Dear Claire McCaskill: Regarding The Filibuster Of Gorsuch

Dear Senator McCaskill,

I am disturbed by what I read today. CNN reported the following regarding Democratic efforts to filibuster the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch:

As of Monday morning, 10 Democrats have said or suggested they will filibuster. Another eight Democrats have said they’ll opposed Gorsuch in the final confirmation vote, but it’s unclear where they stand on the filibuster.

I searched that article for where you stand on the filibuster. Nothing there. I searched elsewhere. I found nothing. I wrote your office. So far, no answer. Here’s the deal for me:

I knocked on doors for you here in southwest Missouri during  your last election against that freak, Todd Whatshisname. And even given how nuts that guy was, believe me I ran into a lot of stiff opposition to your candidacy. But I thought the rather mild verbal abuse I got from knocking on the wrong doors was worth the effort, because the thought of Todd Whatshisname sitting in the United States Senate was too much to tolerate, if I could help stop it. And it turned out well. You won. You’re in the Senate and he isn’t. That meant something then, and it means something now.

What it means is that you are in a position to do something about holding Republicans accountable for stealing a Supreme Court seat from us last year. I know you know they really did steal that seat, that all-important seat. I’m pretty sure that fact disturbs you as much as it disturbs me. At least I hope it does. But I understand there is a strategy being contemplated by some Senate Democrats that involves a slick manuever of letting the Supreme Court filibuster survive—meaning some Democrats will not support a filibuster against Judge Gorsuch—but will vote against his conformation later to register their opposition. No. No. No. In case you didn’t hear me: No. No. No. Don’t be a part of that. And, further, tell your colleagues not to be a pImage result for claire mccaskillart of it either. It’s not right. It’s phony. It’s cowardly. It’s morally wrong to allow, without putting up a fight, the Republican Party leadership in the Senate to get away so easily with robbing President Obama of his constitutional right to get a vote on his nominee for a seat on the Court.

The other theory I have heard being tossed around is that you guys should not die fighting on the Gorsuch hill, since he merely replaces Scalia and the original “balance” would remain in place. I don’t want to be crude, Senator, so I’ll simply say that idea is the stupidest thing I’ve heard since whatever Tr-mp’s last tweet was. Balance my butt. The Court was not balanced when Scalia was above ground. It was decidedly tilted toward the right. We got the destructive Citizens United decision, among other bad rulings, under that mythical “balanced” Court. This dumb theory envisions moving the fight to the next nominee, where our side will have more leverage. More leverage? How so? Depending on what vacancy comes up, we may have less leverage. We will have lost the immediate force of our moral standing to right an obvious wrong, plus we will be closer to an election year in which, if Republicans are seeking to replace, say, Judge Ginsburg, they will be under great pressure from the right to replace her with another judge straight off Tr-mp’s right-wing list of robed reactionaries. Mitch McConnell will be more likely to kill the filibuster under those circumstances than he might be now.

Waiting and taking such a chance is not worth it, especially when we have the superior moral argument on our side now and the increasingly effective enthusiasm of our base. Senate Democrats shouldn’t squander either by undertaking a strategy of surrender today in hopes of winning some uncertain concession from Republicans tomorrow. And, need I remind you, Republicans are notoriously ruthless when it comes to these things.

President Obama was not three-fifths of a man or a president. Even as our first African-American POTUS of a country that has a racist past, he still had rights that white Senators were bound to respect, though they ultimately decided, in the tradition of the racists before them, not to respect them. He at least deserved the courtesy of getting his nominee a hearing and a vote, even if that nominee, as qualified as he was for the job, might not have ended up getting the necessary votes to sit on the Court. You may not like my reference to racism in this context. I understand that. But Barack Obama faced so many “firsts,” so much unprecedented treatment (“Where’s your real birth certificate?”), that racism, mostly in its subtle, softer form, is as good an explanation as any for the unprecedented treatment he received. And, I might add, treatment he endured with the dignity of a saint.

Another consideration is important, too. That is the fact that we have a man in the White’s House who doesn’t belong there. No. Really. He literally does not belong there. Not only is he mentally disturbed, but the Russians, whatever the outcome of the ongoing FBI investigation is, helped him win. And he begged them to help him win, right out in the open in front of God, Mitch McConnell, and, if hell is real, the smoldering soul of Antonin Scalia. Tr-mp is not a morally legitimate president for a lot of reasons, but none more delegitimizing than what he did on July 27, 2016:

Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens.

That was said eight months ago and it still parches my potty portal as much today as it did then. That plea for Russian intervention from his friend Putin should have been disqualifying in itself, but it turned out not to matter to enough Americans. Well, it should have mattered. It should have mattered then and it should matter now, especially to a sitting United States Senator, especially a Democratic one, and especially one who, like you, still gives a damn about what we used to call, without irony, patriotism.

