climate

Liberty


Samuel Johnson

Just before the American Revolution the English poet and literary critic Samuel Johnson asked,

“How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?”

In a singular way, his insightful question puts a perspective to our founding hypocrisy. What was the contortion of mind and soul that allowed our Founders, men of great intellect and profound moral clarity, to live with such duplicity? One might reasonably think that, surely, that inconsistency must have vanished long ago, at least as far back as the abolishing of slavery, but I don’t think so.

Jim Crow didn’t end when southern governors were forced by National Guard or 101st Airborne troops to step aside and allow Blacks (or, really, any non-Whites) to attend public school with Whites. It didn’t end at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, NC, nor did it end with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And it didn’t end when Trayvon Martin fell to the ground dead with a bag of Skittles in his pocket.  On one side of each of these incidents and so many more were Whites yelping loudly about their liberty and demanding it to the detriment of others.

It’s no different with our flagrant White supremacists today. Some adorn their pickup trucks with Trump flags and intimidate innocent people. Others intimidate with a vote or with their signature, often on letterhead from the House or Senate, state legislatures or governors’ mansions. These are people of power and stature, the heirs to the mantle handed down from the Founders.

They don’t own slaves or chase people from lunch counters or schoolhouse doors any more, but they work every day to keep non-Whites from voting, to keep them down and powerless. And as these people in power steal from non-Whites – and they’ve expanded their domination to suppress the poor and our young people, too – they are all the while yelping loudly about their liberty.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have we learned nothing in these hundreds of years since Samuel Johnson asked his painful question?

Now add this from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

Quite obviously millions covet their duplicitous, foolish consistency. It is much adored by our little statesmen and those who cheer them and harbor that self-same hypocrisy. Our duplicity hasn’t gone away. It’s just mutated and metastasized into today’s cruel, selfish liberty for some, but not for others.

Edward M. Kennedy, 1980

So, it falls to us to honor the pledge of Sen. Edward Kennedy, speaking at the 1980 Democratic National Convention:

“The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”

Our challenge, as ever, is to make that dream of liberty live.

.

Many thanks to JN for the chuckle

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Serving The Dream

We need to reach voters in cities where they’ve been repeatedly slammed by so-called “100 year storms.” They at last believe the climate crisis is real and that it truly is a crisis, but believing in this reality isn’t enough; we have to do something about it – like VOTE FOR THOSE WHO WILL ACT TO COOL THE CLIMATE AND PROTECT US! 

You can help to motivate people to vote for candidates who are serious about combating the climate crisis by sending postcards that remind voters to take action. This has been made easy to do by the Postcards for Climate folks. You don’t have to be a wordsmith to do this because they’ll give you the script.

LINK HERE to get your postcards. And be sure to get your kids involved, because they’ll want to be able to breathe and eat when they’re adults. Plus, democracy is a participation sport, so sending postcards is good citizenship training for them.

We have to do democracy in order to have democracy.

– Kelly Ward Burton, President, National Democratic Redistricting Committee

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The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

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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. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.
  4. Book links to Amazon are provided for reference only. Please purchase your books through your local mom & pop bookstore. Keep them and your town vibrant.

JA


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

Carrots, Sticks and George Washington


George Washington’s Farewell Address was delivered to Congress in 1796. He offered profound wisdom to our young nation and his words have value that is undiminished by time. Indeed, it reads as though Washington had a telescope to see into the 21st century and address our challenges of today. His address is wordy in its 18th century style, but it is accessible with a little concentration and it is your reading assignment this week (click here to download the PDF).

Washington had great aspirations for the country he served selflessly through war and for years after that when he would have preferred to be in retirement on his farm.  Here is a piece of his hopes for this nation:

”  .  .  .  I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.”

The question now is focused on how we are doing in maintaining our brotherly affection, maintaining a free Constitution, ensuring that every department of government is “stamped with wisdom and virtue,” and that we have the happiness and liberty sufficient to recommend democracy like ours to other nations.

