Supreme Court

Stupidity


Image generated by Ghostscript (device=ppmraw)

Image of a galaxy, courtesy of Hubble

Reading time – 57 seconds  .  .  .

Said Harlan Ellison, “The most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.” That is cynical and harsh, yes, but there surely is an element of truth to be found in that statement. Let me offer a simple syllogism:

Doing self-destructive things is stupid

Many Americans are doing self-destructive things

Therefore, many Americans are doing stupid things

Perhaps your mind is instantly pushing back on that condemnation. Fair enough, yet here is a short, off-the-top-of-my-head list to make my case:

  1. We are largely ignoring the threat of climate warming that shows us every day that the planet is going to hard boil us. Evidence of our folly: In the face of the globally warmest years we’ve ever recorded, we continue to subsidize fossil fuel industries and provide next to no support for non-carbon based energy sources.
  2. After nearly forty years of failure, we still practice the same supply-side, trickle down economics that has financially stagnated most middle-class Americans and has forced millions into poverty.
  3. We have waged about 50 years of near-continuous war, largely because we have tolerated a spineless Congress that both abdicates its responsibility and knuckles under to what President Eisenhower labeled the military-industrial complex.
  4. We have allowed our state governments to abandon their financial obligations (that’s “obligations” as in: “duty-bound”) for deferred pay to state workers, an act of irresponsibility that may put millions into retirement age peril.
  5. We have allowed huge corporations not only the First Amendment right to speak, but to control our laws and regulations. That has given us more guns and murders per capita than any other western nation, crops that are designed primarily to resist ever-greater applications of toxic pesticides, rather than delivering safe, nutritious food and so many more examples of the undermining of safety, good sense and democracy.
  6. We have allowed candidates’ need for huge amounts of money to control our elections. Example: notice how press coverage of campaigns focuses more on campaign fund raising than on candidate policy proposals for the betterment of America.

All of that and more goes on because half to two-thirds of us fail to show up on election day. That’s self-destructive. That’s stupid.

————————————-

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

501c(4) Organizations and You


IRS BuildingReading time – 59 seconds  .  .  .

There is a really good reason why we give tax exempt status to charitable institutions: we as a nation have decided that we want to ease the way for organizations whose sole purpose is to do good for our needy and make it attractive for citizens to support these organizations.

There is a really good reason why most of our educational institutions are not taxed: we as a nation have decided that education is a really good thing and we want to support and encourage the education of our kids.

There are museums, hospitals and many more kinds of organizations that are tax exempt because their sole purpose is to do good for all of us. Our laws are structured to protect that do-gooding and they are strictly enforced, right? Turns out, not so much.

For example, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS is a 501c(4) organization, so by IRS definition its raison d’être is to operate exclusively for the promotion of social welfare. But Crossroads GPS spent nearly $71 million “electioneering” during the 2012 general election cycle. That’s money that was spent primarily on negative TV and radio ads designed to trash opponents of candidates whom Rove’s contributors supported. What seems to be missing from their actions is any social welfare, even as Crossroads GPS is exempt from federal tax.

And that’s just Rove’s 501c(4). There are many more 501(c) organizations enjoying tax avoidance benefits, all the while flaunting the law. And the story gets worse.

Donors to 501c(4) organizations can remain anonymous. That means that you and I don’t know who is contributing millions of dollars to these secret organizations and using their money to construct a government that is, let’s say, “friendly” to them.

All of that comes to us courtesy of the lame-brained Supreme Court decision that was crammed by Chief Justice John Roberts into a case that had nothing to do with political contributions, expenditures by non-profit organizations or public do-gooding. The distorted finding of the Citizens United case legitimized rule by the rich and remains one of the most democracy killing actions in U.S. history.

How’s that working for you?

————————————-

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

Republican Judge Hanen


Judge Hanen

Republican Judge Andrew S. Hanen

Reading time – 43 seconds  .  .  . 

Judge Andrew S. Hanen, a Republican judge in Republican Texas, heard testimony from the attorneys representing 26 Republican governors seeking to stuff President Obama’s executive order limiting deportations back into the president’s face. Republican Judge Hanen granted the Republican plaintiff’s petition on procedural grounds – i.e., a technicality – and did not deal with the substance of the executive order.

