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I’ve Got a Bad Feeling About This


The violent far right people with AK-47s and AR-15s and basements full of ammunition don’t see themselves as domestic terrorists. They don’t think January 6 was an attempt at insurrection and they see the desecration of the Capitol Building and their causing 5 deaths as righteous fulfillment of Thomas Jefferson’s dyspeptic rant about the refreshing of the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants. That works well, of course, unless it’s your blood. Or your daughter’s or your son’s or that of anyone you care about.

Bear in mind that Jefferson had been reacting to the very real cruelty of a mad king, not to a democracy doing what democracies always do – feeling their way forward with the pendulum swinging back and forth. In other words, blood refreshment of liberty is not a solution for today’s democracy challenges. Tantrums venting a violent temper over either real or imagined wrongs is not legitimate patriotism. In a functioning democracy, seeking blood refreshment for the metaphorical tree of liberty is delusion. It’s tyranny while waving an American flag.

Which is exactly what OAN is doing.

From The Independent (be sure to click the link and watch the OAN video):

A host on the far-right cable channel One American News Network, which has amplified a fabricated narrative fuelled [sic] by Donald Trump and conspiracy theorists that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from him and his supporters, has suggested “traitors” who “tried to steal power” by defeating the former president should be executed.

The OAN host is Pearson Sharp, who later claimed that he wasn’t calling for executions. Then he doubled down on calling for executions.

This is not 1776. The British aren’t coming. We pay taxes not to enrich a king, but to do together the things we cannot do individually, like building highways and providing for our national defense. We actually count ballots because that is how we determine who won our elections and we have gobs of safety procedures to ensure our elections are clean. That way no amount of reality denial based on outrageous lies and vaporous evidence can upset the will of We the People. Pretty cool, eh?

Yet we have millions – yes, millions – of our fellow citizens who believe in violent rebellion because of taxation (that’s what they say), because of those cheating Democrats and because of other awful, horrific but unspecified, fact-free government outrages. Mostly, though, they seem to be upset now because they didn’t get their way in the last election. So they endorse the Big Lie, they believe in conspiracies of sex trafficking and drinking of children’s blood and they create vast armories of real life, death creating weaponry. This isn’t a paint ball exercise. They intend to kill.

They really think they are going to instigate armed conflict against unarmed civilians (that would be you), the police and our military and then secede from the Union. They think they’re the patriots and that the rest of us are either tyranny drivers or ignorant puppets of the tyrannicists. Red, white and blue, baby, unless it’s a Trump flag. Is there a difference in the minds of these deluded people?

There are always malcontents – tyrants in metaphorical high chairs, screaming, kicking and pounding their spoons and forks on their trays. We can thank decades of power grubbing liars and cowards in government and on the airwaves for our ever-escalating passions of anger and carefully stockpiled and curated resentments. What is new is our total failure to discipline these people by telling the truth. We have instead allowed their grievance sickness to metastasize.

Our First Amendment that enshrined freedom of speech was a marvelous invention and it remains a spectacular tool of freedom. But where have the freedom of speech sane voices been for most of the past half century, as voodoo economics and Tea Party tantrums and air head stupid stuff were visited upon us? Did we think the manipulative, power clawing calls to fear and hatred by the malcontents would magically vanish? Did we think that those unimaginably rich donors funding usurpation of our democracy didn’t matter?

To quote from the trash compactor scene (at 1:37) from Star Wars, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

And this time I don’t think a cute R2 unit will come along to save us.

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From Common Cause

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is doing all he can to destroy the Postal Service. Last year, he was a major player in ex-President Trump’s plot to silence mail-in voters by sabotaging the USPS — and even now that President Biden has taken office, DeJoy is still trying to gut this vital public service.

I signed a Common Cause petition urging the USPS Board of Governors to fire and replace DeJoy — and I hope that you will, too – a couple of clicks starting right here will get the job done.

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Thanks!

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. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Chutes & Ladders, Knives & Guns and Karma


Most of us are taught to play by the rules from a very young age because human relationships and even civilizations require rules in order to prevent chaos and the breakdown of society. So we play Chutes and Ladders pretty much according to the rules.

Robert Frost said it best:

Good fences make good neighbors.

