democracy

In The Center of the Bulls Eye


Reading time – 4:49; Viewing time – 6:15  .  .  .

My pal Dan Wallace commented sagely about my last post, Time To Chill?, and included links to a couple of his own posts. I heartily recommend that you read them by clicking through to my post, scroll down to his comments and then link to his essays. They explain in a compelling fashion what’s critically important and what you know in your bones to be true.

He ended his comments saying that he’s sad that we are where we are and he supposed that I am, too. Here’s how I replied:

Sad, yes. And more. Here’s a short story to illustrate.

The gorilla sat calmly in his habitat, separated from the visitors at the zoo by a wide and deep moat. A child climbed the fence and was on the top of the moat wall on the gorilla’s side of the fence. That’s when the gorilla stood up and bellowed, beat his chest and jumped up and down, scaring the child back to where he belonged.

When our security and our identity are challenged it’s right for us to be angry and on the offense. That has nothing to do with sad; it’s about appropriate aggressiveness to protect what we hold dear.

That’s the job before us right now – to protect what we hold dear.

Here’s a set of 4 tweets from Paul Krugman, posted on January 18, 2019:

“A thought about where we are as a nation: We’re living in the age of unsurprising revelation. Is there anyone who doesn’t already believe that Trump-Putin-treason is a real thing? Even Trump loyalists surely know it’s true. They just think it’s an OK price for the racism. 1/

“The question instead is when and whether the evidence will become so dramatic, so blatant, that Trump’s defenders won’t feel able to keep pretending they don’t know. That is, it’s not really about what we learn but about how it plays out. 2/

“Think of the Steve King story as a dress rehearsal. Everyone knew what he was, and has for years. Somehow, though, we reached a tipping point where GOP leaders felt they had to say, “We’re shocked, shocked to find open racism going on in our party!” 3/

“I don’t know if we’ll ever reach that sort of tipping point with Trump. But even if we do, remember: they’ve known all along, but were willing to sell out America as long as it was convenient. 4/”

That means that in the face of the abject failure of those we rightly count on, we – you and I – must use appropriate aggressiveness to protect what we hold dear.

At last there are the beginnings of honest-to-goodness, Constitutionally mandated oversight. What is sadly unsurprising is the volume of brainless, absurd opposition to that oversight in pursuit of protecting He Who Must Be Obeyed by Republicans.

It’s unsurprising because these legislators know that if they don’t toe the line to protect Trump they’ll get primaried from the right in their next election and Trump will stomp on their skulls; so for them, protecting Trump trumps all. Clearly, their careers in politics are far more important to them than, say, ensuring our democracy or safeguarding the Constitution, which they swore to protect and defend.

Please don’t complain that Krugman and I are unfairly bashing Republicans. If the Democrats were doing this, I’d be skewering them mercilessly, but they aren’t. It’s just the Republicans now, so they’re the ones who get pinned to the center of the bulls eye to be targets for the truth.

So, what can we do?

Here’s a set of three offerings devoid of right versus left and R versus D conflict. These are about bringing us together to protect and defend what we hold dear, what we must protect and defend, because those guys aren’t doing their job.

    1. Watch this video from Represent.us. It’s focused on ending the bi-partisan corruption that infests our government. I know you’re entirely on board with wanting to end the corruption of our politics, so watch the video. It goes down easy and is very much of a piece with the Money, Politics & Democracy programs I deliver.
    2. Read Jason Stanley’s book How Fascism Works. Buy it from your locally owned, ma & pa book store to support them and your town. And don’t put it on the stack of books you’ll get to “some day.” Read it now – it’s that timely. And while you’re at it, get a copy of How Democracies Die.
    3. If you’re in the Chicago area, attend Jason Stanley’s talk on March 23. Here’s a link to RSVP. For budget sensitive patriots: It’s a freebie. And contributions are welcome.

Frank Bruni had a fine piece in last Sunday’s New York Times in which he dug into what’s behind the anti-vaxxers’ refusal of the very things that can protect their children. It isn’t that they don’t love their children; it’s more insidious and deadly than that. It’s that they don’t love truth.

