Religion

How The Country Was Lost – in Retrospect


Reading time – 4:03  .  .  .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

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

JA


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

Holiday Remembrances


Reading time – 1:44  .  .  .

The number next to each location listed below is the number of people shot to death in a single incident. This only includes mass shootings since August, 2019 with 4 or more killed, plus a few horrific others.

Here’s a question for the people still living in these places: How’s your holiday season?

    • Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, CT    26
    • Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL   17
    • Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, SC    9
    • Tree of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh, PA    4
    • Pulse Night Club, Orlando, FL  49
    • Harvest Music Festival, Las Vegas, NV    58
    • Garlic Festival, Gilroy, CA    4
    • JC Kosher Supermarket, Jersey CIty, NJ    6
    • Emerald City Casino, Great Falls, MT     4
    • Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Pensacola, FL    4
    • Backyard football watch party, Fresno, CA    4
    • Family killing, San Diego, CA    6
    • AirBnB house, Orinda, CA    5
    • Family killing, Philadelphia, PA    4
    • Memorial gathering, Chicago, IL    5
    • Family killing, Abingdon, MA    5
    • Tequila KC Bar, Kansas City, KS    4
    • Street shooting, Beaumont, TX    4
    • SuccessTech Academy school, Cleveland, OH    4
    • Mobil home park, Albuquerque, NM    4
    • Family shooting by 14 year old, Elkmont, AL    5
    • Outside movie theater, Odessa, TX    8
    • Ned Peppers Bar, Dayton, OH    10
    • Walmart, El Paso, TX    22

Our hearts go out to these folks for having to bear the pain of an empty chair at the holiday table. Too bad NRA sponsored politicians only have thoughts and prayers. If they had hearts, perhaps some of these massacres wouldn’t have happened and today’s survivors would have had a joyous holiday.

Finally,

If we had applied our immigration policies to those seeking asylum back then  .  .  .

What would Trump-supporting Evangelicals say if Customs and Border Patrol told Mary and Joseph, seeking refuge, that they couldn’t even stay in a stable in the U.S.? How would they react if they found out that all children entering our southern border are separated from their parents because the parents are arrested while seeking asylum, so Jesus was wrapped in a mylar  blanket and put in a cage? Would Evangelicals applaud that Trumpian get tough immigration policy?

If the answer is yes, Evangelicals may keep that one-word descriptor, but they have to stop calling themselves Christians. There’s nothing Christian in being cruel to the poor, to the stranger and to children. There’s a really good chance Evangelicals missed the main point.

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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.

The MAGA Bible


Reading time – 47 seconds  .  .  .

Whether you are a bible-thumper or a critic of bible-thumpers; whether you think of yourself as a Christian in good standing, an occasional Christian or a non-Christian; whether you’ve wondered how evangelical Christians could consistently support a president and legislators who routinely espouse and do anti-Christian things; whether you fret or roll eyes over anyone declaring themselves to be “the chosen one;” you must read John Pavlovitz’s stunning piece, Excerpts From The MAGA Bible. Do that now.

Final Note

Cameron Kasky

We kill around 100 people per day with guns – seven in Odessa, TX and five in Elkmont, AL this week, and the week is just half over. Ten were shot at a high school football game in Mobile, AL on Saturday. And nothing that might make things safer will change because .  .  .  you know why.

Cameron Kasky, student survivor of the horrific Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, FL a year and a half ago wrote this:

“I just want people to understand what happened and understand that doing nothing will lead to nothing. Who’d have thought that concept was so difficult to grasp?”

David Hogg

What is true remains true:

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.

So, when we don’t do anything to stop the shooting and bleeding, we just keep on bleeding and dying.

Fellow Douglas High School shooting survivor David Hogg has left Parkland, FL and is attending Harvard, but his college studies haven’t and won’t stop him and his Parkland pals from continuing their quest to stop gun violence. Click here to donate and save the lives of some school kids.

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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 to 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.

Where Political Influence Comes From – and a Destructive Snit


Reading time – 4:19; Viewing time – 6:49  .  .  .

It’s going to take decades to clean up the mess that our terrible infant president is creating. Some things will take much longer and will leave permanent scars. Other Trump damage, like loss of endangered species, will be impossible to fix.

