Money in politics

Hypocrisy

A partial compendium of Trumpian distractions designed to keep your eye off the ball. Click the image for a larger view.

Reading time – 2:51; Viewing time – 4:13  .  . .

I keep wondering when the hypocrisy, the slimy self-serving and the blatant dishonesty will quiet enough for the nation to take a breath, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

Mitch McConnell (R-KY), majority leader of the Senate, is the leader of the mob, all members of which seem to be able to make almost any nonsensical, self-focused thing come out of their mouths on command.

McConnell’s refusal of so much as a hearing for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, lasted for 293 days. McConnell based his judicial roadblock on his fact-less claim that no President had ever had a Court nominee reviewed in a president’s last year in office. That McConnell’s favorite, President Reagan, nominated Anthony Kennedy in his last year in office and that Kennedy was vetted and voted to the Court by a Democrat controlled Senate seemed to have escaped McConnell’s attention. When it was pointed out to him, he continued to deny a hearing for Garland and continued to base his intransigence on his original lie.

Now we’re offered the spectacle of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings focused on Judge Brett Kavanaugh as President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court. We witnessed Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) discharging his duties by refusing to make available to Democrats on the committee 90% of the documents pertaining to Kavanaugh. Included in the withheld documents are all those pertaining to his service in the George W. Bush White House, where he was part of the legal team and where torture was declared not to be torture, and other various legal atrocities were committed. Grassley refused parliamentary motions by Democrats to access that information and motions to delay hearings to accommodate a proper review of documents. He was ably assisted by Sen. John Cornyn, (R-TX), who sprayed fatuous lies about the room.

In June, attorney Cyrus Sanai sent a letter to Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) detailing the rampant sexual misconduct of Kavanaugh’s mentor, Judge Alex Kozinski. Sanai claimed this was important, pertinent information regarding the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. He and his information were ignored.

Currently, there is an accusation of sexual assault committed by Kavanaugh. Without an independent review of the facts, a confrontation before the committee between the accuser and Kavanaugh would degrade the hearings into a “he said/she said” session, much like the debacle of Anita Hill’s accusation of sexual misconduct by Justice Clarence Thomas in his 1991 hearings. That’s why Kavanaugh’s accuser has requested an FBI investigation, as well as asking that the committee hear witnesses testifying under oath about this alleged crime.

President Trump is the only one who can order an FBI investigation and he has refused to do that. Chuck Grassley is the only one who can call witnesses to testify before the committee and he has refused to do that. Apparently, the President and the Republican leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee believe that rape allegations aren’t pertinent to decisions about a lifetime appointment to the highest court in America.

The American people are left with the painfully obvious fact of partisan politics and self-serving actions being the only concerns of our Congress and President. Truth and integrity don’t matter, nor does what is best for our country.

The public approval of Congress is now at 17%; you do the math for the disapproval rating. Can you think of a reason why we would view these elected officials with such disdain?

I knew you could.

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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 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 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Potpourri v4.0

A partial compendium of Trumpian distractions designed to keep your eye off the ball. Click the image for a larger view.

Reading time – 3:03  .  .  .

I just re-read Thomas Friedman’s essay on artificial intelligence and it brought back a question I heard posed in connection with self-driving cars and trucks: How will we deal with one million truck drivers when they’re suddenly put out of work?

We’ve experienced a loss of jobs for a long while, primarily due to automation and, less so but still significantly, due to outsourcing to cheaper labor. There’s a difference in perception and reactivity between slow changes like those, and the sudden change that AI is bringing. We haven’t done well dealing with that long term loss of jobs, so how will we deal with a much more sudden loss of one million jobs?

That’s just one complex issue stacked onto so many more in our rapidly changing world. Nobody in the history of the world has faced globalization as we’re experiencing it and it has impacted us in dramatic ways. Nikil Saval’s essay in The Guardian is a must read on this issue.

Most importantly, we have to recognize the impact globalization has had and will continue to have on an extremely fearful citizenry. That fear has already led to Brexit and the rise of what’s being called populism around the world, both of which are isolationist tactics designed to return to an unattainable past. We have to find solutions and admit that they don’t lie in fictions about a fairy tale past or in an imagined dystopian future, and our solutions can’t be found by demonizing others. This is truly hard stuff that will require us to work together to find solutions.