So we make sure that we agree about the fences, just as we agree on the rules of Chutes and Ladders.

But now we have a national problem: one side isn’t honoring the fences. It isn’t playing by the rules. It’s playing with wanton disregard for order, truth and the law. It is actively breaking down society. That is what bullies and insurrectionists do. That is what “all about me” types do. They play dirty. They cheat. They act without regard for others. They throw sand in the sand box, to invoke yet another metaphor, so they can own it.

When Democrats play by the rules, honor the fences and don’t throw sand they keep themselves at a very dangerous disadvantage. As Nicolle Wallace put it, “Democrats continue to bring a knife to a gun fight.” Wallace is right.

Senate Minority Leader McConnell has repeatedly vowed to block all Biden initiatives – he has 100% focus on that. Sadly, that leaves no focus for America and the American people. His message could not be plainer: “We want all the power, so screw you, We the People.”

And Republicans are pleased to do any and everything to make that happen.

They lie, claiming a stolen election.

They enable and lie about insurrection.

They run a spy ring to sabotage our electoral processes.

They project their wrongdoings on Democrats.

They create and encourage conspiracy thinking to stoke fear and hatred.

They filibuster nearly everything.

They enact onerous, unconstitutional laws to prevent those likely to vote for Democrats from voting.

They put partisan conspiracy nut cases in charge of elections.

They enact laws to enable Republicans to overturn the will of the people.

They remove hundreds of thousands of voters from state voting registers.

Those are just some of the dishonoring of fences and throwing of sand – the “guns” – Republicans are firing in this gun fight.

Democrats respond by saying things like, “That’s awful,” and somebody gives a speech from the well of the Senate that nobody hears. That’s the knife Democrats bring to this gun fight. It’s way past time for Democrats to arm themselves properly.

Democrats need to get serious about messaging that will change the minds of the American people. We need talking heads to be everywhere calling out Republican lies and power grabs. We need elected Democrats and pundits telling Americans that Republicans don’t care about We the People and that all they care about is stealing all the power and money for themselves  We need bumper stickers that say:

“Republicans are picking your pocket and breaking your legs.”

“How do you like being lied to by Republicans?”

“Republicans are coming for you next.”

“If you like being a peon, you’ll love Republican rule.”

“You can’t love America and vote Republican.”

“Republicans are why you can’t get what you want.”

“Rs want your rights, so we stand and fight.”

We need talkers pointing fingers at cameras and scaring the hell out of voters by telling them the truth about the horrible dystopian future the Republicans are creating. Failure to fully engage, all rhetorical guns blazing, will lead to nothing less than vigilante terrorist murders and the end of democracy.

So, pass this along to your senators, representative and elected state officials. Tell them to stop playing nice, to put some starch into their spines and go on the offensive. This is not a contest against an opponent in a board game. This is a rhetorical and legislative gun fight against a well armed enemy of the We the People. Lock and load.

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A New Balance

Vaccine refusers have their reasons. Some of those reasons might even be rational and based on something real on planet Earth. I can’t think of any, but let’s assume that not everyone who refuses to be vaccinated is a conspiracy nut.

My guess, though, is that most believe in some sort of conspiracy, like the Bill Gates nanobots-in-vaccines believers and the autism wailers. My favorites, though, are the freedom screamers, the people who are certain that having to wear a mask is a tyrannical government’s abridgement of their freedom. They believe there’s no pandemic, that COVID is a hoax and it’s no worse than “strenuous flu,” as a mentally ill former president described it.

COVID doesn’t care if you’re in New York City or rural Missouri. All that’s required to contract the disease is to be un-vaccinated and in close proximity to an infected person who is still able to exhale on his/her own. And yes, that happens even in rural Missouri. Just ask the people in rural South Dakota what happened last winter. Oh, wait – you can’t do that because so many of them are dead.

Last winter South Dakota had the highest rate of death from COVID in the world. “Who needs a mask?” they said. The rest of us know the answer to that question, but the governor of SD still proudly stands for the right to contract COVID and die. And the face mask and vaccine refusing mania has become yet more perilous, as the Delta and Delta Plus COVID variants have made their way into the lungs of lots of Americans.