We’re told that the Donald Trump Environmental Protection Agency intends to “sharply curtail rules on methane emissions.” It’s possible that methane isn’t a focal point of your day, so I’ll explain what this newest EPA ruling will mean to you.

Methane is likely the gas that burns in your home furnace and water heater. Burning natural gas instead of other fossil fuels produces less carbon dioxide, so it adds less to global warming, and it’s cheaper to use, too. That’s where the methane happy stuff ends. The rest requires a little story to explain it.

The phenomenally destructive Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission granted Big Money interests – deep pocket individuals and corporations – the power to dominate and control our politics using their cash. That was more than surprising, since the case was only about the Citizens United organization wanting to show their movie trashing Hillary Clinton right before each primary in 2008. It wasn’t about campaign contributions and domination of politics.

The McCain-Feingold Act prohibited such “electioneering” within 30 days of a primary, so Citizens United was enjoined by the district court from showing their 30-minute attack ad that was designed to influence the primary elections. They filed suit and the case wound up before the Supreme Court, which reversed the district and appellate court rulings against Citizens United. That should have been the end of the case, but it wasn’t.

Chief Justice John Roberts ordered the attorneys to return to the Court to re-litigate the case, this time testing the rights of corporations and speech equivalency. In that gross distortion of the original case, the 5-4 conservative majority decided that corporations have all the same rights as flesh and blood human beings, including the right to make campaign contributions and air political advertising.*

Justice John Paul Stevens

As outrageous as that is, if you’re a Constitutional purist, get that, “[In addressing an

issue that was not raised by the litigants], the majority changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.” That is from the blistering dissent of this decision, written by Justice John Paul Stevens.

Effectively, the Supreme Court legislated from the bench on issues that were not in contest in this case. Citizens United v. FEC had nothing to do with human rights or corporate rights or political contributions, but its adverse effect in those areas will be felt for a very long time.

Dig into the case a little deeper and you’ll have a new and dark understanding of Chief Justice John Roberts. Be sure to pay attention to his Senate confirmation hearings, where he did the now familiar confirmation dance, spewing volumes of words while not answering questions. More specifically, though, he invoked stare decisis, the principle of not upsetting prior court decisions and making current decisions based upon precedent. Roberts had a solid belief in that, he told us.

Turns out that stare decisis actually wasn’t a real important thing to John Roberts and that allowed him to legislate from the bench. That bench-created new law gave us things like the NRA being such a powerful campaign contributor to legislators that our elected officials refuse to create the gun safety legislation that 90% of Americans want them to create. Sadly, we have a government of, by and for Big Money, not you and me.

Here’s how that connects to the EPA lifting methane emission regulations.

Point #1: Over the course of 20 years methane released into the atmosphere has 86 times more powerful global warming effect than does carbon dioxide. The EPA has taken down its web page detailing this.

Point #2: Natural gas comes largely from fracking wells and as many as 50% of them leak methane into the atmosphere. The page for that has been taken down from the EPA site, too.

Point #3: The Obama administration generated regulations to cause the actors in the methane extraction business to take action to reduce methane emissions.

Point #4: Trump’s EPA is in the process of trashing those Obama era regulations and allowing essentially uninhibited methane leakage.

Some major oil companies have stated that they are opposed to the change the EPA is proposing. Do your own math on why they’d do that, especially since their own industry association and lobbying arm, the American Petroleum Institute, has come out in favor of EPA’s proposal to eliminate methane emission regulations.

There’s a really good chance that you are not in favor of the EPA’s proposal that will dramatically increase the rate of global warming. The problem for you is that our legislators don’t really care what you think about that, any more than they care about the 90% likelihood that you want strict gun safety regulations.

Just like healthcare, immigration reform, voting rights, education and so many other issues, you’re not getting what you want and it can all be traced back to Citizens United.

That’s now compounded by Trump’s ongoing snit over being dissed by President Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011. Since that time Trump has been doing everything he can to negate everything Obama accomplished, including DACA, regardless of the harm he does to you and all of us, our allies and our planet.

Such is the behavior of this terrible infant president. We are paying the price for his temper tantrum and, as I said earlier, it will take decades to clean up his mess.

