Politics & Democracy

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,

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

Venezuela and Existential Threats


Reading time – 5:07; Viewing time – 7:30  .  .  .

First, my only comment on the topic of the cherry picked, sentence fragmented Mueller report is that I want the full report – all of it including the appendices – both for the complete, un-predigested information so that I can draw my own conclusions and so that we won’t imagine a Justice Department cover up engineered by Trump’s hand-picked protector.

As of this writing Attorney General Barr has indicated he will release the complete Mueller report by mid-April. There will be redactions, perhaps lots of them. Some will be to protect ongoing investigations. Some redactions will be for national security reasons. Some will be to avoid causing embarrassment to “peripheral innocent people.” I have no clue why that’s more important than instilling confidence in the report for a skeptical public. Absent such confidence, we’re facing an existential threat to our democracy.

If you need insightful commentary on the entire Russia issue, including Mueller’s report, read pal Dan Wallace’s comments. Now to the issue of Venezuela.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story about Russia’s power play in Venezuela. Putin sent 100 troops there to prop up dictator Nicolás Maduro. In reaction to that, reader JC asked if there was anyone left in Washington who understands the Monroe Doctrine or remembers the Cuban Missile Crisis. My answers: no and no.

As you’ll recall from high school American history class, the Monroe Doctrine prohibits further European colonialism in the Western Hemisphere.

At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Soviet Chairman Nikita Khrushchev was cultivating Cuba as a client state, effectively making it a colony of the Soviet Union, the very thing prohibited by the Monroe Doctrine. Soviet missiles armed with nuclear warheads on that island made it an existential threat to the United States.

While President James Monroe couldn’t have imagined nuclear weapons, he and his contemporaries were clear that the presence of European military might this close to home was an existential threat to our nascent country. The Monroe Doctrine was and is about our national security.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis there were thoughtful, careful men in charge who insisted upon best intelligence and carefully considered approaches to the challenges we faced. They had the strength of character to resist knee-jerk military actions and they prevented a catastrophic war.

This time there’s a reality TV personality in charge who doesn’t read, who is incapable of assembling complex thoughts, who doesn’t review the President’s Daily Brief, so he doesn’t know what’s going on, who doesn’t have sufficient self-control to resist temper tantrums and who needs to be seen as the biggest, baddest tough guy. He is supported by Secretary of State John Bolton, who never saw a conflict he didn’t want to escalate into war. As bad, we have a horrendous record of starting conflicts without any plan to end them.

For example, George W. Bush dim-brain/lied us into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with phantom promises of quick success and happily-ever-after flowers tossed at our troops by Iraqis. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared Iraqi oil would pay for the whole thing. None of that happened.

What was foreseeable but which they refused to foresee was the global refugee problem they triggered and which the world lives with quite unsteadily now. It is a key outfall of Bush’s lies and we still don’t have a plan to end those wars.

Now that Russia has sent its troops into Venezuela we are in a situation not unlike the Cuban Missile threat from the Soviet Union. President Trump backs Maduro’s challenger Juan Guaidó. How will Trump stop Russia from both keeping Maduro in power and from having that military foothold in the Western Hemisphere that is specifically forbidden by the Monroe Doctrine?

In point of fact, Trump has been a disaster of a negotiator for the U.S. He’s been a patsy with nothing to show for his capitulations to Russia and North Korea. Worse, he’s been a lapdog for Putin, who is now threatening Trump’s tough guy posturing.

Trump has told Putin to back off. If Trump tries to negotiate with Putin to get him to do that, Trump’s past negotiating prowess suggests that it probably will look like hollow posturing that leaves Russian troops in place in Venezuela with an escalating military presence in the Western Hemisphere. If instead Trump sends troops in support of Guaidó, we’ll be faced off against the Russians and troops on both sides are likely to be killed. And there won’t be an exit plan from the conflict.

What could possibly go wrong?

And another thing  .  .  .

The Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee called for Adam Schiff (D-CA) to resign his chairmanship of the committee, based on the same kind of Republican partisan brainlessness that we’ve seen for years. Schiff replied with a kind of muscular statement rarely heard from Democrats. Watch the whole thing here.

Last thing .  .  .

Chris Hayes interviewed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“AOC”) on Friday. Here’s a link to a string of videos from that interview. I urge you to watch all of them for one reason. It’s not so that you’ll agree with or find ways to pick apart the Green New Deal or find ways to cheer or criticize her. I want you to think on a higher level.

Specifically, watch and listen in order to understand why she has so completely captured the public imagination. Our Gen X, Y and Z citizens see our politics in the way that Emma Gonzalez sees our embedded intransigence over gun safety: “We call B.S.”

AOC speaks for an overwhelming majority of Americans, regardless of how much you may fundamentally disagree with her policy ideas or fear your own loss of power.

To Our Legislators:

Get on board with working with people who see the future far differently than you do. If you don’t want to do that, I suggest that you polish your résumé in preparation for entry into an exciting new career. That’s because these folks know that they’ll be the ones who will live with the consequences of what we’re creating right now, so they have a far more powerful interest in a sustainable future. We have created an existential threat to them and they won’t let us mess it up any more.

                   ————————————

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.

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.

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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.

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:

  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.

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.

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.

Invading Species


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

Reading time – 3:51; Viewing time – 5:56  .  .  .

From H.R. McMasters’ 1996 book Dereliction of Duty about the war in Vietnam:

“The disaster of Vietnam was not the result of impersonal forces but a uniquely human failure, the responsibility for which was shared by President Johnson and his principal military and civilian advisers. The failings were many and reinforcing: arrogance, weakness, lying in the pursuit of self-interest, and, above all, the abdication of responsibility to the American people.” [emphasis added]

McMasters’ words ring both true and frighteningly current.

While holding control of the Senate, Mitch McConnell refused for over 300 days to consider any nominee offered by President Obama to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. He cited as precedent that no outgoing president has ever had a Supreme Court pick, so neither should Obama.

McConnell’s claim was factually wrong. Many presidents have submitted Supreme Court nominees in their last year in office, including Ronald Reagan, who nominated Anthony Kennedy to the Court. So, McConnell was flagrantly dishonest, hypocritical and self-serving, but he had the power to prevent hearings, so Merrick Garland never had a chance.

Now Anthony Kennedy has retired and President Trump’s replacement pick is Brett Kavanaugh. Most of the documentation of this man’s judicial and political life has been withheld from Senate Judiciary Committee members, who are tasked with vetting Court nominees.

I’ll put that in school days terms. Here are the rules for your test:

  1. 42,000 documents that are pertinent to the test will be available for download tomorrow at 4:00 AM The test will begin just 5 hours later.
  2. Sorting through the documents for relevant content is your problem. Good luck.
  3. There is 10 times more material that we won’t let you see and it is likely the most important material for this test.

The chairman of this committee is Sen. Chuck “They’re gonna pull the plug on Granny” Grassley, (R-IA), who is prone to saying absurdly false things and doing so with a straight face and always for partisan advantage. He was true to form during the Kavanaugh hearings.

Motions were made repeatedly by Democratic members of the committee to postpone hearings on Kavanaugh so that background material could be properly reviewed. Grassley claimed that he didn’t have to entertain any motion while the committee was not in executive session – this was a hearing – so he ignored the motions. He did that in wilful contradiction of the rules of his own committee, which don’t require executive session to entertain a motion to adjourn.

Grassley is what might be called a useful idiot for the Republican Party. Useful idiots are and have been for quite a while an invading species, one specimen of which is in the White House right now.

We were reminded last week at the memorials for John McCain about duty, honor and about serving something much bigger than ourselves. Failure to do that surely is bi-partisan, but for the past few decades the Republicans have been honing that failure into a disaster machine.

I repeat H.R. McMaster’s words:

The failings were many and reinforcing: arrogance, weakness, lying in the pursuit of self-interest, and, above all, the abdication of responsibility to the American people.