What’s significant about these variants is how much faster and efficiently they spread to others’ lungs and that they are far more deadly than yesterday’s COVID-19. Let’s consider what that might mean.

I bet that a huge percentage of vaccine refusers are rugged individuals and Trump supporters. Imagine what would happen if tens or hundreds of thousands of them manage to get themselves infected with the new ultra-deadly COVID variants. Without their being vaccinated and with anti-viral drugs largely ineffective in people with these variants, the die off this winter will be ghastly.

Here’s the Machiavellian craziness of it all: That die off might be great enough to counter-balance the Republican purging of black, brown and young people from voting rolls in swing states.

Not hoping for any such thing, but karma always has its way.

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Commissar DeSantis announcing re-education camps for Florida students and teachers. Click me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not DeSantis’ mother – but the words fit. This was originally targeted at unruly airline passengers. I’m aiming it at an unruly governor.

..

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Said John Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” So, add your comments below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

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. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Fairness Triple Crown


1. Tax Fairness

Everyone likes government programs that benefit themselves; we just don’t want to pay for them. Consequently, President Biden’s tax plan is hugely popular with we common folk, because it calls for somebody else to pay for the goodies. Good for us!

Not so good for the proposed payers.

On the other hand, those proposed payers are the very people who have consistently benefited from government policy and programs that for many decades have filled their piggy banks with massive wealth. It seems to most of us that turnabout is fair play.

Brendan Bechtel, CEO, Bechtel Corporation

But not to poor, picked on Brendan Bechtel. He runs Bechtel Corporation. It’s the same company that was happy to get those no-bid contracts from the George W. Bush administration for construction work in Iraq and still more no-bid contracts following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. That Bechtel Corporation.

Mr. Bechtel recently said of the Biden jobs program funding proposal, “it doesn’t feel fair.”

“Fair” is an interesting concept. From my observation post as a behavior geek it appears that “fair” usually means, “That isn’t what I want for me.” In other words, there is no link to the concept of even-handedness or a reasonable distribution of responsibility and obligation. “Fair” is solely about “I get what I want.” Let’s add one more piece of information and then test the concept.

Here’s a chart reported by The New York Times, sourced from Gabriel Zucman of UC Berkely.*

The graphs represent average federal tax rates for top earners, like Mr. Bechtel. Note how low taxes have been in recent decades relative to most of the last century. Note, too, that these are nominal rates, not what anyone actually paid after their highly expert accounting ju jitsu was applied.

Please tell us again, Mr. Bechtel, about how unfair (meaning “not even-handed”) a relatively slight increase in your taxes will be. You and your family and your top executives have been bathing in the flood tide of money that you’ve been able to amass for half a century. And you’ve been able to keep ever more of it for yourselves, because special tax loopholes and lower top rates have sent your actual, send-IRS-a-check tax bill on a near-constant downward trajectory. So has the employee attrition from the IRS that has minimized scrutiny of tax returns of those at the top of the wealth distribution pyramid.

Another way to say that is that the 99% of the rest of us who don’t have those tax loopholes available to us or the cash to pay high priced tax attorneys have borne a higher burden to support the commons because you’ve skated. I’m talking about the roads, bridges, schools, national defense, emergency services and the rest of the things we do together in this country. You haven’t paid your fair share for a really long time. So, “It doesn’t feel fair” is just too much for we common folk to hear.

You could take a page from Warren Buffett’s book and demand higher tax rates on the ultra-rich. It won’t affect your lifestyle a bit and the next generation Bechtel lucky sperm club winner will still inherit enough money to buy a small country.

So, go ahead and publicly demand our legislators and president raise taxes on the ultra-rich so we can fix the bridges, provide pre-K for our little ones and all the rest of the vitally needed actions in the commons that are decried so absurdly by Republicans.

Your gesture would be a most patriotic thing. It still won’t be what you want, but we’ll be most grateful for your having progressed to something that looks a lot more fair – as in “even-handed” – to the rest of us.

