Congress

An Exercise in Deadly Stupid


Reading time – 1:59  .  .  .

It’s been the silence, the acquiescence of the Republicans in Congress that has been so dispiriting all along.  In large measure, that has been about their tolerating Trump’s constant stream of lies, inanities and his boundless cruelties. The acquiescence that matters, though, has been over things like Trump’s criminal behavior and his stark violations of the Constitution. Now, though, he’s done more than talk stupid, undo anything Obama had his name on and announced he’ll convene the G7 at his Doral property next year. Even some Republicans are regaining a voice.

Because of his complete lack of ability to craft carefully considered policy and his refusal to listen to anyone with subject knowledge, friends and allies are getting killed and we have proven ourselves untrustworthy in the eyes of the world. Note that “killed” isn’t a reality TV phenomenon. It is permanent, perhaps a concept Trump is unable to understand and he has his fingerprints on the lethal weapons that killed our allies.

This isn’t just the rude pushing aside of the leader of Montenegro. It wasn’t just the insults aimed at Trudeau or Macron or May or Merkel. It wasn’t the idiotic trade tariffs on our friends. It wasn’t the sucking up to Putin and dismissing of the entire U.S. intelligence community.

We supported the Kurds who fought ISIS. They’re the people who put a lid on that murderous retro society that loves to conduct public beheadings and the Kurds lost 11,000 men and women doing it. All we did was to supply the tools. Then Trump got one phone call from the president of Turkey and he sicced the dogs on the Kurds.

Trump has done all he can to undermine NATO, embolden vicious despots and especially to promote Putin’s interests. With his brilliant back stabbing of the Kurds he’s made Putin the king maker in Syria and ceded the entire MIddle-East to Putin and to Iran. And Trump has pushed Erdoğan into Putin’s influence as well. That’s Erdoğan, president of Turkey, a NATO ally.

Angele Merkel may have been right when she said that Germany may now be the indispensable nation. What ally could possibly trust the U.S.? And why would Trump go to such outrageous lengths to undermine the interests of The United States?

See what conservative columnist Ross Douthat has to say about this in “Trump Is a Weak Man in a Strongman’s World”.

 

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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Thanks!

NOTES:

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

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

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.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

NOTES:

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

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

Gun Safety Regulations


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally,

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

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

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

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

All the other nations have figured this out.

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

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

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

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

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

It isn’t our culture.

It isn’t racial differences or immigration.

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

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

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


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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

NOTES:

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

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

Moral Values


Reading time – 3:56; Viewing time – 5:43  .  .  .

The Gallup organization does polling on lots of things, one of which is how we feel about ourselves. They just produced a report that shows that we believe our moral values aren’t good and are getting worse.

That got me to thinking about what that means. What are our moral values? I don’t recall seeing them posted on any wall. We listed some values in the Declaration of Independence. Maybe those are the ones.

The Republicans have been claiming to be the party of “family values” for decades, but I don’t remember any clarification of what that means, which makes that claim nothing more than a bumper sticker like, “I’ve been to Wall Drug.”

The American divorce rate has hovered around 50% for decades, but is now decreasing, this due entirely to Millennials, so marriage commitment likely isn’t a driver of our notion that our moral values are getting worse.

Both violent crime and property crime in this country have been dropping for decades, according to Pew Research, Gallup and many others. Perhaps that says something about our notion of honesty and how sticky that is. That doesn’t seem to be the cause of our worsening self-image, either.

So, exactly which moral values do we view as bad and getting worse? And does that apply to all of us or to some of us most especially? I think it’s the latter.

I think that outside of our government, no Americans are ripping children from their mothers and then leaving them in cages or in vans. I think that outside of our government most people keep their word, they don’t stab friends in the back and they don’t cozy up to people they know are bad guys. I think that most of us have the courage to stand up for what’s right and to oppose what’s wrong.

And I believe that hasn’t changed much over the decades. We have roughly the same proportion of heroes and cowards, honest people and crooks and all the rest as in years past. What’s changed is our notion about how we are, far more so than how we’ve actually changed. And if that’s correct, then where are we getting these notions of how we’re morally slip-sliding away? I think we need to look to leadership.

Note that the tens of thousands of Brits who demonstrated weren’t protesting America; they were protesting Trump. Clearly, they see the real moral values problem.