That is the age we are living in, a kind of anti-Enlightenment era, in which the search for so many is for propaganda that supports our opinions instead of searching for provable reality, feel-good stories instead of truth, and anger instead of resolution. Don’t get too smug about this, though, because I think we’re all candidates for at least some that description.

Too many of our elected officials have played to this dumbed-down version of Americans and these legislators are the very people who have abdicated their responsibilities in Congress.

This stuff matters because of what you hold dear, so now is the time to be appropriately aggressive to protect it.

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

                   ————————————

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

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

Do They Even Remember?


Reading time – 2:28; Viewing time – 3:43  .  .  .

In the 1997 movie The Rainmaker, Matt Damon plays the part of a rookie attorney up against an army of lawyers for the defense. He attempts to take depositions from employees of the company he’s suing, but is repeatedly told that the people he intended to depose are no longer with the company. It’s clear from the proceedings that the defense is employing slimy tactics to thwart Damon’s efforts. At last he asks the chief defense lawyer, “Do you even remember when you first sold out?” That question has sad application today.

In Sheila Markin’s current post she writes,

Republican Senators know full well how dangerous Trump is and say so behind closed doors, but they will not act to counter him because they think their constituents support Trump. These Senators believe they need to follow the will of their voters and that if they do not, they will face a primary challenger. They may be right. Notice that Lindsey Graham used to push back against Trump but when he did that his poll numbers with Republicans were in the dumper. It was clear that he could get primaried. Now that he is a Trump sycophant, his approval with Republicans in his state is up to 70%. Instead of defending democracy, instead of teaching his constituents to think differently, Graham has gone to the dark side.

Think about Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and his transparent antics last year. As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, instead of doing his job of leading a serious investigation into possible nefarious Russian connections to the Trump administration and campaign committee, he put all his efforts into protecting Trump. That included his laughable theatrics about an urgent “newly discovered” memo, which we learned shortly thereafter he had picked up from the White House the evening before. He refused to subpoena or even call many key witnesses and prevented the challenging of witnesses who refused to answer questions, claiming a privilege that doesn’t exist. Some witnesses lied and weren’t held accountable.

I understand the self-preservation urge these legislators feel, but that wasn’t part of their oath of office. They swore quite specifically to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Even if they don’t think the President is an enemy, 17 of our intelligence agencies have stated unequivocally since 2016 that Russia and its agents cyber attacked and are continuing to cyber attack the United States. That shifts them from the category of adversary to enemy of our country.

Many of our Republican legislators have turned a blind eye to that. They have refused to carry out the actions required by the oath of office to which they swore and instead, through their inaction, have supported the obstructions created by this president. And he remains the target of a counter-intelligence investigation for very threatening reasons. Perhaps the refusal of these legislators to stand up to Trump, even for national security reasons, really will ensure they won’t get primaried. But what about our country?

These people know exactly what they’re doing.

Do they even remember when they first sold out?

Late addition:

Watch the vote in the House on the bill to stop the President’s national emergency power grab. There is nothing conservative about such a move; indeed, when President Obama did things far less of a reach he was excoriated by Republicans, so they should vote to stop Trump, one and all. But most won’t.

Then watch the delay shenanigans in the Senate on that bill. They will pull every procedural trick out of obscurity to avoid taking a stand. When the delays are exhausted, the bill might pass, but many Republicans will vote against it – or I should say, they will refuse to stand up to Trump. Do they even remember  .  .  .  ?
                      ————————————

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,

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

The Reason


Reading time – 3:45; Viewing time – 4:46  .  .  .

Bill Maher’s first guest on his program on January 25 was Ann Coulter. She is one of the far right Republican talking heads that Donald Trump periodically takes orders from.

Coulter’s shtick is sensationalist anger and hate and she does it quite well. The point of mentioning this is to direct you to watch that segment of Maher’s show (here) and observe Coulter’s tactics. Here’s a short list:

She talks non-stop, refusing to pause to allow for a normal back-and-forth. She specifically talks over others, appearing to attempt to overpower any opposition with her machine gun mouth.

Her immediate response to a valid criticism is ”whatabout-ism,” where instead of addressing a question or comment, she attacks someone in the opposition to make them seem worse. She never deals with the hard question she’s been asked or she just dismisses it as irrelevant.

