responsibiliy

What’s At Stake


Reading time – 3:01  .  .  .

We’re a hotly divided country, entrenched in our certainties. Whether we say it or not, we see compromise as a dirty thing.

On the other hand, we all know right from wrong and there isn’t a lot of disagreement about it, once we get past our rationalizations.

The House Intelligence Committee hearings are exposing obvious wrongdoing by Donald Trump. It isn’t just that the witnesses are offering plain-to-see facts of his guilt, Trump famously preened as he bragged about his criminal behavior. So, the hearings aren’t about questions of guilt. Rather, the hearings are about what is truly bedrock in America.

Here is the oath of office to which every member of Congress swore:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

Note that no person is named, other than the person being sworn in. They don’t swear allegiance to a king. They don’t swear allegiance to a president. They swear allegiance to the Constitution of the United States. The United States is alone among the nations in this kind of oath and it declares for all to see that we are a nation of laws and not a nation of men.

That concept is being sorely tested in this era of Trump. Clearly, Trump is all about Trump and uses anything and anyone around him for self-aggrandizement. He demands loyalty to him. The test of our time is what or who our members of Congress will protect and defend. What is at stake is the rule of law and the Constitution itself.

If Trump is allowed to get away with his obvious criminal behavior, we will have established a new bedrock for this nation, a bedrock of personality, not of law; of high office for personal benefit, not for the benefit of the nation.

These hearings, then, are about deciding what kind of nation we will be. President Trump has no voice in this. We The People have an indirect voice by telling our members of Congress where we stand, what we want, how we see things. However, only the members of Congress have a vote.

Members of the House have the first vote. They alone will decide whether to impeach the President. The issue is whether the Republican members will look at the facts and vote accordingly, or whether they will cave to political pressure and vote to protect the President. In that way they will decide whether we are a nation of laws or a nation of a man.

If the House impeaches the President, the Senate will decide whether to convict the President such that he will “.  .  .  be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Again, there isn’t a doubt about Trump’s guilt. However, there is grave doubt whether the members of the Senate have the courage to act in accordance with their solemn oath of office. They know and we know the truth. The question will be whether knowing that will be enough to cause them to do the right thing.

Everything – the Constitution and the rule of law and our very republic – depends on what they do.

Surely, our Republican Members of Congress see that Trump is guilty of many offenses and crimes. Right now the issues are extortion, bribery, withholding of funds in violation of the direction of Congress and multiple counts of obstruction of justice. Then there’s witness tampering, campaign finance violations, profiting from the Presidency (emoluments), collusion, advocating political and police violence, abuse of power, persecuting political opponents, violating immigrants’ rights and more.

So, Trump’s unfitness for office and his criminality are plain to see. What holds Republicans back from the obvious right path is fear of backlash from their extreme constituents. So, their choice is to do the right thing, which will require that they dare to lose their position and power, or to destroy the rule of law and sell out our country.

That’s what’s at stake.

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NOTES:

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

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

Here It Comes!


Reading time – 2:26; Viewing time – 3:19  .  .  .

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Put your hands together and give a roaring welcome to the one, the only

Impeachment of Donald Trump!

 

Yes, you’ve been waiting for this, because you’ve known since before the start that he’s a con artist, likely a criminal and absolutely, totally, irretrievably sociopathically dishonest. A charlatan. A liar. And perhaps worst, a narcissist. For Trump, everything is always about benefiting Trump. There’s no room in him for democracy, the Constitution, serving the nation or the rule of law. And you know without even a shadow of a doubt that people and bedrock institutions and nations and strategic alliances get hurt because of his self-centered lunacy. All of that is why you’ve been waiting for this.

Now, what will you do? Here’s a suggestion.

Watch the impeachment proceedings. Don’t leave it to TV pundits to tell you what people have said. Watch for yourself. Think for yourself.

This will likely be the greatest political theater of your lifetime, so watch it to be informed by the entertainment spectacle that will appear right before your eyes.

    • Watch the Republicans do the Dance of the Crazies trying to defend the indefensible Trump.
    • Watch as they change the subject and insert inane things that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.
    • Listen as Republican House members wax pontifical in order to showcase themselves strutting in their “See how brilliant I am, as I dazzle you with my faux passion and indignation”.

