Politics & Democracy

What’s At Stake


Reading time – 3:01  .  .  .

We’re a hotly divided country, entrenched in our certainties. Whether we say it or not, we see compromise as a dirty thing.

On the other hand, we all know right from wrong and there isn’t a lot of disagreement about it, once we get past our rationalizations.

The House Intelligence Committee hearings are exposing obvious wrongdoing by Donald Trump. It isn’t just that the witnesses are offering plain-to-see facts of his guilt, Trump famously preened as he bragged about his criminal behavior. So, the hearings aren’t about questions of guilt. Rather, the hearings are about what is truly bedrock in America.

Here is the oath of office to which every member of Congress swore:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

Note that no person is named, other than the person being sworn in. They don’t swear allegiance to a king. They don’t swear allegiance to a president. They swear allegiance to the Constitution of the United States. The United States is alone among the nations in this kind of oath and it declares for all to see that we are a nation of laws and not a nation of men.

That concept is being sorely tested in this era of Trump. Clearly, Trump is all about Trump and uses anything and anyone around him for self-aggrandizement. He demands loyalty to him. The test of our time is what or who our members of Congress will protect and defend. What is at stake is the rule of law and the Constitution itself.

If Trump is allowed to get away with his obvious criminal behavior, we will have established a new bedrock for this nation, a bedrock of personality, not of law; of high office for personal benefit, not for the benefit of the nation.

These hearings, then, are about deciding what kind of nation we will be. President Trump has no voice in this. We The People have an indirect voice by telling our members of Congress where we stand, what we want, how we see things. However, only the members of Congress have a vote.

Members of the House have the first vote. They alone will decide whether to impeach the President. The issue is whether the Republican members will look at the facts and vote accordingly, or whether they will cave to political pressure and vote to protect the President. In that way they will decide whether we are a nation of laws or a nation of a man.

If the House impeaches the President, the Senate will decide whether to convict the President such that he will “.  .  .  be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Again, there isn’t a doubt about Trump’s guilt. However, there is grave doubt whether the members of the Senate have the courage to act in accordance with their solemn oath of office. They know and we know the truth. The question will be whether knowing that will be enough to cause them to do the right thing.

Everything – the Constitution and the rule of law and our very republic – depends on what they do.

Surely, our Republican Members of Congress see that Trump is guilty of many offenses and crimes. Right now the issues are extortion, bribery, withholding of funds in violation of the direction of Congress and multiple counts of obstruction of justice. Then there’s witness tampering, campaign finance violations, profiting from the Presidency (emoluments), collusion, advocating political and police violence, abuse of power, persecuting political opponents, violating immigrants’ rights and more.

So, Trump’s unfitness for office and his criminality are plain to see. What holds Republicans back from the obvious right path is fear of backlash from their extreme constituents. So, their choice is to do the right thing, which will require that they dare to lose their position and power, or to destroy the rule of law and sell out our country.

That’s what’s at stake.

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NOTES:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from 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.

Here It Comes!


Reading time – 2:26; Viewing time – 3:19  .  .  .

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Put your hands together and give a roaring welcome to the one, the only

Impeachment of Donald Trump!

 

Yes, you’ve been waiting for this, because you’ve known since before the start that he’s a con artist, likely a criminal and absolutely, totally, irretrievably sociopathically dishonest. A charlatan. A liar. And perhaps worst, a narcissist. For Trump, everything is always about benefiting Trump. There’s no room in him for democracy, the Constitution, serving the nation or the rule of law. And you know without even a shadow of a doubt that people and bedrock institutions and nations and strategic alliances get hurt because of his self-centered lunacy. All of that is why you’ve been waiting for this.

Now, what will you do? Here’s a suggestion.

Watch the impeachment proceedings. Don’t leave it to TV pundits to tell you what people have said. Watch for yourself. Think for yourself.

This will likely be the greatest political theater of your lifetime, so watch it to be informed by the entertainment spectacle that will appear right before your eyes.

