Violence

The Ledge


She tried to talk me off the ledge, but I only moved back a bit.

It was late in the afternoon and I was suiting up for walking the dog on a cold January day, muttering under my breath and slamming drawers that had done me no wrong.

“What’s the matter?” she asked in her gentle way.

“I’m mad as hell and not fit to be with. Please respect yourself by staying away from me. I’m so damned mad I’m trying to stay away from myself.”

She insisted on walking with me, so instead of grunting to myself as I walked the dog, I spoke mostly complete sentences.

I’m so goddamn mad that 4,000 of my countrymen are dying every day. President Doesn’t Give a Shit told us of his level of care directly, saying, “I’m not responsible for anything.” That comment was aimed specifically at anything having to do with our mass death pandemic, so of course I don’t expect any action from him to protect and defend the American people – you know, the ones dying at the rate of 4,000 per day?

But there’s a commission specifically tasked with distributing vaccines and getting them into the arms of Americans and now weeks after vaccines were available we’ve managed to vaccinate just 9 million people, while tens of millions more vaccine doses are sitting uselessly in freezers.

And 4,000 of us are dying every day. That’s one every 22 seconds. Go ahead – look at your watch or iPhone timer and count off the deaths. One every 22 seconds.

And every single one of those deaths is somebody’s mom or dad or grandma or grandpa or brother or sister or son or daughter or friend or co-worker or neighbor or the guy at the convenience store. Those who have died lost their lives. The survivors have lost their hearts.

And that goddamn incompetent distribution commission continues to bumble.

That’s why I’m furious.

Now President Burn It All Down has incited insurrection – sedition. He’s attempted to neuter the Congress, to violate every voter and take over the country in order to become a fascist dictator. His mobs have the same certainty that they are on the side of justice and what’s right, that they’re the true patriots and that God is on their side as does al Qaeda and ISIS and the World War II Nazis and the Hutu’s and Slobodan Milosevic’s army of ethnic cleansing thugs and all the rest of the genocidal maniacs.

This time the terrorists, the killers and the rampagers are our countrymen.

Our domestic terrorists believe they’re the true good guys because President Burn It All Down has told them so. He’s told them he loves them. Here’s what I’ll tell you.

We’ve always had our significant minority of citizens who hate, who dearly love to hate. I want to be bigger than this, but the truth is that right now I hate them. I fantasize about violently dragging those slimes off the walls of our Capitol Building and of beating the hell out of the vandals who beat the hell out our beautiful windows and doors of that building. I want to smash those who are trying to smash our Constitution.

My dad and 16.5 million of his generation served in the military in World War II. 405,399 of them died in Europe to end Nazism. On behalf of my dad and his compatriots in that awful war, our Greatest Generation says loud and clear that you goddamn neo-Nazis are an American disgrace. You are everything we know to be wrong.

That’s why I’m so damned angry.

In some ways what is even worse is the cabal of hypocritical, cowardly, manipulating cretins in Congress who have enabled and even encouraged the hate and violence, not out of some warped sense of patriotism, but for individual, stupidly selfish personal gain. We’ve known of their treachery for years and they have gotten away with it.

That’s why I’m livid.

The thing is, there are a lot of truly patriotic Americans on that ledge with me. That doesn’t ease my anger, but they and I know right from wrong and will not stand for anything less than full punishment for those who did these awful things. I expect that a lot of us will continue to be on that ledge until the balance of justice is restored.

Meanwhile, the domestic terrorists have promised more violence and hate in DC and in our state capitols this weekend and on Inauguration Day. So,

Memo to DHS, the National Guard and all the agencies that somehow managed to come out and beat the hell out of Black Lives Matter protesters last summer:

Show up and do your job this time. I don’t give a damn what President Doesn’t Give a Shit or Burn It All Down says to you. Do your goddam job.

On January 6 they failed us. They failed to do their job. Now the Capitol Building is desecrated and four more people are dead.

That’s why I’m on the ledge.


Late Additions

Three congressmen/women have tested positive for COVID-19 following their sheltering in place with Republican congressmen/women who arrogantly, selfishly, stupidly refused to wear masks. They should be chained to the wall of the darkest, moldiest part of the basement of the Capitol Building and left there until they fervently apologize for their cruelty to others and swear to comply with the simple public health directions of the CDC for the duration. It will be okay to feed them gruel once per week until they repent.

Watch/listen to what Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has to say about the attempted overthrow of our government.

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

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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. Said John Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” So, educate me and all of us. 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 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Anthem


Reading time – 1.38  .  .  .

