Supreme Court

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!

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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?

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish that goal requires reaching many 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 2018 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.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


Copyright 2018 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.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


Copyright 2018 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.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


Copyright 2018 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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


Copyright 2018 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

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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.

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Ed. note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many 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 2018 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.

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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 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Address to Congress, January 3, 2018


Reading time – 4:52; Viewing time – 7:07  .  .  .

Mr. President, colleagues, fellow citizens, I rise today to speak to the obvious. That I do so is grounded in the Confucian admonition, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” Once so named, the resultant clarity may spawn wisdom.

If we take as most fundamental and do so in unanimous agreement, that we are here to act on behalf of and for the benefit of the American people, and if we use that understanding as the standard by which our actions are to be valued and judged, then it is possible – even likely – that we are falling far short of the mark and that we do so with frightening regularity. Such a condition implores us to identify and name the causes and then deal with them so that we do what we were sent here to do. That it is important that we do so can be substantiated by our approval ratings from the American people, which have languished at a disreputable level below 20% for most of the past two decades. It’s possible we’ve been missing something important.

In a recent report from the Congressional Management Foundation, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving the working of Congress, they wrote that, “.  .  .  we  in Congress need to be much better able to absorb, organize and use knowledge to make laws and policy.” In other words, while living in this age of the avalanche of information, we are woefully deficient in knowledge and poorly skilled at using what little knowledge we have.

Colleagues, I’m confident you’ve experienced this deficit repeatedly and know from frustrating experience that your votes are all too often supported by ignorance and confusion. That isn’t particularly important when we are naming a new post office or agreeing unanimously that the hybridization of watermelons to be seedless has added mightily to the quality of life for all Americans. Yet there are times when we are dealing with issues of great substance and which will have enormous impact on our country and on our countrymen. In such times, ignorance and confusion have no place and serve only to ensure the least beneficial outcomes.

The impact of our ignorance is exacerbated by our own actions designed to protect ourselves, our position, our power and our wealth. We have enacted rules that ensure that predatory sexual behavior by one of our members can be hushed; that allow manipulation of Congressional districts to the benefit of incumbents, rather than that of constituents; that effectively permit one-party rule by declaring the reconciliation of a bill; and that allow leaders to prevent the filling of a Supreme Court vacancy for over a year in order to tilt the court.

Most recently we passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which may have been attractively named, but which was created and enacted in a most undemocratic fashion. I speak now primarily of the process, not to the substance of the bill; that has been examined in numerous exposés and found to fall somewhat short of the suggestion of the label affixed to it. Nevertheless, it is useful to unmask a few examples in order to find our way to a larger view.

Contrary to the claims boasted to our citizens, this bill is not the biggest tax reduction in U.S. history, nor is its design likely to benefit primarily our poor and working class Americans. Indeed, the over $1 trillion debt it will create will be will be summarily dumped upon the backs of our poor and working class, even as it enormously benefits our ultra-wealthy, all protestations in conflict with this notwithstanding. This bill is fundamentally regressive and unlikely to generate higher wages or more jobs for Americans, at least not in numbers remotely resembling those claimed by proponents. Furthermore, like much legislation, it contains provisions that have nothing whatsoever to do with tax reform, some of which greatly benefit many of our own members, but which impact Americans substantively and most often negatively. All of this is listed solely for the purpose of making obvious the question of how we in this deliberative body could have done this.

One answer to that important question lies in our process. This legislation was crafted in secret and by one political party only – everyone but Republican ideologues were excluded. There were no Democratic voices heard at all and few moderate Republican voices. There were no tax or economic or financial experts called upon to provide their wisdom and their calculations of the far reaching effects of this massive change. For the estimate of the impact of this legislation we were left to rely solely upon people largely ignorant of the complexities. So much for our having the necessary knowledge of the impact of what we were doing.

