Money in politics

Irony


Reading time – 3:41; Viewing time – 4:53  .  .  .

Chiang Kai-shek was the leader of the Republic of China during the Second World War and was our ally in fighting the Japanese. In the Chinese civil war following WWII Mao Zedong’s army won and Chiang and his army retreated from mainland China to the island of Formosa, now called Taiwan. Throughout the period we remained an ally of Chiang and saw Mao as our enemy, both because the enemy of our friend is our enemy, and because Mao’s Chinese were godless Communists bent on world domination like their Soviet neighbors.

When Stalin died in 1953 Nikita Khrushchev became First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. We didn’t like him or the Soviet Union and they were a far greater threat than was China because of their military might and their belligerence. Indeed, Khrushchev was famous for criticizing our capitalism, saying that the Soviet Union would sell us the rope used to hang us. He also said, “We will bury you.”

We saw the Chinese and the Soviets as godless Commies and nobody railed more or louder against them than our Republicans. They fashioned themselves as the ones with the heavy starch in their spines, the true defenders of our nation and the foremost opponents of Communism. Republican Richard Nixon made his reputation railing against Communists. But then some odd things happened.

Nixon the Commie hater was in the midst of making the Watergate affair as bad as it could be and off he went to Communist China to sip ceremonial drinks with the very people he had spent decades vilifying. The primo anti-Communist began the process of normalizing relations with Communist China. It was amazing irony.

Ronald Reagan spent decades waving the red, white and blue and vilifying the hammer and sickle and when it was his turn to fight the Cold War he did it by increasing our military spending 43% in peacetime, including development of the B-1 bomber. That forced the Soviet Union to increase their military spending to keep up with us. At last they couldn’t do it any longer and, effectively, we spent them into bankruptcy.

At the same time Reagan established a relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, even as he implored Gorbachev to, “Tear down this wall.” Reagan bankrupted the Soviets, made friends with their leader and won the Cold War without firing a shot. No irony here. Then it came back.

It was left to Republican George H.W. Bush to put the final nail in the Soviet coffin. But a Soviet KGB agent named Vladimir Putin wasn’t at all happy about what had happened and vowed to return Russia to its former self-imagined greatness.

Fast forward to 2015 and Putin’s Russia had figured out how to infiltrate American culture to bend America his way. The U.S. intelligence agencies are unanimous and clear about Russian hacking, propaganda, cyber-infiltrating, as well as human infiltration into our elections, our government and our society.

We’re learning of Russian infiltration of the Second Amendment thumping NRA and what is likely to be found to be tens of millions of Russian dollars filtered through the NRA to get Trump elected.

What the Russians have done is very bad and very threatening. What we have done is far worse.

Under this Republican president we have done nothing to stop the Russians. Trump has refrained from everything he might have done to restrain Russia and has lauded praise on Putin whenever he could. And even those aren’t the worst things that have happened.

Our Republican Congress has done nothing to get to the root of the Russian invasion and, indeed, they’ve done everything they could to block congressional investigations into it. This Republican Congress has done absolutely nothing to prevent yet more Russian meddling. They have put no checks on this president and his Russia enabling, nor any requirements for action to stop the hijacking of our democracy.

Get that these are Republicans, the self-described stalwart defenders and protectors of our nation. They’re the chest-puffed strong ones and they’re allowing Khrushchev’s threats to come true.

The irony is stunning. The cowardice in the face of a clear and present danger is appalling.

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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.

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.

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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:

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

I Didn’t Want To Write This Post


Reading time – 4:54; Viewing time – 6:18  .  .  .
I didn’t want to write this post. I want to be better than this, to be evolved and enlightened. I want to be patient and understanding and have equanimity, but that just isn’t happening. Not now and perhaps not for a very long time.

I’m mad as hell.

I’m sick of weenie politicians offering their damned “thoughts and prayers.” I’m nauseated by the spinelessness of our leaders who are, instead, followers of the biggest financial donors. I’m sickened by elected officials who value their political life far more than the actual lives of attendees at religious ceremonies and little children in school. The core value of these officials seems to be, “Let ’em all die, as long as I get re-elected.”

