Supreme Court

Invading Species

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

Reading time – 3:51; Viewing time – 5:56  .  .  .

From H.R. McMasters’ 1996 book Dereliction of Duty about the war in Vietnam:

“The disaster of Vietnam was not the result of impersonal forces but a uniquely human failure, the responsibility for which was shared by President Johnson and his principal military and civilian advisers. The failings were many and reinforcing: arrogance, weakness, lying in the pursuit of self-interest, and, above all, the abdication of responsibility to the American people.” [emphasis added]

McMasters’ words ring both true and frighteningly current.

While holding control of the Senate, Mitch McConnell refused for over 300 days to consider any nominee offered by President Obama to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. He cited as precedent that no outgoing president has ever had a Supreme Court pick, so neither should Obama.

McConnell’s claim was factually wrong. Many presidents have submitted Supreme Court nominees in their last year in office, including Ronald Reagan, who nominated Anthony Kennedy to the Court. So, McConnell was flagrantly dishonest, hypocritical and self-serving, but he had the power to prevent hearings, so Merrick Garland never had a chance.

Now Anthony Kennedy has retired and President Trump’s replacement pick is Brett Kavanaugh. Most of the documentation of this man’s judicial and political life has been withheld from Senate Judiciary Committee members, who are tasked with vetting Court nominees.

I’ll put that in school days terms. Here are the rules for your test:

  1. 42,000 documents that are pertinent to the test will be available for download tomorrow at 4:00 AM The test will begin just 5 hours later.
  2. Sorting through the documents for relevant content is your problem. Good luck.
  3. There is 10 times more material that we won’t let you see and it is likely the most important material for this test.

The chairman of this committee is Sen. Chuck “They’re gonna pull the plug on Granny” Grassley, (R-IA), who is prone to saying absurdly false things and doing so with a straight face and always for partisan advantage. He was true to form during the Kavanaugh hearings.

Motions were made repeatedly by Democratic members of the committee to postpone hearings on Kavanaugh so that background material could be properly reviewed. Grassley claimed that he didn’t have to entertain any motion while the committee was not in executive session – this was a hearing – so he ignored the motions. He did that in wilful contradiction of the rules of his own committee, which don’t require executive session to entertain a motion to adjourn.

Grassley is what might be called a useful idiot for the Republican Party. Useful idiots are and have been for quite a while an invading species, one specimen of which is in the White House right now.

We were reminded last week at the memorials for John McCain about duty, honor and about serving something much bigger than ourselves. Failure to do that surely is bi-partisan, but for the past few decades the Republicans have been honing that failure into a disaster machine.

I repeat H.R. McMaster’s words:

The failings were many and reinforcing: arrogance, weakness, lying in the pursuit of self-interest, and, above all, the abdication of responsibility to the American people.

Right now the failings are many and they are reinforcing. There is arrogance, weakness and lying in the pursuit of self-interest. Above all, our powerful people in Congress are abdicating their responsibility to the American people.

And another thing  .  .  .

In his Senate Judicial Committee hearings Brett Kavanaugh refused comment or weaseled around questions concerning:

  1. Whether a president can be subpoenaed
  2. Whether water-boarding is torture and whether he concurred with John Yoo’s declaration that the CIA could torture prisoners.
  3. Whether Roe v. Wade was properly decided and whether he would vote to uphold it
  4. Whether he was involved in President Bush’s signing statement that eliminated the McCain Anti-torture bill that had been passed in Congress
  5. Whether President Trump can fire Robert Mueller
  6. Whether a president must respond to a subpoena
  7. Whether a president has an absolute right to pardon himself
  8. Whether a president could pardon others in exchange for them agreeing not to testify against the president
  9. Whether Kavanaugh would recuse himself from cases involving Trump’s “personal criminal or civil liability.”
  10. Whether he would uphold the requirement for healthcare insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions
  11. Whether a president can be protected from investigation while in office
  12. What the limits of presidential power are.

There is far more, including Kavanaugh’s lies under oath when he was being confirmed as a judge years ago.

Just as the conceits and hubris of Presidents Johnson and Nixon engineered and sustained the disaster in Vietnam, the integrity outages of McConnell, Grassley, Kavanaugh and all the Republican enablers are an invading species that is laying the paving stones of the road to ending our democracy.

————————————

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 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Bad For America

Reading time – 1:53 seconds; Viewing time – 2:47  .  .  .

In yet another 5-4 decision the Supreme Court has allowed Trump’s Muslim travel ban to stand. And by the same margin the Court allowed Ohio to continue to purge its voter roles of poor people and people of color. 5-4 is the same margin by which the Court allowed Texas and North Carolina Republican gerrymandering to suppress minority voting to stand.

Click for the Snopes fact check

It’s highly unlikely that any of those decisions would have gone this way had Merrick Garland been on the bench instead of Neil Gorsuch. That is exactly why Mitch McConnell sees his lie-filled theft of choice from President Obama to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Court as his proudest moment.

