First Amendment

Here’s Why We Don’t Do Widespread Testing


Reading time – 3:50; Viewing time – 5:28  .  .  .

We continue to bumble along, seemingly unable to develop a reliable test to use in large quantities throughout the country to fight this awful disease. It isn’t because we don’t have access to the needed resources. Here and here are reports on testing options that have been available for months.

In contrast to our stumbling, Germany has the lowest death rate from coronavirus anywhere and it’s hard to understand why we don’t use what has been proven to be the best available testing technology and practices.  Here’s an excerpt from a report by The New York Times on how Germany is achieving relative success:

In mid-January, long before most Germans had given the virus much thought, Charité hospital in Berlin had already developed a test and posted the formula online.

By the time Germany recorded its first case of Covid-19 in February, laboratories across the country had built up a stock of test kits.

“The reason why we in Germany have so few deaths at the moment compared to the number of infected can be largely explained by the fact that we are doing an extremely large number of lab diagnoses,” said Dr. Christian Drosten, chief virologist at Charité, whose team developed the first test.

By now, Germany is conducting around 350,000 coronavirus tests a week, far more than any other European country. Early and widespread testing has allowed the authorities to slow the spread of the pandemic by isolating known cases while they are infectious. It has also enabled lifesaving treatment to be administered in a more timely way.

To test in the U.S. at a rate comparable to that of Germany we would have to do a minimum of 1.4 million tests every week, but we don’t have a sufficient supply of test kits even for as little as 10 days; then we’re out of kits. Further, the reliability of our tests has been suspect, although claims are being made that some are now reliable. Nevertheless, our ineptitude exists and continues in spite of three facts:

  1. The World Health Organization had test kits available for our use months ago, but for unexplained reasons, our government refused to use them and relied instead on a CDC test that proved to be faulty.
  2. The formula for the reliable test that Germany is using was posted online in January and was available for everyone to use, as were other kits, but we refused those, too.
  3. President Nero invoked the Defense Protection Act and could have forced many manufacturers and labs to ramp up to produce as many  millions of tests as we need. BUT HE HASN’T DONE THAT.

On May 5 Trump made things worse by having Vice President Pence announce that he is disbanding the coronavirus task force by the end of the month. He essentially said that he is giving up without firing a shot. We would be left to suffer and many to die due to a complete lack of coherent leadership.

One day later, and in typical Trump flip-flopping fashion, he reversed that. He had been stung by the very negative public response to his disbanding decision, so he announced that now the task force will continue. But we’re left exactly the same as before, wondering if Trump and his team of incompetents will ever actually do something to help the people. Here’s why they haven’t and why they won’t.

If Trump were to take clear, decisive action, like organizing massive, national testing, he would be putting a stake in the ground, making himself accountable for results. If the results don’t turn out to be good – and it’s obvious that outcomes from this coronavirus are dreadful and will only become worse – Trump’s culpability would be on display for all to see. But Trump never accepts responsibility for anything unless he can claim victory, so once again he’s set things up for him to skate,

and he’s doing nothing.

 

Click me for the story

You can depend upon Trump to continue to do nothing to fight this killer disease. You can depend upon him to continue to blame others when things go wrong. You can depend upon him to care nothing about the suffering and dying that is all around. You can depend upon him to focus solely on what’s good for Trump.

Turns out that’s a multiple whammy.

The lack of a robust testing protocol is why we don’t have accurate, targeted quarantines to prevent the spread of the disease. Lacking that testing information is why we’re all quarantined and why the disease continues to spread and why millions are out of work and out of money. And that financial nightmare for millions of Americans is why we are in a financial depression from which it will take years to recover. And that financial depression is why we will be at far greater risk from international bad actors for a long time.

In other words, our human carnage catastrophe, our economic peril and our future foreign vulnerabilities are largely self-inflicted injuries that are due to the cowardice, ineptitude and total self-focus of Donald Trump.

That is why we don’t do widespread testing to control coronavirus and protect the people.

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If you’d like to learn about the kind of leadership we truly need, my pal John Calia recently penned a post that provides that clarity. Read it here.