I attended what was offered as a healing ceremony at my synagogue on Sunday morning. The kids attending Sunday School were brought in for the last 15 minutes of the proceedings and as I watched their little bodies make their way to open seats I couldn’t help but realize that these kids have now been taught to be afraid all the time, everywhere. And that’s absolutely not okay.

Nobody has ever solved the riddle of how to take fear and hate and anger from the hearts of our citizens, so I don’t have any notion that the riddle will be solved now. What I do believe is that we can open our eyes to the reality all around us and start to deal with it.

The Anti-Defamation League keeps track of anti-Semitism in America and reports that anti-Semitic incidents were up 57% in 2017 over 2016, with the highest increases occurring in the first 3 months of the year. It’s interesting to note that these spikes in acts of hatred occurred during and just after Donald Trump’s inauguration. Then the acts of hate spiked again following the “Unite the Right” neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, which was conducted by “fine people,” according to our president.

Trump is the obvious and easy-to-name provocateur of intolerance because of his well documented incitements to hate and violence. His wooden recitation of words from a Tele-prompter that were written by someone else means nothing, because everyone knows he’s completely disingenuous in his sympathy and is only mouthing the words. The withholding of his vilification of others barely lasted an hour following his Tele-prompter charade, when he was back to naming enemies and demeaning them. We’ve always had a problem of hatred in this country, but we’ve often had a leader upon whom we could count to call upon our better angels. Now, we don’t.

And it’s missing from many of our elected leaders, too, especially those who spinelessly refuse to stand up to Trump.

For those who desperately want to deny the one-sidedness of the incitement to hate and violence that lives in our politics and our country, I have a question for you: What is it that you’re pretending not to know? Perhaps you’ll like my question better in this form: What is it that is right before you every day that you refuse to see and refuse to hear?

If you call yourself a Republican I invite you to examine if that’s really true. The Republican Party of Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and H. W. Bush is long gone. There are still some ugly echoes from them, like the overt racism of Nixon and the racial stereotyping by Reagan (recall his self-serving lie, saying there were “welfare queens” in Chicago), but the basic conservatism of any and all of them is gone, regardless of the Republican label in use by others today.

Today’s Republican Party is the party of discrimination, the withholding of rights, hatred and the impoverishment of middle class and poor Americans and anyone who is not from white, Christian European stock, and the violent perps feed off that. If the things in that list don’t describe you, then renounce your membership in that party right now, because the Republicans of today abandoned you in favor of protecting their own asses and in the process they lost any semblance of moral standing and the right to a place of leadership. And it’s not just the discrimination that’s a problem.

They’ve sold out to the gun lobby because that gets them big donations for their campaigns. Were they honest they would declare the number of people who they figure can be butchered by semi-automatic weapon carrying angry people before they’ll stand up for sensible gun safety laws. Don’t look for that declaration, though, because going public with that would upset their big money donors.

Eleven people were killed and many more were wounded in the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday, this in the name of blaming Jews for the miserable life the killer had made for himself. It’s the same pattern as for the butchery in the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and the Sikh temple in Milwaukee and the LGBTQ partiers at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and those little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the people at the Las Vegas concert. Nearly all those dead bodies can be attributed to the cowardice of our elected officials to stand up and lead.

I went to the healing ceremony on Sunday and found no healing. I’ll get to that someday. Right now I’m mad as hell and I don’t give a damn about politicians’ “thoughts and prayers.” I want action.

For more following our most recent massacre, be sure to read Howard Fineman’s essay and Bari Weiss’ essay, too.

Correction: While she lived through those years, Rose Mallinger, the 97 year old shooting victim originally mentioned in this post, was not a holocaust survivor. Apologies 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 the goal requires reaching many thousands of people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

The Reasons For Self-Destruction and What To Do About It


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

Reading time – 4:55; Viewing time – 6:46  .  .  .

