corporate influence

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.

—————————-

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.

—————————-

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.

—————————-

* 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.

————————————

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.

Sing It With Me


A video of this post is inlne below.

———————————

Our national mania for freedom (“You can’t tell me what to do!“) and  our desire for retribution for both real and imagined wrongs, combined with our obsession over firearms (click for the truth about “Second Amendment remedies“) is a potent combination that is doing exactly what it’s designed to do: it’s killing people.

15 were killed and 24 injured at Columbine High School

9 were killed at Mother Emanuel AME Church

17 were killed at Marjorie Douglas Stoneman High School

11 were killed and 6 wounded at Tree of Life Synagogue

58 people were killed at the Las Vegas music festival

49 people were killed and 53 were injured at the Pulse Nightclub

20 little kids and 6 teachers were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School

8 people were killed in Atlanta spas

10 people were killed in a Boulder, CO supermarket

Click me

You know that this list could go on and on and you’d recognize the names, like Poway and San Bernardino and El Paso and Aurora and Sutherland Springs, Virginia Tech and Ft. Hood. We’ve already had 25 mass shootings in March alone, over one per day, and here’s the key point: most or all were done with legally purchased and carried weapons. Some of the killings were done by mentally ill people. Some were done by delusional angry people. Doesn’t matter much. The victims are still dead.

President Obama stood before the nation after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre of those little 5 and 6 year old kids, wiping away tears as he spoke. He prayed that we would come to our senses and enact gun safety legislation that would begin to put an end to the murdering of so many of our innocents, but that still hasn’t happened. We still don’t have universal background checks. We don’t prohibit concealed and open carry. We don’t prohibit ownership of assault weapons. We don’t limit the size of ammunition magazines or the number of firearms and the amount of ammunition anyone is allowed to own. We do nothing – literally nothing – to stop the bleeding and dying.

A lot of our politicians have had a backbone-ectomy and have refused to do a thing about preventing our national carnage, even as 90% of us want universal background checks and more.

Exactly who do you think is doing all that shooting: lefties? Get real. In fact, get so real that you’ll read the unclassified version of the Intelligence Community assessment of domestic violent extremism. You can download a copy here.

No time to read? Okay, I’ll make this quick. Things are terrible and they are rapidly becoming even worse.*

Here’s a lovely set of statistics. There are enough firearms in private hands in this country to equip every man, woman and child with a gun and still have millions of firearms left over. That’s the first statistic.

Here’s the second: 50% of all those firearms are in the hands of just 3% of the population and a lot of those people are very angry. Worse, they think they’re the true patriots and the proper arbiters of justice and that violence is a fine solution.

We live in the lunacy of unrestricted firearms in the hands of angry people who think a stop sign is an abridgement of their freedom. Or they think that somebody else is the cause of their problems and unhappiness and that all the somebody else’s should be made to pay. Better hope you’re not a somebody else. Meanwhile, sleep well and have a nice day.

Which is hard to do right now if you live in Boulder, CO or Atlanta, GA or even Newtown, CT. And who knows? Maybe your town will make the news just like theirs, so that the name of your elementary school or your high school or your favorite supermarket or spa will be known across the nation.

You know the words of the mass murder song, so sing it with me: Thoughts and Prayers.

——————————–

ADDENDA

From Giovanni Russonello in the New York Times – On Politics newsletter of March 24, 2021, wherein he directs a fictional stage play.

“Senators, assemble, stage left and stage right, and face the audience. Now, express your outrage and frustration. Demand change. Or, if you’re standing on the right, direct your outrage at those across from you, ridiculing them for suggesting that changing the laws might even address the problem.”

This is, in fact, a constantly recurring drama that played out yet again the day after the Boulder, CO massacre. This is why things never get better.

——————————–

Click through the graphic below to the Mother Jones “A Guide to Mass Shootings in America.”

The Geography of Mass Shootings in America – Click the pic

  • ——————————–
  • * 2020 was a great year for gun murders in America. We’re number one and certain to stay there. Read about it here.

