Money in politics

The MAGA Bible


Reading time – 47 seconds  .  .  .

Whether you are a bible-thumper or a critic of bible-thumpers; whether you think of yourself as a Christian in good standing, an occasional Christian or a non-Christian; whether you’ve wondered how evangelical Christians could consistently support a president and legislators who routinely espouse and do anti-Christian things; whether you fret or roll eyes over anyone declaring themselves to be “the chosen one;” you must read John Pavlovitz’s stunning piece, Excerpts From The MAGA Bible. Do that now.

Final Note

Cameron Kasky

We kill around 100 people per day with guns – seven in Odessa, TX and five in Elkmont, AL this week, and the week is just half over. Ten were shot at a high school football game in Mobile, AL on Saturday. And nothing that might make things safer will change because .  .  .  you know why.

Cameron Kasky, student survivor of the horrific Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, FL a year and a half ago wrote this:

“I just want people to understand what happened and understand that doing nothing will lead to nothing. Who’d have thought that concept was so difficult to grasp?”

David Hogg

What is true remains true:

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.

So, when we don’t do anything to stop the shooting and bleeding, we just keep on bleeding and dying.

Fellow Douglas High School shooting survivor David Hogg has left Parkland, FL and is attending Harvard, but his college studies haven’t and won’t stop him and his Parkland pals from continuing their quest to stop gun violence. Click here to donate and save the lives of some school kids.

————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

NOTES:

      1. Writings quoted or linked to my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
      2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
      3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

     


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

Where Political Influence Comes From – and a Destructive Snit


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justice John Paul Stevens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quote of the Week

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

Opinion Piece of the Week

The Frauding of America’s Farmers, Paul Krugman


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

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

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

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

————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

NOTES:

    1. Writings quoted or linked to my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
    2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
    3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

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

Gun Safety Regulations


Reading time – 5:21; Viewing time – 7:02  .  .  .

The crazies think arming teachers is a good idea. They want shoot-outs in the hallways when a bad guy shows up. Think: Parkland, Columbine and Sandy Hook, with the halls full of kids. What could possibly go wrong?

The NRA-controlled Congressional response to mass shootings is twofold:

First, they parrot the NRA, saying that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, like a teacher with chalk in one hand and a 9mm pistol in the other. Really? Do you really think that civilian crossfire in that Walmart and in that crowded bar last weekend would have been better?

Second, Congress goes all thoughts and prayers, then goes crickets. They have no spine to create useful regulations because doing so would piss off one of their biggest campaign contributors.

One more time: We tried the Wild West and we know what it got us: an enormous pile of dead bodies. Going back to everyone packing and thinking they’re the fastest gun, the baddest cowboy, the toughest righteous dude, protector of the little lady and the rest of the macho crap will get us the same thing again.

Here is the fact: States with tougher gun laws – regulations – have way less gun violence. Example: Louisiana has the loosest gun regulations and has seven times the gun violence rate of Massachusetts, which has some of the toughest gun regulations.

Having a gun is the most certain indicator of bad things to come. Just ask the 8 year old who accidentally killed his little brother after finding daddy’s pistol in the nightstand. Or the formerly despondent person who found a way to kill herself that was so fast that she didn’t have time to think twice. But, of course, you can’t ask her because she’s dead.

For those wanting to leap to the exceptions in order to negate all gun safety efforts:

  1. No gun regulation will stop all mass murders. But some regulations might prevent some of them.
  2. Second Amendment types opposed to all regulations justify their intransigence by saying that a particular regulation wouldn’t have stopped a particular shooting. They make the perfect the enemy of the good. People die waiting for them to wake up.
  3. If you’re in the wilds of Alaska it’s okay to have a gun to protect against bears. Same for homes in sparsely populated areas where help is 45 minutes away.
  4. If you’re a hunter it’s okay for you to have a hunting rifle.
  5. Numbers 3 and 4 above are contingent upon you being vetted by a background check as not being violent, mentally unbalanced or a spineless politician. Then you can have a gun. But only after you’ve taken certified training in its use and have passed a test indicating you know how to safely handle, store, transport and use a gun. Just like getting a drivers license.
  6. If you’re a 22-year-old with swastikas on your bedroom wall and you want 9 long guns, two assault rifles with bump stocks, 7 semi-automatic 9mm handguns with extended capacity magazines and a closet full of ammunition, NO, YOU CAN’T HAVE A GUN.