There are many Americans now wanting to bring our democracy and our Constitution crashing down and they are doing so while mouthing their perversely impassioned cries of democracy and liberty. We have politicians and blatherers spouting embarrassingly flagrant and witless lies to enrage our citizens against one another and our country. So much for our brotherly affection. And we have abandoned allies and supplicated to tyrants, hardly providing a recommendation of democracy to others.

It’s possible that we’ve back-slid on the path to Washington’s aspirations for us, so our focus needs to be on restoring the pursuit of those lofty goals. Right now it appears that we’ll need both carrots and sticks to begin to move in the right direction.

President Biden hit the ground running, even in the face of the refusal of Trump administration operatives to help in the transition, even in the face of their withholding critical information, even in the face of a complete lack of prior structure to tackle our national challenges and even in the face of their denials of Biden’s achievement and authority.

We are at last on a path to get the pandemic under control and stop killing thousands of Americans daily. We are on a path to restore economic security for our people and we’ve rejoined the global fight for our planet. We are in hopes of soon having the infrastructure program we’ve declared as critical for over three decades and which will benefit all of us in many ways. And we have begun to mend international fences with our allies and put tyrannical opponents on notice. All of that will go a long way to taming the fiery beast of American anger. Perhaps that will narrow our national divisiveness and make us safer here and around the world at the same time.

All are good things, but those carrots alone won’t be enough. It’s hard to picture Michigan Militia toughs suddenly becoming placid and deciding not to kidnap the governor or storm the state capitol with assault weapons, chanting like goosestepping morons about their freedom. The Proud Boys and Oath Keepers won’t miraculously stop calling for a new civil war and threatening to once again attack Congress. Even now they’re threatening to kill Democrats. They are bent on violating Washington’s hope for us, “that [our] union and brotherly affection may be perpetual.” Preventing their violence and chaos will take more than carrots; it will take some sticks.

We need an ongoing and very robust domestic intelligence gathering engine and powerful national policing to crack down on the violent hard heads before they harm more Americans and before they bring down American democracy. That’s the tricky part, because in doing so we risk becoming a police state, compromising the very liberty Washington recommended to us and celebrated. That will be a huge challenge for a very long time.

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Follow Up to the Donald Trump Golden Calf Report

Last week I reported on the CPAC Trump golden idolatry extravaganza and hereby make a prediction based on biblical history.

The T-GOP, like the original wanderers, will take generations to forget their comfort in slavery and their supplication to a false god. Expect no quick miracles.

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Best Opinion Videos of the Week

Brianna Keilar at CNN captures the Pinocchio that Republicans are using to promote minority rule and restore Jim Crow. They are not and never will be real live boys.

And she skewers the jellyfish here.

As you watch the CNN clip, keep in mind the Rudy Question, from the movie The Rainmaker: “Do you even remember when you first sold out?”

Best Political Satire of the Week

Click me for the story

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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. 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.

Science and The New Police Squads


CAUTION TO SENSITIVE READERS: This post contains snarky descriptors that include a couple of words Mom told you not to say. Reader and viewer discretion is advised.

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Reading time – 4:05; Viewing time – 6:27  .  .  .

We’ve had many years of various people denying science:

It’s Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) denying global warming, even as the tides rolled across the streets of Miami Beach, flooding the sandals and pants legs of tourists and the businesses of his constituents.

It’s Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) speaking from the well of the Senate and displaying a snowball as proof that there is no global warming .

It’s Donald Trump not only denying global warming, but blaming the entire controversy on the Chinese, saying they created a hoax designed to harm our economy. He makes his phantasmagorical claim, even as Pacific islands are swallowed by the waves.

But here’s the thing: The disappearance of huge amounts of Arctic and Antarctic ice and the commensurate rise in sea levels don’t care whether anyone believes in them; they just continue to be the stark reality.

Storms are becoming more frequent and more severe. Rainfall distribution is drastically altered, creating both zones of flooding and expanded zones of drought where those never existed. The changes are impacting food production, health and habitability. Reality denial doesn’t affect any of that.

