Education

Where Political Influence Comes From – and a Destructive Snit


Reading time – 4:19; Viewing time – 6:49  .  .  .

It’s going to take decades to clean up the mess that our terrible infant president is creating. Some things will take much longer and will leave permanent scars. Other Trump damage, like loss of endangered species, will be impossible to fix.

We’re told that the Donald Trump Environmental Protection Agency intends to “sharply curtail rules on methane emissions.” It’s possible that methane isn’t a focal point of your day, so I’ll explain what this newest EPA ruling will mean to you.

Methane is likely the gas that burns in your home furnace and water heater. Burning natural gas instead of other fossil fuels produces less carbon dioxide, so it adds less to global warming, and it’s cheaper to use, too. That’s where the methane happy stuff ends. The rest requires a little story to explain it.

The phenomenally destructive Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission granted Big Money interests – deep pocket individuals and corporations – the power to dominate and control our politics using their cash. That was more than surprising, since the case was only about the Citizens United organization wanting to show their movie trashing Hillary Clinton right before each primary in 2008. It wasn’t about campaign contributions and domination of politics.

The McCain-Feingold Act prohibited such “electioneering” within 30 days of a primary, so Citizens United was enjoined by the district court from showing their 30-minute attack ad that was designed to influence the primary elections. They filed suit and the case wound up before the Supreme Court, which reversed the district and appellate court rulings against Citizens United. That should have been the end of the case, but it wasn’t.

Chief Justice John Roberts ordered the attorneys to return to the Court to re-litigate the case, this time testing the rights of corporations and speech equivalency. In that gross distortion of the original case, the 5-4 conservative majority decided that corporations have all the same rights as flesh and blood human beings, including the right to make campaign contributions and air political advertising.*

Justice John Paul Stevens

As outrageous as that is, if you’re a Constitutional purist, get that, “[In addressing an

issue that was not raised by the litigants], the majority changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.” That is from the blistering dissent of this decision, written by Justice John Paul Stevens.

Effectively, the Supreme Court legislated from the bench on issues that were not in contest in this case. Citizens United v. FEC had nothing to do with human rights or corporate rights or political contributions, but its adverse effect in those areas will be felt for a very long time.

Dig into the case a little deeper and you’ll have a new and dark understanding of Chief Justice John Roberts. Be sure to pay attention to his Senate confirmation hearings, where he did the now familiar confirmation dance, spewing volumes of words while not answering questions. More specifically, though, he invoked stare decisis, the principle of not upsetting prior court decisions and making current decisions based upon precedent. Roberts had a solid belief in that, he told us.

Turns out that stare decisis actually wasn’t a real important thing to John Roberts and that allowed him to legislate from the bench. That bench-created new law gave us things like the NRA being such a powerful campaign contributor to legislators that our elected officials refuse to create the gun safety legislation that 90% of Americans want them to create. Sadly, we have a government of, by and for Big Money, not you and me.

Here’s how that connects to the EPA lifting methane emission regulations.

Point #1: Over the course of 20 years methane released into the atmosphere has 86 times more powerful global warming effect than does carbon dioxide. The EPA has taken down its web page detailing this.

Point #2: Natural gas comes largely from fracking wells and as many as 50% of them leak methane into the atmosphere. The page for that has been taken down from the EPA site, too.

Point #3: The Obama administration generated regulations to cause the actors in the methane extraction business to take action to reduce methane emissions.

Point #4: Trump’s EPA is in the process of trashing those Obama era regulations and allowing essentially uninhibited methane leakage.

Some major oil companies have stated that they are opposed to the change the EPA is proposing. Do your own math on why they’d do that, especially since their own industry association and lobbying arm, the American Petroleum Institute, has come out in favor of EPA’s proposal to eliminate methane emission regulations.

There’s a really good chance that you are not in favor of the EPA’s proposal that will dramatically increase the rate of global warming. The problem for you is that our legislators don’t really care what you think about that, any more than they care about the 90% likelihood that you want strict gun safety regulations.

Just like healthcare, immigration reform, voting rights, education and so many other issues, you’re not getting what you want and it can all be traced back to Citizens United.

That’s now compounded by Trump’s ongoing snit over being dissed by President Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011. Since that time Trump has been doing everything he can to negate everything Obama accomplished, including DACA, regardless of the harm he does to you and all of us, our allies and our planet.

Such is the behavior of this terrible infant president. We are paying the price for his temper tantrum and, as I said earlier, it will take decades to clean up his mess.

Quote of the Week

Trump is a man who has been progressively hollowed out by the acid of his own self-regard. David Brooks

Opinion Piece of the Week

The Frauding of America’s Farmers, Paul Krugman


*Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, wrote,

“The First Amendment does not allow prohibitions of speech based on the identity of the speaker  .  .  .  even if the speaker is a corporation.”