And I haven’t even got to the fact that Tr-mp lost the popular vote. Sure, it matters in our system that he won enough electoral college votes to technically win the presidency, but it also matters that he used information stolen by the Russians to win at least some of those crucial votes in the Rust Belt states. So, the question is, why should a morally illegitimate president, who begged the Russians for help, who openly practiced racism against President Obama, get to fill a Supreme Court vacancy that was stolen by Republicans? Why should the Grand Wizard of the birther movement get to do that? Moreover, why should a man who recently and falsely and delusionally accused President Obama of a grievous “wiretapping” crime get to fill a Court seat that Obama should have filled? Huh?

The bottom line is this, Senator McCaskill: I voted for you and spent some time working on your behalf because I expected, while in office, you would always do your best to do the right thing. I always knew that you and I wouldn’t agree on every issue. I’m a liberal. You have the reputation of a “moderate,” which you enthusiastically embrace sometimes to my chagrin. But I understand the political dynamics of our state. I moved here 30 years ago and this isn’t the same state it was then. Politically, we look more like Louisiana today. Thus, I understand why you sometimes don’t take positions I would take. But I also I understand that most of the time you take the positions I don’t like based on your own principles, not merely to please the mostly rural constituents who I ran into while knocking on doors for you in 2012. You are a principled politician. This is one of those times when principle should triumph over everything else.

This fight involves an issue where I think you cannot afford to vote against what I know has to be your conscience. You were rightly and openly outraged by what the Republicans did to Merrick Garland and President Obama. And the only proper response to what happened is to demand another nominee, one who is comparable to Judge Garland in judicial temperament and philosophy. That’s the only way the constitutional wrong done last year can be made close to right, if such is possible.

You and your Democratic colleagues need to support Minority Leader Schumer’s announced filibuster of the Gorsuch nomination. If that means forcing Mitch McConnell to do away with the filibuster for all time—if that’s what he wants to do to protect the nominee of a “president” who is illegitimate, under a cloud of suspicion for conspiring with our Russian adversaries, and who is a pathological liar—so be it. If McConnell wants to walk that plank, let him do it. Some day, we (Democrats) will control the proceedings. We will only need a majority vote to get our folks on the Court. Then maybe people on our side will take elections more seriously, especially in non-presidential years. Maybe they won’t play games with fringe candidates like Jill Stein and Gary Johnson when so much is at stake.

In any case, what we need now is a fierce stubbornness in this fight. But we also need a fierce patience to compliment that stubbornness. John Dryden said, “Beware the fury of a patient man.” Kierkegaard said, “Patience is necessary, and one cannot reap immediately where one has sown.” Today we filibuster an injustice. Tomorrow the filibuster may be gone. And some fine day in the future we will decide, with a simple majority, who sits on the Court.

Or, maybe, just maybe, Mitch McConnell will not want what’s left of his reputation to die on a hill with Tr-mp’s tattered and tainted flag planted on it. Maybe he will keep the filibuster, Gorsuch will go back to the Tenth Circuit, and we will have a more moderate, less Scalia-like nominee. We will never know, though, unless Democrats stand up and fight like hell. I’m asking you to be one of the 41 fighters we need to filibuster Gorsuch’s confirmation. And I’m asking you to lobby your fellow Democrats, those who may be considering too-clever-by-half strategies, to also support, not just in spirit but with their votes, a principled filibuster.

Sincerely,

Duane Graham

 

Agent Orange: Putin’s Greatest Weapon

CNN’s big story yesterday (“US officials: Info suggests Trump associates may have coordinated with Russians“) began this way:

The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Tr-mp communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.

This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Tr-mp campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one source.

The story made clear the obvious: “The FBI cannot yet prove that collusion took place, but the information suggesting collusion is now a large focus of the investigation, the officials said.” It is obvious the FBI cannot yet prove such collusion, because if it could, charges would be recommended. But something else is obvious to me. Look at this paragraph from the story, referencing FBI Director James Comey’s appearance before Congress earlier this week:

In his statement on Monday Comey said the FBI began looking into possible coordination between Tr-mp campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives because the bureau had gathered “a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.”

What is obvious here is that we already know at least one American who has acted as “an agent of a foreign power.” His name is Donald J. Tr-mp. The foreign power is Russia. The leader of Russia is Vladimir Putin. Tr-mp has said quite a lot about both Putin and Russia. Here are some examples:

“Look at Putin—what he’s doing with Russia—I mean, you know, what’s going on over there. I mean this guy has done—whether you like him or don’t like him—he’s doing a great job in rebuilding the image of Russia and also rebuilding Russia period. Forget about image.” (October 15, 2007)

“Putin has big plans for Russia. He wants to edge out its neighbors so that Russia can dominate oil supplies to all of Europe. Putin has also announced his grand vision: the creation of a ‘Eurasian Union’ made up of former Soviet nations that can dominate the region. I respect Putin and the Russians but cannot believe our leader allows them to get away with so much…Hats off to the Russians…”(December, 2011)