She name calls. She demonizes. She revels in her verbal cruelty. That brings her attention, cheers from fellow haters and she gets the satisfaction of knowing she’s angering progressives.

I’m not a professional, but I’m guessing she just might have some control issues, some anger issues and even some daddy issues. And no, that wasn’t snark.

Remember that this is one of the people Trump listens to and whose bidding he sometimes does. Ann Coulter is one of the mean girls whom Mom told you to stay away from. Mom was right. Coulter and Trump are wrong.

Not unrelated to Coulter and her mean spirited far right media friends is the issue of The Reason. I’m talking about what’s behind all the Trump cronies lying to Congress, the FBI and anyone who will stand still and listen. Most of what they lie about isn’t illegal stuff on the surface, which begs the question, then, of why they would lie. What’s the reason for their apparently unnecessary dishonesty? What are they protecting?

Rachel Maddow has done a nice job of exploring this and she’s right to do it. Almost certainly getting to the bottom of this will take the release of Robert Mueller’s report. But you can be sure that all those felons were lying for a really important reason and it’s next to impossible to avoid believing that The Reason doesn’t have to do with protecting Trump and themselves from the exposure of a very large conspiracy involving some truly terrible crimes.

As I’ve cautioned many times before, keep your eye on the ball. Let no distraction, however bright and shiny, divert your focus from The Reason. That includes you refusing to react to the hollow sensationalism of Ann Coulter or any other Trump rationalizers.

From The Onion, of course. Click for the article.

Finally, we end this post on an important story. The reason that it’s important is because it declares to ourselves and to the world who we are and puts the lie to the terrible things people say and do to divide us.

Joseph Walker was 72 years old when he died of natural causes. Mr. Walker had served in the Air Force in Vietnam from 1964 – 1968 and received an honorable discharge. There doesn’t seem to be much record of him beyond that time. He had no family and no known friends, so when he died it looked as though his funeral would be unattended.

News about Mr. Walker spread on social media and a call went out for people to come so that he wouldn’t be buried alone. And over 1,000 people showed up at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery for this man they didn’t know. There were veterans and active duty military. There were people of various ages and races. There was even a flyover.

Marc George of the Christian Motorcyclists Association officiated. George said,”Today, we give him honors, [this] man whom no one apparently knew, but whom no one wanted to forget  .  .  .  once upon a time, like a lot of us other vets, he signed a blank check for our nation.”

And so we relearn who we really are. Over and over, we show that we care. On Monday we honored Joseph Walker and, in the process, we honored one another. Keep Mr. Walker in mind the next time you hear one of those hate mongers spewing vitriol. We’re way better than that. We show up for one another. Kudos to the 1,000 for reminding us who we are.

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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. So,

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

A Picture In Three Dots


Reading time – 3:36; Viewing time – 4:44  .  .  .

There was massive anger on the part of Bernie supporters after the DNC took several steps that assured that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee for president in the 2016 election. The result of that was a lot of Bernie voters who protested by refusing to vote for Hillary. Some voted for a 3rd party candidate who had no chance to win; some just stayed home.

Separate from the Bernie protesters, there are huge numbers of people who never vote. When asked why, a common explanation is, “My vote doesn’t matter.” But is that claim about one person’s vote not counting really true? I wondered about that notion, so I did some investigating. The chart below is the result.

The last column shows the number of additional votes it would have taken per precinct in each of three swing states in order for Hillary to have won the election. That’s not votes switched from Trump to Clinton; switching votes would cut in half the number of votes needed per district to defeat Trump. This is simply the very small number of voters per precinct in three states – 6 maximum- which would have changed the election, the country and the trajectory of the entire world. And our federal workers would not have been unpaid for over a month.

The FBI would have been functioning at full strength and with full resources to protect our country. Coast Guardies and their families wouldn’t have had to eat handouts. Children wouldn’t have been going without medical care. Renters wouldn’t be facing eviction. TSA agents wouldn’t have been sleeping in their cars or skipping meds. But all that happened because we got Trump and all the drama and destruction he’s caused.

It seems that just a handful of people who thought their vote didn’t matter were wrong; their vote mattered a lot. That’s one dot.

