Post 1,049

Thomas Paine

248 years ago the slightly known young patriot and freedom zealot Thomas Paine* penned the first pamphlet of The American Crisis, a series of 13 pieces published periodically over 6 years. This first was written as Washington and his army were retreating across the Delaware River and was published in the Philadelphia Journal on December 19, 1776.** That dispirited army then had to endure a dreadful winter, with many freezing or dying of disease at Valley Forge.

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Paine wrote Crisis because we in the Colonies were at a flex point of either knuckling under to a capricious and abusive king with his greatest army and navy in the world, or standing up and saying, “No more!” That decision looked to be anything but certain.

The American crisis was, indeed, most real. Paine sought to reach the masses with his pen, hoping to inform and inspire. He opened his work with words familiar to us even today.

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.” [caps original]

Of course, Paine was right then – and he’s still right. Today we rebel against no unstable monarch across the sea, yet we are in danger of creating our own home-grown capricious despot, eager to steal our highly revered and celestial FREEDOM.

Here’s how Professor of History Heather Cox Richardson closes her 2023 perspective,  Democracy Awakening – Notes on the State of America:

Click me – and read Note #5 below.

“[Lincoln] called on his neighbors to defend equality before the law and the right of everyone to consent to government under which they live. They must reclaim the history of America so that it would have ‘a new birth of freedom.’

“When Lincoln said those words in 1863, it was not at all clear his vision would prevail. But he had hope because after decades in which they had not noticed what the powerful were doing to destroy democracy, Americans had woken up. They realized that the very nature of America was under attack. They were divided among themselves and at first they didn’t really know how to fight back, but ordinary people quickly came to pitch in however they could, using the tools they had. ‘We rose each fighting, grasping whatever he could first reach – a scythe – a pitchfork – a chopping axe, or a butcher’s cleaver,’ Lincoln recalled. Once awake, they found the strength of their majority.

“In Lincoln’s era, democracy appeared to have won. But the Americans of Lincoln’s time did not root out the hierarchical strand of our history, leaving it there for other rising autocrats in the future to exploit with their rhetoric and the fears of their followers.

“So far, the hopes of our Founders have never been proven fully right. And yet they have not been proven entirely wrong.

“Once again, we are at a time of testing.

“How it comes out rests, as it always has, in our own hands.”

I’m grateful for the optimism in Richardson’s title, Democracy Awakening, and hope beyond reason that her optimism is well founded. But, as many have said, hope is not a strategy. Hope by itself is allowing inertia or others take over direction and, ultimately, inertia concedes the battle. Hope needs action and awakening requires effort. That’s where we find ourselves today.

The current assault on our democracy isn’t a sudden event. It was concocted through decades of scheming and incremental undermining of our institutions and our culture to make it possible to take away our rights and FREEDOM. The schemers learned how to inflame Americans to fight against America with false claims unmoored to facts. Nevertheless, the usurpers didn’t just sit with their hope of conquest. They took action and oddly, in that way, they offer us a message, a road map for stopping them, for holding fast to our values and promoting our true American hopes and dreams.

Our task as patriots is to hear the call, that these are, indeed, the times that try men’s and women’s souls. Ours is not to grab “a scythe – a pitchfork – a chopping axe, or a butcher’s cleaver.” It is to awaken and to stand a post with a voter registration clipboard to register new voters. It is to canvass and make phone calls and send postcards to voters in battleground states, reminding them that their FREEDOM is on the line, that their American dream is at stake, that their children’s future is in peril of collapsing beneath them before they’ve even started. It is to show our people that they and we can win the days to come by standing for the America that Lincoln taught us we are meant to be.

As Richardson makes clear, “How it comes out rests, as it always has, in our own hands.” It’s time for us to put our hands to work, to stand and say to those who would crush our democracy, “No more!” Then we will have put hope to work and we will be worthy of it.

Speaking Of Hope

Photo credit: Al Jazeera

Hey Bibi!

We know that you feel like you can’t make peace in Gaza because there would immediately be an election in the Knesset which will throw you out of office and into court to stand trial. And we know there is validity to wanting to demolish Hamas before it demolishes Israel, as it has promised to do. But you cannot kill an idea.

Really, Bibi, does this little kid look like a threat to you? Or does the bubbe standing behind him? Or any of the people in any of the Al Jezeera photos here?

