suffering

Destiny


Reading time – 2:46  .  .  .

President Trump has not just bungled facts, spewed false happy talk and continued to lie his way through his presidency and this pandemic. He has also made clear that he is not responsible for anything that’s happening if he thinks it might make him look bad.

He told us that he’s not responsible for our total lack of preparedness for COVID-19 or for its reach or for the severity of its impact, this in the face of his having completely disbanded our Pandemic Response Team and cut funding for the CDC in 2018. The people he canned are the very people who made up the very team that could have minimized our suffering due to COVID-19, had they been in place and had they proper funding and authority. Of course, the President would also have had to listen to them, follow their advice and not say stupid stuff. There was never much of a chance of any of that happening.

So, here’s a little snark from last Sunday’s post, in case you missed it. It is not offered because of the snark; it is offered because this is our reality.

As Granny struggles in her hospital bed, gasping for just a little more air from her respirator for her pneumonia-soaked lungs, her MAGA hat wearing family is gathered around her. They know this is the end and they weep for their love of her and for their looming loss. Suddenly, the lights go blue-black, the walls begin to shake, and the ceiling speakers boom in Darth Vader’s voice: “It is your des-ti-ny.” And they tremble in their horror and their fear, because all at once they realize that this is what they chose.*

It didn’t have to be this way for Granny, but we made it this way. We made this our destiny.

Last Friday the President bragged about non-existent tests for COVID-19 and about drive-thru testing sites that are nothing but fantasy. He has no plans to enlist the Army Corps of Engineers to transform buildings to meet the enormous hospital capacity we’ll need in just a couple of weeks. There’s no action to re-purpose unused manufacturing capacity to build the ventilators, hospital protective gear or anything else that is already in desperately short supply. The result of this ineptitude is that more people will die for lack of testing and care.

The differentiator that is invisible to Trump is that this isn’t a reality TV show, a make believe land where he can make up stuff and it becomes so, where everyone goes out for drinks after the taping. This isn’t a Hollywood movie where murdered characters get up after doing a scene and go home at the end of the day. This is real life and death and the people who will die from this virus will never go out for drinks or ever go home again because they will stay dead. Worse, more will die because of Trump’s ineptitude and dishonesty, including Granny.

This pandemic is completely over the head of this President and this time it isn’t a little thing like a trillion dollar gift to his rich pals. This time it is life or death for countless Americans. He is incompetent to discharge the duties of his office, including protecting the citizens of this country.

Back to the Star Wars metaphor:

Both Darth Vader and the evil Emperor told Luke Skywalker that joining with them was his destiny. With just the force of his will he refused both of them and that destiny and eventually set things right throughout the galaxy. We can do that. We can refuse the destiny of so many Americans gasping their last breaths due to COVID-19. We can lead our country and the world to set things right.

It’s about our choices as a nation and the consequences our choices bring. We can make our own des-ti-ny. That’s always been the American way.

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Finally, the people of Italy are just ahead of us in dealing with this killer disease. Here is a video message from them that you’re sure to want to watch .

Second finally, Mike Pence proudly claimed on Monday that we have a million COVID-19 test kits out right now. Great – perhaps that’s true. Only 319 million to go.

Really finally, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. Large gatherings are prohibited, so drink a Guinness in your kitchen and be your own parade.


* The legal thing: The Empire Strikes Back (from which this clip is taken) and all other movies are copyrighted material. I pay royalties to be allowed to use movie clips legally both here and in my leadership keynotes and workshops. Just thought you might like to know.

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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.

Consequences


Reading time – 3:55  .  .  .

Caution: There’s just a little bit of snark at the very end. Please practice safe snark.

We’re still in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, although if they were able to speak for themselves the over 5,800 people who have died of the illness might describe this stage a bit differently. Nevertheless, all healthcare professionals have made it clear that this is going to get far worse before it gets better. What you need to know is where we are and how we got here. That will be instructive for knowing where we must go.

To become clear about where we are with this disease you can view a regularly updated global tracker at the Johns Hopkins CSSE site. The acceleration of the numbers is most alarming, as we’re seeing a doubling of cases every six days. Click here for a most useful analogy that explains that.

As for how we got here, start with this: we knew about this virus as far back as December 2019 – a quarter of a year ago. The epidemiologists were clear at that time that this was going to be a very big problem and advised immediate preparation; however, their cautionary recommendations were ignored. Perhaps as bad, had we taken their advice, there would have been a huge obstacle to overcome in order for anything helpful to happen. Here’s why.