More importantly,

    • Listen carefully as witnesses present their testimony to the full House of Representatives. What you hear will almost certainly be in stark contrast to what Trump and his spineless mouthpieces say. Who do you believe? And what do you think we should do about it?
    • Watch for testimony that has the capacity to change public opinion, the kind of public opinion that has the power to twist Republican senators away from The Dark Side.

Bear in mind that every member of the House and the Senate knows well and clearly what is going on. Every one of them knows the difference between right and wrong. And every one of them knows that their solemn pledge to protect and defend the Constitution was not conditioned on circumstances or political wind – not even on pressure from Donald Trump. Watch to see if they honor their word.

The fresh essay posted by my pal David Houle offers some perspective on what is about to happen and I recommend his piece to you. It will give you fresh insight into how these impeachment proceedings are a bit different from any that have happened before, this in a way you likely haven’t considered.

The public hearings begin this Wednesday, November 13 at 9:00AM CST. You can watch them here live. Be there or be square!

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

NOTES:

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

 


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

Paul Revere


Reading time – 3:30; Viewing time – 4:43  .  .  .

The last time I read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Paul Revere’s Ride (no, it isn’t entitled The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere) I was in high school. For reasons known only to the gods of random thoughts, the poem came to mind, so I looked it up and read it again, these many decades later. Somehow, this poem composed in 1860 has a new and surprising currency.

It tells of the clarity and courage of men who would not be subjugated. It names the price that would be willingly paid by those who would stand strong. It lets us know of the ordinary folk who, at a moment’s notice, were ready to do their part, to do the right thing.

You can find Longfellow’s poem here and I encourage you not to read it silently, but to read it aloud, just as Longfellow intended. Read it and marvel at its wonderful cadence, as he tells the story. I promise that you’ll be able to see the events as though you yourself had been there. I challenge you to read it full voice and embrace the way it chokes you up over the bravery of the people and over admiration for those who had the vision for something better and the courage to stand and be counted.

Had King George not been a tyrant to the colonists, we might still be British subjects. But he was a tyrant of the first order. You can read a list of his terrible abuses right here in the Declaration of Independence.

Then reflect on our current times. The actions of this president are not terribly different from those of King George.

We don’t need to ”  .  .  .  declare the causes which impel [us] to the separation,” because we don’t need separation from a foreign despot. But we surely need relief from the terrible abuses of this domestic tyrant.

Longfellow’s poem ends this way:

For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,

Through all our history, to the last,

In the hour of darkness and peril and need

The people will waken and listen to hear

The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,

And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Who will be the Paul Revere today who will ride, “Through every Middlesex village and farm,” to ring the alarm? And who will stand and be counted to protect and defend? When today’s Paul Revere comes thundering through your town and sparks fly once again from the shoes of his horse as the alarm is raised, will you be ready to stand and be counted like those ordinary folk on the “eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five”?

These are the questions of our time and they need answers now.

Noteworthy –

If you want to understand the future of ISIS without Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, read Tom Friedman’s essay, “President Trump boasts of defeating the Islamic State. He’s only showing how ignorant he is.”

And from the “I can’t believe this can be said” department  .  .  .

In President Trump’s acclimation of himself as the hero of the al-Baghdadi raid, he disclosed a treasure trove of confidential military and national security information that made heads explode in our intelligence agencies, our military and our allies. In his narcissistic rant, he gave away methods and sources that included leaking the fact that a high level ISIS individual was the inside eyes for the raid, the human intelligence (“HUMINT”). Because of Trump’s indiscriminate bragging, ISIS now knows that, too. How would you like to be that guy right now? What do you think his life expectancy is? How hard do you suppose it will be for our people to recruit the next HUMINT person?

This is the same president whose first official act was to invite both the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, and the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, to the Oval Office. He excluded American translators and all other Americans. No U.S. ears were in the room. In that meeting he exposed a covert Israeli agent. How hard do you suppose it is now to get our allies to share vital information?

And once again, why does everything Trump touches redound to Putin?

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

NOTES:

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

 


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

What I Wish He’d Said


Reading time – 2:04  .  .  .

Chairman Adam Schiff

Speaking to the House A/V technician while covering his microphone and pointing toward the Republican Members of Congress who are not members of the House Intelligence Committee but are in the room:

Please turn off their microphones.

To all:

These proceedings have been invaded by people who don’t belong here, several dozen members of Congress who are not part of these closed door hearings. It is to them that I address these remarks.