“I do have a relationship [with Putin], and I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today. He’s probably very interested in what you and I am saying today, and I’m sure he’s going to be seeing it in some form.” (November, 2013)

“I believe Putin will continue to re-build the Russian Empire. He has zero respect for Obama or the U.S.!” (March 21, 2014, three days after Putin annexed Crimea)

“Well, he’s done an amazing job of taking the mantle. And he’s taken it away from the president, and you look at what he’s doing. And so smart. When you see the riots in a country because they’re hurting the Russians, okay, ‘We’ll go and take it over.’ And he really goes step by step by step, and you have to give him a lot of credit. Interestingly, I own the Miss Universe pageant. We just left Moscow. He could not have been nicer. He was so nice and so everything. But you have to give him credit that what he’s doing for that country in terms of their world prestige is very strong.” (April 12, 2014, less than a month after Putin annexed Crimea)

“They say it wasn’t them. It may have been their weapon, but they didn’t use it, they didn’t fire it, they even said the other side fired it to blame them. I mean to be honest with you, you’ll probably never know for sure.” (October 14, 2015, responding to U.S. intelligence assertions “with confidence” that pro-Russian separatists shot down a commercial airliner over Ukraine, killing 298 people)

“I will tell you that, in terms of leadership, [Putin’s] getting an ‘A’ and our president is not doing so well.” (September 29, 2015)

“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.” (December 17, 2015)

“If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him. I’ve already said, he is really very much of a leader. I mean, you can say, ‘Oh, isn’t that a terrible thing’ — the man has very strong control over a country.” (September 7, 2016)

This next one deserves a video clip. It has to do with the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer in Russia who turned on his superiors because he found links between Russian government officials and Russian mafia groups. After he fled to London and obtained asylum, he worked as a consultant for British intelligence. He also wrote about how the FSB used murder and mayhem in Moscow to make Vladimir Putin more popular, after Putin was corruptly handed power by a corrupt Boris Yeltsin. In November of 2006, Litvinenko was almost certainly poisoned to death by the FSB, on the orders of Putin, according to an official British inquiry. Technically, and gruesomely, he suffered cardiac arrest resulting from acute radiation syndrome, which he got from ingesting a fatal dose of polonium 210. Here’s how Tr-mp responded to that British inquiry in January of 2016:

“I don’t know if he did it,” said Tr-mp. “The fact is he hasn’t been convicted of anything,” said Tr-mp. “Many people say it wasn’t him,” said Tr-mp. “So who knows who did it?” asked Tr-mp. This man, so willing to give a killer named Putin the benefit of every doubt, is the same man who viciously and publicly demanded the execution of five teenagers, four black and one Hispanic, who were accused of raping a jogger in New York’s Central Park in April of 1989. The five kids were convicted. But it turns out they were falsely convicted, as DNA evidence later showed. They spent more than ten years in prison for a crime they did not commit. Less than a month after the alleged rape, and more than a year before the trials, Tr-mp paid for a full-page advertisement in all four major New York newspapers: “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!” shouted the headline on the now infamous ad in 1989.  As Jamil Smith wrote:

Image result for BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!Rather than call for civic healing, Trump’s ad called for blood. Indulging in a classic myth about law enforcement and ignoring the more systemic causes of crime, Trump wrote that “if the punishment is strong, the attacks on innocent people will stop.” Calling for enhanced police powers, he then scoffed at the idea that compassion should be shown toward youth in urban areas who commit offenses. “I no longer want to understand their anger,” his ad reads. “I want them to understand our anger. I want them to be afraid.”

You can see how Tr-mp has a Putinesque affection for the use of fear as a means of manipulating and controlling the population. After all, it is partly how he managed to sneak into the White’s House. Even after the Central Park Five were exonerated, even after the city of New York reached a $41 million settlement with them, Tr-mp would not budge from his original, fact-free, authoritarian position:

They admitted they were guilty. The police doing the original investigation say they were guilty. The fact that that case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous. And the woman, so badly injured, will never be the same.

Even in the face of absolutely contrary evidence Tr-mp continued slandering these men. Yet, he will not speak ill of a real killer, Vladimir Putin. That makes it easy to see why people like Slate’s William Saletan calls Tr-mp “Russia’s press secretary.” About Tr-mp’s peculiar affection for all things Russian, Saletan wrote:

Tr-mp has engaged in this behavior all along. He has exploited the material Russia hacked and leaked. He has minimized Russia’s misconduct. He has disputed, and often scorned, evidence of its guilt. He has ignored U.S. intelligence. He has bragged about Putin’s admiration of him. He has mocked Democrats and Republicans who side with U.S. intelligence against Russia.

All of this, and much more, can plausibly be related to what the Russians are doing here and elsewhere around the world. They are weaponizing information, particularly false information. And they are using weaponized information to muck up politics in democratic countries. It is political warfare. And it is quite obvious that Tr-mp has been their best asset, their most effective information weapon. He has praised Wikileaks (“I love Wikileaks,” he said in October of 2016 and at other times), which Russia successfully used as an information weapon against Hillary Clinton. According to ThinkProgress, Tr-mp entioned Wikileaks 164 times during the last month of the election. On October 12 he said:

And one of the big advantages of me having a rather large microphone, and meaning a lot of people are listening, is that I can talk about Wikileaks and we are live, it’s amazing. Boom boom boom.

