Justice

Pounding and Flip-Flopping


Reading time – 4:51; Viewing time – 7:30  .  .  .

It’s a fundamental courtroom practice:

If the facts are on your side, pound on the facts.

If they aren’t on your side, pound on the law.

If the law isn’t on your side, pound on the table.

The House Judiciary Committee met last week to debate issuing a citation of contempt of Congress to Attorney General William Barr for his failure to produce an unredacted version of the Mueller Report and the underlying evidentiary materials, as well as for his failure to appear before the committee. Of course, the debate was bifurcated along party lines and what I found most interesting is what the Republicans did to make their case against contempt citations.

They brought up all manner of what they decried are unfair or unethical issues, including Hillary Clinton’s emails, FBI leadership, FBI spying and investigating (isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?), Barr’s courage to obey a law that actually doesn’t apply to the contempt of Congress issue, the Steele Dossier (none of which has been disproven), Christopher Steele’s having talked with Russians, various officials lying under oath, James Comey’s perfidy and other real or fantasy offenses.

NONE OF THAT HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH WILLIAM BARR FAILING TO RESPOND TO CONGRESSIONAL SUBPOENAS. IT’S ALL WHATABOUTISM.

That’s what people do when they don’t have a leg to stand on.

Don’t let their passion or the intensity of their fatuous bloviating or the panoply of unrelated issues distract you. This is solely about obeying the law. That sounds very conservative, don’t you think? How come the Republicans don’t like it? Try this.

The Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee likely feel duty bound to protect the Republican administration, regardless of what some individuals in that administration have done. That’s one of the more odious parts of party politics and it’s one of the things that causes voters’ blood to boil or drives them to simply tune out, believing, “They’re all crooks.”

Here’s what’s at stake in this subpoena/contempt citation case:

The important thing: The oversight function of Congress is impossible to conduct without the necessary information. The purpose of a subpoena is to elicit that information from reluctant witnesses. Which is to say, it doesn’t matter whether the president or his lapdog attorney general like it; Barr has to obey the subpoena and the law in order for our system to work.

The critical thing: What is at stake is the rule of law itself! If Barr and Trump get away with refusing subpoenas, then our rule of law is finished. So is justice in America, because it will be clear that obeying the law no longer matters. Say hello to tyranny.

Here’s the current reality:

Those Republican committee members don’t have the facts on their side. Barr has plainly and obviously stonewalled his subpoenas. That’s a punishable no-no. So they can’t pound on the facts.

Those committee members also don’t have the law on their side. The law is clear that citizens must obey a subpoena. So, those representatives can’t pound on the law.

All they have left is pounding on the table. And that’s what they did during the House Judiciary Committee contempt citation hearings and what they’re doing still.

You can expect the same behavior from Republican senators if a resolution of impeachment arrives in their chamber. That’s pretty much what we saw during the blizzard of filibusters the Republicans mounted to fight anything Obama promoted. They didn’t have the facts and they didn’t have the law, so they pounded on the table.

Critical note to Democrats: if positions were reversed, we’d see the same behavior from Congressional Democrats, although they’d probably smile more and be ever-so empathetic. Nevertheless, forget about feeling smug and disdainful about the other guys. This is party politics S.O.P.

Impeachment update  .  .  .

In 2017 I had the simple clarity that Trump should be impeached because he is a criminal, that he’s obviously guilty of violating the Emoluments Clause, obstruction of justice and possibly of treason for conspiracy with the Russians and for his refusal to take any action to prevent ongoing attacks by Russia. Then I considered what a President Pence might do and I wasn’t so sure that impeachment was best.

The first thing Pence would do is pull a Gerald Ford and pardon Trump and his entire crime family for felonies they have or may have committed. It’s unthinkable that they might get away with their self-aggrandizing criminality, so I changed my mind on impeachment. Now, though, there’s another worry.

Trump has started a march to war with Iran. Separating out his wag-the-dog gambit, starting that war will result in a lot of people dying and suffering and it likely will be a war that will last for many years, just like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, because there’s no way out. It appears that the only way to prevent that is to remove Trump from office before he can fire the first shot. That calls for impeachment, so back we go.

One price of doing that, though, is the probability of angering a lot of Americans who will see Trump as a victim and will vote in a Congress that might continue to dismantle the things we care about, a Congress which will deny climate warming. They will continue the assault on Roe v. Wade, on voting rights and will enact yet more wealth inequality measures. All of that and more are existential threats to liberal democracy and to our entire planet. That price is so large that it augers for leaving Trump in office until the end of his term in order to prevent a backlash Congress, even knowing that he will issue anticipatory pardons to all his co-conspirators.

Yes, I realize that I’m flip-flopping on the issue of impeachment and I don’t like it any more than you do.

This impeachment business is more complicated and has more consequences than I want it to have. I believe in the rule of law and apologize not one bit for being a Boy Scout about my horror over the assault on our moral character that we continue to endure.  But frustrating as it would be to refrain from stopping the subversive criminal in the Oval Office, preempting Trump with impeachment might do more harm than good. Clearly, this is a hold your nose moment in American history.

Click the pic for the report in The Onion

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

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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Danger From All Directions


Reading time – 3:47  .  .  .

Here are some news chunks that at first may seem to be unrelated, yet they really are connected.