President Donald Trump fired the U.S. Pandemic Response Team in 2018, calling it a cost cutting measure. I don’t buy it.

The Pandemic Response Team had been instituted by President Obama following the successful battle against the Ebola virus in 2014. It included sub-teams at the CDC, the Defense Department and at the National Security Agency so that we would be ready in all those areas when – not if – the next pandemic arrived. Based on so many other episodes of Trump, in his boundless insecurity, deleting Obama’s programs regardless of their value to the nation, my belief about his motivation to disband this critical unit is that it was yet another effort to erase everything bearing Obama’s name.*

Regardless, the professionals were removed. Those firings left us with no immediate expertise or mechanisms to deal with a new pandemic. None. And Trump accepts no responsibility for that. Further, “Trump also cut [overall] funding for the CDC, forcing the CDC to cancel its efforts to help countries prevent infectious-disease threats from becoming epidemics .  .  .  Among the countries abandoned? China.”

COVID-19 was first identified in Wuhan City, China. Had we helped to mitigate its spread then, world conditions might be far better right now.

This story gets worse, as you know, because we still don’t have one tenth of one percent of the testing capability we need. The CDC’s kit was fouled by a bad reagent, making it essentially useless. Our commercial labs are still ramping up and we haven’t sourced test kits from abroad. The resources we do have are not just insufficient in quantity, but are also slow and cumbersome. There are other proven options ready to go now, including a machine made in Germany that can produce accurate results in 1 hour instead of 4 hours or even a day or two. However, the FDA is bumbling through authorization to use these machines. Here’s a link to a full report on how this COVID-19 testing ineptitude happened.

The truth is that we don’t know how many people in America have the virus because we are unable to test any but extreme cases due to our lack of test kits. That’s an impediment to our knowing who needs to be quarantined so they don’t infect others, where the virus is spreading, the extent of its impact, where to deploy resources like ventilators, protective gear for hospital staff, oxygen generation equipment, surgical masks and so much more.

During Trump’s Oval Office talk on March 11 he told us, “Testing and testing capabilities are expanding rapidly, day by day. We are moving very quickly.” None of that was true. That is a key problem, not just because of our inability to know what’s going on, but because as Trump continues to spew happy talk and magical thinking, he isn’t firmly addressing our very real challenges or providing the leadership we need. Almost as bad, he contradicts the experts who, unlike Trump, are knowledgeable. That leaves all the rest of us not knowing what to believe. That’s a potent way to spread fear.

In my day job I deliver keynotes and workshops on great leadership and I know when I don’t see it.

The point of all of this is not to pen yet another diatribe about our incompetent President. Rather, it is to illustrate how we got to where we are. We must be clear about what can happen when we aren’t careful in our political choices, because this pandemic, which could have been minimized, is in the process of killing hundreds, thousands or even millions of Americans who could have been protected had we been prepared.

Elections do have consequences and what’s happening right now is one of them.

It didn’t have to be this way.**


Links to Resources

There is a cost to getting people tested and to help those who need treatment. Watch the entire clip – ALL THE WAY TO THE END – of Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) making sure we’ll get what we’ll need.

Advice For the Public – World Health Organization – WHO

Nine Charts that Explain the Corona Virus Pandemic – Vox

CoronaVIrus (COVID-2019) – What You Should KnowCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Download and read this. It is a PDF format of an email received yesterday from a local shop and contains the comments of four doctors, two of them in Italy. It is long – please read all of it.

Beware of those who poo-poo the threat of COVID-19, claiming far more people die annually from the flu and other terrible things. Every year the flu starts with small numbers; that’s how it was with the terrible Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918; it was the same for Bubonic Plague, which eventually killed 25% of the people in Europe. The disease number comparisons are meaningless until it’s all over. Right now we can’t even see to when this corona virus will be over. Worse, these comparisons can lull people into carelessness. Ignore them.

Fun Facts

We’re already running out of respirators and, as mentioned, the patient load doubles every six days.

It is expected that between 75 – 150 million Americans will contract COVID-19 and 15-20% of those affected will require hospitalization. That’s between 11,250,000 and 30,000,000 hospital patients, nearly all of whom will need to stay a while. Those numbers don’t include patients suffering from other maladies requiring hospitalization.

There are 924,107 staffed hospital beds in the U.S.

Do the math.

