Russia

Liberal and Most Illiberal


Liberal

New York Times conservative columnist Bret Stephens has an interesting post on our politics. He says we’re not divided by liberal versus conservative; we’re divided by liberal versus illiberal. Here’s what he says liberal democracy is supposed to be:

By “liberal,” I don’t mean big-state welfarism. I mean the tenets and spirit of liberal democracy. Respect for the outcome of elections, the rule of law, freedom of speech, and the principle (in courts of law and public opinion alike) of innocent until proven guilty. Respect for the free market, bracketed by sensible regulation and cushioned by social support. Deference to personal autonomy but skepticism of identity politics. A commitment to equality of opportunity, not “equity” in outcomes. A well-grounded faith in the benefits of immigration, free trade, new technology, new ideas, experiments in living. Fidelity to the ideals and shared interests of the free world in the face of dictators and demagogues.

If he’s right in his definition (and I think he is), then we’re not even hitting the liberal barn door today, much less the center of the bulls eye painted on it. And “illiberal” is probably too cozy a term. It’s more like outright hostility to democracy.

Perhaps ’twas ever thus, but we’re living in an age when outrageousness and high volume dominate. Given our wealth of venues for instant dissemination of whatever drivel dribbles from lips and finger tips, that makes every blowhard a blow torch that easily burns down decorum, critical thinking and even our sense of reality.

Stephens’ column was nicely book-ended by that of Ross Douthat, who wrote that voting restrictions aren’t really as impactful as lefties think they are. I wonder what response he’d get if he were to run that by the people in North Carolina where most polling places in Black areas were closed and people were forced to travel long distances and wait for hours to vote. Did he check in with the voters in Georgia and Florida whose names were removed from the voting roles solely because they missed voting in the last election? So many questions, so little liberal democracy.

Most Illiberal

In an interview on the Joe Pags show Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Racism) spoke of the insurrection against the Constitution on January 6, declaring,

“I knew those are people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law, so I wasn’t concerned.”

“Now, had the tables been turned — now, Joe, this will get me in trouble — had the tables been turned and President Trump won the election and those were tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and Antifa protesters, I might have been a little concerned.”

Never mind that the rioters clearly didn’t love this country – they were attacking it – and rather than “never do anything to break the law,” they were in constant violation of the law. And no, they didn’t honor Blue Lives Matter, either – they attacked over 140 police officers. And let’s ignore his blatant racism implicit in “I might have been a little concerned” if the rioters were BLM or Antifa. Instead, let’s look at how Johnson defended himself against the justified excoriation of his racist comments.

“This isn’t about race, this is about riots. I have been attacked and criticized because I pushed back on the narrative that there were thousands of armed insurrectionists, and that’s just a small part of the 74 million Americans that voted for President Trump that also need to be suspect of being potential domestic terrorists or also potentially armed insurrectionists. This is a false narrative, and so the few of us that push back on that we get mercilessly attacked.”

Since making his disingenuous comments, Johnson has been roundly accused of slimy, miserable scum bucket racism. Full disclosure: those are my adjectives and not necessarily those of all the senators, congressmen/women, pundits and ordinary folk who have called him out.

As you can see by his last sentence, he has advanced to the next step of despotic manipulation as instructed by Trump. After doing his own version of “fine people on both sides,” Johnson has taken refuge in sulking, declaring himself a poor victim. Just look what those unfair critics have done to him!

Ron Johnson is so morally bankrupt that he isn’t worth this much space in a blog post, except for one thing: he speaks for all the Americans who manage to rationalize their fear and hatred and notions of supremacy, somehow justifying their joy in discrimination. Holding him up as a fine example of this cowardliness is useful.

Michael Gerson says Johnson is no outlier. Writing in The Washington Post he says,

“There have always been bigots with access to a microphone. But in this case, Johnson did not face the hygienic repudiation of his party. Republican leaders preferred a different strategy: putting their fingers in their ears and humming loudly. Republicans have abolished their ideological police.”

“It matters whether leaders delegitimize hatred or fertilize it; if they isolate prejudice or mainstream it. If political figures base their appeal on the cultivation of resentment for some group or groups, they are releasing deadly toxins into our society without any idea who might be harmed or killed. Such elected leaders might not have blood on their hands directly, but they are creating a society with more bloody hands.”

To be clear, I do not know if Ron Johnson (or any other illiberal posing as a Republican) is feeble minded, galactically ignorant or if he is a vicious, pandering liar. I do know that he is dangerous because he perpetuates hatred that does more than upset people; it gets people killed and it can upend our democracy. That pleases Vladimir Putin, whose propaganda Johnson and other Republicans trumpeted loudly in the last election and beyond. Johnson, like so many other chaos generators, is actively working against America, and that is very illiberal. Read this from Anne Applebaum.

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

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The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Said John Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” So, educate me and all of us. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


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

Our Watch


The good news is that there are lots of people who are smarter than me and I need them, because I have a big bucket full of I Don’t Know.

For example, I don’t understand righties who not only want to have their way (that part is understandable, of course), but they want to “own the libs.” What’s with the implied meanness and even cruelty?