—————————————-

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

  1. 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.
  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. Said John Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” So, educate me and all of us. 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.

Holiday Remembrances


Reading time – 1:44  .  .  .

The number next to each location listed below is the number of people shot to death in a single incident. This only includes mass shootings since August, 2019 with 4 or more killed, plus a few horrific others.

Here’s a question for the people still living in these places: How’s your holiday season?

    • Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, CT    26
    • Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL   17
    • Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, SC    9
    • Tree of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh, PA    4
    • Pulse Night Club, Orlando, FL  49
    • Harvest Music Festival, Las Vegas, NV    58
    • Garlic Festival, Gilroy, CA    4
    • JC Kosher Supermarket, Jersey CIty, NJ    6
    • Emerald City Casino, Great Falls, MT     4
    • Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Pensacola, FL    4
    • Backyard football watch party, Fresno, CA    4
    • Family killing, San Diego, CA    6
    • AirBnB house, Orinda, CA    5
    • Family killing, Philadelphia, PA    4
    • Memorial gathering, Chicago, IL    5
    • Family killing, Abingdon, MA    5
    • Tequila KC Bar, Kansas City, KS    4
    • Street shooting, Beaumont, TX    4
    • SuccessTech Academy school, Cleveland, OH    4
    • Mobil home park, Albuquerque, NM    4
    • Family shooting by 14 year old, Elkmont, AL    5
    • Outside movie theater, Odessa, TX    8
    • Ned Peppers Bar, Dayton, OH    10
    • Walmart, El Paso, TX    22

Our hearts go out to these folks for having to bear the pain of an empty chair at the holiday table. Too bad NRA sponsored politicians only have thoughts and prayers. If they had hearts, perhaps some of these massacres wouldn’t have happened and today’s survivors would have had a joyous holiday.

Finally,

If we had applied our immigration policies to those seeking asylum back then  .  .  .

What would Trump-supporting Evangelicals say if Customs and Border Patrol told Mary and Joseph, seeking refuge, that they couldn’t even stay in a stable in the U.S.? How would they react if they found out that all children entering our southern border are separated from their parents because the parents are arrested while seeking asylum, so Jesus was wrapped in a mylar  blanket and put in a cage? Would Evangelicals applaud that Trumpian get tough immigration policy?

If the answer is yes, Evangelicals may keep that one-word descriptor, but they have to stop calling themselves Christians. There’s nothing Christian in being cruel to the poor, to the stranger and to children. There’s a really good chance Evangelicals missed the main point.

————————————


Ed. Note: We need 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 2021 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.

————————————

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.

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.

————————————

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.

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.


————————————

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. When you offer your ideas in the Comments section, that’s all yours – and your comments are most welcome.

Copyright 2021 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:

  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.

Venezuela and Existential Threats


Reading time – 5:07; Viewing time – 7:30  .  .  .

First, my only comment on the topic of the cherry picked, sentence fragmented Mueller report is that I want the full report – all of it including the appendices – both for the complete, un-predigested information so that I can draw my own conclusions and so that we won’t imagine a Justice Department cover up engineered by Trump’s hand-picked protector.

As of this writing Attorney General Barr has indicated he will release the complete Mueller report by mid-April. There will be redactions, perhaps lots of them. Some will be to protect ongoing investigations. Some redactions will be for national security reasons. Some will be to avoid causing embarrassment to “peripheral innocent people.” I have no clue why that’s more important than instilling confidence in the report for a skeptical public. Absent such confidence, we’re facing an existential threat to our democracy.

If you need insightful commentary on the entire Russia issue, including Mueller’s report, read pal Dan Wallace’s comments. Now to the issue of Venezuela.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story about Russia’s power play in Venezuela. Putin sent 100 troops there to prop up dictator Nicolás Maduro. In reaction to that, reader JC asked if there was anyone left in Washington who understands the Monroe Doctrine or remembers the Cuban Missile Crisis. My answers: no and no.