Before filing, the plaintiffs, those 26 Republican governors, went venue shopping for the best state in which to find the most sympathetic hearing, the best city in which to file their case and the best courtroom and judge to whom they would plead their case and they zeroed in on Republican Judge Hanen in Brownsville, TX. Their selection was doubly insightful, because the inevitable appeal of his limited and superficial ruling will be in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is in Republican New Orleans, Louisiana. Are you seeing a pattern here?

Republicans have been accused of having no compassion for our Dreamers or for the migrant workers who are sometimes viciously exploited. While that might be an accurate depiction of some Republicans, their apparent callousness really has nothing to do with the concerted effort by these 26 Republican governors and the Republicans in the House and Senate to thwart President Obama’s immigration efforts. There are two reasons for their actions and neither has anything to do with compassion.

First, Republicans continue to want to do everything possible to ensure that President Obama has no victories of any kind, regardless of the good sense of his proposals, so they oppose anything he supports.

Second – and this is the big one – Republicans are on their way to extinction. Here’s how TalikingPointsMemo described their coming tipping point in a 2012 piece:

The government also projects that in five years, minorities will make up more than half of children under 18. Not long after, the total U.S. white population will begin an inexorable decline in absolute numbers, due to aging baby boomers.

So, old white guys (the great majority of the Republican Party) are in the process of losing their majority and, consequently, their grip on power, money, control and domination.

Republicans have demonstrated for decades that they are bereft of new ideas for meeting America’s challenges or for grabbing hold of 21st century opportunities, so they can’t appeal to voters on the basis of their great solutions or clarity of the best way forward. The only way they can stay in power is to steal elections (like in 2000 and 2004) or to deprive voting rights from people who naturally tend to vote for Democrats, like people of color. Eliminating their votes by deporting Hispanics is a sure fire way to help prevent Republicans from being overpowered by future Democratic voters.

And that’s why Republicans want to deport over 12 million people and why Republicans oppose any path to citizenship and why Republicans want to kill the president’s executive order and send our Dreamers packing. For dinosaur Republicans who can already see that demographic meteor in the sky, it’s the species survival instinct played out in the political arena. They don’t hate Hispanics; they just want to continue to dominate them.

————————————-

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. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


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

Father Flannigan in Texas


Skip LeveThis is a guest essay from reader Frank Levy of Houston, TX. It was submitted as a comment to an earlier post, Father Flannigan, Your CEO and the Supreme Court, and was deemed too important to bury at the bottom of the Comments section. It is offered here for your consideration and comment.

————————————-

In Texas we are very accustomed to the “Father Flannigan phenomenon,” and much worse. Not only do we have the usual school day, pre-game, and government pre-meeting prayer, the state Republican Party primary ballot includes a statement that reads, “America is a Christian country, and Texas is a Christian state.” Voters get to agree or disagree. The “initiative” carries by over 95% every 4 years.

It is fundamentalist Christian beliefs like this that are part and parcel of the religious civil war going on across the country. The Hobby Lobby decision is but one of the skirmishes in this religious civil war.

The Hobby Lobby decision by the “Fab 5” – the 5 Catholic men on the Court – is deeply disingenuous and sharply at odds with American law and legal precedent, and imposes very real long-term negative impacts on American democracy and on Americans who believe in real freedom of religion.

On the subject of the disingenuous nature of the Hobby Lobby suit and decision – as Stephanie Mencimer noted in Mother Jones in March 2014, “a neglected aspect of the Hobby Lobby case is the fact that Hobby Lobby’s self-professed belief appeared out of nowhere just in time for them to file suit. The company admits in its complaint that until it considered filing the suit in 2012 its generous health insurance plan actually covered Plan B and Ella (though not IUDs). The burden of this coverage was apparently so insignificant that God and Hobby Lobby executives never noticed it until the mandate became a political issue.”

It should also be noted that Hobby Lobby owners held significant investments in the companies that manufactured the exact abortifacients and birth control products that were the basis of the law suit.

In short, Hobby Lobby’s “deeply held beliefs” claims are transparently bogus — as well as being scientifically invalid, since none of the methods involved are abortifacients, as Hobby Lobby claims.

In Hobby Lobby the Court handed corporations religious rights for the first time in history. As Norm Ornstein points out in the National Journal, “For the majority on the Roberts Court, through a series of rulings that favor corporations over labor or other interests, it is clear that corporations are king, superior to individual Americans — with all the special treatment in taxes and protection from legal liability that are unavailable to us individuals, and now all the extra benefits that come with individual citizenship.”