Tell you what, Adolph: I’ll pay for your years of psycho-therapy to treat your inadequacies and pent-up hostility. Meanwhile, we’re going to keep you away from anything that goes “bang” or has a sharp edge.

Kinda wound up over two mass shootings this past weekend. In El Paso the brave gunman protected us all by making sure those little kids from Juarez didn’t get their school supplies. And the gunman in Dayton made sure people didn’t have a good time at that bar. No telling what might have happened if all those people hadn’t been gunned down by rapid fire from assault weapons and handguns fired by – you guessed it – angry white men.

And finally,

Click and read the sad satire. Then scroll down to see the multiple iterations of it.

There’s a lot to say about American mass shootings. One is being said by 17 countries, as well as Amnesty International: Don’t travel to the United States because it’s just too dangerous.

The Onion put its satirical touch on this with a headline this week:

“No Way To Prevent this,” Says Only Nation Where this Regularly Happens.

All the other nations have figured this out.

A necessary ingredient of satire is that it be based in fact, and this headline does that. As you might suspect, they’ve run that headline over and over, updating the picture each time from the then-current massacre.

If you can handle it, have a look at another piece from The Onion, this one about the sick, twisted rationalization white supremacists and neo-Nazis make of Thomas Jefferson’s words about the tree of liberty and the blood of patriots. I haven’t read the El Paso shooter’s “manifesto,” but I’m confident The Onion’s piece would fit him just fine.

Most important is an in-depth look at why we have so many people being killed or wounded by gunfire in America. If you read anything about our more than one-per-day mass murders, read this piece: What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest An Answer. Here are some hints:

It isn’t video games. People in every other industrialized nation play the same video games but they don’t slaughter one another.

It isn’t mental health. Crazy as we seem to be, we Americans are no more mentally unhealthy than people in other countries. Further, blaming people with mental health issues for our gun carnage demeans those people.

It isn’t our culture.

It isn’t racial differences or immigration.

Read the article, because within it you’ll find the driver of our daily, blood-soaked carnage. Then drop a note to Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, because they’re major recipients of millions of dollars of NRA campaign contributions. The NRA laundered at least $40 million of Russian money to do that.

Maybe we do need gun regulations. And tight campaign contribution regulations, too.

And be sure to read E.J. Dionne’s piece on this. It’s brilliant.


————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

NOTES:

  1. Writings quoted or linked to my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine. When you offer your ideas in the Comments section, that’s all yours – and your comments are most welcome.

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

Porky Pig


Reading time – 57 seconds  .  .  .

To quote Porky Pig: “Ah-bi-dee, ah-bi-dee, that’s all, folks!”

The Supreme Court has just handed down its most blatantly political decision in a long time, or at least since the democracy killing Citizens United decision in 2010. Their stupefyingly bone-headed refusal to knock down blatantly obvious discrimination by North Carolina’s legislature will have a destructive impact that will echo across the nation.

This case was about gerrymandering designed to strip voting rights and legislative power from the poor and from minorities. The Supreme Court has opened the door for unending, unearned political control by a diminishing white majority. Its decision will have devastating impact on millions of Americans for years to come and is truly the New Jim Crow.

To the 5 justices who made this happen, I have some snark: Your mothers must be very proud.

I can’t do better than David Leonhardt’s piece in Friday’s New York Times. Click through and read it, and note his comments about the census, too.

BTW, the Times is not failing, as Emperor Trump would have you believe. It’s having some of its best years ever. They’re focused on stuff happening here on planet Earth, a concept of reality that doesn’t seem to penetrate the information-proof walls of the East Wing living quarters, which serve as Trump’s Twitter bunker. #FailingPresident.


————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 


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

Pounding and Flip-Flopping


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

It’s a fundamental courtroom practice:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the current reality:

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

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

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

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

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

Impeachment update  .  .  .