Your Animal House sit-in stunt may achieve some delay to these proceedings, but we will complete our work. What you are doing is not just rude and disrespectful. It is far more significant than that and I have three points to make to you.

First, your having brought your cell phones with you into these proceedings is a breach of national security because, as you know, your phone can be hacked whether it is turned on or off. That is why House rules prohibit you from bringing your phone into any hearing, which is to say, you’ve wantonly breached House protocol, too.

I recall distinctly the days when the Republican Party trumpeted its belief in and support for our national defense. Its members were staunch, toe-the-line champions of the security of our country and I wish that were still so. Your actions here today suggest that it is not.

Second, you know quite well that these hearings are closed door because the Attorney General seems to have become the attorney for this president instead of attorney for the country. He is unwilling to appoint a special counsel to investigate these matters. Were there a special counsel he or she would convene a grand jury in order to take depositions like those being taken here. And you know that all grand jury hearings are done in closed door sessions, just as this committee is operating. These hearings aren’t secret – Republican Committee members are in attendance and are participating committee members at all times. And you also know that this is the way the Nixon and Clinton impeachment proceedings began. Odd that you object to the same practices today.

Finally, we are conducting this investigation because the rule of law and the Constitution itself are under attack – you know this quite well. So, I invite you to gather your children and grandchildren and tell them what you did to honor your oath of office when the rule of law was under attack. Tell them what you did when the call went out to protect and defend the Constitution. Let them know how stiff your spine was when your country called on you to stand and be counted.

Now it’s time for you to leave.

 

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

NOTES:

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

 


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

Balance – Eventually


Reading time – 1:50; Viewing time – 2:31  .  .  .
The plain-spoken admission of facts is usually refreshing. Yet what we’ve learned over the past few years is that clear speech sometimes falls galaxies away from refreshing. And sometimes there is no price that’s paid for being a very bad boy, even when there’s plain admission of wrongdoing.

There are exceptions, of course, like the Trump University fraud, for which Trump paid a $25 million settlement shortly after the 2016 election. Before that he bankrupted his 4 casinos and walked away leaving his bank holding an empty bag. People who deal with Trump have a way of getting hurt, while he skates free, as though he’s entitled to impunity.

So far, as candidate and president, Trump has gotten away with nearly everything, including his wrongdoing that has been on public display and his admitting to the facts of his wrongdoing – like his quid pro quo manipulation of the president of Ukraine and his inviting China to interfere with our 2020 election and so much more. He’s very much like the quite corrupt Colonel Jessup in the movie A Few Good Men.

Jessup’s attitude is the same as Trump’s, the assumption that he can justify anything, including manslaughter, brag about it and get away with it. Go ahead and watch the 4-second clip – you’ll remember the scene.

Consider that Jessup’s playing fast and loose with the law at last caught up with him. This time his plain-spoken admission of the facts didn’t allow him to get away with his criminal actions and he went to jail.

Now Trump is on the way to being impeached, in large measure because of his plain-spoken admission of his wrongdoing. It remains to be seen if he will be convicted in the Senate. In the end, though, conviction or not, he will be indicted for a lot of crimes and he will go to jail.

What goes around comes around and the universe always balances things out. It just doesn’t always do it on the timetable we prefer and a lot of people – even an entire country – get hurt along the way. Nevertheless, Trump is on the way to getting what he has long deserved. Our job is to stay the course of justice to see that he gets it.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

NOTES:

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

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

Guest Essay – The Real Reason


Reading time – 4:35  .  .  .

Reader Dan Wallace has an insightful take on our American condition that is happily devoid of the hystrionics, name calling and partisan posturing of many. He offered it as a comment to my Hoping for Clarity From Sunday Times Readers post, but it was likely missed by many. His views are too important to be missed, so his essay is presented here. Read it and nod affirmatively and enthusiastically. JA


I was not a Trump voter for the reason given below. But it was, and I believe remains, the primary reason not to vote for him.

Simply put, comparing Trump’s publicly visible behavior to the available checklists for psycho/sociopathology, all indications are that he is psychopath, a sociopath, a person experiencing anti-social personality disorder, a malignant narcissist, or something along those lines. The exact term does not matter. That there is something seriously wrong with this guy is obvious and does matter. The right answer for someone like this is to feel sorry for him and to help him if we can, while minimizing the damage he can do. It is not to elect him (or keep him as) President of the United States.