He’s nuts. No, I really mean he’s nuts. Dan Wallace lays it out for you with a simple clarity befitting a centrist with a penchant for – what else? – clarity.


You know about the Muslim ban. You know about the rejection and even jailing of people applying for asylum in the U.S. You know about our state-run kidnapping of children. You know about voter suppression, mostly of people of color and of poor people, which is done to fight nearly nonexistent voter fraud. Read this report about the most recent effort at governmental discrimination. All of these are battles in the war against “others” to perpetuate control by those in power.

If you’d like to learn what all that “othering”, all that denial of rights leads to, read this piece at Harper’s Bazaar. Systematic discrimination has a logical and diabolical end and you won’t like it if that shows up here.


Speaking of state-run kidnapping of children, that problem is worse than you might suspect. The number of migrant kids in federally contracted facilities is 5 times what it was last year at this time – 12,800 kids. You need to read this piece to understand that more fully. For now, give credit to our government for its astonishing ability to swat at symptoms instead of root causes, to make innocents suffer and to provide disincentive to relief for those kids.

One last comment on this. These kids are being held in “federally contracted facilities.” That means that they are privately owned and run prisons, like our state and federal detention facilities built to house the largest number of prisoners in any country ever.

Many of these prisoners are serving absurdly long sentences for minor drug offenses. Had they been white, hundreds of thousands of these people would never have been jailed or would have received minimal sentences. On the other hand, this ongoing insanity is an excellent way to suppress the vote of poor people and people of color, which benefits the wealthy. And it does one more thing: it’s good for business, like the prison business, which makes for great campaign funding.


Finally, there are tens of thousands of tons of plastic garbage floating about our oceans and the mess causes many problems. Dealing with that is a vexing issue, but someone is at last doing something about it.

A 2000 foot long floating boom has been constructed that is designed to encircle the plastic garbage so that it can be recovered and recycled. It’s headed for its first real world test right now and you can read about it here. Pretty cool!

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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 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 2018 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.

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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 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 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Hypothetical States of America

Reading time – 1:47  .  .  .

Many thanks to contributing author M.S.A. for this particularly appropriate post in anticipation of the March For Our Lives event on, Saturday, March 24. Click a pic, find a march near you, sign up and GO MARCH FOR OUR KIDS!

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In The Hypothetical States of America there exists a law that allows most people to own and use explosives. They can own explosives that are capable of destroying property and killing people in an area of no more than a one hundred foot radius. Larger explosives are illegal. You must be at least eighteen years of age and pass a background check to possess explosives. Mental health professionals must report you to the state and federal governments if it is deemed that you may be a danger to yourself and/or others, in which case you cannot own an explosive.

After this law was passed there was an uptick in deaths and destruction of property due to the use of explosives. The people of The Hypothetical States of America (HSA) were concerned. “Our people and buildings must be safe,” they said. Over the subsequent years a ten foot reinforced concrete wall was built around all K-12 schools and colleges as well as houses of worship, stadiums and all state and federal government buildings. The cost was in the trillions of dollars. But at least the people of the HSA felt safe.

Until . . .

Explosives owners were furious. The National Explosives Owners of America (NEOA) was furious. There was so much of the Hypothetical States that was now inaccessible to explosives that owners were being denied their constitutional right to use explosives. The NEOA recommended to its members that they purchase a catapult. This would allow owners to once again exercise their right to use explosives wherever they wanted. The largest catapults were capable of lobbing an explosive eighty feet in the air. So the President of The Hypothetical States mandated a federal program to top all ten foot reinforced concrete walls with a ninety foot chain link fence at a cost of trillions of dollars. Once it was completed the people of the HSA again felt safe.

Until . . .

Explosions start happening in shopping malls, grocery stores and at neighborhood town hall meetings where “the explosives problem” was being debated. Americans once again felt frightened. But there’s nothing that can be done.

Just so this story is clearly understood, it was written several days after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre. It  is an allegory of both the gun problem in the U. S. and the NRA. There is no Hypothetical States of America and there is no National Explosives Owners of America as far as I know. I hope this story strikes you as being just as ridiculous as our inability to fix our gun problem.

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We really do have a problem, so click on either of the pictures to get to the March For Our Lives website. There are over 800 marches worldwide, so enter your zip code, find a march nearby and GO MARCH FOR OUR KIDS NEXT SATURDAY!

Because you care.