It is the morning of the Electoral College report to Congress. Donald Trump has encouraged militants like the Proud Boys and neo-Nazis to demonstrate in the streets of DC, knowing full well that they will bring their anger and their firearms. As of this writing it is unknown if violence will erupt, but DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has called out the National Guard. We have a real live political and cultural divide that has the capacity to explode.

Muriel Bowser, Mayor, Washington DC

This kind of contentiousness, this threat to our national welfare and safety has happened before, most notably and disastrously in the Civil War. And during the 1960s we were torn apart over the concurrent crises of the Vietnam War and a renewed fight for civil rights.

It was mostly young people in opposition to an entrenched conservative power structure. That makes sense, in that it was young people being sent off to fight people they did not recognize as an enemy and perhaps to die for no good reason. They faced down generations of people who had been taught to do as they were told and who expected the 60s young to do the same.

That generational struggle also made sense because while young Blacks certainly had suffered racism, they weren’t yet beaten down by a life of racial discrimination and they refused to live with that injustice. So, they stood up to the entrenched conservative power structure, too, and were joined by white activists.

All that opposition led to violent confrontations and a lot of people were injured and some were killed. Some were assassinated by police, like Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, leaders of the Black Panthers. The Chicago Police didn’t knock, didn’t announce themselves, but simply started shooting, firing nearly 100 bullets into their residence late one night as the men slept. Some were killed by National Guardsman, like the student demonstrators at Kent State in 1971. Some were clubbed mercilessly by Chicago Police in what the Kerner Commission labeled a “police riot.” The times were indisputably violent and deadly. People in power don’t willingly give up their power.

There were calls by some for moderation and many tried to find a way forward that avoided violence, but passions ran high and Americans were polarized. Does that last sentence feel familiar? Isn’t that what is going on right now?

It’s clear that we didn’t resolve that basic conflict 50 years ago. George Santayana told us, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, and surely we’re doing that right now. Mark Twain told us, “History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.” Take your pick. Either way, our national divide isn’t new and it has all the capacity for delivering terrible results just as before, especially when so many on one side seem to act as though violence is the the best solution. Plus, they’re very well armed.

I have some suggestions for an anthem for our time. Both of these are from the late 60s and even if you know them well I encourage you to listen with fresh ears. Perhaps the messages from these can provide some sane direction.

Maybe you have a notion for how we can move forward safely. Maybe you have a suggestion for an anthem to guide us through these very dangerous times. Please share them in the Comments section below.

For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield – 1967

Everyday People by Sly and the Family Stone – 1969

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

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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. Said John Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” So, educate me and all of us. 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 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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

  1. Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe and pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) Use the simple form above on the right.
  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 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

ACTION REQUIRED AGAIN!


The people who organized the Trump rally a couple of weeks ago are calling for another “reopen schools, support law enforcement, and Trump 2020” demonstration, this time on Saturday, October 10 from 3:00 – 5:00PM in the parking lot across from the Coronavirus sign at Shermer Road and Walters Avenue. The first one was organized by a high school junior, perhaps aided by “others.” It was physically non-violent, but was verbally abhorrent. Nevertheless, about as many people demonstrated across the street in a counter-protest. It’s critical that we stand firm again.

Some high school students from Deerfield and Northbrook are calling for a critical counter-protest to stand firm against the bullies. Here’s their call to action:

Bring your sign, your American flag and your peaceful passion and stand firm against the hate. See you there.

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

  1. Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe and pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) Use the simple form above on the right.
  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 2021 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 and have 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.

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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 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Recycling Geologic Time: A Textbook for Today


Reading time – 3:49  .  .  .

The Pre-Cambrian Era dates from the origin of the Earth, through the arrival of the first one-cell organisms and progresses to multi-cell organisms. It was a truly exciting time 4.5 billion years ago.

Trilobyte (or trilobite) fossils

Following that was the Cambrian period of the Mesozoic Era, the beginning of which marked the reign of the Trilobites around 540 million years ago. It lasted until their extinction about 290 million years ago.

The Silurian period came along in the midst of the Trilobyte dynasty and with it came the first fish. That changed everything, because they were vertebrates. They had backbones and, of course, their progeny are still around. Not so the extinct Trilobytes, although fossils abound to mark their prior existence.

Haikouichthys, an early vertebrate

Geology has had its way and we’ve passed through the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods and find ourselves smack dab in the midst of the Quaternary period of the Cenozoic Era. The most recent development of that period is we humans. Think: Lucy in the Great Rift Valley just inland from the southwest corner of the Red Sea. Ever since her time we have declared us to be the most noteworthy evolutionary thing ever.