Do you remember the Steele Dossier? It’s the work product of former British MI-6 agent Christopher Steele. The dossier is an intelligence report that contains raw (i.e. un-analyzed) information about Trump and his links to Russia. Some of the material is quite sensational and it’s no surprise that Trump and all who supported him have attacked and ridiculed the dossier. But there’s just one thing: none of it has been found to be in error.

In a detailed review in Lawfare released in mid-December and written by Chuck Rosenberg and Sarah Grant, they step through the dossier and compare it to what has been learned through public documents, Robert Mueller’s pleadings and various other sources. Steele’s work stands up. Item by item his raw intelligence has proven to be true.

Let’s be both clear and fair: Not everything in the Steele Dossier has been confirmed. It’s just that everything that has been reviewed for verification has been confirmed. Nothing has been disproven. Not the conspiracy to affect our election. Not the suspicious money movements. And not the Trump Tower Moscow project and its connections to the Kremlin.

You’re well aware that Donald Trump will say and do anything that he thinks serves him and he never lets truth or reality stand in the way of his mouth. So, you can be confident that there will be more denials from Trump and his administration and his transition and campaign personnel about the content of the dossier as more details are confirmed. The facts, though, consistently tell us that the dossier is true and accurate, leaving us with the inescapable conclusion that Donald Trump really is far worse than you think. That’s the second dot.

Let’s connect all of that to a third dot to see a picture.

We learned in the run up to the the election that Steve Bannon, Trump’s chaos whisperer and closest advisor, was wanting to “tear down” the entire establishment of the United States. Can you think of a more effective, non-lethal way to “bring it all crashing down” – Bannon’s words – than to paralyze the FBI, the Justice Department and all the rest of government that makes our country function?

It seems that the dossier is true and the events detailed in it led to the intermediate step of a shutdown of our government. That’s just what Steve Bannon and Vladimir Putin would have ordered Trump to do. And sadly, we let that happen.

That’s the third dot that makes this picture really scary.

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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. So,

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

Wag the Dog


Reading time – 3:24; Viewing time – 4:37  .  .  .

This is from the Sunday New York Times:

“At [national security advisor John] Bolton’s direction, the National Security Council asked the Pentagon last year to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran .  .  .”

Let’s put this into perspective.

Gen. Colin Powell warned us against doing military stupid stuff in his Powell Doctrine decades ago. It’s grounded in the painful lessons of Vietnam and, while it has weathered criticism for being incomplete, it’s hard to disagree with Powell’s cautionary message. Sadly, we’ve pretty much ignored it time and again.

Not stated in the Powell Doctrine is another of his admonitions, the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it. And so we do in Iraq and Afghanistan, the longest wars in our history. Now John Bolton, always eager to flex US muscle, has asked for plans to strike Iran.

Can you imagine Donald Trump being a calming voice of reason to tether John Bolton to reality? Neither can I. If Bolton gets his way we will break yet another country where we will then be in perpetual war. And this story gets worse.

We are mired in the longest government shutdown in US history. The president is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to overpower Congress and get his useless wall. You need to understand what such a declaration can mean.

In a time of declared national emergency the president has vast powers. Here’s a partial list:

Suspend the Constitution – yes, SUSPEND THE CONSTITUTION!

Redirect money in blatant conflict with Congressional intent

Declare martial law

Deploy our military in-country

Seize control of the internet

Shut down communications (telephone, radio, television, etc.)

Freeze bank accounts – including yours

Suspend habeas corpus (i.e. imprison Americans without charge and without due process of law – Think: Guantanamo in Des Moines, IA)

Control the states’ voter databases

Sanction Americans without charge and leave them without recourse

Effectively, the president can become a monarch. Perhaps Trump will prefer autocrat or generalissimo or kommisar or general secretary or chairman. Regardless of the label, it will be the end of American democracy.

This president has repeatedly shown that he has no regard for Constitutional limits, much less respect for legislative and cultural norms. He’s given us no reason to believe that he would refrain from outrageous behavior following his declaring a national emergency. And with the help of Mitch McConnell for the past two  years, Trump has packed the courts and his cabinet with people who likely would refuse to stand up to him.