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2. A Jonathan Swifty Solution for Pandemic Fairness

Extremists have taken full control of the Republican Party. These people are angry and vocal and violent and they show up in huge numbers to vote. They openly carry guns, they like to intimidate others, they refuse masks and vaccines and they’re certain they’re the true patriots. That’s a problem for the rest of us who prefer boring negotiations to settle differences, rather than mob violence. And we’d rather not be infected by the mask and vaccine refusers. Fortunately, I have a modest proposal to tame all of that.

Caution: snark follows.

Let’s give them their own country. We’ll cede the Dakotas, where they can refuse masks and vaccines and embrace their Second Amendment remedies with wanton abandon. The Dakotas should be enough space, as they’ll kill one another in gun fights and die of Covid pretty quickly, so they’ll cull their own herd. Tucker Carlson will fit right in.

More immediately important is the issue of the pandemic, as it’s estimated that over 905,000 Americans have already died from it and the extremists overwhelmingly refuse masks, social distancing and vaccines. That imperils our ability to achieve herd immunity, which means their stubborn refusal puts the rest of us at risk. Here’s how to fix that.

By late summer we will have had sufficient vaccine supply and the distribution network for all of us to be vaccinated. Anyone not vaccinated by then can be considered a refuser. These are the people most likely to wind up in hospitals, then on ventilators and finally in the morgue. These are the people who will put our healthcare workers at risk and overload them. They’ll tie up our entire medical system, which compromises everyone else’s access to healthcare. Indeed, it’s been reported that 94% of cancer screenings over the past year were not done due to the pandemic. Our refusers threaten to make that permanent, which imperils all the rest of us.

I propose that after August 31 that we refuse to deliver medical service to anyone who contracts Covid and can’t produce a vaccination card.

It’s their choice to refuse to be vaccinated and that choice, like every choice, comes with consequences which shouldn’t be dumped on the rest of us. They made their bed; now they can lie in it – at home in the Dakotas, where they can’t infect the rest of us with the Covid variants they carry.

This is fair to the rest of us who don’t want to deal with the extremists and their Covid threats and their constant threat to our democracy. It provides freedom of choice, a true American value. It’s in line with the absolute freedom demands of our rugged individuals. And it gets all of us what we want.

This is another in an ongoing offering of simple Swifty solutions for complex problems and for fairness in our country. Please sign the petition at www.ExtremistsGoAway.com.

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3. Fairness Quotes of the Week

From David Brooks in the New York Times:

“That [WW II] victory required national cohesion, voluntary sacrifice for the common good and trust in institutions and each other. America’s response to Covid-19 suggests that we no longer have sufficient quantities of any of those things.”

That’s observationally accurate and fair to say.

From John Pavlovitz on vaccine refusal:

“Conservatives: you’ve been brainwashed. You are afflicted with partisan politics and bad theology, and you are unable to think clearly because of it. You are so intent on validating your vote that you will do anything to feel that way.”

Pavlovitz’s words actually apply to Trump brain slaves. True conservatives would be demanding that we all get vaccinated, this as a patriotic duty. It’s entirely fair to say that.

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* Click the link on Zucman’s name and download any of his papers – say, the top one: Tax Evasion at the Top of the Income Distribution: Theory and Evidence. Just read the abstract. Then give some thought to how the Trump administration’s IRS focused on middle income taxpayers and didn’t even glance at most of the wealthy.

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Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe and pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) Use the simple form above on the right.

Said John Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” So, add your comments below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

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. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Get Real


Reading time – 2:21  .  .  .

The Gallup Organization published a new poll looking at how we view the performance of various groups responding to coronavirus. The information is, well, a bit nuts.

Have a look at the chart below and note that roughly 4 out of 5 of us approve of the job being done by pretty much everyone except for the federal government and the news media. High state government approval is spot on, except for the 9 state governments, all with Republican governors, that don’t have the cojones to take a stand that will be unpopular with some of their constituents but which would save many lives. Perhaps that’s the 17% disapproval number.

The roughly 60% of Americans who approve of what Trump, Pence and Congress are doing must not be paying full attention. As I wrote here, in a time of crisis, people latch onto the leader, even if he’s a buffoon.

