patriotism

Apathy and the Big Picture


Ed. Note:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I mention that it gets worse? It does.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                         ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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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. As The Rainmaker attorney asked, “Do they even remember when they first sold out?”

                      ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

In Case You’re Certain


Reading time – 5:47; Viewing time – 8:36  .  .  .

Things have been upside down, wrong, hurtful, unfair, dishonest and threatening to America. They’ve been that way for a long time and it’s high time we got about fixing things and restoring what’s right.

The starting point for this post is that those two sentences apply to the feelings of both far righties and far lefties. Likely, you don’t like that, but almost nobody gets up in the morning scratching their chin as they think of how they can be dishonest, unpatriotic and evil. Which means that all the stuff you think “they” do that looks crazy comes from a conviction they hold that they’re doing what’s right. Yes, I know that makes no sense. It’s much more fun to simply see them as bad and wrong, but what if there were people who disagree with you but are just as wanting to do the right thing as you are, even though their right thing looks wrong to you?

Well, that’s where we are. In fact, that’s where we’ve always been. Our system was made to work this way. If you’re a progressive or liberal (pick your label) you might be surprised to learn that there are lots of conservatives who are honest and smart and who hold solid notions. One of those people is my friend, John Calia.

John wrote a couple of comments on my last post, “Conservatives and Grandchildren,” and I asked his permission to use his second comment for this post, too.

In an earlier blog, “How Ya Gonna Pay For That?“, I posited that sometimes it isn’t a simple straight line from what we want to how we’re going to pay for it or even if we should pay for it. Just saying, “The government will pay for it” is a red, white and blue shot in the foot, because simply loading a cost onto government gets handled in only three possible ways: 1. you and I pay more taxes, or; 2. we put it on the government credit card (i.e. we borrow), so that our children for seven generations will pay even more taxes, or; 3. we cut other government programs and services. And yes, it really is that simple.

But government policies and practices aren’t that simple and I’m offering John’s comments to make that case.

John has invoked the words of progressive economist Robert Reich, who recommended eliminating the corporate income tax. Before you hyperventilate, read what he said. It’s a bit thick if you’re not a tax expert, but be sure to read the last sentence carefully. I’ve edited John’s offering from Reich for brevity. You can read the entire piece in the Comments section at the bottom of my Conservatives and Grandchildren post here.

John wrote, “Here’s what liberal economist Robert Reich (Sec. of Labor under Clinton) said about corporate income taxes in his 2008 book [Supercapitalism]:

“In reality, the corporate income tax is paid—indirectly—by the company’s consumers, shareholders, and employees.

“It’s inefficient because interest payments made by corporations on their debt are deductible from their corporate income tax while dividend payments are not. This creates an incentive for companies to .  .  .  retain earnings rather than distribute them as dividends. The result, in recent years, has been for many corporations to accumulate large amounts of money that the company then uses to purchase other companies or to buy back its shares of stock.

“Logically, there is no reason why [stockholders’] ‘corporate’ earnings should be taxed differently than their other earnings. Abolishing the corporate income tax and treating all corporate income as the personal income of shareholders would rectify this anomaly.”

Abolish the corporate income tax? That’s heresy to progressives! But wait – that was a liberal economist recommending that.

The point I want to make is that nearly everything is more complex than we want it to be and sometimes best answers and solutions have the appearance of being counter to our beliefs. Just being reactionary really doesn’t serve us well.

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Click me.

John has a frustrating and, really, an annoying way of being reasonable with his mostly conservative opinions, which at times leave me with not much more of a response than a huffy, “Oh yeah?” Have a look at this post by John on his website and see for yourself. Your instant reaction may be to disagree and then, quite surprisingly, find that this conservative writer is – I’ll say it again – annoyingly reasonable.

AOC and others have offered what they are calling the Green New Deal (you can download a copy here). It has been cheered by progressives and pilloried by conservatives and, because of its lump sum extreme policy recommendations, it may be the vehicle that ensures Donald Trump’s reelection. My view is that it doesn’t represent much sustainable policy, is counter-productive, whimsically dismisses cost and unintended effects, is long on lofty ideas and extremely short on tangible actions and it crazily attempts to reinvent the universe over a period of 10 years, all this outlined in just 14 double-spaced pages. If this resolution were to somehow pass the House and Senate and get signed by the president, it would have no force of law. Nevertheless, I’m glad it exists.