“The FDA won’t ban a type of breast implant that has been linked to cancer, the agency announced Thursday. Textured breast implants have been tied to a form of cancer known as anaplastic large-cell lymphoma and have been banned in many other countries.”


“A Kaiser Family Foundation poll of 1,200 adults finds that a majority do not favor the Trump administration’s proposed changes [drastic cuts] to Title X, the program that provides funding for family planning and other services to low-income people.”


“He lied to Congress. He lied to Congress… If anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law — not the president of the United States, not the attorney general.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted Attorney General William Barr at a press conference Thursday, saying that part of previous testimony Barr gave Congress on April 9th was a lie. The attorney general then denied knowledge of concerns raised by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team over Barr’s four-page summary of the Mueller report. By March 28, Barr had already received a formal letter from Mueller that conveyed the special counsel’s concerns and spoken with him about it over the phone.”

It’s the “emBARRassment” of Barr. Thanks AS for that.


“Trump at war with Democrats: ‘We’re fighting all the subpoenas’

“Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump vowed on Wednesday to fight “all the subpoenas” issued by House Democrats investigating his administration, reinforcing his administration’s increasingly combative posture toward congressional oversight.”


Trump-Putin (Again): President Donald Trump said he discussed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report with Russian President Vladimir Putin in an hour-long phone call today. However, Trump says he didn’t warn Putin not to meddle in the upcoming 2020 elections: “We didn’t discuss that,” he told reporters.


On a small stage these can be seen as disconnected actions of the incompetent. With a wider focus, these can be seen as manifestations of a continuing Trump-led national march to authoritarianism and the formal abandonment of We the People. These are actions both small and large that undermine our rights, our safety, our security, our freedom and democracy itself, while at the same time aggregating power to Trump, he who cannot be indicted for his crimes.

Further, that inevitably leads to our loss of leadership in the world – it’s already happening – which will further undermine our security. Read the piece in The Atlantic by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) to get a perspective on the extensive and self-destructive reach of authoritarianism that is upending the hard-won battles, both in war and in debate, the work to build democracy.

The task before us right now is the same task that President Lincoln set before the nation in closing his remarks at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863:

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Were the 51,112 casualties at Gettysburg for nothing?

We are faced with that same question about the hundreds of thousands who have died and the millions who suffered in all of our conflicts in order to protect our democracy. Because if we now allow authoritarianism to undermine what we declare we hold dear, then we will have betrayed them and they will have suffered and died in vain. And government of the people, by the people and for the people will perish from the earth.

It’s time to see what is happening right in front of our eyes. That it is not masked doesn’t make it any less dangerous and it is just as disloyal to our country. Metaphorically, it doesn’t matter if you saw the poisonous snake before it bit you. You’re dying just the same.

It falls to us to keep faith with those who have protected our democracy. This is our time to rally to Lincoln’s call. Read his words again and let them seep into your bones.

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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,

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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Your Lyin’ Eyes and Impeachment


Reading time – 3.47; Viewing time – 5:20  .  .  .

The Mueller Report is out and I haven’t had time to go through all 448 pages, although you can do that yourself by getting the PDF from the DOJ website here. Click on the 4th line beginning “Report on the Investigation” for the download. Or if you prefer you can get an indexed and searchable version here.

There is big stuff in that report, including that the lack of indictments of the president is due to the Justice Department guideline that a sitting president can’t be indicted. Also, because so many documents were destroyed by various perps.

Nevertheless, Mueller let us know that he was unable to declare that the President of the United States isn’t a criminal. Stunning! My more chilling takeaway, though, is about Attorney General William Barr.

Barr was promoted as a legal institutionalist, even after his unsolicited, 19-page job application that made it clear that he believed that, metaphorically speaking, a president really could get away with shooting someone on 5th Avenue. That view works for Trump and Barr got the attorney general post.

In each of his public appearances and writings as attorney general, Barr has gone out of his way to exonerate the president. His rhetoric vacillates between cherry-picked, out of context phrases to outright lies all in favor of President Trump. Did he think we wouldn’t notice? In listening to Barr I’m reminded of comedian Richard Pryor’s line, “Who you gonna believe: me or your lyin’ eyes?”

The scary part is that Barr sounds like the president’s defense counsel, instead of the attorney for the Constitution of the United States of America.

In his piece in New York Magazine entitled, “Congress Should Impeach William Barr,” Jonathan Chait wrote,

“The Justice Department is an awesome force that holds the power to enable the ruling party to commit crimes with impunity .  .  .”

We should have seen this coming.

From The Onion, of course. Click the pic

Barr is the former attorney general for President George H.W. Bush. Barr recommended to Bush that he pardon the convicted Iran-Contra felons. Click through the link and scroll down to the Indictments section and you’ll see that these guys did a lot of really bad things, including thwarting the explicit will of Congress. You need to appreciate how significant that is.

Doing that is an attack on Congress itself, and it encourages an imperial presidency. William Barr cemented that by recommending those pardons. And now he’s defending this power grabbing, dictator wanna-be president.

If Barr is an institutionalist, exactly what institution does he serve?

Read more about this here.

And another thing .  .  .

Now that most of the Mueller Report is released, the talk of impeachment is spiraling upward. I’ve long called for the removal of this cheating, lying, fraudulent, self-aggrandizing, democracy damaging president, but now I have significant doubt about that notion.