Boom boom boom. Those are Putin’s information bombs going off, detonated by Donald Tr-mp, who a few weeks later bombed his followers’ faith in our democratic experiment:

The Wikileaks revelations have exposed criminal corruption at the highest levels of our government.

All of this is bad enough, all of this unpresidents Tr-mp, all of this makes him illegitimate. But I still can’t get over what he said on July 27 of last year, which I will publish again:

I have nothing to do with Putin. I’ve never spoken to him. I know nothing about him other than he will respect me. He doesn’t respect our president. If it is Russia, which it probably is not, nobody knows who it is.

But if it is Russia, it’s really bad for a different reason. Because it shows how little respect they have for our country when they would hack into a major party and get everything. But it would be interesting to see — I will tell you this, Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens. That will be next.

Somewhere around the time Tr-mp spoke these quasi-treasonous words, the FBI began its investigation into possible ties between the Tr-mp campaign and Russia. You can talk about Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Roger Stone, and anyone else you want to in connection with this distressing and dangerous affair. But at the center of it all is Donald J. Tr-mp, the man who attacks anyone and anything with little or no evidence, but cannot find it within his disordered brain to call Vladimir Putin what he is: an authoritarian killer who is doing his best to undermine democratic governance in order to revive a Russian Empire. And the reason Tr-mp won’t call out Putin is because the ruthless Russian killer helped make Donald Tr-mp president and Donald Tr-mp knows it.

As usual, the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, put all this in its proper context:

Many of the Tr-mp campaign’s personnel, including the President himself, have ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is, of course, no crime. On the other hand, if the Tr-mp campaign or anyone associated with it aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of democracy in history.

As far as I’m concerned, Tr-mp has aided and abetted the Russians. The moral record is clear, even as the legal record remains in doubt. All you have to do is open your mind to the stunning fact that we have a man in the White’s House who has acted, deliberately or due to a defect in his mental health, “as an agent of a foreign power”—Agent Orange.

Agent Orange.jpg

The Beginning Of The End

Last week, I wrote the following:

Among the emerging Democratic Party stars in Congress is Rep. Adam Schiff, of California. He’s the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee and has been a leading anti-Tr-mp voice, speaking calmly and intelligently and authoritatively, particularly when it comes to Tr-mp’s unhinged tweets about Obama’s nonexistent wiretapping of Tr-mp Tower. The congressman has put a lot of pressure on his Republican colleagues to take the danger of Tr-mp seriously.

On Monday, the head of the FBI, James Comey, and the head of the National Security Agency, Mike Rogers, came before Schiff and the House Intelligence Committee and essentially confirmed what we already knew—that Tr-mp is either deluded or a liar or both—and Comey confirmed what we highly suspected—that the FBI is investing links between Russia and Tr-mp’s campaign, and has been since late July.

I listened to almost all of the testimony yesterday, beginning with congressman Schiff’s opening comments, which are posted below. If you watch the 17 minutes of his statement, you will see why what I wrote about him last week is absolutely true, why we are lucky to have him. He is the right man for the job, the job of exposing Tr-mp for what he is, but in a way that no one can call hysterical. His hair wasn’t on fire. He presented what we know in a way that anyone could understand, anyone could follow.

Despite attempts by Republicans on the committee to deflect, obfuscate, and dilute what was happening as Comey and Rogers testified, what I witnessed as I watched yesterday was quite likely the beginning of the end of the Tr-mp regime. Oh, he may hang on for a while; he may even hang on through his entire term. But his credibility, to the extent anyone thought he had any credibility, is gone. His moral authority, to the extent anyone thought he had any moral authority, is gone. His ability to govern, to the extent anyone thought he had the ability to govern, is gone.

As some have pointed out, the leader of the free world no longer leads from the United States. She leads from Germany. Angela Merkel is the moral leader of the free world. Tr-mp, with his Putin-loving posture, his mental instability, and his disregard for diplomatic norms, is not to be trusted, is not fit for the job. Many of us knew this before he was elected, some are finding it out now, and others will never admit it. But it is true. I never thought I would live long enough to see it happen, to see the United States of America become what it has become. But here we are.

Watch Adam Schiff and you will get some idea of how we got here:

Meet The Mercers

Vicky Ward is mostly an author and investigative journalist who happens to be editor-at-large at Town and Country magazine. Her last book, The Liar’s Ball: The Extraordinary Saga of How One Building Broke the World’s Toughest Tycoons, was about midtown Manhattan’s “real estate royalty” and how “their empires came crumbling down in the 2008 financial crisis.” The inside flap of the book reads:

The Liar’s Ball is a story of naked, unregulated capitalism, of the sometimes bloody free-for-all of the free market. It’s a tale of brilliant and enormously ambitious billionaires fighting bare-knuckled to get what they want. And they all wanted the GM Building.