Right now the failings are many and they are reinforcing. There is arrogance, weakness and lying in the pursuit of self-interest. Above all, our powerful people in Congress are abdicating their responsibility to the American people.

And another thing  .  .  .

In his Senate Judicial Committee hearings Brett Kavanaugh refused comment or weaseled around questions concerning:

  1. Whether a president can be subpoenaed
  2. Whether water-boarding is torture and whether he concurred with John Yoo’s declaration that the CIA could torture prisoners.
  3. Whether Roe v. Wade was properly decided and whether he would vote to uphold it
  4. Whether he was involved in President Bush’s signing statement that eliminated the McCain Anti-torture bill that had been passed in Congress
  5. Whether President Trump can fire Robert Mueller
  6. Whether a president must respond to a subpoena
  7. Whether a president has an absolute right to pardon himself
  8. Whether a president could pardon others in exchange for them agreeing not to testify against the president
  9. Whether Kavanaugh would recuse himself from cases involving Trump’s “personal criminal or civil liability.”
  10. Whether he would uphold the requirement for healthcare insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions
  11. Whether a president can be protected from investigation while in office
  12. What the limits of presidential power are.

There is far more, including Kavanaugh’s lies under oath when he was being confirmed as a judge years ago.

Just as the conceits and hubris of Presidents Johnson and Nixon engineered and sustained the disaster in Vietnam, the integrity outages of McConnell, Grassley, Kavanaugh and all the Republican enablers are an invading species that is laying the paving stones of the road to ending 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 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.

Nightmare


Reading time – 2:40  .  .  .

We all knew Hillary was right, that Donald Trump was temperamentally unfit to be President of the United States. We knew he had no clear policy positions and no moral foundation. For Trump supporters, that was the attraction, the point. It was the middle finger flicked at the establishment and it has turned out to be the angry extremist gift that keeps on giving. For the rest of America his unfitness for office has become the ongoing nightmare we feared.

When he posted his infantile tweet that his button was bigger than Kim Jong-Un’s my fear of his being in control of our thousands of nuclear warheads came into full focus. I pictured Trump in the Oval Office ordering his generals to destroy North Korea and wondered what would happen. Would they salute, say, “Yes,sir” and give the orders to annihilate? That is what they are supposed to do.

Or would the generals each in turn refuse to start World War III? Would they stand up to this petulant narcissist, telling him that they will not enable him to destroy the Earth? I imagined him firing generals one after another until at last he found one who would knuckle under to his pique; then the destruction would begin.

This is an insane and convoluted situation because of two contradicting points. In my heart of hearts I pray for military people with spine to stand up to our tantrum-prone president. The incompatible point is that civilian control of our military is a foundational principle of our country. The military isn’t supposed to refuse orders from the Commander-in-Chief. Standing up to the president in that way is not just mutiny: it’s a coup.

We’ve had plenty of exposés of the White House chaos and backstabbing and of the quiet resistance to this president, but now we have the anonymous essay in the New York Times by a high level administration person declaring in no uncertain terms that people we didn’t elect are working at odds to the president. It is effectively a coup not unlike my nightmare wonderings about military resistance to nuclear confrontation. And weirdly, bizarrely, I’m cheering for the insurgents. My cheers are driven by my fear of the harm Trump is doing to our country.

Understandably, Trump is off the rails in anger over learning that his own people are undermining him. He and his sycophants are focused on calling the author of the op-ed ugly names. What they are not doing is addressing the substance of his/her accusations. Worse, neither is there anyone in Congress lifting a finger to do anything about it. Mostly we’ve been getting reactions to the op-ed from legislators saying things like, “This is nothing new to us,” as though it’s just another day through the looking glass. “Oh, well.”

The Trump craziness and the resistance to it is exactly what is going to continue to happen if Congress refuses to act. We will simply wait around for the next outrage and next insult to our democracy and Trump’s undermining of the Constitution – then the next and the next until there’s nothing left to insult. We can wake up each day with a new version of the ongoing nightmare. Or we can act.

