money in politics

Porky Pig


Reading time – 57 seconds  .  .  .

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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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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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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Venezuela and Existential Threats


Reading time – 5:07; Viewing time – 7:30  .  .  .

First, my only comment on the topic of the cherry picked, sentence fragmented Mueller report is that I want the full report – all of it including the appendices – both for the complete, un-predigested information so that I can draw my own conclusions and so that we won’t imagine a Justice Department cover up engineered by Trump’s hand-picked protector.

As of this writing Attorney General Barr has indicated he will release the complete Mueller report by mid-April. There will be redactions, perhaps lots of them. Some will be to protect ongoing investigations. Some redactions will be for national security reasons. Some will be to avoid causing embarrassment to “peripheral innocent people.” I have no clue why that’s more important than instilling confidence in the report for a skeptical public. Absent such confidence, we’re facing an existential threat to our democracy.

If you need insightful commentary on the entire Russia issue, including Mueller’s report, read pal Dan Wallace’s comments. Now to the issue of Venezuela.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story about Russia’s power play in Venezuela. Putin sent 100 troops there to prop up dictator Nicolás Maduro. In reaction to that, reader JC asked if there was anyone left in Washington who understands the Monroe Doctrine or remembers the Cuban Missile Crisis. My answers: no and no.

As you’ll recall from high school American history class, the Monroe Doctrine prohibits further European colonialism in the Western Hemisphere.

At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Soviet Chairman Nikita Khrushchev was cultivating Cuba as a client state, effectively making it a colony of the Soviet Union, the very thing prohibited by the Monroe Doctrine. Soviet missiles armed with nuclear warheads on that island made it an existential threat to the United States.

While President James Monroe couldn’t have imagined nuclear weapons, he and his contemporaries were clear that the presence of European military might this close to home was an existential threat to our nascent country. The Monroe Doctrine was and is about our national security.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis there were thoughtful, careful men in charge who insisted upon best intelligence and carefully considered approaches to the challenges we faced. They had the strength of character to resist knee-jerk military actions and they prevented a catastrophic war.

This time there’s a reality TV personality in charge who doesn’t read, who is incapable of assembling complex thoughts, who doesn’t review the President’s Daily Brief, so he doesn’t know what’s going on, who doesn’t have sufficient self-control to resist temper tantrums and who needs to be seen as the biggest, baddest tough guy. He is supported by Secretary of State John Bolton, who never saw a conflict he didn’t want to escalate into war. As bad, we have a horrendous record of starting conflicts without any plan to end them.

For example, George W. Bush dim-brain/lied us into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with phantom promises of quick success and happily-ever-after flowers tossed at our troops by Iraqis. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared Iraqi oil would pay for the whole thing. None of that happened.

What was foreseeable but which they refused to foresee was the global refugee problem they triggered and which the world lives with quite unsteadily now. It is a key outfall of Bush’s lies and we still don’t have a plan to end those wars.

Now that Russia has sent its troops into Venezuela we are in a situation not unlike the Cuban Missile threat from the Soviet Union. President Trump backs Maduro’s challenger Juan Guaidó. How will Trump stop Russia from both keeping Maduro in power and from having that military foothold in the Western Hemisphere that is specifically forbidden by the Monroe Doctrine?

In point of fact, Trump has been a disaster of a negotiator for the U.S. He’s been a patsy with nothing to show for his capitulations to Russia and North Korea. Worse, he’s been a lapdog for Putin, who is now threatening Trump’s tough guy posturing.

Trump has told Putin to back off. If Trump tries to negotiate with Putin to get him to do that, Trump’s past negotiating prowess suggests that it probably will look like hollow posturing that leaves Russian troops in place in Venezuela with an escalating military presence in the Western Hemisphere. If instead Trump sends troops in support of Guaidó, we’ll be faced off against the Russians and troops on both sides are likely to be killed. And there won’t be an exit plan from the conflict.

What could possibly go wrong?

And another thing  .  .  .

The Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee called for Adam Schiff (D-CA) to resign his chairmanship of the committee, based on the same kind of Republican partisan brainlessness that we’ve seen for years. Schiff replied with a kind of muscular statement rarely heard from Democrats. Watch the whole thing here.

