Supreme Court

Apathy and the Big Picture


Ed. Note:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I mention that it gets worse? It does.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                         ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!

 


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

Wag the Dog


Reading time – 3:24; Viewing time – 4:37  .  .  .

This is from the Sunday New York Times:

“At [national security advisor John] Bolton’s direction, the National Security Council asked the Pentagon last year to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran .  .  .”

Let’s put this into perspective.

Gen. Colin Powell warned us against doing military stupid stuff in his Powell Doctrine decades ago. It’s grounded in the painful lessons of Vietnam and, while it has weathered criticism for being incomplete, it’s hard to disagree with Powell’s cautionary message. Sadly, we’ve pretty much ignored it time and again.

Not stated in the Powell Doctrine is another of his admonitions, the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it. And so we do in Iraq and Afghanistan, the longest wars in our history. Now John Bolton, always eager to flex US muscle, has asked for plans to strike Iran.

Can you imagine Donald Trump being a calming voice of reason to tether John Bolton to reality? Neither can I. If Bolton gets his way we will break yet another country where we will then be in perpetual war. And this story gets worse.

We are mired in the longest government shutdown in US history. The president is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to overpower Congress and get his useless wall. You need to understand what such a declaration can mean.

In a time of declared national emergency the president has vast powers. Here’s a partial list:

Suspend the Constitution – yes, SUSPEND THE CONSTITUTION!

Redirect money in blatant conflict with Congressional intent

Declare martial law

Deploy our military in-country

Seize control of the internet

Shut down communications (telephone, radio, television, etc.)

Freeze bank accounts – including yours

Suspend habeas corpus (i.e. imprison Americans without charge and without due process of law – Think: Guantanamo in Des Moines, IA)

Control the states’ voter databases

Sanction Americans without charge and leave them without recourse

Effectively, the president can become a monarch. Perhaps Trump will prefer autocrat or generalissimo or kommisar or general secretary or chairman. Regardless of the label, it will be the end of American democracy.

This president has repeatedly shown that he has no regard for Constitutional limits, much less respect for legislative and cultural norms. He’s given us no reason to believe that he would refrain from outrageous behavior following his declaring a national emergency. And with the help of Mitch McConnell for the past two  years, Trump has packed the courts and his cabinet with people who likely would refuse to stand up to him.

A declaration of national emergency, whether for his fantasy claims of crisis at our southern border or for a pending or hot conflict with Iran or Argentina would be just the thing for Trump to consolidate power. Beyond fulfilling Trump’s bottomless ego needs, such a declaration will completely divert attention from his conspiracies with Russia. It’s the ultimate distraction and, perhaps, the negation of any investigation into his possible criminal activity.

Did I mention that this story gets worse? It does.

We never vote leaders out of office during war time and very rarely during any other national emergency. The only contrary example I can think of is Herbert Hoover, who lost the 1932 election to Franklin Roosevelt for his mishandling of the Great Depression. Nevertheless, the point for us now is to be clear that a declaration of national emergency, regardless of the justification Trump uses, would likely ensure Trump’s reelection in 2020, if, indeed, we even have another election.

And that will make Vladimir Putin very happy. His only regret will be that he won’t have any more kompromat on Trump, because exposing Trump’s money laundering, his tax fraud, his obstruction of justice and his treason will no longer matter.

Wag the dog.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

There’s Only One Message


Reading time – 2:49; Viewing time – 4:01 .  .  .

– with a special message from Carl Reiner

VOTE!

Everything else is secondary. Read Tom Friedman’s piece – he explains it better than I can.

Just a few more comments.

Trump showed up on that enormously painful day after having been asked to stay away by the Mayor of Pittsburgh, the rabbi of the synagogue where 11 people were killed and 6 were injured and 70,000 residents of Pittsburgh (over 23% of the city’s population). He was specifically dis-invited by the grieving families, but he showed up anyway. Really, though, why would he accede to the wishes of those grieving people, when he has a photo-op moment? Everything is always about Trump, regardless of the consequences to others.

Gail Collins wrote of Trump that, “His rhetorical high point probably came when he went to the synagogue where 11 people were murdered and didn’t say anything.” Translation: Every time Trump opens his mouth something bad comes out.

Last week Trump released a 45-second ad that is blatantly racist and lacks even the slightest hint at subtlety. It is bald faced fear mongering. Except for the assertion that Luis Bracamontes is an illegal immigrant convicted of killing two cops, every other statement in the ad is false. What is noteworthy is Trump’s having yet again shown us that there is no bottom to his low.

Trump and the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee lied and cheated their way to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. When Trump was asked about his lying throughout the process, he told a reporter, “We won” – that’s all that mattered.