And what about all the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers? I understand people younger than 65 years old saying they’re willing to take their chances with the coronavirus, because if they get sick it’s less likely they’ll become seriously ill or die. But they are the ones who are most likely to infect their parents and grandparents and those older people are far more likely to die. Instead of doing their part to protect our vulnerable, the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers are having temper tantrums about their freedom to not wear a mask and to refuse vaccines, but those are the very things that will stem the tide of this pandemic and limit coronavirus deaths. I don’t know what happened to our sense of patriotism as  expressed through national willingness to sacrifice for one another and for the common good. I just don’t know.

Why were there thousands of our fellow citizens who stormed the Capitol Building looking to kill members of Congress and lynch the Vice President? Where did that rage and viciousness come from? I surely don’t know.

How did our society and our values devolve to such a point that these people would chant “USA! USA!”as though they were patriots, when they were at the same time vandalizing perhaps the most prominent symbol of our country? Why would they carry American and Blue Lives Matter flags and then beat the living daylights out of our Capitol Police with their flag poles? And how could they see themselves as true Christians when they were in search of legislators to wantonly kill? I don’t know that, either.

The Republican party has completely shifted its behavior over the last 40 years. For example, speaking of Republican efforts to undermine our last election, Sheila Markin writes, “Disinformation works to create mistrust of government. Currently, there is a campaign in [some] communities to create mistrust about the vaccine. General mistrust of government is the goal.” [emphasis mine] That is happening right now in plain sight. I don’t know why we just watch and remain immobilized.

More to the point, we’ve seen all of this coming for years, perhaps decades, and we’ve done nothing to stop the selfishness, the dishonesty, the fear, the hatred, the violence and now the insurrection. I don’t know how we let that happen.

We’ve never lived up to our democratic ideals, especially the “We hold these truths to be self-evident” claim. The Republican legislatures of 43 states are working frantically right now to prohibit poor people and people of any color but white from voting. As bad, the Republican bloc in the Senate is dedicated to making sure that Congress allows all that state crafted disenfranchisement to happen. Apparently, the truths we hold as self-evident aren’t exactly the same as those stated on that piece of 1776 parchment. How have we allowed that to go on for so long?

Nikita Khrushchev was First Secretary of the Communist Party in the former Soviet Union. We were in a cold war with the Soviets then and Khrushchev famously said, “We will bury you.” Indeed, in a moment of gleeful disparagement of capitalism he declared that they would sell us the rope that they would use to hang us. In a crazy twist of fate, he may have been right.

We have senators and congressmen/women openly spreading propaganda supplied by Vladimir Putin. What is the payoff they get for spreading Putin’s lies and misinformation to Americans and for undermining our trust in government and in ourselves? That sounds suspiciously like Putin is selling rope to these congressional fools and we are hanging ourselves with that rope. That seems treasonous to me and I don’t know why we tolerate the behavior of these congressional betrayers. I don’t know why we allow these people to be in government or have any power at all.

Click me

When it comes to adverse events, there is a useful and powerful declaration that comes from our military: Not on my watch. That means that I won’t let anything bad happen when it’s my turn to stand a post. You can feel safe when it’s my watch.

But this is our watch. You and I are standing a post and these bad things are happening right now.

We’re in charge and we’ve allowed ourselves to be lied into wars, we tolerate gun massacres and we stand by while hundreds of thousands of our compatriots suffer and die needlessly. All that and more has happened and continues to happen on our watch. I don’t know why we tolerate that. I can’t explain the pervasive silence.

If you want to know why people are doing the reprehensible things that are now everyday occurrences, read this and click through the links in that piece, too. If you want to know why we have allowed the degradation of our country to happen, I can’t help, because, as I said, I have a big bucket full of I Don’t Know.

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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.

How It Works


In the first Star Wars movie there is a scene with Darth Vader and the officers of the Imperial star ship. The commander says,

 

“The Imperial Senate will no longer be of any concern to us. I have just received word that the Emperor has dissolved the council permanently. The last remnants of the old republic have been swept away  .  .  .  Fear will keep the local systems in line.”

That’s pretty much how Hitler did it. He didn’t actually make the Reichstag go away. He just neutered it into becoming a lap dog by means of The Enabling Act of 1933, which the council members passed due to fear for their lives.

It’s pretty much the same in Putin’s Russia, Erdoğan’s Turkey, Xi’s China and Duterte’s Phillippines. Eliminating legislative oversight is what authoritarians do to hoard all power for themselves. Most often it’s done with thug tactics. Just ask Putin opponent Alexei Navalny about his experience with Putin’s nerve poison. The message is always to do what the leader wants or be killed.

Shift to January 6, 2021, Washington, DC. It was a violent mob dispatched by Trump, a riot of Jesus-bannered, cross carrying thugs, including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other militia hoodlums. They were there to overthrow the government – to eliminate Congress – so that Trump could take over the country.

Does that sound so extreme as to be preposterous? If so, you need to pay closer attention, because that’s exactly what those thugs said they were there to do, all at Trump’s bidding. They were there to murder any House or Senate members they found. They brought a noose to lynch Mike Pence. Those aren’t things people do in order to preserve their government.

Capitol Officer Brian Sicknick

And killing Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick isn’t what people do to protect and defend the Constitution.

Sicknick died defending 535 members of Congress and the symbol of America that is the Capitol Building. He was killed by Bible-thumping American terrorists, who most certainly weren’t promoting law and order or doing what Jesus would do.

Honoring Officer Brian Sicknick

Both before and since the insurrection, members of Congress have received death threats* to themselves and to their family members. As that is happening, Trump and 140 Representatives, 45 Senators, right-wing blatherers and all of those extreme hate groups are continuing to promote the Big Lie to overthrow the will of the people; i.e. to put a stake through the heart of democracy.

