Terrorism

A Little Help for You, Mike Pence


Reading time – 4:42  .  .  .

WARNING: Contains extra-crispy snark.

Mike, at the V.P. debate you said lots of things that are – well, let’s not call them lies; this is politics, so let’s just say they’re “creative.” We can’t look at everything, so we’ll pick just one thing to look at. Perhaps I can help you with that.

You said, “This presumption that you hear from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris that America is systemically racist, and as Joe Biden said, he believes that law enforcement has an implicit bias against minorities, it’s a great insult to the men and women who serve in law enforcement.”

On the slim chance that there are some facts (you remember what those are, right?) that somehow have slipped past you, here’s some help for you, Mike – just in case the issue of systemic racism ever comes up again in conversation.

When a White kid – say, your kid – gets busted for marijuana possession, one of two things happens.

  1. You get a call from the police to come down to the station to pick up your dumb kid. Before you leave the station the cop in charge says to your kid, “I don’t want to see you here again.” He turns to you and apologizes for having had to bother you. You take your kid home and ground him for a month. Or,
  2. Your kid gets charged, goes to court and the judge sentences him to 30 days of community service. He tells your kid that if he completes that satisfactorily his record will be expunged.

Here’s what happens when a Black kid from the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago gets busted for marijuana possession.

  1. He gets slammed into the side of a police cruiser, handcuffed and thrown into the back seat. While all that is going on he’s called a lot of cruel and abusive names.
  2. He spends every night in jail until somebody scrapes together enough cash to post bail. Or he just languishes there until his court date, which could be years away.
  3. The judge sentences him to a few years in prison, where he is surrounded by hardened criminals.
  4. He gets out of jail but can’t get a job because he has to check that box on the job application form that says he’s a convicted felon.

That’s how the system works, Mike. That’s why it’s called “systemic racism.” Let’s look at this another way.

Here’s a chart showing the rate of police fatal shootings per million people broken down by race. Review this carefully, Mike, and feel free to click the chart for the source material.

Are you seeing a problem here, Mike? Does any kind of discrimination jump out for you, like that the rate of fatal police killings is way higher for Blacks than for Whites? It’s 2.5 times higher. Does that look systemic to you, Mike? Okay, maybe you’re not seeing it, so let’s look at this yet another way.

Here’s a different chart. This one shows the number of people shot to death by police over a 4-year period and the data is broken down by race. Click the chart if you want to dig into the facts.

Let’s look at 2019, Mike – the gray bars – the last full year represented on the chart. You can see that fewer Black people were killed by police than Whites – about 1/3 fewer. The thing is, Mike, that Blacks are only about 15% of the U.S. population, but they have been killed by cops disproportionately more often. Does that look like a system of racism to you yet, Mike?

Tell you what: Watch this video. I’m recommending it to you because at the debate you deplored, with practiced, plastic passion, the awfulness of violent protests and looting. Oddly enough, though, you failed to deplore the conditions that lead to violence and looting. This video will help you to understand and appreciate those conditions. But I warn you that if you watch this video you’ll be in danger of understanding systemic racism. Your willful ignorance will be at risk, Mike. Still, be brave – watch the video. I think you can handle it.

Oh, and one other thing about violence and looting.

You demand, “Law and order!” and Trump proclaims, “I am the law and order president!” Sounds great, Mike. Works as an election bumper sticker almost magically. And you warn Americans against a Biden-Harris administration, letting us know in no uncertain terms of the carnage that will ensue if they get into office. The suburbs will never again be safe! There will be riots! Violence! Looting!

What’s interesting about that is that the violence and looting you claim to deplore are and have been occurring during your administration, Mike. It’s been stoked by your boss for four years. You remember El Paso, right? And Poway and Tree of Life Synagogue and Parkland and Jersey City and Gilroy? There are lots more. Not a lot of law and order going on there, Mike. And it’s all happened on your watch. Isn’t that fascinating?

Are you sure that Biden and Harris will do worse? Really? Honestly, that doesn’t seem possible, Mike.

