Money in politics

I’m No Anti-Vaxxer


Reading time – 6:14  .  .  .

Conspiracy theories about vaccines abound. As well, reasonable, science based objections have made solid challenges to vaccines, too. Regardless, history tells us that blind acceptance of vaccines probably isn’t a good idea.

Take, for instance, the recent comments of FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn. He insisted that any Covid-19 vaccine would have to “adhere to standards” for safety and efficacy. Perfect. We want to know that a vaccine or med we take to protect us both works and is safe. That’s especially important reassurance now, given the enormous political pressure being applied to develop a vaccine by election day. That’s where this story grows dark.

Dr. Stephen Hahn, Commissioner, FDA

Trump is making fantastical claims that we’ll have a vaccine by the election. Sometimes he makes solid promises – “We’ll have 100 million doses by November.” Sometimes they’re typical Trump vacuous teasers – “might be,” “very soon,” “like you’ve never seen before,”  “I think in some cases, yes possibly before [the November election], but right around that time,” “It will be unbelievable,” etc. Side note: He uses the word “unbelievable” like a circus sideshow barker to describe nearly everything he is promoting or claiming as a victory for himself. When he does that I know that he is at last speaking truth: it probably is unbelievable; i.e. not worthy of our belief. Back to the main point.

Nearly every time Trump speaks about the pandemic, fiction comes from his mouth in an avalanche, as he struggles to paper over his abject failure to meet the challenge. Note that when he at last admitted in March that the pandemic is here and is a big deal, he said we’re fighting a war and that he’s a wartime president. If that’s so, then it’s fair to say that he’s lost nearly every battle and the enemy is winning this war decisively. That’s why he’s desperate to have a vaccine before the election. His eagerness has nothing to do with your health.

So, Trump is leaning hard on the doctors, scientists, epidemiologists, researchers and pharma company CEOs to bail out his sinking wartime command ship. The good news is what Hahn said about adhering to standards. What you probably didn’t hear is that he left the door open to “emergency use authorization” of vaccines that haven’t yet “adhered to standards.” It’s a bit like chancey, off-label use of a drug; for example, hydroxychloroquine.

As you likely know, it’s a drug used to treat patients with malaria. That, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are the sole FDA authorized uses of this drug. Fairly early in this pandemic somebody decided to try using it to treat Covid-19. In fact it was given FDA off-label authorization for that use – right up until our VA hospitals realized that they were killing our vets with hydroxychloroquine. That’s when the FDA rescinded the off-label use of the drug.

To be fair, there are reputable criticisms that suggest that hydroxychloroquine wasn’t used properly, in that it wasn’t used in conjunction with medically significant adjunctive treatments. Regardless, it was the government/FDA’s authorization that caused the problems.

Oddly, our president continued to recommend the use of hydroxychloroquine. He even said that he was taking it prophylactically, although he didn’t use that big word. The result was that there was enormous demand for the drug. People stockpiled it in case they got sick. There were two problems with that. First, people who had malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis couldn’t get their meds on time because production couldn’t keep up with the Trump-caused, artificially inflated demand. Second, hydroxychloroquine just might kill the stockpilers if they were to use it to treat their Covid-19 and did so improperly. Nevertheless, Trump continues to either promote the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19 or allows his prior nonsensical rah-rah for it to linger because he is incapable of admitting he made a mistake. And we pay the price for his limitations with our health and our lives. The key point is that the FDA allowed off-label use of hydroxychloroquine and that killed people.

Follow the money: Who benefits from the increased demand for hydroxychloroquine and why is Trump so invested in that?

Again, while Dr. Hahn promised that the FDA and manufacturers would “adhere to standards” for a Covid-19 vaccine, he left the door open for emergency use authorization of these as-yet unproven vaccines. That is expressly, intentionally not adhering to standards.

In other words, Hahn and his agency might succumb to political pressure and roll the dice with the lives of granny, your children and you so that Trump can get reelected. Wild guess: That probably doesn’t sound too good to you and you’re already doubting Covid-19 vaccines. It turns out this story gets worse.

AstraZeneca is one of the key players in Covid-19 vaccine development and their drug is in a phase 3 trial. They have selected 30,000 people to be vaccinated and then watch to see if they become protected from the virus or if they get sick and perhaps die. I’m wondering if they intentionally expose these human Guinea pigs to the virus to test the vaccine. How else would they know if the vaccine had successfully protected them against the virus unless they knew test subjects had been exposed to it? That makes me think of the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

There are two efficacy problems with the trial. The first is that they are only testing healthy, relatively young people. That means that if you have any underlying health issue, especially hypertension, diabetes or obesity, or are older or a child – any condition that is substantially different from the test group  – whatever the phase 3 trial shows, you won’t know if the vaccine will work for you as it did for those phase 3 trial subjects.

The second issue is that this phase 3 trial is being run without a placebo comparison; i.e. this isn’t a blind, much less double-blind test. That means that there will be no way to determine the true efficacy of the drug – whether it actually works. And we are expected to trust this vaccine with our lives.