President Gerald Ford set a woeful precedent by granting, “.  .  .   a full, free and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in .  .  .” Nixon got a free pass for his criminal wrongdoing and wasn’t held accountable in any way.

That is the precedent that Mike Pence will inherit should he become President. That means that our criminal president will likely be pardoned for any and all crimes which he may have committed (think: conspiring with the Russians to disrupt our 2016 election, obstruction of justice; money laundering; and fraud).

Further, if Trump were to be impeached, whether convicted in the Senate or not, he and the Republicans will wail about him being a poor victim, suffering unfair discrimination by the evil Democrats and the Washington swamp. That could lead to another Republican in the White House in 2021 and a Congress controlled by the same spineless legislators who are enabling Trump right now.

The solution that makes the most sense to me is to Benghazi Trump: just keep his wrongdoing in the public eye through November 3, 2020 with ongoing Congressional hearings.

I often have difficulty rationalizing the impact of the bypassing of punishment for wrongdoing in favor of some greater good, but this one looks obvious enough even for me.

No impeachment.

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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:

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

In The Center of the Bulls Eye


Reading time – 4:49; Viewing time – 6:15  .  .  .

My pal Dan Wallace commented sagely about my last post, Time To Chill?, and included links to a couple of his own posts. I heartily recommend that you read them by clicking through to my post, scroll down to his comments and then link to his essays. They explain in a compelling fashion what’s critically important and what you know in your bones to be true.

He ended his comments saying that he’s sad that we are where we are and he supposed that I am, too. Here’s how I replied:

Sad, yes. And more. Here’s a short story to illustrate.

The gorilla sat calmly in his habitat, separated from the visitors at the zoo by a wide and deep moat. A child climbed the fence and was on the top of the moat wall on the gorilla’s side of the fence. That’s when the gorilla stood up and bellowed, beat his chest and jumped up and down, scaring the child back to where he belonged.

When our security and our identity are challenged it’s right for us to be angry and on the offense. That has nothing to do with sad; it’s about appropriate aggressiveness to protect what we hold dear.

That’s the job before us right now – to protect what we hold dear.

Here’s a set of 4 tweets from Paul Krugman, posted on January 18, 2019:

“A thought about where we are as a nation: We’re living in the age of unsurprising revelation. Is there anyone who doesn’t already believe that Trump-Putin-treason is a real thing? Even Trump loyalists surely know it’s true. They just think it’s an OK price for the racism. 1/

“The question instead is when and whether the evidence will become so dramatic, so blatant, that Trump’s defenders won’t feel able to keep pretending they don’t know. That is, it’s not really about what we learn but about how it plays out. 2/

“Think of the Steve King story as a dress rehearsal. Everyone knew what he was, and has for years. Somehow, though, we reached a tipping point where GOP leaders felt they had to say, “We’re shocked, shocked to find open racism going on in our party!” 3/

“I don’t know if we’ll ever reach that sort of tipping point with Trump. But even if we do, remember: they’ve known all along, but were willing to sell out America as long as it was convenient. 4/”

That means that in the face of the abject failure of those we rightly count on, we – you and I – must use appropriate aggressiveness to protect what we hold dear.

At last there are the beginnings of honest-to-goodness, Constitutionally mandated oversight. What is sadly unsurprising is the volume of brainless, absurd opposition to that oversight in pursuit of protecting He Who Must Be Obeyed by Republicans.

It’s unsurprising because these legislators know that if they don’t toe the line to protect Trump they’ll get primaried from the right in their next election and Trump will stomp on their skulls; so for them, protecting Trump trumps all. Clearly, their careers in politics are far more important to them than, say, ensuring our democracy or safeguarding the Constitution, which they swore to protect and defend.

Please don’t complain that Krugman and I are unfairly bashing Republicans. If the Democrats were doing this, I’d be skewering them mercilessly, but they aren’t. It’s just the Republicans now, so they’re the ones who get pinned to the center of the bulls eye to be targets for the truth.

So, what can we do?

Here’s a set of three offerings devoid of right versus left and R versus D conflict. These are about bringing us together to protect and defend what we hold dear, what we must protect and defend, because those guys aren’t doing their job.

    1. Watch this video from Represent.us. It’s focused on ending the bi-partisan corruption that infests our government. I know you’re entirely on board with wanting to end the corruption of our politics, so watch the video. It goes down easy and is very much of a piece with the Money, Politics & Democracy programs I deliver.
    2. Read Jason Stanley’s book How Fascism Works. Buy it from your locally owned, ma & pa book store to support them and your town. And don’t put it on the stack of books you’ll get to “some day.” Read it now – it’s that timely. And while you’re at it, get a copy of How Democracies Die.
    3. If you’re in the Chicago area, attend Jason Stanley’s talk on March 23. Here’s a link to RSVP. For budget sensitive patriots: It’s a freebie. And contributions are welcome.

Frank Bruni had a fine piece in last Sunday’s New York Times in which he dug into what’s behind the anti-vaxxers’ refusal of the very things that can protect their children. It isn’t that they don’t love their children; it’s more insidious and deadly than that. It’s that they don’t love truth.

