Global Warming

I Really Need Your Help With This


Reading time – 3:49  .  .  .

My pal John Calia (find him here) describes himself as a libertarian. Because I’m a progressive we have lots to talk about and frequently do so. Last week we had an email exchange that eventually reached the shoulder shrug point because even together we were unable to find much in the way of solid answers.

This series of exchanges was sparked by an essay in The New York Times that took a look at what it is that causes voters the most heartburn about Donald Trump. Public polling shows that his persona, separate from his policies, is a huge source of angst.

Okay, nothing new there, as this issue deftly crosses our political divide. But the comparison itself set me to asking the key question: What are Trump’s policies? Let’s start with an historical benchmark.

During the Cold War the foreign policy of all presidents included Soviet/communist containment, and the expansion of democracy. With hindsight we can pick apart the successes & failures and the value of those policies and the strategies that supported them, but the intent was always clear. Agree or disagree with it, that’s what policy looks like.

As I crafted my list of Trump policies it quickly became clear that what I was able to name was a list of Trump actions. What wasn’t clear was any identifiable policy behind them. Here are some examples.

Two of the first things Trump did upon assuming office was to pull us out of both the Paris Climate Accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Those are not policies; they are actions. What is the foreign policy those actions support? What is his policy on climate warming?

He took us out of the JCPOA – the Iran deal. Iran was in full compliance with the agreement at the time. After Trump took the U.S. out of the deal, Iran promptly restarted its uranium enrichment program, exactly what the JCPOA had stopped. Since then he has levied new sanctions, has pressured allies to institute snap-back sanctions and talked very tough against Iran. Again, these are all actions, but I’m hard pressed to identify the policy they serve.

He boasted he would “drain the swamp,” but has installed mostly swamp creatures in his Cabinet; i.e., industry moguls, insiders and lobbyists in charge of their own industry. What’s the policy?

He talks tough about law and order and has sent federal troops to attack protesters in, for example, Portland, OR. But apparently the protests and white supremacist violence in Charlottesville were okay – no troops were sent there. Plus he praised the 17 year old vigilante who killed 2 protesters and injured a third in Kenosha. What is his law and order policy?

He has dramatically reduced legal immigration but used 5 immigrants as props in a new citizenship ceremony on the second night of the RNC show and did so without their consent. In speaking about immigration he has excoriated “sh#t-hole” countries and called for more immigration from Norway. What is his policy on immigration?

He has tried multiple times to ban all Muslims from entering the country. What is his policy on freedom of religion?

His actions regarding China are schizophrenic. What is his China policy?

He gave Kim Jong-un international standing by meeting with him and then claimed a great victory for the U.S., saying he had negotiated the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Regardless, there has been no change in North Korea’s behavior, nor a disposal of its nuclear arsenal or its missiles, despite Trump’s claim the he and Kim “fell in love.” What is Trump’s policy regarding North Korea?

Roughly 80% of terrorist acts in the U.S. are done by white supremacists. Trump never addresses that, but does rail about MS-13, ISIS and Muslim/Islamist terrorists. What is his policy regarding terrorism in the U.S.?

Trump is once again challenging the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) in order to eliminate it. He promised during the 2016 campaign and afterward that he would replace it with a program that is both farther reaching and less expensive, yet four years later has literally nothing to offer in the way of a replacement. What is his healthcare policy? To be fair, in all 10 years since 2010 when the act was passed the Republicans chanted and promised “remove and replace,” yet never offered any replacement, so it appears their policy on healthcare was limited to “Repeal Obamacare.”

I truly cannot answer my own questions and my pal John is pretty well challenged to name policy, too.

As I made my list I tried valiantly to avoid judgment and snark and must confess I didn’t do well with that.  Nevertheless, I continue to want clarity about policy. Not presidential flamboyant statements, not tough guy posturing, but actual national policy, so I turn to you.

Please post your notions in the Comments section about any Trump policy that seems clear to you. I’m after coherent statements, something that might be on a screen at the front of the Situation Room and on a flip chart in the Oval Office to keep everyone clear and focused.

What are Trump’s national policies?

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Speaking of policy, if Joe Biden wins he’ll be wise to follow some of the FDR policy advice as explained in a recent David Brooks piece. The loud voices on the left want a revolution, but most Americans want something that goes down a bit easier.

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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.

Biden’s To-Do List – The Short Form


Mom said, “When someone does something nice for you, say. “THANK YOU!” – this time to Dr. Fauci. This is Sheila Markin’s idea. Click here for her posts.

Reading time – 2:52  .  .  .

This list of President Joe Biden’s To-Dos starting in the afternoon of January 20, 2021 is offered in no particular order of importance except for the COVID-19 section, which is urgent. Be clear that these items are solely about recovering from Trump destruction. The obvious point here is that this is only a partial list. Please provide your additions in the Comments section below.

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Provide strong, clear leadership for scientific, tough minded practices to deal with the pandemic and end it:

– Restore public faith and confidence in national leadership by consistently telling the public the truth. No denials of reality, no anti-science fantasies, no demonizing of those with differing views.