The Congressional disapproval rating makes sense, if you read that to be a report card on “Who Cares Mitch” and the spineless Republicans. Meanwhile, kudos to the people who disapprove of Pence, the Plastic Drone, as well as the 38% who see plainly that Trump is the biggest obstacle to healthcare solutions. He’s the only one who can do the big things we so desperately need and about which he lies every day. He simply refuses to do the big things. We continue to need millions of kits to test us for coronavirus and the number of tests performed so far would be laughable, were it not tragic. Same for our need for ventilators, so,

Q. Why doesn’t Trump aggressively pursue testing?

A. More tests would show the reality that we have much higher infection numbers than we’ve recognized, which would be bad for Trump’s public image and approval ratings.

Q. Trump has invoked the Defense Protection Act (DPA), which allows him to compel manufacturers to immediately shift production to the things we urgently need to fight this plague, but he hasn’t made them do that. Why not?

A. Because if he were to take action he’d have to accept responsibility for the terrible things that are happening and will continue to happen and he wouldn’t be able to blame others.

The most disappointing numbers on this chart are those for the news media. Only 44% of us approve of how those folks are handling this crisis, with 55% disapproving. If those saying they disapprove are Fox watchers and New York Post readers, that’s understandable. Otherwise, we’re in big trouble.

The news media is called The Fourth Estate because they are the watchdogs over the Constitutionally mandated 3 estates, the Executive, Congressional and Judiciary Branches of our government. If we collectively lose faith in our news media, there will never again be accountability in government and, unless you are a rich donor, you can expect to be ignored and even abused by government.

Further, Trump knows how to exploit distrust in our news media for his own benefit and can get away with homicidal negligence, as in the case of response to COVID-19. And he has used that distrust to undermine both our Constitution and national security, as in the cases of the Ukraine scandal and Russian subversion of our elections, with Trump even protecting the Russians from our intelligence agencies.

So, get real. We’re at risk, sick and dying because of Trump’s lousy federal action to deal with COVID-19. And our democracy is at risk and sick because of fake Fox news and Donald Trump’s lies.

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

  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!

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 2021 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 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Danger From All Directions


Reading time – 3:47  .  .  .

Here are some news chunks that at first may seem to be unrelated, yet they really are connected.


“The FDA won’t ban a type of breast implant that has been linked to cancer, the agency announced Thursday. Textured breast implants have been tied to a form of cancer known as anaplastic large-cell lymphoma and have been banned in many other countries.”


“A Kaiser Family Foundation poll of 1,200 adults finds that a majority do not favor the Trump administration’s proposed changes [drastic cuts] to Title X, the program that provides funding for family planning and other services to low-income people.”


“He lied to Congress. He lied to Congress… If anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law — not the president of the United States, not the attorney general.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted Attorney General William Barr at a press conference Thursday, saying that part of previous testimony Barr gave Congress on April 9th was a lie. The attorney general then denied knowledge of concerns raised by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team over Barr’s four-page summary of the Mueller report. By March 28, Barr had already received a formal letter from Mueller that conveyed the special counsel’s concerns and spoken with him about it over the phone.”

It’s the “emBARRassment” of Barr. Thanks AS for that.


“Trump at war with Democrats: ‘We’re fighting all the subpoenas’

“Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump vowed on Wednesday to fight “all the subpoenas” issued by House Democrats investigating his administration, reinforcing his administration’s increasingly combative posture toward congressional oversight.”


Trump-Putin (Again): President Donald Trump said he discussed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report with Russian President Vladimir Putin in an hour-long phone call today. However, Trump says he didn’t warn Putin not to meddle in the upcoming 2020 elections: “We didn’t discuss that,” he told reporters.


On a small stage these can be seen as disconnected actions of the incompetent. With a wider focus, these can be seen as manifestations of a continuing Trump-led national march to authoritarianism and the formal abandonment of We the People. These are actions both small and large that undermine our rights, our safety, our security, our freedom and democracy itself, while at the same time aggregating power to Trump, he who cannot be indicted for his crimes.

Further, that inevitably leads to our loss of leadership in the world – it’s already happening – which will further undermine our security. Read the piece in The Atlantic by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) to get a perspective on the extensive and self-destructive reach of authoritarianism that is upending the hard-won battles, both in war and in debate, the work to build democracy.

The task before us right now is the same task that President Lincoln set before the nation in closing his remarks at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863:

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Were the 51,112 casualties at Gettysburg for nothing?

