Supreme Court

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. Steven 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.

Who Should I Vote For?

Reading time – This guest essay is longer than typical Disambiguations & worth it. Grab a second cup o’ Joe and settle in for some thinking  .  .  .

Following a recent post about a Wall street guy who supports Bernie Sanders I received a private email from boyhood pal Frank Levy (boyhood nickname: Skip). That’s him in the pic. I don’t know how he got to look so old.  The Skip Levy I knew looked much younger.

He expressed some concerns about who can actually win a general election and that resulted in some back-and-forth across the email machine. The meat of his concerns were substantive and I asked for and received his approval to offer them to you in the guest essay that follows. The views expressed are his own and you just might find that some could be yours, too.

You should know in advance that Skip is an irritating blend of idealist and pragmatist, so be forewarned that if you possess an idealist’s purity of progressive ethic, your purity may be about to get tweaked by his pragmatism.

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Skip LevyJack – Here is my reply as to who to vote for.

in the primary, vote for who you feel best meets your sense of what America can and should be and who can beat ALL of the Republican candidates still standing at primary time. Then work for and vote for the Democratic Party nominee, whoever that may turn out to be.

One tactical concern about Bernie is that while he generates enthusiastic crowds and a reasonable small-donor base, I don’t think he will be able to generate enough black and brown supporters to win the national election. Right now Bernie’s support among non-white democrats/voters is slim to almost non-existent and he does not seem to be working to change the situation. Bernie and his supporters truly believe that his economic and climate change message will be heard and responded to by black and brown voters like it is by old white voters. So far that is simply not the case.

The black and brown voters I talk with want to hear a message from candidates that speaks directly to them and their specific concerns. They rightfully demand that Bernie or Hillary or Martin listen to them and respect and understand their needs and issues. They are not looking for a “translated” solution to white America’s problems. They want and deserve solutions to the injustices, intolerance, segregation, racism, joblessness, incarceration, lack of quality educational and educational opportunities, and to the violence they live with every day. I do think that Bernie and Martin are still tone deaf when it comes to the issues of non-white voters.

Just looking at the fundraising needed to run a 50 state national election campaign I think Bernie is in trouble. His supporters are mostly our old hippie friends – old, white, and middle-class – not big donor class. And while I long for the day when small donors are the financial engine that drives elections, the ugly reality is that today candidates need major donor-class donors to win elections. That is where Hillary is being pragmatic. She is building an Obama-like donor base of small donors AND taking large donations from big donors while calling for the end of Citizens United. That is not hypocritical; it is pragmatic. You cannot change things unless you get elected.

I am also not convinced that the young people who attend Bernie’s rallies will work for his election or come out on election day. I see a lot of rallies that are well attended but I do not see a lot of ground campaign infrastructure being built in 50 states. I think he is counting on the “revolution” taking hold and providing the motivation and financial support to win. History reminder: revolutionaries have a tendency to be passionate, motivated, poor and not particularly good at recruiting people to the cause, raising money or governing. Unfortunately, ISIS may be the exception to that rule. Revolutions typically take a long time to build and even given all the anger and frustration we all feel, I am not sure we are there just yet.

I am very worried about the 14% or so of Democrats who say they will sit out the election (in essence giving a vote to the Republican candidate) rather than vote for Hillary (bold mine – Ed.), as if she were some evil spawn of the devil. No party has ever nominated a perfect, pure and totally honest candidate.

I do not understand this cloud in the air that makes people say they do not trust Hillary. Hillary is what she has always been – a political animal. She is a pragmatic, driven, type-A, a calculating, intelligent, woman who has more times than not taken the right side of the issues that are important to progressives. As a senator and Secretary of State she got things done, which requires knowing how to work with the opposition party. Personally, I am not interested in a president who, by his or her very nature is such an idealist that they cannot grasp a win when it presents itself just because it is not a perfect win.

It makes a difference, a big difference, who is the White House. All three Democratic candidates are significantly better for the country than any of the Republican candidates. If we fail to work for and vote for the Democratic nominee we will assure the next SCOTUS nominations (as many as four of them) are conservative Republican judges.

I am not willing to see SCOTUS become a conservative Republican court that will never rule in favor of a woman’s right to choose, that will never rule against voter suppression, that will never rule in favor of LGBT rights, that will never rule in favor of religious tolerance, that will never rule in favor of the 1st Amendment or against Citizens United, for sensible guns laws or for equal pay for equal work, or in favor of the best interests of the American people over the gun lobby and the money and corporate class.

So, back to your original question. If you think Bernie or Hillary or Martin can beat ALL of the Republican candidates still standing at primary time, then vote for the candidate who best represents you and your ideals. If, on the other hand, there is only one candidate who appears to be able to beat ALL of the Republican crazies, then vote for that person because we cannot afford a Republican president. Then go out and work for, donate to and vote for the Democratic Party candidates (local, state, and national) on November 1, 2016 and in 2018.

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That is the end of Skip’s comments.

If we sit on our idealism and fail to vote, it will be especially dangerous when in 2017 Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is sending his “privatize Social Security” bill to the President for his signature and the president is a Republican because we – let me say this delicately – sat on our self-righteous, idealist asses and didn’t vote. And when the lawsuit is brought to challenge that law, it will wind up in front of a Supreme Court that is no longer 5-4 conservative; it may be 7-2 and stay that way for a really long time. So, we may have to hold our idealistic noses and vote for the best flawed candidate in the race.

Go ahead. Write your response below. I know you have one.

And Skip, thanks for continuing to care about America and to work to make it better for all of us.

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P.S. From the email signature of a colleague: “Be a good ancestor.” I just might adopt that for these Disambiguations. Be a good ancestor, indeed.

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

Keep Heart

Oh no ThinkerReading time – 46 seconds  .  .  .

We Americans have a short little attention span.

Does anyone remember the terrible floods in the desert country of Oman in June or the floods in Los Angeles 3 weeks ago or the students who were killed at Umpqua Community College in Oregon just last month?

Our news is currently obsessed with terrorism in Europe and Africa and with Syrian women and children refugees (have a look at this for a fresh perspective) who might come to America and kill you. We see talking heads speculating endlessly over things about which they have no facts. Experts rattle on as though oracles of the gods, while relatives of victims and witnesses to terrorism are interviewed in bouts of heart-tugging pandering for the cameras.

The good news is that this will pass. It will happen just as soon as the next sensational awful thing happens. The even better news is that the political stupid stuff that’s being sprayed in toxic levels over the current events will also start to abate, but the political pandering will have made its mark.

Ben Carson’s support has dropped 40% because people are at last realizing that he is clueless. Support for the circus barker with the strange hair has gone up because he is sucking up to people’s need for security with his inane pronouncements. And Ted Cruz sounds ever more like the idiot that he is not and ever more like the manipulator that he most surely is.

So much certainty and so little wisdom is vying for our attention. What’s a thinking person to do?

Keep your eye on the ball: The mother lode of our political and governmental dysfunction is the big money influence on our elections and lobbying practices. Fix that and the rest of our challenges will be handled promptly and well.

So, keep heart and work hard to elect a Congress – your senators and congressman/woman – that will reform our criminal campaign finance system. And work extra hard to elect a president who will appoint Supreme Court justices who aren’t wacko righties bent on creating an oligarchy and subverting your rights.

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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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