A declaration of national emergency, whether for his fantasy claims of crisis at our southern border or for a pending or hot conflict with Iran or Argentina would be just the thing for Trump to consolidate power. Beyond fulfilling Trump’s bottomless ego needs, such a declaration will completely divert attention from his conspiracies with Russia. It’s the ultimate distraction and, perhaps, the negation of any investigation into his possible criminal activity.

Did I mention that this story gets worse? It does.

We never vote leaders out of office during war time and very rarely during any other national emergency. The only contrary example I can think of is Herbert Hoover, who lost the 1932 election to Franklin Roosevelt for his mishandling of the Great Depression. Nevertheless, the point for us now is to be clear that a declaration of national emergency, regardless of the justification Trump uses, would likely ensure Trump’s reelection in 2020, if, indeed, we even have another election.

And that will make Vladimir Putin very happy. His only regret will be that he won’t have any more kompromat on Trump, because exposing Trump’s money laundering, his tax fraud, his obstruction of justice and his treason will no longer matter.

Wag the dog.

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

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

Irony


Reading time – 3:41; Viewing time – 4:53  .  .  .

Chiang Kai-shek was the leader of the Republic of China during the Second World War and was our ally in fighting the Japanese. In the Chinese civil war following WWII Mao Zedong’s army won and Chiang and his army retreated from mainland China to the island of Formosa, now called Taiwan. Throughout the period we remained an ally of Chiang and saw Mao as our enemy, both because the enemy of our friend is our enemy, and because Mao’s Chinese were godless Communists bent on world domination like their Soviet neighbors.

When Stalin died in 1953 Nikita Khrushchev became First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. We didn’t like him or the Soviet Union and they were a far greater threat than was China because of their military might and their belligerence. Indeed, Khrushchev was famous for criticizing our capitalism, saying that the Soviet Union would sell us the rope used to hang us. He also said, “We will bury you.”

We saw the Chinese and the Soviets as godless Commies and nobody railed more or louder against them than our Republicans. They fashioned themselves as the ones with the heavy starch in their spines, the true defenders of our nation and the foremost opponents of Communism. Republican Richard Nixon made his reputation railing against Communists. But then some odd things happened.

Nixon the Commie hater was in the midst of making the Watergate affair as bad as it could be and off he went to Communist China to sip ceremonial drinks with the very people he had spent decades vilifying. The primo anti-Communist began the process of normalizing relations with Communist China. It was amazing irony.

Ronald Reagan spent decades waving the red, white and blue and vilifying the hammer and sickle and when it was his turn to fight the Cold War he did it by increasing our military spending 43% in peacetime, including development of the B-1 bomber. That forced the Soviet Union to increase their military spending to keep up with us. At last they couldn’t do it any longer and, effectively, we spent them into bankruptcy.

At the same time Reagan established a relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, even as he implored Gorbachev to, “Tear down this wall.” Reagan bankrupted the Soviets, made friends with their leader and won the Cold War without firing a shot. No irony here. Then it came back.

It was left to Republican George H.W. Bush to put the final nail in the Soviet coffin. But a Soviet KGB agent named Vladimir Putin wasn’t at all happy about what had happened and vowed to return Russia to its former self-imagined greatness.

Fast forward to 2015 and Putin’s Russia had figured out how to infiltrate American culture to bend America his way. The U.S. intelligence agencies are unanimous and clear about Russian hacking, propaganda, cyber-infiltrating, as well as human infiltration into our elections, our government and our society.

We’re learning of Russian infiltration of the Second Amendment thumping NRA and what is likely to be found to be tens of millions of Russian dollars filtered through the NRA to get Trump elected.

What the Russians have done is very bad and very threatening. What we have done is far worse.

Under this Republican president we have done nothing to stop the Russians. Trump has refrained from everything he might have done to restrain Russia and has lauded praise on Putin whenever he could. And even those aren’t the worst things that have happened.

Our Republican Congress has done nothing to get to the root of the Russian invasion and, indeed, they’ve done everything they could to block congressional investigations into it. This Republican Congress has done absolutely nothing to prevent yet more Russian meddling. They have put no checks on this president and his Russia enabling, nor any requirements for action to stop the hijacking of our democracy.

Get that these are Republicans, the self-described stalwart defenders and protectors of our nation. They’re the chest-puffed strong ones and they’re allowing Khrushchev’s threats to come true.