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click the pic for the report in The Onion

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Live From The Valley


Reading time – 6:39; Viewing time – 9:12  .  .  .

Washington D.C. (mostly)
Election Announcement

I’m not a registered Democrat, but like Bernie Sanders, I caucus with them. That’s why I’m announcing my candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.

I thought I’d have more time for this, at least enough to put together an exploratory committee. But what with our never-ending campaigns, I don’t even have time to learn what an exploratory committee does. And there’s no chance to line up mega-donors now, either, because they’re already taken.

So, I’m left to make this major announcement via blog post. Good news for you: You’re the first to learn of this. Not even my wife knows about this yet. Man, I hope she won’t be angry.

Anyway, Kamala, Elizabeth, Bernie, Amy, Beto, Joe, Eric, Pete, Kirsten, John, Jay, Cory, Julián, Tulsi, John, Marianne, Wayne, Tim and Andrew, it’s nice to be in such a large and non-exclusive club.

Worry Announcement, or, Are We Really This Stupid?

What do you suppose Americans worry about the most: Illegal immigration? Foreign terrorists? Brown skin people from south of the border or Muslims? Nope, it isn’t nearly that dopey.

According to a current survey by the Gallup Organization you and I worry about healthcare more than anything else. Take a look at the chart below or, better yet, click on it for an expanded view of the chart and the complete Gallup report. Here’s another.

Healthcare is our biggest worry for the 5th year in a row. Oddly, our president has decided to do a full court press next year to increase our worry by repealing and replacing Obamacare. There’s just one thing: In the 9 years since the ACA passed the Republicans have tried dozens of times to repeal Obamacare and they haven’t succeeded, even when they were in control of the Senate, the House and the presidency.

Even worse – and that’s “worse” as in: both destructive and hypocritical – they’ve had 9 years to come up with a replacement healthcare plan for the “replace” part of “repeal and replace” and they’ve sat on their hands. They have no replacement or even the beginning of an outline for a replacement plan. So, if Trump gets his way, he and the Republicans will repeal Obamacare and replace it with NOTHING.

Then some of us will die needlessly, some will go bankrupt and pre-existing conditions won’t be covered, just like it was before the ACA. So, you better worry that if Trump and the Republicans get their way, there will be no replacement healthcare plan and you may have no healthcare at all.

Puerto Rico Aid Announcement

The president just announced that we have supplied $91 billion of aid to Puerto Rico, which means that we really didn’t totally blow off the survivors of that terrible hurricane that killed 3,000 Americans.

That’s good news, indeed, except for one little detail: the actual, real world, fantasy-free number is just 12% of Trump’s claimed amount. That aid has barely scratched the surface of what’s needed and it hasn’t provided food for the one-third of the population that’s going hungry.

Trump continues to astound all sentient beings with his constant lying and his ease in inflicting cruelty on people who desperately need help. Maybe he should go back to San Juan and toss out a couple more cases of paper towels to a crowd of suffering people to once again show his true support.

Proud State Announcement

It’s understandable if you think of North Carolina only as the leader in Republican crafted voter suppression, voting fraud and generally crazy politics. For example, former Republican Governor Pat McCrory blamed his loss in the 2016 election on non-existent voter fraud and refused to leave the governor’s mansion. Turns out his real electoral problem was his zeal for the infamous “Bathroom Bill.”

Yet, the Tar Heels are even more creative than that. They’re button-busting proud of the craftiness revealed by the recent indictment of Greg Lindberg, a major political donor, plus a couple of his associates and state GOP chairman and former congressman Robin Hayes for bribery through an insurance scheme.

These guys should have known that the FBI has no sense of humor about people lying to them, but lying repeatedly to the FBI is one of the indictments against them, as is attempting to bribe the current state insurance commissioner. U.S. Rep. Mark Walker was identified in the indictments as “Public Official A.” He was the recipient of $150,000 in political donations from Lindberg, but he’s not under indictment. Yet.

But just a second: the North Carolina Republicans may not have a monopoly on creativity. The current North Carolina Democratic Party chairman was the insurance commissioner during the time of some of this scandal. We’ll see if he, too, becomes a candidate to be a ward of the state.