As you’ll recall from high school American history class, the Monroe Doctrine prohibits further European colonialism in the Western Hemisphere.

At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Soviet Chairman Nikita Khrushchev was cultivating Cuba as a client state, effectively making it a colony of the Soviet Union, the very thing prohibited by the Monroe Doctrine. Soviet missiles armed with nuclear warheads on that island made it an existential threat to the United States.

While President James Monroe couldn’t have imagined nuclear weapons, he and his contemporaries were clear that the presence of European military might this close to home was an existential threat to our nascent country. The Monroe Doctrine was and is about our national security.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis there were thoughtful, careful men in charge who insisted upon best intelligence and carefully considered approaches to the challenges we faced. They had the strength of character to resist knee-jerk military actions and they prevented a catastrophic war.

This time there’s a reality TV personality in charge who doesn’t read, who is incapable of assembling complex thoughts, who doesn’t review the President’s Daily Brief, so he doesn’t know what’s going on, who doesn’t have sufficient self-control to resist temper tantrums and who needs to be seen as the biggest, baddest tough guy. He is supported by Secretary of State John Bolton, who never saw a conflict he didn’t want to escalate into war. As bad, we have a horrendous record of starting conflicts without any plan to end them.

For example, George W. Bush dim-brain/lied us into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with phantom promises of quick success and happily-ever-after flowers tossed at our troops by Iraqis. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared Iraqi oil would pay for the whole thing. None of that happened.

What was foreseeable but which they refused to foresee was the global refugee problem they triggered and which the world lives with quite unsteadily now. It is a key outfall of Bush’s lies and we still don’t have a plan to end those wars.

Now that Russia has sent its troops into Venezuela we are in a situation not unlike the Cuban Missile threat from the Soviet Union. President Trump backs Maduro’s challenger Juan Guaidó. How will Trump stop Russia from both keeping Maduro in power and from having that military foothold in the Western Hemisphere that is specifically forbidden by the Monroe Doctrine?

In point of fact, Trump has been a disaster of a negotiator for the U.S. He’s been a patsy with nothing to show for his capitulations to Russia and North Korea. Worse, he’s been a lapdog for Putin, who is now threatening Trump’s tough guy posturing.

Trump has told Putin to back off. If Trump tries to negotiate with Putin to get him to do that, Trump’s past negotiating prowess suggests that it probably will look like hollow posturing that leaves Russian troops in place in Venezuela with an escalating military presence in the Western Hemisphere. If instead Trump sends troops in support of Guaidó, we’ll be faced off against the Russians and troops on both sides are likely to be killed. And there won’t be an exit plan from the conflict.

What could possibly go wrong?

And another thing  .  .  .

The Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee called for Adam Schiff (D-CA) to resign his chairmanship of the committee, based on the same kind of Republican partisan brainlessness that we’ve seen for years. Schiff replied with a kind of muscular statement rarely heard from Democrats. Watch the whole thing here.

Last thing .  .  .

Chris Hayes interviewed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“AOC”) on Friday. Here’s a link to a string of videos from that interview. I urge you to watch all of them for one reason. It’s not so that you’ll agree with or find ways to pick apart the Green New Deal or find ways to cheer or criticize her. I want you to think on a higher level.

Specifically, watch and listen in order to understand why she has so completely captured the public imagination. Our Gen X, Y and Z citizens see our politics in the way that Emma Gonzalez sees our embedded intransigence over gun safety: “We call B.S.”

AOC speaks for an overwhelming majority of Americans, regardless of how much you may fundamentally disagree with her policy ideas or fear your own loss of power.

To Our Legislators:

Get on board with working with people who see the future far differently than you do. If you don’t want to do that, I suggest that you polish your résumé in preparation for entry into an exciting new career. That’s because these folks know that they’ll be the ones who will live with the consequences of what we’re creating right now, so they have a far more powerful interest in a sustainable future. We have created an existential threat to them and they won’t let us mess it up any more.

                   ————————————

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.

_________________________________________

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.

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.

1 2 3 9  Scroll to top