The irony is stunning. The cowardice in the face of a clear and present danger is appalling.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

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

Perversion


Reading time – 4:41; Viewing time – 6:43  .  .  .

First they were the “silent majority.” Then they were “values voters,” which seemed to imply that those who didn’t see things exactly their way had no values. Now they’re “the base” or “Evangelicals.” Regardless of the label, they were and are focused on being a minority holding power over the heathen majority as though it’s a religious imperative. It’s a most exclusionary position, as in “I’ve got it and you can’t have it.” Whether it’s citizenship, civil and voting rights, power, superiority – it doesn’t matter. It’s all about we-who-are-right-and-good-and-godly versus all the people who are wrong and less-than and probably unpatriotic, too. Whatever advances their agenda is okay.

Paul Weyrich was the Dean Wormer of voter suppression.

Paul Weyrich, a conservative commentator and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, declared the Republican marching orders in August, 1980 while speaking to the Religious Roundtable, saying,

“I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

Republicans have been pursuing Weyrich’s repressive dictum tied to a fairy tale of religious purity ever since. They’ve made claims of massive voter fraud without any evidence to suggest that it even exists and have warned of dire consequences to our country if the “wrong” people are allowed to vote. They’ve quite ably reduced opposing voter turnout by:

– Purging voter roles for spurious reasons, primarily of people of color and the poor

– Purging voter lists of people only because they haven’t voted in the past few elections

– Closing offices, making it difficult to register to vote

– Closing polling places making it difficult to vote

– Challenging ballots due to minor errors, like omitting a middle initial

– Dirty tricks, like sending mailings with the wrong date or place for voting

– Requiring IDs that many poor people simply don’t have

From The Onion, of course. Click the pic for the article.

– Refusing to accept IDs that many people do have

– Rejecting voter registrations on ridiculous technicalities

– Redistricting (gerrymandering) that effectively neuters votes

– Claiming voter fraud with absolutely no evidence of it having occurred

– Packing the courts with right wing judges who allow these perversions to stand

Voter suppression advances the control and wealth of the minority to the detriment of the majority, which perverts our democracy. Right now there is no equivalency on the Democratic side, although there has been in the past. But there is perversion equivalency somewhere else: it’s the Big Money influence on our politicians and our democracy. Now, that’s an equal opportunity perverter.

There’s a reason you’re paying crazy high prices for your meds. It’s because the pharmaceutical industry lobbies in the form of direct and indirect cash support for politicians. That monetary influence reduces their inclination to do anything that the big companies wouldn’t like, such as opposing mergers and acquisitions that reduce competition. The near-monopoly created by those mergers allows and even encourages med makers to raise prices. And it’s actually worse than that.

In economic terms, pharmaceutical price hike damage is compounded by what’s called inelastic demand. That means that your purchases won’t be reduced if the price goes up because your life depends on those meds.

We have plenty of anti-trust (i.e. anti-monopoly) laws on the books, but they’re pretty much ignored. There was the breakup of AT&T in the 1980s (which has by now been largely negated) and the Microsoft suit in the 1990s, but not much else for decades. Meanwhile, the mergers of major companies continue.

Many of our air carriers have merged, like Continental being absorbed by United and US Air was bought by American and, unsurprisingly, ticket prices are rising. And if the T-Mobile and Sprint merger is allowed to happen, and regardless of which carrier you now use, what do you suppose that will mean for your cell phone bill? That’s right: it will go up.

And it’s not just your financial burden that might be affected.

The gargantuan size of companies resulting from allowing already big companies to merge can be a contributor to a decline in democracy and even a rise of fascism. Here’s how it works.

When we feel powerless, we look for someone to lead us back to a feeling of being in control of our lives and our country. But the autocratic leader we choose then partners with the huge companies to get their loyalty and support. In return, those companies get to avoid accountability for their actions and we pay the price.

In the end, we’re left even more powerless and our democracy will have been perverted. Read Tim Wu’s piece “Be Afraid of ‘Bigness.’ Be Very Afraid.” Bigness – monopoly – warps government, which perverts democracy and invites autocracy, which steamrolls you.