– Fully fund nationwide testing and contact tracing and authorize lock downs where they are needed.

– Restore full status to the CDC.

– Restore funding for the WHO.

– Provide dependable financial support for workers displaced by the pandemic. No more leaving Americans on the brink of disaster because action was delayed by Congress and the president until the last second.

– Apologize to Dr. Anthony Fauci and the people of the CDC.

– Provide funding for schools to create and fully implement the dramatic evolution in teaching made necessary by COVID-19.

– Create childcare for children of working parents for whom school was their resource before COVID-19.

– Restore COVID-19 funding to public schools from the private schools to which it was diverted by Betsy DeVos.

Rejoin JCPOA – the Iran no-nuclear agreement – if it can be resurrected.

Withdraw support for Israel to annex West Bank areas.

Call out Saudi Arabia and Mohammed Bin Salman individually for the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Consider sanctions.

Expand Obamacare to cover all Americans.

Restore the full Voting Rights Act.

What could possibly go wrong? Click the pic for the story.

Rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership – “TPP” – so that we don’t cede half the planet to the Chinese.

Start rebuilding infrastructure. Do you remember those “shovel ready” projects Congress refused to fund during the Obama administration? Trump has done none of it.

End the attack on the Postal Service and initiate legislation to remove the 75 year pension funding requirement that hamstrings that service.

Unwind Trump and Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy and create sensible tax reform.

Immediately remove all “acting” officials and replace them with qualified, Senate approved people

Enact laws to prohibit federal “goon squads” from showing up in any state or city unannounced, unrequested, unidentified, unwanted, unconstitutional and unlawful:

– Require all federal policing individuals and vehicles to be fully badged and tagged for easy identification when used for crowd control or for protection of federal property. This is not intended to apply to undercover agents.

– Require federal officers to declare a clear statement of cause when apprehending protesters; e.g., “You’re under arrest for ___________ .”

– Require all federal officers to fully Marandize those they apprehend.

– Prohibit federal policing individuals from all actions other than directly protecting federal property while on federal property.

– Make it mandatory to secure a request and agreement from an appropriate state and/or local official for the deployment of federal personnel and equipment in any state or city for any purpose except when a state and/or city itself is violating the Constitution or acting illegally (Think: Little Rock Central High School in 1957; University of Alabama in 1963).

Biden’s Attorney General action list:

– Prosecute William Barr for whatever comes to mind.

Had to change a couple of words from the original for more accurate labeling. Many thanks to AR for the pic.

– Investigate all Trump Department heads, including Betsy DeVos, Sonny Purdue and all the rest for featherbedding and other illegal behavior.

– Indict Trump for his obvious criminal behavior, including many violations of the Emoluments clause, extortion in the Ukraine scandal, multiple counts of obstruction of justice, abuse of power and all the rest.

– Prosecute everyone responsible for the actions of the federal “goon squads,” actions that include kidnapping, beating, shooting, tear gassing and flash banging peaceful protesters in Washington DC and in Portland, OR.

– Review Trump’s commutation of the sentence of Roger Stone for illegality, specifically because the commutation was part of covering up Trump’s illegal behavior. Restore punishment for Stone if possible.

Review Trump’s federal judge appointments for conflicts, ineptitude and anything else that can be used to remove those who don’t belong. This is solely about bad appointments, not their political views.

Create law that will prohibit a future Attorney General from becoming the president’s Roy Cohn; i.e. the president’s attorney instead of ours.

Remove the conspiracy theorists from top positions in the Pentagon.

Challenge the DOJ memo claiming that a sitting president can’t be prosecuted for crimes while in office.

Apologize to our 16 intelligence agencies for 4 years of Trump’s insults, undermining, devaluing and for his jamming unqualified cronies into positions of power in these organizations.

Remove all former lobbyists from the Executive Branch and create law that prohibits former lobbyists from participating in any part of government where the industry they lobbied for is involved.

Replace the Trump/Barr suck up district attorneys and set these offices free to prosecute Giuliani, Lev & Igor, Trump family members and, of course, Trump himself.

Undo foreign policy unforced errors, including:

– Mend fences with allies, including NATO member nations, South Korea, Australia, Israel, Mexico – who else?

– Apologize to Angela Merkel, Justin Trudeau, Emmanuel Macron, the Kurds, Volodomyr Zelensky and the leaders and the people of all the “shit hole countries” for Trump’s insults, rudeness and harm.

– Apologize to Duško Marković, former President of Montenegro, for Trump shoving him aside for a NATO photo op in 2017.

– Apologize to our present and former State Department professionals, including Lt. Col. Vindman, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, Dr. Fiona Hill, Gordon Sondland, Mr. Kent, Ambassador William Taylor, and all those who put their careers on the line to tell the truth at the impeachment hearings. Honor them publicly.

– Give a firm, face-planted stiff arm to Xi, Duerte, Putin, Erdoğan and Kim. Make our opposition to their tyranny clear.