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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 (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Bullet-Head Zone

CPAC Conference, 2018

Reading time – 1:52; Viewing time – 3:03  .  .  .

In the wake of the slaughter of 17 students and teachers and the wounding of 14 others in Parkland, FL, Wayne LaPierre, the executive director of the NRA, gave a speech to the attendees of the CPAC conference. This is the association that used to be the home for conservatives, but now is primarily composed of hair-on-fire righties.

In his speech he equated gun ownership with God, claimed that having guns is the most important of our rights and reasserted the official NRA certainty that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, so let’s arm kindergarten teachers and have shoot-outs in the hallways.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Nearly every “fact” that LaPierre stated is untrue.
  2. His wholly unsupported accusations and opinions are based on a false and intentionally misleading interpretation of the Second Amendment. It was and is promulgated by the NRA in order to spike gun sales for the firearms industry. More on that in a future post.
  3. LaPierre’s job is to stoke righty fervor, so he gave a red meat speech to a hall of red meat eaters. That explains his tone.

These red meat eaters don’t represent American values, as 94% of Americans want universal background checks – that means for all transfers of ownership of all firearms. That includes when grandpa gives his old hunting rifle to his grandson.

Nearly all Americans, including the overwhelming majority of NRA members, want gun ownership prohibited for all convicted violent felons, mentally disturbed people, those on the terror watch list, domestic violence perps and the like. 74% of Americans want assault weapons and high capacity magazines banned. And nobody outside the NRA thinks a gun battle in the school hallway is a good idea.

Go ahead and watch LaPierre and listen to his fascism-worthy speech. Again, it’s his job to stoke gun fervor with high volume and he’s good at that. Just get that he and those like him are not just allowing, but are indirectly inviting more kids to get killed in our schools, more movie and concert attendees to be mowed down and more church, synagogue and mosque goers to be murdered.

I’ll say it again: A vote for an NRA backed candidate is a vote for dead children.

VOTE in your primary and in the general election on November 8. First check to see which candidates have taken money from the NRA (here’s a link to all NRA money recipients) and vote against these people. *

This is another chapter in the “Big Money controls Congress and you don’t count” story of the destruction of our democracy. You can shut down that story. And you can save our kids.

VOTE!

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    Click me

  • * This is actually tougher than it sounds. Have a look at this and note the distribution of NRA funds: only $1 million of the $59 million the NRA spent to warp our politics and our democracy in the 2016 election was for direct contributions. For example, the recipient list shows they gave Marco Rubio $9,900, but their total spend for him on TV ads and SuperPAC contributions was in the millions of dollars. So, when Cameron Kasky asked Rubio to promise to never take another dollar from the NRA, Rubio weaseled. Rubio is a great talker. Too bad we can’t trust him.

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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 (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Make This Go Viral

Reading time – 1:58; Viewing time – 3:06  .  .  .

There are few things that cause a more visceral and instantaneous reaction to protect than something that threatens our children. There are existential forces at work and you don’t need anyone to explain it to you. Somehow, though, there are some Americans who just don’t get it. They are those who line their pockets and enhance their careers using money from the NRA.

Click me and watch

Have a look at what exquisitely clear, eloquent 17 year old Cameron Kasky has to say about that. You might want to hug your kids while you watch this short video because he’s speaking for them. Go on – link through and then come back.

From “The Onion” – click me

Have a look at what The Onion has to say about this. They post a current picture with this caption after every mass murder and we’ve already had seven intentional school shootings this year – that’s one per week. Kids being shot dead. Perhaps we should change the words of Emma Lazarus’ poem from “yearning to breathe free” to “yearning just to keep breathing at all.”

Thanks and apologies to the author – can’t read your name.

Here’s the cycle —>

Does it look familiar? We kill over 33,000 Americans every year with guns – that’s nearly 4 of us killed every hour – and, no, that’s not about Islamic extremists and no, neither an unconstitutional religious ban nor a stupid wall will protect us from this.

It’s time for you and I to see this for what it is and to do something about it.

From the brilliant mind of friend Dan Wallace:

“A vote for an NRA backed candidate is a vote for dead children.”

 

That’s the brutal truth.

And there’s something we can do about it.

Link this post on your FaceBook page, your Twitter account and your Instagram page. Send a link to this post to at least 10 people you know to make this go viral. That’s something you can do to protect our kids.