This discussion wouldn’t be complete without making clear that all of our perverting craziness is for the purpose of the ultra-wealthy few keeping and grabbing even more power by undermining our democracy. The drum major for that band is, of course, Donald Trump. But all those denials of rights of our citizens are part of the perversion.

It’s in Trump’s interests to kneecap the system that’s in place and to diminish those in his path. He went on a tweet storm last week bashing Robert S. Mueller and the FBI. You owe it to yourself to review CNN’s clear-headed, examination of what he tweeted. As you read it, be clear that his is not just a temper tantrum. It’s a perversion of our democracy.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


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

Potpourri v5.0


Reading time – 2:55; Viewing time – 3:47  .  .  .

I attended a demonstration last week in Naples, FL. This was one of the over 1,000 demonstrations spread among all 50 states protesting the Matt Whitaker appointment as acting Attorney General, seen as the first concrete step to Trump neutering the Mueller investigation.

We were on a corner of busy US Highway 41. People brought signs and many driving by honked horns in support. The most important moment for me was when a guy in a pickup truck drove by, windows open, and yelled, “I’m for Trump. I got a job.”

And, of course, he’s right. The righties will point to that and declare that’s proof that Trump is great for America. The lefties will point to the rock steady growth of the economy since 2009 and say it was inevitable. I say that this guy just helped us to understand why people voted for Trump.

It’s about the dignity of work. It’s about being able to care for yourself and your family. It’s about not having anxiety over every dollar. It’s about pride of accomplishment. And millions of Americans have been locked out of all of that.

They aren’t all racists or stupid or deplorable or blind or morally bankrupt or anything more or less than human. And too many of the college educated and urbane just don’t seem to get it. Pal J.C. offered a link to a David Brooks essay that suggests that there may be better ways to see ourselves and to build something of lasting value, rather than continuing on our path to extreme Us-Them.

Democrats who can’t seem to figure out how to appeal to red state America don’t get it. Hillary didn’t get it. Tom Perez, head of the DNC, doesn’t get it. Maybe what that guy in the pickup truck wanted to say is that none of us has to be wrapped in a self-righteous cocoon and all of us care how we’re treated.

Can we stop talking about how Democrats can win votes in red states? How about figuring out what’s really going on in peoples’ lives – all people – and deal with those challenges?

Read Brooks’ essay and post your comments below.

“When small men attempt great enterprises, they
always end by reducing them to the level of their mediocrity.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

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The CDC tells us that there were 200,000 opioid related deaths in the U.S. from 1999 – 2016. They also tell us that the rate of those deaths in 2016 was 5 times what it was in 1999. That’s not good.

Lethal dose

Now the FDA has approved a new drug, trade name Dsuvia, a new form of sufentanil. It is 10 time stronger than today’s opioid, fentanyl. One of the justifications for its approval is that it’s claimed that it is valuable for treating pain from battlefield injuries when an IV can’t be used. Said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, “The military application for this new medicine was carefully considered in this case.”

Perhaps. But given our record of failing to keep a tight rein on supplies of these powerful drugs and the consequences to hundreds of thousands of now dead people, I’m wondering how we’ll prevent things from becoming far worse.

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Finally, perhaps you’ve heard pundits talk about Trump being entirely transactional and wondered what that meant. Branding expert Scott Galloway recently posted a video that explains that clearly and the section of his video dealing with that is posted below. You’ll instantly appreciate the difference between strategic (vision-centered) versus tactical (transactional). If you’d like to view his full post (most is non-political), click here.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


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

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

The Reasons For Self-Destruction and What To Do About It


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

Reading time – 4:55; Viewing time – 6:46  .  .  .

The phenomenon of Trump’s election and his continuing popularity among his “base” is hard to fathom for many of us, but I just got a dose of clarity from, of all people, Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci. He was on Joe Scarborough’s program hawking his new book and in the time it took to make coffee I saw enough of the interview to get his main point.

What I heard from him was the two word pairing “wrecking ball.” He said that people voted for Trump and continue to support him because they want him to be the wrecking ball of the establishment. Here’s why.

1. This country stopped working well for a lot of people a long time ago. For example, when globalization causes the main employer in your town to shut its doors, everyone loses their job, including the waitress at the coffee shop downtown. Everyone working at the movie theater becomes unemployed and the auto parts store closes.