– Rebuild our Department of State. Lure back the wonderful people who were forced out or quit out of conscience. Trump’s actions are a George W. Bush déjà vu nightmare and they harm us internationally.

– Examine support for the Kurds and do what must be done to reverse our betrayal of this ally.

Restore Lt. Col. Vindman to active status, rank and post if he desires it. Restore his brother to his former post if he desires it.

Levy stronger and more painful sanctions on Russia for invading the Ukraine, their meddling in our 2016 election, their 2020 election meddling, attempting to steal vaccine research and offering/paying bounties to Taliban fighters to kill Americans.

Create and quickly implement a U.S. war on climate warming:

– Rejoin the Paris Climate Accord.

– Join the international agreement to combat deforestation.

– Establish federal incentives for installation of renewable energy.

– Establish federal incentives for clean energy innovation.

– Establish a path for re-education of coal miners – no, they won’t all become coders. Then end the use of “beautiful, clean” coal for energy production.

– Establish emission control policies, such as fuel mileage requirements.

Lead fundamental police policy change.

Install Supreme Court Justices who aren’t conservative – create balance.

Formalize the elimination of state sponsored voter suppression. Reverse the abuses of the past.

Create gun law reform, like 100% background checks and limits on the size of personal arsenals. Make illegal high capacity magazines, assault weapons and bump stocks and repeal the right of concealed carry, etc. These measures are overwhelmingly supported by the American people.

Do comprehensive immigration reform – finally!

– Enshrine DACA into law so that the next Republican hate monger can’t undo it with an Executive Order.

What’s missing? Post your notions in the Comments section below.

– Open our system for prompt handling of asylum seekers.

– Reunite detained immigrant children and parents and close the concentration camps.

– Establish clear criteria for immigrating into the U.S. that is actually Constitutional.

Many thanks to brother Mike for starting this discussion.

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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.

Brutal – By The Numbers


Reading time – 3:50; Viewing time – 4:55  .  .  .

I’ve long believed that the hope for the world is our young people. Here are two reasons why I see things that way:

  1. We adults have made the terrible messes we’re in and we steadfastly refuse to do anything to make things better.
  2. Our young people won’t stand for our self-destruction and hypocrisy.

Sure, they’re idealistic, just like you and I used to be – remember? Then life intervened and we started making compromises. We all do. Now we’re at the point where the majority of us tolerate non-stop lying and cheating and stealing. Some of us wring hands over that, but a majority of our citizens and, indeed, a majority of the world, sits in stupefyingly dull states of semi-consciousness, our vision sorely compromised by the complex mess we’ve created. We act as though consequences don’t exist, as though what has been will always be and even as though that would be okay – it wouldn’t be – and as though there is no price for ignoring the startlingly obvious threatening realities all around us.

But our young people aren’t mired in the goo we’ve used to blind ourselves. They see perfectly and clearly what is all around us and they won’t tolerate it. Here are just two examples:

  1. The Parkland kids stood up and called B.S. They continue to push for Never Again and are driving the decades overdue overhaul of our murderous assumptions about gun rights and to push for legislation to begin to stop our free flow of blood.
  2. You saw the beginning of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg’s quest to reverse global warming. She started by sailing to America instead of riding in a fossil fueled airplane. Then she addressed the United Nations and spoke the outrage her generation feels for what we older people have done to their future: “HOW DARE YOU?” she demanded.

These people won’t be denied and they shouldn’t be, because they are going to live – or die – with the consequences we dump on them and they’ll suffer much longer than those of us now raiding the planet for short term gain and those of us who blunder along, oblivious to the realities of the climate changes and the gun massacres that threaten us every day.

To be clear and fair, two generations ago we boomers were like today’s young people. We made “the establishment” end the war in Vietnam, abolish the military draft and lower the voting age to 18. Then we became what we are now, an obstacle to meeting our existential challenges.

This is brutal talk – I get that. But our condition is increasingly brutal and we can’t afford more exercises in self-sabotage. So, I’ll tell you what we need to do in a simple 3-step formula:

  1. Identify and work for candidates for all elective offices who think young, act young and aren’t burdened by self-destructive legacy mindsets, because we can’t solve 21st century problems with 19th and 20th century thinking.
  2. Vote for those candidates. And make sure others do, too – your buds, your family, your FaceBook friends, co-workers, casual acquaintances, people sharing the elevator with you, the cashier at the supermarket, the dog walkers, bicycle riders, joggers, walkers and shufflers in your neighborhood – make sure all of them vote for these right-thinking candidates.
  3. Once they’re in office, dog their tracks to ensure they’re doing what we need them to do. No back-sliding. No wimping out. This is no time for cowardice.

Does that sound like a lot of work? Well, citizenship is work. But what is at stake is survival. Don’t believe me?