For some reason it is considered unseemly to talk about this. I do not understand why. Choosing not to talk about it is like sitting down to dinner at a table that has a giant moose on it and pretending there’s no moose. There is. Step one in getting rid of the moose is admitting there’s a moose.

The view that there is something seriously wrong with Donald Trump is held by people as diverse as George Conway and Keith Olbermann. Unlike them, I am not a newcomer to it. I was virulently anti-Hillary in 2016. But I argued at the time, and I still do, that given a choice between venal and crazy, the right answer is to put 100 clothespins on your nose and vote for venal because it is at least predictable and is not necessarily oriented toward tyranny. While not all psychopaths become tyrants, all tyrants start as psychopaths.

Every now and then the American people make the mistake of putting into office someone with a severe mental disease or defect. The last time we did that was 1968. It took 6 years, but the institutions ultimately worked and we removed him from office.

We need to do that again, but the stakes are far higher now. We have an enormous division between those who have been left behind by globalization and those who have not. We have not figured out how we as a nation will compete in a truly globalized world. We have enacted policies that have driven the disparity of wealth to the sort of level that provokes insurrection. We have the least efficient healthcare system of any industrialized nation and continue to play the fiddle while it threatens to bankrupt us. In order to avoid dealing with those unpleasant realities, we have given ourselves a false sense of prosperity by fueling our economy with debt, something in which both parties have been equally and joyfully complicit. That accumulated debt is now so large that resolution of it likely will eventually require devaluation of the dollar, which will turn us into something like Greece or Venezuela. Meanwhile, we are experiencing a change in our environment that has the capacity ultimately to threaten the survival of our species (Moose #2).

These are serious issues and we should get about the business of addressing them in a serious way. The solutions will not be simple. There is plenty of demagoguery to go around, on both the left and the right. None of it helps. But one thing we should all be able to agree on: Having a psychopathic buffoon in the White House makes all of this worse, not better.

Addendum

On Wednesday of last week, Trump “met with” a group of about 25 refugees in the Oval Office. Presumably, this was a photo op intended to make him look empathetic. The problem is that it was captured on video, and one thing he clearly is not is empathetic.

The video shows Trump’s interaction with Nadia Murad, a Yazidi refugee who won the 2018 Nobel Peace prize for bringing her horrific story to the world and for fighting to stop the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. Her story includes ISIS raiding her village, killing her mother and six of her brothers, taking her captive, holding her as a sex slave and subjecting her to rape and torture.

The remarkable thing about this video is not Trump’s abject ignorance, unpreparedness and stupidity (after Murad tells him twice that ISIS killed her family, he asks, “So where are they now?” – Yes, really – watch the video.). Rather, it is that the President of the United States can listen to this story and show absolutely no empathy for the human being standing in front of him and for the appalling suffering and loss she experienced. If that lack of empathy doesn’t make someone a psychopath, then what the hell does?


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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

The Indispensable Nation


Reading time – 3:56  .  .  .

It’s time to take a break from talk of impeachment, contempt of Congess citations, subpoenas, obstruction of justice, picking a fight with Iran and the unending daily tsunami of outrageous behavior – not because those things aren’t important, but because there are other critically important things to consider that are easy to overlook because of our continuing self-inflicted reign of terror. A 50,000 foot view is one of those things.

George Packer wrote a piece for The Atlantic this month entitled “Elegy for the American Century: A report On The Decay of Pax Americana.” I confess that reading it brought into full light my ignorance of the complexities of the Balkan war, the complicated rivalries and borders, the centuries old grievances. More than that, though, it brought greater clarity to how we – the United States – have ceased to be the indispensable nation and have become globally unreliable.

– We now disrespect and even insult our allies

– We now embrace brutal dictators, the very people whom our allies worry about and because they have looked to us for leadership

– We renege on treaties and agreements

– We focus enmity on defenseless people

– We allow buffoonery to go unchecked, making us the object of international mockery and scorn

– We foment divisiveness and hate within our own country, showing people in other countries that we can’t be relied upon because we simply don’t have it together

The United States was the only major power with an intact industrial base following WW II and we created a new world order. The Soviet Union was our continuing enemy, but they could only affect world order through military oppression. We had the goods, as well as the strength to stand up to the bad guys and western democracy flourished. That’s all changed now, though, because we have told the world that we can no longer be counted on.