Last thing .  .  .

Chris Hayes interviewed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“AOC”) on Friday. Here’s a link to a string of videos from that interview. I urge you to watch all of them for one reason. It’s not so that you’ll agree with or find ways to pick apart the Green New Deal or find ways to cheer or criticize her. I want you to think on a higher level.

Specifically, watch and listen in order to understand why she has so completely captured the public imagination. Our Gen X, Y and Z citizens see our politics in the way that Emma Gonzalez sees our embedded intransigence over gun safety: “We call B.S.”

AOC speaks for an overwhelming majority of Americans, regardless of how much you may fundamentally disagree with her policy ideas or fear your own loss of power.

To Our Legislators:

Get on board with working with people who see the future far differently than you do. If you don’t want to do that, I suggest that you polish your résumé in preparation for entry into an exciting new career. That’s because these folks know that they’ll be the ones who will live with the consequences of what we’re creating right now, so they have a far more powerful interest in a sustainable future. We have created an existential threat to them and they won’t let us mess it up any more.

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

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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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.

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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
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Simplistic Solutions From 2,789 Years Ago


Reading time – 4:09; Viewing time – 5:40  .  .  .

“The history of the Great Wall of China began when fortifications built by various states during the Spring and Autumn [period] (771–476 bc) and Warring States periods (475–221 bc) were connected by the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, to protect his newly founded Qin dynasty (221–206 bc) against incursions by nomads from Inner Asia.“

So begins the Wikipedia narrative about the Great Wall. It was a successful defensive measure against warring neighbors and was military state-of-the-art in the first millennium BC.

That was then and, of course, this is now. We don’t have warring neighbors or incursions by nomads from Inner Asia or anywhere else to worry about. Furthermore, a physical wall simply isn’t a barrier to anyone today, given that those who would enter the U.S. illegally have all heard of ladders, tunnels and boats. Nevertheless, our unimaginative president is attempting to fix his imagined 21st century crisis with a 771 BC solution.

Trump continues to threaten to declare a national emergency over what is plainly not an emergency. He would then steal $5.7 billion from places where Congress had appropriated it and would use that to build his useless wall and starve other needs. While he will attract an immediate court challenge that likely will stop him, he’ll proceed anyway. When he’s stopped he’ll wallow in his victimhood, because that’s what self-centered autocrats do.

Next, from MarketWatch:

“Lawmakers, already in a protectionist mood, responded to the pain of the Great Depression by passing the infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, which raised duties on hundreds of imports.

“Meant in part to ease the effects of the Depression by protecting American industry and agriculture from foreign competition, the act instead helped prolong the downturn. Many U.S. trading partners reacted by raising their own tariffs, which contributed significantly to shutting down world trade.”

That is to say, Trump is now using failed tariff policies from nearly 100 years ago to solve a trade problem that doesn’t even exist in the way he naively describes it. His tough guy behavior may feel good to some for a moment, but it eventually becomes self-defeating. Just ask Harley Davidson and our soy bean farmers.

Trump thinks and acts simplistically, regardless of the complexity of an issue. His solutions are always puffery and brute force and they’re entirely lacking even a whiff of insight from higher level cognitive functioning. Sadly, our international opponents are playing three dimensional chess while Trump is smashing checkers with a big hammer.

Whatever may be his mental issues that caused him to lie over 6,000 times during his first two years in office, the real issue is not Trump’s lying. The real issue is Trump’s lack of recognition of the truth. It means nothing to him. He seems to believe that all he has to do is to say something and Voila! – it becomes true. For Trump, reality is just a minor obstacle to walk over. It’s what autocrats always do. For more on this, refer to Putin, Xi, Duerte, Erdoğan, Hitler and Stalin.

The rise of autocracy around the world has been well documented and it represents a clear and present danger because autocracies have a way of creating wars. Millions suffer and die. Everything is made worse.