We are faced with that same question about the hundreds of thousands who have died and the millions who suffered in all of our conflicts in order to protect our democracy. Because if we now allow authoritarianism to undermine what we declare we hold dear, then we will have betrayed them and they will have suffered and died in vain. And government of the people, by the people and for the people will perish from the earth.

It’s time to see what is happening right in front of our eyes. That it is not masked doesn’t make it any less dangerous and it is just as disloyal to our country. Metaphorically, it doesn’t matter if you saw the poisonous snake before it bit you. You’re dying just the same.

It falls to us to keep faith with those who have protected our democracy. This is our time to rally to Lincoln’s call. Read his words again and let them seep into your bones.

————————————

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!


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Apathy and the Big Picture


Ed. Note:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I mention that it gets worse? It does.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • * Even if the general belief of primaries being driven by extremists is not true – and that is unclear – the lack of voter participation is still at the core of our dysfunction. 120 million voters sat out the 2016 election and 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 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Potpourri v7.0 – Shutdown Edition


Reading time – 4:06; Viewing time – 5:34  .  .  .

It is the bright, fresh practice of the Senate of the United States of America to formally abandon all activity if the President of the United States might not like what the Senate would do. Of course, this is in stark contrast to times past when Congress was held to be a separate and equal branch of government. Now, though, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has seen the wisdom of abdicating Congressional responsibility. You can expect more acts of Senatorial disappearance as the shutdown continues or really any time it’s politically expedient.

Note that Senator McConnell is still under a Harry Potter invisibility cloak and didn’t appear to be available for comment.

Everyone knows that McConnell has stated that he won’t bring a bill to the floor of the Senate to resolve the government shutdown issue unless he knows the president will sign it. But, why is that? Try this.

A vote to open government without funding Trump’s wall is a most precarious thing for Republican senators. If they do that they will have turned their backs on Trump’s campaign promise and, correspondingly, on their constituents who voted for Trump. Senators will feel their fury in their next primary. It will be ugly and they know it.

If, on the other hand, those senators vote against reopening government, each one will immediately feel the fury of every government worker in their state, as well as the fury of the workers’ families and their friends, independents who can spell “empathy” and all Democrats in their state. That fury will be brought to every election s/he will enter for the rest of their life and they will have to resign from the Senate and become a lobbyist for Big Pharma or a defense contractor.

That’s why McConnell won’t bring a bill to reopen government to the floor for a vote if he thinks Trump will veto it. These days it’s very hard to be a Republican.


Here’s how to get the government reopened without spending billions on a useless wall designed solely for Trump’s ego. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team should offer this to Trump and announce it to the public at a press conference:

  1. Immediately reopen all of government.
  2. Immediately pay all back wages both to workers who were forced to work without pay and to workers who were furloughed.
  3. Trump will deliver a personal, hand-written note to each federal worker, written in bold Sharpie, saying, “I know I hurt you. I apologize and promise I’ll never do that again.” Okay, that isn’t going to happen. It’s just snark. I do feel better now.
  4. Funding will be provided for a bi-partisan blue ribbon committee to generate a plan to bring border security and immigration policy into the 21st century, including recommendations for permanently dealing with the DACA kids and the other 11,000,000 undocumented in the US now. The plan is to be submitted to Congress and the president within 9 months of committee inception. It is to include no recommendation tor a wall except where a wall will actually enhance border security and is to be of appropriate construction. No need for a wasteful “big, beautiful wall.”
  5. Congress is to draft a bill following the committee’s recommendations, as adjusted or amended by Congress, and vote on that bill within 6 months.

Note that Congress won’t be starting from scratch because there were efforts at immigration reform not long ago.

The beauty of this plan is that the if the president rejects it he will be telling everyone that he really doesn’t support border security or immigration reform; he only supports what makes him look like a tough guy and doesn’t care about America or Americans. There will be substantial pressure on him to agree to this plan.

Plus, the president can claim a victory, as there will be some amount of wall that will be constructed. And he can claim fiscal prudence, too, since whatever wall is recommended will likely cost a lot less than $5.7 billion and a whole lot less than the projected $59 billion for a complete Trump wall. Everyone wins.