This is yet another example of the dishonesty that undermines our values and drives Americans to distrust government. It’s another lie that is easily exposed, like what @edelweisspirat showed us last week in what is perhaps the greatest tweet ever to expose Trumpian dishonesty:

Well, yeah, Melania, we really do care. Why don’t you?

He’s captured in just a few words the insanity of what Trump and the far right use in place of integrity and good sense. Just get that the lies and dishonesty have consequences, like those 5-4 decisions that incrementally steal freedoms from Americans.

Things are about to get worse now that Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced that he will retire from the Supreme Court on July 31. McConnell has announced that he plans to jam through Trump’s nominee quickly, this in the face of his logic in 2016 that there should be no new Supreme Court pick in an election year in order to, “let the people speak.” Somehow, his disingenuousness that prevented Obama’s pick doesn’t apply now that there’s a Republican in the White House.

There is no Senate filibuster to keep another Trump nominated far righty from the bench, and that will almost certainly lead to accelerated loss of our rights. And that pick will be a stepping stone to authoritarianism: there will be no way to stop Donald Trump’s wrongdoing and our accelerated spiraling into fascism.

What a proud day this must be for those who favor bullying, dishonesty and disorder over democracy; who favor party loyalty and their own position over patriotism. It appears that the righty extremist ends justify their means. Good for them. Bad for America.

Click me

————————————

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 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Babies In Jail

Reading time – 2:38; Viewing time – 3:13  .  .  .

You’re horrified at those nursing babies being ripped from their mothers’ arms by I.C.E. agents. You’re speechless and apoplectic at the same time over kids who have literally done nothing wrong being put into shelters that you know full well are jails. You may be old enough to remember abominable things like this being done by the Soviet Union, which you abhorred. After all, we were the good guys and didn’t abuse people. So, why is the Trump administration doing these reprehensible things in our name?

Have a look at my post about Trump’s negotiating strategy. It’s always about taking something away and forcing opponents to bargain to get it back, and he’s doing that right now using these children.

He has assaulted our sense of right and wrong and taken away our self-image of being the good guys. He has betrayed our belief in proper treatment of others, all in order to make Democrats cave to his anti-black, brown and Muslim – anti-shithole countries – immigration plan. Aryans – like Norwegians – he tells us, are okay. In the process he is traumatizing thousands of innocent children and their parents, many of whom are only applying for asylum from deadly violence and have done nothing wrong.

But we have.

We have allowed those with the crudest, most primitive, fear-driven impulses to have power. Yes, I’m talking about the 87% of Republicans who support Trump and give him the power to punish Republican opponents with a tweet. We set that up – we set ourselves up – by failing to show up and vote last November. Yes, the 87% hair-on-fire primitives voted. They always do because they’re always afraid and angry and motivated. The only check on them is for reasonable people to show up in bigger numbers.

So, if you want to see an end to outrageous manipulation and the terrible abuse of people, an end to using people as pawns to gain power and crushing them under heel in the process, you have to do two things and they’re very personal:

You have to vote this November.

And you have to work to inspire others to show up and vote, too. A good way to start is to share this post with 3 others.

Be clear that they’re continuing to take away voting rights. Last week the Supreme Court allowed the state of Ohio to continue to purge their registered voter lists of people who were guilty of nothing more than not having voted for two years and who didn’t respond to their post card. I don’t remember either of those actions being required by the Constitution in order to be eligible to vote, but that is where this nation is going if we let it. Use it or lose it.

If you don’t vote, permanent internment camps in the desert, over-filled with orphaned infants may be next, and Trump-pardoned Joe Arpaio may be the warden.

————————————

Ed. note: I don’t want your 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.
  3. Vote!

Thanks!

Copyright 2018 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.

————————————

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 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin

Reading time – 3:16; Viewing time – 4:51  .  .  .

Maureen Dowd gave her Sunday column to her conservative brother Kevin on November 26 and we learned that he isn’t tired of winning. I’m sure that’s true, as Trump hasn’t won anything, but Kevin Dowd’s remarks deserve comment, so this is a letter to him.

You begin, Kevin, by telling us, “Every time I hear Neil Gorsuch’s name, I smile.” Hold that grin, Kevin, because you would never so much as know Gorsuch’s name were it not for Mitch McConnell’s bedrock dishonesty. We keep hearing that elections have consequences, and so they do. Barack Obama was elected President twice, which means that he had dibbies on who to send to the Supreme Court. Does your smile fade just a bit because you know that Merrick Garland, however you may dislike his views, rightly should be there? Is getting your way more important than following the rules?

You admire Trump for his resilience against “an unrelenting and unfair press” – really? The press is supposed to be unrelenting – you remember: the Fourth Estate holding politicians’ feet to the fire – and it has been unrelenting with every President you can remember, so get over that. And tell me about the unfair reporting from the mainstream press. Not the wacko stuff from the publications telling us about the woman with three breasts and the guy who was abducted by aliens who probed his navel. You’ll easily find reports that condemn Trump for his malfeasance or a stupid tweet or his more than five lies per day, but none of that is unfair. C’mon, name just one unfair report.