Quote of the Week

Trump is a man who has been progressively hollowed out by the acid of his own self-regard. David Brooks

Opinion Piece of the Week

The Frauding of America’s Farmers, Paul Krugman


*Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, wrote,

“The First Amendment does not allow prohibitions of speech based on the identity of the speaker  .  .  .  even if the speaker is a corporation.”

It is beyond any possibility that the Founders intended the Bill of Rights to have any connection whatsoever to non-human entities, like corporations. The purpose of the Bill of Rights was to protect the rights of people. Humans. Read the amendments and it will be clear to you.

So much for Justice Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas being “originalists.” They claimed to interpret the Constitution as the Founders originally intended. so they liked to call themselves originalists. Clearly they were/are not.

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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 to 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.

This Has To Be Said


Reading time – 3:29; Viewing time – 5:08 .  .  .

It is more than reasonable to say that we are living in perilous times in America.

It has been a long time since life has been as perilous as it is right now if your skin is black or brown.

It has never before been this perilous to attend a movie, go to school, party in a bar, attend an outdoor concert, go to church or synagogue or mosque, shop at a mall, attend a festival or buy school supplies.

It has never been this perilous for our glorious experiment in self-rule – our democracy – since the Revolution.

Click the picture

Perhaps you were enraged when we saw pictures of children packed into cages for days or even weeks, prohibited from bathing or having fresh clothing or receiving medical care or brushing their teeth or even having their dirty diapers changed.

If you didn’t feel that punch in the gut from that violation of the demand of evolution that we protect our young, I offer this:

Click the picture

They came for the Native Americans.

They came for the Japanese.

They’ve come for the Hispanics.

They always come for the Blacks.

They came for the Muslims and Jews and will do so again.

They don’t come only for the children.

If you think that’s hyperbole, wake up to the facts: that’s the way it always happens.

It’s time for you and I and all of us to stand up and take action to stop the bullying, the demeaning, the marginalizing, the exclusion, the violence, the killing, the ruination of families, the traumatizing of children and the destruction of our democracy itself.

Do you have doubts about these things happening?

If you doubt my claim about advancing personal peril, read any history book. This stuff is happening in front of your eyes right now and willful blindness is not an option.

Click the pic

Click the pic

If you doubt my claim about the threats to our democracy, read conservative writer Charles Krauthammer’s essay, The Authoritarian Temptation in his posthumously published book “The Point Of It All.” Unfortunately, Krauthammer didn’t survive long enough to see how terribly our democracy has been undermined by Trump incrementally dismantling the foundations of our democracy and society itself. It’s damaged by a White House staffed with self-serving, hateful tyrants and Trump suck-ups, as well as by our spineless Congress. If you want to understand this more fully, read “How Democracies Die.” It will help your understanding of how tyrants get away with assault on whole categories of people.

Today’s perpetrators in America are white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis and others who tell themselves that they’re the True  Americans. That means that the rest of us are less than “True Americans.”

These haters are the very people who have been killing innocents for decades, some for centuries, while we refuse to have the political backbone to deal with these criminals. Instead, politicians now whine about video games and mental health programs so that the extremists can keep their assault rifles and 100-round magazines to kill additional “less than True Americans.”

Yet today’s primary perpetrator is the President of the United States. He tells the white supremacists and neo-Nazis that they are “very fine people.” He’s the same president who tried to ban all Muslims from entering our country and who is systematizing cruelty against Hispanic people. The threat to all of us is both from far right violent perpetrators and our own government.

Daryl Johnson was the Senior Domestic Terrorism Analyst at the Department of Homeland Security and the ATF. His team produced a report in 2009 outlining the reality of the white nationalist threat. He was terrifyingly accurate. Worse still, as I said, is that the domestic terrorism we’re seeing is encouraged by tacit support from our government.

Have a look at Johnson’s 2009 report, which you can download here. Then read a summary of the very disturbing events surrounding his report and this op-ed by Johnson himself from 2017.

So much violence and damage has already been done and we need to take aggressive action if we are to prevent the worst. That’s especially critical with an unhinged violence stoker and authoritarian tyrant wannabe in the White House.

If we are to be safe, if this democracy and the foundations of our society are to endure, it’s time for you and I to stand up and to speak up. I’m doing it. Now it’s your turn.