Perhaps you recall President Trump bravely declaring, “There’s been nobody tougher on Russia than President Donald Trump.” Regardless, he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to sign off on the sanctions imposed on Russia and some oligarchs for their hacking our 2016 election.

Then in December 2018 when Congress was on holiday break he had his Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, dump in Congress’ lap a plan for sanctions removal. They had just 30 days to vote to stop that action and far fewer once congressmen and senators were back in DC. The House voted to stop the sanctions removal with a strong bipartisan showing. The Senate wimped out, falling two votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.

Every one of those nay voting senators knows that Russia is a bad actor. Every one of them knows that Russia hacked our election and deserved those sanctions. And 43 of them voted to lift the sanctions.

Someone please tell me where those brave men and women store their spines when they go to DC.

————————————

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 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Social Musings v 1.0


Reading time – 2:42; Viewing time – 3:46  .  .  .

This has been simmering for a long time and I know I’m not alone, because I’ve checked with many people whose experience is identical.

 

My day job is to deliver keynotes and workshops focused on leadership. Following each session I commonly receive requests to contact individual attendees to talk about what I might do for their company or because they want to connect me to an organization for which I would be a good fit. Being a simple kind of guy, when someone asks me to phone or email them, I do exactly that. That’s when the plot thickens.

The vast majority of people simply don’t answer their phone. Calls go to voice mail. That in itself is worthy of discussion, but the lack of a return call is the key point.

I’ll commonly follow up several times, which seems reasonable, given that I was asked to call. I’ll leave a series of voice mails, often including a suggested time to talk so that we don’t play phone tag. The result: crickets.

The same thing plays out with emails and text messages, almost all of which never get a reply.

To back up just a step, all of this is in an effort to contact people who have asked me to contact them. And they don’t respond. We don’t connect. And, as I said, this is commonplace stuff, all of which is leading to my question: What’s going on in our society where people are routinely blowing off one another and it’s apparently okay to do that?

I’ve noodled over this to find an explanation for the behavior and have come up with a few guesses:

  1. People are significantly more conflict avoidant than were earlier generations and they simply can’t bear the anxiety of saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
  2. People are insanely self-focused and have no conscious notion that what they do has an effect on others.
  3. It’s a control thing: “I control if an when I make contact with others.”
  4. People don’t like to be distracted, even as they are so distractible, so they try to focus on whatever is in front of them at the moment. In that scenario, a call, email or text is unwelcome. And quickly forgotten.
  5. The best game in the world is deleting emails, voice mails and texts. Don’t you feel lighter just thinking about doing that?
  6. This is really a subset of #5: People are overwhelmed with things to read, tasks to accomplish, places to be, and the deluge of information that assaults our senses every day, so avoiding is a satisfying thing and may even feel like a survival scheme.

Any of that could be true and, really, the blow off behavior may be due to a completely different set of crazies. Nevertheless, my start as an early Boomer gives me sensibilities that tell me that it’s simply rude to blow off others and rude has somehow become acceptable. If true, what does that say about us?

Finally, the president, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer had a photo op in conjunction with their budget discussions on Tuesday. Right in front of the cameras they got into bickering about the wall and even with multiple invitations from Schumer and Pelosi Trump refused to remove the press and have a private conversation. So, we watched temper tantrums on display for the world to watch. I was so embarrassed seeing that behavior that I turned off the TV.

That display was courtesy of the president we call the leader of the free world. Can you imagine any world leader who would want to follow him?

Click me

A post post – During that embarrassing exchange in the Oval Office, Trump interrupted Chuck Schumer 3 or 4 times; he interrupted Nancy Pelosi 16 times. Click the pick and see for yourself. Then decide if there was any sexism – or you can call it disrespect – going on.

————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Perversion


Reading time – 4:41; Viewing time – 6:43  .  .  .

First they were the “silent majority.” Then they were “values voters,” which seemed to imply that those who didn’t see things exactly their way had no values. Now they’re “the base” or “Evangelicals.” Regardless of the label, they were and are focused on being a minority holding power over the heathen majority as though it’s a religious imperative. It’s a most exclusionary position, as in “I’ve got it and you can’t have it.” Whether it’s citizenship, civil and voting rights, power, superiority – it doesn’t matter. It’s all about we-who-are-right-and-good-and-godly versus all the people who are wrong and less-than and probably unpatriotic, too. Whatever advances their agenda is okay.