    • Watch the Republicans do the Dance of the Crazies trying to defend the indefensible Trump.
    • Watch as they change the subject and insert inane things that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.
    • Listen as Republican House members wax pontifical in order to showcase themselves strutting in their “See how brilliant I am, as I dazzle you with my faux passion and indignation”.

More importantly,

    • Listen carefully as witnesses present their testimony to the full House of Representatives. What you hear will almost certainly be in stark contrast to what Trump and his spineless mouthpieces say. Who do you believe? And what do you think we should do about it?
    • Watch for testimony that has the capacity to change public opinion, the kind of public opinion that has the power to twist Republican senators away from The Dark Side.

Bear in mind that every member of the House and the Senate knows well and clearly what is going on. Every one of them knows the difference between right and wrong. And every one of them knows that their solemn pledge to protect and defend the Constitution was not conditioned on circumstances or political wind – not even on pressure from Donald Trump. Watch to see if they honor their word.

The fresh essay posted by my pal David Houle offers some perspective on what is about to happen and I recommend his piece to you. It will give you fresh insight into how these impeachment proceedings are a bit different from any that have happened before, this in a way you likely haven’t considered.

The public hearings begin this Wednesday, November 13 at 9:00AM CST. You can watch them here live. Be there or be square!

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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Thanks!

NOTES:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from 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.

Unmasking in the Theater


Reading time – 3:33  .  .  .

The House will hold all-hands-on-deck hearings into the impeachment of President Donald Trump. This has been a long time coming, considering all the blatantly illegal and un-Constitutional and un-presidential things he’s done. Indeed, just his refusal to investigate and take action against Russia for interfering in our 2016 election should have been enough to show even Republicans his unsuitability for office and his suitability for being sent away. Alas, that didn’t happen.

It didn’t happen when Robert Mueller submitted his report, which specifically cited ten (TEN!) cases of obstruction of justice perpetrated by Donald Trump. Just get that obstruction of justice is illegal in federal law and in every state, county and municipality in the United States. Still, Trump hasn’t been held to account. Now, though, there’s a chance for that to happen.

There isn’t even a hint of doubt that Trump attempted to get a foreign government to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, the political opponent he fears most. That’s a crime. And there isn’t a doubt that he held up money headed to Ukraine, money that was supposed to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian invasion. Trump used that money to extort the president of Ukraine, to get him to “play ball” solely for the political benefit of Donald Trump. Extortion, like soliciting election help from a foreign government, is a crime.

The reason there isn’t a question as to whether Trump did all that is because he bragged that he did it. It was a voluntary confession and a voluntary release of the edited transcript of his phone call with the Ukrainian president that shows him doing it. Trump’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney bragged about Trump’s illegal actions, too. He said that quid-pro-quo extortion is ordinary stuff and that we should all just, “Get over it.”

But, of course, we haven’t gotten over it, because the president soliciting or accepting anything of value from a foreign government IS ILLEGAL! The reason it’s illegal is because doing so corrodes our democracy, undermines our values and invites even worse criminality in the future. And it makes the United States of America subject to pressure from and possible control by foreign governments. The Framers knew that well and it is why they included this prohibition in the Constitution itself.

That’s what makes it so fascinating to watch Republicans twist themselves into pretzels trying to defend this clearly criminal president and his clearly criminal actions.

We have heard infantile “It’s not fair” whining from many Republicans, notably and most recently from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). He whined about how unfair it is that:

    • Trump hasn’t been allowed to present his case. (That’s true. Because what was done by the House Intelligence Committee was neither a court proceeding nor a debate. It was an inquiry seeking information, just as is done by a grand jury.)
    • The House Intelligence Committee hearings were done in closed session. (That’s true, too. That’s how such things have always been done, including when Republicans were digging for dirt – any dirt – on Bill Clinton.)
    • The House has issued more subpoenas than enacted laws. (That’s only true if you take into consideration that the entire stack of bills passed by the House is in a pile in a corner of Mitch McConnell’s office because he won’t bring them to the Senate for a vote. Besides, such numbers have nothing to do with the impeachment inquiry, which makes this objection idiotic.)
    • The Democrats want to kill democracy. (Yes, he said that. It isn’t worthy of further comment.)
  • The Republicans spent the duration of the House Intelligence Committee hearings complaining about the undemocratic secrecy of it all. Hearings should be public, they said. So, a vote was taken last week to hold public hearings in the full House, the very thing Republicans said that we must do. The proposal would give Republicans exactly what they said they wanted, and every Republican voted against it.
  • Republicans know what Democrats, Independents, iron workers, Popsicle peddlers in the parks, CEOs, mill workers, investment bankers, 7-11 attendants and everybody else knows: Donald Trump is a criminal. It’s just that some people rationalize that for their own imagined benefit.
  • Like the Republican legislators who dread a primary challenge and who cower in fear of Trump’s playground brat name calling. They do the dance to protect their own asses and in that process they abandon democracy and the Constitution they swore to protect and defend. And they know that’s what they’re doing.
  • This impeachment business will be, more than anything, a test of integrity.
  • So, watch the proceedings. They will be the greatest political theater on the planet. And they will be the greatest public unmasking of legislator frailties you’re likely to see – ever.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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Thanks!

NOTES:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from 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.

Paul Revere


Reading time – 3:30; Viewing time – 4:43  .  .  .

The last time I read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Paul Revere’s Ride (no, it isn’t entitled The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere) I was in high school. For reasons known only to the gods of random thoughts, the poem came to mind, so I looked it up and read it again, these many decades later. Somehow, this poem composed in 1860 has a new and surprising currency.

It tells of the clarity and courage of men who would not be subjugated. It names the price that would be willingly paid by those who would stand strong. It lets us know of the ordinary folk who, at a moment’s notice, were ready to do their part, to do the right thing.

You can find Longfellow’s poem here and I encourage you not to read it silently, but to read it aloud, just as Longfellow intended. Read it and marvel at its wonderful cadence, as he tells the story. I promise that you’ll be able to see the events as though you yourself had been there. I challenge you to read it full voice and embrace the way it chokes you up over the bravery of the people and over admiration for those who had the vision for something better and the courage to stand and be counted.

Had King George not been a tyrant to the colonists, we might still be British subjects. But he was a tyrant of the first order. You can read a list of his terrible abuses right here in the Declaration of Independence.

Then reflect on our current times. The actions of this president are not terribly different from those of King George.

We don’t need to ”  .  .  .  declare the causes which impel [us] to the separation,” because we don’t need separation from a foreign despot. But we surely need relief from the terrible abuses of this domestic tyrant.

Longfellow’s poem ends this way:

For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,

Through all our history, to the last,

In the hour of darkness and peril and need

The people will waken and listen to hear

The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,

And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Who will be the Paul Revere today who will ride, “Through every Middlesex village and farm,” to ring the alarm? And who will stand and be counted to protect and defend? When today’s Paul Revere comes thundering through your town and sparks fly once again from the shoes of his horse as the alarm is raised, will you be ready to stand and be counted like those ordinary folk on the “eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five”?

These are the questions of our time and they need answers now.

Noteworthy –

If you want to understand the future of ISIS without Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, read Tom Friedman’s essay, “President Trump boasts of defeating the Islamic State. He’s only showing how ignorant he is.”

And from the “I can’t believe this can be said” department  .  .  .

In President Trump’s acclimation of himself as the hero of the al-Baghdadi raid, he disclosed a treasure trove of confidential military and national security information that made heads explode in our intelligence agencies, our military and our allies. In his narcissistic rant, he gave away methods and sources that included leaking the fact that a high level ISIS individual was the inside eyes for the raid, the human intelligence (“HUMINT”). Because of Trump’s indiscriminate bragging, ISIS now knows that, too. How would you like to be that guy right now? What do you think his life expectancy is? How hard do you suppose it will be for our people to recruit the next HUMINT person?

This is the same president whose first official act was to invite both the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, and the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, to the Oval Office. He excluded American translators and all other Americans. No U.S. ears were in the room. In that meeting he exposed a covert Israeli agent. How hard do you suppose it is now to get our allies to share vital information?