Lucy, 3.2 million years old. Discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia at the southwest corner of the Red Sea

And here we are, king of the hill, as it were, masters of all we survey. We stand up straight with a greatly enlarged frontal lobe and spines of sturdy bone and cartilage. Well, most of us do. The geologically misplaced among us are those born without those internal accoutrements, such that they are unable to stand for anything.

Some of them are pleased to sit in Congress and do that surveying business and little else. They are able to thump their chests in a posture of agreement with whoever will pat them on the head and tell them they are good boys and girls and who also promise not to call them mean names.

There are many others of this reverted species, too, and all of them long for simplicity. That’s based upon a memory of some long ago that they think they had but which they never actually experienced. It was in their idealized yesteryear, they believe, when their lives were idyllic. There was no need to deal with “others“ then, people who were in any way different from them and who annoyingly would demand things like rights.

It’s unsurprising but often shocking to find that these Cambrian reversions are unable to experience shame for their words and actions, which leads to frequent dishonest behavior, like cheating and lawbreaking and sometimes the murdering of others not in their group.

Even the casual observer can see with the unaided eye their self-focused behavior in such things as elections. Some reversions act as though laws, norms and rules don’t exist and they operate solely for their own benefit and without regard for their impact on others. Seen in a broader context, such behavior is clearly reptilian, which is in line with the primitive brain structure common to the post-Cambrian period, specifically, the Carboniferous Mississippian period.

Pit bull

Without a spine to connect body with brain they either refuse to or are unable to consider complex notions, much like the Trilobytes, and all their behavior is little more than reflex reaction to stimulus. For example, when poked the Cambrian reversions reflexively lash out at the source. It’s very much like the behavior of a pit bull. When they see anything that isn’t just like them they react with fear, anger and hatred and immediately work to expel or kill whatever seems to them to be foreign. It appears that the Cambrian reversions can’t fully consider the concept of consequences. To be fair, neither can the pit bull.

Trump rally

Today, oddly, these Cambrian throw-backs often raise a fist and cheer passionately for themselves. Anthropologists have suggested that this behavior may be some form of in-group reinforcement. A theory proposed recently is that this is a pre-verbal, ceremonial event, possibly part of a mock war enactment or even a mating ritual. Regardless, there is strong consensus among anthropologists that this group always includes the profound rejection of others.

These group actions seem to mollify the participants for short periods of time. Nevertheless, they retain their ability for a quick display of animosity. More study is needed here.

White supremacist/Nazi march, Charlottesville, VA, August 2017

They have no need to be the most numerous creatures in order to control or at least influence all around them because they are facile with violence and the threat of violence. They are adept at powerful rationalizing and bending rules to advance their self-interest and seem to enjoy rallying around ancient fertility symbols. All they require is a leader to ignite their passion with simple words that stoke their fears and thereby their hatreds.

What is so very interesting is that they can accomplish their dominance and damage through the power of lies, manipulation, abandoned reason and by always insisting on simplicity over the much more difficult consideration of complexities. Their way takes little mental effort, is quick and easy and it requires no spine at all. It doesn’t even require curiosity. In fact, tests conducted at the National Institutes of Health in 2017 found that 100% of the subjects were wholly without curiosity and 96.7% were unable to associate their actions with impact on group outsiders. Oddly, during testing all test subjects insisted on wearing a cap with letters indicating pride in a fictitious past.

It seems many have effectively managed to return to the Cambrian period of evolution, a time when there were no spines or higher brain functions. Unlike the actual Cambrian period, there’s no room this time for the Trilobytes, because they would be considered “others” and killed on sight by today’s Cambrian human invertebrates. The true danger now lies in what else they might kill, including democracy.

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Your homework

Read this now. There will be a continuing quiz from today through November 3 and you must ace this test. Otherwise, your penalty will be far worse than detention hall.

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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 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

As Smart as Squirrels – v2


Reading time – 3:32  .  .  .

The impeachment trial of Donald Trump continues, even as more revelations arrive almost daily that paint a very dark picture of his actions. Whether witnesses will be called and evidentiary documents will be presented at his impeachment trial remains unknown. Whether he will be convicted and booted from office remains an extreme long shot. Nevertheless, he will leave office either by impeachment, by election this year or, worst case, in 4 more years. That leaves us with what appears to me to be a critical and un-examined issue: the threat of hate group backlash when Trump is removed.

You saw all those angry looking (mostly) men with loaded assault rifles and handguns on the streets in Virginia last weekend. They were carrying their firearms to send a testosterone-fueled, anger-fired message. Perhaps these are the same people who deliver death threats to politicians and pundits who dare to oppose Trump. Perhaps these are the same people who show up at churches and synagogues and movie theaters and outdoor concerts to murder innocent strangers. Perhaps they are a powder keg just waiting for the right stimulus, some perceived wrong, to light their fuse, like Trump’s removal from office.