For any remaining skeptics: If not to overthrow the will of the people and democracy, what do you think that election fraud Big Lie is about? Surely, you don’t think those rioters are play acting when they attempt kill those in Congress. Surely, you don’t think they believe in democracy when they attempt to trash the votes of millions of Americans.

Click me

This is how democracies die. A cult leader exhorts fanatics, the thugs terrorize all opposition and incrementally people surrender to death threats and violence. And that’s advanced when 199 of our legislators give a standing ovation to the Qanon conspiracy nut case spewing fascist hatred. Yes, fascism can happen here in America.

I’ve exhorted readers to see what Vice President Wallace had to say about fascism in America. If you believe in democracy and have not yet read his essay, please read it now.

These violent, angry thugs won’t simply melt away if Trump disappears or if this current insurrection fails – and no, it isn’t over yet. You can expect acts of terrorism, including mass shootings and bombings and perhaps political assassinations over the coming years, as highly armed, angry, hateful, bigoted, self-righteous thugs continue their war against America.

Note that violence is only being conducted by right wing fanatics. Any attempt at “whataboutism,” any attack on the center or left to somehow justify this terrorism isn’t only a false equivalency; it’s a religiously bigoted  threat to the life and safety of every American and it is an assault on our democracy.

There have been ongoing efforts to bridge our massive national divide. The truth is that I haven’t a clue how to make piece with the guys wearing Auschwitz t-shirts or the Naples, FL supermarket owner who claims 400,000 deaths are a lie and that the pandemic is “total hogwash.”** Perhaps worse, I don’t feel compelled to make peace with them.

Their baseless certainties represent the kind of reality denial that drives American terrorists to violence. Besides, the supermarket guy is allowing his mask-free store to be a super spreader center for Covid-19 infection. That’s another act of American violence.

I’m all for our learning to talk with one another constructively, to make peace, perhaps to have a truth and reconciliation commission. But that can only happen after violence is no longer a threat and democracy is secure. Reference: South Africa.

Now it’s time for all of us to stand and be counted in support of the FBI and whatever resources they need to stop the barbarians, including identifying the January 6 criminals. It’s imperative that we eliminate the clear and present danger that these home grown killers and desecrators are.

The terrorists have already breached the gates of democracy and are buoyed by their treasonous actions because they see January 6 as a victory for themselves. If we are to continue our bold experiment in self-rule, we better get some victories notched against the barbarians damned fast.

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Finally,

From Morgan Freeman as Judge Leonard White in the closing scene of the 1990 film, The Bonfire of the Vanities:

 

“I’ll tell you what justice is. Justice is the law. And the law is man’s feeble attempt to set down the principles of decency. Decency!

“And decency is not a deal. It isn’t an angle or a contract or a hustle. Decency – decency is what your grandmother taught you. It’s in your bones.

“Now, you go home. Go home and be decent people. Be decent.”

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*For spewers of death threats, we all know that your anonymous threatening  brands you a coward. It’s the act of people with such low self-esteem and sense of impotence that it’s the only thing they can find to help them feel powerful. With that in mind, I offer you a wish:

I wish you a pony in your back yard and a new bike to replace the one you ruined. I wish you unicorns crossing your path and pink, heart-shaped candies on Valentine’s Day.

Then, when you’re feeling all sweet from the candy, my real wish is for you to call or write those you threatened, apologize to them and beg for forgiveness as an act of contrition. It will be your first step back into the embrace of democracy.

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**That isn’t a hypothetical example; it’s what the guy said.

In fact, many people are claiming that Covid-19 is a hoax, even as they see death all around and see our over-maxed hospitals with exhausted, weeping staff and even as these deniers themselves gasp their last breath. I don’t understand that and have asked for an explanation, but none has been offered, so I’m asking again. If you can explain that, please do so in the Comments section below to help us all to understand.

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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.

Freedom v2.0


Reading time – 3:01  .  .  .

I received some off-line comments (i.e., not posted in the Comments section) questioning the contention in my “Freedom” post last Sunday that if we don’t begin working together instead of fighting one another that eventually we will lose our freedoms. Here’s an effort to make that connectivity clearer.

China is in the process of building an economic colossus and a 21st century military that will rival and be able to dominate any other nation. As they trigger their tidal wave toward world domination, what do you suppose will happen to your freedoms if we continue fighting ourselves instead of dealing with this international treat? Where will your freedoms go when a totalitarian power is incrementally dominating the globe and there’s little we can do about it?

Vladimir Putin has made it exquisitely clear that he’s completely comfortable assassinating adversaries anywhere in the world. His functionaries have ripped into our national security apparatus and stolen our top secret information. At the same time, he’s had his hackers set him up to control our infrastructure. What do you suppose your freedom will look like when he shuts off your electricity and water and at the same time he knows our national security vulnerabilities?

Those AR-15s our militia members carry around won’t be good for much, nor will bombastic speeches in Congress, especially when we can’t agree on facts or whether science is good or if Hillary ran a child pornography and sex trafficking operation from the basement of a DC pizza shop. All that conspiracy crap will have done its job of making sure that we can’t work together, that we don’t and won’t trust each other and that will make us impotent.