Johnson gave us the Vietnam War. Nixon gave us Watergate. Ford gave us absence of accountability. Carter gave us a wimpy handshake. Reagan gave us supply side economics and Iran-Contra. H.W. Bush gave us “Read my lips.” Clinton gave us Monica. W. Bush gave us two unnecessary – some say illegal – wars that continue to be U.S. tar babies. Trump gave us endless lies and corruption, brainless deconstruction of what makes our country work, continuing abuse of migrant children and his wearying narcissism. And most of these presidents gave us stagnant wages for all but a fabulously wealthy few and invested them with grossly out-sized power and influence.

Yes, I know I left Obama off this list. I just can’t seem to conjure his horrible scandal, betrayal or criminal behavior. Although there was that tan suit that so infuriated Congressional Republicans.

Here’s my point. I think that the constant drumbeat of horrible leadership that stabs our intuited moral values in the back warps our thinking about ourselves.

That doesn’t relieve us of our responsibility for having elected these presidents and members of Congress who fall so terrilbly short. That’s on all of us. If our notions about our moral values are to improve, the responsibility lies with us and what we do. We can start to make things better by voting. And I don’t mean just the 60% who typically show up for presidential elections. I mean the other 40%, too. Then perhaps we’ll feel better about our moral values when we’ve ousted the greatest violator of them all, as well as his enablers.

My pal David Houle is a futurist. That means that while you’re doing whatever you do throughout the day, he’s researching what’s to come. His recent post suggests that things are and will be changing dramatically, specifically as we move beyond 20th century thinking into 21st century thinking. Have a look at his post and see what you think.

Just get that only a few years ago the Green New Deal wasn’t a remote possibility even for discussion. Recall Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth and how he and his notions were mocked. Neither was Medicare for all open for discussion, nor was immigration reform or prison reform or gun safety and so many other issues. Our changing cast of characters in government to people with 21st century thinking has already changed the discussion and change in action can’t be far behind. It’s likely we’ll feel differently about ourselves as all this unfolds. Stand by for a new Gallup report in a few years – it’s going to look very different.

Final unrelated point: Read David Brooks’ essay “The Coming GOP Apocalypse.” And before you cheer on that apocalypse, do a gut check on your belief in diversity. America needs Republicans. It’s just that they got lost in the woods of self-important chest thumping a few decades ago and can’t hear anyone else over the sound of their certainties. What we need is not their demise; we need them to come to their senses.

So, find an old school conservative friend and convince them to run for office to save our nation from today’s so-called Republicans.

Many thanks to JC for the pointer to Brooks’ essay.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 

 


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

Fake President – and Memorial Day


Reading time – 4:18; Viewing time – 6:54  .  .  .

The Fake President Part

He says “fake news” daily, but it isn’t about fake news, as the president and his drones would have you believe. It never was. Same for his attacks on our other institutions.

They want you to believe whatever they say that effectively undermines our sharing of power – our democracy – and I can prove it with just a few things that happened last week.

From the AP:

“WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Thursday granted Attorney General William Barr new powers to review and potentially release classified information related to the origins of the Russia investigation, a move aimed at accelerating Barr’s inquiry into whether U.S. officials improperly surveilled Trump’s 2016 campaign.”

At root, this isn’t about an investigation. There is no improper surveillance or corrupt FBI, because investigating is what the FBI does – it’s in its name – and it’s what they do to identify and catch bad guys.

Recall that our nation was cyber-attacked by a hostile foreign power solely to benefit the candidacy of Donald Trump. We’d have to be idiots not to look into a possible conspiracy.

Click me

So, this new power to declassify that Trump has given to Barr (and which has never before been delegated by a president) is actually about giving Barr the power to selectively release documents, to dis-empower our intelligence agencies and invalidate conspiracy investigations. It’s about trying to make Trump’s election win appear to be earned, even as we all know it’s phony. It’s about making the FBI look corrupt. Doing so is an effort to sabotage public confidence in the FBI in particular and government in general. That’s what fascist autocrats do – they demean government so that citizen loyalty gets shifted to the leader. Buy and read this book and you’ll understand.

From the New York Times:

“WASHINGTON — Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks leader, has been indicted on 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act for his role in obtaining and publishing secret military and diplomatic documents in 2010, the Justice Department announced on Thursday — a novel case that raises profound First Amendment issues.”

The First Amendment ensures several rights and freedom of the press is one of them. It is the only thing that ensures public accountability of government officials. It is the primary bulwark against totalitarianism. And our president has thrown tantrums for years about our national press, demeaning it by calling it “fake news”. Now he’s trying to cut the legs out from under our investigative reporters.