We have some vexing and even terrible challenges before us, nearly all of which we refuse to solve. My hope is that this crazy document will start a worthwhile conversation that leads to a few desperately needed solutions. For that to happen will require that a lot of people leave their certainties behind and open themselves to other points of view. It’s a bit like progressives reading my pal John’s offerings and being surprised, finding that his notions are – dare I say it again? – reasonable.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to see how reasonable you can be and, in the process, open your thinking about our national needs and how we’re going to meet them.

From The Onion. Click me

Here’s the one caveat: This call to being reasonable and open to other points of view DOES NOT extend to plainly hateful behavior, anti-constitutional actions, self-serving promotion that excludes (i.e. discriminates against) anyone or efforts to harm our democracy or the fundamental principles of our country. For any of those conditions, feel free to be closed-minded, antagonistic and energetically advocating for your opposing solutions that actually are solutions and which don’t harm others. Here’s an example of this caveat.

In his closing comments for his report on the southern border last Thursday, Chris Hayes perfectly captured what’s going on by saying:

“It’s not about the border, and it never has been.

“The wall is not the issue. The issue is what this country as a whole looks like, and who gets to call it theirs.”

Click here or here or here or here for fact checking on what Trump said during his rambling Rose Garden announcement of a national emergency for the non-emergency at our southern border. Be clear that his words are not just self-serving fantasy; they betray the hateful truth, that the solitary goal of Trump’s vanity wall and his bogus claims of crisis and emergency on our border is to keep brown people out of the US. It is akin to his hateful Muslim ban. These are exactly the kind of things described in my caveat about which you and I and all of us must never be reasonable and never tolerate.

In the absence of such hateful things, let’s all be a little less certain and maybe – just maybe – we can start to make things better.

Late addition to this post

For a reasonable example of considering various points of view, have a look at the lead editorial in today’s New York Times about healthcare 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. 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.

“How Ya Gonna Pay For That?”


The original announcement for this post lost its link to the full post. To quote Bullwinkle, “This time for sure!


Reading time – 5:01; Viewing time – 6:56  .  .  .

The “How ya gonna pay for that?” question is an important and even vital question for any policy decision. The Democrats are promoting bold new initiatives now and there’s a price tag for everything, so let’s look at what that means for a couple of issues.

We’ve taken several stabs at fixing our over-priced healthcare system. It is vast and there is enormous money at stake, so the medical establishment universally opposes any changes. Indeed Obama had to bribe the medical establishment to get the ACA passed. Still, the studies are clear that:

  1. We have the costliest healthcare system in the world BY DOUBLE.
  2. Our outcomes are largely no better than and are sometimes worse than those in other countries.
  3. The great cost of our healthcare causes millions of Americans to go without.
  4. Over 50% of personal bankruptcies are due to catastrophic illness.

These things are facts and they are not in dispute. And they are what drives progressives to propose things like universal healthcare, Medicare for All, single payer and various other names for “everybody gets to see a doc when they need one, regardless of their ability to pay, and nobody goes bankrupt because of catastrophic illness.”

Paul Waldman wrote a most interesting essay in The Washington Post looking into this concept and acknowledged that universal healthcare will cost a lot, like $32.7 trillion over 10 years. That’s a lot of money and asking how we’ll pay for that is mandatory. What Waldman points out is that to answer the “How ya gonna pay for that?” question, “You have to compare what a universal system would cost to what we’re paying now.” Very sensible.

And what we’re paying now is about $50 trillion over 10 years. Someone please help me to understand how $32.7 trillion for universal healthcare is a worse deal than the $50 trillion cost we’re on a slippery slope to spend. Read Waldman’s essay for more and be sure to look at the bar chart. You’ll understand it instantly.

Sometimes, the answer to “How ya gonna pay for that?” requires holistic rather than linear thinking.

Last thought about healthcare: put some thought to how we’ll control costs if a universal healthcare program leaves Americans with no skin in the game – i.e. no sense of cost containment responsibility simply because they aren’t charged when they receive care. Metaphorically, how do we avoid promoting in users of our healthcare system the attitude of the reckless driver who says, “I don’t care – this car is just a rental.”

Next, let’s look at progressives’ proposal for free college tuition at state schools.

