Supreme Court

Where Political Influence Comes From – and a Destructive Snit


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justice John Paul Stevens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quote of the Week

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

Opinion Piece of the Week

The Frauding of America’s Farmers, Paul Krugman


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

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

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

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

————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

NOTES:

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

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

Porky Pig


Reading time – 57 seconds  .  .  .

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

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

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

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

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

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


————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 


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

Apathy and the Big Picture


Ed. Note:

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

_________________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I mention that it gets worse? It does.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                         ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 


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

There’s Only One Message


Reading time – 2:49; Viewing time – 4:01 .  .  .

– with a special message from Carl Reiner

VOTE!

Everything else is secondary. Read Tom Friedman’s piece – he explains it better than I can.

Just a few more comments.

Trump showed up on that enormously painful day after having been asked to stay away by the Mayor of Pittsburgh, the rabbi of the synagogue where 11 people were killed and 6 were injured and 70,000 residents of Pittsburgh (over 23% of the city’s population). He was specifically dis-invited by the grieving families, but he showed up anyway. Really, though, why would he accede to the wishes of those grieving people, when he has a photo-op moment? Everything is always about Trump, regardless of the consequences to others.

Gail Collins wrote of Trump that, “His rhetorical high point probably came when he went to the synagogue where 11 people were murdered and didn’t say anything.” Translation: Every time Trump opens his mouth something bad comes out.

Last week Trump released a 45-second ad that is blatantly racist and lacks even the slightest hint at subtlety. It is bald faced fear mongering. Except for the assertion that Luis Bracamontes is an illegal immigrant convicted of killing two cops, every other statement in the ad is false. What is noteworthy is Trump’s having yet again shown us that there is no bottom to his low.

Trump and the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee lied and cheated their way to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. When Trump was asked about his lying throughout the process, he told a reporter, “We won” – that’s all that mattered.

Now you know every thing you need to know about Trump. Everything is solely about Trump winning. Protecting our country and preserving our democracy mean nothing to him. Getting more power and wealth for Trump is all that matters. Truth, reality, propriety, morality, honesty, rules, impact on others – none of it matters because everything is always about Trump getting more of what he wants. That’s his reason for going to Pittsburgh when he was specifically asked not to come. That’s how we get a blatantly dishonest, 45-second fear mongering, anti-immigrant ad 5 days before the mid-term election. That’s how Brett Kavanaugh, accused by multiple women of sexual assault, makes it onto the Supreme Court. Clearly, for Trump the end justifies the means. And the means are the manipulation tools he uses without regard for the suffering he causes others and the damage he does to our democracy.

The destruction of democratic America and the establishment of Trump as autocrat is what he is working to create every day. And that is the America our spineless Republican Congress is allowing to come about through its cowardice and refusal to check Trump.

And that is why there is only one message:

VOTE!

Here’s Carl Reiner’s message for you:

I’m not customarily or historically a partisan. I care about issues and principles. If you must, sneer at me as unrealistic and disparagingly call me a Boy Scout. No problem here. But this election comes so plainly in a desperate moment for our country that most issues and policies are at best secondary. The only issue on which to focus is to save our democracy, and you can’t do that with sniveling, cowardly Republicans controlling Congress.

Vote for Democrats who will stop Trump’s destruction of our democracy.

Vote for Democrats who will begin to restore the underpinnings of our democracy that Trump has compromised.

VOTE!

———————–

Here’s another message from a lifelong Republican. Have you noticed how many have the same message for you? Have you noticed how many lifelong Republicans have left that party because the party left them and no longer remotely promotes their values?

————————————

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 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.

As Smart as Squirrels


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

Reading time 5:39; Viewing time – 7:05  .  .  .

Ed note: There never seems to be a break in the outrageous, the illegal, the assaults on democracy and the hurtful things in the news – like the Kavanaugh horror show, murder in Turkey, 6.5 Presidential lies per day, the kidnapping of children and all the rest. That makes it difficult to find space for something forward thinking, so we’ll just have to make the space.
The main body of this post was published 6 years ago and the message still fits. So, here’s As Smart As Squirrels, lightly edited for today.