And watch this ad from The Lincoln Project. The message from these traditional conservatives has Trump apoplectic, so instead of focusing on our  dire national circumstances, he’s using his presidential time to rage tweet. Decide for yourself if someone telling truths he doesn’t like is justification for him abandoning his post.

NOTE – be sure to click the SKIP ADS button on the right side of the YouTube video.

Click me

Looking for a way to make a difference? Check out the One Minute Activist list right here. Not in the Chicago area? Just substitute organizations in your area as appropriate and go make a difference. Yes, today.

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

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

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

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

JA


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

Absolute Power


Reading time – 4:36  .  .  .

It’s plain to see that the President of the United States is, at best, severely dragging feet to deal with our national health emergency. He was warned repeatedly (over a dozen times) in his President’s Daily Briefs as far back as January that this pandemic would happen. The CDC had reports from China and their own on-the-ground evidence of the imminent danger and they issued warnings as early as November of the catastrophe that was headed our way.

We have known all along that continuing, extensive testing was and would be mandatory to minimize suffering and death, yet Trump has done everything possible to avoid our having the capacity to do what is needed to protect us.

Trump has invoked the Defense Protection Act, but hasn’t taken any of the actions it enables except for forcing meat producers to continue operations. That means that our formidable manufacturing capabilities remain idle or focused elsewhere. Why would Trump choose all this and so much more counterproductive behavior? Here’s what I see.

1. Trump never shoulders responsibility, never admits mistakes, never acknowledges errors and always prefers a fatuous lie over simple truth. In a larger context, this sets up Trump to blame anyone and everyone else when things go bad.

In refusing to mobilize a massive national testing program and deflecting all responsibility to state governors, he allows himself to blame excess death on those same governors. And he helps to diminish governors in the eyes of the public by having the federal government snatch up PPE. That makes PPE unavailable to many states and their hospitals and doctors. That makes governors appear to be unsuccessful and they go to the bulls eye of Trump’s blame target.

If you want more power for yourself, undermine others who have power.

2. Trump has consistently removed the most qualified and effective people from positions of power, having fired most experts, and replaced them with Trump sycophants. A recent example is the removal of Dr. Rick Bright from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. Removing the smartest, most capable people is a very effective way to ensure sub-optimal results, but that’s not Trump’s concern. He’s after something much bigger and more personal to him.

His next step was to place Brian Harrison in the position of senior lead on the Health and Human Services (HHS) coronavirus task force. Harrison is an expert in his field. The problem for us is that his field is breeding Labradoodle dogs. Harrison replaced Peter Urbanowicz, who had decades of experience of healthcare leadership.

If you want more power for yourself, get rid of all expertise.

3. Trump has consistently demeaned allies who lead democratic nations, like Trudeau, Merkel and Macron and has consistently praised murderous, tyrannical dictators, like Putin, Xi, Duerte, Erdoğan and Kim. He’s told us repeatedly how beautiful it would be if he had absolute authority and has even claimed it for himself.

If you want more power for yourself, attack everything democratic and align yourself with autocrats.

4. Trump began his campaign to be president with racial and nationalist slurs and foreign policy lies. He repeatedly attempted a Muslim ban, in violation of the First Amendment. He has cruelly treated asylum seekers, separating children from their parents, such that we are now housing over 1,500 children in cages, kids for whom we have no method to reunite them with their now-deported parents.

He spent years taking counsel from Steve Bannon, who unequivocally promotes that we “tear it all down,” meaning our institutions that make for a solid society and a stable nation. It appears that Trump learned well.

He has demolished the guardrails of our democracy everywhere and has used his constant Twitter feed to intimidate those with the power to stop him. And he has made a mockery of our most cherished values and institutions.

If you want more power for yourself, tear down everything else.

5. This pandemic is not just a national emergency, but a worldwide emergency. Paraphrasing Rohm Emanual, autocrats never let a pandemic go to waste, and Trump certainly isn’t wasting this one. Envision this.

With the world in crisis and our country medically, economically and militarily hobbled, grabbing extra executive powers to deal with the crisis may play well with millions of Red state, MAGA hat wearing Americans. Anyone in charge who had megalomaniac tendencies would do exactly that. This is a moment made for someone who thinks he should be President for life, an idea he has suggested more than once.