First, let’s dispel the nonsense that it’s free. It may not bear direct costs to entering students, but the money to fund tuition will have to come from somewhere. Likely we and, indeed, if they have held jobs, even entering freshmen will have to pay through taxes in some form. So, progressives, please stop calling it free tuition.

From Wikipedia:

“In 1965 the far-reaching Elementary and Secondary Education Act (‘ESEA’), passed as a part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty”, [and] provided funds for primary and secondary education .  .  .”

Fundamentally, we decided that being economically competitive required extra education, so we funded it.

Times have changed and this is the 21st century. We have world competition the likes of which would be incomprehensible to our forebears of the last century. Indeed, China graduates three times more engineers every year than the U.S; further, both China and India have far more STEM graduates every year than the U.S. We’re falling behind.

We can resist change, wallow in our familiarity and ignore what’s all around us, but the price we’ll pay for that will be gigantic. This will be the Chinese century and we will be a follower nation instead of the leader, with all the implications that attach to that. We can either get with the program and make college more affordable, like we did with high school in the last century, or we can make ourselves irrelevant. Which is why publicly paid college tuition makes sense.

There are other reasons as well, like the insufficient numbers of workers who are qualified for the millions of jobs that are now going unfilled. Those jobs going wanting hobbles our economy. And it also means that we don’t have the highly educated people we need to protect our nation. The answer to “How ya gonna pay for that?” comes, in part, by acknowledging that it is both an economic and a national security nonnegotiable.

The dollar answer is the same one as when we moved to universal high school. We simply roll up our sleeves and find the best way to pay for it. That doesn’t necessarily mean through property taxes, because that system has turned out to be an impediment to millions of kids. It does mean that we have to have a really good answer to the question.

Sometimes things simply must be done and asking “How ya gonna pay for that?” can be a major roadblock instead of a sensible question.

Last thing  .  .  .

President Trump delivered his delayed State of the Union address and bragged about his miraculous transformation that has supercharged our economy. Further, he worked very hard to make us afraid of the imagined brown hordes crossing into our country from the south and how it’s worse now than ever.

To put these issues into perspective (think: reality),

  1. Have a look at fact checking of his claims, and
  2. Have a look at fact checking of Stacey Abrams’ response, and
  3. Have a look at the graphs below that are from actual Earth-based data from reliable sources. Note the trends and how they’ve stayed steady since the Great Recession 10 years ago and then decide for yourself who gets the credit. Hint: It isn’t Trump.

Click any chart for a larger view.

GNP
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Illegal Border Crossings
Source – U.S. CBP & NPR

Unemployment rate.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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There has been no small battle waged on the Jax Politix website in order to balance your ease of commenting with blocking the torrent of spam that attempts to clog the system. It seems that the methods used to tighten up spam filtering can make it more difficult for you to post comments. I believe we’ve made significant progress and the Comments function is working properly and easily.

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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,

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.

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.

                   ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 

 


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

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.

Potpourri v7.0 – Shutdown Edition


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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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,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
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Thanks!


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

Slavery


Reading time – 5:16; Viewing time – 8:10  . .  .

This post is longer than usual, but stay with me. I promise you’ll be rewarded.

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The 13th Amendment reads,

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Good idea. Too bad we’re violating that amendment right now.

In an article in the New York times entitled It’s Time for T.S.A. Workers to Strike, authors Barbara Ehrenreich and Gary Stevenson show us what’s happening to our federal workers. They are prevented by law from striking, a point which was firmly made by Ronald Reagan, who fired 11,000 striking PATCO workers in 1981. They were demanding better wages and shorter working hours, as the high stress of their air traffic control jobs and overlong work hours were literally killing them. Those are good reasons to demand better, but their contract said that they couldn’t strike and they paid the price. This time, though, it’s different.

Ehrenreich and Stevenson make the case for a T.S.A. strike on the basis of violation of the 13th Amendment. Likely they identified the T.S.A. workers out of all federal workers as the ones who should strike because their striking would shut down our air traffic system and grind much of our economy to a halt. It would be enormously expensive for industry, so their strike would likely cause great pressure on government to get the shutdown resolved fast. The logic of a 13th Amendment triggered strike, though, applies to all federal workers who are forced to work during this shutdown. I’m not advocating a strike, but forcing people to work and refusing to pay them is most bad ju-ju.