We are in the depths of the worst pandemic in a century, but 38% of Americans think somehow it’s a hoax, even as Covid-19 is the leading cause of death in America. What happens to individual freedom when people can’t breathe? What happens if all this continues because a huge percentage of Americans refuse to believe the science and won’t take the vaccine?

What happens to your freedom when infected people are all around? You know the answer to that because that’s how you’re living right now. Worse, that’s how our millions of hungry unemployed people are living, but they’re doing it food insecure and in fear of eviction. Take a guess at what freedom feels like to them right now.

What happens when bands of militants with too many firearms, too much anger and too little accurate information storm all of our state capitols? That isn’t freedom; it’s insurrection. Sedition. Treason. And your freedom looks pretty limited in the face of those armed attempts at minority rule.

By the way, I’ve talked with some of those over-firearmed folks and asked why they’re carrying loaded firearms. The answer every time has been, “Because I can.” I’ve always tried to get a real answer by responding with some version of, “Yes, of course that’s true. But you could also stand here clucking like a hen, but you’re not doing that. Why the gun?” Commonly, the response is a repetition of “Because I can.” I’ve never been offered a real answer that approached the truth, like their needing to feel in control, their need to take some action against whatever it is they don’t like at the moment, or so they can feel like the toughest S.O.B. in the valley or to flick off authority figures. Side note: These people aren’t powerful. Their guns are powerful and deserve respect. That doesn’t transfer to them.

How do you feel walking down the sidewalk along with angry people carrying loaded hand guns and assault rifles? Do you feel safe, like they’re on the same side with you, that they’re the good guys like you, that they believe in patriotism just like you do? Can you work with them to build a better, stronger America? If your answers are no, then they’ve already trimmed your freedom.

And the more that happens the more we will sink into international irrelevance because we aren’t all pulling the American wagon in the same direction.

The reality deniers and the angry people itching for confrontation are killing our freedom. And if you’re calling them names, like stupid, racist, idiot or moron you’re making things worse. Our undeclared civil war is killing 3,000 of us every day and people with big mouths, limited information and selfish notions are the leaders in this parade to the end of the “free country” you think this is.

That’s why we’re going to lose our freedoms if we don’t start working together.

Not convinced? Then read this essay – all of it. Get over your wanting to be protective or accusatory and give serious consideration both to the facts presented, as well as the opinions.

On second thought, read the essay even if you’re already convinced. We’re living in a fraught age and a culture of peril, with our freedom at grave risk. We all need to understand well what’s happening. That’s the reason to read the essay.

Many thanks to MN for sending the link.

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

  1. Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe and pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) Use the simple form above on the right.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me 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.

Illusion


Reading time – 3:40  .  .  .

Blanketed with frustration and anger over this ongoing spectacle of an election, disappointment haunts me, but it isn’t about Trump. I want to hug my ancient 48-star flag, not to disrespect Alaska or Hawaii, but to touch what I used to believe. Underneath it all, my heart is breaking.


The people of North Dakota have spoken. A majority of voters in that state made the clear and unambiguous statement that they want Donald Trump to stay in the White House for another four years. The challenge for all of us is to understand why they would do that.

Perhaps for these folks voting is simply a reflex action: voting for a Democrat is simply unthinkable. Grandpa was a Republican and Daddy was a Republican, so these voters are Republicans, even as the meaning of “Republican” isn’t remotely what it used to be.

Perhaps they believe the demeaning caricature of Democrats that Fox News and the president have painted for them. They’re convinced that socialism, crippling taxes, rule by fanatical anarchist mobs and high rise ghettos invading their suburbs would be certainties if Joe Biden were to become the next president. It’s just another episode of The Big Lie, but the tactic seems to have worked.

Multiple domestic and international studies have shown conclusively that the horrific infection and death rates from Covid-19 in the United States have been made far worse by the lack of national leadership to combat it. A minimum of 75% of the deaths are due to Donald Trump refusing to provide assertive, positive leadership.

If North Dakota were a stand-alone nation, it would have the highest rate of infection in the entire world. Hospitals are overrun with sick and dying patients. By now nearly everyone in the state must know someone who has suffered and perhaps someone who has died of it.

Nevertheless, North Dakotans voted to keep in office the very person who allowed that to happen. In other words, they had the choice of life or death and they chose death.

And that’s just North Dakota.

In Kentucky voters gave Mitch “Big Hypocrite” McConnell a double-digit win. In South Carolina they gave a similar margin to Lindsay “Spineless Hypocrite” Graham. Maybe I remember this incorrectly, but didn’t it used to be a bad thing to be a hypocrite?

Our former allies, the ones who were our friends before Trump insulted and abandoned them, had been waiting for this election to show that Trump was just a mistake of our democracy, an aberration that we would set right at the first opportunity. Now, even if Biden wins after the mail-in ballots are counted, they will know that they are only one election away from destruction of the stable order that protected us all and provided prosperity for 75 years.

We’ve told our allies plainly that they can no longer count on us and, if they have any sense of self-preservation, they will be forging new alliances and moving steadily away from the U.S. All of this will happen as Trump cedes more of our democracy to Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. And all of that will happen because a huge percentage of Americans voted for it.

The cleaving of Americans from one another surely can be traced to Richard Nixon and his Southern Strategy. Reagan stoked divisions, too, with his lies about welfare queens and more. During the Clinton years Newt Gingrich became Chief Congressional Flamer and a Republican Congress unleashed junk yard dog Ken Starr to poke into the underwear drawers of both Clintons in what really was a witch hunt. They framed everything in self-righteous biblical certainties.