He would declare a national emergency. Checked that box. Stronger still would be to wait for the next domestic attack, like a white supremacist attacking a temple or mosque or church, or a deranged, angry loser gunning down children in school, or a sicko in a hotel window murdering concert goers. That’s all going to happen again, and in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic, that will be the opportunity to declare martial law. He’ll claim it’s for the protection of the American people, but that won’t be true. What will be true is that our democracy will officially be gone.

If you want absolute power for yourself, use a crisis to grab all of it.

Does all that sound unbelievable? If so, you better have another look at the obvious tracks on our national path. The place to look further is George Packer’s remarkable essay in The Atlantic, “How to Destroy a Government.” It is a frightful and accurate narrative of what has happened and is continuing to happen to our country and is a must-read.

And read Sheila Markin’s post to see what President Nero is doing. It’s all about aggregating power for himself. The question for us is whether we are and will be ready to do whatever it takes so that our democracy endures.

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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. Refreshing when someone wants to get the facts right, eh?
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


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

Root Cause


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

From The Other 98% – click me

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

 


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

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,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Fake President – and Memorial Day


Reading time – 4:18; Viewing time – 6:54  .  .  .

The Fake President Part

He says “fake news” daily, but it isn’t about fake news, as the president and his drones would have you believe. It never was. Same for his attacks on our other institutions.

They want you to believe whatever they say that effectively undermines our sharing of power – our democracy – and I can prove it with just a few things that happened last week.

From the AP:

“WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Thursday granted Attorney General William Barr new powers to review and potentially release classified information related to the origins of the Russia investigation, a move aimed at accelerating Barr’s inquiry into whether U.S. officials improperly surveilled Trump’s 2016 campaign.”

At root, this isn’t about an investigation. There is no improper surveillance or corrupt FBI, because investigating is what the FBI does – it’s in its name – and it’s what they do to identify and catch bad guys.

Recall that our nation was cyber-attacked by a hostile foreign power solely to benefit the candidacy of Donald Trump. We’d have to be idiots not to look into a possible conspiracy.

Click me

So, this new power to declassify that Trump has given to Barr (and which has never before been delegated by a president) is actually about giving Barr the power to selectively release documents, to dis-empower our intelligence agencies and invalidate conspiracy investigations. It’s about trying to make Trump’s election win appear to be earned, even as we all know it’s phony. It’s about making the FBI look corrupt. Doing so is an effort to sabotage public confidence in the FBI in particular and government in general. That’s what fascist autocrats do – they demean government so that citizen loyalty gets shifted to the leader. Buy and read this book and you’ll understand.

From the New York Times:

“WASHINGTON — Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks leader, has been indicted on 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act for his role in obtaining and publishing secret military and diplomatic documents in 2010, the Justice Department announced on Thursday — a novel case that raises profound First Amendment issues.”

The First Amendment ensures several rights and freedom of the press is one of them. It is the only thing that ensures public accountability of government officials. It is the primary bulwark against totalitarianism. And our president has thrown tantrums for years about our national press, demeaning it by calling it “fake news”. Now he’s trying to cut the legs out from under our investigative reporters.

Trump’s fake news charge isn’t about the accuracy of reporting and it isn’t made solely out of pique; it is made to decrease your confidence in the press, to make you so skeptical that you’ll only listen to one person: the president. That’s what fascist autocrats do – they demean the press so that citizen loyalty gets shifted to the leader. Buy and read this book and you’ll understand.

From Twitter:

Trump has the distinction of having such a profound absence of good judgment, that he posted this video. It is a doctored video of Nancy Pelosi, clearly an attempt to make her look old, enfeebled, perhaps mentally challenged.

This video is so transparently altered that we have to wonder why the President of the United States would have anything to do with it.

His current spat with Nancy Pelosi can be reduced to its playground bully essence, “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”

The real dynamic, though, is that Trump is trying to undermine your confidence in both the Speaker of the House and the entire Congress, leaving the president as the only one for citizens to follow. That’s what fascist autocrats do.

In contrast, here’s the truth.