The complaint isn’t about better pay, better working conditions, shorter hours or anything typical. This is about paying people as agreed. Yet they are being forced to work without pay. That’s called slavery.

Should any of our federal workers strike, there surely will be a lawsuit initiated by the Justice Department. It will be an interesting case. Let’s do a thought experiment about that.

The government will be asking for a temporary restraining order to force workers back on the job immediately. Surely, they’ll quote contract law that says the workers agreed not to strike and are thus prevented from doing so. They’ll say that the government will pay workers in full when the shutdown is over and that the promise of future pay satisfies the contract.

From Stat, a Boston Globe publication. Sen. Dick Durban has called on HHS Secretary Nielsen to resign. Click the pic to download the report.

The defense will likely also quote contract law and make clear that the government has violated its obligations, thus nullifying the contract and freeing workers to strike. They’ll also make the Constitutional case that the government is practicing slavery in direct violation of the 13th Amendment. They might claim civil rights violations by the government as well.

The only difference between old fashioned slavery and the circumstances of today’s federal workers is that today the workers are being given a promise of being paid on some unspecified future date that could be years from now. Imagine being a federal worker and having to tell your landlord that you’ll pay your rent – some day. How well do you think that will work for you?

The way our thought experiment case is decided or the shutdown itself is ended will dramatically affect not just the workers, but our entire nation. Here are some examples:

1. Absent a quick resolution to the shut down, thousands of federal workers, whether striking or not, will find permanent full time work elsewhere because they have bills to pay. They will not be coming back to those federal jobs ever. But we need airport security, food inspectors, a fully functioning FBI and State Department, air traffic controllers and the rest. These are skilled jobs and we don’t have a bench, especially in this full employment economy. Who will do the work to make our nation function?

2. The shutdown is costing billions of dollars and, if it continues a while longer it’s projected by the President’s own economic people that it will cancel out national economic growth for the year.

3. Depending upon how this shutdown ends, we’ll be making a powerful statement about our national values. We’ll be declaring with our actions who and what we care about and we’ll be setting a precedent for the future. There will be lasting impact.

There’s more, of course, but think about the callous way our people are being treated. You’ve seen the up close and personal reports, like the woman who is trying to stretch her insulin supply because she doesn’t have money for more; and the workers who are trying to decide whether to buy food for their families or pay the electric bill; and the family with two kids, both of whom have medical issues and they’ve have run out of money to properly care for their kids; and the hundreds of thousands who now or in the very near future will be unable to pay the rent or the mortgage or the car payment. Still, they’re expected to show up and work without pay.

It’s hard to comprehend that we’re dealing with slavery in America in the 21st century.


A friend of mine is a federal worker – an air traffic controller. He’s one of those people who is dedicated to serving and works every day to keep you safe when you fly and he’s working without being paid. He’ll miss his second paycheck four days from now. I reached out to him early this week to see if there is something we can do to support him and his family. Here’s his reply:

Thank you for reaching out. This shutdown is definitely weighing on me more than the previous ones I have been a part of. This is the longest one in history and there is no trying to figure out a solution. This has turned into a school yard shouting match.

It is hard to go to work – and do my job – not knowing when I will be compensated for it. I will continue to work my scheduled shifts – my overtime shifts – the holidays – and do everything that is asked of me. I am proud of what I do and I will continue to do it.

The show of support from our union brothers and sisters from around the globe has been amazing. I have been treated to meals by the Allied Pilots Association and the Irish Air Traffic Controllers Association. The controllers in the Great White North [Canada] have taken it upon themselves to send pizzas to US facilities. Local businesses are reaching out – creditors are being understanding – some banks are offering 0% interest loans (as long as you pay them back within a certain time period). What is helping is the amount of publicity this is getting as a whole.

For now – we are okay. That may change. If this drags on, we may be forced to reach out to friends and family for financial support. We (luckily) aren’t quite there yet.

Thank you for reaching out – this has (and continues to be) a rough time and it helps to know we have a wonderful support system with some amazing people.

Please don’t let this only be a heartwarming story of people supporting others. Find a way to do your part, like overpaying your tab at the restaurant that’s providing free meals to federal workers and their families, or reaching out to someone you know who might need help, or donating to a local food bank or one of the GoFundMe sites. People are hurting and coming together in times of need is what we Americans do. It’s time for action.

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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,

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.

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:

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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