Stay tuned, as this likely will prove to be the basis of a super hero movie – a Marvel Comics “State Dumb Stuff” thriller, staring Captain Greed.

Many thanks to DN for bringing this inspired piece of graft to our attention. It gives us all a renewal of appreciation for the human gift of imagination.

Special Award Announcement

You may recall Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who, in a rant against Dreamers declared that,

“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another hundred out there who weigh a hundred and thirty pounds—and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling seventy-five pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

That was quite the visual image and just the thing to introduce a new congressional award.

On Tuesday of this past week Rep. Steve King was presented the first ever “Congressional Bag Full of Stupid Award.”

In a dignified ceremony on the floor of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi began the proceedings by playing a video of King’s remarks. She then recounted his many dalliances with racism, white supremacy and fantasized hate.

Pelosi expressed concern that King’s years of commuting between Iowa and DC had left him with a huge bulge on the side of his head from carrying 75 pounds of stupid across the Iowa border into Illinois. She said that she hoped that his upcoming stupidectomy surgery would be successful. However, she warned that the medical community is united in the opinion that you can’t fix stupid. She said, “We all hope that this surgery will cause Steve’s stupid to go into remission for a while.”

At last and in a sincere and heartfelt closing, Pelosi recognized King for his well earned award and wished him a fine and very remote retirement beginning in January 2021.

And finally,

From the You Can’t Make This Stuff Up File
A short compendium of dumb current events that are too unbelievable even for fiction
  1. Vile, hateful, wacko conspiracy nut case Alex Jones is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by parents of children murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. He’s floating a defense that he has a “form of psychosis” that causes him to believe that certain events were staged. He says his psychosis was brought on by government and media lies, causing him to feel like “.  .  .  a child whose parents lie to him over and over again. Pretty soon you don’t know what reality is.” So, Alex Jones, the grand perp of hateful, harmful conspiracy theories that fattened his wallet dramatically, is a poor victim.
  2. Fox and Friends unveiled a new geographic phenomenon when it boldly declared. “TRUMP CUTS AID TO 3 MEXICAN COUNTRIES.” That came as startling news to those who erroneously thought there was only one country named Mexico.

Live, on the ground in the Valley of Stupid, I’m Jack Altschuler.
                 ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

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

Apathy and the Big Picture


Ed. Note:

Other than this sentence, this post does not mention or allude to Michael Cohen, Robert Mueller, Congressional hearings, Kim Jong-un, impeachment, obstruction of justice or any of the usual suspects. Today this is an official JaxPolitix safe zone.

_________________________________________

Reading time – 5:03; Viewing time – 6:35  .  .  .

Seeing the Big Picture isn’t always easy for me, what with the constant flash of bright, shiny objects of distraction, the din of self-serving noise and the near-complete lack of veracity from official sources. Whatever is happening, I try to avoid a knee-jerk reaction to the latest outrage and instead put some effort into thinking Big Picture. Sometimes I succeed. I got some help for that last week and hereby pass it along to you.

Let’s start with the key to what brought us to where we are now, the Big Picture: public apathy. Specifically, apathy toward elections.

You already know that it’s largely agitated people who are motivated to show up and vote in primary elections. (Late addition: There is evidence that this belief may not be accurate.*) That leaves us with a problem. Here’s how it works.

These folks make up about one-third of the electorate, but they have oversized influence because few moderate voters show up for primaries. That means that this angry one-third of voters decides who your choices will be when you show up in November for the general election. Worse, in the general election the winner will have garnered only a smidgen over 50% of the votes, so our elected officials are decided by just 17% of eligible voters. But wait, it gets worse than that.

Only about 60% of eligible voters shows up for the general election. That means that the winner of a general election is decided by just 10% of our eligible voters. And because that 10% has a large component of hair-on-fire types, we get flamers in Washington. See the sidebar to the right and link through to the article for an example. This guy is hardly unique – he’s just the most recent.

The fact of agitated people making up the preponderance of primary voters is why moderate Republicans aren’t standing up to obvious malfeasance. It’s because doing so will anger “the base” – code for “angry voters” – and in the next primary some far out goofball will defeat the moderate. That causes moderates to have elective surgery to remove their spines when they get to Washington – it’s so they can keep their jobs.