It is beyond any possibility that the Founders intended the Bill of Rights to have any connection whatsoever to non-human entities, like corporations. The purpose of the Bill of Rights was to protect the rights of people. Humans. Read the amendments and it will be clear to you.

So much for Justice Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas being “originalists.” They claimed to interpret the Constitution as the Founders originally intended. so they liked to call themselves originalists. Clearly they were/are not.

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NOTES:

    1. Writings quoted or linked to 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 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

In Case You Missed It


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

               ————————————

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

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

“How Ya Gonna Pay For That?”


The original announcement for this post lost its link to the full post. To quote Bullwinkle, “This time for sure!


Reading time – 5:01; Viewing time – 6:56  .  .  .

The “How ya gonna pay for that?” question is an important and even vital question for any policy decision. The Democrats are promoting bold new initiatives now and there’s a price tag for everything, so let’s look at what that means for a couple of issues.

We’ve taken several stabs at fixing our over-priced healthcare system. It is vast and there is enormous money at stake, so the medical establishment universally opposes any changes. Indeed Obama had to bribe the medical establishment to get the ACA passed. Still, the studies are clear that:

  1. We have the costliest healthcare system in the world BY DOUBLE.
  2. Our outcomes are largely no better than and are sometimes worse than those in other countries.
  3. The great cost of our healthcare causes millions of Americans to go without.
  4. Over 50% of personal bankruptcies are due to catastrophic illness.

These things are facts and they are not in dispute. And they are what drives progressives to propose things like universal healthcare, Medicare for All, single payer and various other names for “everybody gets to see a doc when they need one, regardless of their ability to pay, and nobody goes bankrupt because of catastrophic illness.”

Paul Waldman wrote a most interesting essay in The Washington Post looking into this concept and acknowledged that universal healthcare will cost a lot, like $32.7 trillion over 10 years. That’s a lot of money and asking how we’ll pay for that is mandatory. What Waldman points out is that to answer the “How ya gonna pay for that?” question, “You have to compare what a universal system would cost to what we’re paying now.” Very sensible.

And what we’re paying now is about $50 trillion over 10 years. Someone please help me to understand how $32.7 trillion for universal healthcare is a worse deal than the $50 trillion cost we’re on a slippery slope to spend. Read Waldman’s essay for more and be sure to look at the bar chart. You’ll understand it instantly.

Sometimes, the answer to “How ya gonna pay for that?” requires holistic rather than linear thinking.

Last thought about healthcare: put some thought to how we’ll control costs if a universal healthcare program leaves Americans with no skin in the game – i.e. no sense of cost containment responsibility simply because they aren’t charged when they receive care. Metaphorically, how do we avoid promoting in users of our healthcare system the attitude of the reckless driver who says, “I don’t care – this car is just a rental.”

Next, let’s look at progressives’ proposal for free college tuition at state schools.

First, let’s dispel the nonsense that it’s free. It may not bear direct costs to entering students, but the money to fund tuition will have to come from somewhere. Likely we and, indeed, if they have held jobs, even entering freshmen will have to pay through taxes in some form. So, progressives, please stop calling it free tuition.

From Wikipedia:

“In 1965 the far-reaching Elementary and Secondary Education Act (‘ESEA’), passed as a part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty”, [and] provided funds for primary and secondary education .  .  .”

Fundamentally, we decided that being economically competitive required extra education, so we funded it.

Times have changed and this is the 21st century. We have world competition the likes of which would be incomprehensible to our forebears of the last century. Indeed, China graduates three times more engineers every year than the U.S; further, both China and India have far more STEM graduates every year than the U.S. We’re falling behind.

We can resist change, wallow in our familiarity and ignore what’s all around us, but the price we’ll pay for that will be gigantic. This will be the Chinese century and we will be a follower nation instead of the leader, with all the implications that attach to that. We can either get with the program and make college more affordable, like we did with high school in the last century, or we can make ourselves irrelevant. Which is why publicly paid college tuition makes sense.

There are other reasons as well, like the insufficient numbers of workers who are qualified for the millions of jobs that are now going unfilled. Those jobs going wanting hobbles our economy. And it also means that we don’t have the highly educated people we need to protect our nation. The answer to “How ya gonna pay for that?” comes, in part, by acknowledging that it is both an economic and a national security nonnegotiable.

The dollar answer is the same one as when we moved to universal high school. We simply roll up our sleeves and find the best way to pay for it. That doesn’t necessarily mean through property taxes, because that system has turned out to be an impediment to millions of kids. It does mean that we have to have a really good answer to the question.

Sometimes things simply must be done and asking “How ya gonna pay for that?” can be a major roadblock instead of a sensible question.