The Hobby Lobby decision also lends support to the Christian Right’s (they are neither) efforts in the new religious civil war to create a Christian theocracy in America, and to further their erroneous claims that their religious rights are being suppressed, or even outlawed.

Led by the dominion theology of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), those seeking the creation of America as an evangelical Christian nation seek to block any and all legislation that promotes real equality, as well as seeking to block legislation that opposes discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or race, especially in the areas of voting rights, access to health care, birth control and abortion and marriage, among others. These self-proclaimed Christians also oppose social programs like food stamps, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and Social Security, this based on their proclaimed religious beliefs.

These new religious warriors want an America built on their repressive and narrow understanding of Christian theology. As researcher Rachel Tabachnick explains: “Instead of escaping the Earth (in the Rapture) prior to the turmoil of the end times, they [the NAR] teach that believers will defeat evil by taking dominion, or control, over all sectors of society and government, resulting in mass conversions to their brand of charismatic evangelicalism and a Christian utopia or ‘Kingdom’ on Earth.”

Their favorite, and most powerful lie used to gather fellow warriors is their lament that their religious rights are being eliminated or oppressed. A. Jay Michaelson writes in, ”Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Campaign Against Civil Rights” published by Political Research Associates in March, 2013, “While the religious liberty debate is a growing front in the ongoing culture wars, it is actually an old argument re-purposed for a new context. In the postwar era, the Christian Right defended racial segregation, school prayer, public religious displays and other religious practices that infringed on the liberties of others by claiming that restrictions on such public acts infringed upon their religious liberty. Then as now, the Christian Right turned anti-discrimination arguments on their heads: instead of African Americans being discriminated against by segregated Christian universities, the universities were being discriminated against by not being allowed to exclude them; instead of public prayers oppressing religious minorities, Christians are being oppressed by not being able to offer them.

In the “religious liberty” framework, the Christian Right attacks access to contraception, access to abortion, same-sex marriage, and anti-discrimination laws—not on moral grounds (e.g., that contraception is morally wrong or that LGBTQ rights violate “family values”) but because they allegedly impinge upon the religious freedoms of others (e.g., by forcing employers to violate their religion by providing contraception coverage).

In fact, there is not a single “religious liberty” claim made by the Christian Right that does not involve abridging someone else’s rights.

When any religious group tries to impose its beliefs on others we ought to be afraid and strenuously oppose such efforts. We need to be extremely vigilant in opposing any effort by one group to impose its beliefs on anyone else, no matter how light or innocent that imposition might be claimed to be. If you don’t want your religious beliefs questioned, then don’t impose them on others. When push comes to shove, real religious freedom can be just as simple as that.

I wonder how the Court would have voted if the Hobby Lobby suit had been filed by a Muslim, or Jewish, or Buddhist, or Hindu owned business instead of the Christian owned Hobby Lobby.

Frank Levy, M.A., MFA. is Director of Outreach Resources, which provides consulting services to local and statewide disaster and public health preparedness and response agencies and to non-profit agencies engaged in improving the lives of the most vulnerable and at-risk residents. Frank currently lives in hiding from the thought police in Tom “the Exterminator” DeLay’s Congressional district outside Houston, TX.

————————————————–

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. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


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

Father Flannigan, Your CEO and the Supreme Court


Prayer Meeting

Town Board meeting, Greece, NY, June, 2013. Photo, Bloomberg News

Reading time – 79 seconds

“And now Father Flannigan will lead us in an invocation that will be meaningful and appropriate for all of us.” With that the head coach of our public high school varsity football team opened the season kick-off meeting for parents and team members on that warm August evening in 1963. Father Flannigan stepped up to the microphone and in his deep baritone voice said, “We pray together  .  .  .” and he invoked and intoned for a couple of agonizingly long minutes, at last ending with, “This we pray in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.”

My father and I looked at each other with a “Huh?” expression. Father Flannigan’s invocation was something other than appropriate for us. Indeed, it was inappropriate for any non-Christian and even some Christians. So much for “appropriate for all of us.”

The First Amendment to the Constitution tells us, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Of course, our public high school was and is a government institution and Father Flannigan’s very specifically Christian Catholic words were part of an official school function. His prayer – indeed, any prayer –  was not appropriate for the occasion, as it clearly expressed religious favoritism, the very thing the Pilgrims left Europe to escape. That tacit favoritism is what “prohibits the free exercise thereof” of any religion other than the one mentioned and it also prevents the free exercise of no religion. And today’s Supreme Court, that interpreter of the Constitution and the intent of the Framers, can’t seem to figure that out.