Through over 200 interviews with real estate’s best and brightest—Donald Tr-mp, Harry Macklowe, Samuel Zell, Mort Zuckerman, and many more—New York Times bestselling author Vicky Ward exposes the lies and schemes and insecurities behind the deals made by some of the world’s biggest egos. The Liar’s Ball is the riveting real-life tale of just how far these people would go to get the money, power, and attention they so desperately crave.

Ward has been keeping her eye on Tr-mp and those surrounding him. She has appeared several times on television news discussing, among other things, the roles Ivanka Tr-mp and her husband Jared Kushner play in the Tr-mp regime. Her latest writing effort is an expose in the Huffington Post’s magazine, Highline. The expose, “The Blow-It-All-Up Billionaries,” is about the eccentric Mercer family, big-time donors to Tr-mp and other right-wingers.

To give you an idea of the Mercer family’s eccentricity—okay, political nuttiness—they once supported a congressional candidate from Oregon, a chemist named Art Robinson (Rachel Maddow famously battled with him in 2010), who thinks global warming is a hoax, believes we should sprinkle radioactive waste over the ocean (and possibly America) because it might be good for us, once believed HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, and who, as Vicky Ward pointed out in her article, “was best known in his district for co-founding an organization that is collecting thousands of vials of urine as part of an effort it says will ‘revolutionize the evaluation of personal chemistry.’” The Mercers also supported a candidate in Arizona (running against John McCain) “who once held a town hall meeting to discuss chemtrails—chemicals, according to a long-standing conspiracy theory, that the federal government is spraying on the public without its knowledge.”

You get the idea. Ward sums it up:

In short, unlike other donors, the Mercers are not merely angling to influence the Republican establishment—they want to obliterate it.

Ward’s eye-opening story mainly focuses on 42-year-old Rebekah Mercer, the most politically active of the family, who demanded a position on the executive committee of Tr-mp’s transition team—and got it. Ward wrote of her:

it quickly became clear to her new colleagues that she wasn’t content just to chip in with ideas. She wanted decision-making power. To her peers on the executive committee, she supported Alabama senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general and General Michael Flynn for national security adviser, but argued against naming Mitt Romney secretary of state. Her views on these matters were heard, according to several people on and close to the transition leadership. Rebekah was less successful when she lobbied hard for John Bolton, the famously hawkish former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, to be deputy secretary of state. And when Bolton was not named to any position, she made her displeasure known. “I know it sounds sexist, but she was whiny as hell,” says one person who watched her operate. Almost everyone interviewed for this article, supporters and detractors alike, described her style as far more forceful than that of other powerful donors.

It was Rebekah who talked Tr-mp into dumping Paul Manafort and bringing in Bannon, whom she believed, with good reason, shared her political vision. And although some people around the regime say Rebekah Mercer’s and Steve Bannon’s “relations are strained,” others told Ward “not to count Rebekah out.” Why? The Mercer family, it turns out, “made one of their most consequential investments” in 2011. They put “a reported $10 million in a new right-wing media operation called Breitbart.” This of course led them to initially hook up with Steve Bannon and to get inside the regime, especially get inside Tr-mp’s head. Ward wrote of Rebekah’s future:

She still has a stake in Breitbart, which holds tremendous sway over Trump’s base and has recently gone on a no-holds-barred offensive against the GOP health care plan. And on March 13, Politicoreported that some Trump officials were already disillusioned with America First, which they felt had been slow to provide much-needed cover for his policy initiatives. There was talk of turning instead to a new group being launched by Rebekah Mercer. And so she may yet get another chance to realize her grand ambitions. “She’s used to getting everything she wants, 100 percent of the time,” says another person who knows her well. “Does she like getting 90 percent? No.”

In the short clip below, which is Ward appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today, you will hear a summary of the Mercer’s influence and how the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizen’s United made what they do possible. And you will hear a little bit about a British data science company the Mercer’s invested in, around 2012, called SCL Group. It’s American branch was rebranded as Cambridge Analytica, which Rebekah Mercer tried to use to control various campaigns, including Tr-mp’s. Watch this and then go read Ward’s interesting piece:

Senator Claire McCaskill’s One Minute Message To Rural Missourians About Tr-mpcare

Needing only about a minute, my senator, Claire McCaskill, tells her fellow Missourians, particularly rural Missourians who voted for Tr-mp overwhelmingly in this state, just what the GOP has in store for them in their new Tr-mpcare plan:

More Than A Budget

Normally, it isn’t nice to speak ill of the dead. But sometimes one has to make an exception. Tr-mp’s budget offering to Congress (which actually only addresses discretionary spending by the government, not mandatory spending involving SS, Medicare, and Medicaid) is one of those exceptions. Although the budget is dead—actually it was still-born—it deserves to be called out for what it is. And Vox’s Dylan Matthews did just that:

Budgets are moral documents, and Trump’s is a moral failure

Most people don’t see budgets as moral documents. But what else could they be, especially discretionary budgets? Such documents tell us what the regime’s priorities are, what Tr-mp and his cronies consider to be important. And as Matthews says of this budget proposal, “the moral consequences of its implementation would be profound, and negative.”