Angela Merkel just told Europeans that the post-war world order is over and called for Europe to stand up to China, Russia and the US! Something has radically changed and it very clearly isn’t for the better.

Below is an excerpt from Packer’s piece focusing on this very thing.

“If you ask me when America’s long decline began, I might point to 1998. We were flabby, smug, and self-absorbed. Imagine a president careless enough to stumble into his enemies’ trap and expend his power on a blue dress. Imagine a superpower so confident of perpetual peace and prosperity that it felt able to waste a whole year on Oval Office [sex]. Not even al-Qaeda, which blew up two American embassies in East Africa that August, could get our serious attention—Clinton’s response, a barrage of cruise missiles, was derided left and right for following the script of Wag the Dog. The Republicans decided that destroying the president was more urgent than the national interest, and they attacked his every move at home and abroad. Our leaders believed they had the luxury to start tearing one another apart, and they’ve never stopped. Did any country ever combine so much power with so little responsibility? Slowly, imperceptibly at first, we lost that essential faith in ourselves.

“The American century ended in Baghdad and Helmand, in Aleppo and Odessa, and in Beijing. It also ended in Wisconsin and in Silicon Valley and, maybe above all, in Washington, D.C. It ended from overreach and exhaustion, rising competition, the rapid changes and broken promises of globalization, and the failure of our own middle-class democracy, which, when it was thriving, gave us an influence that exceeded even our power.

“Another place where the American century ended was Bosnia.

“Twenty years after Dayton [the peace talks that ended the war in Bosnia], five years after [Richard] Holbrooke [the US Assistant Secretary of State leading the Dayton peace talks] died when his aorta tore open .  .  .   a woman in Sarajevo named Aida began to experience insomnia. Though she had lived through the entire siege, she never counted herself among the hundreds of thousands of Bosnians with post-traumatic stress disorder, but now, two decades after the war, she lay awake night after night, unable to take her eyes off the American presidential campaign on TV. Something about the people at Donald Trump’s rallies was deeply familiar to Aida—their clothes, their faces, their teeth, the men’s mustaches, the women’s hair and makeup, the illogic of their grievances, their rage, their need for an enemy .  .  .  Moments in the American campaign brought up uncanny counterparts from those years in the Balkans. Late one night, during the Republican National Convention, Aida suddenly heard the voices of 1 million Serbs in the streets of Belgrade shouting for the head of a Kosovar leader—“Arrest Vllasi! Arrest Vllasi!”—while Milošević cupped his ear and goaded them: “I can’t hear you!” In Cleveland they were chanting “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

“After the Cold War, grand strategists proposed various scenarios for the future of the world: liberal capitalist triumph, the clash of civilizations, great-power rivalry, borderless anarchy. Nationalism didn’t make the short list.

“The warlords turned out to be ahead of their time. Kurt Bassuener, an American expert on Bosnia, calls Trump “America’s first Balkan president.” His public performances sound like translations from the Serbian. For Aida, Trump’s rule told her that Bosnia no longer has anyone to count on. Europe ceased being a noble idea when populist demagogues put up razor-wire fences to keep out refugees. Now the American idea is gone, too. [Said Aida,] ‘After the United States’ values collapsed, who’s there to look up to?'” [all emphasis mine]

Who, indeed?

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

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

Pounding and Flip-Flopping


Reading time – 4:51; Viewing time – 7:30  .  .  .

It’s a fundamental courtroom practice:

If the facts are on your side, pound on the facts.

If they aren’t on your side, pound on the law.

If the law isn’t on your side, pound on the table.

The House Judiciary Committee met last week to debate issuing a citation of contempt of Congress to Attorney General William Barr for his failure to produce an unredacted version of the Mueller Report and the underlying evidentiary materials, as well as for his failure to appear before the committee. Of course, the debate was bifurcated along party lines and what I found most interesting is what the Republicans did to make their case against contempt citations.

They brought up all manner of what they decried are unfair or unethical issues, including Hillary Clinton’s emails, FBI leadership, FBI spying and investigating (isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?), Barr’s courage to obey a law that actually doesn’t apply to the contempt of Congress issue, the Steele Dossier (none of which has been disproven), Christopher Steele’s having talked with Russians, various officials lying under oath, James Comey’s perfidy and other real or fantasy offenses.