The phenomenon of Trump’s election and his continuing popularity among his “base” is hard to fathom for many of us, but I just got a dose of clarity from, of all people, Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci. He was on Joe Scarborough’s program hawking his new book and in the time it took to make coffee I saw enough of the interview to get his main point.

What I heard from him was the two word pairing “wrecking ball.” He said that people voted for Trump and continue to support him because they want him to be the wrecking ball of the establishment. Here’s why.

1. This country stopped working well for a lot of people a long time ago. For example, when globalization causes the main employer in your town to shut its doors, everyone loses their job, including the waitress at the coffee shop downtown. Everyone working at the movie theater becomes unemployed and the auto parts store closes.

There not only aren’t any jobs to be had, there isn’t even hope. But the bosses who were running the factory that closed still have jobs pushing paper around for the offshore company where their goods are now made, and they paid themselves huge bonuses for their genius that made that all happen. If you were one of the workers who lost their job and their hope, how would you be feeling about that?

READ THIS to understand today’s Republican Party. And click the pic for a larger view.

2. There have been huge productivity gains throughout our economy for decades, but nearly all the gains went to the top. Says Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, in his interview by Andrew Ross Sorkin,

“We’ve got an enormous number of enormously rich people that have convinced themselves that they’re rich because they’re smart and constructive.”

Think: The guys who off-shored the factory in your town.

Truth be told, they were, in fact, smart enough to have secured great riches for themselves, including from all those productivity gains. If you were a worker who didn’t participate in those gains, would you be okay with that?

3. Unemployment has been steadily going down to the point that we’re effectively at full employment. That should drive wages up, as employers fight to hire new workers, but that isn’t happening on a scale or at a pace that is remotely proportional to the increased demand for workers. In fact, wages haven’t significantly improved since at least as far back as Reagan’s presidency. If you were one of the workers affected by stagnant wages, how would that sit with you?

All of that speaks only to the economic drivers of citizen anger, and doesn’t touch on the fear of people living in a nation in transition and their imagined terrors of what change will do to them.

I’ve written several times in these posts (here and here and here) that the 2016 election and the leadership of Trump was and is a raised middle finger campaign. Trump speaks to the angry, the disempowered, the abused and forgotten of America. He speaks a rage that mimics their rage. He constantly targets enemies on whom to focus their rage, chief among which are anything that even suggests the establishment. Here’s a short list of Trump’s targets:

The press

The FBI

The Justice Department

NATO

The Democratic Party and all Democrats

Brown and black people

Migrants seeking asylum

Muslims

Cable news

And that targeting leads to someone sending pipe bombs to people on Trump’s list.

I recall playing Monopoly when I was a kid and can tell you that I didn’t like losing. One time I played with a friend and he won 3 games in a row in our Saturday marathon of game playing. I was so frustrated that I swept my hands across the board and scattered all the tokens, the houses, the Chance cards – everything. I took a metaphorical wrecking ball to the game – very much like blown-off Americans want to do with our establishment and exactly what Trump is doing to stoke their anger and resentment and to garner their continuing support. But there is a price that we pay for the wrecking of our establishment.

Paul Volcker named that price, saying,

I don’t know, how can you run a democracy when nobody believes in the leadership of the country.

From Sorkin’s comments on Paul Volcker:

Mr. Volcker is no great fan of the president, but he acknowledged that Mr. Trump had cannily recognized the economic worries of blue-collar workers. Mr. Trump “seized upon some issues that the elite had ignored,” he said.

This rage endures powerfully within about 38% of the electorate, who are so angry and feel so strongly about being victimized that they’re perfectly comfortable overlooking Trump’s obvious lies, the Russian hacking and possible Trump conspiracy, his boasting of having the right to grab women you-know-where, his blatant use of his office to enrich himself, his refusal to stand up to Putin, his abandonment of the people of Puerto Rico, his use of an unsecured iPhone that’s being hacked by the Chinese and others and all the rest of his lunacy, as long as he sticks it to the establishment.