Matthews, with help from the Center for American Progress, offers some reasons why that is so:

♦ Tr-mp cuts programs that help low-income Americans, like nutrition help for women and their kids (a $200 million cut in WIC).

♦ Tr-mp completely eliminates the popular “Meals on Wheels” program for the elderly.

♦ If Tr-mp had his way, there would be no more legal assistance for the poor, even in a justice system that already discriminates against them.

♦ A program designed to help low-income families with their utility bills in extreme cold and hot weather is eliminated.

♦ Job training programs for the poor and elderly, designed to get them back in the labor force, are gone.

♦ The Community Services Block Grant gets killed. Thus, no more funds for local efforts to help impoverished folks, some of whom, undoubtedly, voted for Tr-mp.

♦ The EPA’s budget is slashed (thank you, Jill F*cking Stein), meaning:

There’s no money to enforce the Clean Power Plan. There’s no EPA funding for climate research. The Energy Department’s clean energy R&D programs would be eliminated or scaled back. The State Department would have its climate programs cut. NASA and NOAA would see climate-related research money cut.

Dylan Matthews says:

These cuts might be less significant to the future course of climate change than Trump’s efforts to roll back the Clean Power Plan itself. But they nonetheless are a strong signal that the Trump administration just doesn’t care about the climate at all. And that’s terrifying.

It’s terrifying especially for the world’s poorest people, who are the “most vulnerable to climate change.” Matthews adds:

Vox’s Dave Roberts has argued that Trump’s election ended whatever hope there was of avoiding 2ºC of warming, after decades of climate negotiations centered around that threshold. The budget suggests that Roberts was right. The world’s poor — and the environment as a whole — will pay the price.

Make no mistake about it when Republicans are in power: the poor always pay the price. Always.

♦ The Tr-mp moral blueprint would also cut the State Department’s budget by a whopping 28%. No one knows exactly what that might mean in terms of our long-term ability to avoid wars, which, last time I checked, is part of the reason the State Department exists. But we know it likely means guns, not words, will help settle, or not settle, more conflicts in the future.

♦ One explicit cut in the State Department’s budget is to a fund that helps refugees, like those unfortunate fouls in Syria trying to escape ISIS and other terrorists we say we hate. But we don’t hate those terrorists as much as we hate to help the people they are killing and terrorizing.

Image result for evangelicals for trumpThis would be a good time to remind you that we are called a “Christian” nation by the evangelicals who flocked to Tr-mp last November. Ignoring fleeing refugees overseas, hurting the poor and elderly here at home, denying a changing climate that will hurt, first, the most vulnerable, and then everyone else, is what conservative Christianity—Tr-mpism behind a cross—looks like when it gets its hands on political power.

Yes, Tr-mp’s budget is definitely a moral document. But, because of how he came to power, with the critical help of right-wing zealots who had Jesus on their lips if not in their hearts, it is also a theological document. And the God this document represents is one cruel, heartless bastard.

Tr-mp Leaks When He Speaks

Among the emerging Democratic Party stars in Congress is Rep. Adam Schiff, of California. He’s the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee and has been a leading anti-Tr-mp voice, speaking calmly and intelligently and authoritatively, Adam Schiffparticularly when it comes to Tr-mp’s unhinged tweets about Obama’s nonexistent wiretapping of Tr-mp Tower. The congressman has put a lot of pressure on his Republican colleagues to take the danger of Tr-mp seriously.

Just this morning, Schiff pointed out something Tr-mp said on Fox last night that I confess I missed the first time:

I just want people to know, the CIA was hacked, and a lot of things taken — that was during the Obama years.

Schiff pointed out that Tr-mp has the power “to declassify whatever he wants,” which, I might add, includes anything and everything if he completely loses his mind—just one fact among many that makes Tr-mp too dangerous to contemplate sometimes. And because Schiff cannot declassify anything he wants, he was limited to accusing Tr-mp of only possibly blurting out classified stuff:

In his effort to once again blame Obama, the president [sic] appears to have discussed something that, if true and accurate, would otherwise be considered classified information.

Schiff can’t confirm Tr-mp revealed classified information because Tr-mp could have Jeff Sessions and the FBI throw him in the hoosegow, thus the appears to have discussed…classified information.” Schiff is no dummy.

In any case, the Democratic congressman added a little jab that he could get away with:

For anyone else to do what the president [sic] may have done, would constitute what he deplores as “leaks.”

