Senate

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

Mike


Reading time – 3:40; Viewing time – 4:51  .  .  .

When we’re presented with a large number it’s easy to fail to fully appreciate what it means, Indeed Josef Stalin said, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” Sadly, Stalin was right.

There are about 800,000 federal employees who haven’t been paid since the government shutdown began. About 380,000 have been furloughed, meaning they aren’t working at all and aren’t being paid; 420,000 are being forced to work without pay. 420,000 can sound like an impersonal statistic, so let’s consider just one person, Mike, a letter carrier for the Post Office. You know, the guy who delivers your mail.

Oddly enough, Mike has a life separate from dropping into your mail box envelopes and the flyers you immediately toss into the recycle bin. He has a car and a modest house and his bank insists that he make payments on both every month. His growing kids are like yours, in that they eat a lot and seem to always need new shoes. Their school requires them to have a laptop and every activity requires that his kids show up with a check at the first meeting.

Mike has to drive to work, so he has to buy gas for his car. The cashier at the gas station feels bad for Mike’s circumstances but still needs him to cough up that $53.70 that Mike rang up at the pump.

Mike’s problem is that he’s like most Americans, always about two weeks away from serious financial hardship. That, in part, helps to explain why roughly 50% of American personal bankruptcies are due to a serious medical issue. Most of us just don’t have much squirreled away for that rainy day.

That means that Mike’s resources are shallow and he can’t endure this no-pay shutdown for long before it starts to hurt. Neither can the rest of the hundreds of thousands of our federal workers. And if you include the families of workers, you can extrapolate to millions of Americans who are directly financially impacted by this self-inflicted government shutdown.

To shift focus not quite as much as it might seem at first, Trump rescinded the Obama executive order that created DACA using the excuse that Congress should legislate a solution. While that may be a sensible course for resolution of the problem, our Republican Senate and House have had no appetite for dealing with the situation and has sat on its hands ever since Trump wiped out DACA protections.

It was clear from the beginning that Trump intended to use the DACA young people as pawns to get his wall. That’s obscene on many levels, including the humanitarian perversion of making these people political pawns. Plus there’s the complete uselessness of a border wall itself.

The wall is only practical if all potential immigrants from Central America are ignorant of the existence and use of tunnels and ladders. That didn’t even work as well as planned for the Chinese in the 7th century BC when much of the Great Wall was originally built. It’s not clear how the technology of a wall will help us in 21st century America. Back to Mike.

It remains true that when you’re well fed it’s impossible to understand a hungry person on the sidewalk. So, too, it may be impossible for wealthy President Trump to understand all the Mikes and their families who are about to suffer, even if he actually had the capacity for empathy.

Mike is being used as a political pawn, just as the DACA kids are and Mike and his kids are at the edge of harmful impact right now. So, do a couple of things.

Offer a note to Mike with your thanks and concern for him and his family as he soldiers on without pay. Do the same for the TSA lady at the airport screening machine, because she’s another Mike. If you plan to go to Mexico or Canada, tell the Customs and Border Patrol folks you meet thanks for protecting you without their being paid. Keep the federal law enforcement and correctional officers in your heart because they’re Mikes, too. So are 5,000 forest service firefighters – you know, the folks who battled gigantic fires in California in December. Maybe you can do something to help these hard working folks. Just ask.

Then send a postcard – not an email or phone call – to your senators and representative telling them to stand strong for all the Mikes and for our DACA folks. They’re way too important than to be kicked around just to satisfy the ego needs of a narcissist.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 


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

Jax Politix – Good News Edition v1.0


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Here’s the full video.

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Now, that’s good news, indeed.


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

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


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

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Hypocrisy


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

Reading time – 2:51; Viewing time – 4:13  .  . .

I keep wondering when the hypocrisy, the slimy self-serving and the blatant dishonesty will quiet enough for the nation to take a breath, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

Mitch McConnell (R-KY), majority leader of the Senate, is the leader of the mob, all members of which seem to be able to make almost any nonsensical, self-focused thing come out of their mouths on command.

McConnell’s refusal of so much as a hearing for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, lasted for 293 days. McConnell based his judicial roadblock on his fact-less claim that no President had ever had a Court nominee reviewed in a president’s last year in office. That McConnell’s favorite, President Reagan, nominated Anthony Kennedy in his last year in office and that Kennedy was vetted and voted to the Court by a Democrat controlled Senate seemed to have escaped McConnell’s attention. When it was pointed out to him, he continued to deny a hearing for Garland and continued to base his intransigence on his original lie.

Now we’re offered the spectacle of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings focused on Judge Brett Kavanaugh as President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court. We witnessed Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) discharging his duties by refusing to make available to Democrats on the committee 90% of the documents pertaining to Kavanaugh. Included in the withheld documents are all those pertaining to his service in the George W. Bush White House, where he was part of the legal team and where torture was declared not to be torture, and other various legal atrocities were committed. Grassley refused parliamentary motions by Democrats to access that information and motions to delay hearings to accommodate a proper review of documents. He was ably assisted by Sen. John Cornyn, (R-TX), who sprayed fatuous lies about the room.

In June, attorney Cyrus Sanai sent a letter to Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) detailing the rampant sexual misconduct of Kavanaugh’s mentor, Judge Alex Kozinski. Sanai claimed this was important, pertinent information regarding the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. He and his information were ignored.

Currently, there is an accusation of sexual assault committed by Kavanaugh. Without an independent review of the facts, a confrontation before the committee between the accuser and Kavanaugh would degrade the hearings into a “he said/she said” session, much like the debacle of Anita Hill’s accusation of sexual misconduct by Justice Clarence Thomas in his 1991 hearings. That’s why Kavanaugh’s accuser has requested an FBI investigation, as well as asking that the committee hear witnesses testifying under oath about this alleged crime.