It’s possible that populism is a more proper word than mob-ism, which I just made up, but you get the idea. What we’re seeing is a continuing public lynching of the foundations of our democracy carried out via non-stop campaign rallies that stoke yet more anger.

People who are energized by Trump show up on election day. People who don’t show up to vote enable this self-destruction of America. And the people who vote for third party candidates in their principled protest are enablers every bit as much.

Read Tom Friedman’s post, How To Make America America Again from October 23rd. Then follow his advice: vote for Democrats. Not because you’re a liberal. Not because you’re a Democrat. Not because you’re black or brown or a tree hugger or a snowflake or a woman or a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School or because you’re a believer in global warming or a supporter of Medicare for all and free tuition, but because the most important thing right now is to save our democracy.

Vote for Democrats. Go do it now.

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

The American Citizens’ Power Restoration Act


Click the pic for a full view. Then CLICK HERE and follow the instructions to be sure you really are registered to vote, even if you’re sure that you are.

Reading time – 5:43  .  .  .

For decades there has been a continuing creep of power into the hands of the Chief Executive. In part, that has been caused by the abdication of responsibility of Congress.

Further, there has been a continuing increase of big money influence in our politics, giving far too much power to wealthy interests, often to the detriment of the country and at the expense of the people.

The intent of this Act is to remove excessive power from wealthy interests and to enjoin all but human beings from participation in the elections, the electoral process and the governing of this nation, and to restore power to all the people of the United States of America. Some sections of this proposed Act will require an Amendment to the Constitution in order to be adopted. Nevertheless, I invite you to consider the points offered and comment below.