Last thing  .  .  .

President Trump delivered his delayed State of the Union address and bragged about his miraculous transformation that has supercharged our economy. Further, he worked very hard to make us afraid of the imagined brown hordes crossing into our country from the south and how it’s worse now than ever.

To put these issues into perspective (think: reality),

  1. Have a look at fact checking of his claims, and
  2. Have a look at fact checking of Stacey Abrams’ response, and
  3. Have a look at the graphs below that are from actual Earth-based data from reliable sources. Note the trends and how they’ve stayed steady since the Great Recession 10 years ago and then decide for yourself who gets the credit. Hint: It isn’t Trump.

Click any chart for a larger view.

GNP
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Illegal Border Crossings
Source – U.S. CBP & NPR

Unemployment rate.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Note To Readers and Commenters

There has been no small battle waged on the Jax Politix website in order to balance your ease of commenting with blocking the torrent of spam that attempts to clog the system. It seems that the methods used to tighten up spam filtering can make it more difficult for you to post comments. I believe we’ve made significant progress and the Comments function is working properly and easily.

So, please share your ideas, reactions, suggestions and wisdom for all to learn and grow and do so without fear of endless identifications of street signs, cars, buses, dogs and intersections. Many apologies for your frustration – and thanks for your patience.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. 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 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Potpourri v3.0


A partial compendium of Trumpian Distractions designed to keep your eye off the ball. CLICK HERE to see how they anticipate distracting you from what they don’t want you to see.

Reading time – 3:51; Viewing time – 5:59  .  .  .

Investigations

The past week was busy:

– Paul Manafort was convicted on 8 criminal charges.

– Michael Cohen plead guilty to multiple felony charges.

– Michael Cohen also accused the President of directing him to commit felonies.

– Allen Weisselberg, the longtime CFO of the Trump Organization, was granted immunity in exchange for his cooperation with prosecutors. He knows where all the bodies are buried.

– David Pecker, CEO of the media empire that publishes the supermarket trash rag the National Enquirer, was granted immunity in exchange for his cooperation with prosecutors. He knows where the hush money went.

Of course, there was more, but as the pundits are saying, the walls are closing in on Donald Trump. One result of that is the ever-expanding list of Trump’s outrageous tweets designed to distract us from the Justice Department investigations into criminal wrongdoing of the Trump organization, his foundation, his campaign and his administration. See the Art of the Distractions box in this post for a short list of the Trumpian stupid stuff from just the last 7 days.

For now, begin to brace yourself for what likely will become multiple Constitutional crises. This is going to get really ugly before things start to get better and, perversely, it may be the world’s greatest political theater.

Meanwhile, get active. Mark election day, November 6, on your calendar. Decide which two of your friends you’ll bring with you to the polls. Here’s why you’ll do that:

Roughly 125 million votes were cast for president in 2016. 102 million registered voters stayed home. That brought us Donald Trump and this spineless Congress.

Friends don’t let friends fail to vote.

Final note on this topic: As of this writing we still haven’t heard a word from Republican legislators about any of the criminality close to the president that’s been uncovered by federal investigators. The Rs insist on remaining jellyfish.

♠ Nukes

It’s likely you were shocked over Trump’s sometimes veiled and sometimes blatant nuclear threats toward North Korea and Iran, but, surprisingly, there’s good news attached to his rantings.

Last week the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine held a public workshop entitled Exploring Medical and Public Health Preparedness for a Nuclear Incident – you can look it up here. The good news is that the people in charge of dealing with a nuclear “incident” are investigating our preparedness and perhaps recommending changes for the better.

The bad news is that Trump’s rhetoric has made the investigation necessary.

♠ The Democrats’ Problem

Chris Buskirk curated the New York Times “Opinion today” last week and offered a George Orwell view of democratic socialists, writing,

George Orwell, himself a democratic socialist, neatly described the political dilemma faced by the Sanders crowd: “The inability of mankind to imagine happiness except in the form of relief, either from effort or pain, presents Socialists with a serious problem.”

It seems to me that Buskirk is quite wrong. Bernie Sanders is very clear about a democratic socialist future. His dilemma, as Buskirk labels it, is the inability to bring a majority of voters to his view.

The real dilemma of most Democrats is that they can’t seem to find a coherent message with two hands and a flashlight. Add to that inability a few more, like being solely reactionary to circumstances and rarely proactive, communicating in the most needlessly complex way that leaves people befuddled, a refusal to focus on a unifying message, and the seeming inability to speak with blue collar Americans where they’re at.

More painful yet and, as placeholder for all wimpy Democrat ways, we watched the debate where Hillary refused to tell Trump to stop stalking her and to sit down and shut up. Democrats have a way of creating their own worst obstacles, often through lack of assertiveness. Perhaps our new generation of candidates will do better at this.