NONE OF THAT HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH WILLIAM BARR FAILING TO RESPOND TO CONGRESSIONAL SUBPOENAS. IT’S ALL WHATABOUTISM.

That’s what people do when they don’t have a leg to stand on.

Don’t let their passion or the intensity of their fatuous bloviating or the panoply of unrelated issues distract you. This is solely about obeying the law. That sounds very conservative, don’t you think? How come the Republicans don’t like it? Try this.

The Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee likely feel duty bound to protect the Republican administration, regardless of what some individuals in that administration have done. That’s one of the more odious parts of party politics and it’s one of the things that causes voters’ blood to boil or drives them to simply tune out, believing, “They’re all crooks.”

Here’s what’s at stake in this subpoena/contempt citation case:

The important thing: The oversight function of Congress is impossible to conduct without the necessary information. The purpose of a subpoena is to elicit that information from reluctant witnesses. Which is to say, it doesn’t matter whether the president or his lapdog attorney general like it; Barr has to obey the subpoena and the law in order for our system to work.

The critical thing: What is at stake is the rule of law itself! If Barr and Trump get away with refusing subpoenas, then our rule of law is finished. So is justice in America, because it will be clear that obeying the law no longer matters. Say hello to tyranny.

Here’s the current reality:

Those Republican committee members don’t have the facts on their side. Barr has plainly and obviously stonewalled his subpoenas. That’s a punishable no-no. So they can’t pound on the facts.

Those committee members also don’t have the law on their side. The law is clear that citizens must obey a subpoena. So, those representatives can’t pound on the law.

All they have left is pounding on the table. And that’s what they did during the House Judiciary Committee contempt citation hearings and what they’re doing still.

You can expect the same behavior from Republican senators if a resolution of impeachment arrives in their chamber. That’s pretty much what we saw during the blizzard of filibusters the Republicans mounted to fight anything Obama promoted. They didn’t have the facts and they didn’t have the law, so they pounded on the table.

Critical note to Democrats: if positions were reversed, we’d see the same behavior from Congressional Democrats, although they’d probably smile more and be ever-so empathetic. Nevertheless, forget about feeling smug and disdainful about the other guys. This is party politics S.O.P.

Impeachment update  .  .  .

In 2017 I had the simple clarity that Trump should be impeached because he is a criminal, that he’s obviously guilty of violating the Emoluments Clause, obstruction of justice and possibly of treason for conspiracy with the Russians and for his refusal to take any action to prevent ongoing attacks by Russia. Then I considered what a President Pence might do and I wasn’t so sure that impeachment was best.

The first thing Pence would do is pull a Gerald Ford and pardon Trump and his entire crime family for felonies they have or may have committed. It’s unthinkable that they might get away with their self-aggrandizing criminality, so I changed my mind on impeachment. Now, though, there’s another worry.

Trump has started a march to war with Iran. Separating out his wag-the-dog gambit, starting that war will result in a lot of people dying and suffering and it likely will be a war that will last for many years, just like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, because there’s no way out. It appears that the only way to prevent that is to remove Trump from office before he can fire the first shot. That calls for impeachment, so back we go.

One price of doing that, though, is the probability of angering a lot of Americans who will see Trump as a victim and will vote in a Congress that might continue to dismantle the things we care about, a Congress which will deny climate warming. They will continue the assault on Roe v. Wade, on voting rights and will enact yet more wealth inequality measures. All of that and more are existential threats to liberal democracy and to our entire planet. That price is so large that it augers for leaving Trump in office until the end of his term in order to prevent a backlash Congress, even knowing that he will issue anticipatory pardons to all his co-conspirators.

Yes, I realize that I’m flip-flopping on the issue of impeachment and I don’t like it any more than you do.

This impeachment business is more complicated and has more consequences than I want it to have. I believe in the rule of law and apologize not one bit for being a Boy Scout about my horror over the assault on our moral character that we continue to endure.  But frustrating as it would be to refrain from stopping the subversive criminal in the Oval Office, preempting Trump with impeachment might do more harm than good. Clearly, this is a hold your nose moment in American history.

Click the pic for the report in The Onion

                                                     ————————————

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

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

“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

Note To Readers and Commenters

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.

So, please share your ideas, reactions, suggestions and wisdom for all to learn and grow and do so without fear of endless identifications of street signs, cars, buses, dogs and intersections. Many apologies for your frustration – and thanks for your patience.

————————————

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.

————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 

 


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

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