Now you know every thing you need to know about Trump. Everything is solely about Trump winning. Protecting our country and preserving our democracy mean nothing to him. Getting more power and wealth for Trump is all that matters. Truth, reality, propriety, morality, honesty, rules, impact on others – none of it matters because everything is always about Trump getting more of what he wants. That’s his reason for going to Pittsburgh when he was specifically asked not to come. That’s how we get a blatantly dishonest, 45-second fear mongering, anti-immigrant ad 5 days before the mid-term election. That’s how Brett Kavanaugh, accused by multiple women of sexual assault, makes it onto the Supreme Court. Clearly, for Trump the end justifies the means. And the means are the manipulation tools he uses without regard for the suffering he causes others and the damage he does to our democracy.

The destruction of democratic America and the establishment of Trump as autocrat is what he is working to create every day. And that is the America our spineless Republican Congress is allowing to come about through its cowardice and refusal to check Trump.

And that is why there is only one message:

VOTE!

Here’s Carl Reiner’s message for you:

I’m not customarily or historically a partisan. I care about issues and principles. If you must, sneer at me as unrealistic and disparagingly call me a Boy Scout. No problem here. But this election comes so plainly in a desperate moment for our country that most issues and policies are at best secondary. The only issue on which to focus is to save our democracy, and you can’t do that with sniveling, cowardly Republicans controlling Congress.

Vote for Democrats who will stop Trump’s destruction of our democracy.

Vote for Democrats who will begin to restore the underpinnings of our democracy that Trump has compromised.

VOTE!

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Here’s another message from a lifelong Republican. Have you noticed how many have the same message for you? Have you noticed how many lifelong Republicans have left that party because the party left them and no longer remotely promotes their values?

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

As Smart as Squirrels


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

Reading time 5:39; Viewing time – 7:05  .  .  .

Ed note: There never seems to be a break in the outrageous, the illegal, the assaults on democracy and the hurtful things in the news – like the Kavanaugh horror show, murder in Turkey, 6.5 Presidential lies per day, the kidnapping of children and all the rest. That makes it difficult to find space for something forward thinking, so we’ll just have to make the space.
The main body of this post was published 6 years ago and the message still fits. So, here’s As Smart As Squirrels, lightly edited for today.

Strategy is what we do. Tactics are how we do those things, so the tactics serve the strategies. Strategy serves something else: The Why – why we are doing what we are doing. It’s our vision for tomorrow and all the tomorrows after that. It’s our True North and nobody in politics is talking about that. Most of what we hear is little more than reaction, accusations, false facts, and techniques that politicians use to contort themselves into what they think will manipulate voters to vote for them and will continue the overwhelming crush of the big money carpet bombing of our democracy.

If we are to survive as a democracy, if the American Dream is to endure, indeed, if America is to continue to be America, we will have to be as smart as squirrels.

Squirrels aren’t the most intelligent animals on the planet; they’re just fuzzy rats with cute tails and tiny little brains, but they’re smart enough to know that comfortable summer and autumn days will give way to eye-crossing cold winter days and food will become scarce. That’s why they gather those acorns and stuff them away during the warm months. They know tomorrow is coming and they prepare for it. That’s a useful model for us – prepare for tomorrow – and the challenge that faces us is to be as smart as squirrels and prepare for all the tomorrows. Here’s an example.

It’s been years since we passed peak oil, the point at which half of the Earth’s oil reserves had been consumed.  It took us a little over a hundred years to do that. With the explosion of world population and all those additional people wanting to consume energy at the pace we do, it will take just a few short decades to burn through the rest of the oil. Worse, because it took 60 million years to produce the oil we’ve been burning and, since we really can’t wait another 60 million years for the supply to improve, offshore drilling and punching holes in the ground in the still pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge simply aren’t the answers to our energy needs. Worse yet is the global warming that all that fossil fuel burning creates and which is going to impact everyone on Earth before long and in severely negative ways.

We have to be smarter than that about all of our challenges and we have to think longer term. That will require clarity, direction and innovation. It will also require us to abandon our willful myopia. Absent that, we will continue to defeat ourselves, so the question that needs our focus is this: What is our long-term vision for America – our Why?

That question is intended to focus our thinking perhaps seven generations into the future so that we make the best decisions today, so that we take the best actions that move us in the right direction for the longer term, rather than just being reactive to the most recent flamboyant outrage or short term gain for the few.

Sadly, I don’t hear anyone talking about that kind of thing for America. The R’s talk about limited government and low taxes, but those are strategies, not a vision, and they offer nothing to indicate the America those strategies would create. Besides, the Rs don’t even practice those strategies. I hear the D’s talk about caring, fairness and lots of freebie stuff, but those, too, are strategies, not a vision, and it isn’t clear what they would create.

In this sound-bite-limited, tiny little attention span world we seem to have lost the ability to hold more complex ideas in mind. So, while the preamble to the Constitution is probably where we should focus our attention for a vision for America, I don’t know if that will work, since it’s a bit long to put on a bumper sticker.

