deal with Mueller and the House Judiciary Committee that way. What’s next, threatening to hold your breath until you turn blue?

AC

We’re going to break. When we return we’ll look at what to do about the tens of thousands of refugees from Central America still at our southern border and the thousands of children still locked up.

DT

She’d be a disaster. This I can tell you. And CNN is fake news. Enemy of the people. Fake news. People are saying that only I can lead this nation. People are saying that. And it’s true. This I can tell you: only I can make America great again.

EW

OMG

Finally,

Saudi oil fields were attacked by cruise missiles and the U.S. administration has claimed that the missiles came from Iran. The president and vice president have used words like “locked and loaded” and made other threatening statements toward Iran in reaction to the attack. Here’s the question.

The Saudis have the largest military in the middle-east and are quite capable of taking whatever retaliatory action they deem necessary. The United States has not been attacked. So, why is the Trump administration threatening retaliatory military action against Iran?

 

————————————

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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