Obama’s presidency gave fuel to racial divisions and the unleashing of frothing senators and congressmen. And Trump is a never ending font of victimizing, demonizing and calls to hatred and violence. We’ve always had differences and Fox News deserves much credit for stoking them, making fine clarity about who the “bad guys” are so hatreds can be fed. Clearly, we have to give a lifetime achievement award for divisiveness to the Republicans.

And now here we are with our clear, unambiguous and heartbreaking election statement of who we really are.

Thomas Jefferson told us plainly what we need in order to sustain our democratic republic:

“An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight.”

And roughly half of all Americans perversely insist upon being low information voters. They refuse to be educated sufficiently to exercise oversight. Instead, they watch Fox News and listen to the haters deny reality and incrementally allow our democracy to be stolen from us.

We are led by the world’s greatest circus sideshow barker, drawing into his tent the rubes who believe his grandiose lies about what’s inside. Abraham Lincoln was right, that you really can fool some of the people all of the time. I never dreamed that “some of the people” meant half the voters.

I had a picture of what America is. Regardless of what we find to be the final counts from this election, it turns out that my picture was an illusion and I have become dis-illusioned.

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

  1. Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe and pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) Use the simple form above on the right.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

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

JA


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

Sent to a Libertarian Friend on 9-11


Reading time – 2:44  .  .  .
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This was sent to a friend on 9/11. The message informs our present moment.
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I’ve been thinking about what you labeled my “way too much certainty of how events would have played out if something had happened that didn’t happen.” I understand your skepticism of my views, yet consider the likelihood of these “didn’t happen” events:
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1. The Florida election in 2000 requires no speculation, because the full count has been done multiple times. Gore won. Not by much, but he got more votes than Bush. Then there was Bush’s slimy lawsuit.
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2. If Gore had been president, I really don’t think he would have blown off the intelligence on an imminent terrorist attack as Bush did, like dismissing the FBI agent who warned him of an attack. He told the agent, “Okay, you’ve covered your ass,” then did nothing to protect our nation.
·
3. There isn’t a remote possibility that if 9/11 had happened on Gore’s watch that he would have conflated religious extremist al Qaeda with secularist Saddam, who never attacked the U.S. in any way, so there would have been no invasion of Iraq and no war and thousands of our troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis would still be alive. Plus, a major piece of the middle-east would not be in ongoing chaos, so there wouldn’t have been a crush of refugees into Europe.
·
4. If the 9/11 attack had occurred during a Gore presidency, Gore would have captured bin Laden at Tora Bora, where our CIA had him trapped. They needed the military to finish the job, but Bush refused to send help, allowing the bad guys to escape, which led to a war in Afghanistan. And yes, the protracted mess in Afghanistan was predictable. Just ask the British, the Soviets and others about their experience there. Seventeen years later we’re still trapped in that country. Stunning how we could be so blind and foolish.
·
5. Trump cheated his way into office. Had Hillary won instead (i.e. had she not been a terrible campaigner, had she not used a private server, had there not been 11 Benghazi hearings, etc.) she would have been president. I don’t think it’s even a remote possibility that she would have blown off the pandemic, so a lot fewer people would have become sick and died.
·
What all that has in common is fallout from cheating and it continues, as you know.
·
Trump’s constant cheating, starting with his birther slime to his “Russia, if you’re listening” to his begging China to interfere in the 2020 election and his abandonment of We the People in this pandemic have brought us nearly 200,000 dead Americans [ed. note: 34 days later there are over 217,000 dead], and you and I are in the center of the bulls eye for this disease. Plus, his “good people on both sides” has encouraged vigilantes in our streets. Plus, he’s promoting – even arranging – voter intimidation. None of this would have happened absent Trump’s cheating, lying, fraud and the rest.
·
Is there a certainty that these events that didn’t happen would have happened absent the cheating? Of course not. But this looks pretty likely to me. And just maybe 3,000 people wouldn’t have died suddenly 19 years ago. And about 3/4 of the people who have died from COVID would still be alive – see the Oxford study. All of that and more is why our upcoming election is so very critical. As in: clear and present danger.
·
We probably can’t stop all the cheating but we can overwhelm the bad guys with votes.
·
————————–
·
Watch this space this Sunday for “This Most Consequential Moment.”
·

VOTE IN PERSON EARLY

—————————————-

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

  1. Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe and pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) Use the simple form above on the right.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

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

JA


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

Republicans For Biden


Join the Disambiguation Gang right over there  (scroll down just a bit)

Ed Note – Apologies for the false alarm notification of a new Disambiguation yesterday. Entirely my mistake. In contrast, this one is for real.


FLASH MESSAGE!

Trump is doing every weasely thing he can to rig the election in his favor, including promising to throw out mail-in ballots and stopping the process on November 3 before all the mail-in ballots are counted.

So, DON”T vote by mail unless you must in order to avoid contact with others.

VOTE IN PERSON AND DO IT EARLY

See the instructions below.


Update to the Presidential Befoulment of the Military

It has been 27 days since the baring of the foul statements of Donald Trump about our military. To date, not a single Congressional Republican has spoken out against his cruel, hateful words and behavior. Not one. Most have run from reporters. And the usual administration sycophants and the Fox News sub-species have slimed out from under their rocks to defend this faithless president and deny his blatantly reprehensible behavior.