They ruled in a 5-4 decision on May 5, 2014 that governmental meetings may include Christian prayer. The picture above shows members of the town board in Greece, NY bowing their heads in prayer at the start of their meeting in June, 2013. They were the plaintiffs in this lawsuit seeking effectively to establish a government sanctioned religion – Christianity – for their town. That would necessarily mean a concurrent prohibition of the free exercise of any other religion. In the past the Court has ruled that prayer in public schools isn’t kosher (had to throw that in), primarily because the school children are effectively captive and cannot escape the drubbing of another’s version of religion. And it is the “captive” part that, for this court, is the critical issue, rather than the “Congress shall make no law  .  .  .” part. Apparently, the Greece, NY town board members and other meeting attendees are not captive, which means that government sponsored Christianity – specifically Christianity – is okay, this according to 5 male, Roman Catholic members of this Supreme Court who ruled as such.

This is a companion piece to the fundamentalist surge that, for example, makes idiot Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore declare that the First Amendment only protects Christians.

So, go ahead, Father Flannigan, and offer prayers in church and in your Sunday School classes and in your parochial school. Those are expressly for that purpose and your prayers are appropriate there. But keep your benedictions out of our government, our public institutions and our laws. They aren’t appropriate there, regardless of the wrong-headed decisions of our inappropriate Supreme Court.

The next step toward theocracy just happened, as those same 5 all male, Republican, Roman Catholic old guys decided in the Hobby Lobby case that employers can cite their religion as sufficient reason for withholding insurance coverage for birth control from their employees. Surely the next step will be a Christian Science CEO claiming he doesn’t have to supply medical insurance for his employees at all and those same 5 Justices will go along with that First Amendment tarnishing, protection destroying foolishness, too.

There are quite a few million Americans – including many religious leaders –  who believe there really is supposed to be a separation of “church and state” and a freedom from anyone else’s religion. If only the Supreme Court could figure out this simple concept.

One last thing: As you can see, the righty majority five keep legislating from the bench, this time by warping the First Amendment. How come we’re not hearing a howl from conservatives about that?

————————————————–

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. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


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

The Almost Perfect Dumb-pocalypse


Reading time – 54 seconds  .  .  .

For decades we have had a most efficient, self-reinforcing cycle in our politics of incrementally allowing more and more money into our political infrastructure. As we did that, the Big Money Interests gained incrementally more influence over our laws, our bureaucracy and our courts to drive ever-larger piles of cash into the hands of those same Big Money Interests. That has made it easier for them to throw even more cash into the political infrastructure, which has driven more legislation and correspondingly more cash to the Big Money Interests.

That cycle is the destruction of our democracy (origin: Greek “demos” – the people; “kratia” – power, rule), because it takes power away from the people. The Big  Money Interests simply focus on themselves and all that cash and they lubricate the machinery of elections and government for their hand-picked politicians, so our politicians do the bidding of the Big Money Interests. That means that our legislators are not focused on the needs of ordinary Americans, so our problems have become worse.

Maybe you think that the murders at Fort Hood and Sandy Hook Elementary School are problems.

Maybe you think that your spouse being unable to secure full time employment is a problem.

Maybe you think that oil spills and toxic fracking chemicals leaked into our fresh water supplies is a problem.

Maybe you think that preventing Americans from voting is a problem.

You’re right – those are problems. And our Big Money influenced politics is the reason these issues continue to get worse.

The Citizens United case allowed unlimited and undisclosed corporate and individual money to flood our election process. Now the McCutcheon decision has unleashed nearly unlimited personal funds for direct campaign contributions, so we have The Almost Perfect Dumb-pocalypse. All that is needed to make it The Perfect Dumb-pocalypse is another airhead Supreme Court decision that takes the stops off the maximum donation to a single candidate in a single election.

Coke bottle glassesBut that may not happen, because our Supreme Court thinks that unlimited donations to a single candidate might look like bribery. Actually, it’s the only thing the Court thinks of as political bribery. Maybe we should give new eyeglasses to those on the 5 side of all those democracy killing, hope and trust destroying 5-4 decisions so that the Supremes can begin to see reality more clearly.

————————————————–

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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


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

1 2 3 Scroll to top