There not only aren’t any jobs to be had, there isn’t even hope. But the bosses who were running the factory that closed still have jobs pushing paper around for the offshore company where their goods are now made, and they paid themselves huge bonuses for their genius that made that all happen. If you were one of the workers who lost their job and their hope, how would you be feeling about that?

READ THIS to understand today’s Republican Party. And click the pic for a larger view.

2. There have been huge productivity gains throughout our economy for decades, but nearly all the gains went to the top. Says Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, in his interview by Andrew Ross Sorkin,

“We’ve got an enormous number of enormously rich people that have convinced themselves that they’re rich because they’re smart and constructive.”

Think: The guys who off-shored the factory in your town.

Truth be told, they were, in fact, smart enough to have secured great riches for themselves, including from all those productivity gains. If you were a worker who didn’t participate in those gains, would you be okay with that?

3. Unemployment has been steadily going down to the point that we’re effectively at full employment. That should drive wages up, as employers fight to hire new workers, but that isn’t happening on a scale or at a pace that is remotely proportional to the increased demand for workers. In fact, wages haven’t significantly improved since at least as far back as Reagan’s presidency. If you were one of the workers affected by stagnant wages, how would that sit with you?

All of that speaks only to the economic drivers of citizen anger, and doesn’t touch on the fear of people living in a nation in transition and their imagined terrors of what change will do to them.

I’ve written several times in these posts (here and here and here) that the 2016 election and the leadership of Trump was and is a raised middle finger campaign. Trump speaks to the angry, the disempowered, the abused and forgotten of America. He speaks a rage that mimics their rage. He constantly targets enemies on whom to focus their rage, chief among which are anything that even suggests the establishment. Here’s a short list of Trump’s targets:

The press

The FBI

The Justice Department

NATO

The Democratic Party and all Democrats

Brown and black people

Migrants seeking asylum

Muslims

Cable news

And that targeting leads to someone sending pipe bombs to people on Trump’s list.

I recall playing Monopoly when I was a kid and can tell you that I didn’t like losing. One time I played with a friend and he won 3 games in a row in our Saturday marathon of game playing. I was so frustrated that I swept my hands across the board and scattered all the tokens, the houses, the Chance cards – everything. I took a metaphorical wrecking ball to the game – very much like blown-off Americans want to do with our establishment and exactly what Trump is doing to stoke their anger and resentment and to garner their continuing support. But there is a price that we pay for the wrecking of our establishment.

Paul Volcker named that price, saying,

I don’t know, how can you run a democracy when nobody believes in the leadership of the country.

From Sorkin’s comments on Paul Volcker:

Mr. Volcker is no great fan of the president, but he acknowledged that Mr. Trump had cannily recognized the economic worries of blue-collar workers. Mr. Trump “seized upon some issues that the elite had ignored,” he said.

This rage endures powerfully within about 38% of the electorate, who are so angry and feel so strongly about being victimized that they’re perfectly comfortable overlooking Trump’s obvious lies, the Russian hacking and possible Trump conspiracy, his boasting of having the right to grab women you-know-where, his blatant use of his office to enrich himself, his refusal to stand up to Putin, his abandonment of the people of Puerto Rico, his use of an unsecured iPhone that’s being hacked by the Chinese and others and all the rest of his lunacy, as long as he sticks it to the establishment.

It’s possible that populism is a more proper word than mob-ism, which I just made up, but you get the idea. What we’re seeing is a continuing public lynching of the foundations of our democracy carried out via non-stop campaign rallies that stoke yet more anger.

People who are energized by Trump show up on election day. People who don’t show up to vote enable this self-destruction of America. And the people who vote for third party candidates in their principled protest are enablers every bit as much.

Read Tom Friedman’s post, How To Make America America Again from October 23rd. Then follow his advice: vote for Democrats. Not because you’re a liberal. Not because you’re a Democrat. Not because you’re black or brown or a tree hugger or a snowflake or a woman or a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School or because you’re a believer in global warming or a supporter of Medicare for all and free tuition, but because the most important thing right now is to save our democracy.

Vote for Democrats. Go do it now.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

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