Paul Weyrich was the Dean Wormer of voter suppression.

Paul Weyrich, a conservative commentator and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, declared the Republican marching orders in August, 1980 while speaking to the Religious Roundtable, saying,

“I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

Republicans have been pursuing Weyrich’s repressive dictum tied to a fairy tale of religious purity ever since. They’ve made claims of massive voter fraud without any evidence to suggest that it even exists and have warned of dire consequences to our country if the “wrong” people are allowed to vote. They’ve quite ably reduced opposing voter turnout by:

– Purging voter roles for spurious reasons, primarily of people of color and the poor

– Purging voter lists of people only because they haven’t voted in the past few elections

– Closing offices, making it difficult to register to vote

– Closing polling places making it difficult to vote

– Challenging ballots due to minor errors, like omitting a middle initial

– Dirty tricks, like sending mailings with the wrong date or place for voting

– Requiring IDs that many poor people simply don’t have

From The Onion, of course. Click the pic for the article.

– Refusing to accept IDs that many people do have

– Rejecting voter registrations on ridiculous technicalities

– Redistricting (gerrymandering) that effectively neuters votes

– Claiming voter fraud with absolutely no evidence of it having occurred

– Packing the courts with right wing judges who allow these perversions to stand

Voter suppression advances the control and wealth of the minority to the detriment of the majority, which perverts our democracy. Right now there is no equivalency on the Democratic side, although there has been in the past. But there is perversion equivalency somewhere else: it’s the Big Money influence on our politicians and our democracy. Now, that’s an equal opportunity perverter.

There’s a reason you’re paying crazy high prices for your meds. It’s because the pharmaceutical industry lobbies in the form of direct and indirect cash support for politicians. That monetary influence reduces their inclination to do anything that the big companies wouldn’t like, such as opposing mergers and acquisitions that reduce competition. The near-monopoly created by those mergers allows and even encourages med makers to raise prices. And it’s actually worse than that.

In economic terms, pharmaceutical price hike damage is compounded by what’s called inelastic demand. That means that your purchases won’t be reduced if the price goes up because your life depends on those meds.

We have plenty of anti-trust (i.e. anti-monopoly) laws on the books, but they’re pretty much ignored. There was the breakup of AT&T in the 1980s (which has by now been largely negated) and the Microsoft suit in the 1990s, but not much else for decades. Meanwhile, the mergers of major companies continue.

Many of our air carriers have merged, like Continental being absorbed by United and US Air was bought by American and, unsurprisingly, ticket prices are rising. And if the T-Mobile and Sprint merger is allowed to happen, and regardless of which carrier you now use, what do you suppose that will mean for your cell phone bill? That’s right: it will go up.

And it’s not just your financial burden that might be affected.

The gargantuan size of companies resulting from allowing already big companies to merge can be a contributor to a decline in democracy and even a rise of fascism. Here’s how it works.

When we feel powerless, we look for someone to lead us back to a feeling of being in control of our lives and our country. But the autocratic leader we choose then partners with the huge companies to get their loyalty and support. In return, those companies get to avoid accountability for their actions and we pay the price.

In the end, we’re left even more powerless and our democracy will have been perverted. Read Tim Wu’s piece “Be Afraid of ‘Bigness.’ Be Very Afraid.” Bigness – monopoly – warps government, which perverts democracy and invites autocracy, which steamrolls you.

This discussion wouldn’t be complete without making clear that all of our perverting craziness is for the purpose of the ultra-wealthy few keeping and grabbing even more power by undermining our democracy. The drum major for that band is, of course, Donald Trump. But all those denials of rights of our citizens are part of the perversion.

It’s in Trump’s interests to kneecap the system that’s in place and to diminish those in his path. He went on a tweet storm last week bashing Robert S. Mueller and the FBI. You owe it to yourself to review CNN’s clear-headed, examination of what he tweeted. As you read it, be clear that his is not just a temper tantrum. It’s a perversion of our democracy.

————————————

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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