Except, of course, that your boss is calling on militias, white nationalist and white supremacist groups to “Stand by.” It’s just the most recent of his barely disguised calls to arms to our thug-right, to whom he’s given cover for four years (Ref: “Good people on both sides.” Trump said that after a white nationalist murdered Heather Heyer with his car.). So, America might become more violent once you and Trump are out of office, as he rage-tweets for the violent minority to attack the rest of us in a civil war. He’ll call them the true patriots.

Important safety tip, Mike: Once you’re out of office and living in your affluent suburban home, you really ought to make sure your security detail is up to standing against Trump’s army of angry delusionals. They might mistake your house for someone else’s.

I feel so bad for you, Mike, because you’re stuck in your comfortable ignorance and I really want to help you. But the thing is, Mike – and there’s no getting around this – nothing I do will help you until you let go of pandering solely to old White guys, far right extremists and the Bible thumping closed-mindeds. Not even your over-practiced syrupy-ness or your God-thing certainties, or your robotic, disingenuousness will help until you at last give up your self-serving self-righteousness and embrace the actual reality out here where the rest of us live.

I’ve done all I can for you, Mike. Now it’s up to you. But in a final gesture of heartfelt support, let me suggest to you that you acquire an urgency for updating your résumé. Good luck to you, Mike, in whatever you do next. It will be here before you know it.

BREAKING NEWS

There was another Trump demonstration and counter-demonstration in Northbrook, IL yesterday, October 10. The groups were planted on their own corners of the intersection by the coronavirus death count sign. The vast majority weren’t locals – I know because I asked. They were mostly outside agitators. One proudly announced who he would vote for in South Carolina – clearly not a townie.

About 2 hours into the demonstrations a shaved head, mask-less tough came strutting over to the Biden supporters’ side and got face-to-face with demonstrators. The Biden supporters wore face masks, but the mask-less tough got in the face of some freshman high school girls, yelling and frothing COVID denials at them.

I have tried mightily to understand Trump supporters, to seek middle ground, to simply have a respectful conversation, but all I’ve found is anger, hatred, bluster, reality denying and, worst of all, puffing and posturing to demonize and dominate others, just like that frothing tough tried to do. This is a collection of adult bodies whose development was stunted at age 10, so they act like playground bullies, brats, the kids your mom and dad told you to stay away from. And they feed on the sense of power they get from chanting brainlessly. Their behavior reminds me of Nazi goose-stepping morons.

If they want to be miserable and ruin their own lives, it’s their choice. The truth is that now that they’ve done so much harm to others and they’ve attacked our democracy while cloaking themselves in a false mantle of patriotism, I don’t care about their misery. When they plot to kidnap a state governor, when they surrender all their reasoning to a cult tyrant and when they threaten COVID infection of 14 year old girls, our country is truly in peril and it is critical that we shut these bullies up using our votes.

VOTE IN PERSON EARLY

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The Fine Print:

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

JA


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

A Critically Important View From Europe


Reading time – 7:15  .  .  .

Presidential Befoulment of the Military Update

It has been 3 days since the foul statements of Donald Trump about our military were exposed. To date, not a single Congressional Republican has spoken out against his cruel, disparaging words and behavior. Not one.

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The G7 Summit is scheduled to meet virtually in November or perhaps later. In anticipation of that and our mail-in ballot season, some notion of how the rest of the world sees America is crucial, because America’s world leadership is on life support. That makes our election choices and actions critical.

A friend forwarded the opinion piece below from The Irish Times (many thanks to JS) and it gives us a view into what America looks like from a European democracy. Consider it in the context of my piece last April, Absolute Power, as well as the closing section of Potpourri v11.0 – The “How Can We Be This Stupid?” Edition.


Donald Trump Has Destroyed The Country He Promised To Make Great Again
The world has loved, hated and envied the U.S. Now for the first time, we pity it.

Irish Times-April 25, 2020 – By Fintan O’Toole

Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.

However bad things are for most other rich democracies, it is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful.

Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode? The US went into the coronavirus crisis with immense advantages: precious weeks of warning about what was coming, the world’s best concentration of medical and scientific expertise, effectively limitless financial resources, a military complex with stunning logistical capacity and most of the world’s leading technology corporations. Yet it managed to make itself the global epicenter of the pandemic.