And once again, why does everything Trump touches redound to Putin?

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  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 from 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.

What I Wish He’d Said


Reading time – 2:04  .  .  .

Chairman Adam Schiff

Speaking to the House A/V technician while covering his microphone and pointing toward the Republican Members of Congress who are not members of the House Intelligence Committee but are in the room:

Please turn off their microphones.

To all:

These proceedings have been invaded by people who don’t belong here, several dozen members of Congress who are not part of these closed door hearings. It is to them that I address these remarks.

Your Animal House sit-in stunt may achieve some delay to these proceedings, but we will complete our work. What you are doing is not just rude and disrespectful. It is far more significant than that and I have three points to make to you.

First, your having brought your cell phones with you into these proceedings is a breach of national security because, as you know, your phone can be hacked whether it is turned on or off. That is why House rules prohibit you from bringing your phone into any hearing, which is to say, you’ve wantonly breached House protocol, too.

I recall distinctly the days when the Republican Party trumpeted its belief in and support for our national defense. Its members were staunch, toe-the-line champions of the security of our country and I wish that were still so. Your actions here today suggest that it is not.

Second, you know quite well that these hearings are closed door because the Attorney General seems to have become the attorney for this president instead of attorney for the country. He is unwilling to appoint a special counsel to investigate these matters. Were there a special counsel he or she would convene a grand jury in order to take depositions like those being taken here. And you know that all grand jury hearings are done in closed door sessions, just as this committee is operating. These hearings aren’t secret – Republican Committee members are in attendance and are participating committee members at all times. And you also know that this is the way the Nixon and Clinton impeachment proceedings began. Odd that you object to the same practices today.

Finally, we are conducting this investigation because the rule of law and the Constitution itself are under attack – you know this quite well. So, I invite you to gather your children and grandchildren and tell them what you did to honor your oath of office when the rule of law was under attack. Tell them what you did when the call went out to protect and defend the Constitution. Let them know how stiff your spine was when your country called on you to stand and be counted.

Now it’s time for you to leave.

 

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  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 from 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.

This Isn’t About Trump – It’s About What’s Important


Reading time 5:02; Viewing time – 6:59  .  .  .

Trump politicized the Fourth of July.

There were M1A2 Army tanks and Bradley armored vehicles in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

Not content with just stationary vehicles, Trump ordered the military to have airplanes and helicopters pass overhead, saving the Battle Hymn of the Republic to blare over the loudspeakers as the Navy Blue Angles did a fly-by.

The military was there because Trump won’t get his military parade to one-up President Macron of France. Such a massive show of hardware would rip up Pennsylvania Avenue and cost more than he could scam through Congress. And they were there because the violent machines of war make him feel powerful and self-important.

He gave a speech written by others which included concepts he doesn’t understand, interspersed with self-serving grandiosity. He anchored it to the military because his base would thrill to that; but of course that was only a fraud to justify focus on himself.

“It’ll be like no other – it will be special  .  .  . ” Trump had promised of his spectacle. Of course, that turned out to be true – it was like no other. But not in the way he meant. (Just for fun you can review his speech here.)

For this Trump “look-at-me” event using our military for political purposes, only big Republican donors and pols were offered tickets. No Democrats were invited. He refused to disclose how much the event actually cost, but we already know that he robbed $2.5 million from our national parks as partial payment.

And all of that is the problem.

Trump made our national birthday party all about Trump instead of all about America. It is the perfect exemplar of what has happened to our country since the craziness began, as foreign affairs, immigration, trade policies, the wall, threats of war, healthcare, taxation and all the rest are solely about Trump, not about America.

That is why we have to do absolutely everything necessary to get the hands of this dangerous person off the levers of government. Because it’s not supposed to be about Trump; it’s supposed to be about you and me and 320 million of our country-men and -women.

I’m not an “all Democrats all the time” guy. I am a democracy guy full time and it matters that a huge percentage of our democracy has been demolished by this would-be tyrant. It needs to be rebuilt before we lose it all. I’ve written about that in many ways, including how We The People aren’t getting what we want. A part of what submarines rule by the people is a Republican Congress that is dedicated to chest-thumping fictions and obstruction.