“To sin by silence when we should protest,

Makes cowards out of men.”

                                         Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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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 to 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.

JA


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

Gun Safety Regulations


Reading time – 5:21; Viewing time – 7:02  .  .  .

The crazies think arming teachers is a good idea. They want shoot-outs in the hallways when a bad guy shows up. Think: Parkland, Columbine and Sandy Hook, with the halls full of kids. What could possibly go wrong?

The NRA-controlled Congressional response to mass shootings is twofold:

First, they parrot the NRA, saying that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, like a teacher with chalk in one hand and a 9mm pistol in the other. Really? Do you really think that civilian crossfire in that Walmart and in that crowded bar last weekend would have been better?

Second, Congress goes all thoughts and prayers, then goes crickets. They have no spine to create useful regulations because doing so would piss off one of their biggest campaign contributors.

One more time: We tried the Wild West and we know what it got us: an enormous pile of dead bodies. Going back to everyone packing and thinking they’re the fastest gun, the baddest cowboy, the toughest righteous dude, protector of the little lady and the rest of the macho crap will get us the same thing again.

Here is the fact: States with tougher gun laws – regulations – have way less gun violence. Example: Louisiana has the loosest gun regulations and has seven times the gun violence rate of Massachusetts, which has some of the toughest gun regulations.

Having a gun is the most certain indicator of bad things to come. Just ask the 8 year old who accidentally killed his little brother after finding daddy’s pistol in the nightstand. Or the formerly despondent person who found a way to kill herself that was so fast that she didn’t have time to think twice. But, of course, you can’t ask her because she’s dead.

For those wanting to leap to the exceptions in order to negate all gun safety efforts:

  1. No gun regulation will stop all mass murders. But some regulations might prevent some of them.
  2. Second Amendment types opposed to all regulations justify their intransigence by saying that a particular regulation wouldn’t have stopped a particular shooting. They make the perfect the enemy of the good. People die waiting for them to wake up.
  3. If you’re in the wilds of Alaska it’s okay to have a gun to protect against bears. Same for homes in sparsely populated areas where help is 45 minutes away.
  4. If you’re a hunter it’s okay for you to have a hunting rifle.
  5. Numbers 3 and 4 above are contingent upon you being vetted by a background check as not being violent, mentally unbalanced or a spineless politician. Then you can have a gun. But only after you’ve taken certified training in its use and have passed a test indicating you know how to safely handle, store, transport and use a gun. Just like getting a drivers license.
  6. If you’re a 22-year-old with swastikas on your bedroom wall and you want 9 long guns, two assault rifles with bump stocks, 7 semi-automatic 9mm handguns with extended capacity magazines and a closet full of ammunition, NO, YOU CAN’T HAVE A GUN.

Tell you what, Adolph: I’ll pay for your years of psycho-therapy to treat your inadequacies and pent-up hostility. Meanwhile, we’re going to keep you away from anything that goes “bang” or has a sharp edge.

Kinda wound up over two mass shootings this past weekend. In El Paso the brave gunman protected us all by making sure those little kids from Juarez didn’t get their school supplies. And the gunman in Dayton made sure people didn’t have a good time at that bar. No telling what might have happened if all those people hadn’t been gunned down by rapid fire from assault weapons and handguns fired by – you guessed it – angry white men.

And finally,

Click and read the sad satire. Then scroll down to see the multiple iterations of it.

There’s a lot to say about American mass shootings. One is being said by 17 countries, as well as Amnesty International: Don’t travel to the United States because it’s just too dangerous.

The Onion put its satirical touch on this with a headline this week:

“No Way To Prevent this,” Says Only Nation Where this Regularly Happens.

All the other nations have figured this out.

A necessary ingredient of satire is that it be based in fact, and this headline does that. As you might suspect, they’ve run that headline over and over, updating the picture each time from the then-current massacre.

If you can handle it, have a look at another piece from The Onion, this one about the sick, twisted rationalization white supremacists and neo-Nazis make of Thomas Jefferson’s words about the tree of liberty and the blood of patriots. I haven’t read the El Paso shooter’s “manifesto,” but I’m confident The Onion’s piece would fit him just fine.