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Finally, stay well and don’t do medically foolish stuff. Help your family, friends and neighbors, the old lady across the street – and do it carefully. We’re all in this together. Because Hillary Clinton was right: It takes a village. And we are that village.


  • *President Trump has repeatedly insisted that he’s not to blame for our medically threatening conditions. His having disbanded the Pandemic Response Team puts the lie to his words.
  • ** “This way” – As Granny struggles in her hospital bed, gasping for just a little more air from her respirator for her pneumonia-soaked lungs, her MAGA hat wearing family is gathered around her. They know this is the end and they weep for their love of her and for their looming loss. Then the walls shake, as the ceiling speakers boom in Darth Vader’s voice: “It is your des-ti-ny.” And they tremble in their horror and their fear, because all at once they realize that this is what they chose.

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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.

Funding the Wall


Reading time – 3:15; Viewing time – 5:04  .  .  .

In reviewing my posts of the past couple of years I find that there’s a lot of “This ain’t right” stuff and a much smaller offering of “Hey, this is cool!” or “Aren’t we humans oddly interesting?” Sadly, the reason is obvious: the dangerous and harmful Trumpian outrages are all around us and push-back is critical.

So, once again I long for our country to be “re-saned” (no, that’s not a word, but you get it) so that we can get back to being America and stop playing defense against the full time Trumpian assaults on reality. Meanwhile, it’s our duty to attend to these outrages in order to minimize damage. Here’s just one from this past week.

Mark Esper was a vice-president of government relations for Raytheon, a defense contractor. Apparently, being a lobbyist was just the right experience to make him the very best person to be Secretary of Defense under Trump. He brought the lobbying skills he honed at Raytheon to his present gig at the White House in order to be an official Trump Swamp Cootie.

Trump insists on building his useless vanity wall on our southern border, the one we were told that Mexico was going to pay for. Not so strangely, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said, “Nuh-uh” to Trump’s ridiculous demand of payment.

After that Congress also refused to fund his (did I mention?) stupid wall, so Trump declared a state of national emergency in order to undermine Congress. He got Esper to agree to give him $3.6 billion from the Defense Department budget for his wall. The money will come from much needed construction projects for our military, including readiness projects in support of our NATO allies.

Vladimir Putin likes that we’ll be one step behind. That gives him the opportunity to seize yet more eastern European nations. And Putin continues to pursue his nuclear explosion producing, Mach 8 nuclear powered cruise missiles. The complete lack of U.S. push-back means that he faces no international condemnation for the radiation from his exploded folly that’s poisoned the area next to Finland.

If you’d like to see which national defense needs will be abandoned, click here. Be sure to look for the idiotic comments of Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), which he said in support of Trump’s Defense Department thievery, including this contorted gem:

“It is important that Congress now restore the military construction funding diverted for border security. Failing to do so only forces our troops to pay for political discord in Washington.”

It may have hurt your brain to read that. That’s because it’s bat-shit crazy.

Trump also is diverting emergency funds from FEMA in order to build his purposeless wall. He’s specifically withholding disaster relief from Puerto Rico, which hasn’t recovered from Hurricane Maria two years ago, largely because – wait for it – Trump has withheld about 80% of the funds that Congress allocated for disaster relief for those people.

As of this writing the southeast coast of the U.S. is taking a pummeling from Hurricane Dorian following the devastation it caused to the Bahama Islands. The Bahamians endured almost two days of cat 5 winds – over 185 miles per hour – torrential rain and hurricane ocean storm surges.

In addition to the Puerto Rico money he plans to steal, Trump is going to further deplete FEMA in order to fund his vanity wall, making relief and recovery for those were hurt worst anywhere from difficult to impossible. We might have enough left in FEMA’s piggy bank for the Carolinas. As for the Bahamians and Puerto Ricans, I’m sure those people can wait until next fiscal year for funding to help them. Just tell the Bahamians to take a number and get in line behind the Puerto Ricans. It’s really no problem, because most of those people aren’t from Norway, anyway.

Sarcasm aside, Trump is preparing to build 175 miles of unneeded wall by sacrificing desperate hurricane survivors, NATO, our 3-branch governmental structure, national defense, our military people and world order. This isn’t just more of his stupid lies. We can ignore what he says, even his idiotic Sharpie-modified hurricane map. But we better pay attention to what he does, because he is intent upon assaulting American values, our safety and our democracy itself.

That’s why we pay attention to his outrages.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

NOTES:

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

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

Guest Essay – The Real Reason


Reading time – 4:35  .  .  .