There are children in the schools in your town who don’t want to have to dodge bullets or fear for their lives when they hear the fire alarm and go into the hallway, who don’t want have to hide, terrified in a locked school room, who don’t want their teacher to be ripped apart by AR-15 bullets while saving them and their friends and YOU CAN HELP TO PROTECT THESE CHILDREN.

Say it with me:

“A vote for an NRA backed candidate is a vote for dead children.”

 

Pass this along to everyone you know. Make it go viral so that the NRA money candidates get fired.

SAVE OUR KIDS!

Here’s a link to this post on YouTube.

Here’s a link to a wonderfully clear statement of the facts.

See this in case you think there’s nothing we can do.

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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 (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

There’s a Surprise On The Way

Reading time – 3:57 seconds  .  .  .

I admit that I got a kick out of this picture from a Tea Party rally several years ago. First and most obvious is that Medicare is government, so there’s no way to have Medicare without government being in it. Second, there’s no way this guy is old enough to qualify for Medicare, so, what’s he doing with that sign?

Then this pic popped up. C’mon, people. Medicare is socialized medicine. It seems that some neurons may not be firing properly for this guy, or he’s confused because medicine is a science-y thing and we don’ need no stinking science-y stuff.

Later that same year, we went about tackling the Medicaid problem but, as you can see, did it without using spell check. And there’s that same vexing problem again, that Medicaid is government. What’s a Tea Partier turned Trump supporter to do?

This really is laughable stuff from Trump country, so it’s easy to dismiss and ridicule, which I confess I did. Now it isn’t quite as laughable because these unsuspecting folks are about to get thrown under the bus.

“From” on, dood

That’s because your Congress and your President just passed a sweeping tax act that is designed to create over $1 trillion of additional debt. And we just can’t have that additional debt because true blue Rs hate debt, right? Well, yes and no. Hint: we just reentered the “yes” phase.

Republicans hated debt during the Reagan, H.W. Bush and Clinton years – at least they said so, even as they created the largest debt in the history of the world. Then Bush II came along. With him came their clever verbal reversal on this issue, as Dick Cheney declared the new Republican truth, “Deficits don’t matter.” So Dubya doubled the debt. It seemed that debt really didn’t matter any more.

Until Obama came around. Then the Republicans told us that deficits and debt were the worstest things of all, and any additional federal spending should be rejected, regardless of the need.

Now your Republican Congress and President have set about dumping over $1 trillion of tax act debt onto the backs of our children and grandchildren, so I guess once again debt doesn’t matter. But wait!: The Republicans are telling us that we’re now back to hating deficits and debt.

Let’s see, we’ve already lowered taxes on our wealthiest citizens, especially the big donors to legislators, and we all know that we can’t reverse that because that might adversely affect politician’s sources of campaign cash, so there’s only one thing to do to prevent the debt we now don’t like any more: we’ll just spend less. Hmmm, where should we cut?

Before the new tax plan had even gone into effect Paul Ryan was already talking about cutting the very programs that Trump nation demanded he leave his slimy government fingers off. That’s right, the fundamentalists and white supremacists and citizens in so-called flyover states, the disgruntled mid-west factory workers, the coal miners in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, the absolutists in North and South Dakota and all the Bubbas in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana who refuse to see the reality that is right in front of them are about to have something dropped on them that they cannot ignore or rationalize.

The Republicans have declared open warfare on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and it’s going to hit these folks hard. It’s possible that Trump will stand up to the Congressional Rs for a while with chest-thumping declarations that he is taking care of his people, this so that they worship him with yet greater fervor, but don’t count on it. These programs are on the chopping block and Trump has no policies or any firm principles, so you can’t rely on him for protection from those benefit sucking government hands.

Have your answer ready by Monday, January 15, 2018

So, Trump voter, if you’re a poor mom, start thinking about what you’re going to cut from your meager budget in order to pay for your healthcare once they put their government hands on your Medicaid. If you depend on Social Security and Medicare in your later years, don’t count on a nice retirement. Grabby government hands are headed directly toward those programs to cut funds from them.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) told us several years ago what’s coming: it’s the comprehensive, low cost Republican healthcare plan, which is, “1. Don’t get sick; 2. If you do, please die quickly.”

The services you were promised won’t be there for you. I know, you just don’t want to believe it, but that bus is headed directly at you and when it arrives you’re going under it. After all, we can’t keep supplying the services you were promised and at the same time stuff the pockets of big political donors and other rich people. Something has to give. Looks like it’s you.