What will those now idle lawmakers say to their grandchildren when they ask what they did to preserve 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 the goal requires reaching many thousands of people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

It’s All About That Tiger


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. CLICK THE IMAGE for a larger view.

Reading time – 3:12; Viewing time – 4:34 .  .  .

We human beings are perfectly designed to react instantly to dangers before us. That’s a really useful trait when the sabre tooth tiger shows up at the mouth of your cave. That’s self- and species-preservation in one neat package and it’s part of what made it possible for you to be born.So we’re adept at dealing with threats that are in our faces.

The contrasting point is that the same sabre tooth tiger that we know is over the hill but is not currently in sight elicits not one bit of reaction from us. Out of sight of the cave, off our threat radar screen, to mix metaphors by tens of thousands of years. [Actually, tens of millions of years. ed.] Interestingly, our threat alert system, complete with the threat ignoring non-response of what isn’t in our faces right now, continues in you and me today and it’s a powerful obstacle to meeting our challenges.

Global warming is already causing problems worldwide, but recognizing adverse patterns made worse by our climate warming behaviors and seeing that as a threat is a pattern that’s difficult to feel. It’s much like ignoring that sabre tooth tiger that’s over the hill: it’s easy, because we don’t feel the threat from what isn’t in our faces.

The out-of-sight syndrome gives climate warming deniers the engine to fold arms and dig in heels. The same is true of the massive bee kill-off that threatens to greatly affect food supplies worldwide. Food is still plentiful in grocery stores, so we don’t see the threat, but scarcity is just over the hill. That out-of-sight location allows our EPA, for example, to refuse to deal effectively with pesticides that are killing bees – pollinators – at an alarming rate and the EPA has now pushed back its review of the toxin neonicotoid yet another year.*

Key Point: There are many issues that we decide in favor of benefit now, like jobs, money and comfort, because we’re unable to see over the hill to a future where the threat arrives right in our faces.

Click me

There are ways to help deniers to see the threat that’s over the hill and which is going to imperil all of us. Read Chip and Dan Heath’s excellent book Switch in order to understand how to help people to embrace change when they simply don’t feel the imperative. Hint: You have to help them feel the imperative.

That sabre tooth tiger really is going to present himself to us in many forms and venues and he really is just over the crest of that hill and he really is headed our way. That’s why we have to replace our spineless Congress so that we prepare for the challenges that will be in our faces very soon. It’s all about that tiger.

Two More Things  .  .  .

Last week your president announced that he plans to cancel a 2.1% COLA wage increase for about 1.5 million civilian federal workers. He claimed that the cost is fiscally unacceptable, or some other justification that attempted to sound policy-based, but there just might be a different reason for his digging into workers’ pockets. Try out this theory of Trump’s motivation to stiff our federal workers.

Dozens of Republican members of Congress are at significant risk of losing their jobs in the upcoming mid-term election. Imagine the great cry that will come from these at-risk politicians, wailing about the great pain that will be inflicted upon their constituents. They’ll posture in front of any camera that’s handy until at last – roughly 10 days before the election – the president will relent, saying that these fine Republican lawmakers, looking after their people’s best interests, have convinced him to restore the wage adjustments. He’ll magnanimously declare that these Republicans should be re-elected.

Wait until October 28th before you call me a conspiracy nut.

Finally, John McCain was eulogized by family, friends and colleagues. My most powerful and likely enduring memory is clear – perhaps you hold it similarly. It was of his life and message of duty, service, dedication to something much larger than ourselves. It was the repeated clarity that our future – something that is so much larger than ourselves – depends upon what we do today and that as citizens, it’s up to us. What will you do today?


*If you download the PDF from “EPA’s Policy Mitigating Acute Risk to Bees from Pesticide Products you’ll learn that, “This policy represents the EPA’s recommended labeling statements to mitigate acute risks to bees from pesticide products. This policy is not a regulation or an order and, therefore, does not legally compel changes to pesticide product registrations.” In other words, it’s 35 pages of “here are some labeling ideas.” The bees remain at risk.

————————————

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.

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