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addendum

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

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

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


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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 


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

How Did We Get Here? and “The Wag”


Reading time – 3:58; Viewing time – 5:40  .  .  .

  • How did we get to the point:

– where ripping babies from their mothers’ arms is tolerated?

– where we refuse those kidnapped kids soap and a toothbrush and there isn’t universal outrage?

– where disrespecting our allies and cozying up to adversaries is thought to be good foreign policy?

– where allowing fossil fuel exploration in Monument Valley is considered a good idea?

– where pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement is deemed sound policy for our children and grandchildren?

– where there could be a discriminatory citizenship question on the national census? The Constitution calls for no such thing.

– where Russia could invade and disrupt our national election and the president refuses to confront, much less punish the offender?

– where the president refuses to do anything to stop further cyber assault on our country and even invites it – and somehow we aren’t all enraged?

– where we yawn when yet another Cabinet Secretary resigns in disgrace?

– where birthright citizenship – you know, the 14th Amendment – would be under attack? Note: The 14th Amendment is probably why you are a United States citizen.

– where we tolerate reversing EPA standards, such that fossil fuel extractors no longer have to report or reduce methane emissions? Methane is 84 times more powerful at global warming than carbon dioxide.

– where picking fights with other countries is considered a good negotiating strategy?

– where a continuing presidential attack on freedom of the press is somehow held to be patriotic?

– where defying subpoenas is in any way a debatable thing?

– where arbitrary tariffs slapped on friends is tolerated?

– Where witnesses before Congressional committees can avoid testifying by claiming “absolute immunity,” an immunity that doesn’t exist in law?

This list could be far longer and likely you can add to it.

We’ve always had divided government, with impassioned politicians at times saying stupid stuff.* This isn’t about that. This is about the amazing reality that we got to the point where, for example, ripping babies from their mamas as a tool to discourage immigration is open for debate.

KEY POINT: Not one of the items on this list is a whine about Trump being crude, disrespectful, ignorant and an assault on decency. They aren’t even a complaint about his well over 10,000 lies since taking office. And every one of them has substantive impact on Americans – like you – and on our nation as a whole.

KEY OTHER POINT: It’s so very easy to pin all that on Trump, but he only has the power to do those things because of a supportive – or at least compliant – citizenry and, correspondingly, a meek and cowardly Republican Congress.

KEY QUESTION: In order to get out of this craziness we have to be able to both define it and identify what brought us here. What’s your notion? Post it in the Comments block and we’ll help one another learn.

FUN FACT: Roughly 63 million people voted for Trump (or they voted against Hillary) in 2016. On that same day, over 90 million voting age Americans stayed home.

FUN FACT QUESTION: Can you think of something you can do so there isn’t a repeat of that in 2020? I knew you could.

Late Addition

I’ve warned repeatedly (here and here, for example) that we are at risk of Donald Trump pulling a “wag the dog” scam to ensure he gets reelected. Now it appears that he’s doing it.

He has backed Iran into a corner with enough sanctions to hobble its economy and withdrawn from the JCPOA. Then Trump complained because Iran said that it would restart its uranium enrichment program, the very thing the JCPOA prevented.

So, he sent a carrier group and 2,500 troops to the area. Then on Thursday he ordered military strikes on Iran in response to Iran having downed a U.S. reconnaissance drone. He called off the attack before damage was done, claiming that killing 150 people with his attacks wouldn’t be a proportional response. We don’t know if that cancellation was actually just a stunt to make Trump seem to be a humanitarian, but since Trump is all about the theater of things, it very well could have been just that.

Recognize that Trump is constantly opaque in his dealings, leaving everyone wondering about his motives and goals, and almost certainly he sees the situation with Iran as a pissing contest that he has to win. A lot of his supporters like his kind of brainless muscular response, which drives the danger meter pointer closer to catastrophe.

You better make sure your senators and Congress people stand up to what looks like the newest Gulf of Tonkin fraud, or we’ll get involved in yet another unending middle east war and a lot of people will die.


*Stupid stuff is the blatantly obvious false or misleading statement. It’s the filibustering of a reporter to avoid his/her question. It’s the whataboutism that is designed to avoid having to deal with the truth or to denigrate an opponent. It’s the whole cloth fabrication that comes in a small throwaway line or a sweeping, dramatic denial of reality. Stupid stuff.



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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.