That is the age we are living in, a kind of anti-Enlightenment era, in which the search for so many is for propaganda that supports our opinions instead of searching for provable reality, feel-good stories instead of truth, and anger instead of resolution. Don’t get too smug about this, though, because I think we’re all candidates for at least some that description.

Too many of our elected officials have played to this dumbed-down version of Americans and these legislators are the very people who have abdicated their responsibilities in Congress.

This stuff matters because of what you hold dear, so now is the time to be appropriately aggressive to protect it.

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,

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

The Reason


Reading time – 3:45; Viewing time – 4:46  .  .  .

Bill Maher’s first guest on his program on January 25 was Ann Coulter. She is one of the far right Republican talking heads that Donald Trump periodically takes orders from.

Coulter’s shtick is sensationalist anger and hate and she does it quite well. The point of mentioning this is to direct you to watch that segment of Maher’s show (here) and observe Coulter’s tactics. Here’s a short list:

She talks non-stop, refusing to pause to allow for a normal back-and-forth. She specifically talks over others, appearing to attempt to overpower any opposition with her machine gun mouth.

Her immediate response to a valid criticism is ”whatabout-ism,” where instead of addressing a question or comment, she attacks someone in the opposition to make them seem worse. She never deals with the hard question she’s been asked or she just dismisses it as irrelevant.

She name calls. She demonizes. She revels in her verbal cruelty. That brings her attention, cheers from fellow haters and she gets the satisfaction of knowing she’s angering progressives.

I’m not a professional, but I’m guessing she just might have some control issues, some anger issues and even some daddy issues. And no, that wasn’t snark.

Remember that this is one of the people Trump listens to and whose bidding he sometimes does. Ann Coulter is one of the mean girls whom Mom told you to stay away from. Mom was right. Coulter and Trump are wrong.

Not unrelated to Coulter and her mean spirited far right media friends is the issue of The Reason. I’m talking about what’s behind all the Trump cronies lying to Congress, the FBI and anyone who will stand still and listen. Most of what they lie about isn’t illegal stuff on the surface, which begs the question, then, of why they would lie. What’s the reason for their apparently unnecessary dishonesty? What are they protecting?

Rachel Maddow has done a nice job of exploring this and she’s right to do it. Almost certainly getting to the bottom of this will take the release of Robert Mueller’s report. But you can be sure that all those felons were lying for a really important reason and it’s next to impossible to avoid believing that The Reason doesn’t have to do with protecting Trump and themselves from the exposure of a very large conspiracy involving some truly terrible crimes.

As I’ve cautioned many times before, keep your eye on the ball. Let no distraction, however bright and shiny, divert your focus from The Reason. That includes you refusing to react to the hollow sensationalism of Ann Coulter or any other Trump rationalizers.

From The Onion, of course. Click for the article.

Finally, we end this post on an important story. The reason that it’s important is because it declares to ourselves and to the world who we are and puts the lie to the terrible things people say and do to divide us.

Joseph Walker was 72 years old when he died of natural causes. Mr. Walker had served in the Air Force in Vietnam from 1964 – 1968 and received an honorable discharge. There doesn’t seem to be much record of him beyond that time. He had no family and no known friends, so when he died it looked as though his funeral would be unattended.

News about Mr. Walker spread on social media and a call went out for people to come so that he wouldn’t be buried alone. And over 1,000 people showed up at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery for this man they didn’t know. There were veterans and active duty military. There were people of various ages and races. There was even a flyover.

Marc George of the Christian Motorcyclists Association officiated. George said,”Today, we give him honors, [this] man whom no one apparently knew, but whom no one wanted to forget  .  .  .  once upon a time, like a lot of us other vets, he signed a blank check for our nation.”

And so we relearn who we really are. Over and over, we show that we care. On Monday we honored Joseph Walker and, in the process, we honored one another. Keep Mr. Walker in mind the next time you hear one of those hate mongers spewing vitriol. We’re way better than that. We show up for one another. Kudos to the 1,000 for reminding us who we are.

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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:

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Thanks!

 

 


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

Slavery


Reading time – 5:16; Viewing time – 8:10  . .  .

This post is longer than usual, but stay with me. I promise you’ll be rewarded.

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The 13th Amendment reads,

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Good idea. Too bad we’re violating that amendment right now.

In an article in the New York times entitled It’s Time for T.S.A. Workers to Strike, authors Barbara Ehrenreich and Gary Stevenson show us what’s happening to our federal workers. They are prevented by law from striking, a point which was firmly made by Ronald Reagan, who fired 11,000 striking PATCO workers in 1981. They were demanding better wages and shorter working hours, as the high stress of their air traffic control jobs and overlong work hours were literally killing them. Those are good reasons to demand better, but their contract said that they couldn’t strike and they paid the price. This time, though, it’s different.

Ehrenreich and Stevenson make the case for a T.S.A. strike on the basis of violation of the 13th Amendment. Likely they identified the T.S.A. workers out of all federal workers as the ones who should strike because their striking would shut down our air traffic system and grind much of our economy to a halt. It would be enormously expensive for industry, so their strike would likely cause great pressure on government to get the shutdown resolved fast. The logic of a 13th Amendment triggered strike, though, applies to all federal workers who are forced to work during this shutdown. I’m not advocating a strike, but forcing people to work and refusing to pay them is most bad ju-ju.