It’s the same reality thing with gravity. It will continue to glue us to the ground and will make the Earth continue to do laps around the sun instead of flying off into the cosmos regardless of whether anyone thinks gravity exists. We know that because scientists who have studied this, who are really smart and really knowledgeable have drawn valid conclusions from facts that are irrefutable. That’s the reality, whether we like it or not.

It’s both remarkable and wondrous that each of us is free to believe whatever stupid, short-term, self-serving crap we want to believe. There are no Police Dumb-Ass Squads to lock up wingnuts who reject observable reality. But we’ve reached a new low, however impossible it may seem that there is someplace lower, and it involves the denial of science and reality.

At his hastily called press conference on Wednesday, the President of the United States gave us a verbal pat on the hand that was devoid of both reality and science. He told us not to worry because Coronavirus (COVID-19) is no biggy. He told us that we’ll have a vaccine to deal with it “very soon,” even though everyone from our government healthcare agencies to the healthcare industry itself, the people who are working to develop a vaccine, have told us flatly that it will take a minimum of 12 – 18 months before a vaccine is available, and that’s only if all goes well.

Trump continued with his reality denial, telling us that the risk of Coronavirus to Americans is small. He told us our 15 cases (actually, there were 60 when Trump spoke) would be down to 1 or 2 soon and the virus would disappear almost magically. And you can believe that’s all true only if you block your eyes and ears so that you can’t detect the lightning fast spread of this killer disease around the world.

To be clear, “risk” involves not what exists, but what may be coming. Trump ignored and continues to ignore the reality of the risk we face and he put us all in greater danger with his false words. We should be alarmed by this risk of pandemic. Not panicked; alarmed.

Trump has put VP Mike Pence at the head of our response team to deal with Coronavirus, explaining that he made that decision because of Pence’s expertise and great success when he was governor of Indiana dealing with HIV. That’s when Pence took 2 months to do anything at all. Then he refused to implement a needle sharing program that would have limited HIV infections. Then he declared the cure was to pray away HIV. That was his great success in Indiana. Seriously.

In addition, Trump has muzzled our healthcare experts, the very people we need to hear from regularly. That leaves us to decide whether we can trust whatever dribbles out of the mouths of our healthcare ignorant politicians. Putting Pence in charge and muzzling the people who actually know something about disease are yet more Trump reality denial and are likely to harm Americans.

Because as John Pavlovitz wrote, You Can’t Gaslight a Pandemic, Donald. It’s that pesky reality thing. It just won’t go away, no matter how many lies and misleading statements are spewed. And reality denial isn’t limited to politicians.

Shockingly, a group of anti-vaccine activists in Maine got an initiative called Question 1 onto their ballot, seeking to repeal a law requiring schoolchildren to be vaccinated. Their slogan is “Reject Big Pharma.” I think instead they should be honest and use the slogan, “We don’t care if our kids infect your kids.”

There’s no vaccine for Coronavirus, but when there is, the reality is that we’re going to force-vaccinate everyone in order to stop this pandemic. And we damned well will be thanking Big Pharma for saving our lives. To the anti-vaccine activists in Maine: Just shut up.

Reality tells us that we are facing an existential threat from Coronavirus, regardless of Trump’s or anyone else’s denials of science and reality. This pandemic is coming soon to a community near you and there is precious little any of us can do about it, other than to be sensibly defensive. Don’t let “He Who Lies When the Truth Would Do” lull you into passivity. His lying and misleading are now more than moral outrages; they are life threatening if we allow them to be. It’s time to prepare and to take extra healthcare measures.

And it may be time to recruit Police Dumb-Ass Squads to arrest the reality deniers, who will harm us unless we stop them. Come to think of it, we can do that on November 3rd. And we must not get this one wrong.*

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*This is important: Read Tom Friedman’s astonishingly sensible post, Dems: You Can Defeat Trump in a Landslide from the Feb. 25 New York Times. Click this link to view it online or click here to download a PDF hard copy.