Perhaps as crippling as anything, there were no deliberations on the floor of either house of Congress. There were no open session hearings. There was only the cramming of a poorly considered law through the chinks in our system, this at 1:50AM on a Saturday when nobody was watching.

The entire process for creating this hugely consequential Act spanned only six weeks, the reason for which was the entirely valueless goals of meeting a timetable which was based on nothing more than a Presidential whim, along with gaining the opportunity to crow of having a “win” before the end of the year. The artificial deadline made careful deliberation impossible and that undermined and at last devastated any hope of focusing on benefit for the American people.

To summarize, our process guaranteed that we would be deficient in the knowledge required to create the vehicle most likely to engineer what is best for our people. Further, our rules and our process ensured that we in this august and hallowed hall, with the echoes of giants still reverberating in this chamber, succumbed to enhancing our own security, power and wealth, all to the detriment of our fellow citizens.

With the Confucian admonition in mind, the obvious has been stated and things have been appended with their proper names. It now falls to us to find the wisdom. The voices of our Founders ring through the centuries directly to us, with an unambiguous call that we find that wisdom and act in accord with it. Our people deserve no less and it is our duty to do far more.

Mr. President, I yield the remainder of my time.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin


Reading time – 3:16; Viewing time – 4:51  .  .  .

Maureen Dowd gave her Sunday column to her conservative brother Kevin on November 26 and we learned that he isn’t tired of winning. I’m sure that’s true, as Trump hasn’t won anything, but Kevin Dowd’s remarks deserve comment, so this is a letter to him.

You begin, Kevin, by telling us, “Every time I hear Neil Gorsuch’s name, I smile.” Hold that grin, Kevin, because you would never so much as know Gorsuch’s name were it not for Mitch McConnell’s bedrock dishonesty. We keep hearing that elections have consequences, and so they do. Barack Obama was elected President twice, which means that he had dibbies on who to send to the Supreme Court. Does your smile fade just a bit because you know that Merrick Garland, however you may dislike his views, rightly should be there? Is getting your way more important than following the rules?

You admire Trump for his resilience against “an unrelenting and unfair press” – really? The press is supposed to be unrelenting – you remember: the Fourth Estate holding politicians’ feet to the fire – and it has been unrelenting with every President you can remember, so get over that. And tell me about the unfair reporting from the mainstream press. Not the wacko stuff from the publications telling us about the woman with three breasts and the guy who was abducted by aliens who probed his navel. You’ll easily find reports that condemn Trump for his malfeasance or a stupid tweet or his more than five lies per day, but none of that is unfair. C’mon, name just one unfair report.

Until this week Kim’s rockets could only hit the west coast, so you wrote, “we’re probably alright until he can hit a red state.” Did you actually write that? Is that some kind of comfort for people in red states, willing to sacrifice the people of Washington, Oregon and California – any blue state – as long as it doesn’t nuke the red-staters?

You claimed that Trump is undoing Obama’s executive orders, and so he is. The problem is that he’s doing it just to spite Obama and there is no strategy or even any logic that goes deeper than that. He’s getting his federal judge nominations through because McConnell blocked more of Obama’s nominations than any Senate leader in history.

Thank you for your admission that, “The N.F.L. players were disrespecting the American Flag  .  .  .” because you reveal your bias for refusing to see what is right in front of you.

Thank you, too, for pointing out that while we haven’t seen a direct connection between Trump and Russia, Mueller’s investigation has found collusion with Hillary and the D.N.C. on the dossier. You also snarkily claim that she has several donors on Mueller’s staff, “ready to offer legal advice.” The public evidence continues to mount of nefarious Trump connections with Russia and your comment is about how crooked Hillary is? Classic switch and attack, but your comments have nothing to do with Trump’s likely illegal and treasonous activity. Nice job, too, of urging the prosecution of Loretta Lynch and James Comey. Got nuthin’ to do with crooked Donald, but it’s a fine distraction from what’s important.