Trump’s fake news charge isn’t about the accuracy of reporting and it isn’t made solely out of pique; it is made to decrease your confidence in the press, to make you so skeptical that you’ll only listen to one person: the president. That’s what fascist autocrats do – they demean the press so that citizen loyalty gets shifted to the leader. Buy and read this book and you’ll understand.

From Twitter:

Trump has the distinction of having such a profound absence of good judgment, that he posted this video. It is a doctored video of Nancy Pelosi, clearly an attempt to make her look old, enfeebled, perhaps mentally challenged.

This video is so transparently altered that we have to wonder why the President of the United States would have anything to do with it.

His current spat with Nancy Pelosi can be reduced to its playground bully essence, “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”

The real dynamic, though, is that Trump is trying to undermine your confidence in both the Speaker of the House and the entire Congress, leaving the president as the only one for citizens to follow. That’s what fascist autocrats do.

In contrast, here’s the truth.

The FBI and its over 35,000 people are dedicated to protecting us from bad guys. They put their lives on the line for us every day. They’re the real deal.

Our mainstream press is the real deal, too, as they dig to separate truth from propaganda and lies and hold government officials accountable.

Congress surely is more complicated, but it is the branch of government that most closely represents We The People.

Trump is working every day toward the goal of becoming an autocrat, a dictator, like his bromance buddy Vladimir Putin, whom he believes blindly and more so than our entire intelligence community. He is attempting to undermine the pillars of our government and of our democracy itself, leaving only him to follow.

Click me for a larger view

Despite Donald Trump’s inane and self-important proclamations, there is no corrupt FBI or brain-addled Speaker of the House or fake news. There’s just a fake president.

The Memorial Day Part

This is Memorial Day weekend. Sadly, our president scheduled a trip to Japan. So, instead of visiting Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier on Memorial Day as representative of all of us paying our respects, he’s going to have a press conference with Prime Minister Shinzō Abe.

You and I can do better than that.

This is the day we set aside to honor our war dead, those who, in Lincoln’s words, gave their last full measure of devotion. They are among the heroes who made it possible for us to live the lives we do, so it’s fitting that we honor them.

So, display your flag – half-mast until noon, then at the top for the rest of the day. Go to the ceremony in your town and remove your cap as the bugler plays Taps. Thank the veteran sitting next to you for having had his buddy’s back. Stand and be grateful to these people. We owe them more than we will ever be able to repay.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Wag The Dog – v2.0


Reading time – 2:55; Viewing time – 4:23  .  .  .

Ed note for viewers:

Be sure to read the Late Addition Comment at the end of this post. It is material that is not included in the video.


I’ve warned of an upcoming “Wag the Dog” move by Trump (here and here) and it appears that he’s now teed that up.

The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln last month in the Mediterranean Sea off Spain. It has been rerouted to the Persian Gulf. Credit: Cati Cladera/EPA, via Shutterstock. Click the pic for the complete story

Trump and his war-drum-pounding national security advisor John Bolton, a man who never saw a place where he didn’t want to start a war, have ordered an aircraft carrier group and bombers to the Persian Gulf, “.  .  .  to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.” Bear in mind that Bolton stridently promotes regime change in Iran, a policy which didn’t work so well for us in Iran’s neighbors, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “It is absolutely the case that we’ve seen escalatory action from the Iranians, and it is equally the case that we will hold the Iranians accountable for attacks on American interests.” Further, he said, “The fact that those actions take place, if they do, by some third-party proxy, whether that’s a Shia militia group or the Houthis or Hezbollah, we will hold the Iranians — Iranian leadership — directly accountable for that.”

That sounds a lot like we’re on track for an iteration of the August 10,1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, a response to an attack on a U.S. Navy destroyer by North Vietnamese torpedo boats which never happened. The story was a complete fraud.

That phantom attack was used as an excuse to allow President Johnson to escalate the Vietnamese civil and anti-colonial war into a full blown U.S. war without requiring Congress to put on its big boy and big girl pants and declare war. That fraud-inspired U.S. involvement killed 58,000 Americans and untold hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese. The important point for now is that we’ve never turned out a president in time of war. Johnson was reelected 3 months after his fraud.

Click me

Trump is highly unlikely to win reelection in 2020 without help and we already know that he has no hesitation to do whatever serves him, regardless of the cost to others or to The Constitution. So, keep your focus on his belligerence, his lies and the excuses coming from the White House for attacking Iran.