Until this week Kim’s rockets could only hit the west coast, so you wrote, “we’re probably alright until he can hit a red state.” Did you actually write that? Is that some kind of comfort for people in red states, willing to sacrifice the people of Washington, Oregon and California – any blue state – as long as it doesn’t nuke the red-staters?

You claimed that Trump is undoing Obama’s executive orders, and so he is. The problem is that he’s doing it just to spite Obama and there is no strategy or even any logic that goes deeper than that. He’s getting his federal judge nominations through because McConnell blocked more of Obama’s nominations than any Senate leader in history.

Thank you for your admission that, “The N.F.L. players were disrespecting the American Flag  .  .  .” because you reveal your bias for refusing to see what is right in front of you.

Thank you, too, for pointing out that while we haven’t seen a direct connection between Trump and Russia, Mueller’s investigation has found collusion with Hillary and the D.N.C. on the dossier. You also snarkily claim that she has several donors on Mueller’s staff, “ready to offer legal advice.” The public evidence continues to mount of nefarious Trump connections with Russia and your comment is about how crooked Hillary is? Classic switch and attack, but your comments have nothing to do with Trump’s likely illegal and treasonous activity. Nice job, too, of urging the prosecution of Loretta Lynch and James Comey. Got nuthin’ to do with crooked Donald, but it’s a fine distraction from what’s important.

The real value of your essay, Kevin, is the way you have displayed the Trump supporter mindset – the deflections from core issues, the conscious enthusiasm to ignore outrageous wrongs, the blissful attitude that if it doesn’t hurt you directly it’s okay and your impenetrable blinders for harm to others.

But here’s the thing, Kevin: there are others out here beyond your skin who are affected by his behavior and do have a problem with things like encouraging hatred, cancelling DACA, multiple vacuums where strategies should be, taunting a murderous nuclear dictator, trying to trash the only thing standing between us and a nuclear Iran, pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord as though we aren’t on our way to frying the planet, his trying to refuse healthcare to tens of millions of Americans, his letting the people of Puerto Rico suffer because Trump’s pals on Wall Street want money and his trying to pass a tax bill that primarily enriches wealthy people and does so on the backs of poor and working class Americans and leaves us with a $1.5 TRILLION debt.

Ah, Kevin, it must be nice and comfy to ignore the harm this President is doing and just bask in the glow of the raised middle finger that is Trump nation.

————————————

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 and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

(Mostly) Quick Hits – They’re Linked, I Promise

Reading time – 6:49; Viewing time – 9:59  .  .  .

First, a heads-up for the impatient: The lede is buried at the end of this post.

A Really Tough Time for Republicans

Judge Roy Moore was removed from the bench twice for flaunting our laws in favor of his absolutist religious beliefs. Yes, he was an Alabama Supreme Court judge who disrespected the rule of law – that’s why he was removed from the bench – did I mention “twice”? Apparently, in Alabama that’s not a disqualifier for becoming a United States Senator. As you know, though, the story gets far worse.

Several women have gone public, accusing Moore of sexually violating them and  most were minors when the accused sexual predator allegedly violated them. We’re talking pedophilia. Here are some peculiars about this:

  1. There are only allegations of Moore’s wrongdoing – nine as of this writing – there have been no legal proceedings. If we still believe in innocent until proven guilty (and that’s questionable, given the Trump hysteria of “lock her up”) why are so many calling for Moore’s political lynching?
  2. We all know he’s a slime ball, with a history of his absolutist views being the only ones he deems of value, and his taking a million dollars from his charity for his personal use. He’s hurt both the Constitution and a lot of people and has that self-righteous stink of a hypocrite. That makes it easy to leap to a public opinion conviction of this guy.
  3. Donald Trump has slithered his tweets about how awful are the two wrongdoings of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).  Oddly, even with the multiple accusations of Moore’s pedophilia, Trump hasn’t said a thing about him. That’s a mistake. I believe that the best thing that can happen is for Trump to weigh in on Moore’s alleged sexual predatory behavior. After all, other than Harvey Weinstein, Trump is the guy with the most experience in this field. Okay, that was snark.
  4. Why aren’t all Republicans leaping at the opportunity to fry Roy Moore? This is a political no-brainer.
  5. This is a really tough time to be a Republican with a spine, with a moral compass, with a drive to do what’s right for others and for our country. If such folks stand up for what’s right, the extremists will fire them from from their jobs in Congress and the state houses. That’s because about half of us – most of the reasonable, centrist Americans – don’t bother to vote, leaving to the extremists the decisions about who goes to Congress and our state houses. The solution to this is obvious. So, help a good-guy Republican by showing up and voting for the reasonable folks in every election.