This is our current reality. It should never happen.* That is the reason for what follows.

————————–

Republicans For Biden

Okay, the folks listed below aren’t all Republicans – most are – nor are they all enthusiastically for Biden. All are for America and therefore they are against Trump, which is why they have publicly pledged to vote for Biden.

Here is an expanded list of names you’ll likely recognize – more announce nearly every day. In addition, you can watch over 1,000 videos of Republican Voters Against Trump here.

There are 500 more Americans here. This is a letter signed by former high ranking military, State Department and national security patriots, most having been registered Republicans, and they are all voting for Biden. These are knowledgeable people who see clearly what is going on and the enormous danger to our country this president has created.

Most of these folks likely never before imagined they would vote for a Democrat. Nevertheless, these are people with the spine to stand and be counted when it’s all on the line.

And it is all on the line right now.

These folks – every one of them – believe in the Constitution and in America and are taking action to protect and defend. So must we all.

Gen. Colin Powell                            Charlie Sykes                                        Carly Fiorino

Steve Schmidt                                 Jennifer Rubin                                       S.E. Cupp

Michael Steele                                 Sec. Def. Chuck Hagel                         Meghan McCain

Rick Wilson                                      Sec. HHS Jeh Johnson                        Bret Stephens

Pres. George W. Bush                      Sec. HUD Carla Jills                             Mike Murphy

Gov. Jeb Bush                                  Admin. EPA William Reilly                    Rep. Joe Walsh

Gen. James Mattis                           Chair, HSA William Webster                  Rep. David Jolly

Gen. John Kelly                                Exec. Dir. UNICEF Ann Veneman          Rep. Charlie Dent

Adm. William McRaven                    Sec. Homeland Security Tom Ridge      Sen. Jeff Flake

Sen. Mitt Romney                            Admin. EPA Christine Todd Whitman     Mitch Monnin

George Conway                               Amb. William Howard Taft IV                  Meg Whitman

Susan Del Percio                             Sec. Navy Richard V. Spencer                Ana Navarro

Bill Kristol                                         Dep. Sec. State John Negroponte         Benjamin Wittes

Anthony Scaramucci                        Dir. FBI James Comey                           Sully Sullenberger

Gov. John Kasich                             Solicitor Gen. Charles Fried                   Gov. Bill Weld

David Brooks                                    Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman                   Asst. to V.P. Olivia Troy

Dep. Sec. State Richard Armitage    Sen. John Warner                                  Gov. Jim Edgar

Rep. Mark Sanford                            Rep. Justin Amash                                 Fiona Hill

Amb. Gordon Sondland                     Amb. Wm. Taylor                                    Amb. Marie Yovanovitch

Peggy Noonan                                   Cindy McCain                                         Scientific American Mag.

Gen. Paul Selva                                  Ross Douthat                                          Dwayne Johnson

Thomas Friedman                               Gen. Michael Hayden

——————————

From Steve Sheffey

(Read Steve’s full post here.)

“Political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein wrote that the Republican Party ‘is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.’ They wrote that in 2012. It’s truer today.

“Trump and McConnell are not outliers; they lead the Republican Party because they embody what the GOP has become. Democrats need to stop pretending that we have a functioning two-party system with sanity on the other side of the aisle.”
·
And Republican voters need to recognize that their party has been stolen from them. It has abandoned them. They need to stop pretending that the values they hold dear are still there and then break away from the insanity, like the courageous people listed above and in the linked pages.
·
Not convinced yet? Nineteen Republican branded candidates for Congress embrace QAnon. That’s right: Republicans are becoming The Insane Conspiracy Theory Party.
·
Your Republican family and friends need to see that the only thing left of the Republican Party they joined and believed in is the title. Everything else has been crushed under the heel of a cult.
·

——————————

Want to stop the madness?

In this battle for our country, you are Obi-Wan Kenobe. Princes Leia speaks to you for the people, saying, “Help us, Obi-Wan. You’re our only hope.” VOTE!

Then VOTE to stop it.

EARLY voting has started in many states and time is of the essence in this desperate battle to preserve our democracy. Here’s a simple short list of instructions for your voting:

Make sure you’re registered to vote – go to Vote.org to be certain. Now is a fine time to do that.

Unless you must avoid contact with others, VOTE IN PERSON EARLY at your polling place. If you don’t know where it is, check your city or state website for the proper location, a list of days you can vote EARLY in-person and the hours your polling place will be open. Voting EARLY will expose you to fewer people and there will likely be a much shorter wait time to vote. Nevertheless, bring a chair and water just in case. Bring disinfectant with you and, of course, wear your mask.

If you plan to vote in-person on election day, Tuesday, November 3, show up EARLY in the day for the shortest wait time to vote. Same deal regarding a chair, water, disinfectant and your mask.

  • – OR –

If you must vote by mail, request a mail-in ballot EARLY. If you haven’t already done so, it may be too late. Check with your Secretary of State or your municipality for instructions. Once again, now is a fine time to do that.

Fill out your mail-in ballot right away – immediately after you receive it. FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS EXACTLY.

Instead of mailing your properly (did I mention “follow the instructions?”) completed mail-in ballot, drop it off EARLY where your state or municipality directs – drop box, city hall, etc.

Summary:

VOTE IN PERSON EARLY

Any questions?