Not long ago I wrote,

The worst thing, though, is the ongoing drumbeat of how awful our government is, including blatant lies by legislators and by polarized commentators, like Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones. That has led to a very angry citizenry. And that has led to the election of a president who is incrementally tearing down the very things that make this country work, including our democracy itself. Somehow, his supporters, otherwise good, solid folks, are so angry that they are willing to ignore Trump’s crazy.

I have written (here and here or click Fascism in the Categories list to the right) about the threat of creeping fascism in this country and have seen nothing to indicate that progress has been made to reverse the weakening of our democracy. It continues as predicted by Henry Wallace, Franklin Roosevelt’s next to last vice-president, and we’ve been warned repeatedly by various clear-headed thinkers that, “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” That sounds a lot like Trump’s appeals to “his base.”

Have a look at what former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has to say about this. Then think about whether it’s okay to have a simplistic president solving 21st century challenges with 3-millennia old solutions and all the rest of his crazy, the way autocrats always do. Then think about a wag the dog gambit to keep him in power, like the looming opportunities for war in Argentina and Iran. How are we going to prevent that? If we fail, Trump may have enough time to tear everything down.

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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
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Why So Many Are Angry


Reading time – 3:59; Viewing time – 5:42  .  .  .

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was promoted as a surefire way to increase the wages of working Americans and promote the hiring of additional workers. “More than 70% of this [tax cut] will be returned to workers,” said White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, reading from official White House notes. It didn’t work out quite that way.

Corporations used far more of their tax savings on stock buy-backs than on anything that would directly benefit workers. The total used for stock buy-backs has surpassed $1,100,000,000,000 and the primary beneficiaries of that are people who are already wealthy.

Let’s try one more example.

After filing for bankruptcy, Sears closed many of its stores and the pink slips they put into workers’ pay envelopes told them that there would be no severance pay for them due to the bankruptcy. Now they’re giving out $25 million in bonuses to top executives. These are atta-boys for the very geniuses who drove the company into bankruptcy.

Want another example?

Wisconsin voters elected to boot Republican Gov. Scott Walker out of office and replace him with a Democrat. The lame duck session of the Republican state legislature then passed a series of bills designed to dramatically limit the power of the incoming Democratic governor and Walker has signed those bills into law. That keeps power in the hands of the people who lost the election and effectively thwarts the will of the people.

This post isn’t about railing against fat cats or Republicans. Rather, it’s about why we citizens are angry. It’s about real grievances rooted in the lives of millions who suffer while the powerful few enrich themselves.

I’m all for capitalism, but it, like anything, can be used to abuse, which is why we have regulations. Sometimes those regulations are ignored by those in power. Sometimes they pass laws that either directly or indirectly pad their own pockets and those of their “donor class,” often at the expense of the rest of us.

One last example.

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was President Trump’s first national security advisor. He was lobbying for a foreign government at the same time that he was receiving top secret U.S. national security briefings. What’s wrong with this picture?

Flynn lied about it. Trump tolerated it. How are you feeling about the performance of the primary job of the federal government – to protect our country and ensure national security? Flynn got $600,000 for his deceit.

When it consistently feels like you’re the screw-ee, there comes a breaking point for all of us and we get very angry. Some want to carry torches in the street and burn it all down and they will vote for whoever speaks to their rage. As long as that rage is continuously validated, all other leadership outrages can be ignored, like putting numbers on the forearms of child detainees at our border concentration camps instead of assertively dealing with the crisis of people seeking asylum.

One of the reasons we remain so very angry is the continuing Russian propaganda machine that has permeated our nation. Russia has worked to divide us, polarize us, confuse us, sow dissent and stoke our anger against anything that we used to see as bedrock of our nation. The people in our national security agencies are working to unravel that, but the most important point is that the leader of our country refuses to crack down on the Russians. Rather, he continues to create chaos – distracting, America-defeating chaos – making the stock market tumble, shaking our international alliances and making foreign autocrats applaud.

All of that and more is why so many of us are angry.

One more thing in two points .  .  .

First, the government is shut down. That isn’t about immigration. It isn’t about national security and it isn’t even about a wall. It’s entirely about Trump’s infantile ego. He declared on TV, “If I don’t get what I want, I’ll shut down the government.” (Play the audio below for the recording.) That has absolutely nothing to do with what’s best for our country.