The complaint isn’t about better pay, better working conditions, shorter hours or anything typical. This is about paying people as agreed. Yet they are being forced to work without pay. That’s called slavery.

Should any of our federal workers strike, there surely will be a lawsuit initiated by the Justice Department. It will be an interesting case. Let’s do a thought experiment about that.

The government will be asking for a temporary restraining order to force workers back on the job immediately. Surely, they’ll quote contract law that says the workers agreed not to strike and are thus prevented from doing so. They’ll say that the government will pay workers in full when the shutdown is over and that the promise of future pay satisfies the contract.

From Stat, a Boston Globe publication. Sen. Dick Durban has called on HHS Secretary Nielsen to resign. Click the pic to download the report.

The defense will likely also quote contract law and make clear that the government has violated its obligations, thus nullifying the contract and freeing workers to strike. They’ll also make the Constitutional case that the government is practicing slavery in direct violation of the 13th Amendment. They might claim civil rights violations by the government as well.

The only difference between old fashioned slavery and the circumstances of today’s federal workers is that today the workers are being given a promise of being paid on some unspecified future date that could be years from now. Imagine being a federal worker and having to tell your landlord that you’ll pay your rent – some day. How well do you think that will work for you?

The way our thought experiment case is decided or the shutdown itself is ended will dramatically affect not just the workers, but our entire nation. Here are some examples:

1. Absent a quick resolution to the shut down, thousands of federal workers, whether striking or not, will find permanent full time work elsewhere because they have bills to pay. They will not be coming back to those federal jobs ever. But we need airport security, food inspectors, a fully functioning FBI and State Department, air traffic controllers and the rest. These are skilled jobs and we don’t have a bench, especially in this full employment economy. Who will do the work to make our nation function?

2. The shutdown is costing billions of dollars and, if it continues a while longer it’s projected by the President’s own economic people that it will cancel out national economic growth for the year.

3. Depending upon how this shutdown ends, we’ll be making a powerful statement about our national values. We’ll be declaring with our actions who and what we care about and we’ll be setting a precedent for the future. There will be lasting impact.

There’s more, of course, but think about the callous way our people are being treated. You’ve seen the up close and personal reports, like the woman who is trying to stretch her insulin supply because she doesn’t have money for more; and the workers who are trying to decide whether to buy food for their families or pay the electric bill; and the family with two kids, both of whom have medical issues and they’ve have run out of money to properly care for their kids; and the hundreds of thousands who now or in the very near future will be unable to pay the rent or the mortgage or the car payment. Still, they’re expected to show up and work without pay.

It’s hard to comprehend that we’re dealing with slavery in America in the 21st century.


A friend of mine is a federal worker – an air traffic controller. He’s one of those people who is dedicated to serving and works every day to keep you safe when you fly and he’s working without being paid. He’ll miss his second paycheck four days from now. I reached out to him early this week to see if there is something we can do to support him and his family. Here’s his reply:

Thank you for reaching out. This shutdown is definitely weighing on me more than the previous ones I have been a part of. This is the longest one in history and there is no trying to figure out a solution. This has turned into a school yard shouting match.

It is hard to go to work – and do my job – not knowing when I will be compensated for it. I will continue to work my scheduled shifts – my overtime shifts – the holidays – and do everything that is asked of me. I am proud of what I do and I will continue to do it.

The show of support from our union brothers and sisters from around the globe has been amazing. I have been treated to meals by the Allied Pilots Association and the Irish Air Traffic Controllers Association. The controllers in the Great White North [Canada] have taken it upon themselves to send pizzas to US facilities. Local businesses are reaching out – creditors are being understanding – some banks are offering 0% interest loans (as long as you pay them back within a certain time period). What is helping is the amount of publicity this is getting as a whole.

For now – we are okay. That may change. If this drags on, we may be forced to reach out to friends and family for financial support. We (luckily) aren’t quite there yet.

Thank you for reaching out – this has (and continues to be) a rough time and it helps to know we have a wonderful support system with some amazing people.

Please don’t let this only be a heartwarming story of people supporting others. Find a way to do your part, like overpaying your tab at the restaurant that’s providing free meals to federal workers and their families, or reaching out to someone you know who might need help, or donating to a local food bank or one of the GoFundMe sites. People are hurting and coming together in times of need is what we Americans do. It’s time for action.

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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.

Wag the Dog


Reading time – 3:24; Viewing time – 4:37  .  .  .

This is from the Sunday New York Times:

“At [national security advisor John] Bolton’s direction, the National Security Council asked the Pentagon last year to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran .  .  .”

Let’s put this into perspective.

Gen. Colin Powell warned us against doing military stupid stuff in his Powell Doctrine decades ago. It’s grounded in the painful lessons of Vietnam and, while it has weathered criticism for being incomplete, it’s hard to disagree with Powell’s cautionary message. Sadly, we’ve pretty much ignored it time and again.

Not stated in the Powell Doctrine is another of his admonitions, the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it. And so we do in Iraq and Afghanistan, the longest wars in our history. Now John Bolton, always eager to flex US muscle, has asked for plans to strike Iran.

Can you imagine Donald Trump being a calming voice of reason to tether John Bolton to reality? Neither can I. If Bolton gets his way we will break yet another country where we will then be in perpetual war. And this story gets worse.