Shocking truth #1: Regardless of the destruction you rain down on Gaza, Hamas will not surrender. Ever. And they will only release the hostages when they feel they no longer need them. Bombs won’t set the hostages free or protect Israel for more than just a short time.

Shocking truth #2: This is not all about you. You’re not the center of the universe. You’re just a guy bombing helpless people. The world needs you to wake up. Step over to the right side. Call yourself a mensch if it helps you to do so. Regardless, turn off the attacks. You know: like a statesman. Or a mensch.

You liked Ronald Reagan, right? To paraphrase him,

Mr. Netanyahu, tear down your attacks.


* For a glimpse into the world in which Paine wrote his charged missives, read this fine piece on that history by Steve Schmidt.

** The first pamphlet of The American Crisis was, by order of the Commander – Washington – read to his troops at Valley Forge. It provided sufficient inspiration so that shortly thereafter Washington and his little army re-took Trenton.

The final pamphlet of The American Crisis was published on April 19, 1783 on the 8th anniversary of the first shot of the war, the one “heard ’round the world” from Lexington and Concord. I invite you to link through and read Emerson’s short poem out loud. In a surprising and metaphorical way, we today are required to be the embattled farmers standing by that stream.

Today is a good day to be the light

  • _____________________________
  • Our governance and electoral corruption and dysfunction and our ongoing mass murders are all of a piece, all the same problem with the same solution:
  • Fire the bastards!
  • The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

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    The Fine Print:

    1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings.
    2. There are lots of smart, well-informed people. Sometimes we agree; sometimes we don’t. Search for others’ views and decide for yourself.
    3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
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Copyright 2024 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Carrots, Sticks and George Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Follow Up to the Donald Trump Golden Calf Report

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

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

Best Opinion Videos of the Week

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

And she skewers the jellyfish here.

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

Best Political Satire of the Week

Click me for the story


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.


Copyright 2024 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Thinking About Long Term Ramifications

Reading time – 4:33; Viewing time – 7:08  .  .  .

Ed. note: Read to the end – there are two treats waiting for you there.


First, a heads up.

I talked with a woman who is involved with supply at our local hospital. I offered supplies I have on hand, including a handful of masks and a couple of large boxes of vinyl exam gloves. She said that they are in the process of setting up a receiving station for donations and will be posting on their website what their needs are expected to be. It’s not too big of a leap to expect that all 6,146 hospitals in the country will need that kind of help. So, call your local hospital or clinic or look at their website and find out what they need. You just might have it.

As this woman told me,

“We can see the train is coming fast and we’re still laying tracks.”

If they are going to be able to help others – perhaps even you – they need our help NOW. Pick up the phone.


Everyone is stressed both by the immediate changes in our lives due to the coronavirus and by the unknown that seems to be all around us. It certainly is waiting for us up ahead.

I’ve been thinking about possible longer term ramifications of this pandemic on levels beyond our day-to-day lives. There are a lot of areas to explore and right now I want to have a look at how some might exploit this upheaval-by-pandemic for their own benefit and to the detriment of us.

First to come to mind is Donald Trump. Given that his sole focus is on what is good for himself, I can easily imagine him using this national emergency to cancel the general election in November and make himself king. Congress and the courts are going to have to grow a spine in order to stop such an outright theft of America and I have my doubts about whether they’re up to it. Trump-Republican legislators have shown conclusive proof that aren’t capable of the task and we have to wonder if the Trump-stuffed Supreme Court would would have the courage to decide against him. Trump has toyed with this idea of never leaving office and that was before there was a pandemic he could use as an excuse.

Next on the list is Russia. I don’t know what Vladimir Putin might try, but he’s all about self-enrichment and restoring his country to USSR status on the world stage (read: ego puffing). His methodology doesn’t much include growing Russia or the welfare of his people, but instead he’s all about taking down other countries. It’s the classic inferiority-complex bully tactic – making someone else less-than in order to be on top. Perhaps he’ll have Russian tanks invade neighboring countries while we’re weak. There’s nothing new about Russia doing that sort of thing. Maybe he’ll extort European countries by withholding Russian gas and oil next winter. I’m not clear what he might do to take down western democracies including the U.S., other than stealing elections using his cyber thugs, but I bet he is.