Trump is promising to hold his breath and turn blue until he gets his way. And he thinks that’s what we should care about.

How is that working for you – or for the thousands of federal workers who won’t be getting paid?

Second point: Trump’s tweet that he will swiftly remove our troops from Syria came as a surprise to literally everyone, including our own Defense Department. Trump intends to cede the entire middle-east to the Russians, the Turks and the Iranians and abandon our allies, the Kurds, again. That is past the line of what Gen. Jim Mattis can tolerate, so he’s leaving the Defense Department. That’s shaking up our allies because there are no longer any adults in the room.

Main point: As important as these two issues are, recognize that Trump has effectively changed the national story away from the known 17 current investigations into the Trump Crime Family. Keep your eye on the ball.

Last minute correction: I’m informed that the numbers being written on the forearms of detained kids at our southern border are being written by welfare workers. I don’t know how that makes a difference from the same thing being done by government workers, but I’m told that it does. Just get that if these kids hadn’t been separated from their parents there would be no need for Gestapo-like numbers on their arms or any other form of ID. And get that this tattooing is being done in your name.

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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 a lot of people, so:

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

I Didn’t Want To Write This Post


Reading time – 4:54; Viewing time – 6:18  .  .  .
I didn’t want to write this post. I want to be better than this, to be evolved and enlightened. I want to be patient and understanding and have equanimity, but that just isn’t happening. Not now and perhaps not for a very long time.

I’m mad as hell.

I’m sick of weenie politicians offering their damned “thoughts and prayers.” I’m nauseated by the spinelessness of our leaders who are, instead, followers of the biggest financial donors. I’m sickened by elected officials who value their political life far more than the actual lives of attendees at religious ceremonies and little children in school. The core value of these officials seems to be, “Let ’em all die, as long as I get re-elected.”

I attended what was offered as a healing ceremony at my synagogue on Sunday morning. The kids attending Sunday School were brought in for the last 15 minutes of the proceedings and as I watched their little bodies make their way to open seats I couldn’t help but realize that these kids have now been taught to be afraid all the time, everywhere. And that’s absolutely not okay.

Nobody has ever solved the riddle of how to take fear and hate and anger from the hearts of our citizens, so I don’t have any notion that the riddle will be solved now. What I do believe is that we can open our eyes to the reality all around us and start to deal with it.

The Anti-Defamation League keeps track of anti-Semitism in America and reports that anti-Semitic incidents were up 57% in 2017 over 2016, with the highest increases occurring in the first 3 months of the year. It’s interesting to note that these spikes in acts of hatred occurred during and just after Donald Trump’s inauguration. Then the acts of hate spiked again following the “Unite the Right” neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, which was conducted by “fine people,” according to our president.

Trump is the obvious and easy-to-name provocateur of intolerance because of his well documented incitements to hate and violence. His wooden recitation of words from a Tele-prompter that were written by someone else means nothing, because everyone knows he’s completely disingenuous in his sympathy and is only mouthing the words. The withholding of his vilification of others barely lasted an hour following his Tele-prompter charade, when he was back to naming enemies and demeaning them. We’ve always had a problem of hatred in this country, but we’ve often had a leader upon whom we could count to call upon our better angels. Now, we don’t.

And it’s missing from many of our elected leaders, too, especially those who spinelessly refuse to stand up to Trump.

For those who desperately want to deny the one-sidedness of the incitement to hate and violence that lives in our politics and our country, I have a question for you: What is it that you’re pretending not to know? Perhaps you’ll like my question better in this form: What is it that is right before you every day that you refuse to see and refuse to hear?

If you call yourself a Republican I invite you to examine if that’s really true. The Republican Party of Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and H. W. Bush is long gone. There are still some ugly echoes from them, like the overt racism of Nixon and the racial stereotyping by Reagan (recall his self-serving lie, saying there were “welfare queens” in Chicago), but the basic conservatism of any and all of them is gone, regardless of the Republican label in use by others today.