We are mired in the longest government shutdown in US history. The president is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to overpower Congress and get his useless wall. You need to understand what such a declaration can mean.

In a time of declared national emergency the president has vast powers. Here’s a partial list:

Suspend the Constitution – yes, SUSPEND THE CONSTITUTION!

Redirect money in blatant conflict with Congressional intent

Declare martial law

Deploy our military in-country

Seize control of the internet

Shut down communications (telephone, radio, television, etc.)

Freeze bank accounts – including yours

Suspend habeas corpus (i.e. imprison Americans without charge and without due process of law – Think: Guantanamo in Des Moines, IA)

Control the states’ voter databases

Sanction Americans without charge and leave them without recourse

Effectively, the president can become a monarch. Perhaps Trump will prefer autocrat or generalissimo or kommisar or general secretary or chairman. Regardless of the label, it will be the end of American democracy.

This president has repeatedly shown that he has no regard for Constitutional limits, much less respect for legislative and cultural norms. He’s given us no reason to believe that he would refrain from outrageous behavior following his declaring a national emergency. And with the help of Mitch McConnell for the past two  years, Trump has packed the courts and his cabinet with people who likely would refuse to stand up to him.

A declaration of national emergency, whether for his fantasy claims of crisis at our southern border or for a pending or hot conflict with Iran or Argentina would be just the thing for Trump to consolidate power. Beyond fulfilling Trump’s bottomless ego needs, such a declaration will completely divert attention from his conspiracies with Russia. It’s the ultimate distraction and, perhaps, the negation of any investigation into his possible criminal activity.

Did I mention that this story gets worse? It does.

We never vote leaders out of office during war time and very rarely during any other national emergency. The only contrary example I can think of is Herbert Hoover, who lost the 1932 election to Franklin Roosevelt for his mishandling of the Great Depression. Nevertheless, the point for us now is to be clear that a declaration of national emergency, regardless of the justification Trump uses, would likely ensure Trump’s reelection in 2020, if, indeed, we even have another election.

And that will make Vladimir Putin very happy. His only regret will be that he won’t have any more kompromat on Trump, because exposing Trump’s money laundering, his tax fraud, his obstruction of justice and his treason will no longer matter.

Wag the dog.

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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. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish that goal requires reaching many people, so:

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

What’s Next


Click me for a larger view

Reading time – 4:45; Viewing time – 6:48  .  .  .

I’ve been wondering about the important actions we should expect from the 116th Congress.

Adam Schiff (D-CA), the incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has promised a real investigation into Russian meddling in our 2016 election. That will be in stark contrast to the investigation led by committee chair Devin Nunes (R-CA and Chief Trump Weenie). Under Nunes’ chairmanship, all efforts to actually investigate were thwarted by Nunes. Perhaps this time we’ll get some truth about what happened and who’s responsible. The committee might even investigate Russia’s meddling in our 2018 election. They could generate some ideas about how to protect our nation. That would be refreshing.

There are other committees which will have to start their work anew because of Republican obstruction for the past two years. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) will be the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Do you suppose he’ll be able to find anything worthy of investigation?

Rep Elijah Cummings (D-MD)* will chair the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  Looking at the mess he’s facing, Cummings said, “The oversight job after two years of Donald Trump is like coming upon a 73-car pileup on the highway.” Read this for context. The chief issue soon to be before us, though, is impeachment.

Trump has laid his obstruction of justice and his violations of the emoluments clause in plain sight. That’s plenty of reason to start an impeachment action. It seems likely, though, that there won’t be enough courage in the Republican controlled Senate to convict our presidential perp. Finding enough starch in Republican spines may have to await the Robert Mueller report, recently predicted to arrive in February. That’s when things will become even more weird.

Trump has made Matthew Whittaker the acting attorney general, which may compromise justice. For a long time Whittaker has gone out of his way to criticize and attack the Mueller investigation. There’s no question about his prejudice. Whittaker is anything but an honest broker. Further, he has refused the direction of the Justice Department Ethics Committee to recuse himself from the Mueller inquiry. Democrats have promised to call for Whittaker’s removal from office in January, but that won’t fix this problem.

That’s because Trump has nominated William Barr to be attorney general and Barr is similarly negative toward the Mueller investigation. He is another less than honest broker. Clearly, Trump is stacking the deck to avoid justice. He’s making it questionable whether Mueller’s report will ever see the light of day or whether our government will take action. If you believe in a nation of laws and not of men, this situation should send shivers up your spine.

Democratic leadership has determined that keeping Trump’s malfeasance in the news, death by a thousand cuts over the next two years, will help Democrats in the 2020 elections. The problem with that is that it means that no impeachment efforts will be made and Trump will remain in office for another two years. Decide for yourself what two more years of Trump’s self-serving, ignorance-based chaos will do to our country and to the world.

Decide, too, what it would mean for our country if Trump is removed from office and Mike Pence becomes President. This is the same guy who Indianans were turning out of office in 2016 because of his radical beliefs and complete disregard for the truth. Picture him as president, recommending “pray away the gay” treatment for our LGBTQ citizens. He did that when he was governor of Indiana. That ought to send shivers up your spine, too.

That leaves us with no good option for our next two years, so we have to choose the least bad solution. Here’s how to do that.