The FDA’s mission is to protect the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy and security of human drugs and more (taken from the FDA’s Mission Statement). That’s why they have protocols and standards. And President Trump is leaning hard on Mr. Hahn to abandon those protocols and standards in order to win his election. Frighteningly, Hahn may be willing to cave in to the pressure and issue “emergency use authorization” of these non-adhering-to-standards vaccines before the election.

“Do you feel lucky?” Dirty Harry Click the pic.

This looks to me like they’re giving the anti-vaxxers big gun ammunition at a time when we desperately need confidence in something to protect all of us and stop the Covid-19 rampage.

I’m no anti-vaxxer, but as I said, blind acceptance of vaccines – especially a proposed, new generation, emergency-use-authorization vaccine, the use of which is entirely politically motivated – probably isn’t a good idea.

Makes me think of Dirty Harry. Like the guy in the car, my answer is no. Click the pic to the right and you’ll understand.

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Post Office Update

Stopping by the post office to mail a letter just in time for the last pickup of the day brought me face-to-face with Lizzy (not her real name), a postal service worker who was emptying the collection box. We chatted for a bit and I asked her about the reported slow down of the mail system orchestrated by the new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy. He is a big Trump contributor and a complete postal system know-nothing. He has eliminated overtime, slowed the sorting process and done other things, which have resulted in reported mountains of undelivered mail, especially at the big sorting centers. That’s what I asked Lizzy about.

“Oh, yeah, everything’s slowed down,” she said. “We hate that – we care about service.”

DeJoy claims to be a logistics expert and declares that he’s reducing costs. Sounds good. But our most mailed-in election balloting in history is already underway and he’s clogging the system. What do you suppose Donald Trump will say about the election when it appears he’s lost big and those mountains of undelivered mail are highlighted by him on November 4? Decide for yourself how much Trump election conspiracy to assign to that and let Professor Laurence Tribe be your guide:

Key Impact Point: Go to your secretary of state’s website, register to vote and request a mail-in ballot. The clock is ticking and soon you may run out of time to do that and make your vote count. Especially with DeJoy screwing up the system, you better move on this.
 

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Conservative Corner

Have you noticed how many things have gone on in the Trump era, like what’s covered in this post, that aren’t remotely conservative? As I’ve written so many times, we need the traditional Republican party to come back, to saddle up and hit the trail for America. Where are you guys?

Another 4 years of Trump won’t bring back conservatism. In fact, Trump will crush under his heel everything that conservatives hold dear and which he hasn’t already destroyed. It goes without saying that the things liberals/progressives hold dear are terminal, too.

Have you always voted Republican and cannot even imagine pulling the lever for a Democrat (I have such relatives and friends)? Now’s the time to imagine something bigger and for you to dare to go where you haven’t gone before while you still can. Remember that Trump has repeatedly threatened to cancel elections. That ain’t conservative.

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Finally

Leonard Cohen in 1988. Click the pic for his biography.

From poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

These are hard times and it’s difficult to know what to do and where to start. What is important is simply that we start. That we ring the bells that still can ring. Follow Leonard Cohen’s advice. Today is a good day for that.

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Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so

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The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

A Stroll Through Impeachment Park


Reading time – 4:21; Viewing time – 6:06  .  .  .

Contrary to his firm, clear declaration, Richard Nixon was a crook. Setting aside allegations that have a dollar sign directly attached to them, he obstructed justice. That’s a crime. He sent thieves into the night to break and enter the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, as well as to rob the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate complex. Those are crimes.

Nixon committed treason during the 1968 presidential campaign by urging the North Vietnamese not to conclude a peace treaty with the U.S., telling them they’d get a better deal from him if he were elected. That’s a crime.

None of these is about personal offensiveness or the breaking of norms. All of these are crimes. By any definition, Richard Nixon was a crook. And he was just short of certain impeachment and removal from office by the Senate when he resigned his office.

Say what you will about Bill Clinton’s ethics, his moral rectitude, if any, “crook” is hardly useful to describe him.

At the height of Newt Gingrich’s power as Speaker of the House he hired Ken Starr to investigate the Clintons – both of them. Starr’s charge wasn’t to focus on an indication of the commission of a specific crime. Rather, it was a target-of-opportunity witch hunt. He was to find something – anything – to hang around Bill Clinton’s neck.

Starr investigated everything both Clintons had touched, including the Rose law firm in Arkansas, the Whitewater land deal, the death of Vince Foster, various extramarital affairs and more and he found nothing illegal. Nothing. Then Linda Tripp, a confidant of White House intern Monica Lewinsky, called the FBI to disclose Clinton’s sexual relations with the young woman. Clinton’s actions, while perhaps repugnant, weren’t a crime.