China is entirely about world domination and the U.S. is both its biggest obstacle and its easiest tool. They will come out of the pandemic months before the U.S. with a billion and a half workers who are healthy, hungry and subservient to their manipulative, diabolical government. China has issued government subsidies to help Chinese companies under-price American goods and they took over 3.7 million jobs from the U.S. just since 2001. Plus they’re holding $1.1 trillion of U.S. debt, about a quarter of our total foreign debt. That’s a lot of leverage. Would they crack down on Hong Kong or swallow Taiwan during America’s time of weakness? As with Russia, I’m not clear what they might do to harm others for their benefit, including harming the U.S., but I’m confident President Xi is.

What about North Korea? The coming months might be just the time when Kim will make a move on South Korea to annex it, to create “One Korea,” knowing that the U.S. is only hobbling along in a weakened state and can’t or won’t do much about it.

Here are the key questions:

  1. Who in our government is thinking about such things? Given the bumbling, reactionary, transactional nature of this administration, is anyone thinking strategically and beyond next Thursday?
  2. Are there plans on the shelf to deal with these threats and are they up to date? If not, who will do something about that and when?
  3. Will anyone pull the trigger on these plans if one outcome of doing so is unfavorable to Trump’s personal welfare (e.g. no Trump Tower-Moscow)?

Who and what else do you think might be in position to seize advantage over the U.S. in the next 1 – 3 years? Put your notions in the Comments section to help us all see clearly.

Now, a Long Term Ramifications Mini-Feature

There’s something about we human beings that, whatever the issue, we typically don’t really get it until it’s relatable to us personally.

So it was for Pharaoh enduring the plagues, Exodus tells us. He wasn’t motivated until the 10th plague, the slaying of the firstborn, which took his own son. Then it was personal enough for him. That’s when he got it.

That same inability to get it without feeling a personal impact is with us today.

Mark and Heaven Frilot of Kenner, LA weren’t much moved by claims from our medical community of the coming and rapidly spreading pandemic and many in their town scoffed at warnings, believing them to be just political ploy. They did that right up to the moment when Mark wound up in the hospital and was diagnosed with COVID-19. He hasn’t been able to breathe on his own since then and friends and colleagues are wondering if contact with him has caused them to be infected. Heaven and her neighbors aren’t scoffing at the virus now, but it had to come up close and personal for them to really get it.

As the author of the report about Mark and Heaven Frilot writes, “Crises are political only until they are personal.” And people scoffing and refusing to believe the experts until they themselves are touched by this disease will inevitably be cavalier or worse about transmission. Their flip disregard will make it spread faster and farther. This age of disbelief in science, learning, experts and provable fact is fertile ground for enormous suffering and unnecessary death. And that’s a very long term ramification.

You can  read the full story about the Frilots here.

* From Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889):

“Words realize nothing, vivify nothing to you, unless you have suffered in your own person the thing which the words try to describe.”

Finally, from the “I wish I were making this up” file  .  .  .

At his press conference on Monday, March 23 President Trump explained that George Washington kept two desks and implied that one was used to run his personal business, the other for Presidential duties. He compared himself to Washington and whined that nobody complained about what Washington did.

Then he reminded everyone for the umpteenth time that he has refused the presidential salary and whined yet again that no one has thanked him for doing that.

In other words, in a time of worldwide sickness and death and economic hardship, a time of disruption and fear when all in this nation are looking for leadership, someone to trust to have their welfare in his heart, someone with clarity to lead us out of this darkness, instead it’s all about Trump and how he’s a poor victim.

Yes, many of our governors and mayors are stepping up and providing wonderful leadership, but there are some things only the federal government can do. We need reason to have confidence that they’re being done to the very best of our ability as a nation. We’re still looking for that.

Leadership is a peculiar thing and it’s most necessary in times of crisis. If it doesn’t show up soon, what are the long term ramifications of that?

P.S. #1 – Read Elizabeth Warren’s requirements for the proposed government bailout. Then see P.S. #2.

P.S. #2 – From the “How Does This Make Sense?” file: Does it make any sense to you that Congress is preparing to spend $2 TRILLION of our money – I mean yours and mine – without so much as a single public hearing or floor debate? That everything is being done in secret? That 80% of Americans don’t trust or approve of the job performance of the very people working in dark corners to spend us into unfathomable debt? What are the long term ramifications of that?

P.S. #3 – How ’bout something to make you smile? In this time of great stress, watch this. It will brighten your day. Many thanks to JA for the tip. And for sure listen to Neil Diamond sing Sweet Caroline, adjusted for our current circumstances. You supply the descending “bum-bum-bum”.


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.


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.


Copyright 2024 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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