♠ Coherent Message

We all have our key issue and I know yours is important. I believe, though, that one overrides all others because everything you hold dear will disappear if this Big Kahuna issue isn’t resolved: keeping our democracy. That’s why Robert Mueller is so important to the United States right now and why his work must go all the way to completion.

After we put the bad guys in prison we can tackle money in politics next, because that is what informs and distorts your key issue and that tsunami of special interest money is helping to destroy our democracy.

Save our democracy. That’s the coherent message. Let’s focus on that.

Edu-Bang-Bang

Education Secretary Betsy “I’ve never been to a public school” DeVos is weighing using money intended to drive academic enrichment for students to buy guns for teachers. Yes, really.

  • ————————————

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

    YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

    Thanks!


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Common Wisdom v2.0


Reading time – 2:50; Viewing time – 3:52  .  .  .

This post has waited a year to be published for the obvious reason that so much craziness occurs constantly that some important things get left behind.

In a May 31, 2017 article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, Why Do The Young Reject Capitalism?, by Warren A. Stephens, the claim was made that our colleges and universities are bastions of lefty-ism that teach our young pups to hate capitalism. The letters to the editor that followed on June 11 were all in agreement, one of them even declaring that our children have been “on the dole” all their lives, so of course they expect others to do the work. It’s all a very tidy package of stereotypes. There’s a palpable self-satisfaction of all the writers pointing fingers at and judging colleges and students who just don’t get the pure perfectness of unfettered capitalism and who are probably harming we who do get it.

But where is the substantiation for the claim that higher education in America is anti-capitalism and teaches our students to be freeloaders? It’s easy to make the sweeping claims, but doing so doesn’t make those claims true, any more than what’s-his-name accusing President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower made his evidence-free claims true.

Young people have always worn their idealism on their shirtsleeves – you did, too – but does their idealism mean that our schools are teaching them to hate capitalism and be bums? That common wisdom may be common but I see no evidence of wisdom. Somebody please show me the unbiased research that justifies such claims. Otherwise, Warren A. Stephens, you can just shut up.

Everyone knows that our popular press is lefty. In a June 17, 2017 piece for the New York Times entitled Notes on A Political Shooting, which was prompted by the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise and security people at a baseball practice, Ross Douthat casually wrote, “But because our centrist elites are actually center-left there is a constant, involuntary tug toward emphasizing what’s wrong on the right-wing side of the spectrum and excusing what’s wrong on the other.” Apparently, those centrist elites are torqued until they’re lefty blue and we are all misled by their slant.

Douthat’s claim of a lefty press is made as a given, and others make that claim, too, but is there any truth to it? Where is the unbiased study that says overall our so-called “elites” – does that mean journalists? – are lefties? It certainly isn’t true at The Wall Street Journal or The Arizona Republic or The Chicago Tribune or The Manchester Union Leader or The Orange County Register, all of which are editorially righty publications, and there are many others. Nearly all of our talk radio is either conservative or extremist right fringe. I’m not convinced of the wisdom of Douthat’s common wisdom. Somebody please show me the research that justifies his claims. Otherwise, Ross Douthat, you can just shut up, too.

The claims of left-leaning anti-capitalism of our colleges, our students and elites are easy to make, but I want someone to substantiate them with actual factual facts. Not an “everybody knows” justification, but empirical data. You know – like science-y stuff. Until then, my wisdom about these claims of common wisdom is that the wisdom part is missing. These are yet another set of stories told over and over until people come to believe the claims, without having any justification that’s grounded in reality on planet Earth.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

It’s Us


Reading time – 2:50; Viewing time – 4:09  .  .  .

A recent study has found a most hopeful truth about our country. In The Reinvention of America, James Fallows writes,

Serious as the era’s problems are, more people, in more places, told us they felt hopeful about their ability to move circumstances the right way than you would ever guess from national news coverage of most political discourse. Pollsters have reported this disparity for a long time. For instance, a national poll that The Atlantic commissioned with the Aspen Institute at the start of the 2016 primaries found that only 36 percent of Americans thought the country as a whole was headed in the right direction. But in the same poll, two-thirds of Americans said they were satisfied with their own financial situation, and 85 percent said they were very or somewhat satisfied with their general position in life and their ability to pursue the American dream. Other polls in the past half-dozen years have found that most Americans believe the country to be on the wrong course—but that their own communities are improving.

That’s positive news. So, even as we we snarl at one another over our political craziness and the spittle flies with our snarky certainties about “those others”, in fact we’re doing okay on the local level where we actually engage with one another and recognize our shared humanity. When we’re just folks, most of us seem to be okay together and we’re making our way through life pretty well, which brings us to how that happens.