I want to know someone is thinking about how to handle this situation when it arrives on our doorstep. Better yet, before it arrives on our doorstep. Who in government is forging a strategy to prevent the carnage that these haters have promised, like a new civil war? I want to know what we are doing to interdict post-Trump violence. There aren’t enough security guards in the world to protect all the people in all the churches and synagogues and movie theaters and outdoor concerts.

You and I and everyone else know it’s coming. Maybe there will be a lot of violence; maybe not so much. Regardless, the bad guys have promised violence on our country. We can make a plan to prepare for that every bit as surely as squirrels plan and prepare for the harsh winter they know is on the way.

Squirrels aren’t very bright. Their brains are about the size of a walnut and survival activities are about all they are capable of mastering. Can we do that? Can we master what’s needed for our own survival? Are we as smart as squirrels? I have my doubts.

Sarcasm Corner

With the promise of white supremacist violence on the horizon, this is the right time to express our gratitude, so:

Thanks so much, George W. Bush, for allowing the ban on assault weapons to expire.

Thanks so much to the NRA-funded politicians who refuse to do anything to curb gun violence except mouth pitifully inadequate thoughts and prayers.

Thanks to the Supreme Court for greasing the skids to oblivion by making so much corruption possible, including the gun lobby purchasing of politicians and laws made possible by the Citizens United decision 10 years ago last week.

Really, thanks to all who have made it possible – and even desirable to many – for America to have become a supremely well equipped arsenal of anger. You know who you are.

Who will save us from ourselves?

Last thing  .  .  .

The Trump defense team finished up on Tuesday and honestly, the wrap up by Pat Cipollone was masterful. Most impressive was his playing of a series of videos from the Clinton impeachment, featuring many of today’s House managers and other top Democrats appearing to have argued that Trump’s deeds are not impeachable, exactly the opposite of their earnest pleading today. It was a brilliant job of displaying hypocrisy, just as the recordings shown by Democrats of Lindsay Graham, Alan Dershowitz, Ken Starr and others from the Clinton impeachment days have unmasked their hypocrisy. Great showmanship from both sides. Of course, while all of this was riveting courtroom drama, none of the tearing down of others deals with the substance of the charges against Trump.

As impressive as Cipollone’s videos were, my key takeaway from the entire body of defense work has led me to some questions. I didn’t go to law school so I need help finding answers from someone who did.

  1. Exactly which course in law school trains litigators to create fantastical arguments entirely out of fiction, to mislead and to blatantly lie?
  2. Who schools law students to misrepresent, to turn reality upside down and to say the most outrageously false things they can conjure, telling people not to believe their own eyes?
  3. What is the process they’re taught for selling out their integrity?

Yes, that is a brutal indictment of Trump’s team. That’s how it’s intended.

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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 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Eliot Ness, We Need You Now


Reading time – 2:55  .  .  .

Regular readers of these posts will recognize that I have long wondered why otherwise fully functional adults possessing a clear sense of right and wrong could tolerate, much less support and promote the obvious law breaking, wrongdoing and un-Constitutional actions of Donald Trump. Of course, some may simply be true believers. But the results of my research, often expressed in these pages (here for example), have suggested a more likely explanation for the behavior of most of these people.

Were an elected official to oppose Trump in any way, two bad  things would happen:

  1. They would be vilified mercilessly on Twitter and at every Trump speaking opportunity;
  2. Trump would enthusiastically support their primary opponent in the next election;

and they would lose their job. We’ve seen this happen.

That’s a strong witch’s brew to inhibit discouraging words and votes against Trump; however, this brew is far more toxic than I had imagined, because there is a third and far more dangerous ingredient.

A most compelling essay was posted by Frank Rich in the January 6 edition of New York Magazine entitled What Will Happen To the Trump Toadies? It is focused on the likely future of Trump’s lickspittle enablers by drawing parallels both to Richard Nixon’s suck-ups and cronies and to Vichy France collaborators with the Nazis. The piece is long and detailed and a great article. It’s well worth your time and focus.

Appending that essay is a short interview of Never-Trumper, Republican strategist Rick Wilson. He speaks to the fact that many in Congress secretly despise Trump, reporting on one, saying,

“Right after Trump was elected, there were a lot of guys who had this shocking moment. A friend of mine, a member of Congress, went home to a town-hall meeting, and a guy asks him, ‘Are you going to be with Mr. Trump 100 percent of the time?’ And he goes, ‘Well, look, I support Donald Trump and I want to help him, and we agree on many things. But I represent this district. If there’s something the president wants to do and it’s good for us, we’re absolutely going to do it. If it’s something that’s bad for our district, I’m going to oppose it.'”