Education

George W. Bush created the No Child Left Behind plan, which forced teachers to instruct students how to take standardized tests, rather than teaching them what they need in order to succeed in life. The name of that plan is something we all support and encourage, so the spinmeisters did their job. The only problem is that No Child Left Behind left millions of children behind.

Speaking of our children being successful, it seems we don’t actually want that to happen. We continue to provide the majority of funding for our schools through property taxes, which is a great plan if the properties are in a wealthy area. It doesn’t work quite as well if the area is poor, because that results in low tax revenue for schools and inadequate resources for turning out well educated kids. That’s how we systematically condemn poor kids to poverty and our country to less than our best possible future.

Leadership

Being clear about what’s going on and about what needs to be done is hard work. Someone needs to stand up and declare, “THAT WAY!” and it isn’t at all obvious who’s up to the challenge. The call has to be inspirational and it must be clean and crisp and memorable so that we maintain focus and continue putting one foot in front of the other and in the right direction. But that call seems as yet uncrafted. In the face of challenges all around us, which way should we go? And who will you follow?

Monopoly (not the board game)

The Justice Department case against Microsoft 17 years ago for anti-competitive practices is the most recent enforcement of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, legislation designed to prevent monopoly. The  purpose of that act was to keep excessive economic power from being concentrated in too few hands, because otherwise society – that’s the rest of us – would be harmed. Ronald Reagan essentially terminated the Sherman Anti-trust Act through non-enforcement and not much has been done to prevent anti-competitiveness since then, even as large corporations buy competitors and consolidate power for themselves and largely at the expense of you and me. Think: airlines; investment companies; accounting firms; pharmaceutical companies; and banks.

Taxes

You already know that the basic fact of the proposed Republican tax plan is primarily a cash giveaway to the rich. That’s accomplished by taking benefits from poor and working class Americans. The Republicans are claiming that this corporate and rich people’s mattress-stuffer bill will deliver the wondrous magic of driving economic growth, new and better jobs for Americans and rising income for all. Plus, everybody gets their own pony in the back yard. But what if all the goodies (other than the cash gift to the wealthy) are really just a phantom that was dreamed up years ago in order to sell trickle-down?

Bruce Bartlett was a key guy in creating the trickle-down myth in the 1980s, so he knows something about this. Read his piece in the Washington Post, where he ‘fesses up to having been a true believer in trickle-down and now unmasks the fraud that it is. He pulls back the curtain about the claim that reducing taxes primarily on the wealthy will result in rising income for working Americans. Be sure to pass along his piece to your fiscally conservative brother-in-law and be sure to remind him of the $1.5 trillion debt the Republicans’ plan will create. That should make for a spirited Thanksgiving discussion.

Banking

The Glass-Steagall Act was passed following the Great Depression as a preventative against some reckless banking practices that helped lay waste to our economy and devastate millions of Americans. In 1999 that law was repealed, allowing investment banks, commercial banks and insurance companies to merge and invent heretofore unimaginable products that put the entire world on the precipice of economic disaster.  There have been many calls for the big banks to be broken up since then, precisely because they enjoy de facto monopoly of our financial world and can pose an existential threat to our country. Those break ups haven’t happened and the banking instruments that put our economy in peril in 2008 are vastly larger today. What do you suppose might happen?

Freedom

It’s time to pay attention to what’s going on and make sense of it all. Here’s a sampling of what some very wise people had to say about that.

Our government . . . teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. Justice Louis Brandeis

He Screwibus Union

The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion. Edmund Burke

The people of every country are the only safe guardians of their own rights, and are the only instruments which can be used for their destruction. And certainly they would never consent to be so used were they not deceived. Thomas Jefferson

If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.  W. Somerset Maugham

We need clear, rational thinking and action in order to protect what we hold dear. Who would have thought that doing so would require courage on the part of those in Congress?

What we’ve seen so far are extensive connections to Russia and fatuous lies told about those connections by nearly everyone high in the Trump administration. What has been confirmed by 17 intelligence agencies of the U.S. is that Russia hacked of our election and tried to influence the votes of millions of Americans. Instead of believing our own experts, Trump believes Putin when all he offers is, “nuh-uh.” Trump maintains a submissive, lapdog posture toward Putin and his manipulation of and access to information makes it look like there’s been a bloodless coup, a Russian theft of America.

You are incrementally being put at greater risk by powerful people concerned solely with their own wealth and power and apparently without the slightest concern for our country. I assure you that staying quiet about this, doing an ostrich, will allow more harm to be done to you and to America. Robert Mueller is doing his job, but that may not be enough. Perhaps it’s time for you to stand up and speak up.

————————————

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 and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 2

Reading time – 6:20; Viewing time – 9:38  .  .  .

This is the continuation of my notions of a national platform begun in the last post. It’s necessary to make an addendum to point #5 regarding healthcare.

Memo to Lawmakers: Only 20% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing and that number hasn’t varied by more than a few percentage points since 2006. The disapproval rating of Congress stands at 74%, meaning that 3 out of 4 Americans think you’re doing a really lousy job. You really should feel terrible about that. Here’s what you need to know.