Most important is an in-depth look at why we have so many people being killed or wounded by gunfire in America. If you read anything about our more than one-per-day mass murders, read this piece: What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest An Answer. Here are some hints:

It isn’t video games. People in every other industrialized nation play the same video games but they don’t slaughter one another.

It isn’t mental health. Crazy as we seem to be, we Americans are no more mentally unhealthy than people in other countries. Further, blaming people with mental health issues for our gun carnage demeans those people.

It isn’t our culture.

It isn’t racial differences or immigration.

Read the article, because within it you’ll find the driver of our daily, blood-soaked carnage. Then drop a note to Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, because they’re major recipients of millions of dollars of NRA campaign contributions. The NRA laundered at least $40 million of Russian money to do that.

Maybe we do need gun regulations. And tight campaign contribution regulations, too.

And be sure to read E.J. Dionne’s piece on this. It’s brilliant.


————————————

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 to 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. When you offer your ideas in the Comments section, that’s all yours – and your comments are most welcome.

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

Root Cause


Reading time – 4:21; Viewing time – 6:26  .  .  .

The VA tells us that roughly 22 vets commit suicide every day – one every 65 minutes.

There are suicide hotlines, wringing of hands and, of course, the ever-present thoughts and prayers of politicians who refuse to do anything about the problem.

Let’s agree that almost none of the veteran suicides would occur had those vets not gone to war and been carrying those horrific memories and terrible injuries. We drug them, talk therapy them, buddy them and use other means to help them carry on, but those are all swatting at symptoms. If we really want to prevent veteran suicides, the solution is forehead-slappingly obvious: DON’T SEND THEM TO FIGHT MEANINGLESS, UNWINNABLE WARS.

Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan ever attacked the United States, nor did they pose an existential threat. We started wars against them based on lies. Even our vets know that neither the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan nor even Syria were worth fighting. Sadly, Colin Powell was correct in invoking the Pottery Barn rule about the invasion of countries: You break it, you own it. We’ve owned these for 17 years. And our military people continue to be brutalized because of that and the suicides go on.

Recognize, too, that the millions of Muslim migrants who have fled to European countries did so for survival, escaping life-threatening conditions caused by the destabilizing of the region. We did that. Europeans now struggle with the vexing symptoms of a deluge of migrants.

Keep all of that top-of-mind as Donald Trump bumbles with Iran.

Fix the root cause and we won’t have to swat at symptoms.


We went to a wonderful outdoor summer concert featuring a Chicago cover band. It was held in a town with a large Hispanic population. Families were picnicking, friends were talking and children were playing. Front and center near the stage kids were turning cartwheels, dancing and running around. Hispanic kids. They were doing exactly the same things that white kids, Asian-American kids, African-American kids – all kids – do. And it was unmistakable that those Hispanic kids were just like the kids we’ve locked up in our horrid detention facilities, recently labeled concentration camps. They certainly are concentrated to the point of inability of the people to even lie down to sleep.

There are thousands of Hispanic children in these detention camps in Texas and Florida. They’re being held in prisons in Illinois, Wisconsin and elsewhere, too. I don’t know these kids personally, but I’m betting they’d rather be at a summer concert turning cartwheels.

You’ve seen the reports, so you know that those places are grossly overcrowded, sanitation is terrible, sickness is spreading and reports of abuse continue. Beyond the insanity of locking up blameless kids, we can’t even manage to follow our own rules, like the 72-hour maximum detention rule.

We can come up with lots of programs to deal with the influx of migrants. Trump decided to focus efforts solely on the cruelty of terrorizing children, locking up moms, bogging down the asylum process, sending our military to the border, bullying Mexico and threatening families in the U.S. with surprise deportation. As horrific as all of Trump’s cruelty is, fighting it is more swatting at symptoms.

The vast majority of migrants are leaving Central America because of wars, gang violence and lack of food in their countries. They are seeking asylum – refugee status – in the U.S. in order to keep themselves and their families alive and safe. Absent those threats in their home countries, they would stay there and we wouldn’t have the migrant crisis we’ve created.

The way to deal with the root causes is obvious: support those Central American countries to stop the violence and ensure that their people have food to eat. Oddly, Trump has cut support designed to do those very things, making far worse the problems we say we want to solve.