By the time he left the stage, his wife had death threats. His kids had death threats [emphasis mine]. Because he wouldn’t say, ‘I’ll be with Trump no matter what.’ He called me two days later, and he said, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ Eventually he goes, ‘I’m going to keep my seat.’ He still privately bitches and moans, but he’s still in Congress.

If threats of death and violence like this are common – and this event is unlikely a one-off – then that is the third and most powerful reason Republicans won’t stand and be counted. Survival of self and family is too powerful a driver for them to overcome in order for them to do what they know to be the right thing.

What that means is that thugs – Trump’s “good people on both sides” – have taken control of our country. The Brown Shirts are enforcing Trump’s power and he and they have effectively dissolved the Senate.

In the face of that, imagine evidence overwhelmingly damning of Trump (it exists) being presented at his impeachment trial. Imagine further that it creates a huge public outcry for removal. What are the chances that 67 senators would vote to boot Trump from office?

We desperately need a 2020 version of Eliot Ness right 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 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Guest Essay – The Real Reason


Reading time – 4:35  .  .  .

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addendum

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

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

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


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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Tipping Point


Reading time – 2:10; Viewing time – 3:14  .  .  .

America in the 1930s was anti-immigrant, anti-black, anti-Semitic and probably some other anti’s. And of course we have a well documented history of excluding Chinese, Catholics, Irish, Italians – you name it and we’ve been against it at some time. The piece where I want to focus now, though, is the American attitude toward Jews before World War II.

Kristallnacht, a November night in 1938 of viscous Nazi violence against Jews, was seen as abhorrent by the vast majority of Americans. Yet later that same week, Gallup polled Americans about whether we should open our borders to those seeking refuge from Germany and 72% said no. Two months later 67% of Americans opposed a bill to admit child refugees from Germany. We wouldn’t even lift a finger to save children. It took the revelations of the Holocaust – 6 million people murdered – to reach a tipping point and begin to change public opinion.

Now we’re facing a different cry for relief from persecution. Poor people from Central America are arriving at our southern border pleading for asylum so they won’t have to go back to their war-torn, brutalizing countries where there is nothing to eat.

We’ve watched as this administration has cut aid to those countries, making conditions still worse. We’ve seen how this administration has slow walked applications for asylum, arrested border crossers and failed to properly provide for those it incarcerates.

We’ve heard the official hate speech and seen children separated from their mothers and fathers. This administration told us that this cruelty was a “deterrent” to more migrants coming to America. We’ve seen the reports of overcrowding of children in cages and of kids kept locked in vans for a day and a half. Now we’re seeing Mexico being bludgeoned into housing migrants who are trying to find refuge in the U.S., while at the same time this administration uses this humanitarian crisis that it created to strong-arm Mexico into buying more U.S. stuff. Meanwhile, desperate asylum seekers suffer.

The question for us is this: When does it get so bad that all of us stand up and say “No more!” Where is that tipping point? How much suffering will be so much that it isn’t just a bunch of do-gooders shutting down the Tornillo child prison, but the overwhelming majority of us call out our official cruelty and demand proper, humane treatment for these people?

”  .  .  .  for it is a habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not fancy.” Thucydides

Perhaps our hoping for better isn’t enough. Perhaps thrusting aside this savage reality we do not fancy isn’t enough, either. Maybe it’s time for action.

Late Addition

Herblock cartoon, 1954. Click me for a larger view.

Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) was a reprehensible fraud who ruined the lives of many Americans with his phony charges of them being, having been or having sympathy for communists. Among his famous dalliances from truth was the piece of paper he would brandish, claiming that on it was a list of names of known communists in the State Department.

The piece of paper was just a piece of paper. For all we know it was McCarthy’s shopping list. McCarthy just used the convention as a prop to secure himself attention and fame by menacing others. He was eventually censured by the Senate and died a miserable drunk with hepatitis.

Click me for the story

On Tuesday, President Trump pulled the same reprehensible fraud by brandishing a single folded sheet of paper taken from his breast pocket and waving it before members of the press, claiming it was the agreement just forged with Mexico. He wouldn’t show the agreement because he would let Mexico make the announcement, he told us.

Just one thing: there is no new agreement with Mexico. The agreement was secured long ago – there’s nothing new – and once again the great negotiator has achieved nothing except for laying yet another fraud on the American people.

Just for fun – from The Onion. Click me

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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