Starr hauled Clinton before a grand jury and asked about the affair. Clinton lied, denying it. That was a crime – lying to a grand jury. And shaming Clinton into that was all that Starr could conjure after over four years of digging for dirt. There’s no question about the crime and Clinton was impeached, but the Senate made it clear that this was hardly treason, bribery or a high crime or misdemeanor. Stupid, yes. Worthy of removal from office? Come on.

Now, things are different. Donald Trump is guilty of either extortion or bribery and maybe both. Those are crimes. He is guilty of using funds allocated by Congress to have a foreign power give him support for the 2020 election. That constitutes at least three crimes; one is the withholding of funds directed by Congress; another is abuse of power; yet another is soliciting election help from a foreign government, one of only a handful of specific crimes listed in the Constitution.

By ignoring subpoenas and ordering all from the Executive Branch of government not to testify at the House Intelligence Committee’s hearings. Trump obstructed justice. Then there are his ongoing violations of the emoluments clause in the Constitution. These are all crimes and he’s guilty of them. We know that, not only because of the clear, direct testimony by greatly respected individuals with firsthand knowledge and through documentary evidence, but because Trump has bragged about all of these crimes.

Trump’s malfeasance is far beyond Nixon’s thievery and obstructions of justice and way past Bill Clinton’s lying about his dalliances. Trump is flagrantly guilty of bribery and high crimes and misdemeanors and everyone knows it.

All this has nothing to do with Trump’s distractions, like his continuous lying, his bullying, his violations of governmental, civic and decency norms, his ethics violations or even his dereliction of duty to our national security. For those who have spent the last few years admonishing that we ignore what Trump says and instead focus on what he does, that’s exactly what is happening right now.

The House is going to impeach Trump. It’s the right thing to do if we still believe in the rule of law and in protecting and defending the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.

There’s only one question left: Do the Republicans in the Senate have even the small amount of integrity needed to do the right thing? Do they still believe in conservatism? We better hope that at least twenty of them do.

Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon. Ronald Reagan avoided responsibility for the Iran-Contra crimes. George W. Bush skated from his having started two illegal wars. If Trump is allowed to walk, our refusal to hold high officials accountable will have been permanently erased. That is why impeachment and removal from office are the right things to do.

Finally,

From pal Allan Shuman on Friday:

November 22, 56 years ago, was also a Friday. That was truly the day that the music died. There was hardly a mention today in any of the media.

John F. Kennedy was assassinated that day and that changed a generation and perhaps the entire world. Cynicism was kindled in Boomers and trust was dealt a terrible blow. We had had belief on November 21st; not so much on the 23rd.

Now Trump’s maniacal need for attention and our national acquiescence to it has stolen even that remembrance from us.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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Thanks!

NOTES:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Here It Comes!


Reading time – 2:26; Viewing time – 3:19  .  .  .

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Put your hands together and give a roaring welcome to the one, the only

Impeachment of Donald Trump!

 

Yes, you’ve been waiting for this, because you’ve known since before the start that he’s a con artist, likely a criminal and absolutely, totally, irretrievably sociopathically dishonest. A charlatan. A liar. And perhaps worst, a narcissist. For Trump, everything is always about benefiting Trump. There’s no room in him for democracy, the Constitution, serving the nation or the rule of law. And you know without even a shadow of a doubt that people and bedrock institutions and nations and strategic alliances get hurt because of his self-centered lunacy. All of that is why you’ve been waiting for this.

Now, what will you do? Here’s a suggestion.

Watch the impeachment proceedings. Don’t leave it to TV pundits to tell you what people have said. Watch for yourself. Think for yourself.

This will likely be the greatest political theater of your lifetime, so watch it to be informed by the entertainment spectacle that will appear right before your eyes.

    • Watch the Republicans do the Dance of the Crazies trying to defend the indefensible Trump.
    • Watch as they change the subject and insert inane things that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.
    • Listen as Republican House members wax pontifical in order to showcase themselves strutting in their “See how brilliant I am, as I dazzle you with my faux passion and indignation”.

More importantly,

    • Listen carefully as witnesses present their testimony to the full House of Representatives. What you hear will almost certainly be in stark contrast to what Trump and his spineless mouthpieces say. Who do you believe? And what do you think we should do about it?
    • Watch for testimony that has the capacity to change public opinion, the kind of public opinion that has the power to twist Republican senators away from The Dark Side.

Bear in mind that every member of the House and the Senate knows well and clearly what is going on. Every one of them knows the difference between right and wrong. And every one of them knows that their solemn pledge to protect and defend the Constitution was not conditioned on circumstances or political wind – not even on pressure from Donald Trump. Watch to see if they honor their word.

The fresh essay posted by my pal David Houle offers some perspective on what is about to happen and I recommend his piece to you. It will give you fresh insight into how these impeachment proceedings are a bit different from any that have happened before, this in a way you likely haven’t considered.

The public hearings begin this Wednesday, November 13 at 9:00AM CST. You can watch them here live. Be there or be square!

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money 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 to be better informed.

Thanks!

NOTES:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

 


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The MAGA Bible


Reading time – 47 seconds  .  .  .

