What’s Going On?

First, Something Personal

Parkinson’s Disease is a miserable critter. It strikes famous people like Michael J. Fox, Linda Ronstadt and Neil Diamond and it hits we little folk as well. Nobody knows what causes it, so nobody knows how to prevent it. It’s progressive (it gets worse over time), so all that can be done now for those stricken with Parkinson’s is to manage symptoms. There’s no cure – yet.

There are ongoing medical trials and much research happening, so hope continues, The research and trials take a long time and are very expensive. That’s why son Scott and Wendy and the boys have dedicated their hike of the John Muir Trail this month to raising money for the cause. If you click on their picture you’ll find a donation page for The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Your joining in this battle in any amount will be greatly appreciated by my family, others who suffer from this disease now and for the millions in the future who will have more hope because of your help. Thanks.

And please pass this along to folks you know. Post on FB, Twitter  .  .  .  you get the idea.

Kudos to all who make the extra effort to raise funds for worthy causes. We’re way proud of this particular extraordinary help-the-cause people. You rock, kids!

Now, On To What’s Going On

I reported last Wednesday about the State of Texas proudly committing itself to denial of facts and reality and ever more firmly embracing Texas myths. The governor himself tweeted proudly that Texas children should be taught that those who died at the Alamo are heroes. No facts need be presented to impressionable minds about the real motivation of these men to fight. We wouldn’t want them to learn that Mexico prohibited slavery, so the actual (not mythical) truth about the battle at the Alamo was that Texas independence from Mexico meant free labor in Texas cotton fields.

And that’s why Texans wanted independence from Mexico. Now I get it!

But Governor Greg Abbott doesn’t want Texas school children to get it, so he’s stifling education. Pay no attention to the fact that those heroes were only heroes to slave owners. Ignore that this is the state that took two extra years to tell its slaves that they were free. Nothing to see here. Move along.

The governor also doesn’t want to allow today’s Texans to be free. He’s promised to arrest all the Democratic state legislators who left Texas to prevent a vote on his draconian voter suppression laws. There is no law that those Democrats have violated by leaving the state, but Abbott wants to arrest them anyway. He intends to incarcerate them in the state Capitol Building until the end of this special session of the legislature.

And he did more.

Abbott dictatorially vetoed funding for the legislature the first time Democrats fled his inquisition to prevent his voter suppression from becoming law. That stiffing of legislators is being challenged in court, but what can’t be challenged is that Abbott is a dictator wannabe. He thinks he’s a candidate for the presidency in 2024. If so, he’s heading the Anti-Democracy ticket.


This was part of the TN Department Of Health Covid vaccine promotion. It’s gone now.

“The Tennessee Department of Health will halt all adolescent vaccine outreach – not just for coronavirus, but for all diseases – amid pressure from Republican state lawmakers,” reports the Tennessean. The geniuses in the state legislature are also stopping all Covid-19 vaccine events on school property. Plus they’re ending mailed vaccination reminders to teens. All that and only 38% of Tennesseans have been vaccinated. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, and they also fired Michelle Fiscus, the state’s top vaccination official. The hollow heads in Nashville are even talking about eliminating the state Department of Health altogether. Yes, really.

Vaccine hostility at CPAC, a brain-free hate fest. Click me.

Halting outreach for ALL vaccines means that the State of Tennessee is now allowing – even encouraging – the elimination of vaccines for measles, chicken pox, smallpox, hepatitis, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, HPV  and more. Who cares about epidemics that maim and kill children? Apparently, not the Republicans in the Tennessee state house and in the governor’s mansion.*

Perhaps they think we should revert to the medicine practices of hundreds of years ago, like leeches, blood letting, driving out evil spirits and purification by fire. Remember, this is the state that refused to allow children to be taught evolution. It looks like they’re on the way back there again. Maybe they can burn some witches and thereby Make America Great Again.


As reported last Wednesday, the new members of the library board in Niles, IL want to cut back hours, programs and pay for librarians by 23%. I guess the Enlightenment is so far back in our rear view mirror that we can now ignore its teachings and proudly go back to mass ignorance. Maybe the new library trustees will burn books and smash printing presses. Then they can cut the library budget by 100%.

As said about Nazis by Dr. Jones, Sr. in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,Goose stepping morons.”


Tying It Together

All of this is being led by Republicans, who seem to be engaged in a frantic race for us to become mentally medieval. They are appealing to our most base animal instincts and would dumb us down to pounding drums in the forest. At the same time, they are scrambling for power in the most dishonest, anti-democracy ways possible. Here’s what happens when we put those two things together.

We get minority rule by autocrats – despots – dictators – leading an ignorant, uniformed public that can be manipulated into anything. We get theocracy and all its vile perversions, cruelties and suppression and a complete elimination of freedom. There has never been a theocracy that did not devolve into that and we have no reason to believe anything different will happen if the bible thumping, chest pounding, democracy smashing Republicans get their way.

Be clear that this isn’t about conservatism. There is nothing that today’s Republicans are doing that is even remotely conservative. They are anti-democracy radicals.

The actions in Texas and Tennessee and Niles, as well as children having been ripped from the arms of their parents at our southern border by the prior administration look cruel because they are, but John Pavlovitz cautions us that cruelty isn’t the point. Power is. And when some are grabbing and hoarding power, others are losing power. Others like us. Read David Frum’s Atlantic essay, There’s a Word for What Trumpism Is becoming.