As the American writer George Packer puts it in the current edition of the Atlantic, “The United States reacted … like Pakistan or Belarus – like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.”

It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – willfully, malevolently, vindictively. It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.

The grotesque spectacle of the president openly inciting people (some of them armed) to take to the streets to oppose the restrictions that save lives is the manifestation of a political death wish. What are supposed to be daily briefings on the crisis, demonstrative of national unity in the face of a shared challenge, have been used by Trump merely to sow confusion and division. They provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.

If the plague is a test, its ruling political nexus ensured that the US would fail it at a terrible cost in human lives. In the process, the idea of the US as the world’s leading nation – an idea that has shaped the past century – has all but evaporated.

Other than the Trump impersonator Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, who is now looking to the US as the exemplar of anything other than what not to do? How many people in Düsseldorf or Dublin are wishing they lived in Detroit or Dallas?

It is hard to remember now but, even in 2017, when Trump took office, the conventional wisdom in the US was that the Republican Party and the broader framework of US political institutions would prevent him from doing too much damage. This was always a delusion, but the pandemic has exposed it in the most savage ways.

What used to be called mainstream conservatism has not absorbed Trump – he has absorbed it. Almost the entire right-wing half of American politics has surrendered abjectly to him. It has sacrificed on the altar of wanton stupidity the most basic ideas of responsibility, care and even safety.

Thus, even at the very end of March, 15 Republican governors had failed to order people to stay at home or to close non-essential businesses. In Alabama, for example, it was not until April 3rd that governor Kay Ivey finally issued a stay-at-home order.

In Florida, the state with the highest concentration of elderly people with underlying conditions, governor Ron DeSantis, a Trump mini-me, kept the beach resorts open to students travelling from all over the US for spring break parties. Even on April 1st, when he issued restrictions, DeSantis exempted religious services and “recreational activities”.

Georgia governor Brian Kemp, when he finally issued a stay-at-home order on April 1st, explained: “We didn’t know that [the virus can be spread by people without symptoms] until the last 24 hours.”

This is not mere ignorance – it is deliberate and homicidal stupidity. There is, as the demonstrations this week in US cities have shown, plenty of political mileage in denying the reality of the pandemic. It is fueled by Fox News and far-right internet sites, and it reaps for these politicians millions of dollars in donations, mostly (in an ugly irony) from older people who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

It draws on a concoction of conspiracy theories, hatred of science, paranoia about the “deep state” and religious providentialism (God will protect the good folks) that is now very deeply infused in the mindset of the American right.

Trump embodies and enacts this mindset, but he did not invent it. The US response to the coronavirus crisis has been paralyzed by a contradiction that the Republicans have inserted into the heart of US democracy. On the one hand, they want to control all the levers of governmental power. On the other they have created a popular base by playing on the notion that government is innately evil and must not be trusted.

The contradiction was made manifest in two of Trump’s statements on the pandemic: on the one hand that he has “total authority;” and on the other that “I don’t take responsibility at all”. Caught between authoritarian and anarchic impulses, he is incapable of coherence.

But this is not just Donald Trump. The crisis has shown definitively that Trump’s presidency is not an aberration. It has grown on soil long prepared to receive it. The monstrous blossoming of misrule has structure and purpose and strategy behind it.

There are very powerful interests who demand “freedom” in order to do as they like with the environment, society and the economy. They have infused a very large part of American culture with the belief that “freedom” is literally more important than life. My freedom to own assault weapons trumps your right not to get shot at school. Now, my freedom to go to the barber (“I Need a Haircut” read one banner this week in St Paul, Minnesota) trumps your need to avoid infection.

Usually when this kind of outlandish idiocy is displaying itself, there is the comforting thought that, if things were really serious, it would all stop. People would sober up. Instead, a large part of the US has hit the bottle even harder.  And the president, his party and their media allies keep supplying the drinks. There has been no moment of truth, no shock of realization that the antics have to end. No one of any substance on the US right has stepped in to say: get a grip, people are dying here.

That is the mark of how deep the trouble is for the US – it is not just that Trump has treated the crisis merely as a way to feed tribal hatreds but that this behavior has become normalized. When the freak show is live on TV every evening, and the star is boasting about his ratings, it is not really a freak show anymore. For a very large and solid bloc of Americans, it is reality.