The FBI and its over 35,000 people are dedicated to protecting us from bad guys. They put their lives on the line for us every day. They’re the real deal.

Our mainstream press is the real deal, too, as they dig to separate truth from propaganda and lies and hold government officials accountable.

Congress surely is more complicated, but it is the branch of government that most closely represents We The People.

Trump is working every day toward the goal of becoming an autocrat, a dictator, like his bromance buddy Vladimir Putin, whom he believes blindly and more so than our entire intelligence community. He is attempting to undermine the pillars of our government and of our democracy itself, leaving only him to follow.

Click me for a larger view

Despite Donald Trump’s inane and self-important proclamations, there is no corrupt FBI or brain-addled Speaker of the House or fake news. There’s just a fake president.

The Memorial Day Part

This is Memorial Day weekend. Sadly, our president scheduled a trip to Japan. So, instead of visiting Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier on Memorial Day as representative of all of us paying our respects, he’s going to have a press conference with Prime Minister Shinzō Abe.

You and I can do better than that.

This is the day we set aside to honor our war dead, those who, in Lincoln’s words, gave their last full measure of devotion. They are among the heroes who made it possible for us to live the lives we do, so it’s fitting that we honor them.

So, display your flag – half-mast until noon, then at the top for the rest of the day. Go to the ceremony in your town and remove your cap as the bugler plays Taps. Thank the veteran sitting next to you for having had his buddy’s back. Stand and be grateful to these people. We owe them more than we will ever be able to repay.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

In Case You Missed It


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

               ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 


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

This Is Going To Be A Challenge


Reading time – 3:50; Viewing time – 5:07  .  .  .

The experts tell us what is painfully obvious, that we’ve trained ourselves to have a short little attention span and we refuse to hone our ability to hold conflicting or complex thoughts in mind. We are impatient in the extreme.

Examples:

It used to take about 45 minutes to bake a potato. Now it takes 4 minutes in the microwave oven and we stand in front of the machine counting down the last 30 seconds and maybe opening the door before it beeps because we just don’t have the patience to wait those last 7 seconds.

The online order that took 3 minutes for you to place arrives on your doorstep in no more than 2 days. We used to be satisfied with 2 weeks.

Information on nearly anything is available in under one second and we’re surprised if it takes more than one click to find it.

No doubt you can think of more examples of our expectations for instant gratification and wish fulfillment, but let’s just admit to our near-universal impatience. That’s why this is going to be a challenge.

That kind of behavior and expectations neatly delivers to us leaders who couch every issue as a simple problem with a quick, binary choice of solutions, when in reality most of the challenges we send our representatives to solve are complex, three dimensional puzzles that require holding complex thoughts in their heads and staying focused, on-task.

Bumper sticker slogans are so much easier than six pages of explanation and they’re instantly gratifying. That encourages our leaders to deliver what Elaina Plott described as, ”  .  .  .  a warped polity whose leaders are manipulative of public opinion rather than responsive to it.” Further, she said, “Popular discourse is given [over] to extremes.”

Chris Hedges wrote about this in a 2012 essay, How To Think. By the standard of our national nanosecond attention span, his piece is long and thick. So, go ahead – test your focusing skills – read the entire excellent essay. Meanwhile, here’s a excerpt:

“Human societies see what they want to see. They create national myths of identity out of a composite of historical events and fantasy. They ignore unpleasant facts that intrude on self-glorification. They trust naively in the notion of linear progress and in assured national dominance. This is what nationalism is about—lies. And if a culture loses its ability for thought and expression, if it effectively silences dissident voices, if it retreats into what Sigmund Freud called “screen memories,” those reassuring mixtures of fact and fiction, it dies. It surrenders its internal mechanism for puncturing self-delusion. It makes war on beauty and truth. It abolishes the sacred. It turns education into vocational training. It leaves us blind. And this is what has occurred. We are lost at sea in a great tempest. We do not know where we are. We do not know where we are going. And we do not know what is about to happen to us.”

Hedges’ comments were made 4 years before Trump was elected. What’s changed in the interim is the severity of the problems we face, as well as our having achieved an increasing clarity about the looming disaster that is about to happen to us. At the same time, we’re ever more impatient.

