Supreme Court

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.

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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 and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2017 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.

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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 and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2017 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 2017 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 2017 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.

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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.

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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 2017 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.

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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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

3 Q & As and The Supreme Court

supreme-court-minus-1Reading time – 1:49; Viewing time – 2:56  .  .  .

Much has been said about the long term consequences of the 3 – 5 Supreme Court Justice appointments that will be made over the coming 4 to 8 years by the next president. Whatever your notion of the type of Court we should have, factor the following into your voting decision making.

Donald Trump has spoken recklessly and cruelly by demeaning women, Gold Star families, POWs, Mexicans, Muslims and the disabled.

1. Two-part question: As President, what might he say about Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Peña Nieto of Mexico or President Erdoğan of Turkey? And is that a Presidential role model you want for your little ones?

Trump lost almost a billion dollars in one year. It’s not uncommon for businesses to have a bad year, but one billion dollars? Oddly, he says he is such a good businessman that he alone can lead our economy to greatness.

2. Does that make any sense to you?

Trump has spoken carelessly about the use of nuclear weapons, declaring that we should give them to at least 3 nations that are currently non-nuclear. Doing so would greatly increase the likelihood of America-hating extremists getting their hands on nuclear weapons. He has also said that he might use nuclear weapons in a first strike capacity. Such loose talk about nuclear weapons makes national leaders around the world far more than uneasy and it’s not difficult to imagine an adversary like North Korea (with its stunningly psychotic leader Kim Jong-un) perceiving that President Trump would nuke them, influencing them to strike us first.

3. Do you really want a Commander in Chief who is cavalier about nuclear weapons?

I’m no flag waver for Hillary Clinton and I have serious concerns about her as President. On the other hand,

1. She has some positive traits as a roll model and won’t insult women, men, members of minorities or the disabled, members of the opposition or international leaders.

2. She has a plan for the economy that, while imperfect, will have some good overall effect.

3. She won’t get us nuked by North Korea, nor will she start World War III.

That is to say, our choices this year may be dreadful, but these are the choices we have. We can eventually recover from brutish insults and wanton discrimination; from an insane economic policy that will add $10 T to the national debt; and from Supreme Court decisions we disagree with. We can’t recover from a nuclear war. That trumps everything, so stop sweating the Supreme Court decisions.

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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: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Stop Obsessing About the How – v2.0

Reading time – 2:01; Viewing time –   .  .  . 

Last month I explained that challenging the presidential contenders to the throne on how they would accomplish the things they say they will do is folly, but we keep hearing such useless challenges. Indeed, cable news picked up the story from the April 1 interview of Bernie Sanders by the New York Daily News editorial board and somehow found a fatal lack of how-ness in his responses and they obsessed over that.

The Daily News interviewers said to Sanders, ”  .  .  .  you expect to break up [the big banks] within the first year of your administration. What authority do you have to do that? And how would that work? How would you break up JPMorgan Chase?”

Oddly – and this may be news to our cable news obsessers – it just isn’t useful to ask him that, because – BREAKING NEWS! – our presidents are not dictators. They don’t get to wave their hand and have the country “make it so.” What they get to do is to name the things they see as critical and which they will influence to the best of their ability to come about if they’re elected. That’s all they have.


Hillary Clinton tells us on her website that she will reform campaign finance. She has a 3-step program to do that. First, “Overturn Citizens United.” Next, she will “End secret, unaccountable money in politics.” Third, she will “Establish a small-donor matching system to amplify the voices of everyday Americans.” Good ideas. But as president, she wouldn’t be able to do any of that. Presidents don’t get to overturn Supreme Court decisions or make laws. Again, all she would be able to do would be to try to influence those in other parts of government to accomplish those things. That’s it.

Donald Trump tells us that he’s going to build a 1,989 mile long wall along our entire border with Mexico and he’s going to get Mexico to pay for it. Setting aside the belly laughs that are coming from Mexico City, when asked how he will get the Mexican government to pay for it, his most specific answer that is understandable to a normally functioning human being is that he claims he’s a hard negotiator. Here’s what he said:

“Mexico must pay for the wall and, until they do, the United States will, among other things: impound all remittance payments derived from illegal wages; increase fees on all temporary visas issued to Mexican CEOs and diplomats (and if necessary cancel them); increase fees on all border crossing cards of which we issue about 1 million to Mexican nationals each year (a major source of visa overstays); increase fees on all NAFTA worker visas from Mexico (another major source of overstays); and increase fees at ports of entry to the United States from Mexico. We will not be taken advantage of anymore.”