Tipping Point


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Late Addition

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

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

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

Click me for the story

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

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

Just for fun – from The Onion. Click me

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


Copyright 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?

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

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Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
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The Price of Memory Loss


Reading time – 3:10; Viewing time – 4:35 .  .  .

Here are a couple of examples to make a point.

First, whatever your position on the issue of abortion, just for the moment set aside your religious or moral views, as well as your notion of rights, and focus on practicality.

Regardless of public memory, a lot of abortions really did occur prior to the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. For wealthy women, abortions might have been quietly performed in the examination rooms of their OB/GYNs. For others that option wasn’t available, so abortions often were done in a filthy office or back alley by untrained brutes. Many women suffered greatly from complications like severe infections and even loss of fertility. Some bled to death.

When Roe was decided, abortions came out of those filthy offices and back alleys and moved to safe medical facilities. A lot fewer women experienced complications and far fewer died. That’s the practical piece.

It’s easy to wag fingers about abortions if you don’t have a memory of how bad it was before Roe, which is not to say that all who oppose abortion are unjustified; rather, it’s to say that if Roe is overturned, as is de facto incrementally happening, there will be a huge uptick in the use of filthy offices and back alleys. The price of our memory loss is that a lot of women will suffer and some will die because we no longer remember how bad it really was.

Here’s another example of the practical effect and the price of the loss of historical memory. This comes from Gershom Gorenberg’s piece in The American Prospect:

“As historian Tony Judt showed in Postwarhis great work on recent European history, the Western European welfare states created after 1945 were not products of wild idealism. They were the ‘insecure child of anxiety.’ People understood that the political extremism of the 1930s was ‘born directly of economic depression and its social costs. Both Fascism and Communism thrived on social despair, on the huge gulf separating rich and poor.’ The welfare state was a means to keep the black-shirts and brown-shirts in the past.

“One reason, perhaps, that America built so much less of a welfare state was that it was not left so shattered by the war. Obamacare was a very late, partial effort to fill in the most glaring gap, the lack of a national health-care system. Trump hasn’t given up on destroying that.

“But then, Trumpism is a new movement born of social despair and the renewed gulf between rich and poor. Despair sells the tickets to Trump’s mass rallies, and anger handles the amplifiers for his hateful rants. [emphasis mine]

“How is it that a large minority of Americans could vote for this man, or that a majority of Britons could have voted to leave the European Union, or that the new authoritarianism is rising in European countries wounded so deeply seven and eight decades ago by the old authoritarianism?

“I won’t argue that there’s just one reason. But I suggest that a major contributing reason is that eight decades or nine is the span of a human life. Someone who was 13 in September 1939 is 92 or 93 years old today. We are running out of people who can give firsthand testimony of the war itself, much less of the political madness that gave birth to the war. The last earthquake was so long ago that too many people have forgotten the purpose of the strict building code that followed it.”

With a loss of historical memory we humans have a way of reverting to old ways that were terrifyingly destructive. That’s easy to do with leaders spouting slogans and shibboleths and wild promises of restoring the greatness of some mythical, fictional past. But those slogans, shibboleths and wild promises have a way of making us blind to the full reality of the suffering and destruction they bring about.

The point is that the price of memory loss, whatever the issue, is far too great. That is why we – all of us – must remember.

                      ————————————

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

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Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
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Live From The Valley


Reading time – 6:39; Viewing time – 9:12  .  .  .

Washington D.C. (mostly)
Election Announcement

I’m not a registered Democrat, but like Bernie Sanders, I caucus with them. That’s why I’m announcing my candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.

I thought I’d have more time for this, at least enough to put together an exploratory committee. But what with our never-ending campaigns, I don’t even have time to learn what an exploratory committee does. And there’s no chance to line up mega-donors now, either, because they’re already taken.

So, I’m left to make this major announcement via blog post. Good news for you: You’re the first to learn of this. Not even my wife knows about this yet. Man, I hope she won’t be angry.

Anyway, Kamala, Elizabeth, Bernie, Amy, Beto, Joe, Eric, Pete, Kirsten, John, Jay, Cory, Julián, Tulsi, John, Marianne, Wayne, Tim and Andrew, it’s nice to be in such a large and non-exclusive club.

Worry Announcement, or, Are We Really This Stupid?

What do you suppose Americans worry about the most: Illegal immigration? Foreign terrorists? Brown skin people from south of the border or Muslims? Nope, it isn’t nearly that dopey.