Today’s Republican Party is the party of discrimination, the withholding of rights, hatred and the impoverishment of middle class and poor Americans and anyone who is not from white, Christian European stock, and the violent perps feed off that. If the things in that list don’t describe you, then renounce your membership in that party right now, because the Republicans of today abandoned you in favor of protecting their own asses and in the process they lost any semblance of moral standing and the right to a place of leadership. And it’s not just the discrimination that’s a problem.

They’ve sold out to the gun lobby because that gets them big donations for their campaigns. Were they honest they would declare the number of people who they figure can be butchered by semi-automatic weapon carrying angry people before they’ll stand up for sensible gun safety laws. Don’t look for that declaration, though, because going public with that would upset their big money donors.

Eleven people were killed and many more were wounded in the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday, this in the name of blaming Jews for the miserable life the killer had made for himself. It’s the same pattern as for the butchery in the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and the Sikh temple in Milwaukee and the LGBTQ partiers at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and those little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the people at the Las Vegas concert. Nearly all those dead bodies can be attributed to the cowardice of our elected officials to stand up and lead.

I went to the healing ceremony on Sunday and found no healing. I’ll get to that someday. Right now I’m mad as hell and I don’t give a damn about politicians’ “thoughts and prayers.” I want action.

For more following our most recent massacre, be sure to read Howard Fineman’s essay and Bari Weiss’ essay, too.

Correction: While she lived through those years, Rose Mallinger, the 97 year old shooting victim originally mentioned in this post, was not a holocaust survivor. Apologies for the error. JA

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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.

The American Citizens’ Power Restoration Act


Click the pic for a full view. Then CLICK HERE and follow the instructions to be sure you really are registered to vote, even if you’re sure that you are.

Reading time – 5:43  .  .  .

This post has been updated.

For decades there has been a continuing creep of power into the hands of the Chief Executive. In part, that has been caused by the abdication of responsibility of Congress.

Further, there has been a continuing increase of big money influence in our politics, giving far too much power to wealthy interests, often to the detriment of the country and at the expense of the people.

The intent of this Act is to remove excessive power from wealthy interests and to enjoin all but human beings from participation in the elections, the electoral process and the governing of this nation, and to restore power to all the people of the United States of America. Some sections of this proposed Act will require an Amendment to the Constitution in order to be adopted. Nevertheless, I invite you to consider the points offered and comment below.