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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 (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Address to Congress, January 3, 2018

Reading time – 4:52; Viewing time – 7:07  .  .  .

Mr. President, colleagues, fellow citizens, I rise today to speak to the obvious. That I do so is grounded in the Confucian admonition, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” Once so named, the resultant clarity may spawn wisdom.

If we take as most fundamental and do so in unanimous agreement, that we are here to act on behalf of and for the benefit of the American people, and if we use that understanding as the standard by which our actions are to be valued and judged, then it is possible – even likely – that we are falling far short of the mark and that we do so with frightening regularity. Such a condition implores us to identify and name the causes and then deal with them so that we do what we were sent here to do. That it is important that we do so can be substantiated by our approval ratings from the American people, which have languished at a disreputable level below 20% for most of the past two decades. It’s possible we’ve been missing something important.

In a recent report from the Congressional Management Foundation, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving the working of Congress, they wrote that, “.  .  .  we  in Congress need to be much better able to absorb, organize and use knowledge to make laws and policy.” In other words, while living in this age of the avalanche of information, we are woefully deficient in knowledge and poorly skilled at using what little knowledge we have.

Colleagues, I’m confident you’ve experienced this deficit repeatedly and know from frustrating experience that your votes are all too often supported by ignorance and confusion. That isn’t particularly important when we are naming a new post office or agreeing unanimously that the hybridization of watermelons to be seedless has added mightily to the quality of life for all Americans. Yet there are times when we are dealing with issues of great substance and which will have enormous impact on our country and on our countrymen. In such times, ignorance and confusion have no place and serve only to ensure the least beneficial outcomes.

The impact of our ignorance is exacerbated by our own actions designed to protect ourselves, our position, our power and our wealth. We have enacted rules that ensure that predatory sexual behavior by one of our members can be hushed; that allow manipulation of Congressional districts to the benefit of incumbents, rather than that of constituents; that effectively permit one-party rule by declaring the reconciliation of a bill; and that allow leaders to prevent the filling of a Supreme Court vacancy for over a year in order to tilt the court.

Most recently we passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which may have been attractively named, but which was created and enacted in a most undemocratic fashion. I speak now primarily of the process, not to the substance of the bill; that has been examined in numerous exposés and found to fall somewhat short of the suggestion of the label affixed to it. Nevertheless, it is useful to unmask a few examples in order to find our way to a larger view.

Contrary to the claims boasted to our citizens, this bill is not the biggest tax reduction in U.S. history, nor is its design likely to benefit primarily our poor and working class Americans. Indeed, the over $1 trillion debt it will create will be will be summarily dumped upon the backs of our poor and working class, even as it enormously benefits our ultra-wealthy, all protestations in conflict with this notwithstanding. This bill is fundamentally regressive and unlikely to generate higher wages or more jobs for Americans, at least not in numbers remotely resembling those claimed by proponents. Furthermore, like much legislation, it contains provisions that have nothing whatsoever to do with tax reform, some of which greatly benefit many of our own members, but which impact Americans substantively and most often negatively. All of this is listed solely for the purpose of making obvious the question of how we in this deliberative body could have done this.

One answer to that important question lies in our process. This legislation was crafted in secret and by one political party only – everyone but Republican ideologues were excluded. There were no Democratic voices heard at all and few moderate Republican voices. There were no tax or economic or financial experts called upon to provide their wisdom and their calculations of the far reaching effects of this massive change. For the estimate of the impact of this legislation we were left to rely solely upon people largely ignorant of the complexities. So much for our having the necessary knowledge of the impact of what we were doing.

Perhaps as crippling as anything, there were no deliberations on the floor of either house of Congress. There were no open session hearings. There was only the cramming of a poorly considered law through the chinks in our system, this at 1:50AM on a Saturday when nobody was watching.

The entire process for creating this hugely consequential Act spanned only six weeks, the reason for which was the entirely valueless goals of meeting a timetable which was based on nothing more than a Presidential whim, along with gaining the opportunity to crow of having a “win” before the end of the year. The artificial deadline made careful deliberation impossible and that undermined and at last devastated any hope of focusing on benefit for the American people.