Strategy is what we do. Tactics are how we do those things, so the tactics serve the strategies. Strategy serves something else: The Why – why we are doing what we are doing. It’s our vision for tomorrow and all the tomorrows after that. It’s our True North and nobody in politics is talking about that. Most of what we hear is little more than reaction, accusations, false facts, and techniques that politicians use to contort themselves into what they think will manipulate voters to vote for them and will continue the overwhelming crush of the big money carpet bombing of our democracy.

If we are to survive as a democracy, if the American Dream is to endure, indeed, if America is to continue to be America, we will have to be as smart as squirrels.

Squirrels aren’t the most intelligent animals on the planet; they’re just fuzzy rats with cute tails and tiny little brains, but they’re smart enough to know that comfortable summer and autumn days will give way to eye-crossing cold winter days and food will become scarce. That’s why they gather those acorns and stuff them away during the warm months. They know tomorrow is coming and they prepare for it. That’s a useful model for us – prepare for tomorrow – and the challenge that faces us is to be as smart as squirrels and prepare for all the tomorrows. Here’s an example.

It’s been years since we passed peak oil, the point at which half of the Earth’s oil reserves had been consumed.  It took us a little over a hundred years to do that. With the explosion of world population and all those additional people wanting to consume energy at the pace we do, it will take just a few short decades to burn through the rest of the oil. Worse, because it took 60 million years to produce the oil we’ve been burning and, since we really can’t wait another 60 million years for the supply to improve, offshore drilling and punching holes in the ground in the still pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge simply aren’t the answers to our energy needs. Worse yet is the global warming that all that fossil fuel burning creates and which is going to impact everyone on Earth before long and in severely negative ways.

We have to be smarter than that about all of our challenges and we have to think longer term. That will require clarity, direction and innovation. It will also require us to abandon our willful myopia. Absent that, we will continue to defeat ourselves, so the question that needs our focus is this: What is our long-term vision for America – our Why?

That question is intended to focus our thinking perhaps seven generations into the future so that we make the best decisions today, so that we take the best actions that move us in the right direction for the longer term, rather than just being reactive to the most recent flamboyant outrage or short term gain for the few.

Sadly, I don’t hear anyone talking about that kind of thing for America. The R’s talk about limited government and low taxes, but those are strategies, not a vision, and they offer nothing to indicate the America those strategies would create. Besides, the Rs don’t even practice those strategies. I hear the D’s talk about caring, fairness and lots of freebie stuff, but those, too, are strategies, not a vision, and it isn’t clear what they would create.

In this sound-bite-limited, tiny little attention span world we seem to have lost the ability to hold more complex ideas in mind. So, while the preamble to the Constitution is probably where we should focus our attention for a vision for America, I don’t know if that will work, since it’s a bit long to put on a bumper sticker.

Here’s a modest stab at a vision: A republic of security, liberty and prosperity for all Americans. We’ll never run out of work to accomplish that, so it satisfies the seven generation requirement of a vision. We can easily fit most of our core needs and strategies under that umbrella, like national security, fiscal policy, human rights, the general welfare and even that most hated of words, regulations. It can serve as a benchmark for decisions we must make and it might even help to eliminate some of the political fact-fabricating, pandering and other stupid stuff that overwhelms and paralyzes our politics. Offered well, it can even provide a benchmark for making wise Supreme Court picks.

I love to pick on Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). He fantasizes about a lot of crazy stuff, saying things like, “They’re gonna pull the plug on Granny.” In response to Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), who offered new allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Grassley said the allegations had “all the makings of a tabloid headline” and deserved “unqualified condemnation.” He said all of this stuff entirely without any supporting facts – just wild accusations. Imagine further one of his constituents asking him, “Senator, how does your saying such blatantly false things serve to create a republic of security, liberty and prosperity for all Americans?”

See what I mean about having a benchmark? We can test our notions and our strategies against our vision in order to be confident we’re moving in the right direction.

Surely, someone wiser than me can craft a far better long-term vision statement for America. What we need is something that isn’t in the weeds, is far sighted, doesn’t pander to wealthy interests and power grabbers and instead is focused on our entire society, our culture, our hopes, our dreams and our aspirations. When we do that, we call on what is best in America. When we fail to do that we make ourselves small and fall disappointingly short of our wonderful possibilities.

Is America as smart as I am?