Yes, it will cost money. So does the migrant crisis that we forced into being.

Fix the root cause and we won’t have to swat at symptoms.


Donald Trump doesn’t care about the harm he does to black- and brown-skin people, especially if they are refugees on our southern border. This is in stark contrast to his treatment of the undocumented 579,000 Europeans in the U.S. illegally, about whom he says and does nothing. Apparently, the immigration crisis isn’t about being undocumented; it’s about being non-white.

He demonstrates nearly daily that he is a racist, the most recent example being his vile attacks on four freshman congresswomen.*

He rejects Muslims and is especially adept at demeaning women, especially powerful women. He harms people and just doesn’t care.

From The Other 98% – click me

We all know that, so whatever the next outrage from this Presidentis Horribilis, just get over it. Stop the insanity of hoping this time things will be different, the battered wife fantasy. It won’t be different. It will never be different. Trump is mentally damaged goods.** He is incapable of caring about anything beyond what he perceives will best serve himself. Get over obsessing over his abhorrent behavior.

And get over obsessing about spineless Republican legislators who haven’t the moral courage to call out Trump for his pathological cruelty.**

Fix the root cause and we won’t have to swat at symptoms.


*The way you know this is the greatest country in the world is because we allow people to say and believe insanities like:

  1. “We all know AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists, they hate Israel, they hate our own country  .  .  . ” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
  2. “Anyone who says the president told members of Congress to go back to where they came from is lying.” Matt Wolking, Trump 2020 campaign manager.
  3. After saying that Trump can’t be a racist because he appointed Elaine Chao to be Secretary of Transportation, Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff said, “So when people write that the president has racist motives here, just look at the reality of who is actually serving in Donald Trump’s cabinet.” Note that Elaine Chao is the wife of Senate majority leader “Grim Reaper” Mitch McConnell.
  4. “Montanans are sick and tired of listening to anti-American, anti-Semite, radical Democrats trash our country and our ideals. This is America. We’re the greatest country in the world. I stand with .” Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT)

In the context of the current storm of hate from the president we are told by a current Gallup survey that white Americans view people of color as less American than themselves. “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Pogo

** Be sure to catch the Guest Essay in the July 24 edition for clarity about this.


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

In Case You Missed It


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

Ed. Note: There was apparently operator (that would be me) error for the email announcement of the Sunday post this week. That’s why you’re receiving this on Monday. I think the situation is corrected and, with luck and the absence of any more operator interference, we’re back on track.


Perhaps you recall George W. Bush’s so-called “Faith Based and Community Initiative” of 2003. Less well remembered is Bill Clinton’s “Charitable Choice” program of 1996. The practical effect of each was to supply federal dollars to religious institutions.

Earlier still, in 1954, we added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. That was so that we could declare ourselves better than and identifiable from those godless Commies, at least to ourselves. That addition to the Pledge wasn’t enough, though, since most Americans didn’t recite it daily; only school children did that. So in 1956 we added “In God We Trust” to all of our currency. We look at our coins and greenbacks every day, so that should have provided sufficient reminders of God as officially on our side and in our laws, even to those with the shortest attention span.

Each of these actions super-glued religion to our government and our country. I don’t understand why establishing religion as part of our state was not un-Constitutional, given the clear mandate of The First Amendment. Disappointingly, this story is continuing and it would have been easy to have missed it, given the tsunami of events last week.

Betsy DeVos is the totally unqualified head of the Department of Education. Her lack of qualification is due both to her near-complete ignorance of public education and her predilection to shift all to the private sector and to destroy her department of government entirely. Her ignorance doesn’t stop her from taking bold action, though, including effectively de-funding public education.

She has now decided to enhance the flight of your tax dollars for public education to private religious institutions. The lead paragraph of an article about this in The New York Times reads,

“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Monday that she will no longer enforce a provision in federal law that bars religious organizations from providing federally funded educational services to private schools.”

So, religious organization X will now be free to use its federally supplied dollars (how come they have those?) to fund religious schools. That’s a nifty two-step diversion to those private schools of your public money that is supposed to go to pubic education. What part of “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion  .  .  . ” is unclear?

Even Evangelicals have expressed opposition to government funding of religious institutions. That is in part on the basis that such action will inevitably result in government control of religion. They’re right.