According to a current survey by the Gallup Organization you and I worry about healthcare more than anything else. Take a look at the chart below or, better yet, click on it for an expanded view of the chart and the complete Gallup report. Here’s another.

Healthcare is our biggest worry for the 5th year in a row. Oddly, our president has decided to do a full court press next year to increase our worry by repealing and replacing Obamacare. There’s just one thing: In the 9 years since the ACA passed the Republicans have tried dozens of times to repeal Obamacare and they haven’t succeeded, even when they were in control of the Senate, the House and the presidency.

Even worse – and that’s “worse” as in: both destructive and hypocritical – they’ve had 9 years to come up with a replacement healthcare plan for the “replace” part of “repeal and replace” and they’ve sat on their hands. They have no replacement or even the beginning of an outline for a replacement plan. So, if Trump gets his way, he and the Republicans will repeal Obamacare and replace it with NOTHING.

Then some of us will die needlessly, some will go bankrupt and pre-existing conditions won’t be covered, just like it was before the ACA. So, you better worry that if Trump and the Republicans get their way, there will be no replacement healthcare plan and you may have no healthcare at all.

Puerto Rico Aid Announcement

The president just announced that we have supplied $91 billion of aid to Puerto Rico, which means that we really didn’t totally blow off the survivors of that terrible hurricane that killed 3,000 Americans.

That’s good news, indeed, except for one little detail: the actual, real world, fantasy-free number is just 12% of Trump’s claimed amount. That aid has barely scratched the surface of what’s needed and it hasn’t provided food for the one-third of the population that’s going hungry.

Trump continues to astound all sentient beings with his constant lying and his ease in inflicting cruelty on people who desperately need help. Maybe he should go back to San Juan and toss out a couple more cases of paper towels to a crowd of suffering people to once again show his true support.

Proud State Announcement

It’s understandable if you think of North Carolina only as the leader in Republican crafted voter suppression, voting fraud and generally crazy politics. For example, former Republican Governor Pat McCrory blamed his loss in the 2016 election on non-existent voter fraud and refused to leave the governor’s mansion. Turns out his real electoral problem was his zeal for the infamous “Bathroom Bill.”

Yet, the Tar Heels are even more creative than that. They’re button-busting proud of the craftiness revealed by the recent indictment of Greg Lindberg, a major political donor, plus a couple of his associates and state GOP chairman and former congressman Robin Hayes for bribery through an insurance scheme.

These guys should have known that the FBI has no sense of humor about people lying to them, but lying repeatedly to the FBI is one of the indictments against them, as is attempting to bribe the current state insurance commissioner. U.S. Rep. Mark Walker was identified in the indictments as “Public Official A.” He was the recipient of $150,000 in political donations from Lindberg, but he’s not under indictment. Yet.

But just a second: the North Carolina Republicans may not have a monopoly on creativity. The current North Carolina Democratic Party chairman was the insurance commissioner during the time of some of this scandal. We’ll see if he, too, becomes a candidate to be a ward of the state.

Stay tuned, as this likely will prove to be the basis of a super hero movie – a Marvel Comics “State Dumb Stuff” thriller, staring Captain Greed.

Many thanks to DN for bringing this inspired piece of graft to our attention. It gives us all a renewal of appreciation for the human gift of imagination.

Special Award Announcement

You may recall Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who, in a rant against Dreamers declared that,

“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another hundred out there who weigh a hundred and thirty pounds—and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling seventy-five pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

That was quite the visual image and just the thing to introduce a new congressional award.

On Tuesday of this past week Rep. Steve King was presented the first ever “Congressional Bag Full of Stupid Award.”

In a dignified ceremony on the floor of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi began the proceedings by playing a video of King’s remarks. She then recounted his many dalliances with racism, white supremacy and fantasized hate.

Pelosi expressed concern that King’s years of commuting between Iowa and DC had left him with a huge bulge on the side of his head from carrying 75 pounds of stupid across the Iowa border into Illinois. She said that she hoped that his upcoming stupidectomy surgery would be successful. However, she warned that the medical community is united in the opinion that you can’t fix stupid. She said, “We all hope that this surgery will cause Steve’s stupid to go into remission for a while.”

At last and in a sincere and heartfelt closing, Pelosi recognized King for his well earned award and wished him a fine and very remote retirement beginning in January 2021.