There is room for debate about the proper role of the federal government, but everybody believes that ensuring the safety and security of our nation is its primary job. For guidance on this, read Gen. Jim Mattis’ resignation letter. Note his clarity about standing with our allies and opposing those who would do harm to us or our allies and how important that is for our national security.

Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice wrote:

“.  .  .  Mr. Trump himself — has dealt the death blow to effective policy making. The president couldn’t care less about facts, intelligence, military analysis or the national interest. He refuses to take seriously the views of his advisers, announces decisions on impulse and disregards the consequences of his actions. In abandoning the role of a responsible commander in chief, Mr. Trump today does more to undermine American national security than any foreign adversary.”

We are substantively less secure now than we were two years ago. So, too, are our allies, the nations Trump has effectively told we will not stand with in case of trouble. These are the same nations who stood with us following 9/11, the only time in the history of NATO that Article 5 has been invoked. That’s the “collective defense” section of the NATO charter.

Which leads back to the question of impeachment and whether we can tolerate two more years of Trump’s hands on the reins. He’s a suck up to Putin, who is nuclear sabre rattling and rapidly expanding Russia’s military capabilities right now. He’s invading neighboring countries with impunity. Trump refuses to speak against that or take any action. At the same time, Trump is abandoning our friends like it’s just another of his divorces. He makes decisions based solely on what’s good for himself, not what’s best for our country.

I’m much less interested in what’s good for Democrats in 2020 than I am for what is best for our country. As bad as Pence may be, we need to get rid of Trump before he can do yet more damage. Besides, Pence may get caught up in the Mueller sting along with Trump and his family. That would bring about the very worst nightmare for members of the Republican Freedom Caucus: President Pelosi.

I’m thinking of running for president and will make the highlighted text my campaign slogan. Think it’ll work? Click the pic for a larger version.

For more on this read Sheila Markin’s report, How Trump Ends.

  • *Rep. Elijah Cummings was erroneously listed as representing South Carolina in the video post. He represents the 7th District of Maryland and I extend my apology for the error. JA

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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. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  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.

This Is Going To Be A Challenge


Reading time – 3:50; Viewing time – 5:07  .  .  .

The experts tell us what is painfully obvious, that we’ve trained ourselves to have a short little attention span and we refuse to hone our ability to hold conflicting or complex thoughts in mind. We are impatient in the extreme.

Examples:

It used to take about 45 minutes to bake a potato. Now it takes 4 minutes in the microwave oven and we stand in front of the machine counting down the last 30 seconds and maybe opening the door before it beeps because we just don’t have the patience to wait those last 7 seconds.

The online order that took 3 minutes for you to place arrives on your doorstep in no more than 2 days. We used to be satisfied with 2 weeks.

Information on nearly anything is available in under one second and we’re surprised if it takes more than one click to find it.

No doubt you can think of more examples of our expectations for instant gratification and wish fulfillment, but let’s just admit to our near-universal impatience. That’s why this is going to be a challenge.

That kind of behavior and expectations neatly delivers to us leaders who couch every issue as a simple problem with a quick, binary choice of solutions, when in reality most of the challenges we send our representatives to solve are complex, three dimensional puzzles that require holding complex thoughts in their heads and staying focused, on-task.

Bumper sticker slogans are so much easier than six pages of explanation and they’re instantly gratifying. That encourages our leaders to deliver what Elaina Plott described as, ”  .  .  .  a warped polity whose leaders are manipulative of public opinion rather than responsive to it.” Further, she said, “Popular discourse is given [over] to extremes.”

Chris Hedges wrote about this in a 2012 essay, How To Think. By the standard of our national nanosecond attention span, his piece is long and thick. So, go ahead – test your focusing skills – read the entire excellent essay. Meanwhile, here’s a excerpt:

“Human societies see what they want to see. They create national myths of identity out of a composite of historical events and fantasy. They ignore unpleasant facts that intrude on self-glorification. They trust naively in the notion of linear progress and in assured national dominance. This is what nationalism is about—lies. And if a culture loses its ability for thought and expression, if it effectively silences dissident voices, if it retreats into what Sigmund Freud called “screen memories,” those reassuring mixtures of fact and fiction, it dies. It surrenders its internal mechanism for puncturing self-delusion. It makes war on beauty and truth. It abolishes the sacred. It turns education into vocational training. It leaves us blind. And this is what has occurred. We are lost at sea in a great tempest. We do not know where we are. We do not know where we are going. And we do not know what is about to happen to us.”

Hedges’ comments were made 4 years before Trump was elected. What’s changed in the interim is the severity of the problems we face, as well as our having achieved an increasing clarity about the looming disaster that is about to happen to us. At the same time, we’re ever more impatient.

Click the caricature for the original

If Donald Trump has served a useful purpose for the United States it surely is as a caricature of our acquiescence to ignorance and easy non-solutions to complex problems. Those things give us a chest-thumping sugar high right until the moment when reality arrives and we come crashing down, like when we learned about all those children ripped from their mothers’ arms and then put in cages. He’s shown us daily what foolishness, greed, hate mongering and dishonesty can do to a nation. Perhaps the results of the mid-term election indicate that we are beginning to see for ourselves what has happened to us. We don’t like it and we’re taking action to redirect our country.