  1. Ask any of the survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School, or the Tree of Life Synagogue, or the Gilroy Garlic Festival, or Columbine High School, or the Orlando night club, or Sandy Hook Elementary School, or Gabby Giffords.
  2. Ask the people living in the squalor of what’s left of the Bahamas or, for that matter, Puerto Rico, or the survivors of the Thousand Oaks fires, or the people in Houston whose homes are now submarines, or the people in Miami Beach whose streets are flooded even when it’s not high tide.

We are in a fight for survival, and refusing to fight is not an option. And really, a little political action just isn’t all that hard to do.

We can do this. Now, let’s get to work.

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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.

Funding the Wall


Reading time – 3:15; Viewing time – 5:04  .  .  .

In reviewing my posts of the past couple of years I find that there’s a lot of “This ain’t right” stuff and a much smaller offering of “Hey, this is cool!” or “Aren’t we humans oddly interesting?” Sadly, the reason is obvious: the dangerous and harmful Trumpian outrages are all around us and push-back is critical.

So, once again I long for our country to be “re-saned” (no, that’s not a word, but you get it) so that we can get back to being America and stop playing defense against the full time Trumpian assaults on reality. Meanwhile, it’s our duty to attend to these outrages in order to minimize damage. Here’s just one from this past week.

Mark Esper was a vice-president of government relations for Raytheon, a defense contractor. Apparently, being a lobbyist was just the right experience to make him the very best person to be Secretary of Defense under Trump. He brought the lobbying skills he honed at Raytheon to his present gig at the White House in order to be an official Trump Swamp Cootie.

Trump insists on building his useless vanity wall on our southern border, the one we were told that Mexico was going to pay for. Not so strangely, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said, “Nuh-uh” to Trump’s ridiculous demand of payment.

After that Congress also refused to fund his (did I mention?) stupid wall, so Trump declared a state of national emergency in order to undermine Congress. He got Esper to agree to give him $3.6 billion from the Defense Department budget for his wall. The money will come from much needed construction projects for our military, including readiness projects in support of our NATO allies.

Vladimir Putin likes that we’ll be one step behind. That gives him the opportunity to seize yet more eastern European nations. And Putin continues to pursue his nuclear explosion producing, Mach 8 nuclear powered cruise missiles. The complete lack of U.S. push-back means that he faces no international condemnation for the radiation from his exploded folly that’s poisoned the area next to Finland.

If you’d like to see which national defense needs will be abandoned, click here. Be sure to look for the idiotic comments of Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), which he said in support of Trump’s Defense Department thievery, including this contorted gem:

“It is important that Congress now restore the military construction funding diverted for border security. Failing to do so only forces our troops to pay for political discord in Washington.”

It may have hurt your brain to read that. That’s because it’s bat-shit crazy.

Trump also is diverting emergency funds from FEMA in order to build his purposeless wall. He’s specifically withholding disaster relief from Puerto Rico, which hasn’t recovered from Hurricane Maria two years ago, largely because – wait for it – Trump has withheld about 80% of the funds that Congress allocated for disaster relief for those people.

As of this writing the southeast coast of the U.S. is taking a pummeling from Hurricane Dorian following the devastation it caused to the Bahama Islands. The Bahamians endured almost two days of cat 5 winds – over 185 miles per hour – torrential rain and hurricane ocean storm surges.

In addition to the Puerto Rico money he plans to steal, Trump is going to further deplete FEMA in order to fund his vanity wall, making relief and recovery for those were hurt worst anywhere from difficult to impossible. We might have enough left in FEMA’s piggy bank for the Carolinas. As for the Bahamians and Puerto Ricans, I’m sure those people can wait until next fiscal year for funding to help them. Just tell the Bahamians to take a number and get in line behind the Puerto Ricans. It’s really no problem, because most of those people aren’t from Norway, anyway.

Sarcasm aside, Trump is preparing to build 175 miles of unneeded wall by sacrificing desperate hurricane survivors, NATO, our 3-branch governmental structure, national defense, our military people and world order. This isn’t just more of his stupid lies. We can ignore what he says, even his idiotic Sharpie-modified hurricane map. But we better pay attention to what he does, because he is intent upon assaulting American values, our safety and our democracy itself.

That’s why we pay attention to his outrages.

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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.

Vision


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have two essays for you that speak to that.

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

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

Back to the Apollo program.

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

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

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

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


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


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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 


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

Guest Essay – The Real Reason


Reading time – 4:35  .  .  .

Reader Dan Wallace has an insightful take on our American condition that is happily devoid of the hystrionics, name calling and partisan posturing of many. He offered it as a comment to my Hoping for Clarity From Sunday Times Readers post, but it was likely missed by many. His views are too important to be missed, so his essay is presented here. Read it and nod affirmatively and enthusiastically. JA


I was not a Trump voter for the reason given below. But it was, and I believe remains, the primary reason not to vote for him.