Mark Rigby is the Assistant Principal for Operations at Niles West High School, a large suburban Chicago school with an astonishing diversity among its student population. The folks charged with the welfare of these students, as at every school in America, are acutely aware of many threats that can shake the stuffing out of everyone. Still, these leaders carry on in the best tradition. Here’s a recent post from Mark. He sent this to the faculty and administrators at NWHS:

In the spirit of sharing, I ran across this memorandum from a Mr. C.J. Price, who was peripherally in charge of Parkland Memorial Hospital during the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and all the ensuing calamitous events that followed. He penned this beauty on 27 November 1963:

“What is it that enables an institution to take in stride such a series of history jolting events? Spirit? Dedication? Preparedness? Certainly, all of these things are important, but the underlying factor is people. People whose education and training are sound. People whose judgment is calm and perceptive. People whose actions are deliberate and definitive. Our pride is not that we were swept up by the whirlwind of tragic history, but that when we were, we were not found wanting.”

We in education have a tendency to fall back on “policy and procedure” when discussing events that take place. As Mr. Price says above, what really matters when the rubber meets the road and the balloon goes up and we are up against it, is you. I read this and thought of Niles West and wish each of you to know the importance of what you contribute each day. We are rarely found wanting, and our students are most fortunate.

I think Mark and Mr. Price are on to something: the critical factor is us.

We are the people who make our neighborhoods and our communities work. We’re the ones who step up and help each other when the hurricane or tornado hits, when another angry, crazy person guns down our innocents or when the creek overflows or a neighbor is ill. To borrow Mark Rigby’s phrasing, we are rarely found wanting when it’s close to home and we are all most fortunate for that.

Many thanks to Mark Rigby for allowing me to share his words.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Republican Juggernaut Against Government


Reading time – 2:10  .  .  .

In a recent conversation, a friend wondered why working-class voters vote for politicians and support policies that are at odds with their own interests. It’s my belief that these voters don’t think through the situation. All they recognize is that a program of small government and low taxes sounds good. That’s the promise that has been lied to them. But the promised decrease in taxes means that there is less money to pay for the services that taxpayers want. That’s the part they don’t see and nobody tells them it’s coming.

George Will has said for years that Americans want about $300 billion more in services than they’re willing to pay for. That, of course, leads to politicians telling otherwise sensible Americans that they can have those services without paying for them – just, “Vote for me!”

And we do. We all like something for nothing. And that’s what it looks like we’re getting as we vote for small government and lower taxes. It’s only later that we learn that our child’s school room has 37 kids, the books are 36 years old, the roof leaks and the walls are water damaged and the boys bathroom is out of service and the teacher has to buy the paper and markers for the kids, as well as the Band-aids for bruised knees. Then the teachers reach the point where their personally funding the education of everybody’s kids is unsustainable and they wind up in the rotunda of the West Virginia or Oklahoma state house carrying signs. That is when, in a stunning admission of failure, the governor says he doesn’t have money to pay them more or to upgrade schools.

This is what the people voted for, perhaps without recognizing those inevitable consequences. But the citizens of Kansas, the land of Gov. Brownbeck’s miserably failed experiment in state strangulation, could have told them this was coming.

We can be fooled very easily. George W. Bush sold his tax reduction plan by sending a check for $300 (or $600 if you made more money) to every taxpayer. That cash in hand – seemingly something for nothing – sold his  plan to give away billions of dollars to rich people. Slick politics, indeed. That blunder was magnified as he lied us into two wars at the same time, which meant that we not only had a bigger cost to run the country, but we had hamstrung ourselves with less revenue for the fundamental services Americans want.

Oh, wait – I forgot that the reduction of taxes on rich people would pay for itself because of the stimulus to the economy that Bush’s tax reduction would create. We’re still waiting for that windfall to reach the rest of us. Worse, our 115th Congress and President Trump just fooled us into this very same tax deceit once again with a tax plan that ensures that 83% of the tax reduction benefit goes to our ultra-wealthy citizens.

That false promise of small government and low taxes has brought us trillions of dollars of debt, a grotesque equity imbalance and our kids still aren’t getting a good education, except in high income neighborhoods.

The Republican juggernaut against government has consequences. Failing our children is one of them.

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

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

Thanks!


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What Will It Take To Fix Our Dumb?


Reading time – 2:53; Viewing time – 4:14  .  .  .

It’s time for a break from today’s Strange Hysteria Involving Trump (you work on the acronym). Let’s focus on something important we can improve together.

The New York Times recently posted an editorial entitled “President Trump, Please Read The Constitution,” with the first 14 Amendments printed alongside the essay. Timothy Egan followed up with a scathing op-ed commentary “We’re With Stupid,” focused on the willful ignorance of our citizenry.