The Republican mantra for the last two Democratic presidents – that’s 16 years of government – has been opposition to everything those presidents promoted. That was true regardless of how sensible the policies were and even if Republicans had supported those policies before there was a Democrat in the White House.

That produced hyper-partisan warfare and gridlock. It’s why we don’t have even a plan to rebuild our infrastructure, yet politicians tell us in every election cycle that they’re going to fix it. It’s why we don’t have common sense gun laws, even as over 90% of us demand them. It’s why Roe v. Wade continues to be attacked, while 76% of Americans want it left alone as settled law.

The same is true about healthcare, education, the DACA kids, global warming, Putin’s invasion of America and so many other issues. We aren’t getting what we want and our pride as Americans continues to slip almost entirely due to – let’s call it displeasure – with our politics.

We need to put the building blocks of democracy back in place and the only way to get beyond the Congressional gridlock of the past 30 years is unitary government, at least for a time.

Yes, I know that the very vocal Democrat far left is off-putting to independents and traditional Republicans and even to centrist Democrats. Read Nick Kristoff’s piece for more on that. I suspect that there will be a strong moderating force, should the Dems take over Congress, especially if Nancy Pelosi is in charge of the House. I, for one, will be lobbying for that moderation.

And I will be lobbying for democracy and for for clarity about what We The People want and the best ways to deliver that. Join me now in two ways.

First, support candidates who will create the change you want to see. Right now there’s about an 85% chance they’re Democrats, especially if they’re opposing one of the spineless Republicans who hasn’t the moral courage to stand up to Trump.

I really don’t care if you’ve never voted for a Democrat, because your predisposition to oppose Ds has no place in our teetering democracy.

The second way may appear to be just for fun, but it isn’t.

Read the hat carefully – click the pic for a larger view

Confucius tells us that the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name. We certainly need more wisdom in America right now. If Trump is to be removed from power in 2020 so that we can restore our democracy, we must properly name him with unmistakable clarity so that We The People make sensible choices.

What is the name that captures Trump? Put your notion in the Comments section to help expand our wisdom and make America America again. NOTE: This isn’t about venting; it’s about accurate description.

And this isn’t about Trump. It’s about Independence Day.

BTW – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted a happy Fourth of July message on Thursday morning that included a picture of the Betsy Ross 13-star flag. White supremacist and other hate groups have been using that flag to promote themselves and spread hate, likely because slavery was the law of the land when Ross made that flag. Click through and read McConnell’s tweet; then read the comments below it. They are stunning in their rebuke of him. Indeed, pass along the link to your friends in Kentucky so that they will remove this democracy killing “Grim Reaper” – that’s how he describes himself – from the Senate.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  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.

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.


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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  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.

Focus


Reading time 3:18; Viewing time – 4:05  .  .  .

It’s been quite a month – all just this week! – as the outrageous deluge from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue goes on. It’s been this way with Trump since way before the 2015 escalator “Look at ME!” stunt, when he announced with his customary ignorant certainty what he had just fabricated, claiming Mexico was sending us rapists and murderers.

He had spent years fomenting Birtherism. And he had bought the back page of section 1 of the New York Times and called for the execution of the Central Park Five. He did this after they had been cleared by DNA evidence. Yet in customary Trumpian doubling down of his boneheaded statements, he continued to call for the execution of these men.

Just this week Trump declared that he would/wouldn’t contact the FBI if a foreign government or individual offered dirt on a political opponent. For sure he’d “have a look,” he told us.

The point is that accepting anything even just to “have a look” is the crime, not the value of the information to a campaign. He also told us that Iran was behind the attack on two oil tankers, offering no evidence but his expansive declaration while ignoring evidence to the contrary. He took credit for various healthcare pluses, like reductions in the cost of prescription drugs, which hasn’t happened. All of that and far more was just Thursday and Friday.

The point is that Trump is the master of garnering attention by saying and doing outrageous things. He is the P. T. Barnum of our time.