A big piece of the public disapproval of you is due to your making back room deals – sleaze behind closed doors – like what the Republican senators have done with their cruel healthcare plan that keeps millions of Americans from getting healthcare at all. That’s why We the People don’t approve of you.

All you have to do is to craft something that provides healthcare for everyone and do your deliberation in public, opening the process to comments from actual American people who will be impacted by what you do. This is not complicated and you really can do this.

Memo to Republicans in Congress: We the People know that your American Health Care Act (“AHCA”) isn’t really about healthcare. It’s about giving an $800 billion cash windfall to already rich people. Can you be any more disingenuous? Shame on you.

8. George W. Bush may go down in history as our worst president because he started two unnecessary wars which are likely to continue for decades. Donald Trump is trying to one-up him by tweaking the nose of an infantile nuclear dictator, thumbing his nose at our strongest allies, buddying up to Vladimir Putin and refusing to endorse Article 5 of the NATO charter.

Memo to lawmakers: You already know that only Congress has the power to declare war. Put on your big boy/girl pants, take a stand and fulfill your obligation. We don’t need perpetual war initiated by autocrats.

Economic teaching moment: War robs us of huge amounts of money – trillions of dollars. The cost of every bullet or rocket that’s fired is lost forever; in contrast, the money spent in America, on America gets recycled nearly perpetually to the benefit of all of us.

Mortality teaching moment: Our military people who get killed in our unnecessary wars really don’t come home and resume their lives. They’re dead and if you didn’t stand against our unnecessary wars, it’s your fault. Do you support our military? Then stop sending our people off to die for no good reason.

9. If Trump gets his way we’re going to de-fund the National Institutes of Health, the EPA and gut our diplomatic corps. so we’ll cut spending on cancer research, let our air and water get polluted again and make the military our only foreign affairs tool, all to save less than a couple of percent of our budget.

Memo to lawmakers: Really?!!! Please wake up and tell us you’re not that self-defeating. Put on those big boy/girl pants and take a stand for America.

10. Stephen Bannon wants to tear down our established order and so far Trump seems to be his puppet in charge of dismantling what makes the American government work. At the same time Trump is collapsing the international coalition that has kept us strong and safe for 100 years, while at the same time sucking up to vicious autocrats around the world. Using duck logic, this looks, walks and quacks like a duck that is in the process of the self-immolation of America.

Memo to lawmakers: Get a grip on reality, stop this un-American president and put our government back together. Note that once again this will require that you put on your big boy/girl pants.

11. Fossil fuel is on the way out because we’re choking on its exhaust and the planet is warming at a staggering rate that will cook us all. We need clean energy, not more oil extracted from ecologically perilous places.

Memo to lawmakers: You’ll be okay without Big Oil and Big Gas campaign contributions – I promise. So, stop the idiocy of, “I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know about global warming.” Craft legislation that will drive a complete transformation of our energy infrastructure – a moon shot – like solar collectors on all roofs, solar farms, wind energy, tide energy, a new smart grid and all the rest. If you don’t care enough about your grandchildren to do this, then do it for mine.

12. 100 years ago graduating from 8th grade was a fine accomplishment and enough education for someone to get a good job with good pay. A few decades later a high school diploma was needed for a good job, so we made high school tuition-free for our kids. The world has changed and even more education is needed today. Right now there are 6 million jobs going wanting, many because employers can’t find people with the education required for those jobs.

Memo to lawmakers: Make state college education tuition-free. And find a way to get past property taxes being the primary funding for our schools, because this antiquated system leaves kids in poor areas unable to get a good education. That sentences them to a sub-standard life and robs us all of their contributions to a better America. And stop the efforts to privatize education because that isn’t the answer, even if big donors want you to believe it is. Yes, all of this will have tax implications, just as the switch to tuition-free high school did. Figure it out.

13. Russia is not our friend. Russia is an opponent and, considering their ongoing cyber attack on the U.S. and our allies, they may be considered our enemy. Failing to vigorously oppose their behavior and impose penalties on them is ineptitude in the extreme and possibly treason. It’s true that the Executive branch conducts American foreign policy. It’s also true that both the House and Senate are investigating Russian hacking and possible collusion from within. The problem is that those investigations are cumbersome and glacially slow, which means that the president has plenty of time to undermine American security.

Memo to lawmakers: I really don’t care how much money the president owes to Russian interests or the pictures they may have of him or any other pressures Putin can put on Trump. I don’t care about Trump’s notion of making friends with Russia. They are antithetical to our beliefs, our way of life and our safety. Find a way to stop the foreign policy disasters that Trump is creating.

14. It’s absurd to be able to say this, but we are living in a world where millions actually believe in alternative facts and fake news. Surprise, Donald Trump didn’t invent it. This has been going on for a long time. The concept of shame for one’s despicable actions like lying no longer seems to exist and people are prepared to dismiss provable facts. Indeed, millions regularly dismiss reality because they have been told by self-serving types that others are lying to them. That itself is a lie, but it’s crafty stuff for those wanting power and for whom integrity isn’t high on their list of personal attributes.