To summarize, our process guaranteed that we would be deficient in the knowledge required to create the vehicle most likely to engineer what is best for our people. Further, our rules and our process ensured that we in this august and hallowed hall, with the echoes of giants still reverberating in this chamber, succumbed to enhancing our own security, power and wealth, all to the detriment of our fellow citizens.

With the Confucian admonition in mind, the obvious has been stated and things have been appended with their proper names. It now falls to us to find the wisdom. The voices of our Founders ring through the centuries directly to us, with an unambiguous call that we find that wisdom and act in accord with it. Our people deserve no less and it is our duty to do far more.

Mr. President, I yield the remainder of my time.

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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 (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

A Special Message to Congress on Your Win

Reading time – 2:05; Viewing time – 2:54  .  .  .

Dear Congress:

Well, really not all that dear.

This week we had a train wreck in Washington, as an Amtrak train flew off the tracks near Tacoma. People have been injured and some have died; perhaps yet more will die.

We’ve had another train wreck in Washington, as our Republican majority Congress (that means YOU, Republican senators and congresspeople) has managed to pass tax legislation that will further injure an enormous number of Americans and will allow many of us to die prematurely.

In both cases you who are in charge seem to have forgotten that your job is to protect and serve the people and to do it with care.

With the passage of the Republican-only, so-called tax reform act, once again you have managed to do exactly the opposite of what the American people want you to do.

By an overwhelming majority we Americans disapprove of your hateful bill and wanted you to stomp it to death. You didn’t do that.

Study after study have shown that we want sensible gun safety laws, universal healthcare, protection of our national parks and wilderness areas, clean air and water, excellent public education, an end to our endless wars, a solid battle against global warming and more; but you consistently deliver the opposite.

This time you managed to put yet more billions of dollars into the pockets of already rich people, create an additional $5,000 of debt for every one of we 320 million Americans and you dumped the burden primarily on the backs of our poor and middle-class children. Congratulations on successfully sucking up to your rich donors, padding your own pockets and the pockets of the President and blowing off the rest of us.

You Republicans passed this junk legislation without any input from Democrats, with no input from tax experts and with no hearings in Congress, listening only to yourselves and those rich interests that have their hands up your back. This is exactly why we don’t trust you.

See if you can answer these three simple questions:

  1. We want you to do things cooperatively and help to end our culture wars, not to make them worse. Exactly what is your problem with that?
  2. How you can be so dumbfoundingly deaf to the voices of the people?
  3. 81% of Americans disapprove of you (that’s you, personally) and the job you’re doing. Can you figure out why?

C’mon now, Republican congresspeople – you’ve been in charge for 7 years and ought to know by now what we the people want. Yet we’ve known for a long time that you don’t want to hear from us, but we want to hear from you. Answer my questions.

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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 (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Einstein

Reading time – 1:24  .  . .

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.Albert Einstein

I don’t know if Einstein actually said that, but I’m confident he believed it. In any scientific experiment, consistently providing the same string of inputs generates a consistently identical set of outputs. The same is true of ordinary human endeavors.

On the morning of November 6, 2017 the agencies investigating our most recent mass murder, this in Sutherland Springs, Texas, held a press briefing which included comments from a woman who lives in that horribly assaulted town. She said that what we – all of us – can do is to pray for the survivors and to support them with money donations to either of a couple of funds just established in support of the people in that community.

I’m not an expert on the subject of whether prayers offered by people around the country will provide help to the brutalized survivors. Surely, we like to think that they will. We have an innate need to help others who are suffering, so praying will at the very least serve that, as well as help to deal with this assault on our collective sense of loss of safety in the world.

What she did not address is anything that might help the next sanctuary full of church goers, or the next audience at a movie theater or concert, or the next group of children walking home from school in a dangerous inner city neighborhood, or the people on a popular bike and jogging path in a city, or the next holiday lunch gathering of coworkers, or people enjoying a nightclub, or college students walking across campus, or workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, or kids at a suburban high school, or a schoolroom full of first graders.

If we fail to change anything, we are assured of the same outcomes over and over. We’d be insane to expect anything different. We’ve seen this movie, we’ve lived it and thousands have died from it. We know it will never end unless we do something different.

The immediate defensive crouch assumed by the obstructionists to taking action is that there is no perfect solution to our self-inflicted savagery and no one thing will make all the difference.

It’s time to stop hiding behind that excuse for inaction.


The Onion puts light on our self-induced helplessness here.

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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 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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