  1. Section 1: Power to create. Congress shall have the power to establish limitations on who may contribute to candidates, elections and the election process; the duration of service in public office; the amount of money and money equivalents that may be contributed to elections and to actions designed to influence elections (“electioneering”).
    1. For the purpose of this Act, money is property, not speech, and therefore may be regulated.
    2. Any and all regulations of human activity that are created by or fall under the jurisdiction of this Act shall be applied equally to all citizens.
    3. Any and all regulations of non-human activity that fall under the jurisdiction of this Act shall be applied equally to all non-human entities.
  2. Section 2: Contributions. No United States citizen shall be allowed to contribute more than $5,200 to any one candidate in any one election cycle, nor shall any citizen be allowed to contribute an aggregate total to all elections exceeding $50,000 in any one election cycle.
    1. The contribution total limits apply to money and any and all money equivalents, including but not limited to services, use of real estate and/or offices, staff support, advertising, travel and other tangible or intangible items and actions of value.
    2. All money, money equivalents, and any other thing of value contributed to an election campaign must be disclosed to the federal government at the time of such contribution. The information required to be disclosed includes but is not limited to the amount of the contribution and the identity of the contributor. The federal government shall publish a continually updated list of contributions for public review.
    3. No foreign entity of any kind may contribute money or any money equivalent to any campaign, election, election process or electioneering in the US, nor may any foreign entity lobby for or against any elected or appointed position in any governmental body.
  3. Section 3: Participation by human beings only. No entity that is not a human being may participate in any federal, state or local election or election process or in electioneering in any manner.
    1. This Section applies to businesses of any and all forms, including but not limited to corporations, partnerships, LLCs, unions, associations, influence organizations (“lobbyists”) and any other entity that cannot be commonly identified as a human being (“non-human entities”).
    2. Disputes as to whether a potential contributor is a human being or non-human entity shall be resolved by a panel of three (3) board licensed physicians.
    3. No non-human entity may contribute anything to affect any election, nor may any non-human entity contribute to any form of aggregated funds designed for the purpose of electioneering.
    4. For purposes of this Act, “election” means any and all components of the process of an election campaign.
    5. For purposes of this Act, “contribution” include but are not limited to contribution of money either directly or indirectly, in kind contributions, physical or intellectual actions or offerings, aggregation of funds, and other actions that might directly or indirectly affect an election or the election process.
    6. For purposes of this Act, “electioneering” means any and all activities that might: 1. promote or denigrate an individual running for elected office; 2. promote or denigrate any political party; 3. advocate for or against any issue, including but is not limited to contribution of money or things or services of value, either directly or indirectly, designed to influence an election or the election process. Specifically prohibited are participation in any manner in PACs, SuperPACs, 501-c4 organizations or any entity, the actions of which are intended in any manner to affect an election or the election process or the functions of government, regardless of the percentage of such organization’s resources used for such purposes.
  4. Section 4: Term Limits. Supreme Court Justices and all elected positions, whether federal, state or local, shall be term limited as follows:
    1. For Supreme Court Justices, the maximum allowable duration of service shall be 20 years.
    2. For elected positions of two years duration, the maximum allowable duration of service shall be twelve years or six terms.
    3. For elected positions of four years duration, the maximum total allowable duration of service shall be eight years or two terms.
    4. For elected positions of six years duration, the maximum allowable duration of service shall be twelve years or two terms.
  5. Section 5: Who is allowed to vote and equal access to voting. All citizens of the United States of America who are in good standing are allowed to vote in all federal, state and local elections within the jurisdiction of their primary residence.
    1. All laws that restrict voting by means of a mandatory government issued picture ID are immediately void upon the adoption of this Act.
    2. Convicted felons who have served their sentences either in full or as adjusted by an appropriate court and who would be eligible to vote absent a criminal record are allowed to vote, regardless of the violation for which they were convicted.
    3.  Locations of voter registration and polling places and hours of operation of such places shall be located within each state for the equal convenience of all citizens of each state.
      1. No citizen shall be discouraged from voting due to the inconvenience of location or hours of operation of voter registration offices or polling places.
        1. There shall be no undue burden of travel to such places from any residence in any state. Voter registration places and polling places shall be located such that there is not more than 30 minutes required to travel to such places for any citizen.
        2. Hours of operation of voter registration and polling places shall be uniform across any state and not designed to discourage either voter registration or voting.
    4. All states shall offer a minimum of three (3) weeks early voting time prior to all scheduled elections, whether federal, state or local.
    5. All states shall offer absentee voting for a minimum of six (6) weeks prior to all elections, whether federal, state or local.
    6. Congress shall institute a national holiday on federal election days to encourage voting by all citizens.
    7. All states shall institute automatic voter registration upon a citizen applying for a driver’s license or the achievement of a citizen’s 18th birthday, whichever occurs first.
  6. Section 6: How Election Results are Determined.
    1. The Electoral College is dissolved upon the adoption of this Act. All election results shall be determined solely by the totals of the popular vote.
    2. The final result for all elections will not be determined until all votes cast are properly counted and registered, regardless of the length of time required for such counting and registering.
  7. Section 7: Oversight
    1. No candidate running for office in any federal, state or local election may at the same time be involved in any way in the control or influence of the election itself.
    2. Both appointed and elected officials whose responsibilities include in an way the oversight, control or influence of elections must first resign their position before running for office.
    3. Both appointed and elected officials who have any influence whatsoever on voter registration and any part of the electoral process must resign their position before running for office.
  8. Section 8: Enforcement. Congress shall establish appropriate penalties for violation(s) of the provisions of this Act.
  9. Section 9 Severability. Should any provision of this Act be found unconstitutional, it shall be severed from the rest of the provisions of this Act and all remaining provisions shall be left fully in force.

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

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

Potpourri v3.0


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

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

Investigations

The past week was busy:

– Paul Manafort was convicted on 8 criminal charges.

– Michael Cohen plead guilty to multiple felony charges.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends don’t let friends fail to vote.

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

♠ Nukes

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

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

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

♠ The Democrats’ Problem

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

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

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

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

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

♠ Coherent Message

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

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

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

Edu-Bang-Bang

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

  • ————————————

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

    YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

    Thanks!


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

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

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