Angry old white guys who long for a proud and pleasant but fictitious past are dying off, so my hopes are for our young to put their shoulders to the wheel and move this national wagon in the right direction. The Parkland kids are showing the way. They just received the 2018 International Children’s Peace Prize, awarded by Bishop Desmond Tutu in Cape Town, South Africa. The Millennials at www.Represent.us and the tens of thousands who canvassed for candidates in this election are showing us the way as well.

For them and us to succeed will require that we hold complex thoughts in our heads and stay focused. It means now and then we will have to accept less than instant gratification. It means we may have to live with some level of disappointment and nevertheless stay the course.

This is going to be a challenge. And it is our challenge.

————————————

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 that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  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.

Perversion


Reading time – 4:41; Viewing time – 6:43  .  .  .

First they were the “silent majority.” Then they were “values voters,” which seemed to imply that those who didn’t see things exactly their way had no values. Now they’re “the base” or “Evangelicals.” Regardless of the label, they were and are focused on being a minority holding power over the heathen majority as though it’s a religious imperative. It’s a most exclusionary position, as in “I’ve got it and you can’t have it.” Whether it’s citizenship, civil and voting rights, power, superiority – it doesn’t matter. It’s all about we-who-are-right-and-good-and-godly versus all the people who are wrong and less-than and probably unpatriotic, too. Whatever advances their agenda is okay.

Paul Weyrich was the Dean Wormer of voter suppression.

Paul Weyrich, a conservative commentator and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, declared the Republican marching orders in August, 1980 while speaking to the Religious Roundtable, saying,

“I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

Republicans have been pursuing Weyrich’s repressive dictum tied to a fairy tale of religious purity ever since. They’ve made claims of massive voter fraud without any evidence to suggest that it even exists and have warned of dire consequences to our country if the “wrong” people are allowed to vote. They’ve quite ably reduced opposing voter turnout by:

– Purging voter roles for spurious reasons, primarily of people of color and the poor

– Purging voter lists of people only because they haven’t voted in the past few elections

– Closing offices, making it difficult to register to vote

– Closing polling places making it difficult to vote

– Challenging ballots due to minor errors, like omitting a middle initial

– Dirty tricks, like sending mailings with the wrong date or place for voting

– Requiring IDs that many poor people simply don’t have

From The Onion, of course. Click the pic for the article.

– Refusing to accept IDs that many people do have

– Rejecting voter registrations on ridiculous technicalities

– Redistricting (gerrymandering) that effectively neuters votes

– Claiming voter fraud with absolutely no evidence of it having occurred

– Packing the courts with right wing judges who allow these perversions to stand

Voter suppression advances the control and wealth of the minority to the detriment of the majority, which perverts our democracy. Right now there is no equivalency on the Democratic side, although there has been in the past. But there is perversion equivalency somewhere else: it’s the Big Money influence on our politicians and our democracy. Now, that’s an equal opportunity perverter.

There’s a reason you’re paying crazy high prices for your meds. It’s because the pharmaceutical industry lobbies in the form of direct and indirect cash support for politicians. That monetary influence reduces their inclination to do anything that the big companies wouldn’t like, such as opposing mergers and acquisitions that reduce competition. The near-monopoly created by those mergers allows and even encourages med makers to raise prices. And it’s actually worse than that.

In economic terms, pharmaceutical price hike damage is compounded by what’s called inelastic demand. That means that your purchases won’t be reduced if the price goes up because your life depends on those meds.

We have plenty of anti-trust (i.e. anti-monopoly) laws on the books, but they’re pretty much ignored. There was the breakup of AT&T in the 1980s (which has by now been largely negated) and the Microsoft suit in the 1990s, but not much else for decades. Meanwhile, the mergers of major companies continue.

Many of our air carriers have merged, like Continental being absorbed by United and US Air was bought by American and, unsurprisingly, ticket prices are rising. And if the T-Mobile and Sprint merger is allowed to happen, and regardless of which carrier you now use, what do you suppose that will mean for your cell phone bill? That’s right: it will go up.

And it’s not just your financial burden that might be affected.

The gargantuan size of companies resulting from allowing already big companies to merge can be a contributor to a decline in democracy and even a rise of fascism. Here’s how it works.

When we feel powerless, we look for someone to lead us back to a feeling of being in control of our lives and our country. But the autocratic leader we choose then partners with the huge companies to get their loyalty and support. In return, those companies get to avoid accountability for their actions and we pay the price.

In the end, we’re left even more powerless and our democracy will have been perverted. Read Tim Wu’s piece “Be Afraid of ‘Bigness.’ Be Very Afraid.” Bigness – monopoly – warps government, which perverts democracy and invites autocracy, which steamrolls you.

This discussion wouldn’t be complete without making clear that all of our perverting craziness is for the purpose of the ultra-wealthy few keeping and grabbing even more power by undermining our democracy. The drum major for that band is, of course, Donald Trump. But all those denials of rights of our citizens are part of the perversion.

It’s in Trump’s interests to kneecap the system that’s in place and to diminish those in his path. He went on a tweet storm last week bashing Robert S. Mueller and the FBI. You owe it to yourself to review CNN’s clear-headed, examination of what he tweeted. As you read it, be clear that his is not just a temper tantrum. It’s a perversion of our democracy.

————————————

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 that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  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.

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