And this will get worse before it gets better. Trump has at least eight more months in power. In his inaugural address in 2017, he evoked “American carnage” and promised to make it stop. But now that the real carnage has arrived, he is reveling in it. He is in his element.

As things get worse, he will pump more hatred and falsehood, more death-wish defiance of reason and decency, into the groundwater. If a new administration succeeds him in 2021, it will have to clean up the toxic dump he leaves behind. If he is re-elected, toxicity will have become the lifeblood of American politics.

Either way, it will be a long time before the rest of the world can imagine America being great again.

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If this report seems far-fetched; if the perspective seems far too narrow; if you’re inclined to dismiss this as just one disgruntled Irish guy opining, then I urge you to have a look at Tom McTague’s essay from London in The Atlantic entitled “The Decline of the American World.” Be clear that Trump is engineering that very thing. E.g. last week Trump announced that we won’t participate in the worldwide effort to develop a vaccine to battle Covid-19. What do you suppose that looks like from abroad?

From McTague’s post:

Bruno Maceas, Portugal’s former Europe minister, whose book The Dawn of Eurasia looks at the rise of Chinese power, told me, “The collapse of the American empire is a given; we are just trying to figure out what will replace it.”

You can check with the folks at Gallup for more. Here’s a recent graph of how Europeans view American leadership. The charts for how Asians and people in the Americas see American leadership look the same. Be clear that the rising black line on the right represents increasing disapproval of U.S. leadership over the past 3 years.

On the left of the graph you can see the high disapproval of the leadership of George W. Bush. Then there were eight strong years of approval for American leadership during the Obama administration (the green line). Now Trump has managed to achieve the highest leadership disapproval of America by our global neighbors. Ever. This is what Trump’s destruction of alliances and his sucking up to tyrants have done to our place in the world. Click the chart and read the report for yourself.

Consider if you were accosted by a street tough. You likely wouldn’t respect him. On the other hand, you’d be keenly aware of have and great respect for the assault rifle and semi-automatic pistol he carried and you would be exceedingly clear about the destruction and chaos they can cause. It’s quite the same for the the way the world views the United States of Trump.

Finally, five years ago the offices of the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo were attacked and eleven of its staff were murdered by Islamist terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda. The trial of some accomplices to those murders began last Wednesday and Charlie Hebdo once again published the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed and Islam that triggered the attack. Once again they’ve put a stake in the ground to declare freedom of the press will not be stifled. So, once again we can all declare, Je suis Charlie.

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

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

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

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

JA


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

Trump’s Folly v2.0


Reading time – 2:37  .  .  .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Thanks!

Fine Print:

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

JA

 


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

How To Lose an Election


Reading time – 3:52; Viewing time – 5:08  .  .  .

Set aside for the moment your notions of what you want and how you want to go about making it happen. Focus, instead, on how to win the presidential election, presented here in inverted format as the sure path to the Democrats’ loss.

Start with this: The Democrats already have all the votes of their True Believers and those a bit closer to the center. Lots of women and lots of people of color will vote Democratic for the obvious reasons. The battle is for the marginal voters, the independents and the former Trump voters who only voted for Trump because he wasn’t Hillary. Be reasonable with them and they’ll vote for the Democrat. Be foolishly partisan and extreme and they’ll vote for Trump and we’ll get 4 more years of insanity.

Key point: Change scares people and big, rapid change scares people a lot. Small incremental change is easier to tolerate, so offer that.

Marginal voters will vote for Trump if you tell them that you’re going to take away their private healthcare insurance. It doesn’t matter that he’s trying to do worse. Explaining how Medicare for All will be better for them will fall on deaf ears. Parsing out the nuanced differences between extreme plans will, at best, put voters to sleep. It will not shift a single vote to Democrats.

In order to scare away red, white and blue Americans, all you have to do is to tell them about the socialist Medicare for All program that Democrats are going to force on them. To most Americans that’s the same as telling them that Comrade Vladimir or Chairman Xi will be our next president. So, stop with the socialism, because it’s a guaranteed election loser. Explanations are useless to blunt the enormous fear that will be fostered by the threat of socialism.