That new war will start before November 3, 2020. And our amoral president and our spineless members of Congress, most of whom have never served in war, will once again fail to honor their oath of office. They will send someone else’s kids into harm’s way. We’ll have started another war that’s impossible to end and the Air Force base in Dover, Delaware will once again ramp up its unloading of flag draped coffins.

But that’s okay, because Trump will have wagged the dog and been reelected.

And just in case Trump’s contemptible wag the dog reelection scheme doesn’t look strong enough to him next year, don’t be surprised if he declares a state of national emergency, citing his war in Iran, and cancels the 2020 election. That will be the end of our glorious experiment in self-rule. R.I.P. American democracy.

Finally,

That Trump is an enemy of democracy is indisputable, what with his blatant and flamboyant breaking of our laws and complete disregard for democratic norms. But he’s not alone and I’m not talking now about other autocrats.

You absolutely must read Carole Cadwalladr’s post in The Guardian and watch her embedded TED talk. You’ll come to understand more deeply and clearly how the Russians bent our 2016 election, how the engineers of fraud choreographed Brexit to the detriment of all of Great Britain and how broken is liberal democracy around the world.

Click for the story

Read, then watch. Then take action, because democracy is a participation sport and, as Thom Hartmann says, “Tag! you’re it!”

Late addition  .  .  .

Trump pulled out of the JCPOA, effectively dissing our European allies in that agreement, and at the same time daring Iran to go nuclear. Now Trump’s additional sanctions on Iran will cause that country’s economy to shrink by 6% this year – that’s over last year’s 3.9% contraction –  while inflation may reach 40%. How long would any nation tolerate that?

In most circumstances, Trump does a hyperbolic, over-the-top declaration of what he will build or do and then does nothing to create policy to make anything happen. In the case of Iran, he is creating just the right policies and pushing just the right buttons to start an unnecessary war.

This is exactly what Congress is designed to prevent. Better contact your senators and representative now.

Like I said, “Tag! You’re it!”

      ————————————

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.

Your Lyin’ Eyes and Impeachment


Reading time – 3.47; Viewing time – 5:20  .  .  .

The Mueller Report is out and I haven’t had time to go through all 448 pages, although you can do that yourself by getting the PDF from the DOJ website here. Click on the 4th line beginning “Report on the Investigation” for the download. Or if you prefer you can get an indexed and searchable version here.

There is big stuff in that report, including that the lack of indictments of the president is due to the Justice Department guideline that a sitting president can’t be indicted. Also, because so many documents were destroyed by various perps.

Nevertheless, Mueller let us know that he was unable to declare that the President of the United States isn’t a criminal. Stunning! My more chilling takeaway, though, is about Attorney General William Barr.

Barr was promoted as a legal institutionalist, even after his unsolicited, 19-page job application that made it clear that he believed that, metaphorically speaking, a president really could get away with shooting someone on 5th Avenue. That view works for Trump and Barr got the attorney general post.

In each of his public appearances and writings as attorney general, Barr has gone out of his way to exonerate the president. His rhetoric vacillates between cherry-picked, out of context phrases to outright lies all in favor of President Trump. Did he think we wouldn’t notice? In listening to Barr I’m reminded of comedian Richard Pryor’s line, “Who you gonna believe: me or your lyin’ eyes?”

The scary part is that Barr sounds like the president’s defense counsel, instead of the attorney for the Constitution of the United States of America.

In his piece in New York Magazine entitled, “Congress Should Impeach William Barr,” Jonathan Chait wrote,

“The Justice Department is an awesome force that holds the power to enable the ruling party to commit crimes with impunity .  .  .”

We should have seen this coming.

From The Onion, of course. Click the pic

Barr is the former attorney general for President George H.W. Bush. Barr recommended to Bush that he pardon the convicted Iran-Contra felons. Click through the link and scroll down to the Indictments section and you’ll see that these guys did a lot of really bad things, including thwarting the explicit will of Congress. You need to appreciate how significant that is.

Doing that is an attack on Congress itself, and it encourages an imperial presidency. William Barr cemented that by recommending those pardons. And now he’s defending this power grabbing, dictator wanna-be president.

If Barr is an institutionalist, exactly what institution does he serve?

Read more about this here.

And another thing .  .  .

Now that most of the Mueller Report is released, the talk of impeachment is spiraling upward. I’ve long called for the removal of this cheating, lying, fraudulent, self-aggrandizing, democracy damaging president, but now I have significant doubt about that notion.