Did I mention that it gets worse? It does.

The Supreme Court delivered its insane decision on the Citizens United case in January 2010.  It was one of the most devastating and inappropriate decisions the Court has made, because they delivered not one, but two decisions, the second of which was over an issue that wasn’t in dispute in the case. That opened the door to the bottomless supply of money that buys our entire elective process, exactly as President Obama predicted would happen at his State of the Union address later that same month. Chief Justice Roberts shook his head in disagreement, but he and his 4 friends (it was, of course, a 5-4 decision) were blindly wrong in expanding the case to something completely outside the dispute in question, as well as wrong about what would happen.

And that, plus moderates surrendering elections to extremist voters gets us less than the best legislators, less than the best judges, less than the best policies and the dysfunction and corruption we have right now. Ours is a devastatingly compromised democracy.

That’s the Big Picture I see. Now here’s the help I mentioned in the opening of this piece.

Read Jim Hightower’s current Lowdown to see how your pockets are being picked.

Trump’s only legislative win is the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which he and the proponents of this larceny claimed would increase workers’ wages. Apparently, they felt that dangling that before voters would cause us to support the annual $1 trillion giveaway to the wealthy. I know you review your paychecks carefully, so how much more are you getting? Nothing. Nada. And that’s the point.

That piece of legislative theft is just the most recent example of exacerbating wealth inequality and it came about because we elected self-serving radicals to be in the majority. Or should I say, 10% of voters did that and many of the rest of us stood by – 120 million eligible voters stayed home on election day – and let that happen. Clearly, many people were motivated to turn that around in the 2018 election. Perhaps that’s a beginning of change. But it’s only useful if we continue that change.

BTW – while you’re on Jim Hightower’s site, have a look at his clarification of populism. You might be surprised to learn that populism isn’t at all what many would have you believe. It isn’t about torches and pitchforks.

There are consequences to massive wealth inequality and the world has lived it repeatedly. Read futurist David Houle’s current post to enhance your view on this.

I’m reminded of the cynical declaration commonly attributed to Marie Antoinette about the French poor: “Let them eat cake.” There was no cake for them, nor bread, either. Perhaps you remember that the French Revolution happened shortly thereafter in 1789 and lovely Marie lost her head.

The point is that there’s a limit to what people will tolerate – we demonstrated that at the Boston Tea Party. The question is whether we will take action before things get really dangerous. Which leads to how we’ll do that.

RepresentUs is an organization dedicated to setting things right before we pass a point of no return. Watch their video, Unbreaking America, narrated by Jennifer Lawrence and Joshua Graham Lynn, for a clear explanation of what’s going on and what we can do about it. It’s well worth 11 minutes of your time. And if you’d like to see the research mentioned in the video, click here for a PDF download. Be sure to note the next-to-last paragraph on page 3.

Back to the Big Picture: All we have to do turn this mess around is to abandon our apathy.

  • * Even if the general belief of primaries being driven by extremists is not true – and that is unclear – the lack of voter participation is still at the core of our dysfunction. 120 million voters sat out the 2016 election and that gave us an extremist president and an extremist Congress. The importance of voter participation was further illustrated, this time in reverse, by the massive voter participation in the 2018 election and the changes those activated voters have started. When we show up and vote, politicians get a very powerful message from us that just might affect their behavior. When we don’t show up and vote, politicians get a very different message from us.

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

                         ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 


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

“How Ya Gonna Pay For That?”


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Wikipedia:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last thing  .  .  .

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

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

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

Click any chart for a larger view.

GNP
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

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

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

Note To Readers and Commenters

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

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

————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 

 


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

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.

————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


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

Perversion


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

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

Paul Weyrich was the Dean Wormer of voter suppression.

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

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

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

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

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

– Closing offices, making it difficult to register to vote

– Closing polling places making it difficult to vote

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

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

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

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

– Refusing to accept IDs that many people do have

– Rejecting voter registrations on ridiculous technicalities

– Redistricting (gerrymandering) that effectively neuters votes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


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

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