Here’s a modest stab at a vision: A republic of security, liberty and prosperity for all Americans. We’ll never run out of work to accomplish that, so it satisfies the seven generation requirement of a vision. We can easily fit most of our core needs and strategies under that umbrella, like national security, fiscal policy, human rights, the general welfare and even that most hated of words, regulations. It can serve as a benchmark for decisions we must make and it might even help to eliminate some of the political fact-fabricating, pandering and other stupid stuff that overwhelms and paralyzes our politics. Offered well, it can even provide a benchmark for making wise Supreme Court picks.

I love to pick on Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). He fantasizes about a lot of crazy stuff, saying things like, “They’re gonna pull the plug on Granny.” In response to Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), who offered new allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Grassley said the allegations had “all the makings of a tabloid headline” and deserved “unqualified condemnation.” He said all of this stuff entirely without any supporting facts – just wild accusations. Imagine further one of his constituents asking him, “Senator, how does your saying such blatantly false things serve to create a republic of security, liberty and prosperity for all Americans?”

See what I mean about having a benchmark? We can test our notions and our strategies against our vision in order to be confident we’re moving in the right direction.

Surely, someone wiser than me can craft a far better long-term vision statement for America. What we need is something that isn’t in the weeds, is far sighted, doesn’t pander to wealthy interests and power grabbers and instead is focused on our entire society, our culture, our hopes, our dreams and our aspirations. When we do that, we call on what is best in America. When we fail to do that we make ourselves small and fall disappointingly short of our wonderful possibilities.

Is America as smart as I am?

So, give it a try in the Comments section below. What’s your vision for America? What should this country look like seven generations from now? What do you want your descendants in the year 2258 to be thanking you for?

We need to start moving in that direction right now. Otherwise, we’ll make ourselves dumber than squirrels.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Who Cares?


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

Reading time – 2:59; Viewing time – 4:17  .  .  .

North Dakota Republican lawmakers must think they’re in Texas or North Carolina, because they’re pursuing the same kinds of voter discrimination that’s become so popular with voter suppressionists in those other states.

They passed voter suppression tactics designed to stomp on the rights of 40,000 Native Americans. Here’s where it gets really weird: they started their discrimination after early voting had already begun.

Gotta give points for creativity to the North Dakota Republicans, because all the voter suppression actions in most other states has been to keep black, brown and poor people from voting, but not in North Dakota. Their anti-Constitutional genius is designed to keep poor Native Americans down. It seems that all those broken treaties over the centuries didn’t constitute enough cruelty to satisfy the supremacist power thirst of these Republicans. And the story gets worse.

Native Americans challenged that law in Federal court, which stopped it. But then the Republican North Dakota Secretary of State appealed to the Eighth District Court, which reversed the lower court and allowed the discriminatory law to stand. That decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, which decided that the law should go into affect.

So, who cares? We don’t care about Native Americans any more than we cared about Puerto Ricans when the hurricane slashed through that island and killed 2,975 Americans. None of them is from white European stock, so who cares?


Then there’s the deceit of the Kavanaugh debacle. Read the letter from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s lawyers posted halfway down the HUFFPost article. You’ll come away with clarity about the fundamental dishonesty of the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. To wrap a bow around that, here’s a link to a video of Donald Trump mocking Dr. Blasey Ford. His words aren’t only cruel; they’re utterly false. But really, if you’re in power, who cares?


A football coach, an athletic director and fifteen high school kids were killed and yet more were injured by a gunman at Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, FL on Valentine’s Day this year. Don’t even try to imagine how you would cope if one of your children had been shot dead at school, because unless you’ve lived it there isn’t even a remote possibility that you understand. But Fred Guttenberg does and he knows that doing something to help is what must be done. Guttenberg’s daughter, Jaime, was one of those killed that awful day in Florida.

Jaime was a dancer and she often helped those in need. She was small in stature, but took action to stop bullying. She simply cared about doing things to help others, so Fred created a foundation to do just that. It’s called Orange Ribbons for Jaime and I urge you to take a look. Watch Fred’s short video on the About page of the foundation’s website. Then take action to be like Jaime – do something to help others, like contributing to this foundation. Fred is completely transparent about what the foundation supports and, not surprisingly, that includes common sense gun safety reforms.

And support March For Our Lives, too. You remember David Hogg, Cameron Kasky and Emma Gonzalez – those kids who are wise beyond their years and who both broke your heart and filled it, as they spoke out on that day of murder in Parkland. They’re still speaking out and you can believe that they won’t stop until we defeat the gun lobby, whose only care is the profit to be made selling yet more guns. They won’t stop until we decide as a country that our children’s lives are more precious than unlimited arsenals in the house of any angry nut bag in this country. Chip in to help this movement.

Because the answer to the question “Who cares?” is you.

#WeAreTheMob
#WeWillVote

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

Jax Politix – Good News Edition v1.0


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Here’s the full video.

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Now, that’s good news, indeed.


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

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


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

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

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.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

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

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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

Thanks!


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

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.

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

Address to Congress, January 3, 2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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