Click the caricature for the original

If Donald Trump has served a useful purpose for the United States it surely is as a caricature of our acquiescence to ignorance and easy non-solutions to complex problems. Those things give us a chest-thumping sugar high right until the moment when reality arrives and we come crashing down, like when we learned about all those children ripped from their mothers’ arms and then put in cages. He’s shown us daily what foolishness, greed, hate mongering and dishonesty can do to a nation. Perhaps the results of the mid-term election indicate that we are beginning to see for ourselves what has happened to us. We don’t like it and we’re taking action to redirect our country.

Angry old white guys who long for a proud and pleasant but fictitious past are dying off, so my hopes are for our young to put their shoulders to the wheel and move this national wagon in the right direction. The Parkland kids are showing the way. They just received the 2018 International Children’s Peace Prize, awarded by Bishop Desmond Tutu in Cape Town, South Africa. The Millennials at www.Represent.us and the tens of thousands who canvassed for candidates in this election are showing us the way as well.

For them and us to succeed will require that we hold complex thoughts in our heads and stay focused. It means now and then we will have to accept less than instant gratification. It means we may have to live with some level of disappointment and nevertheless stay the course.

This is going to be a challenge. And it is our challenge.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


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

It’s All About That Tiger


A partial compendium of Trumpian distractions designed to keep your eye off the ball. CLICK HERE to see how they anticipate distracting you from what they don’t want you to see. CLICK THE IMAGE for a larger view.

Reading time – 3:12; Viewing time – 4:34 .  .  .

We human beings are perfectly designed to react instantly to dangers before us. That’s a really useful trait when the sabre tooth tiger shows up at the mouth of your cave. That’s self- and species-preservation in one neat package and it’s part of what made it possible for you to be born.So we’re adept at dealing with threats that are in our faces.

The contrasting point is that the same sabre tooth tiger that we know is over the hill but is not currently in sight elicits not one bit of reaction from us. Out of sight of the cave, off our threat radar screen, to mix metaphors by tens of thousands of years. [Actually, tens of millions of years. ed.] Interestingly, our threat alert system, complete with the threat ignoring non-response of what isn’t in our faces right now, continues in you and me today and it’s a powerful obstacle to meeting our challenges.

Global warming is already causing problems worldwide, but recognizing adverse patterns made worse by our climate warming behaviors and seeing that as a threat is a pattern that’s difficult to feel. It’s much like ignoring that sabre tooth tiger that’s over the hill: it’s easy, because we don’t feel the threat from what isn’t in our faces.

The out-of-sight syndrome gives climate warming deniers the engine to fold arms and dig in heels. The same is true of the massive bee kill-off that threatens to greatly affect food supplies worldwide. Food is still plentiful in grocery stores, so we don’t see the threat, but scarcity is just over the hill. That out-of-sight location allows our EPA, for example, to refuse to deal effectively with pesticides that are killing bees – pollinators – at an alarming rate and the EPA has now pushed back its review of the toxin neonicotoid yet another year.*

Key Point: There are many issues that we decide in favor of benefit now, like jobs, money and comfort, because we’re unable to see over the hill to a future where the threat arrives right in our faces.

Click me

There are ways to help deniers to see the threat that’s over the hill and which is going to imperil all of us. Read Chip and Dan Heath’s excellent book Switch in order to understand how to help people to embrace change when they simply don’t feel the imperative. Hint: You have to help them feel the imperative.

That sabre tooth tiger really is going to present himself to us in many forms and venues and he really is just over the crest of that hill and he really is headed our way. That’s why we have to replace our spineless Congress so that we prepare for the challenges that will be in our faces very soon. It’s all about that tiger.

Two More Things  .  .  .

Last week your president announced that he plans to cancel a 2.1% COLA wage increase for about 1.5 million civilian federal workers. He claimed that the cost is fiscally unacceptable, or some other justification that attempted to sound policy-based, but there just might be a different reason for his digging into workers’ pockets. Try out this theory of Trump’s motivation to stiff our federal workers.