Simply put, comparing Trump’s publicly visible behavior to the available checklists for psycho/sociopathology, all indications are that he is psychopath, a sociopath, a person experiencing anti-social personality disorder, a malignant narcissist, or something along those lines. The exact term does not matter. That there is something seriously wrong with this guy is obvious and does matter. The right answer for someone like this is to feel sorry for him and to help him if we can, while minimizing the damage he can do. It is not to elect him (or keep him as) President of the United States.

For some reason it is considered unseemly to talk about this. I do not understand why. Choosing not to talk about it is like sitting down to dinner at a table that has a giant moose on it and pretending there’s no moose. There is. Step one in getting rid of the moose is admitting there’s a moose.

The view that there is something seriously wrong with Donald Trump is held by people as diverse as George Conway and Keith Olbermann. Unlike them, I am not a newcomer to it. I was virulently anti-Hillary in 2016. But I argued at the time, and I still do, that given a choice between venal and crazy, the right answer is to put 100 clothespins on your nose and vote for venal because it is at least predictable and is not necessarily oriented toward tyranny. While not all psychopaths become tyrants, all tyrants start as psychopaths.

Every now and then the American people make the mistake of putting into office someone with a severe mental disease or defect. The last time we did that was 1968. It took 6 years, but the institutions ultimately worked and we removed him from office.

We need to do that again, but the stakes are far higher now. We have an enormous division between those who have been left behind by globalization and those who have not. We have not figured out how we as a nation will compete in a truly globalized world. We have enacted policies that have driven the disparity of wealth to the sort of level that provokes insurrection. We have the least efficient healthcare system of any industrialized nation and continue to play the fiddle while it threatens to bankrupt us. In order to avoid dealing with those unpleasant realities, we have given ourselves a false sense of prosperity by fueling our economy with debt, something in which both parties have been equally and joyfully complicit. That accumulated debt is now so large that resolution of it likely will eventually require devaluation of the dollar, which will turn us into something like Greece or Venezuela. Meanwhile, we are experiencing a change in our environment that has the capacity ultimately to threaten the survival of our species (Moose #2).

These are serious issues and we should get about the business of addressing them in a serious way. The solutions will not be simple. There is plenty of demagoguery to go around, on both the left and the right. None of it helps. But one thing we should all be able to agree on: Having a psychopathic buffoon in the White House makes all of this worse, not better.

Addendum

On Wednesday of last week, Trump “met with” a group of about 25 refugees in the Oval Office. Presumably, this was a photo op intended to make him look empathetic. The problem is that it was captured on video, and one thing he clearly is not is empathetic.

The video shows Trump’s interaction with Nadia Murad, a Yazidi refugee who won the 2018 Nobel Peace prize for bringing her horrific story to the world and for fighting to stop the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. Her story includes ISIS raiding her village, killing her mother and six of her brothers, taking her captive, holding her as a sex slave and subjecting her to rape and torture.

The remarkable thing about this video is not Trump’s abject ignorance, unpreparedness and stupidity (after Murad tells him twice that ISIS killed her family, he asks, “So where are they now?” – Yes, really – watch the video.). Rather, it is that the President of the United States can listen to this story and show absolutely no empathy for the human being standing in front of him and for the appalling suffering and loss she experienced. If that lack of empathy doesn’t make someone a psychopath, then what the hell does?


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Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
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This Isn’t About Trump – It’s About What’s Important


Reading time 5:02; Viewing time – 6:59  .  .  .

Trump politicized the Fourth of July.

There were M1A2 Army tanks and Bradley armored vehicles in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

Not content with just stationary vehicles, Trump ordered the military to have airplanes and helicopters pass overhead, saving the Battle Hymn of the Republic to blare over the loudspeakers as the Navy Blue Angles did a fly-by.

The military was there because Trump won’t get his military parade to one-up President Macron of France. Such a massive show of hardware would rip up Pennsylvania Avenue and cost more than he could scam through Congress. And they were there because the violent machines of war make him feel powerful and self-important.

He gave a speech written by others which included concepts he doesn’t understand, interspersed with self-serving grandiosity. He anchored it to the military because his base would thrill to that; but of course that was only a fraud to justify focus on himself.

“It’ll be like no other – it will be special  .  .  . ” Trump had promised of his spectacle. Of course, that turned out to be true – it was like no other. But not in the way he meant. (Just for fun you can review his speech here.)

For this Trump “look-at-me” event using our military for political purposes, only big Republican donors and pols were offered tickets. No Democrats were invited. He refused to disclose how much the event actually cost, but we already know that he robbed $2.5 million from our national parks as partial payment.

And all of that is the problem.

Trump made our national birthday party all about Trump instead of all about America. It is the perfect exemplar of what has happened to our country since the craziness began, as foreign affairs, immigration, trade policies, the wall, threats of war, healthcare, taxation and all the rest are solely about Trump, not about America.

That is why we have to do absolutely everything necessary to get the hands of this dangerous person off the levers of government. Because it’s not supposed to be about Trump; it’s supposed to be about you and me and 320 million of our country-men and -women.