So, give it a try in the Comments section below. What’s your vision for America? What should this country look like seven generations from now? What do you want your descendants in the year 2258 to be thanking you for?

We need to start moving in that direction right now. Otherwise, we’ll make ourselves dumber than squirrels.

————————————

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.

Jax Politix – Good News Edition v1.0


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

Reading time – 3:52; Viewing time – 5:25  .  .  .

The good news associated with the Kavanaugh hearings is that the American Bar Association called for the nomination process to be put on hold and for the FBI to investigate the serious new and credible allegations that have been made against Kavanaugh. In addition, the Jesuits called for Kavanaugh’s nomination to be withdrawn altogether. That’s quite in contrast to the behavior of the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who continue to refuse to release to Committee Democrats 100,000 documents pertaining to Kavanaugh’s record.

In this era of the loudest, shrillest, most strident voices, when people who have a piece of the power of the machine are scratching and clawing to hold on to it and who will sell their souls to keep it, there still are people of good sense and good will. We’re all the better for that.


Here’s the really good news to come from this mostly sordid Kavanaugh affair.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) was cornered in an elevator by two women survivors of sexual assault. They confronted him with the intolerable of his knowing of the accusations against Kavanaugh and yet being likely to vote him onto the Supreme Court anyway and what that would say to these women and the many women like them. One of the women, Maria Gallagher, courageously said,

“Don’t look away from me. Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me. That you will let people like that go into the highest court of the land and tell everyone what they can do with their bodies.”

Here’s the full video.

It was a watershed moment of demanding the respect that was due her, respect that had heretofore been denied and is commonly denied to women who have been abused in this way. Apparently, it made a difference.

Flake went back to the committee room and agreed to vote Kavanaugh out of committee with the proviso that there be a delay in a floor vote and an FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh.

Jeff Flake just stood up to the President of the United States, Senate leadership and much of Senate membership in order to do the right thing. Even one man with a spine is a really good thing.


Last year Congress gave away $1.9 trillion in tax breaks and 83% of it went  to wealthy people and corporations. Apparently, that wasn’t enough for them, so as the nation was focused on the Kavanaugh political drama, the House voted to up the tax gift to $3 trillion. Gotta wonder where that money will come from. You don’t suppose it might be taken from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, do you?

That sneaky stuff by Paul Ryan’s House may not sound like good news, but like the kid finding piles of horse manure in his backyard and declaring happily, “There’s gotta be a pony here somewhere!” there is some good news in Sneaky Paul’s behavior.

In their haste to suck all sense from government, House Republicans used the Kavanaugh cover of darkness to ram this bill through. In doing so, they’ve shown us conclusively exactly who and what they are. That’s good news.


In the 1970s and -80s the reach and impact of HIV-AIDS was terrifying. There were no tools to combat it. Now this, from The Boston Globe’s STAT publication,

Just a decade ago, 45,000 people in the U.S. were contracting HIV each year. Now, the fight against HIV could be undergoing a sea change. Buoyed by the astonishing impact of effective HIV medications, health officials and HIV experts are beginning to talk about a future in which transmission could be halted in the U.S. “We have the science to solve the AIDS epidemic,” CDC Director Robert Redfield tells STAT.

Now, that’s good news, indeed.


Bill Cosby squandered a lifetime of entertainment success by preying upon women by drugging them and then sexually violating them. He was found guilty of sexual assault and last week was sentenced to 3 – 10 years in prison plus a $25,000 fine, as well as having to pay prosecution costs of about $43,000. In addition, his sentence includes mandatory monthly counseling and Cosby will have to register as a sex offender if and when he’s released.

The good news is that at last victims were heard instead of shamed and blamed and that justice, however delayed, was served.


Finally, 141 children are still in U.S. custody after having been ripped from their parents’ arms and kidnapped by the U.S. government. Reunification is difficult because after kidnapping the children the geniuses in Washington had their parents deported and did so without creating documentation that would tie children to their parents.

That sounds bad, but here’s the good news: A 6-year old girl named Marianita was reunited with her parents in Honduras last week. That’s why there are 141 assylum-seeking children still in kid prisons in the U.S instead of 142.

————————————

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.

Bad For America


Reading time – 1:53 seconds; Viewing time – 2:47  .  .  .