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Quote of the Week

“Mike Bloomberg wants to buy the election with his own money. Bernie Sanders wants to buy it with ours.” – courtesy of R.M.

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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.

Brutal – By The Numbers


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

NOTES:

    1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
    2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
    3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

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

Where Political Influence Comes From – and a Destructive Snit


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justice John Paul Stevens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quote of the Week

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

Opinion Piece of the Week

The Frauding of America’s Farmers, Paul Krugman


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

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

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

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

NOTES:

    1. Writings quoted or linked to my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
    2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
    3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

Copyright 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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Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
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This Isn’t About Trump – It’s About What’s Important


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

Trump politicized the Fourth of July.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And all of that is the problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 


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

Focus


Reading time 3:18; Viewing time – 4:05  .  .  .

It’s been quite a month – all just this week! – as the outrageous deluge from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue goes on. It’s been this way with Trump since way before the 2015 escalator “Look at ME!” stunt, when he announced with his customary ignorant certainty what he had just fabricated, claiming Mexico was sending us rapists and murderers.

He had spent years fomenting Birtherism. And he had bought the back page of section 1 of the New York Times and called for the execution of the Central Park Five. He did this after they had been cleared by DNA evidence. Yet in customary Trumpian doubling down of his boneheaded statements, he continued to call for the execution of these men.

Just this week Trump declared that he would/wouldn’t contact the FBI if a foreign government or individual offered dirt on a political opponent. For sure he’d “have a look,” he told us.

The point is that accepting anything even just to “have a look” is the crime, not the value of the information to a campaign. He also told us that Iran was behind the attack on two oil tankers, offering no evidence but his expansive declaration while ignoring evidence to the contrary. He took credit for various healthcare pluses, like reductions in the cost of prescription drugs, which hasn’t happened. All of that and far more was just Thursday and Friday.

The point is that Trump is the master of garnering attention by saying and doing outrageous things. He is the P. T. Barnum of our time.

We all love the sensational. It’s why the local news motto is “If it bleeds, it leads.” It’s why when you click on The Weather Channel you’re smacked in the face with multiple sensational pictures and headlines and it’s why supermarket tabloids sell.

We’re suckers for clickbait. Trump provides it 24/7 and the world watches. The trick is to ignore the merely outrageous and pay attention to the dangerous and the cruel:

– Like his saying it’s okay for political campaigns to accept anything of value from foreign sources. Yes, I know it’s just words, but this matters to our upcoming election, because it’s another “Russia, if you’re listening” invitation.

– Like fabricating a run up to war with Iran.

– Like putting yet more children in cages.

– Like defending Kellyanne Conway over her dozens of obvious violations of the Hatch Act – this because “she’s loyal.”

– Like ordering all agencies to cut scientific advisory boards by at least one-third.

– Like hosting a conference of climate science deniers at the Trump International Hotel.

I had breakfast recently with a couple of highly educated, highly accomplished women who each declared that they don’t watch the news. They are the latest in a continuing string of intelligent people I have heard say the same thing.

They are weary of the continuous barrage of political warfare and the painful to watch Trumpian cruelties and stupidities. They are way past overload from political bickering and lying, so they’ve tuned out. And that’s a problem for them and for America.

In some measure, many of us have become numb to the continuing outrage, which leaves us vulnerable to the dangerous things slipping past us.

This isn’t a circus freak show that we can ignore; it’s our country.

So our job is to let the outrageous and freaky stuff go. Focus on the things that can hurt us and damage our democracy.

Pence Visits Conversion Therapist for Routine Gay-Preventative Check-Up. Click me for the story.



           ————————————

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

Public Opinion


  • Reading time – 2:29  .  .  .

You know what George Santayana  said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rosa Parks: Nevertheless, she persisted.

Are you okay with that?

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

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

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

The Nation’s Business


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

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

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

Click the pic for the essay

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

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

Click the pic for the full stupid

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

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

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

Which brings us to my favorite chant:

Q. What do we want?

A. Science!

Q. When do we want it?

A. After peer review!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final thought  .  .  .

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

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

————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

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