President Trump is the only one who can order an FBI investigation and he has refused to do that. Chuck Grassley is the only one who can call witnesses to testify before the committee and he has refused to do that. Apparently, the President and the Republican leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee believe that rape allegations aren’t pertinent to decisions about a lifetime appointment to the highest court in America.

The American people are left with the painfully obvious fact of partisan politics and self-serving actions being the only concerns of our Congress and President. Truth and integrity don’t matter, nor does what is best for our country.

The public approval of Congress is now at 17%; you do the math for the disapproval rating. Can you think of a reason why we would view these elected officials with such disdain?

I knew you could.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Address to Congress, January 3, 2018


Reading time – 4:52; Viewing time – 7:07  .  .  .

Mr. President, colleagues, fellow citizens, I rise today to speak to the obvious. That I do so is grounded in the Confucian admonition, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” Once so named, the resultant clarity may spawn wisdom.

If we take as most fundamental and do so in unanimous agreement, that we are here to act on behalf of and for the benefit of the American people, and if we use that understanding as the standard by which our actions are to be valued and judged, then it is possible – even likely – that we are falling far short of the mark and that we do so with frightening regularity. Such a condition implores us to identify and name the causes and then deal with them so that we do what we were sent here to do. That it is important that we do so can be substantiated by our approval ratings from the American people, which have languished at a disreputable level below 20% for most of the past two decades. It’s possible we’ve been missing something important.

In a recent report from the Congressional Management Foundation, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving the working of Congress, they wrote that, “.  .  .  we  in Congress need to be much better able to absorb, organize and use knowledge to make laws and policy.” In other words, while living in this age of the avalanche of information, we are woefully deficient in knowledge and poorly skilled at using what little knowledge we have.

Colleagues, I’m confident you’ve experienced this deficit repeatedly and know from frustrating experience that your votes are all too often supported by ignorance and confusion. That isn’t particularly important when we are naming a new post office or agreeing unanimously that the hybridization of watermelons to be seedless has added mightily to the quality of life for all Americans. Yet there are times when we are dealing with issues of great substance and which will have enormous impact on our country and on our countrymen. In such times, ignorance and confusion have no place and serve only to ensure the least beneficial outcomes.

The impact of our ignorance is exacerbated by our own actions designed to protect ourselves, our position, our power and our wealth. We have enacted rules that ensure that predatory sexual behavior by one of our members can be hushed; that allow manipulation of Congressional districts to the benefit of incumbents, rather than that of constituents; that effectively permit one-party rule by declaring the reconciliation of a bill; and that allow leaders to prevent the filling of a Supreme Court vacancy for over a year in order to tilt the court.

Most recently we passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which may have been attractively named, but which was created and enacted in a most undemocratic fashion. I speak now primarily of the process, not to the substance of the bill; that has been examined in numerous exposés and found to fall somewhat short of the suggestion of the label affixed to it. Nevertheless, it is useful to unmask a few examples in order to find our way to a larger view.

Contrary to the claims boasted to our citizens, this bill is not the biggest tax reduction in U.S. history, nor is its design likely to benefit primarily our poor and working class Americans. Indeed, the over $1 trillion debt it will create will be will be summarily dumped upon the backs of our poor and working class, even as it enormously benefits our ultra-wealthy, all protestations in conflict with this notwithstanding. This bill is fundamentally regressive and unlikely to generate higher wages or more jobs for Americans, at least not in numbers remotely resembling those claimed by proponents. Furthermore, like much legislation, it contains provisions that have nothing whatsoever to do with tax reform, some of which greatly benefit many of our own members, but which impact Americans substantively and most often negatively. All of this is listed solely for the purpose of making obvious the question of how we in this deliberative body could have done this.

One answer to that important question lies in our process. This legislation was crafted in secret and by one political party only – everyone but Republican ideologues were excluded. There were no Democratic voices heard at all and few moderate Republican voices. There were no tax or economic or financial experts called upon to provide their wisdom and their calculations of the far reaching effects of this massive change. For the estimate of the impact of this legislation we were left to rely solely upon people largely ignorant of the complexities. So much for our having the necessary knowledge of the impact of what we were doing.

Perhaps as crippling as anything, there were no deliberations on the floor of either house of Congress. There were no open session hearings. There was only the cramming of a poorly considered law through the chinks in our system, this at 1:50AM on a Saturday when nobody was watching.

The entire process for creating this hugely consequential Act spanned only six weeks, the reason for which was the entirely valueless goals of meeting a timetable which was based on nothing more than a Presidential whim, along with gaining the opportunity to crow of having a “win” before the end of the year. The artificial deadline made careful deliberation impossible and that undermined and at last devastated any hope of focusing on benefit for the American people.

To summarize, our process guaranteed that we would be deficient in the knowledge required to create the vehicle most likely to engineer what is best for our people. Further, our rules and our process ensured that we in this august and hallowed hall, with the echoes of giants still reverberating in this chamber, succumbed to enhancing our own security, power and wealth, all to the detriment of our fellow citizens.

With the Confucian admonition in mind, the obvious has been stated and things have been appended with their proper names. It now falls to us to find the wisdom. The voices of our Founders ring through the centuries directly to us, with an unambiguous call that we find that wisdom and act in accord with it. Our people deserve no less and it is our duty to do far more.

Mr. President, I yield the remainder of my time.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

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

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