In yet another 5-4 decision the Supreme Court has allowed Trump’s Muslim travel ban to stand. And by the same margin the Court allowed Ohio to continue to purge its voter roles of poor people and people of color. 5-4 is the same margin by which the Court allowed Texas and North Carolina Republican gerrymandering to suppress minority voting to stand.

Click for the Snopes fact check

It’s highly unlikely that any of those decisions would have gone this way had Merrick Garland been on the bench instead of Neil Gorsuch. That is exactly why Mitch McConnell sees his lie-filled theft of choice from President Obama to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Court as his proudest moment.

This is yet another example of the dishonesty that undermines our values and drives Americans to distrust government. It’s another lie that is easily exposed, like what @edelweisspirat showed us last week in what is perhaps the greatest tweet ever to expose Trumpian dishonesty:

Well, yeah, Melania, we really do care. Why don’t you?

He’s captured in just a few words the insanity of what Trump and the far right use in place of integrity and good sense. Just get that the lies and dishonesty have consequences, like those 5-4 decisions that incrementally steal freedoms from Americans.

Things are about to get worse now that Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced that he will retire from the Supreme Court on July 31. McConnell has announced that he plans to jam through Trump’s nominee quickly, this in the face of his logic in 2016 that there should be no new Supreme Court pick in an election year in order to, “let the people speak.” Somehow, his disingenuousness that prevented Obama’s pick doesn’t apply now that there’s a Republican in the White House.

There is no Senate filibuster to keep another Trump nominated far righty from the bench, and that will almost certainly lead to accelerated loss of our rights. And that pick will be a stepping stone to authoritarianism: there will be no way to stop Donald Trump’s wrongdoing and our accelerated spiraling into fascism.

What a proud day this must be for those who favor bullying, dishonesty and disorder over democracy; who favor party loyalty and their own position over patriotism. It appears that the righty extremist ends justify their means. Good for them. Bad for America.

Click me

————————————

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.

Equivalents, Civility and Fire


Reading time – 4:12; Viewing time – 5:47  .  .  .

There are a bunch of links in this post. None is long. All are worthwhile (that’s why they are included). Check ’em out. JA

———————————

It’s been a continuous flow in the open sewer that is the law breaking, ethics spurning, morals smashing of Donald Trump and his mob of democracy destroyers. So, when I came across the picture at the top-right corner of this post, I knew it had to be included here. But am I making a mistake? Read on.

The assaults on the institutions we revere, the attacks on whole races of people, the calls for violence against protesters, the dissing of our allies, the refusal to stop a foreign power from attacking us and now the kidnapping and abuse of thousands of children have left millions of us enraged. And that’s a problem.

Human Being 101: When attacked, we either fight or flee. It’s the kind of fight that is going on now that’s the problem and it’s my contention that we may be shooting ourselves in the foot by the way we’re fighting.

For a long time people on the left have felt attacked, and rightly so, as far right thugs have spewed hatred and lies. My notion is that the modern day onslaught of this started with President Reagan’s run for the presidency in 1980, when he was famously bashing all welfare and he called out a “welfare queen” on the south side of Chicago. When challenged repeatedly, he finally had to concede that neither he nor anyone in his campaign could name a single example of a welfare queen in Chicago or anywhere else. Nevertheless, his lie demonized powerfully and nobody missed that dog whistle to racism that made lefties furious.

Since then there have been the lies and vitriol spewed by Fox News, Newt Gingrich, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Alex Jones and the Birther-In-Chief and likely you’re continuously angry about all of that. That’s the stuff that fires us into a fit of Human Being 101 attack mode, like Maxine Waters making herself the national cheerleader for public shaming.

Joe Wilson official congressional photo.jpg

“You lie!”

“Not true.”

Oddly enough, that’s the same kind of anger response that drove Tea Partier Joe Wilson to inappropriately yell, “You lie!” during President Obama’s address to Congress in September, 2009. It’s what drives all of Trump’s 27- 38%. The direction is polar opposite to that of lefties, but the shaming anger response is identical.

I abhor false equivalencies and other frauds, but this one, in principle, is no sham. Public shaming, humiliating, demonizing and hate spewing are wrong. It doesn’t matter who’s doing it. I get that we feel justified and powerful when we do that, but that’s just the hormones of rage in our veins. What’s really happening is that we are making things worse. That’s “worse” as in: counter-productive. We give righty hate mongers the justification to hate even more and we generate new recruits to their side as well.