  1. Section 1: Power to create. Congress shall have the power to establish limitations on who may contribute to candidates, elections and the election process; the duration of service in public office; the amount of money and money equivalents that may be contributed to elections and to actions designed to influence elections (“electioneering”).
    1. For the purpose of this Act, money is property, not speech, and therefore may be regulated.
    2. Any and all regulations of human activity that are created by or fall under the jurisdiction of this Act shall be applied equally to all citizens.
    3. Any and all regulations of non-human activity that fall under the jurisdiction of this Act shall be applied equally to all non-human entities.
  2. Section 2: Contributions. No United States citizen shall be allowed to contribute more than $5,200 to any one candidate in any one election cycle, nor shall any citizen be allowed to contribute an aggregate total to all candidates in any one election cycle more than $50,000.
    1. The contribution total limits apply to money and any and all money equivalents, including but not limited to services, use of real estate and/or offices, staff support, advertising, travel and other tangible or intangible items and actions of value.
    2. All money, money equivalents, and any other thing of value contributed to an election campaign must be disclosed to the federal government at the time of such contribution. The information required to be disclosed includes but is not limited to the identification of the contribution, whether financial or a money equivalent, the amount of the contribution and the identity of the contributor. The federal government shall publish a continually updated list of contributions for public review.
    3. No foreign entity of any kind may contribute money or any money equivalent to any campaign, election, election process or electioneering in the US, nor may any foreign entity lobby for or against any elected or appointed position in any governmental body.
  3. Section 3: Participation by human beings only. No entity that is not a human being may participate in any federal, state or local election or election process or in electioneering in any manner.
    1. This Section applies to businesses of any and all forms, including but not limited to corporations, partnerships, LLCs, unions, associations, influence organizations (“lobbyists”) and any other entity that cannot be commonly identified as a human being (“non-human entities”).
    2. Disputes as to whether a potential contributor is a human being or non-human entity shall be resolved by a panel of three (3) board licensed physicians.
    3. No non-human entity may contribute anything to affect any election, nor may any non-human entity contribute to any form of aggregated funds designed for the purpose of electioneering.
    4. For purposes of this Act, “election” means any and all components of the process of an election campaign.
    5. For purposes of this Act, “contributions” includes but is not limited to contribution of money either directly or indirectly, in kind contributions, physical or intellectual actions or offerings, aggregation of funds, and other actions that might directly or indirectly affect an election or the election process.
    6. For purposes of this Act, “electioneering” means any and all activities that might:
      1. promote or denigrate an individual running for elected office;
      2. promote or denigrate any political party;
      3. advocate for or against any issue, including but not limited to contribution of money or things or services of value, either directly or indirectly, designed to influence an election or the election process. Specifically prohibited are participation in any manner in PACs, SuperPACs, 501-c4 organizations or any entity, the actions of which are intended in any manner to affect an election or the election process or the functions of government, regardless of the percentage of such organization’s resources used for such purposes.
  4. Section 4: Term Limits. Supreme Court Justices and all elected positions, whether federal, state or local, shall be term limited as follows:
    1. For Supreme Court Justices, the maximum allowable duration of service shall be 20 years.
    2. For elected positions of two years duration, the maximum allowable duration of service shall be twelve years or six terms.
    3. For elected positions of four years duration, the maximum total allowable duration of service shall be eight years or two terms.
    4. For elected positions of six years duration, the maximum allowable duration of service shall be twelve years or two terms.
  5. Section 5: Who is allowed to vote and equal access to voting. All citizens of the United States of America who are in good standing are allowed to vote in all federal, state and local elections within the jurisdiction of their primary residence.
    1. All laws that restrict voting by means of a mandatory government issued picture ID are immediately void upon the adoption of this Act.
    2. Convicted felons who have served their sentences either in full or as adjusted by an appropriate court and who would be eligible to vote absent a criminal record are allowed to vote, regardless of the violation for which they were convicted.
    3.  Locations of voter registration and polling places and hours of operation of such places shall be located within each state for the equal convenience of all citizens of each state.
      1. No citizen shall be discouraged from voting due to the inconvenience of location or hours of operation of voter registration offices or polling places.
        1. There shall be no undue burden of travel to such places from any residence in any state. Voter registration places and polling places shall be located such that there is not more than 30 minutes required to travel to such places for any citizen.
        2. Hours of operation of voter registration and polling places shall be uniform across any state and not designed to discourage either voter registration or voting.
    4. All states shall offer a minimum of three (3) weeks early voting time prior to all scheduled elections, whether federal, state or local.
    5. All states shall offer absentee voting for a minimum of six (6) weeks prior to all elections, whether federal, state or local.
    6. Congress shall institute a national holiday on federal election days to encourage voting by all citizens.
    7. All states shall institute automatic voter registration upon a citizen applying for a driver’s license or the achievement of a citizen’s 18th birthday, whichever occurs first.
  6. Section 6: How Election Results are Determined.
    1. The Electoral College is dissolved upon the adoption of this Act. All election results shall be determined solely by the totals of the popular vote.
    2. The final result for all elections will not be determined until all votes cast are properly counted and registered, regardless of the length of time required for such counting and registering.
  7. Section 7: Oversight
    1. No candidate running for office in any federal, state or local election may at the same time be involved in any way in the control or influence of the election itself.
    2. Both appointed and elected officials whose responsibilities include in any way the oversight, control or influence of elections must first resign their position before running for office.
    3. Both appointed and elected officials who have any influence whatsoever on voter registration and any part of the electoral process must resign their position before running for office.
  8. Section 8: Enforcement. Congress shall establish appropriate penalties for violation(s) of the provisions of this Act.
  9. Section 9 Severability. Should any provision of this Act be found unconstitutional, it shall be severed from the rest of the provisions of this Act and all remaining provisions shall be left fully in force.

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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.

Jax Politix – Good News Edition v1.0


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Here’s the full video.

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Now, that’s good news, indeed.


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

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


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

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

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