Dozens of Republican members of Congress are at significant risk of losing their jobs in the upcoming mid-term election. Imagine the great cry that will come from these at-risk politicians, wailing about the great pain that will be inflicted upon their constituents. They’ll posture in front of any camera that’s handy until at last – roughly 10 days before the election – the president will relent, saying that these fine Republican lawmakers, looking after their people’s best interests, have convinced him to restore the wage adjustments. He’ll magnanimously declare that these Republicans should be re-elected.

Wait until October 28th before you call me a conspiracy nut.

Finally, John McCain was eulogized by family, friends and colleagues. My most powerful and likely enduring memory is clear – perhaps you hold it similarly. It was of his life and message of duty, service, dedication to something much larger than ourselves. It was the repeated clarity that our future – something that is so much larger than ourselves – depends upon what we do today and that as citizens, it’s up to us. What will you do today?


*If you download the PDF from “EPA’s Policy Mitigating Acute Risk to Bees from Pesticide Products you’ll learn that, “This policy represents the EPA’s recommended labeling statements to mitigate acute risks to bees from pesticide products. This policy is not a regulation or an order and, therefore, does not legally compel changes to pesticide product registrations.” In other words, it’s 35 pages of “here are some labeling ideas.” The bees remain at risk.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Only Donald Trump


Reading time – 1:10  .  .  .

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

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

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

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

  • ————————————

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

    YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

    Thanks!


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

Women For Trump


Reading time – 2:50; Viewing time – 3:43  .  .  .

A compendium of Trumpian Distractions designed to keep your eye off the ball

It is a fact that a significant number of American women support Donald Trump and, given his history of misogyny, that begs the question of why they would do that.

Some are clear that they abhor everything they believe to be true about Hillary Clinton, so anyone else was a better choice in the last election. Indeed, maybe they are able overlook what they see in Trump that seems disagreeable to them. Perhaps they imagine that he doesn’t really believe everything he’s said and all that has been reported that he’s done. Perhaps these women were willing to overlook all of that simply because of their loathing of Clinton. Perhaps there’s more.

Many women have watched as our Congress has managed to paralyze itself so that the problems these people face never get addressed, much less solved. They have had it with politicians of all stripes lying to them, making promises they never intend to keep and just using them for their own purposes. They are convinced that the news media is nearly universally biased and lacks integrity. In short, anything that smacks of “the establishment” is not to be trusted and should be overthrown, replaced.

Click for WomenForTrump

At root, they are furious over being taken for granted, never being listened to and consistently muzzled so that they don’t have a voice. They feel disrespected. Blown off. Rejected. Trump rails against all parts of “the establishment”, so these folks feel validated as he leads them by metaphorically raising a middle finger.

I haven’t much to say to dissuade them of their feelings. Well, maybe just a couple of things, but nothing to suggest that they haven’t been disrespected, blown off and rejected. Just try these questions on for size – not in the abstract, but, if you’re a woman for Trump, for you personally.

It’s pretty clear that Donald Trump believes that he has special permission to do pretty much whatever he wants because he’s a “star”. He’s said exactly that. But if you’re a woman, that means he believes he can do as he wants with you, which means that whatever your age or your attributes, he thinks he can grab you whenever and wherever he wants. So, the first question is how would it sit with you if he groped you?

For the second question, let’s agree that it’s pretty clear from what he’s said repeatedly that he has a cavalier attitude about nuclear weapons. Perhaps he thinks he can nuke Iran and that there would be no retribution visited upon your town by Iranian survivors or perhaps other nuclear powers. Would it be okay with you to be vaporized in a mushroom cloud of Iranian retribution?

Maybe being groped by Trump or nuked by Iranians are far enough away in your imagination that such things aren’t compelling reasons to refuse to support Trump. Perhaps his flicking a middle finger at “the establishment” is so satisfying and delightful as to be overpowering and supplanting of all forms of doubt. If so, then project just these two horrible things – being groped or being nuked – onto your daughter or your little granddaughter. Don’t think for a moment that couldn’t happen, because he bragged about walking into the dressing rooms of naked teenage beauty contest girls. What if one of them were your daughter or your granddaughter? What if she were home when the nuke hit?

Is that flick of a middle finger still enough to overpower your doubt?

  • ————————————

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

    YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

    Thanks!


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

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