I’m not an “all Democrats all the time” guy. I am a democracy guy full time and it matters that a huge percentage of our democracy has been demolished by this would-be tyrant. It needs to be rebuilt before we lose it all. I’ve written about that in many ways, including how We The People aren’t getting what we want. A part of what submarines rule by the people is a Republican Congress that is dedicated to chest-thumping fictions and obstruction.

The Republican mantra for the last two Democratic presidents – that’s 16 years of government – has been opposition to everything those presidents promoted. That was true regardless of how sensible the policies were and even if Republicans had supported those policies before there was a Democrat in the White House.

That produced hyper-partisan warfare and gridlock. It’s why we don’t have even a plan to rebuild our infrastructure, yet politicians tell us in every election cycle that they’re going to fix it. It’s why we don’t have common sense gun laws, even as over 90% of us demand them. It’s why Roe v. Wade continues to be attacked, while 76% of Americans want it left alone as settled law.

The same is true about healthcare, education, the DACA kids, global warming, Putin’s invasion of America and so many other issues. We aren’t getting what we want and our pride as Americans continues to slip almost entirely due to – let’s call it displeasure – with our politics.

We need to put the building blocks of democracy back in place and the only way to get beyond the Congressional gridlock of the past 30 years is unitary government, at least for a time.

Yes, I know that the very vocal Democrat far left is off-putting to independents and traditional Republicans and even to centrist Democrats. Read Nick Kristoff’s piece for more on that. I suspect that there will be a strong moderating force, should the Dems take over Congress, especially if Nancy Pelosi is in charge of the House. I, for one, will be lobbying for that moderation.

And I will be lobbying for democracy and for for clarity about what We The People want and the best ways to deliver that. Join me now in two ways.

First, support candidates who will create the change you want to see. Right now there’s about an 85% chance they’re Democrats, especially if they’re opposing one of the spineless Republicans who hasn’t the moral courage to stand up to Trump.

I really don’t care if you’ve never voted for a Democrat, because your predisposition to oppose Ds has no place in our teetering democracy.

The second way may appear to be just for fun, but it isn’t.

Read the hat carefully – click the pic for a larger view

Confucius tells us that the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name. We certainly need more wisdom in America right now. If Trump is to be removed from power in 2020 so that we can restore our democracy, we must properly name him with unmistakable clarity so that We The People make sensible choices.

What is the name that captures Trump? Put your notion in the Comments section to help expand our wisdom and make America America again. NOTE: This isn’t about venting; it’s about accurate description.

And this isn’t about Trump. It’s about Independence Day.

BTW – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted a happy Fourth of July message on Thursday morning that included a picture of the Betsy Ross 13-star flag. White supremacist and other hate groups have been using that flag to promote themselves and spread hate, likely because slavery was the law of the land when Ross made that flag. Click through and read McConnell’s tweet; then read the comments below it. They are stunning in their rebuke of him. Indeed, pass along the link to your friends in Kentucky so that they will remove this democracy killing “Grim Reaper” – that’s how he describes himself – from the Senate.

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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.

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

How Did We Get Here? and “The Wag”


Reading time – 3:58; Viewing time – 5:40  .  .  .

  • How did we get to the point:

– where ripping babies from their mothers’ arms is tolerated?

– where we refuse those kidnapped kids soap and a toothbrush and there isn’t universal outrage?

– where disrespecting our allies and cozying up to adversaries is thought to be good foreign policy?

– where allowing fossil fuel exploration in Monument Valley is considered a good idea?

– where pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement is deemed sound policy for our children and grandchildren?

– where there could be a discriminatory citizenship question on the national census? The Constitution calls for no such thing.

– where Russia could invade and disrupt our national election and the president refuses to confront, much less punish the offender?

– where the president refuses to do anything to stop further cyber assault on our country and even invites it – and somehow we aren’t all enraged?

– where we yawn when yet another Cabinet Secretary resigns in disgrace?

– where birthright citizenship – you know, the 14th Amendment – would be under attack? Note: The 14th Amendment is probably why you are a United States citizen.

– where we tolerate reversing EPA standards, such that fossil fuel extractors no longer have to report or reduce methane emissions? Methane is 84 times more powerful at global warming than carbon dioxide.

– where picking fights with other countries is considered a good negotiating strategy?

– where a continuing presidential attack on freedom of the press is somehow held to be patriotic?

– where defying subpoenas is in any way a debatable thing?

– where arbitrary tariffs slapped on friends is tolerated?

– Where witnesses before Congressional committees can avoid testifying by claiming “absolute immunity,” an immunity that doesn’t exist in law?

This list could be far longer and likely you can add to it.

We’ve always had divided government, with impassioned politicians at times saying stupid stuff.* This isn’t about that. This is about the amazing reality that we got to the point where, for example, ripping babies from their mamas as a tool to discourage immigration is open for debate.

KEY POINT: Not one of the items on this list is a whine about Trump being crude, disrespectful, ignorant and an assault on decency. They aren’t even a complaint about his well over 10,000 lies since taking office. And every one of them has substantive impact on Americans – like you – and on our nation as a whole.