What Egan has written about our national cluelessness is appalling because he’s right. How many Americans could pass the test given to immigrants, a passing grade for which is required to become a new citizen? I suspect that many Americans not only don’t know the basics of citizenship, they don’t want to know. Instead, I’m guessing that a lot of us want to hunker down in the self-satisfaction of piss-off and rail against the machine with no concern for the consequences of our actions. I’m not always above that behavior either. Still, I don’t think tearing everything down Bannon-style is the answer.

When did we stop teaching civics to our children and more powerfully, through the conscious behavior of parents? If you’re of a certain demographic (say, Boomers), you were formally taught civics in high school and it’s quite likely that your parents voted. But now only about one-half of eligible voters (roughly 60% in Presidential years, 40% in off-year elections) bother to vote, leaving our elections to the extremists, who are angry and often clueless. Where did our sense of citizenship go?

Now and then some of my readers disagree with what I post and that’s good. We need the views of lots of people if we’re to make sense of our reality, if we’re to do something about our common refusal to respect one another and if we’re to make good choices.

Most of the people who read my screeds are living in the same bubble I am, but pretty much all of the readers of these posts have a sense of citizenship. They can name the branches of government and a dozen presidents and the oceans on our borders. They understand the establishment clause and they’re clear that the Civil War was about slavery, meaning money and power. How come so many millions of Americans (apparently including Gen. Kelly) don’t know that? We pay a terrible price for our self-applied blinders.

Sadly, I think that it will take a generation or two to clear our thick fog of ignorance. Where should we start?

The military draft used to connect citizens to the country and to a personal sense of duty, but it’s long gone. Should there be some mandatory public service for all so that we connect our citizens to our country?

Should voting be mandatory? It is in Australia.

Egan suggests that passing the immigrant test be required in order to get a high school diploma. How about a universal requirement to pass a semester of civics in order to get that diploma? Is it time to bring that back? (Check out your own state’s requirements here.)

Should we require that school books contain a respect for science? I mean, the theory of gravity is, indeed, a theory, but challenging it on that basis makes no sense. Sadly, that’s the kind of thing that is going on, as “intelligent design” or “creationism” is offered in some schools as an equal to “just the theory” of evolution. That kind of willful rejection of knowledge leads to all sorts of befuddlement, which suggests  .  .  .

What would you say to mandatory training of high school students in critical thinking and have it specifically focused on the concepts and duties of citizenship?

C’mon, you’re a thoughtful person. Help me out with this. Jot your ideas in the Comments section below.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

(Mostly) Quick Hits – They’re Linked, I Promise


Reading time – 6:49; Viewing time – 9:59  .  .  .

First, a heads-up for the impatient: The lede is buried at the end of this post.

A Really Tough Time for Republicans

Judge Roy Moore was removed from the bench twice for flaunting our laws in favor of his absolutist religious beliefs. Yes, he was an Alabama Supreme Court judge who disrespected the rule of law – that’s why he was removed from the bench – did I mention “twice”? Apparently, in Alabama that’s not a disqualifier for becoming a United States Senator. As you know, though, the story gets far worse.

Several women have gone public, accusing Moore of sexually violating them and  most were minors when the accused sexual predator allegedly violated them. We’re talking pedophilia. Here are some peculiars about this:

  1. There are only allegations of Moore’s wrongdoing – nine as of this writing – there have been no legal proceedings. If we still believe in innocent until proven guilty (and that’s questionable, given the Trump hysteria of “lock her up”) why are so many calling for Moore’s political lynching?
  2. We all know he’s a slime ball, with a history of his absolutist views being the only ones he deems of value, and his taking a million dollars from his charity for his personal use. He’s hurt both the Constitution and a lot of people and has that self-righteous stink of a hypocrite. That makes it easy to leap to a public opinion conviction of this guy.
  3. Donald Trump has slithered his tweets about how awful are the two wrongdoings of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).  Oddly, even with the multiple accusations of Moore’s pedophilia, Trump hasn’t said a thing about him. That’s a mistake. I believe that the best thing that can happen is for Trump to weigh in on Moore’s alleged sexual predatory behavior. After all, other than Harvey Weinstein, Trump is the guy with the most experience in this field. Okay, that was snark.
  4. Why aren’t all Republicans leaping at the opportunity to fry Roy Moore? This is a political no-brainer.
  5. This is a really tough time to be a Republican with a spine, with a moral compass, with a drive to do what’s right for others and for our country. If such folks stand up for what’s right, the extremists will fire them from from their jobs in Congress and the state houses. That’s because about half of us – most of the reasonable, centrist Americans – don’t bother to vote, leaving to the extremists the decisions about who goes to Congress and our state houses. The solution to this is obvious. So, help a good-guy Republican by showing up and voting for the reasonable folks in every election.