In fact, for all policies, if you have to explain it, it’s a loser.

If you want to be sure that all gun owners vote against the Democrat candidate, tell them you’re going to take their guns. Regardless of what the Democrats say about military assault rifles, all you will hear from Republicans is “slippery slope”. Opponents will claim that taking their military assault rifles is just the first step to confiscating all guns and making criminals of otherwise law abiding citizens because they didn’t turn in their target pistols.

You’ll hear that a thousand times and there will be over-the-top SuperPAC ads warning of an Orwellian dystopian future and the subjugation of the people if gun confiscating Democrats have their way. Democrats will lose and Trump will win.

What about telling voters you’re going to give everyone $1,000 per month? Or $10,000 per month? Or that the solution to all problems is for the government to give away cash? Who believes this lunacy?

Another sure loser is to tell the American people that we’re going to have open borders. Seriously, now, the people are already afraid of terrorists and immigrants who they think will steal their jobs. Telling them that when you’re president you’ll make it easier for such people to just walk into the country is a guaranteed victory for Trump.

This is just a short list of actual candidate policies and positions that are enthusiastically being promoted. Every one of them will drive away millions of voters and give President Orange more time to trash our democracy, suck up to Putin and hurt yet more people.

I don’t have the sense that you can change candidate policy positions, but you can work for and vote for people in primaries who aren’t going to scare the daylights out of Americans. That will lead to a candidate who can contrast powerfully with Trump, and his bullying, cluelessness and incompetence will be on full display and he will disqualify himself.

Recall that Trump won in part because he spoke to people’s fears, many of which were borne of rapid change, like globalization. If Democrats incite people’s fears with the promise – perceived as a threat – of large, rapid change, they will have surrendered in 2020, lost the election and Trump will stay in the Oval Office for 4 more disastrous years.

Key point: Change scares people and big, rapid change scares people a lot. Small incremental change is easier to tolerate, so offer that.

Smarten up, Democrats.


Finally,

In one of life’s great ironies we learned that Donald Trump, the chosen one, is capable of making John Bolton a sympathetic character. Who would have thought it possible?

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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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 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,

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

There’s Only One Message


Reading time – 2:49; Viewing time – 4:01 .  .  .

– with a special message from Carl Reiner

VOTE!

Everything else is secondary. Read Tom Friedman’s piece – he explains it better than I can.

Just a few more comments.

Trump showed up on that enormously painful day after having been asked to stay away by the Mayor of Pittsburgh, the rabbi of the synagogue where 11 people were killed and 6 were injured and 70,000 residents of Pittsburgh (over 23% of the city’s population). He was specifically dis-invited by the grieving families, but he showed up anyway. Really, though, why would he accede to the wishes of those grieving people, when he has a photo-op moment? Everything is always about Trump, regardless of the consequences to others.

Gail Collins wrote of Trump that, “His rhetorical high point probably came when he went to the synagogue where 11 people were murdered and didn’t say anything.” Translation: Every time Trump opens his mouth something bad comes out.

Last week Trump released a 45-second ad that is blatantly racist and lacks even the slightest hint at subtlety. It is bald faced fear mongering. Except for the assertion that Luis Bracamontes is an illegal immigrant convicted of killing two cops, every other statement in the ad is false. What is noteworthy is Trump’s having yet again shown us that there is no bottom to his low.

Trump and the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee lied and cheated their way to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. When Trump was asked about his lying throughout the process, he told a reporter, “We won” – that’s all that mattered.

Now you know every thing you need to know about Trump. Everything is solely about Trump winning. Protecting our country and preserving our democracy mean nothing to him. Getting more power and wealth for Trump is all that matters. Truth, reality, propriety, morality, honesty, rules, impact on others – none of it matters because everything is always about Trump getting more of what he wants. That’s his reason for going to Pittsburgh when he was specifically asked not to come. That’s how we get a blatantly dishonest, 45-second fear mongering, anti-immigrant ad 5 days before the mid-term election. That’s how Brett Kavanaugh, accused by multiple women of sexual assault, makes it onto the Supreme Court. Clearly, for Trump the end justifies the means. And the means are the manipulation tools he uses without regard for the suffering he causes others and the damage he does to our democracy.