Whether you are a bible-thumper or a critic of bible-thumpers; whether you think of yourself as a Christian in good standing, an occasional Christian or a non-Christian; whether you’ve wondered how evangelical Christians could consistently support a president and legislators who routinely espouse and do anti-Christian things; whether you fret or roll eyes over anyone declaring themselves to be “the chosen one;” you must read John Pavlovitz’s stunning piece, Excerpts From The MAGA Bible. Do that now.

Final Note

Cameron Kasky

We kill around 100 people per day with guns – seven in Odessa, TX and five in Elkmont, AL this week, and the week is just half over. Ten were shot at a high school football game in Mobile, AL on Saturday. And nothing that might make things safer will change because .  .  .  you know why.

Cameron Kasky, student survivor of the horrific Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, FL a year and a half ago wrote this:

“I just want people to understand what happened and understand that doing nothing will lead to nothing. Who’d have thought that concept was so difficult to grasp?”

David Hogg

What is true remains true:

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.

So, when we don’t do anything to stop the shooting and bleeding, we just keep on bleeding and dying.

Fellow Douglas High School shooting survivor David Hogg has left Parkland, FL and is attending Harvard, but his college studies haven’t and won’t stop him and his Parkland pals from continuing their quest to stop gun violence. Click here to donate and save the lives of some school kids.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money 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 to be better informed.

Thanks!

NOTES:

      1. Writings quoted or linked to my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
      2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
      3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

     


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Where Political Influence Comes From – and a Destructive Snit


Reading time – 4:19; Viewing time – 6:49  .  .  .

It’s going to take decades to clean up the mess that our terrible infant president is creating. Some things will take much longer and will leave permanent scars. Other Trump damage, like loss of endangered species, will be impossible to fix.

We’re told that the Donald Trump Environmental Protection Agency intends to “sharply curtail rules on methane emissions.” It’s possible that methane isn’t a focal point of your day, so I’ll explain what this newest EPA ruling will mean to you.

Methane is likely the gas that burns in your home furnace and water heater. Burning natural gas instead of other fossil fuels produces less carbon dioxide, so it adds less to global warming, and it’s cheaper to use, too. That’s where the methane happy stuff ends. The rest requires a little story to explain it.

The phenomenally destructive Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission granted Big Money interests – deep pocket individuals and corporations – the power to dominate and control our politics using their cash. That was more than surprising, since the case was only about the Citizens United organization wanting to show their movie trashing Hillary Clinton right before each primary in 2008. It wasn’t about campaign contributions and domination of politics.

The McCain-Feingold Act prohibited such “electioneering” within 30 days of a primary, so Citizens United was enjoined by the district court from showing their 30-minute attack ad that was designed to influence the primary elections. They filed suit and the case wound up before the Supreme Court, which reversed the district and appellate court rulings against Citizens United. That should have been the end of the case, but it wasn’t.

Chief Justice John Roberts ordered the attorneys to return to the Court to re-litigate the case, this time testing the rights of corporations and speech equivalency. In that gross distortion of the original case, the 5-4 conservative majority decided that corporations have all the same rights as flesh and blood human beings, including the right to make campaign contributions and air political advertising.*

Justice John Paul Stevens

As outrageous as that is, if you’re a Constitutional purist, get that, “[In addressing an

issue that was not raised by the litigants], the majority changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.” That is from the blistering dissent of this decision, written by Justice John Paul Stevens.

Effectively, the Supreme Court legislated from the bench on issues that were not in contest in this case. Citizens United v. FEC had nothing to do with human rights or corporate rights or political contributions, but its adverse effect in those areas will be felt for a very long time.

Dig into the case a little deeper and you’ll have a new and dark understanding of Chief Justice John Roberts. Be sure to pay attention to his Senate confirmation hearings, where he did the now familiar confirmation dance, spewing volumes of words while not answering questions. More specifically, though, he invoked stare decisis, the principle of not upsetting prior court decisions and making current decisions based upon precedent. Roberts had a solid belief in that, he told us.

Turns out that stare decisis actually wasn’t a real important thing to John Roberts and that allowed him to legislate from the bench. That bench-created new law gave us things like the NRA being such a powerful campaign contributor to legislators that our elected officials refuse to create the gun safety legislation that 90% of Americans want them to create. Sadly, we have a government of, by and for Big Money, not you and me.

Here’s how that connects to the EPA lifting methane emission regulations.

Point #1: Over the course of 20 years methane released into the atmosphere has 86 times more powerful global warming effect than does carbon dioxide. The EPA has taken down its web page detailing this.

Point #2: Natural gas comes largely from fracking wells and as many as 50% of them leak methane into the atmosphere. The page for that has been taken down from the EPA site, too.

Point #3: The Obama administration generated regulations to cause the actors in the methane extraction business to take action to reduce methane emissions.

Point #4: Trump’s EPA is in the process of trashing those Obama era regulations and allowing essentially uninhibited methane leakage.