Memo to lawmakers: Are you lying or misleading the public? Stop it. Stop manipulating to get control of the Supreme Court. Stop telling Americans that it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs and then doing nothing to stimulate job growth. Stop saying we’ll have better healthcare at a much lower cost when you can’t deliver either one. Stop telling the American people that those who report on you are liars when they report on your dalliances. Stop claiming your programs won’t privatize Social Security and Medicare when that’s exactly what they will do. Stop creating enemies like the press just to gain popular support for you, because now the truth has become an enemy and that is corroding our society. One last time: Put on your big boy/girl pants and tell the truth.

Final memo to lawmakers: What I’ve outlined in this post and the one prior is what Americans want. This isn’t fringe stuff, but doing this won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. There are competing interests and some are legitimate and quite valuable, with the exception, of course, of the issue of lying. Nevertheless, everything is either a negotiation and a compromise or it is stagnation through polarization. It’s your choice. Choose well, especially when it’s hard.

Unavoidably, our solutions come down to a 4-letter word: WORK. Roll up your shirt/blouse sleeves and get to work. Not the hateful, in-your-face behavior that we see so often or the misleading, hyperbolic idiocy that dominates the news, but work that’s focused on a better America and improving the lives of all Americans. If you can’t do that, just resign, because otherwise We the People will be sending you home real soon.

Get to work.

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 1

Reading time – 6:40; Viewing time – 9:54  .  .  .

This post was created in the days just before the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and the injuring of 5 others at a baseball practice. Clearly, the shooter had problems; yet that event has put into stark relief the extent of our political polarization, the frustrations of the American people and the extremism that some of our leaders have helped to deepen, all of which underline the points that follow.

DC is crazy and everyone knows it’s crazy. The president thinks everything is all about him and that his job is a popularity contest won by appealing to extremists. Many of those in Congress think their job about is serving special interests. The Republicans who speak loudly are anchored in the primordial Reagan ooze as though there is something holy about continuing to do what has never worked. Democrats don’t seem to be able to do much other than be against Trump and Republican extremism.

Meanwhile, We the People think it’s about America and Americans. That leaves it to us to be sane about the future of America, so here are the first seven of my Platform Points in bite-size portions. The key is that the vast majority of Americans are in line with these notions and our solution comes down to a 4-letter word. Note that my more aggressive comments are for the folks with big, extremist megaphones and not for the reasonable legislators who only want to make things better for everyone.

1. A minimum of 78% of Americans believe that big money infects and distorts our democracy and they want that changed. They want a We the People Amendment that negates the craziness of Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United, McCutcheon v. F.E.C. and the rest of the enabling decisions and legislation that allow the rich to buy America and impoverish the rest of us. Said another way, Americans want Congress to prevent the buying of Congress so that instead we can have an actual representative democracy.

Memo to Lawmakers: I understand that the present system requires you to grub for donations and seek the big buck donors. In fact, the system is the problem. In order to stop that, vote for the We the People Amendment to the Constitution. Get on the side of Americans, on the right side of history and end your begging for dollars. You’ll be glad you did it, because you know you hate begging for cash.

2. Just before the vote on the 2008 legislation that created Medicare Part D, Representative Billy Tauzin (R-LA) inserted an amendment into the legislation that prohibited the U.S. government, the largest purchaser of meds in the world, from negotiating with the pharmaceutical companies for better pricing. That sure was good for Big Pharma. Billy Tauzin didn’t run for re-election that year, preferring instead to go to work for PhRMA, the lobbying organization of Big Pharma. They gave him a pay increase to $2 million per year.

Memo to lawmakers: We the People are angry about the revolving door between Congress and lobbying. Clean up this sleaziness. Make the Tauzin behavior illegal. And change the Part D law so we can negotiate better pricing with Big Pharma.

3. Until a few years ago when the NRA went on a campaign to change the meaning of the Second Amendment, we all knew that violent offenders and those not mentally stable shouldn’t have firearms. We still know that, but now over half of all deaths by firearms are suicide (also here) and many of those are our returning vets. A gun within arm’s reach makes suicide and homicide real easy and we have to wonder if that shooter at the Republican baseball practice would have taken any action at all if he were not able to obtain an AR-15 assault rifle. Over 80% of Americans want sensible gun safety legislation, including a huge majority of NRA members.

Memo to lawmakers: NRA campaign contributions are nice, but you’ll be okay without them. And the “cold, dead hands” mantra may bring about a satisfying testosterone rush, but it’s killing Americans. Pass sensible gun safety legislation.

4. The FDA has dragged feet for years on an Obama era requirement that restaurants display calorie counts on restaurant meals. “Now the FDA has indefinitely postponed the implementation of the rule which would require food manufacturers to list added sugars along with more visible calorie counts and clearer serving sizes.” They’ve also refused to require labeling that would let us know if a food product contained genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Why doesn’t the government want us to know what we’re eating?