The destruction of democratic America and the establishment of Trump as autocrat is what he is working to create every day. And that is the America our spineless Republican Congress is allowing to come about through its cowardice and refusal to check Trump.

And that is why there is only one message:

VOTE!

Here’s Carl Reiner’s message for you:

I’m not customarily or historically a partisan. I care about issues and principles. If you must, sneer at me as unrealistic and disparagingly call me a Boy Scout. No problem here. But this election comes so plainly in a desperate moment for our country that most issues and policies are at best secondary. The only issue on which to focus is to save our democracy, and you can’t do that with sniveling, cowardly Republicans controlling Congress.

Vote for Democrats who will stop Trump’s destruction of our democracy.

Vote for Democrats who will begin to restore the underpinnings of our democracy that Trump has compromised.

VOTE!

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Here’s another message from a lifelong Republican. Have you noticed how many have the same message for you? Have you noticed how many lifelong Republicans have left that party because the party left them and no longer remotely promotes their values?

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

I Didn’t Want To Write This Post


Reading time – 4:54; Viewing time – 6:18  .  .  .
I didn’t want to write this post. I want to be better than this, to be evolved and enlightened. I want to be patient and understanding and have equanimity, but that just isn’t happening. Not now and perhaps not for a very long time.

I’m mad as hell.

I’m sick of weenie politicians offering their damned “thoughts and prayers.” I’m nauseated by the spinelessness of our leaders who are, instead, followers of the biggest financial donors. I’m sickened by elected officials who value their political life far more than the actual lives of attendees at religious ceremonies and little children in school. The core value of these officials seems to be, “Let ’em all die, as long as I get re-elected.”

I attended what was offered as a healing ceremony at my synagogue on Sunday morning. The kids attending Sunday School were brought in for the last 15 minutes of the proceedings and as I watched their little bodies make their way to open seats I couldn’t help but realize that these kids have now been taught to be afraid all the time, everywhere. And that’s absolutely not okay.

Nobody has ever solved the riddle of how to take fear and hate and anger from the hearts of our citizens, so I don’t have any notion that the riddle will be solved now. What I do believe is that we can open our eyes to the reality all around us and start to deal with it.

The Anti-Defamation League keeps track of anti-Semitism in America and reports that anti-Semitic incidents were up 57% in 2017 over 2016, with the highest increases occurring in the first 3 months of the year. It’s interesting to note that these spikes in acts of hatred occurred during and just after Donald Trump’s inauguration. Then the acts of hate spiked again following the “Unite the Right” neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, which was conducted by “fine people,” according to our president.

Trump is the obvious and easy-to-name provocateur of intolerance because of his well documented incitements to hate and violence. His wooden recitation of words from a Tele-prompter that were written by someone else means nothing, because everyone knows he’s completely disingenuous in his sympathy and is only mouthing the words. The withholding of his vilification of others barely lasted an hour following his Tele-prompter charade, when he was back to naming enemies and demeaning them. We’ve always had a problem of hatred in this country, but we’ve often had a leader upon whom we could count to call upon our better angels. Now, we don’t.

And it’s missing from many of our elected leaders, too, especially those who spinelessly refuse to stand up to Trump.

For those who desperately want to deny the one-sidedness of the incitement to hate and violence that lives in our politics and our country, I have a question for you: What is it that you’re pretending not to know? Perhaps you’ll like my question better in this form: What is it that is right before you every day that you refuse to see and refuse to hear?

If you call yourself a Republican I invite you to examine if that’s really true. The Republican Party of Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and H. W. Bush is long gone. There are still some ugly echoes from them, like the overt racism of Nixon and the racial stereotyping by Reagan (recall his self-serving lie, saying there were “welfare queens” in Chicago), but the basic conservatism of any and all of them is gone, regardless of the Republican label in use by others today.

Today’s Republican Party is the party of discrimination, the withholding of rights, hatred and the impoverishment of middle class and poor Americans and anyone who is not from white, Christian European stock, and the violent perps feed off that. If the things in that list don’t describe you, then renounce your membership in that party right now, because the Republicans of today abandoned you in favor of protecting their own asses and in the process they lost any semblance of moral standing and the right to a place of leadership. And it’s not just the discrimination that’s a problem.