Some major oil companies have stated that they are opposed to the change the EPA is proposing. Do your own math on why they’d do that, especially since their own industry association and lobbying arm, the American Petroleum Institute, has come out in favor of EPA’s proposal to eliminate methane emission regulations.

There’s a really good chance that you are not in favor of the EPA’s proposal that will dramatically increase the rate of global warming. The problem for you is that our legislators don’t really care what you think about that, any more than they care about the 90% likelihood that you want strict gun safety regulations.

Just like healthcare, immigration reform, voting rights, education and so many other issues, you’re not getting what you want and it can all be traced back to Citizens United.

That’s now compounded by Trump’s ongoing snit over being dissed by President Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011. Since that time Trump has been doing everything he can to negate everything Obama accomplished, including DACA, regardless of the harm he does to you and all of us, our allies and our planet.

Such is the behavior of this terrible infant president. We are paying the price for his temper tantrum and, as I said earlier, it will take decades to clean up his mess.

Quote of the Week

Trump is a man who has been progressively hollowed out by the acid of his own self-regard. David Brooks

Opinion Piece of the Week

The Frauding of America’s Farmers, Paul Krugman


*Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, wrote,

“The First Amendment does not allow prohibitions of speech based on the identity of the speaker  .  .  .  even if the speaker is a corporation.”

It is beyond any possibility that the Founders intended the Bill of Rights to have any connection whatsoever to non-human entities, like corporations. The purpose of the Bill of Rights was to protect the rights of people. Humans. Read the amendments and it will be clear to you.

So much for Justice Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas being “originalists.” They claimed to interpret the Constitution as the Founders originally intended. so they liked to call themselves originalists. Clearly they were/are not.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money 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 to be better informed.

Thanks!

NOTES:

    1. Writings quoted or linked to my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
    2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
    3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Gun Safety Regulations


Reading time – 5:21; Viewing time – 7:02  .  .  .

The crazies think arming teachers is a good idea. They want shoot-outs in the hallways when a bad guy shows up. Think: Parkland, Columbine and Sandy Hook, with the halls full of kids. What could possibly go wrong?

The NRA-controlled Congressional response to mass shootings is twofold:

First, they parrot the NRA, saying that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, like a teacher with chalk in one hand and a 9mm pistol in the other. Really? Do you really think that civilian crossfire in that Walmart and in that crowded bar last weekend would have been better?

Second, Congress goes all thoughts and prayers, then goes crickets. They have no spine to create useful regulations because doing so would piss off one of their biggest campaign contributors.

One more time: We tried the Wild West and we know what it got us: an enormous pile of dead bodies. Going back to everyone packing and thinking they’re the fastest gun, the baddest cowboy, the toughest righteous dude, protector of the little lady and the rest of the macho crap will get us the same thing again.

Here is the fact: States with tougher gun laws – regulations – have way less gun violence. Example: Louisiana has the loosest gun regulations and has seven times the gun violence rate of Massachusetts, which has some of the toughest gun regulations.

Having a gun is the most certain indicator of bad things to come. Just ask the 8 year old who accidentally killed his little brother after finding daddy’s pistol in the nightstand. Or the formerly despondent person who found a way to kill herself that was so fast that she didn’t have time to think twice. But, of course, you can’t ask her because she’s dead.

For those wanting to leap to the exceptions in order to negate all gun safety efforts:

  1. No gun regulation will stop all mass murders. But some regulations might prevent some of them.
  2. Second Amendment types opposed to all regulations justify their intransigence by saying that a particular regulation wouldn’t have stopped a particular shooting. They make the perfect the enemy of the good. People die waiting for them to wake up.
  3. If you’re in the wilds of Alaska it’s okay to have a gun to protect against bears. Same for homes in sparsely populated areas where help is 45 minutes away.
  4. If you’re a hunter it’s okay for you to have a hunting rifle.
  5. Numbers 3 and 4 above are contingent upon you being vetted by a background check as not being violent, mentally unbalanced or a spineless politician. Then you can have a gun. But only after you’ve taken certified training in its use and have passed a test indicating you know how to safely handle, store, transport and use a gun. Just like getting a drivers license.
  6. If you’re a 22-year-old with swastikas on your bedroom wall and you want 9 long guns, two assault rifles with bump stocks, 7 semi-automatic 9mm handguns with extended capacity magazines and a closet full of ammunition, NO, YOU CAN’T HAVE A GUN.

Tell you what, Adolph: I’ll pay for your years of psycho-therapy to treat your inadequacies and pent-up hostility. Meanwhile, we’re going to keep you away from anything that goes “bang” or has a sharp edge.

Kinda wound up over two mass shootings this past weekend. In El Paso the brave gunman protected us all by making sure those little kids from Juarez didn’t get their school supplies. And the gunman in Dayton made sure people didn’t have a good time at that bar. No telling what might have happened if all those people hadn’t been gunned down by rapid fire from assault weapons and handguns fired by – you guessed it – angry white men.