I think it is accurate to say that much of what comes out of Tr-mp’s disordered mind could be fairly characterized as “leaks.” Like when the oil pan gasket on  your car is damaged and oil gets all over your driveway. In that case, you can either get the damned thing replaced and stop the leaks or you can put a piece of cardboard under your car to stop the leaks from mucking up your driveway.

As we all can see, the gasket on the mind of this 70-year-old man is beyond repair. We need a giant piece of cardboard, if we are to keep the dangerous orange goo off the country’s pavement. The leaking can’t be stopped, whether we are talking about nutty conspiracy theories involving Obama or about obviously true events like the hacking of the CIA (or a leak by a contractor), the revelation of which, you will notice, Tr-mp used to attack Obama rather than his friends at Wikileaks, who posted the stolen material online.

A patriotic American would think Tr-mp, if he were going to openly confirm to the world the legitimacy of the security breach at the CIA, would attack the Russian-loving Julian Assange, who is acting as an agent of the Russians. But nope. Assange and Wikileaks—and the Russians—have all done too much for Agent Orange. He is in their debt every day he sits in America’s driveway and leaks.

“Your Microwave Can See You Naked,” And Other Tales From “How To Create And Exploit Fear And Grow Rich And Powerful”

“There was an article this week that talked about how you can surveil someone through their phones, certainly through their television sets, any number of different ways. And microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera. So we know that that is just a fact of modern life.”

—Kellyanne Conway, counselor to Tr-mp

Every day we see and hear almost nothing but propaganda, some of it strange and dark, from Tr-mp and his regime and his enablers in Congress. Trashing the Congressional Budget Office’s estimates of killing Obamacare is just one example (the CBO, by the way, is headed by a conservative Republican economist and critic of Obamacare). Another example is the attempt by Sean Spicer to reinterpret what Tr-mp meant when he accused President Obama of a crime. There are countless cases of such surreal attempts to ignore or, more often, invent an alternative reality.

Some people call this stuff gaslighting. Some call it deflection. Others call it simple obfuscation, designed to draw attention away from the Russian scandal or the Tr-mp family grifting and Emoluments Clause violations or the administrative incompetence—or Tr-mp’s personality disorders. But because I spent more than 20 years listening to talk radio—as a conservative—I know exactly what it is we see and hear. It’s an attempt to radicalize Americans, at least enough of them to make a good living, or in terms of Image result for microwave and conwaypolitics, to retain political power and achieve reactionary policy goals. These people sell conspiracies, they peddle half- and quarter-truths as gospel. They tell lies. They radicalize Americans so they can use them, either to get their money or their votes.

And I have bad news. It works.

We can trace nearly all of what we see today back to Rush Limbaugh. He went national with his divisive, propagandistic, profitable radio show in 1988. I was there with him from the beginning. Every day. First it was two hours, then it went to three. I was a believer. I was a dittohead. I had been educated in conservatism by intellectuals like William F. Buckley and George Will and Joseph Sobran. But I was, to tell the truth, radicalized in my formerly rabid conservatism by Limbaugh.

It was the Limbaugh model—distort and skew the news to promote far-right politics and demonize Democrats—upon which Roger Ailes, who once tried to make Rush a television star in the 1990s, based the idea of Fox “News.” Debuting in 1996, Ailes’ Fox enterprise became the number one cable “news” channel in 2002 and has remained there ever since. It turns out, as Ailes learned from Limbaugh’s financial success, that disseminating disinformation and propaganda, turning the Democratic Party into an America-hating institution, and radicalizing conservatives, is a lucrative business. According to the Pew Research Center, Fox “News” enjoyed a profit in 2015 of some $1.5 billion, well ahead of CNN’s $381 million and MSNBC’s $227 million.

About the same time Fox “News” was beginning its televised assault on the truth, hijacking journalism for the radicalization of the right, a former 7-Eleven night clerk and telemarketer named Matt Drudge began to make his mark on the Internet. The Drudge Report began as a small email newsletter dabbling mostly in showbiz, “part gossip and part opinion,” as Wikipedia describes it, that Drudge ran out of his tiny two-room apartment in a run-down part of Hollywood. It morphed into a news aggregation site, began focusing on politics, and gained prominence by first revealing, early in 1998, that Newsweek was sitting on a story about someone named Monica Lewinsky. We all know what happened to Bill Clinton after that. What happened to Drudge is that outing Newsweek, assisting in the right-wing assault on the Clinton’s, made him a superhero on the right. His intentional and ongoing disdain for journalistic standards, of standards of any kind, is demonstrated by a story published by Media Matters in 2013 involving Drudge and a crazy conspiracist now linked to Donald Tr-mp:

Matt Drudge has long been conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ biggest ally. According to a Media Matters review, the heavily-trafficked Drudge Report has promoted at least 50 separate articles at Jones’ Infowars website in 2013, and has linked to at least 244 different articles on the site in the past two years.

Drudge announced this week that he had privately told friends that 2013 would be the “year of Alex Jones.” Considering Drudge’s penchant for promoting Jones and his Infowars website, those comments are more of a promise than a prediction.