Education

George W. Bush created the No Child Left Behind plan, which forced teachers to instruct students how to take standardized tests, rather than teaching them what they need in order to succeed in life. The name of that plan is something we all support and encourage, so the spinmeisters did their job. The only problem is that No Child Left Behind left millions of children behind.

Speaking of our children being successful, it seems we don’t actually want that to happen. We continue to provide the majority of funding for our schools through property taxes, which is a great plan if the properties are in a wealthy area. It doesn’t work quite as well if the area is poor, because that results in low tax revenue for schools and inadequate resources for turning out well educated kids. That’s how we systematically condemn poor kids to poverty and our country to less than our best possible future.

Leadership

Being clear about what’s going on and about what needs to be done is hard work. Someone needs to stand up and declare, “THAT WAY!” and it isn’t at all obvious who’s up to the challenge. The call has to be inspirational and it must be clean and crisp and memorable so that we maintain focus and continue putting one foot in front of the other and in the right direction. But that call seems as yet uncrafted. In the face of challenges all around us, which way should we go? And who will you follow?

Monopoly (not the board game)

The Justice Department case against Microsoft 17 years ago for anti-competitive practices is the most recent enforcement of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, legislation designed to prevent monopoly. The  purpose of that act was to keep excessive economic power from being concentrated in too few hands, because otherwise society – that’s the rest of us – would be harmed. Ronald Reagan essentially terminated the Sherman Anti-trust Act through non-enforcement and not much has been done to prevent anti-competitiveness since then, even as large corporations buy competitors and consolidate power for themselves and largely at the expense of you and me. Think: airlines; investment companies; accounting firms; pharmaceutical companies; and banks.

Taxes

You already know that the basic fact of the proposed Republican tax plan is primarily a cash giveaway to the rich. That’s accomplished by taking benefits from poor and working class Americans. The Republicans are claiming that this corporate and rich people’s mattress-stuffer bill will deliver the wondrous magic of driving economic growth, new and better jobs for Americans and rising income for all. Plus, everybody gets their own pony in the back yard. But what if all the goodies (other than the cash gift to the wealthy) are really just a phantom that was dreamed up years ago in order to sell trickle-down?

Bruce Bartlett was a key guy in creating the trickle-down myth in the 1980s, so he knows something about this. Read his piece in the Washington Post, where he ‘fesses up to having been a true believer in trickle-down and now unmasks the fraud that it is. He pulls back the curtain about the claim that reducing taxes primarily on the wealthy will result in rising income for working Americans. Be sure to pass along his piece to your fiscally conservative brother-in-law and be sure to remind him of the $1.5 trillion debt the Republicans’ plan will create. That should make for a spirited Thanksgiving discussion.

Banking

The Glass-Steagall Act was passed following the Great Depression as a preventative against some reckless banking practices that helped lay waste to our economy and devastate millions of Americans. In 1999 that law was repealed, allowing investment banks, commercial banks and insurance companies to merge and invent heretofore unimaginable products that put the entire world on the precipice of economic disaster.  There have been many calls for the big banks to be broken up since then, precisely because they enjoy de facto monopoly of our financial world and can pose an existential threat to our country. Those break ups haven’t happened and the banking instruments that put our economy in peril in 2008 are vastly larger today. What do you suppose might happen?

Freedom

It’s time to pay attention to what’s going on and make sense of it all. Here’s a sampling of what some very wise people had to say about that.

Our government . . . teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. Justice Louis Brandeis

He Screwibus Union

The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion. Edmund Burke

The people of every country are the only safe guardians of their own rights, and are the only instruments which can be used for their destruction. And certainly they would never consent to be so used were they not deceived. Thomas Jefferson

If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.  W. Somerset Maugham

We need clear, rational thinking and action in order to protect what we hold dear. Who would have thought that doing so would require courage on the part of those in Congress?

What we’ve seen so far are extensive connections to Russia and fatuous lies told about those connections by nearly everyone high in the Trump administration. What has been confirmed by 17 intelligence agencies of the U.S. is that Russia hacked of our election and tried to influence the votes of millions of Americans. Instead of believing our own experts, Trump believes Putin when all he offers is, “nuh-uh.” Trump maintains a submissive, lapdog posture toward Putin and his manipulation of and access to information makes it look like there’s been a bloodless coup, a Russian theft of America.

You are incrementally being put at greater risk by powerful people concerned solely with their own wealth and power and apparently without the slightest concern for our country. I assure you that staying quiet about this, doing an ostrich, will allow more harm to be done to you and to America. Robert Mueller is doing his job, but that may not be enough. Perhaps it’s time for you to stand up and speak up.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Figure It Out


Reading time – 3:57; Viewing time – 6:38  .  .  .