Memo to lawmakers: You already know the answer to the question: It’s the Big Food lobby. They fear that if we consumers know the crap they put in their products that they’ll sell less of it to us, so they “incentivize” lawmakers and agencies to stall disclosure laws. This isn’t a key issue, but it is another case of Big Money buying our government in large and small ways, getting what it wants at the expense of We the People. Labeling changes cost next to nothing. Make them do it.

5. The American people don’t want bickering over how many millions of us should be shut out of healthcare by the various idiotic proposals being considered. By a significant margin, we want Medicare for all, universal healthcare, single payer – call it what you will. The statistics show that Medicare costs about 25% less than care that is provided through private healthcare insurance – that’s for equivalent healthcare procedures and outcomes. The cost differential is largely due to the overhead costs of private insurers, like marketing, sales expense and really high pay for their C-level executives. Switching to single payer will make a significant dent in our bloated spending for healthcare and will save individual Americans a lot of money.

Memo to lawmakers: Yes, it’s true that single payer will put out of business many of the private healthcare insurance companies that make lovely campaign contributions. The buggy whip makers had a similar challenge 100 years ago when something better came along. Those formerly making buggy whips figured out how to get along; so will our healthcare insurance folks today. Single payer is what Americans want, so your choices, lawmakers, are to continue to do the stupid dance over this issue (now being done in secret to jam it through the Senate) or you can get on the right side of history.

6. Trickle down economics never trickles down. It was factually wrong when it was proposed and it has consistently failed for nearly 40 years. Supply side stimulus doesn’t grow businesses; demand does, but demand isn’t stimulated by the upside down economics of trickle down. Let’s be specific about what actually happens: Giving more money to rich people with the expectation that they will expand their businesses and hire lots of Americans and pay good wages doesn’t happen. Making this worse is that because their personal wants and needs were already met before any tax windfall, rich people don’t spend the new trickle down money, so we don’t get a boost to the economy. Instead, overwhelmingly, rich folks have put their trickle down money into their investments so that nearly all reward has gone to them. The rest of us have stagnated.

Memo to lawmakers: Stop the dishonest schemes that only enrich the wealthy, like Bush’s tax cuts, Trump’s one-page “tax plan” and the disingenuous AHCA which would give huge tax breaks to rich people, funded by refusing healthcare entirely to 23 million Americans. The tax breaks will not redound to the rest of us, as history shows. Come up with a progressive tax plan that makes sense for all. And don’t ever again say “trickle-down” or “supply side” or we’ll know you’re lying.

7. Everyone knows that our infrastructure is failing. We have 55,000 bridges that need substantial repair or complete replacement. Our roads need a huge amount work. Our airports and trains are second rate compared to most of the industrialized world. The water and sewer pipes in all our major cities are over 100 years old. In short, there is a long list of what needs to be done if we are to remain the world leader.

Memo to lawmakers: Stop whining that the Obama Recovery Act (the “stimulus”) didn’t work. The spending you authorized was about half of what was needed for all those “shovel-ready” projects; then you gave half of it to rich people in the form of tax breaks that, once again, didn’t trickle down. The stimulus plan could have worked and our bridges would have been safer by now, but in your mania to ensure that Obama had no wins you submarined it. America is falling apart and you finger pointers with a big megaphone are a key reason why. Cut the crap and pass a major infrastructure plan.

This is the end of Part 1 of the Platform. You’ll find Part 2 in the next post and it will include the unveiling of that key 4-letter word.

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Lethal Misdirection For The Ultimate Goal

Reading time 3:29; Viewing time – 6:07  .  .  .

He trundled out his list of astonishingly unqualified candidates for cabinet posts, at least three of whom have previously vowed to eliminate the agencies they would now oversee. His chief strategist is a white supremacist, alt-right bigot and Trump has put him on the National Security Council.* He announced his National Security Advisor pick, a former general who is extreme enough to have been forced to resign from the Defense Intelligence Agency and who is foolish enough to have habitually retweeted insane stuff.

He put a gag rule on multiple agencies of government and fired both the acting Attorney General and the Acting Director of Immigration Enforcement.

Then the Muslim ban was announced and we showed up at airports by the thousands in solidarity with refugees and immigrants. Lawyers toted their laptops to airports and gave free help to those stuck there. No way we’ll stand for crushing a Presidential heel into the face of the Statue of Liberty.

Trump’s Supreme Court justice nominee is so far to the right that when he was in high school he joked about founding a club called “Fascism Forever,” although The Daily Mail claims he really did it. That’s a keenly important attitude for a megalomaniac president’s Supreme Court justice, but not so much for the rest of us. It’s time to stiffen senatorial spines – call your senators and tell them.