——————————

* Read this piece by Charles Blow. Then pass this post along to 3 others. If it isn’t already clear, you’ll see why.

CLICK-READ-ACT

·

And read Tom Friedman’s new post following the so-called presidential, so-called debate. He urges us to vote for Biden, ending with, “Do it as if your country’s democracy depends on it, because it does.

—————————

Follow-Up To the Protest Report

Here’s what happened after I left the demonstration last Friday. It’s a story of courage in the face of violence threatened by Trump supporting thugs.

Just wondering: How many of the Trump supporters at that demonstration aren’t neighbors, but instead are outside agitators?

—————————————-

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

  1. Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe and pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) Use the simple form above on the right.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

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

JA


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

Stomach Turning in 4 Parts and 5 Questions


Reading time – 4:49  .  .  .

1. Immigration Vile

We’re all appalled by the forced, medically unnecessary, inept and deceitful sterilizations of would-be immigrants at the hands of at least one doctor at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”),  Irwin County Detention Center. It is a privately owned (LaSalle Corrections), for-profit immigration jail in rural south Georgia. We don’t yet know if such things are happening in other ICE prisons.

First question: Why do we pay private corporations to run this and many other prisons, where they have incentives to lock up as many people as possible and perhaps perform stomach turning additional revenue enhancing acts?

The hideousness of these forced sterilizations – by some counts as many as 18 known and medically unnecessary, non-consensual surgeries – is now known and the full story isn’t out yet. This is a new chapter in American immigration cruelty. The good news, of course, is that this has never happened before.

Except it has. Many times.

In the 20th century alone (and it didn’t start there) tens of thousands of men and women were forcibly sterilized and it will come as no surprise to you who the targets were. From a report on this travesty (and here’s another report on this):

More than 60,000 people were sterilized in 32 states during the 20th century based on the bogus “science” of eugenics, a term coined by Francis Galton in 1883.

Eugenicists applied emerging theories of biology and genetics to human breeding. White elites with strong biases about who was “fit” and “unfit” embraced eugenics, believing American society would be improved by increased breeding of Anglo Saxons and Nordics, whom they assumed had high IQs. Anyone who did not fit this mold of racial perfection, which included most immigrants, Blacks, Indigenous people, poor whites and people with disabilities, became targets of eugenics programs. [emhasis mine]

But that was way in the past, right? Wrong.

Such practices are documented as occurring as recently as 2010. Over 1,400 forced sterilizations were performed in California prisons in just over 13 years. These were all state-sanctioned, non-consensual sterilizations.

To give you an idea of the cruelty of eugenics, the Nazis copied it, using the laws of Indiana and California as models for their 1930s laws that led to roughly 400,000 forced sterilizations. The Nazis weren’t the kind of people to whom we would want to be compared, and yet in this sense we can be.

Second question: Why do we tolerate this cruelty as part of our stomach turning immigration practices?

 

——————————

2. COVID-19 Deaths

Trump’s cruelty and ineptitude remains exactly what the Oxford study said it was. Worse, he continues to do what is counterproductive to beating this pandemic and he avoids doing what would make things better. Nevertheless, there is more to this story and it’s likely not exactly what you think.

If you want to know why some countries have had relatively good results dealing with COVID-19 and why the U.S. has fared much poorer, read this.

Third question: Why have we tolerated a stomach-turning hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths?

——————————

3. RBG’s Seat

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, progressive, civil rights icon of the Supreme Court has died. Separate from her loss and ours we must contend with Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, promising to hurry Trump’s replacement pick through the Senate. He announced that less than two hours after the news of her death broke. His was truly astonishing disrespect.

This is the same Mitch McConnell who declared from a dark corner of his manipulative, power-grabbing mind that in the last year of his administration President Obama couldn’t refill the seat left empty by Antonin Scalia’s death. It wouldn’t be fair to the voters, McConnell told us. The next president should handle that, he said. Besides, he informed us that no president had ever nominated anyone for a Supreme Court seat in his last year in office.

And he was right. Except for Anthony Kennedy, who was nominated by Ronald Reagan in his final year in office. And William Rehnquist and Louis Powell, who were nominated in the last year of Nixon’s first term – you get the idea. But it was really important to the Grim Reaper to prevent President Obama from having a Supreme Court pick in his last year in office, so McConnell made up precedent and put a knee on the neck of Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland.

Now, though, we’re hearing from the other fork of McConnell’s tongue. Somehow his phony precedent doesn’t matter so much, now that Trump is the one doing the nominating. Now McConnell has promised to ram Trump’s pick through the Senate before the November 3 election.

Fourth question: What does that do to your stomach?

——————————

4. American Wars

From Sheila Markin’s recent post:

Trump has called himself a wartime president. Yes, America is at war. Our country has been beset by 4 huge assaults at once.

First, there’s the pandemic which, because of Trump’s interference and mismanagement, has cratered our economy and devastated the lives of Americans, resulting in lost jobs, lost health care, lost health, lost homes, and food insecurity for millions of Americans.

Second, there’s climate change which has created huge raging fires in the West with smoke that turned into cyclones with their own embedded lightning, more powerful hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, and ice caps melting at a rapid rate which will cause sea level rise, imperiling coastal areas.

Third, there is social unrest and mainly peaceful marches to support the Black Lives Matters movement in response to the unfairness documented by cell phone footage proving that people of color are treated horribly and are killed by police in disproportionate numbers.