Don’t be troubled by your inability to understand most of that, because some of it is vapor from Trump’s imagination and the rest are things he cannot do by fiat. Assuming he is serious about doing the things he mentions, he cannot do them – at least not on his own.

There are exceptions, like Bernie Sanders telling us how he would fund tuition at our state universities through a tax on financial transactions. There are other candidates who list some how stuff, too.

For the most part, though, we can examine all the issues detailed by all the candidates, but in fact, there isn’t much to examine. From a practical point of view, the only thing of use to you is that you can get a general idea of how a person thinks, what they believe and the things they want you to believe they will do if they are elected. You get to sort through all of that noise, jettison the stupid stuff and then make your selection.

So, one more time: Stop obsessing about the how.

And pass this along to whatever broadcast or cable news outlet you follow, telling them to chill about the how.

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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: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Coca-Cola

Reading time – 82 seconds; Viewing time – 2:16  .  .  .

It is such a relief – relief, I tell you – that our beloved country is at last post-racial. Yes, the stain of slavery and racism is at last behind us, as we walk white-hand-in-black-hand-in-brown-hand through the golden meadow, singing the 1971 Coca Cola hilltop theme,

I'd like to build the world a home and furnish it with love,
Grow apple trees and honey bees and snow white turtle doves.
I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,

I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.

Now, the trick is that we have to get the Maricopa County Arizona residents who stood in line for over 5 hours to vote in the primary last week to buy into that message. My guess? They’ll gag on it.

And so should we. We should gag, too, on all the voting restrictions visited mostly on poor people and people of any color darker than beige. These are laws that have snuffed out the rights of tens of thousands of people in Arizona, North Carolina, Texas and many other states since the astonishingly blind and moronically simple-minded Supreme Court decision to gut the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That act contained specific prohibitions on states with a history of discrimination, restrictions which would have prevented the Arizona subversion of America and people’s rights of citizenship. But the Voting Rights Act no longer protects Americans, thanks to 5 Supreme Court Justices.

Now, some economically middle class, white Americans recognize that the country is continuing its color shift to darker shades.  It’s possible that they like the disenfranchisement going on in Arizona. They may like that those discriminatory actions take rights from others, because those others are people who want to take from them what is their lawful and God-given right to be superior.

In fact, there are lots of Constitution thumpers who are like that and they are, just like the Big Bucks Boys who buy our laws and regulations and elections, stealing America from Americans.

You gonna let that happen?

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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: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

To Hell With The People

Reading time – 49 seconds; Viewing time – 2:17  .  .  .

Trump says they should stall. McConnell said he will stall in the Senate. All the Republican candidates for president insist we must wait to appoint a new Supreme Court justice until the next president takes office. They hope that a Republican will win the general election in November, in which case they can get a new justice that matches their extremist notions.

So, the political rant is all about dragging feet for almost a year – until after January 20, 2017, to fill the vacancy on the court. What’s conservative about that? Can you think of a single reason – even a bad one – that the court should be limited for a year if its job is to be the the final arbiter of disputes and the interpreter of laws, as established in Marbury v. Madison over 200 years ago? Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe can’t and he derided the Republicans’ behavior, saying the Republicans were, ”  .  .  .  holding the court and America hostage.” He said that’s shameful.* He’s right.

It is the obligation (i.e. requirement, duty, responsibility) of the president to nominate candidates to sit on the Supreme Court. It is the obligation of the Senate to vet the president’s candidates and approve or reject. Nowhere in the Constitution are there words suggesting that any of these required duties should be postponed for a year because it’s a presidential election year and the Republicans want to pack the court with their lapdog justices. Indeed, there have been 8 justices put on the court during election years since 1900, including Justice Anthony Kennedy, nominated by Ronald Reagan in  his last year in office.

This Republican hair-on-fire tantrum is just their current denial of reality, another flick of the middle finger to America, saying to hell with the people. The Republicans will likely cave in and hold hearings but will reject whoever President Obama nominates just to string out this process for a year and to deny President Obama another victory.

Isn’t America supposed to be better than that?

* Said to Chris Matthews on Hardball, February 15, 2016.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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