And finally,

From the You Can’t Make This Stuff Up File
A short compendium of dumb current events that are too unbelievable even for fiction
  1. Vile, hateful, wacko conspiracy nut case Alex Jones is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by parents of children murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. He’s floating a defense that he has a “form of psychosis” that causes him to believe that certain events were staged. He says his psychosis was brought on by government and media lies, causing him to feel like “.  .  .  a child whose parents lie to him over and over again. Pretty soon you don’t know what reality is.” So, Alex Jones, the grand perp of hateful, harmful conspiracy theories that fattened his wallet dramatically, is a poor victim.
  2. Fox and Friends unveiled a new geographic phenomenon when it boldly declared. “TRUMP CUTS AID TO 3 MEXICAN COUNTRIES.” That came as startling news to those who erroneously thought there was only one country named Mexico.

Live, on the ground in the Valley of Stupid, I’m Jack Altschuler.
                 ————————————

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.

Time to Chill?


Reading time – 3:47; Viewing time – 5:19  .  .  .

For at least three years some have been saying to ignore what he says and to focus instead on what he does.  Pay attention, they say, to policy stuff, actions that have impact, and ignore the stupid – even false – things he says. Just chill.

That sounds like good counsel and I’ve tried to follow it. Alas, there is no escaping that words have power to drive people to action. And some actions are brutal and even murderous.

Michelle Goldberg wrote in the New York Times, “.  .  .  Trump is a racist. This should be clear to all people of good faith, given that Trump was a leading figure in the birther movement, defended white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville, and claimed he couldn’t get a fair hearing from a judge of Mexican heritage .  .  .” Be clear that his messages are heard loud and clear by people who revel in hate.

There really weren’t “good people on both sides” in Charlottesville. It may have been just words the President spoke, but his message to haters, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and thugs of all stripes was that they’re just great folks spewing hate and doing harm to others.

The President showed up at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, even though he was specifically asked by the Rabbi and the mourners to stay away. His words were exactly what the mourners didn’t want, but he spoke anyway. His message to his fanatical followers was that it’s okay to disrespect some people, even those in the midst of the profound pain of loss. Gotta wonder how much his constant disrespect motivated the shooter.

What we’re clear about is that the President’s disrespect extends everywhere, including his hateful comments about John McCain, and his acceptance of the torturing and murder by tyrants abroad, with whom he tells us he has great relationships and he and Kim Jong-un “fell in love,” however gag-able that may be.

He doesn’t care about Otto Warmbier, who endured torture and beatings by the North Koreans that led to his death. He doesn’t care about Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who the Saudis killed, butchered and cremated. And he clearly doesn’t care about Sergei Skripal and his daughter, who were poisoned in a nerve agent attack in London. Trump takes the tyrant dictators at “their word” and finds no fault in them. What do you suppose is the message his fanatical followers get from that?

He at last got part of his Muslim ban. Then he tweeted hatefully toward Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) about her handful of anti-Semitic comments, for which she had already apologized; but he had nothing at all to say about decades of racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric from Christian Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who remains unrepentant for his hate. Got any doubt about what one religion is okay with the President and how he feels about other religions in America? That gives the cover of righteousness to the haters, making virtually any atrocity acceptable.

Click through and read this important essay.

He continues to vilify brown skin people from south of the border and blacks everywhere, while at the same time inviting more immigrants from “Norway.” Got any doubt about what color skin the President wants all Americans to have and how unwelcome others are? I wonder if his racism motivated the murderer at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston?

His words incite fear, hate and anger and he dog whistles violence at every rally. He drives division and hatred every day. And he’s managed to get 40% of Americans to listen to him and some to emulate him. That puts the rest of us at risk and you already know that sometimes people get killed. So, no, I will not ignore what he says.

All of what he says and does sends a tyrannical message of exclusion, of “us versus them.” It’s a small view of America from a small, cowardly man, but some of his followers like that and want to exclude others using violence to do so. That’s what happens in cults of personality.

Before someone starts waving their red, white and blue at me, proclaiming in righteous voice that this is the land of the free and we’re entitled to our views and opinions, even if they’re based in hate, just get this one piece: this country was established by the Founders in absolute opposition to a tyrant. This is no time to succumb to one.

Do you know someone who tells you to chill, to just get over it for the hateful and stupid things that come out of this President’s mouth? If they want to know the true value of that chill notion, click here and register to hear the expert speak on the subject. And bring that friend along – the one who tells you to chill.

Watch this now. This is no time to chill.

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

                ————————————

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,

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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