KEY OTHER POINT: It’s so very easy to pin all that on Trump, but he only has the power to do those things because of a supportive – or at least compliant – citizenry and, correspondingly, a meek and cowardly Republican Congress.

KEY QUESTION: In order to get out of this craziness we have to be able to both define it and identify what brought us here. What’s your notion? Post it in the Comments block and we’ll help one another learn.

FUN FACT: Roughly 63 million people voted for Trump (or they voted against Hillary) in 2016. On that same day, over 90 million voting age Americans stayed home.

FUN FACT QUESTION: Can you think of something you can do so there isn’t a repeat of that in 2020? I knew you could.

Late Addition

I’ve warned repeatedly (here and here, for example) that we are at risk of Donald Trump pulling a “wag the dog” scam to ensure he gets reelected. Now it appears that he’s doing it.

He has backed Iran into a corner with enough sanctions to hobble its economy and withdrawn from the JCPOA. Then Trump complained because Iran said that it would restart its uranium enrichment program, the very thing the JCPOA prevented.

So, he sent a carrier group and 2,500 troops to the area. Then on Thursday he ordered military strikes on Iran in response to Iran having downed a U.S. reconnaissance drone. He called off the attack before damage was done, claiming that killing 150 people with his attacks wouldn’t be a proportional response. We don’t know if that cancellation was actually just a stunt to make Trump seem to be a humanitarian, but since Trump is all about the theater of things, it very well could have been just that.

Recognize that Trump is constantly opaque in his dealings, leaving everyone wondering about his motives and goals, and almost certainly he sees the situation with Iran as a pissing contest that he has to win. A lot of his supporters like his kind of brainless muscular response, which drives the danger meter pointer closer to catastrophe.

You better make sure your senators and Congress people stand up to what looks like the newest Gulf of Tonkin fraud, or we’ll get involved in yet another unending middle east war and a lot of people will die.


*Stupid stuff is the blatantly obvious false or misleading statement. It’s the filibustering of a reporter to avoid his/her question. It’s the whataboutism that is designed to avoid having to deal with the truth or to denigrate an opponent. It’s the whole cloth fabrication that comes in a small throwaway line or a sweeping, dramatic denial of reality. Stupid stuff.



————————————

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,

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

Public Opinion


  • Reading time – 2:29  .  .  .

You know what George Santayana  said:

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

confirmed by “Metaphors Be With You”, by Dr. Mardy Grothe, page 301

The world has had innumerable returns to authoritarianism, as though we believe that a strongman leader can and will fix our ills, but history teaches us that more often than not those leaders deliver far worse suffering.

Now, with our ignorance of how to deal with globalization and the internet and with authoritarian-led nations seeking to do us harm, a huge minority of our fellow citizens want a tough guy leader for our country. It’s possible many of our 320 million people have forgotten the past – you know, like when our Founding Fathers led a rebellion against an authoritarian despot, King George III.

I know little about Walter Lippmann, his writings and his politics, but I came upon this quote recently:

“Men who have lost their grip upon the relevant facts of their environment are the inevitable victims of agitation and propaganda. The quack, the charlatan, the jingo  .  . .  can flourish only where the audience is deprived of independent access to information.”

from “Liberty and the News“, 1920, by Walter Lippmann

That was penned a generation after Santayana and it suggests something insidious, something far more dangerous than the forgetfulness to which Santayana speaks. It suggests leadership that intentionally manipulates what we see, hear and are able to learn. It’s fed by the lack of a free and independent press. It’s fed by the demeaning and slandering of the people and institutions that report on leaders and hold them accountable.

Forming the basis of the Almond–Lippmann consensus about public opinion are three assumptions:

Public opinion is volatile, shifting erratically in response to the most recent developments. Mass beliefs early in the 20th century were “too pacifist in peace and too bellicose in war, too neutralist or appeasing in negotiations or too intransigent”

Public opinion is incoherent, lacking an organized or a consistent structure to such an extent that the views of US citizens could best be described as “nonattitudes”

Public opinion is irrelevant to the policy making process. Political leaders ignore public opinion because most Americans can neither “understand nor influence the very events upon which their lives and happiness are known to depend.”

Lippmann later recanted these views, as he saw that the public was far more clear-headed about the Vietnam war than were politicians.

Nevertheless, re-read those three points and imagine what political manipulation of the news can do to public opinion. Think about what undermining our free press can do to enable leaders to pervert democracy. Then think about why so often Americans are ignored in public policy making on issues like gun safety, climate warming, healthcare and so many others where the overwhelming majority of the public doesn’t get what it wants.

Rosa Parks: Nevertheless, she persisted.

Are you okay with that?

                                       ————————————

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,

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

The Nation’s Business


Reading time – 4:54; Viewing time – 7:08  .  .  .