Last scratch at this itch: In 2012 President Obama unilaterally created the DACA program, which was effectively the selective, rather than universal, application of our immigration laws. Republicans went berserk in opposition. The law is the law, they screamed. The Constitution clearly separates powers and this one doesn’t belong to the Executive branch, they cried.

Where is that same opposition to Trump and DeVos selectively refusing to enforce our laws and support the Constitution today?

Click to join me on March 23 for this fascinating and informative event.

               ————————————

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

The Real Issue


Reading time – 4:34; Viewing time – 6:40  .  .  .

Ed. Note: Be sure to check out our periodically published new feature, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up at the end of the regular post.

___________________________________

By now you’ve at least heard of the kerfuffle created by the remarks of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and it’s entirely possible that you’re both offended and pretty well annoyed by the whole mess. I’ve decided to weigh in only because the key issue seems to have been missed and it’s a really big issue. It’s a life and death issue.

To recap, Omar dispatched tweets and comments that triggered an explosion. They were:

Feb.10 – Responding to a tweet about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel, she tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”

Feb 11 – Responding to a question about who’s paying these Benjamins, she tweeted, “AIPAC!” referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Feb 11 – Following criticism from Democratic leadership, she tweeted a sort-of apology, saying in part, “My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”

Feb 28 – Speaking as a panel member at a DC venue she said, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. I want to ask why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA (National Rifle Association), of fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policies?”

In a recently discovered 2012 tweet she wrote, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

That’s a lot to digest, so let’s boil it down to the essentials. Omar is saying,

  1. Wealthy Jews are buying influence.
  2. AIPAC is using “Benjamins” to control Congress and the President.
  3. American Jews have “allegiance” to a foreign country, Israel, implying they are disloyal to America.
  4. Jews have some semi-occult ability to hypnotize others and cause them to do the bidding of Jews.

Let’s start with the easiest to dispel. AIPAC doesn’t make political contributions to candidates or politicians. Now on to the real damage.

The stereotype of Jews being wealthy and using their wealth to control others and thus do harm to those others has been around a long time. The same is true of the lunacy that says that Jews can “hypnotize the world” and get their way. Neither would be a big deal if it were just a few psychotics screaming such things in a rubber room. Sadly, devastatingly, it doesn’t stop there and it never has.

These hateful tropes have been believed by the uninformed, the gullible and the hateful and powerful for centuries, perhaps millennia. They have been used to justify some of the the most vile and hateful acts, including the Spanish Inquisition, pogroms across Europe and Russia, the Holocaust and tens of thousands of small scale violent events all over the world. Think: Tree of Life Synagogue.

That is to say, words matter. They have impact on people and that drives people’s actions. When the words are hateful – especially when they qualify as a Big Lie, as Omar’s do – they incite people to violence. She helped to continue the hateful lies and to support the haters’ justification of their hate and their violence. That’s the real issue.

In her weenie apology she managed to demand to be listened to as a qualification of her “unequivocal” apology. It’s a bit like apologizing by saying, “I apologize if what I said was offensive.” Kinda misses the mark of apologizing for actually being offensive.

Much of the political tap dance of both Democrats and Republicans has been an astonishing circus sideshow of posturing for political advantage. I especially love the justifications claimed by the 23 Republicans who voted against the resolution condemning hate. One stands out as the winner of the Totally Daft Award. See #3 below.

Legitimate criticism of Israel is welcome. Opposing the government or the policies is in bounds and justifiable. Spreading hate is not.

This whole thing is simpler than the political theater of the absurd would allow you to see and it’s way beyond finding Omar’s words offensive or reacting to her poorly crafted jiu jitsu apology. We need to focus on the key issue, which is the spreading of hate and the potential incitement to violence done by Rep. Omar’s words. It’s a really big issue. It’s a life and death issue.

For more on the impact of words, see this post.