And finally,

Click and read the sad satire. Then scroll down to see the multiple iterations of it.

There’s a lot to say about American mass shootings. One is being said by 17 countries, as well as Amnesty International: Don’t travel to the United States because it’s just too dangerous.

The Onion put its satirical touch on this with a headline this week:

“No Way To Prevent this,” Says Only Nation Where this Regularly Happens.

All the other nations have figured this out.

A necessary ingredient of satire is that it be based in fact, and this headline does that. As you might suspect, they’ve run that headline over and over, updating the picture each time from the then-current massacre.

If you can handle it, have a look at another piece from The Onion, this one about the sick, twisted rationalization white supremacists and neo-Nazis make of Thomas Jefferson’s words about the tree of liberty and the blood of patriots. I haven’t read the El Paso shooter’s “manifesto,” but I’m confident The Onion’s piece would fit him just fine.

Most important is an in-depth look at why we have so many people being killed or wounded by gunfire in America. If you read anything about our more than one-per-day mass murders, read this piece: What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest An Answer. Here are some hints:

It isn’t video games. People in every other industrialized nation play the same video games but they don’t slaughter one another.

It isn’t mental health. Crazy as we seem to be, we Americans are no more mentally unhealthy than people in other countries. Further, blaming people with mental health issues for our gun carnage demeans those people.

It isn’t our culture.

It isn’t racial differences or immigration.

Read the article, because within it you’ll find the driver of our daily, blood-soaked carnage. Then drop a note to Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, because they’re major recipients of millions of dollars of NRA campaign contributions. The NRA laundered at least $40 million of Russian money to do that.

Maybe we do need gun regulations. And tight campaign contribution regulations, too.

And be sure to read E.J. Dionne’s piece on this. It’s brilliant.


————————————

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NOTES:

  1. Writings quoted or linked to my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine. When you offer your ideas in the Comments section, that’s all yours – and your comments are most welcome.

Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Porky Pig


Reading time – 57 seconds  .  .  .

To quote Porky Pig: “Ah-bi-dee, ah-bi-dee, that’s all, folks!”

The Supreme Court has just handed down its most blatantly political decision in a long time, or at least since the democracy killing Citizens United decision in 2010. Their stupefyingly bone-headed refusal to knock down blatantly obvious discrimination by North Carolina’s legislature will have a destructive impact that will echo across the nation.

This case was about gerrymandering designed to strip voting rights and legislative power from the poor and from minorities. The Supreme Court has opened the door for unending, unearned political control by a diminishing white majority. Its decision will have devastating impact on millions of Americans for years to come and is truly the New Jim Crow.

To the 5 justices who made this happen, I have some snark: Your mothers must be very proud.

I can’t do better than David Leonhardt’s piece in Friday’s New York Times. Click through and read it, and note his comments about the census, too.

BTW, the Times is not failing, as Emperor Trump would have you believe. It’s having some of its best years ever. They’re focused on stuff happening here on planet Earth, a concept of reality that doesn’t seem to penetrate the information-proof walls of the East Wing living quarters, which serve as Trump’s Twitter bunker. #FailingPresident.


————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Pounding and Flip-Flopping


Reading time – 4:51; Viewing time – 7:30  .  .  .

It’s a fundamental courtroom practice:

If the facts are on your side, pound on the facts.

If they aren’t on your side, pound on the law.

If the law isn’t on your side, pound on the table.

The House Judiciary Committee met last week to debate issuing a citation of contempt of Congress to Attorney General William Barr for his failure to produce an unredacted version of the Mueller Report and the underlying evidentiary materials, as well as for his failure to appear before the committee. Of course, the debate was bifurcated along party lines and what I found most interesting is what the Republicans did to make their case against contempt citations.

They brought up all manner of what they decried are unfair or unethical issues, including Hillary Clinton’s emails, FBI leadership, FBI spying and investigating (isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?), Barr’s courage to obey a law that actually doesn’t apply to the contempt of Congress issue, the Steele Dossier (none of which has been disproven), Christopher Steele’s having talked with Russians, various officials lying under oath, James Comey’s perfidy and other real or fantasy offenses.

NONE OF THAT HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH WILLIAM BARR FAILING TO RESPOND TO CONGRESSIONAL SUBPOENAS. IT’S ALL WHATABOUTISM.

That’s what people do when they don’t have a leg to stand on.

Don’t let their passion or the intensity of their fatuous bloviating or the panoply of unrelated issues distract you. This is solely about obeying the law. That sounds very conservative, don’t you think? How come the Republicans don’t like it? Try this.

The Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee likely feel duty bound to protect the Republican administration, regardless of what some individuals in that administration have done. That’s one of the more odious parts of party politics and it’s one of the things that causes voters’ blood to boil or drives them to simply tune out, believing, “They’re all crooks.”