President Gerald Ford set a woeful precedent by granting, “.  .  .   a full, free and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in .  .  .” Nixon got a free pass for his criminal wrongdoing and wasn’t held accountable in any way.

That is the precedent that Mike Pence will inherit should he become President. That means that our criminal president will likely be pardoned for any and all crimes which he may have committed (think: conspiring with the Russians to disrupt our 2016 election, obstruction of justice; money laundering; and fraud).

Further, if Trump were to be impeached, whether convicted in the Senate or not, he and the Republicans will wail about him being a poor victim, suffering unfair discrimination by the evil Democrats and the Washington swamp. That could lead to another Republican in the White House in 2021 and a Congress controlled by the same spineless legislators who are enabling Trump right now.

The solution that makes the most sense to me is to Benghazi Trump: just keep his wrongdoing in the public eye through November 3, 2020 with ongoing Congressional hearings.

I often have difficulty rationalizing the impact of the bypassing of punishment for wrongdoing in favor of some greater good, but this one looks obvious enough even for me.

No impeachment.

————————————

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.

We’re Perfectly Positioned


Reading time – 4:05; Viewing time – 5:41  .  .  .

Her husband was killed by a street shooter. Later, one of her sons was shot and killed. Relating this to the small audience brought her to tears – again. The mother’s pain she bears will never go away.

When she was able to function again she started a support group for mothers who have lost family members to street violence. There are currently about 75 members of “Sisterhood.” There could be 750,000 members because we shoot someone’s son or daughter or husband or daddy over 100 times per day, every day.

Some of the violence is due to random drive-by shootings; some is done by warring gangs; some is done by angry young people or disgruntled workers. All of it is due to something way beyond wrong.

Another presenter spoke to the audience about his family of origin. Seven kids, Mom and an abusive step-father who hit with chairs, a vacuum cleaner, whatever was handy. The presenter grew up thinking that’s just the way things were – until the night his little sister went into the bathroom to avoid their step-father’s violence and quietly hung herself with the cord of a hair dryer. That’s what random violence can do to people. The presenter now works with at risk kids, people who grew up as he did, assuming that violence was just the way people deal with their anger. Most of it isn’t done by an electrical cord. Most is by gun.

As always, the grassroots efforts are driven by people who have lived the pain and they’re doing wonderful, critically needed work to help others, holding hands and hugging to soothe the sufferers and to counsel people away from violence before they commit it and that’s good. It’s one piece of the horrific puzzle and it isn’t enough.

The cover picture of this puzzle of over 30,000 gun killings per year shows:

The lack of proper education of our kids for a successful life

Lack of employment opportunities where they are most needed

Our refusal to enact meaningful, national gun safety legislation

Our cultural idealizing and reverence for tough, macho guys (think: Charlton Heston’s “cold, dead hands” speech)

Our slavish belief in the Second Amendment as a holy thing and meaning something other than what was intended by the Founders

A political system that rewards the biggest donors instead of We the People

Our limp-wristed way of dealing with mental health

The ease with which we are distracted by the next bright, shiny object

You can likely add to this list. The point is that there are many contributing factors to our gun violence problem and no one thing is going to cure our addiction to pointless death. Still, some useful things are obvious.

Guns are the perfect tool to kill lots of people quickly. Knives kill, but imagine the killer at Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High School last year with knives instead of guns. He could have killed some kids, but there’s no way he could have killed 17 of them with knives or an axe or any other hand weapon. Getting guns out of the hands of those who should never have one will be a major step toward solving our problem. Refusing to do that enables our truly angry, hate-filled people to carry out their horrible plans.

Three years ago the FBI arrested two men who were planning a race war, expecting to bomb Black churches and Jewish synagogues. Last week they arrested a white nationalist who proclaimed, “I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on earth,” and he was prepared to attack using his armory of assault weapons if President Trump is impeached. He planned to pump himself up with steroids and opioids so he would be ready to unleash continuing carnage. The authorities managed to stop these two nut cases.

But we’ll never run out of angry men who want to do violence and stopping all of them is unlikely to happen. The question we must answer is whether we are willing to do what is necessary to stop them before they start. If we continue to make it easy to assemble an arsenal of weapons of war, if we continue to make it easy for nearly anyone with a few bucks in their pocket to buy a handgun and some ammunition, we will continue to kill the likes of the little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, high school kids at Columbine and Douglass, movie goers in Aurora, CO, factory workers in Aurora, IL, people at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, concert attendees in Las Vegas and thousands on the streets.