They’ve sold out to the gun lobby because that gets them big donations for their campaigns. Were they honest they would declare the number of people who they figure can be butchered by semi-automatic weapon carrying angry people before they’ll stand up for sensible gun safety laws. Don’t look for that declaration, though, because going public with that would upset their big money donors.

Eleven people were killed and many more were wounded in the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday, this in the name of blaming Jews for the miserable life the killer had made for himself. It’s the same pattern as for the butchery in the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and the Sikh temple in Milwaukee and the LGBTQ partiers at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and those little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the people at the Las Vegas concert. Nearly all those dead bodies can be attributed to the cowardice of our elected officials to stand up and lead.

I went to the healing ceremony on Sunday and found no healing. I’ll get to that someday. Right now I’m mad as hell and I don’t give a damn about politicians’ “thoughts and prayers.” I want action.

For more following our most recent massacre, be sure to read Howard Fineman’s essay and Bari Weiss’ essay, too.

Correction: While she lived through those years, Rose Mallinger, the 97 year old shooting victim originally mentioned in this post, was not a holocaust survivor. Apologies for the error. JA

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Potpourri v4.0


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

Reading time – 3:03  .  .  .

I just re-read Thomas Friedman’s essay on artificial intelligence and it brought back a question I heard posed in connection with self-driving cars and trucks: How will we deal with one million truck drivers when they’re suddenly put out of work?

We’ve experienced a loss of jobs for a long while, primarily due to automation and, less so but still significantly, due to outsourcing to cheaper labor. There’s a difference in perception and reactivity between slow changes like those, and the sudden change that AI is bringing. We haven’t done well dealing with that long term loss of jobs, so how will we deal with a much more sudden loss of one million jobs?

That’s just one complex issue stacked onto so many more in our rapidly changing world. Nobody in the history of the world has faced globalization as we’re experiencing it and it has impacted us in dramatic ways. Nikil Saval’s essay in The Guardian is a must read on this issue.

Most importantly, we have to recognize the impact globalization has had and will continue to have on an extremely fearful citizenry. That fear has already led to Brexit and the rise of what’s being called populism around the world, both of which are isolationist tactics designed to return to an unattainable past. We have to find solutions and admit that they don’t lie in fictions about a fairy tale past or in an imagined dystopian future, and our solutions can’t be found by demonizing others. This is truly hard stuff that will require us to work together to find solutions.


He’s nuts. No, I really mean he’s nuts. Dan Wallace lays it out for you with a simple clarity befitting a centrist with a penchant for – what else? – clarity.


You know about the Muslim ban. You know about the rejection and even jailing of people applying for asylum in the U.S. You know about our state-run kidnapping of children. You know about voter suppression, mostly of people of color and of poor people, which is done to fight nearly nonexistent voter fraud. Read this report about the most recent effort at governmental discrimination. All of these are battles in the war against “others” to perpetuate control by those in power.

If you’d like to learn what all that “othering”, all that denial of rights leads to, read this piece at Harper’s Bazaar. Systematic discrimination has a logical and diabolical end and you won’t like it if that shows up here.


Speaking of state-run kidnapping of children, that problem is worse than you might suspect. The number of migrant kids in federally contracted facilities is 5 times what it was last year at this time – 12,800 kids. You need to read this piece to understand that more fully. For now, give credit to our government for its astonishing ability to swat at symptoms instead of root causes, to make innocents suffer and to provide disincentive to relief for those kids.

One last comment on this. These kids are being held in “federally contracted facilities.” That means that they are privately owned and run prisons, like our state and federal detention facilities built to house the largest number of prisoners in any country ever.

Many of these prisoners are serving absurdly long sentences for minor drug offenses. Had they been white, hundreds of thousands of these people would never have been jailed or would have received minimal sentences. On the other hand, this ongoing insanity is an excellent way to suppress the vote of poor people and people of color, which benefits the wealthy. And it does one more thing: it’s good for business, like the prison business, which makes for great campaign funding.


Finally, there are tens of thousands of tons of plastic garbage floating about our oceans and the mess causes many problems. Dealing with that is a vexing issue, but someone is at last doing something about it.