Here’s what’s at stake in this subpoena/contempt citation case:

The important thing: The oversight function of Congress is impossible to conduct without the necessary information. The purpose of a subpoena is to elicit that information from reluctant witnesses. Which is to say, it doesn’t matter whether the president or his lapdog attorney general like it; Barr has to obey the subpoena and the law in order for our system to work.

The critical thing: What is at stake is the rule of law itself! If Barr and Trump get away with refusing subpoenas, then our rule of law is finished. So is justice in America, because it will be clear that obeying the law no longer matters. Say hello to tyranny.

Here’s the current reality:

Those Republican committee members don’t have the facts on their side. Barr has plainly and obviously stonewalled his subpoenas. That’s a punishable no-no. So they can’t pound on the facts.

Those committee members also don’t have the law on their side. The law is clear that citizens must obey a subpoena. So, those representatives can’t pound on the law.

All they have left is pounding on the table. And that’s what they did during the House Judiciary Committee contempt citation hearings and what they’re doing still.

You can expect the same behavior from Republican senators if a resolution of impeachment arrives in their chamber. That’s pretty much what we saw during the blizzard of filibusters the Republicans mounted to fight anything Obama promoted. They didn’t have the facts and they didn’t have the law, so they pounded on the table.

Critical note to Democrats: if positions were reversed, we’d see the same behavior from Congressional Democrats, although they’d probably smile more and be ever-so empathetic. Nevertheless, forget about feeling smug and disdainful about the other guys. This is party politics S.O.P.

Impeachment update  .  .  .

In 2017 I had the simple clarity that Trump should be impeached because he is a criminal, that he’s obviously guilty of violating the Emoluments Clause, obstruction of justice and possibly of treason for conspiracy with the Russians and for his refusal to take any action to prevent ongoing attacks by Russia. Then I considered what a President Pence might do and I wasn’t so sure that impeachment was best.

The first thing Pence would do is pull a Gerald Ford and pardon Trump and his entire crime family for felonies they have or may have committed. It’s unthinkable that they might get away with their self-aggrandizing criminality, so I changed my mind on impeachment. Now, though, there’s another worry.

Trump has started a march to war with Iran. Separating out his wag-the-dog gambit, starting that war will result in a lot of people dying and suffering and it likely will be a war that will last for many years, just like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, because there’s no way out. It appears that the only way to prevent that is to remove Trump from office before he can fire the first shot. That calls for impeachment, so back we go.

One price of doing that, though, is the probability of angering a lot of Americans who will see Trump as a victim and will vote in a Congress that might continue to dismantle the things we care about, a Congress which will deny climate warming. They will continue the assault on Roe v. Wade, on voting rights and will enact yet more wealth inequality measures. All of that and more are existential threats to liberal democracy and to our entire planet. That price is so large that it augers for leaving Trump in office until the end of his term in order to prevent a backlash Congress, even knowing that he will issue anticipatory pardons to all his co-conspirators.

Yes, I realize that I’m flip-flopping on the issue of impeachment and I don’t like it any more than you do.

This impeachment business is more complicated and has more consequences than I want it to have. I believe in the rule of law and apologize not one bit for being a Boy Scout about my horror over the assault on our moral character that we continue to endure.  But frustrating as it would be to refrain from stopping the subversive criminal in the Oval Office, preempting Trump with impeachment might do more harm than good. Clearly, this is a hold your nose moment in American history.

Click the pic for the report in The Onion

                                                     ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Live From The Valley


Reading time – 6:39; Viewing time – 9:12  .  .  .

Washington D.C. (mostly)
Election Announcement

I’m not a registered Democrat, but like Bernie Sanders, I caucus with them. That’s why I’m announcing my candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.

I thought I’d have more time for this, at least enough to put together an exploratory committee. But what with our never-ending campaigns, I don’t even have time to learn what an exploratory committee does. And there’s no chance to line up mega-donors now, either, because they’re already taken.

So, I’m left to make this major announcement via blog post. Good news for you: You’re the first to learn of this. Not even my wife knows about this yet. Man, I hope she won’t be angry.

Anyway, Kamala, Elizabeth, Bernie, Amy, Beto, Joe, Eric, Pete, Kirsten, John, Jay, Cory, Julián, Tulsi, John, Marianne, Wayne, Tim and Andrew, it’s nice to be in such a large and non-exclusive club.

Worry Announcement, or, Are We Really This Stupid?

What do you suppose Americans worry about the most: Illegal immigration? Foreign terrorists? Brown skin people from south of the border or Muslims? Nope, it isn’t nearly that dopey.

According to a current survey by the Gallup Organization you and I worry about healthcare more than anything else. Take a look at the chart below or, better yet, click on it for an expanded view of the chart and the complete Gallup report. Here’s another.

Healthcare is our biggest worry for the 5th year in a row. Oddly, our president has decided to do a full court press next year to increase our worry by repealing and replacing Obamacare. There’s just one thing: In the 9 years since the ACA passed the Republicans have tried dozens of times to repeal Obamacare and they haven’t succeeded, even when they were in control of the Senate, the House and the presidency.