The real value of your essay, Kevin, is the way you have displayed the Trump supporter mindset – the deflections from core issues, the conscious enthusiasm to ignore outrageous wrongs, the blissful attitude that if it doesn’t hurt you directly it’s okay and your impenetrable blinders for harm to others.

But here’s the thing, Kevin: there are others out here beyond your skin who are affected by his behavior and do have a problem with things like encouraging hatred, cancelling DACA, multiple vacuums where strategies should be, taunting a murderous nuclear dictator, trying to trash the only thing standing between us and a nuclear Iran, pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord as though we aren’t on our way to frying the planet, his trying to refuse healthcare to tens of millions of Americans, his letting the people of Puerto Rico suffer because Trump’s pals on Wall Street want money and his trying to pass a tax bill that primarily enriches wealthy people and does so on the backs of poor and working class Americans and leaves us with a $1.5 TRILLION debt.

Ah, Kevin, it must be nice and comfy to ignore the harm this President is doing and just bask in the glow of the raised middle finger that is Trump nation.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

(Mostly) Quick Hits – They’re Linked, I Promise


Reading time – 6:49; Viewing time – 9:59  .  .  .

First, a heads-up for the impatient: The lede is buried at the end of this post.

A Really Tough Time for Republicans

Judge Roy Moore was removed from the bench twice for flaunting our laws in favor of his absolutist religious beliefs. Yes, he was an Alabama Supreme Court judge who disrespected the rule of law – that’s why he was removed from the bench – did I mention “twice”? Apparently, in Alabama that’s not a disqualifier for becoming a United States Senator. As you know, though, the story gets far worse.

Several women have gone public, accusing Moore of sexually violating them and  most were minors when the accused sexual predator allegedly violated them. We’re talking pedophilia. Here are some peculiars about this:

  1. There are only allegations of Moore’s wrongdoing – nine as of this writing – there have been no legal proceedings. If we still believe in innocent until proven guilty (and that’s questionable, given the Trump hysteria of “lock her up”) why are so many calling for Moore’s political lynching?
  2. We all know he’s a slime ball, with a history of his absolutist views being the only ones he deems of value, and his taking a million dollars from his charity for his personal use. He’s hurt both the Constitution and a lot of people and has that self-righteous stink of a hypocrite. That makes it easy to leap to a public opinion conviction of this guy.
  3. Donald Trump has slithered his tweets about how awful are the two wrongdoings of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).  Oddly, even with the multiple accusations of Moore’s pedophilia, Trump hasn’t said a thing about him. That’s a mistake. I believe that the best thing that can happen is for Trump to weigh in on Moore’s alleged sexual predatory behavior. After all, other than Harvey Weinstein, Trump is the guy with the most experience in this field. Okay, that was snark.
  4. Why aren’t all Republicans leaping at the opportunity to fry Roy Moore? This is a political no-brainer.
  5. This is a really tough time to be a Republican with a spine, with a moral compass, with a drive to do what’s right for others and for our country. If such folks stand up for what’s right, the extremists will fire them from from their jobs in Congress and the state houses. That’s because about half of us – most of the reasonable, centrist Americans – don’t bother to vote, leaving to the extremists the decisions about who goes to Congress and our state houses. The solution to this is obvious. So, help a good-guy Republican by showing up and voting for the reasonable folks in every election.

Education

George W. Bush created the No Child Left Behind plan, which forced teachers to instruct students how to take standardized tests, rather than teaching them what they need in order to succeed in life. The name of that plan is something we all support and encourage, so the spinmeisters did their job. The only problem is that No Child Left Behind left millions of children behind.

Speaking of our children being successful, it seems we don’t actually want that to happen. We continue to provide the majority of funding for our schools through property taxes, which is a great plan if the properties are in a wealthy area. It doesn’t work quite as well if the area is poor, because that results in low tax revenue for schools and inadequate resources for turning out well educated kids. That’s how we systematically condemn poor kids to poverty and our country to less than our best possible future.