Fourth, our democracy and cherished “free and fair elections” are being attacked by Russia working in tandem with Trump and Republicans to suppress the vote, discourage Dems from coming to the polls and cast doubt on the reliability of mail-in ballots.

America IS at war and Trump is not on our side.

It’s time for we soldiers to report for duty, leading to the

Fifth question: It appears that we have perfected the art of complacency. It’s time to abandon that dark art in all of these issues before our stomachs go terminal. Are you ready?

From Rosh HaShanah commentary:

“If you want to see God save the innocent, you need to get off the couch and save the innocent. If you want to see God feed the hungry, you need to feed the hungry. If you want to see God stand by while the innocent suffer, all you need to do is stand by and do nothing yourself.” (emphasis original) – by Rabbi Brent Chiam Spodek and Ruth Messinger.

—————————————-

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.

A Critically Important View From Europe


Reading time – 7:15  .  .  .

Presidential Befoulment of the Military Update

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

————————–

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——————————-

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

From McTague’s post:

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

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

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

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

———————-

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

——————————-

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.

I Really Need Your Help With This


Reading time – 3:49  .  .  .

My pal John Calia (find him here) describes himself as a libertarian. Because I’m a progressive we have lots to talk about and frequently do so. Last week we had an email exchange that eventually reached the shoulder shrug point because even together we were unable to find much in the way of solid answers.

This series of exchanges was sparked by an essay in The New York Times that took a look at what it is that causes voters the most heartburn about Donald Trump. Public polling shows that his persona, separate from his policies, is a huge source of angst.

Okay, nothing new there, as this issue deftly crosses our political divide. But the comparison itself set me to asking the key question: What are Trump’s policies? Let’s start with an historical benchmark.

During the Cold War the foreign policy of all presidents included Soviet/communist containment, and the expansion of democracy. With hindsight we can pick apart the successes & failures and the value of those policies and the strategies that supported them, but the intent was always clear. Agree or disagree with it, that’s what policy looks like.

As I crafted my list of Trump policies it quickly became clear that what I was able to name was a list of Trump actions. What wasn’t clear was any identifiable policy behind them. Here are some examples.

Two of the first things Trump did upon assuming office was to pull us out of both the Paris Climate Accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Those are not policies; they are actions. What is the foreign policy those actions support? What is his policy on climate warming?

He took us out of the JCPOA – the Iran deal. Iran was in full compliance with the agreement at the time. After Trump took the U.S. out of the deal, Iran promptly restarted its uranium enrichment program, exactly what the JCPOA had stopped. Since then he has levied new sanctions, has pressured allies to institute snap-back sanctions and talked very tough against Iran. Again, these are all actions, but I’m hard pressed to identify the policy they serve.

He boasted he would “drain the swamp,” but has installed mostly swamp creatures in his Cabinet; i.e., industry moguls, insiders and lobbyists in charge of their own industry. What’s the policy?

He talks tough about law and order and has sent federal troops to attack protesters in, for example, Portland, OR. But apparently the protests and white supremacist violence in Charlottesville were okay – no troops were sent there. Plus he praised the 17 year old vigilante who killed 2 protesters and injured a third in Kenosha. What is his law and order policy?

He has dramatically reduced legal immigration but used 5 immigrants as props in a new citizenship ceremony on the second night of the RNC show and did so without their consent. In speaking about immigration he has excoriated “sh#t-hole” countries and called for more immigration from Norway. What is his policy on immigration?

He has tried multiple times to ban all Muslims from entering the country. What is his policy on freedom of religion?

His actions regarding China are schizophrenic. What is his China policy?

He gave Kim Jong-un international standing by meeting with him and then claimed a great victory for the U.S., saying he had negotiated the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Regardless, there has been no change in North Korea’s behavior, nor a disposal of its nuclear arsenal or its missiles, despite Trump’s claim the he and Kim “fell in love.” What is Trump’s policy regarding North Korea?

Roughly 80% of terrorist acts in the U.S. are done by white supremacists. Trump never addresses that, but does rail about MS-13, ISIS and Muslim/Islamist terrorists. What is his policy regarding terrorism in the U.S.?

Trump is once again challenging the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) in order to eliminate it. He promised during the 2016 campaign and afterward that he would replace it with a program that is both farther reaching and less expensive, yet four years later has literally nothing to offer in the way of a replacement. What is his healthcare policy? To be fair, in all 10 years since 2010 when the act was passed the Republicans chanted and promised “remove and replace,” yet never offered any replacement, so it appears their policy on healthcare was limited to “Repeal Obamacare.” That isn’t a policy; it’s just an action that is absent of justification.

I truly cannot answer my own questions and my pal John is pretty well challenged to name policy, too.

As I made my list I tried valiantly to avoid judgment and snark and must confess I didn’t do well with that.  Nevertheless, I continue to want clarity about policy. Not presidential flamboyant statements, not tough guy posturing, but actual national policy, so I turn to you.

Please post your notions in the Comments section about any Trump policy that seems clear to you. I’m after coherent statements, something that might be on a screen at the front of the Situation Room and on a flip chart in the Oval Office to keep everyone clear and focused.

What are Trump’s national policies?

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Speaking of policy, if Joe Biden wins he’ll be wise to follow some of the FDR policy advice as explained in a recent David Brooks piece. The loud voices on the left want a revolution, but most Americans want something that goes down a bit easier.

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