Read Jonathan Martin’s article about this and be sure to see Michelle Goldberg’s brilliant piece to understand this better. Want to see how counter-productive this public shaming of righties really is for Democrats? Read this piece from the Wall Street Journal editorial board, because they’re spot-on. These essays make clear what being a slave to adrenaline and testosterone will do to us.

Just in case you don’t find the gun-to-foot picture above persuasive of the counter-productive nature of public shaming, read Frank Bruni’s piece, Public Shaming Feels Good. That’s No Reason to Do It.

if you want to honor your frustration and passion, read John Pavlovitz’s essay. Note that his anger is right there for all to see and feel; humiliation and shaming are not. Translation: Bring your anger, your frustration and your passion. But leave your hate and the need to hurt others far behind you. Maybe we can start to make things better.

So, maybe – no, for sure – I shouldn’t have included the White House picture above because all it does is to make things worse.

Public shaming is not only wrong; it’s politically stupid. Wise up, Democrats.

On the other hand  .  .  .

I’m every bit as incensed as you and not only won’t I allow bullies to beat me up and steal from me, I won’t allow them to do that to anyone else, either. That includes mothers with nursing infants in McAllen, Texas and poor people in North Carolina who want to vote. I still believe public shaming will likely be counter-productive, but maybe the real issue isn’t civility.

It’s all too easy to go too far on the high ground of civility, like this 1934 admonition to Jews to be civil with the Nazis. Get this: thugs only understand one thing: a harder punch in the nose.

So, let’s not be stupid about this. It’s not about civility. It’s about stopping the thugs who are destroying our country. It’s about setting things right again. It’s time to stop bringing spitballs to a gun fight. It’s time to fight back with equivalents plus one so that we hit back harder.

To Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and the rest of our tired septuagenarian leadership: Your sell-by date is long past. Give it up to someone with fire in their belly.

————————————

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 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.

Evolution


Herbert Spencer

Charles Darwin

Reading time – 1:49  .  .  .

After reading Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species, Herbert Spencer coined the term “survival of the fittest” to mark the core meaning of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. That perfectly captures the clarity that  those who were afraid of poisonous reptiles avoided them and survived to produce offspring; those who didn’t have that innate fear died from snake bites and didn’t make babies. It works the same way for fear of heights, spiders and the sound of something going bump in the night. And nothing is more powerful to ensure the survival of the species than the universal, instantaneous protection response for our young ones. Think: mama brown bear and her cubs. Or any father or mother and their babies. People just like you.

And that is why we’re horrified by the catastrophe of human suffering of mothers, fathers and children that President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have engineered on our southern border. This manufactured crisis is designed to pressure Democrats to support Trump’s idiotic wall and his targeted discrimination against black and brown people – those from “shithole countries.” Babies ripped from their mothers’ arms are just pawns in Trump’s game. He hasn’t a moral compass or the slightest compassion for those who suffer, because all he recognizes is that which serves himself.

That is why you must demand that your senators and congressperson do what you elected them to do and what they agreed to do: check executive excess. Their job is to demand an end to this inhumane discrimination. Tell them to vote for the Keep Families Together Act. And it’s critical that they allow absolutely no concession to Trump at all. The message has to get through that Trump will not benefit from his mistreatment of innocents.

Here’s contact info for your legislators:

Senate: Go to www.senate.gov and use the lookup on the top of the page.

House: Go to www.house.gov and use the lookup on the top of the page.

or call (202) 224-3121, the main switchboard for all of Congress.

Calling is more powerful than an email or text. Tell the friendly staffer that you want your legislator to make Trump stop his inhumane treatment of people on our southern border and to refuse to negotiate with Trump about this.

Our belief in right and wrong is on the line. And, if you listen closely, you’ll hear the imperative of evolution – what made you possible – calling your name.

P.S. Even as you make your calls, be sure not to let this diabolical kidnapping of children distract you from the Russian hacking and possible Trump conspiracy and other wrongdoing.

————————————

Ed. note: I don’t want your 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.
  3. Vote!

Thanks!


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

1 2 3  Scroll to top