The Founders didn’t have in mind that We the People should be ignorant peons enslaved by a cruel autocrat. Those conditions are exactly what led to our revolution. I sure as hell know those conditions are not what I have in mind for us and our country.


* I recently had a nightmare about Nazis. Being an early Boomer I was raised in the aftermath of WW II when Nazi atrocities, the capture of Adolph Eichmann and so much more were commonly discussed. It’s likely I’m not alone in occasional recollections or even nightmares of those things. When I awoke I wondered if people born, say, 20 years after me – the late Boomers and those born after them – have such dreams. It’s probable they have no memories of talk of Nazi terror during their childhoods.

That’s a kid’s head poking out of that machine – an “iron lung”. It’s doing his breathing for him, because he can’t breath on his own. This was a common sight in the 1950s during that awful polio epidemic. I wonder if that kid survived.

Then my head scratching latched onto the Tennessee Republicans and their actions to cripple medical protection for children. I’m guessing that these politicians are young enough to have no memory of children in iron lung machines, measles epidemics, whooping cough ravaging the nation and the rest. Perhaps the same can be said for our Covid-19 vaccination refusers who simply refuse to understand.

They can “OK, Boomer” all they want, but there is so much being done in our country that suggests that we’ve lost individual and collective memory of enormous suffering and death. It seems that all that is left is a knee-jerk reaction to any public policy that contacts rugged individual freedom. And it seems they now want to force their automatic rejections onto helpless others – children.

Very strange. And very dangerous.


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We’re Perfectly Positioned

Reading time – 4:05; Viewing time – 5:41  .  .  .

Her husband was killed by a street shooter. Later, one of her sons was shot and killed. Relating this to the small audience brought her to tears – again. The mother’s pain she bears will never go away.

When she was able to function again she started a support group for mothers who have lost family members to street violence. There are currently about 75 members of “Sisterhood.” There could be 750,000 members because we shoot someone’s son or daughter or husband or daddy over 100 times per day, every day.

Some of the violence is due to random drive-by shootings; some is done by warring gangs; some is done by angry young people or disgruntled workers. All of it is due to something way beyond wrong.

Another presenter spoke to the audience about his family of origin. Seven kids, Mom and an abusive step-father who hit with chairs, a vacuum cleaner, whatever was handy. The presenter grew up thinking that’s just the way things were – until the night his little sister went into the bathroom to avoid their step-father’s violence and quietly hung herself with the cord of a hair dryer. That’s what random violence can do to people. The presenter now works with at risk kids, people who grew up as he did, assuming that violence was just the way people deal with their anger. Most of it isn’t done by an electrical cord. Most is by gun.

As always, the grassroots efforts are driven by people who have lived the pain and they’re doing wonderful, critically needed work to help others, holding hands and hugging to soothe the sufferers and to counsel people away from violence before they commit it and that’s good. It’s one piece of the horrific puzzle and it isn’t enough.

The cover picture of this puzzle of over 30,000 gun killings per year shows:

The lack of proper education of our kids for a successful life

Lack of employment opportunities where they are most needed

Our refusal to enact meaningful, national gun safety legislation

Our cultural idealizing and reverence for tough, macho guys (think: Charlton Heston’s “cold, dead hands” speech)

Our slavish belief in the Second Amendment as a holy thing and meaning something other than what was intended by the Founders

A political system that rewards the biggest donors instead of We the People

Our limp-wristed way of dealing with mental health

The ease with which we are distracted by the next bright, shiny object

You can likely add to this list. The point is that there are many contributing factors to our gun violence problem and no one thing is going to cure our addiction to pointless death. Still, some useful things are obvious.

Guns are the perfect tool to kill lots of people quickly. Knives kill, but imagine the killer at Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High School last year with knives instead of guns. He could have killed some kids, but there’s no way he could have killed 17 of them with knives or an axe or any other hand weapon. Getting guns out of the hands of those who should never have one will be a major step toward solving our problem. Refusing to do that enables our truly angry, hate-filled people to carry out their horrible plans.

Three years ago the FBI arrested two men who were planning a race war, expecting to bomb Black churches and Jewish synagogues. Last week they arrested a white nationalist who proclaimed, “I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on earth,” and he was prepared to attack using his armory of assault weapons if President Trump is impeached. He planned to pump himself up with steroids and opioids so he would be ready to unleash continuing carnage. The authorities managed to stop these two nut cases.

But we’ll never run out of angry men who want to do violence and stopping all of them is unlikely to happen. The question we must answer is whether we are willing to do what is necessary to stop them before they start. If we continue to make it easy to assemble an arsenal of weapons of war, if we continue to make it easy for nearly anyone with a few bucks in their pocket to buy a handgun and some ammunition, we will continue to kill the likes of the little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, high school kids at Columbine and Douglass, movie goers in Aurora, CO, factory workers in Aurora, IL, people at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, concert attendees in Las Vegas and thousands on the streets.

By February 17 there were already 43 mass shootings in the US this year. There were 5 last weekend alone. That can feel dreadful and even horrifying but might not be motivating because most it happens at a distance. That’s just how it was for that mom until her husband and son were killed. It’s up close and real personal for her now. That’s the way it always is for victims and their loved ones.

We’re perfectly positioned to get exactly the horrific results we’re getting right now. The only way to get different, better results is to do something about it.


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


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Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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