Even worse – and that’s “worse” as in: both destructive and hypocritical – they’ve had 9 years to come up with a replacement healthcare plan for the “replace” part of “repeal and replace” and they’ve sat on their hands. They have no replacement or even the beginning of an outline for a replacement plan. So, if Trump gets his way, he and the Republicans will repeal Obamacare and replace it with NOTHING.

Then some of us will die needlessly, some will go bankrupt and pre-existing conditions won’t be covered, just like it was before the ACA. So, you better worry that if Trump and the Republicans get their way, there will be no replacement healthcare plan and you may have no healthcare at all.

Puerto Rico Aid Announcement

The president just announced that we have supplied $91 billion of aid to Puerto Rico, which means that we really didn’t totally blow off the survivors of that terrible hurricane that killed 3,000 Americans.

That’s good news, indeed, except for one little detail: the actual, real world, fantasy-free number is just 12% of Trump’s claimed amount. That aid has barely scratched the surface of what’s needed and it hasn’t provided food for the one-third of the population that’s going hungry.

Trump continues to astound all sentient beings with his constant lying and his ease in inflicting cruelty on people who desperately need help. Maybe he should go back to San Juan and toss out a couple more cases of paper towels to a crowd of suffering people to once again show his true support.

Proud State Announcement

It’s understandable if you think of North Carolina only as the leader in Republican crafted voter suppression, voting fraud and generally crazy politics. For example, former Republican Governor Pat McCrory blamed his loss in the 2016 election on non-existent voter fraud and refused to leave the governor’s mansion. Turns out his real electoral problem was his zeal for the infamous “Bathroom Bill.”

Yet, the Tar Heels are even more creative than that. They’re button-busting proud of the craftiness revealed by the recent indictment of Greg Lindberg, a major political donor, plus a couple of his associates and state GOP chairman and former congressman Robin Hayes for bribery through an insurance scheme.

These guys should have known that the FBI has no sense of humor about people lying to them, but lying repeatedly to the FBI is one of the indictments against them, as is attempting to bribe the current state insurance commissioner. U.S. Rep. Mark Walker was identified in the indictments as “Public Official A.” He was the recipient of $150,000 in political donations from Lindberg, but he’s not under indictment. Yet.

But just a second: the North Carolina Republicans may not have a monopoly on creativity. The current North Carolina Democratic Party chairman was the insurance commissioner during the time of some of this scandal. We’ll see if he, too, becomes a candidate to be a ward of the state.

Stay tuned, as this likely will prove to be the basis of a super hero movie – a Marvel Comics “State Dumb Stuff” thriller, staring Captain Greed.

Many thanks to DN for bringing this inspired piece of graft to our attention. It gives us all a renewal of appreciation for the human gift of imagination.

Special Award Announcement

You may recall Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who, in a rant against Dreamers declared that,

“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another hundred out there who weigh a hundred and thirty pounds—and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling seventy-five pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

That was quite the visual image and just the thing to introduce a new congressional award.

On Tuesday of this past week Rep. Steve King was presented the first ever “Congressional Bag Full of Stupid Award.”

In a dignified ceremony on the floor of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi began the proceedings by playing a video of King’s remarks. She then recounted his many dalliances with racism, white supremacy and fantasized hate.

Pelosi expressed concern that King’s years of commuting between Iowa and DC had left him with a huge bulge on the side of his head from carrying 75 pounds of stupid across the Iowa border into Illinois. She said that she hoped that his upcoming stupidectomy surgery would be successful. However, she warned that the medical community is united in the opinion that you can’t fix stupid. She said, “We all hope that this surgery will cause Steve’s stupid to go into remission for a while.”

At last and in a sincere and heartfelt closing, Pelosi recognized King for his well earned award and wished him a fine and very remote retirement beginning in January 2021.

And finally,

From the You Can’t Make This Stuff Up File
A short compendium of dumb current events that are too unbelievable even for fiction
  1. Vile, hateful, wacko conspiracy nut case Alex Jones is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by parents of children murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. He’s floating a defense that he has a “form of psychosis” that causes him to believe that certain events were staged. He says his psychosis was brought on by government and media lies, causing him to feel like “.  .  .  a child whose parents lie to him over and over again. Pretty soon you don’t know what reality is.” So, Alex Jones, the grand perp of hateful, harmful conspiracy theories that fattened his wallet dramatically, is a poor victim.
  2. Fox and Friends unveiled a new geographic phenomenon when it boldly declared. “TRUMP CUTS AID TO 3 MEXICAN COUNTRIES.” That came as startling news to those who erroneously thought there was only one country named Mexico.

Live, on the ground in the Valley of Stupid, I’m Jack Altschuler.
                 ————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
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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.

_________________________________________

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 that gave us an extremist president and an extremist Congress. The importance of voter participation was further illustrated, this time in reverse, by the massive voter participation in the 2018 election and the changes those 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 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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