You Can’t Make This Stuff Up
A short compendium of current events that are too dumb even for fiction
  1. Veteran conservative broadcaster and columnist Jane Chastain recently wrote a column titled “AOC WAS A GIRL SCOUT .  .  .  JUST SAY NO TO THE COOKIES.”
  2. Finnish investigative journalist Jessikka Aro has been courageously reporting on Russian propaganda and its troll factories for years. She was informed she was to receive the International Women of Courage Award in Washington, D.C. Then the Trump State Department learned that Aro had been critical of the President, so her award was cancelled.
  3. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said that he voted against the House resolution condemning bigotry and hate because its wording, “.  .  .  suggests America’s House of Representatives cares about virtually everyone except Christians and Caucasians.”

Sourced from Daily Kos and The Washington Post. You can look it up.

Click to join me on March 23 for this fascinating and informative event.

              ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
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Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Time to Chill?


Reading time – 3:47; Viewing time – 5:19  .  .  .

For at least three years some have been saying to ignore what he says and to focus instead on what he does.  Pay attention, they say, to policy stuff, actions that have impact, and ignore the stupid – even false – things he says. Just chill.

That sounds like good counsel and I’ve tried to follow it. Alas, there is no escaping that words have power to drive people to action. And some actions are brutal and even murderous.

Michelle Goldberg wrote in the New York Times, “.  .  .  Trump is a racist. This should be clear to all people of good faith, given that Trump was a leading figure in the birther movement, defended white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville, and claimed he couldn’t get a fair hearing from a judge of Mexican heritage .  .  .” Be clear that his messages are heard loud and clear by people who revel in hate.

There really weren’t “good people on both sides” in Charlottesville. It may have been just words the President spoke, but his message to haters, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and thugs of all stripes was that they’re just great folks spewing hate and doing harm to others.

The President showed up at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, even though he was specifically asked by the Rabbi and the mourners to stay away. His words were exactly what the mourners didn’t want, but he spoke anyway. His message to his fanatical followers was that it’s okay to disrespect some people, even those in the midst of the profound pain of loss. Gotta wonder how much his constant disrespect motivated the shooter.

What we’re clear about is that the President’s disrespect extends everywhere, including his hateful comments about John McCain, and his acceptance of the torturing and murder by tyrants abroad, with whom he tells us he has great relationships and he and Kim Jong-un “fell in love,” however gag-able that may be.

He doesn’t care about Otto Warmbier, who endured torture and beatings by the North Koreans that led to his death. He doesn’t care about Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who the Saudis killed, butchered and cremated. And he clearly doesn’t care about Sergei Skripal and his daughter, who were poisoned in a nerve agent attack in London. Trump takes the tyrant dictators at “their word” and finds no fault in them. What do you suppose is the message his fanatical followers get from that?

He at last got part of his Muslim ban. Then he tweeted hatefully toward Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) about her handful of anti-Semitic comments, for which she had already apologized; but he had nothing at all to say about decades of racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric from Christian Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who remains unrepentant for his hate. Got any doubt about what one religion is okay with the President and how he feels about other religions in America? That gives the cover of righteousness to the haters, making virtually any atrocity acceptable.

Click through and read this important essay.

He continues to vilify brown skin people from south of the border and blacks everywhere, while at the same time inviting more immigrants from “Norway.” Got any doubt about what color skin the President wants all Americans to have and how unwelcome others are? I wonder if his racism motivated the murderer at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston?

His words incite fear, hate and anger and he dog whistles violence at every rally. He drives division and hatred every day. And he’s managed to get 40% of Americans to listen to him and some to emulate him. That puts the rest of us at risk and you already know that sometimes people get killed. So, no, I will not ignore what he says.

All of what he says and does sends a tyrannical message of exclusion, of “us versus them.” It’s a small view of America from a small, cowardly man, but some of his followers like that and want to exclude others using violence to do so. That’s what happens in cults of personality.

Before someone starts waving their red, white and blue at me, proclaiming in righteous voice that this is the land of the free and we’re entitled to our views and opinions, even if they’re based in hate, just get this one piece: this country was established by the Founders in absolute opposition to a tyrant. This is no time to succumb to one.

Do you know someone who tells you to chill, to just get over it for the hateful and stupid things that come out of this President’s mouth? If they want to know the true value of that chill notion, click here and register to hear the expert speak on the subject. And bring that friend along – the one who tells you to chill.

Watch this now. This is no time to chill.

Click to join me on March 23 for this fascinating and informative event.

                ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 

 


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

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