By February 17 there were already 43 mass shootings in the US this year. There were 5 last weekend alone. That can feel dreadful and even horrifying but might not be motivating because most it happens at a distance. That’s just how it was for that mom until her husband and son were killed. It’s up close and real personal for her now. That’s the way it always is for victims and their loved ones.

We’re perfectly positioned to get exactly the horrific results we’re getting right now. The only way to get different, better results is to do something about it.

                        ————————————

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.

Potpourri v7.0 – Shutdown Edition


Reading time – 4:06; Viewing time – 5:34  .  .  .

It is the bright, fresh practice of the Senate of the United States of America to formally abandon all activity if the President of the United States might not like what the Senate would do. Of course, this is in stark contrast to times past when Congress was held to be a separate and equal branch of government. Now, though, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has seen the wisdom of abdicating Congressional responsibility. You can expect more acts of Senatorial disappearance as the shutdown continues or really any time it’s politically expedient.

Note that Senator McConnell is still under a Harry Potter invisibility cloak and didn’t appear to be available for comment.

Everyone knows that McConnell has stated that he won’t bring a bill to the floor of the Senate to resolve the government shutdown issue unless he knows the president will sign it. But, why is that? Try this.

A vote to open government without funding Trump’s wall is a most precarious thing for Republican senators. If they do that they will have turned their backs on Trump’s campaign promise and, correspondingly, on their constituents who voted for Trump. Senators will feel their fury in their next primary. It will be ugly and they know it.

If, on the other hand, those senators vote against reopening government, each one will immediately feel the fury of every government worker in their state, as well as the fury of the workers’ families and their friends, independents who can spell “empathy” and all Democrats in their state. That fury will be brought to every election s/he will enter for the rest of their life and they will have to resign from the Senate and become a lobbyist for Big Pharma or a defense contractor.

That’s why McConnell won’t bring a bill to reopen government to the floor for a vote if he thinks Trump will veto it. These days it’s very hard to be a Republican.


Here’s how to get the government reopened without spending billions on a useless wall designed solely for Trump’s ego. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team should offer this to Trump and announce it to the public at a press conference:

  1. Immediately reopen all of government.
  2. Immediately pay all back wages both to workers who were forced to work without pay and to workers who were furloughed.
  3. Trump will deliver a personal, hand-written note to each federal worker, written in bold Sharpie, saying, “I know I hurt you. I apologize and promise I’ll never do that again.” Okay, that isn’t going to happen. It’s just snark. I do feel better now.
  4. Funding will be provided for a bi-partisan blue ribbon committee to generate a plan to bring border security and immigration policy into the 21st century, including recommendations for permanently dealing with the DACA kids and the other 11,000,000 undocumented in the US now. The plan is to be submitted to Congress and the president within 9 months of committee inception. It is to include no recommendation tor a wall except where a wall will actually enhance border security and is to be of appropriate construction. No need for a wasteful “big, beautiful wall.”
  5. Congress is to draft a bill following the committee’s recommendations, as adjusted or amended by Congress, and vote on that bill within 6 months.

Note that Congress won’t be starting from scratch because there were efforts at immigration reform not long ago.

The beauty of this plan is that the if the president rejects it he will be telling everyone that he really doesn’t support border security or immigration reform; he only supports what makes him look like a tough guy and doesn’t care about America or Americans. There will be substantial pressure on him to agree to this plan.

Plus, the president can claim a victory, as there will be some amount of wall that will be constructed. And he can claim fiscal prudence, too, since whatever wall is recommended will likely cost a lot less than $5.7 billion and a whole lot less than the projected $59 billion for a complete Trump wall. Everyone wins.


Perhaps you recall President Trump bravely declaring, “There’s been nobody tougher on Russia than President Donald Trump.” Regardless, he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to sign off on the sanctions imposed on Russia and some oligarchs for their hacking our 2016 election.

Then in December 2018 when Congress was on holiday break he had his Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, dump in Congress’ lap a plan for sanctions removal. They had just 30 days to vote to stop that action and far fewer once congressmen and senators were back in DC. The House voted to stop the sanctions removal with a strong bipartisan showing. The Senate wimped out, falling two votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.

Every one of those nay voting senators knows that Russia is a bad actor. Every one of them knows that Russia hacked our election and deserved those sanctions. And 43 of them voted to lift the sanctions.

Someone please tell me where those brave men and women store their spines when they go to DC.

————————————

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.

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