And let’s not forget that Trump’s Secretary of State is great buddies with our sworn enemy, Vladimir Putin, who is stepping up military aggression in the Ukraine. At the same time Trump is removing sanctions on Russia. And Trump has already insulted the leaders of at least four of our allies, Mexico, Australia, Germany and Canada.

We’re distracted by the blizzard of substantial issues pouring from the White House, none of which appears to have been thought through but which, in the aggregate, keep us engaged in a frenetic readjustment of our focus. So, we miss the political coup that’s underway, and that is the real deal, and it’s incrementally happening by keeping us distracted. The open door to the coup is the next misdirection and it is going to have global consequences for decades.

On February 1 National Security Advisor Mike Flynn came to the White House daily briefing and made a belligerent threat to Iran in the wake of their having tested a ballistic missile. He put the Iranian government “on notice.” That doesn’t leave much room for the U.S. to maneuver if the Iranians launch another missile.

That’s exacerbated by President Trump having fired nearly all of our State Department staff, all the way down to those who issue visas. Those now gone were the folks in charge of diplomacy, which, as you’ll recall, is what we formerly used to avoid war.

Here’s an historical reference. George W. Bush came to the White House determined to take down Saddam Hussein. Whether that was because that dirty varmint said something bad about Bush’s daddy or because he just figured Saddam was too bad to stay in power or whether he thought he could remake the middle-east in the democratic image of America, we likely will never know. What we do know is that he seized upon the tragedy of 9/11 and blamed Saddam, saying he was in cahoots with al-Qaeda (which was nonsense, because al-Qaeda is fanatically religious and Saddam was secular and seen by al-Qaeda as apostate) and he also told us that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, all evidence to the contrary be damned. The point is that Bush lied. He manufactured reasons to start a war and it had nothing to do with our national security.

And we’re seeing Trump do that same thing right now.

Clearly, we don’t want Iran to have either ballistic missile or nuclear weapon technology. This has to be dealt with, but leaving ourselves no tools but military action assures more war with no way out. And Flynn having immediately gone public with a threat that sounds a lot like a schoolyard taunt, leaves the Iranians no way to back down while saving face. Alternatives to war have all but vanished.

This is all complicated by our president being incapable of reassessing or admitting he made a mistake or acknowledging that he is anything but infallible and the smartest person (“I’m speaking to myself about foreign policy, because I have a very smart brain“). Just remember that he told us that he knows more than the generals. And our judges. And the climate scientists. And all our diplomats. And all our negotiators. And all our education experts. Call him the god-like Kim Jong-Trump.

Trump is edging us to the precipice of another war that has nothing to do with our national security. The war dead will stay dead and real people will grieve and we will stay mired in the death and destruction and debt. And Trump has his reason.

He will use our mass protests against war – and yes, we will protest – as sufficient reason to declare martial law. All of this – the discrimination, the dismantling of our governmental institutions, gag rules and firings, stealing the Supreme Court, the insulting of our allies and giving relief to our avowed enemy and the coming war itself – all these distractions exist so that this President can become the American dictator. Then the coup will be complete and our democracy will be over.

Click here for more. Thanks to PV for the pointer.

Here’s Robert Reich with the imperative.

Some of the misdirection is subtle. Here’s the Washington Post’s Why Trump’s focus on ‘Islamic terrorism’ misses the point entirely and why it will lead to truncated freedom of the press.

————————————

In Other News

*Reuters is reporting that President Trump is removing white supremacist, alt-right groups including the KKK, Aryan Nation and neo-Nazis from the national terror watch list. Read the report all the way down to the chart, where you’ll see that these domestic terrorist groups are twice as likely to commit violence in America as al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists.

————————————

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is 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 and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Sleeplessness

Reading time – 57 seconds  .  .  .

I am bewildered – terrified of what this megalomaniac might do with both houses of Congress in his lap. The Iran nuclear deal, NATO, the Middle-East – so much may be undone or destructively overdone that can shatter the tenuous grasp of world stability that this man doesn’t understand.

Larger still is that this country contains 58,000,000 people who knowingly elected this sociopath.

What kind of country is this when Trump events look like the Nuremberg rallies?

What kind of country is this where women, African-Americans, Hispanics, veterans and active military people were insulted, belittled and abused, yet millions of them still voted for him? Who are these people? How can we understand them voting for someone who hates them and would discriminate against them?

What kind of country is this when the winner intends to jail his political opponent? Was that just campaign talk? His followers don’t think so.

The Constitution expressly prohibits any religious test, yet Trump has pledged to prevent any Muslims from entering the country. Who’s next on his list for discrimination?

What kind of country is this when a candidate commits to deporting 12 million people (over 8,200 people per day, every day) and his idiocy is cheered by 58,000,000 others?

What kind of country is this where white supremacists’ voices of hate are welcome and where hate crimes have already soared?

What will happen to the Supreme Court? Whatever it is will shape America for decades and I’m very afraid of the shape it will take.

Is this how the really bad stuff starts? That is the question that is keeping me from sleeping well.

————————————-

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is 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 and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

1 2 3  Scroll to top