We have yet another edition of the interpretation game, “I think what the President meant was  .  .  .” His “fire and fury” ad lib has spawned no end of pols, politicians and pundits pretending they can get into the President’s very unusual brain and interpret his most recent inane statement, trying to make rational sense of Trump’s irrationality. Listen for the interpretation game words following his next tweet designed to take the focus off the investigation into his possible collusion with the election hacking Russians. Those who take the bait and respond to his 140-character stupid stuff will use the exact words, “I think what the President meant was  .  .  .” That’s the moment you’ll know that listening further is a waste of your life.

It’s so sad that the President of the United States requires so much interpretation and guesswork in order to have any hope of understanding his meaning. Actually, it’s far worse than that. Be sure to read through to the last section of this post for the existential implications.

Thom Hartmann recently asked a question on his radio show, inquiring of callers whom they would prefer as President, Donald Trump or Mike Pence. In this era of expected impeachment, that was a thought provoking question and some interesting views emerged. Here’s my short list:

Donald Trump:

He is a non-stop chaos creator and his actions are dangerous for us and for the world.

Trump’s dalliances with non-reality are an impediment to solving our national problems.

Under the spell of Stephen Bannon, Trump is working to “bring the establishment crashing down,” which means he wants to eliminate much of what we think of as good things, like education, the environment, healthcare, our fundamental functions of government, the press and more.

There is a danger that we’ll become weary of Trump’s crazy and destructive behavior and stop paying attention. That’s when the really bad stuff will happen.

Trump is incompetent enough to start a nuclear war.

Mike Pence:

He’s a serial liar.

Pence wants to make the United States of America a Christian theocracy. Forget about whether you like the idea; it’s unconstitutional. And you better hope he isn’t an Armageddon crazy.

When Pence was Governor of Indiana he was proud to discriminate against the LGBTQ community as though doing so were somehow constitutional. He is holy unhinged.

I have no basis for saying this, but I think it’s possible that Pence has enough competence to avoid nuclear war. But that’s just a guess.

What all of that and more means is that neither Trump nor Pence is a good choice. Still, impeachment will happen before January 20, 2019 (my best guess) – or Trump will resign so that he can declare he’s a victim, proceed to demonize his detractors with scathing tweets and otherwise lie constantly and have his signature temper tantrums.

On the other hand, should Trump somehow escape the Mueller noose, he may run again in 2020 and will obliterate Pence the same way he did “Little Marco”, “Low energy Jeb” and “Lyin’ Ted”. Try these for Trumpian slime-names:

“Plastic Pence”

“Boring Mike”

“Do nothing Mike”

“Back-stabbin’ Mike”

“Drop the Mike”

It’s unlikely you’ll actually have to choose between Trump and Pence. Nevertheless, weigh in with your view of these very flawed characters in the Comments section below. Which one would you prefer in the West Wing? Note that “Choice E, None of the above” is not an option for this exercise.

In Other News  .  .  .

The healthcare craziness in Congress has quieted, but the issue is not settled. To understand where We The People see this, have a look at the Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll of August 11, 2017. Here’s one of the charts from this most interesting report.There is much to learn from the poll and this chart highlights one of the key points. Note the resistance among Trump supporters to making the ACA work. It’s that consistent 30-something percent of Americans who back Trump no matter how wacky, insulting or dishonest his behavior. Meanwhile, a significant majority of Americans now like the ACA and want its weak points fixed.

Congress: Do you hear us?

And finally  .  .  .

President Trump has flexed his ego muscles by threatening Kim Jung-un and North Korea. He’s done that using inflammatory, belligerent language much like a schoolyard bully. Trump never backs down, regardless of how obvious it is that what he has done is counterproductive or dishonest, so instead of finding a way for diplomacy to work, he has instead suggested that his threats may have been, of all things, too mild. All of his chest thumping has been done in the total absence of any direct diplomacy. There are no talks underway with North Korean officials. We have no means of dialogue with them. We don’t even have an ambassador to South Korea because Trump has refused to appoint one.

The President’s in-your-face behavior is happening in this context of no possibility for diplomacy, which leaves few choices to Kim Jung-un. Trump has backed him into a corner where if he caves in to Trump’s threats, he will lose face on the international stage. He just may feel that there is more honor and ego protecting in striking out militarily and causing millions to die, rather than to cave in to the American tough talker. All those deaths will occur because of Trump’s self-imposed limitation that our only international negotiating tool is military force.

And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who refuses to recruit a full and capable diplomatic team, tells us to sleep well. Good luck with that.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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