Reader JC wrote in response to my column last week that he wants me to let go of focus on Trump and instead focus on the nation’s business. My reply was that stopping Trump from further damaging our democracy is the nation’s business, leaving the implication that dropping focus on Trump would be a bad idea. Nevertheless, we’re all weary of dealing with his blatantly dishonest and sometimes obviously criminal behavior. We’re all sick of the impeachment debate, too. So, okay, let’s focus on the nation’s business.

I recall something about “draining the swamp,” which would be good business for the nation, but all I see from Trump says that he wants to populate the swamp with even slimier creatures. His current pick for the Federal Reserve Board is Stephen Moore, who boldly claimed that he’s not a big believer in democracy. Got a problem with that? Or his frequent and blatant mashing of facts? What do you suppose that attitude might do to the nation’s business if Moore gets his hands on the Fed?

Click the pic for the essay

Trump can’t get away with misappropriating funds in order to build his useless monument to himself on our southern border without the Senate Republican refusal to override his veto. And he can’t get away with de-funding Medicare and giving whopping tax breaks to already rich people without the support of Republicans in Congress. Neither can he get away with packing our federal courts with young and crazy righty judges, many of whom aren’t remotely qualified for their jobs, without help from our complicit Republicans. Read Paul Krugman’s clear, focused take on this Congressional spinelessness in his essay, The Great Republican Abdication. As well, read some of the reader comments attached to his essay.

All of this is about the nation’s business that isn’t being properly served. Are you getting the feeling that we have to stay focused on both our less courageous legislators and Trump?

Click the pic for the full stupid

Climate change is the biggest existential threat to our nation and likely to the entire world since the dinosaurs were wiped out 60 million years ago. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is my favorite whipping boy for the idiotic denial of this reality. He brought a snowball into the Senate in February 2015, claiming that its very existence proved that there is no global warming. Gotta love blatant stupidity that makes the hollowness of false claims so obvious.

None of the 3% of scientists who claim that there is no man-made global warming is a climatologist. The other 97% are climatologists and, by definition, they know what they’re talking about. They are unified and clear that we are in the process of hard boiling our planet. Nevertheless, Trump has pulled us out of the Paris Climate Accords and pushed the levers for increased fossil fuel burning. And the Republicans in Congress won’t stand up to him. That’s a problem for our nation. That’s going to cause terrible consequences for your grandchildren, so watch here to see how they feel about that. Shouldn’t our nation’s business have some focus on the future?

or in stopping the Russians and Chinese from hacking our next election, or hurricane relief, or infrastructure rebuilding, or gun safety, or net neutrality, or white extremist violence, or the shrinking middle class, or draining the swamp, or wealth inequality, or   .  .  .

Which brings us to my favorite chant:

Q. What do we want?

A. Science!

Q. When do we want it?

A. After peer review!

Our leadership has been allowed to ignore what the vast majority of us want, like universal background checks before the sale of any firearm (about 90% of us) and universal healthcare (over 60% of us). We all know that our infrastructure is crumbling and we want it fixed. Indeed, we’ve been wringing hands over that for decades and we want action to rebuild it. The number of good paying jobs that will come from that long term investment in our country would be tremendous.

Meanwhile, our Congress has done nothing to make things better. Trump has brayed lies about how world-class our airports will be and the vast rebuilding of our nation that he will deliver, but he’s done literally nothing to start that ball rolling. All of that is the nation’s business, but public demand for those things doesn’t seem to matter.

We have citizen super-majorities for many of the nation’s issues which are ignored by those in power. Read Tim Wu’s piece on this and decide for yourself if you’re okay with the majority of Americans being blown off and the nation’s business ignored. Sadly, because these issues are being ignored by our Congress and the president, if we’re to deal with the nation’s business, losing focus on Trump simply isn’t an option.

Frustratingly, Trump’s continuously outrageous behavior gives him what he really wants – constant attention. We really do have to keep watch on this infant tyrant and stop him from breaking yet more stuff.

It’s time to recognize that this situation didn’t come about in a vacuum.

While we Americans aren’t the first to disempower ourselves through brainless acceptance of propaganda, we’re quite good at it. And we excel at demonizing one another and, in service to that, have perfected the art of “othering,” which keeps us divided and weak. Those things happen in the presence of leadership that undermines what we believed were our values and replaces them with constant fear as the driver of our behavior, like fear of Muslims and fear of immigrants.

Our nation’s business is ignored when we’ve metaphorically barred the door and stand ready with a shotgun at all times, because we’ve made ourselves so easy to manipulate.

Our job – your job – is to keep an eye on Congress, the president and DC fear mongering and stay conscious and active. And VOTE! Perhaps one day we’ll have a Congress and president that attend to our nation’s business.

Final thought  .  .  .

In the race for the Democratic nomination for president the constant question is about who can beat Trump. I have a contrarian thought on that positioning.

Watch for Ohio Governor John Kasich to announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination, even as he has little use for what passes for today’s Republican Party. He’s a traditional Republican and will appeal to those who aren’t burdened by a permanently extended middle finger. Don’t be surprised if he turns out to be that party’s front runner.

————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

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