Leadership

Being clear about what’s going on and about what needs to be done is hard work. Someone needs to stand up and declare, “THAT WAY!” and it isn’t at all obvious who’s up to the challenge. The call has to be inspirational and it must be clean and crisp and memorable so that we maintain focus and continue putting one foot in front of the other and in the right direction. But that call seems as yet uncrafted. In the face of challenges all around us, which way should we go? And who will you follow?

Monopoly (not the board game)

The Justice Department case against Microsoft 17 years ago for anti-competitive practices is the most recent enforcement of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, legislation designed to prevent monopoly. The  purpose of that act was to keep excessive economic power from being concentrated in too few hands, because otherwise society – that’s the rest of us – would be harmed. Ronald Reagan essentially terminated the Sherman Anti-trust Act through non-enforcement and not much has been done to prevent anti-competitiveness since then, even as large corporations buy competitors and consolidate power for themselves and largely at the expense of you and me. Think: airlines; investment companies; accounting firms; pharmaceutical companies; and banks.

Taxes

You already know that the basic fact of the proposed Republican tax plan is primarily a cash giveaway to the rich. That’s accomplished by taking benefits from poor and working class Americans. The Republicans are claiming that this corporate and rich people’s mattress-stuffer bill will deliver the wondrous magic of driving economic growth, new and better jobs for Americans and rising income for all. Plus, everybody gets their own pony in the back yard. But what if all the goodies (other than the cash gift to the wealthy) are really just a phantom that was dreamed up years ago in order to sell trickle-down?

Bruce Bartlett was a key guy in creating the trickle-down myth in the 1980s, so he knows something about this. Read his piece in the Washington Post, where he ‘fesses up to having been a true believer in trickle-down and now unmasks the fraud that it is. He pulls back the curtain about the claim that reducing taxes primarily on the wealthy will result in rising income for working Americans. Be sure to pass along his piece to your fiscally conservative brother-in-law and be sure to remind him of the $1.5 trillion debt the Republicans’ plan will create. That should make for a spirited Thanksgiving discussion.

Banking

The Glass-Steagall Act was passed following the Great Depression as a preventative against some reckless banking practices that helped lay waste to our economy and devastate millions of Americans. In 1999 that law was repealed, allowing investment banks, commercial banks and insurance companies to merge and invent heretofore unimaginable products that put the entire world on the precipice of economic disaster.  There have been many calls for the big banks to be broken up since then, precisely because they enjoy de facto monopoly of our financial world and can pose an existential threat to our country. Those break ups haven’t happened and the banking instruments that put our economy in peril in 2008 are vastly larger today. What do you suppose might happen?

Freedom

It’s time to pay attention to what’s going on and make sense of it all. Here’s a sampling of what some very wise people had to say about that.

Our government . . . teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. Justice Louis Brandeis

He Screwibus Union

The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion. Edmund Burke

The people of every country are the only safe guardians of their own rights, and are the only instruments which can be used for their destruction. And certainly they would never consent to be so used were they not deceived. Thomas Jefferson

If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.  W. Somerset Maugham

We need clear, rational thinking and action in order to protect what we hold dear. Who would have thought that doing so would require courage on the part of those in Congress?

What we’ve seen so far are extensive connections to Russia and fatuous lies told about those connections by nearly everyone high in the Trump administration. What has been confirmed by 17 intelligence agencies of the U.S. is that Russia hacked of our election and tried to influence the votes of millions of Americans. Instead of believing our own experts, Trump believes Putin when all he offers is, “nuh-uh.” Trump maintains a submissive, lapdog posture toward Putin and his manipulation of and access to information makes it look like there’s been a bloodless coup, a Russian theft of America.

You are incrementally being put at greater risk by powerful people concerned solely with their own wealth and power and apparently without the slightest concern for our country. I assure you that staying quiet about this, doing an ostrich, will allow more harm to be done to you and to America. Robert Mueller is doing his job, but that may not be enough. Perhaps it’s time for you to stand up and speak up.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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