We all love the sensational. It’s why the local news motto is “If it bleeds, it leads.” It’s why when you click on The Weather Channel you’re smacked in the face with multiple sensational pictures and headlines and it’s why supermarket tabloids sell.

We’re suckers for clickbait. Trump provides it 24/7 and the world watches. The trick is to ignore the merely outrageous and pay attention to the dangerous and the cruel:

– Like his saying it’s okay for political campaigns to accept anything of value from foreign sources. Yes, I know it’s just words, but this matters to our upcoming election, because it’s another “Russia, if you’re listening” invitation.

– Like fabricating a run up to war with Iran.

– Like putting yet more children in cages.

– Like defending Kellyanne Conway over her dozens of obvious violations of the Hatch Act – this because “she’s loyal.”

– Like ordering all agencies to cut scientific advisory boards by at least one-third.

– Like hosting a conference of climate science deniers at the Trump International Hotel.

I had breakfast recently with a couple of highly educated, highly accomplished women who each declared that they don’t watch the news. They are the latest in a continuing string of intelligent people I have heard say the same thing.

They are weary of the continuous barrage of political warfare and the painful to watch Trumpian cruelties and stupidities. They are way past overload from political bickering and lying, so they’ve tuned out. And that’s a problem for them and for America.

In some measure, many of us have become numb to the continuing outrage, which leaves us vulnerable to the dangerous things slipping past us.

This isn’t a circus freak show that we can ignore; it’s our country.

So our job is to let the outrageous and freaky stuff go. Focus on the things that can hurt us and damage our democracy.

Pence Visits Conversion Therapist for Routine Gay-Preventative Check-Up. Click me for the story.



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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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Public Opinion


  • Reading time – 2:29  .  .  .

You know what George Santayana  said:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

confirmed by “Metaphors Be With You”, by Dr. Mardy Grothe, page 301

The world has had innumerable returns to authoritarianism, as though we believe that a strongman leader can and will fix our ills, but history teaches us that more often than not those leaders deliver far worse suffering.

Now, with our ignorance of how to deal with globalization and the internet and with authoritarian-led nations seeking to do us harm, a huge minority of our fellow citizens want a tough guy leader for our country. It’s possible many of our 320 million people have forgotten the past – you know, like when our Founding Fathers led a rebellion against an authoritarian despot, King George III.

I know little about Walter Lippmann, his writings and his politics, but I came upon this quote recently:

“Men who have lost their grip upon the relevant facts of their environment are the inevitable victims of agitation and propaganda. The quack, the charlatan, the jingo  .  . .  can flourish only where the audience is deprived of independent access to information.”

from “Liberty and the News“, 1920, by Walter Lippmann

That was penned a generation after Santayana and it suggests something insidious, something far more dangerous than the forgetfulness to which Santayana speaks. It suggests leadership that intentionally manipulates what we see, hear and are able to learn. It’s fed by the lack of a free and independent press. It’s fed by the demeaning and slandering of the people and institutions that report on leaders and hold them accountable.

Forming the basis of the Almond–Lippmann consensus about public opinion are three assumptions:

Public opinion is volatile, shifting erratically in response to the most recent developments. Mass beliefs early in the 20th century were “too pacifist in peace and too bellicose in war, too neutralist or appeasing in negotiations or too intransigent”

Public opinion is incoherent, lacking an organized or a consistent structure to such an extent that the views of US citizens could best be described as “nonattitudes”

Public opinion is irrelevant to the policy making process. Political leaders ignore public opinion because most Americans can neither “understand nor influence the very events upon which their lives and happiness are known to depend.”

Lippmann later recanted these views, as he saw that the public was far more clear-headed about the Vietnam war than were politicians.

Nevertheless, re-read those three points and imagine what political manipulation of the news can do to public opinion. Think about what undermining our free press can do to enable leaders to pervert democracy. Then think about why so often Americans are ignored in public policy making on issues like gun safety, climate warming, healthcare and so many others where the overwhelming majority of the public doesn’t get what it wants.

Rosa Parks: Nevertheless, she persisted.

Are you okay with that?

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

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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.

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