A 2000 foot long floating boom has been constructed that is designed to encircle the plastic garbage so that it can be recovered and recycled. It’s headed for its first real world test right now and you can read about it here. Pretty cool!

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

George W. Bush Rehab


Reading time – 1:57 seconds; Viewing time – 2:58  .  .  .

This is important on 9/11.

There seems to be a surge of warm and fuzzy over former President George W. Bush, so the Daily Kos has pointed out the obvious. Quoting them,

George W. Bush ignored screaming sirens before the September 11 terrorist attacks.

George W. Bush used those attacks to lie the United States into attacking a nation that had nothing to do with them, and hundreds of thousands of innocents were killed, with millions made refugees. The disaster he created continues.

George W. Bush authorized torture.

George W. Bush let a great American city drown.

George W. Bush ignored climate change and his policies actively made it worse.

George W. Bush deregulated everything, attacked unions and the social safety net, and crashed the economy.

With a  memory dulled by time and with Trump as the comparative, Bush might look better now than he did in 2008, but let’s be clear about why he had one of the lowest presidential approval ratings ever recorded: he was a terrible president and we continue to live with the fallout. We are still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, now 15 and 17 years later and with no end in sight because Bush never had an exit plan for his unnecessary wars.

During the 2000 primary campaign Bush attacked John McCain’s war record. You have to be clear that as the Vietnam War was raging, instead of going to southeast Asia as McCain did, Bush had a fine time flying jets in Texas. Nobody ever fired rockets at him like they did at McCain.

And Bush impugned the patriotism of former Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA), who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam. That impugning of Cleland and his attack on McCain tell you all you need to know about the character of George W. Bush.

You may recall that President Obama campaigned in 2008 on hope and change and there’s a reason his message resonated with the overwhelming majority of Americans: under Bush, we felt hopeless and were desperate for change.

9/11 Memorial & Museum

Flight 93 National Memorial

Bush delivered a nice eulogy for McCain, but that doesn’t counterbalance what he did before. If your memory needs refreshing, you can visit the 9/11 Memorial in New York and the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, PA and visit the 9th Ward in New Orleans or just look at the millions of middle-east refugees flooding the world right now as reminders of his ineptitude.

9th Ward, New Orleans, today

So, don’t get all nostalgic for George W. Bush and long for him as though those were the good old days and he was up to the task. They weren’t and he wasn’t.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Only Donald Trump


Reading time – 1:10  .  .  .

President Trump has said repeatedly that only he can do various things. As laughable as that has seemed, it recently set me to thinking about whether there might be some accuracy to his boasts. Here’s a list of what comes to mind as things only Donald Trump could have done:

  1. He’s made racist, weaselly, mean-spirited, hypocrite Jefferson Beauregard Sessions into a sympathetic character.
  2. In his mania to erase all of President Obama’s accomplishments and legacy, he double-crossed the Dreamers.
  3. In his mania to erase all of President Obama’s accomplishments and legacy, he pulled us out of the JCPOA, giving tacit approval to Iran to build nuclear bombs.
  4. In his mania to erase all of President Obama’s accomplishments and legacy, he pulled us out of the Paris Climate Agreement and is encouraging the burning of coal and the removal of pollution protections.
  5. He has criminalized asylum seekers and kidnapped hundreds of children.
  6. He has lied to the American public an average of 6.5 times per day for over 19 months.
  7. He has alienated all NATO countries.
  8. He has started multiple trade wars.
  9. He has expanded economic inequality.
  10. He has abandoned the people of Puerto Rico – Americans, every one.
  11. He has embraced white supremacists and emboldened them to ever more public hatred and violence.
  12. He has wiped his dirty boots on the First Amendment through his Muslim ban.
  13. He has negotiated away the safety and security of the United States and possibly the entire world and received nothing in return from North Korea. I have previously argued that any idiot could have done this, but no idiot would have been this idiotic.
  14. He has insulted the leaders of Mexico, Canada, Great Britain, Germany – where else?

Honestly, I think he may be right. He may be the only one who can do this stuff.

What am I missing? Add to this list in the Comments section below.

  • ————————————

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

    YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

    Thanks!


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

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