Drudge missed the exact year that the kooky Jones—on whose program Tr-mp has appeared, whom Tr-mp has called “amazing,” and to whom Tr-mp said “I will not let you down”—would rise to prominence. But that wasn’t the point. The point was and is to make money off misinformation and propaganda and lies, which is a reason to promote people like Jones. Mediaite reported that in July of last year, DrudgeReport.com “netted a combined page view count of 1,189,670,000 for the month and held its position as the #3 media publisher in the country.” This stuff works, people.

Now we come to Breitbart.com, “the platform for the alt-right,” as Tr-mp’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, who recently resigned as the chairman of the extremist site, once called it. The founder of Breitbart.com was no stranger to Matt Drudge, as Reason magazine pointed out:

Andrew Breitbart describes his job function as “Matt Drudge’s bitch,” but he’s being modest: He’s the man behind the curtain at The Drudge Report, stirring up the site’s signature mix of scandal, box office returns, wire stories, and political tidbits.

Even though Andrew Breitbart is dead, his site lives on and is still spreading Drudge’s sludge, as this story from October of 2016 demostrates:

Drudge Warns: Impending Hillary Sex Scandal

That story was ostensibly about a tweet Drudge sent out:

drudge and hillary and ellen

The real point of the Breitbart story and the Drudge tweet with a photo of Ellen DeGeneres, a well-known lesbian, was to get the following “scandal” and “political tidbit” into the minds of conservative readers who may not have known about it or had forgotten it:

A rumor circulated in the 1990s saying that Clinton was secretly okay with her husband’s extramarital affairs because she was secretly a lesbian, but there has been no truth to the rumor.

This isn’t the first time Clinton has been accused of cheating on her husband.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump accused Clinton of cheating on her husband, but he didn’t say with whom or provided any specifics.

“Hillary Clinton’s only loyalty is to her financial contributors, I don’t even think she’s loyal to Bill if you want to know the truth,” he said during a rally in Pennsylvania on Oct. 1. “Really folks, why should she be?” he asked, a reference to Bill Clinton’s womanizing and accusations of sexual abuse.

Propagating such tripe radicalizes conservatives, make them regular customers, and gets them to pass stories like these among their friends and family and coworkers, which generates income. So does labeling the mainstream press as “fake news,” something Tr-mp and his followers do now without even blinking.

Conservative media, of which Tr-mp is now a part, use these methods to divide the country and exploit and monetize the differences between us. For an increasing number of cynical politicians on the right, the methods are meant to divide the country and benefit from a fevered following of fanatics, those who will express their radicalization by voting against their own economic interests and, in more extreme cases, taking to violence or, as we have seen lately with the attacks on Jewish centers, expressing ancient hatreds.

Just stop and think of where we are right now:

♦ The special counsel to Tr-mp has essentially warned Americans that their government may be using microwave ovens to spy on them.

♦ A United States congressman from Iowa, praising a right-wing Dutch xenophobe who thinks European civilization is being transformed by Muslim immigrants, said, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” He then went on CNN and made matters worse by doubling down on his message. And we barely heard a negative peep from his fellow Republicans.

♦ According to the Anti-Defamation League, “Since January, 161 bomb threats have targeted Jewish institutions across the country.” Another ADL article notes: “White supremacists, emboldened by the 2016 elections and the current political climate, are currently engaged in an unprecedented outreach effort to attract and recruit students on American college campuses.”

♦ One of Tr-mp’s top strategists, Steve Bannon, a self-avowed Leninist who wants “to destroy the state,” thinks Western Civilization is in a Holy War not just against violent Islamist extremists, but with Islam itself, a religion that has 1.6 billion followers around the world, including 3.3 million here in America, some 4000 of whom are currently serving in the U.S. military.

♦ Sean Hannity, a radical radio guy spawned by the success of Rush Limbaugh and who crossed over to TV as a popular host on what masquerades as a conservative “news” network, on Thursday claimed there were “Obama holdovers” in the government “hell-bent on destroying” Tr-mp. He told the Tr-mp regime to “purge these saboteurs before it’s too late.” The next day the purging began with the firing of U.S. Attorneys. None other than Geraldo Rivera called Hannity “the second-most powerful, influential person in the country” because  he talks to Tr-mp every day and, more frightening, Tr-mp listens.

♦ Worse, Bloomberg news posted a video story today with this headline and description:

Alex Jones Preaches Conspiracy Theori♦es, Trump Listens

Alex Jones is one of the most famous conspiracy theorists in America, calling events like the Sandy Hook shooting, the Apollo moon landing, and 9/11 “false flags.” One of his biggest fans? Donald Trump. This Bloomberg Profile looks at how Alex Jones went from extremist fringe to a major source of information for the president of the United States.

♦ Our Secretary of State is sometimes unaware when foreign diplomats are visiting Washington, takes foreign trips without the press, and generally has no staff to help him understand the complexities and nuances of diplomacy.

♦ Wikileaks has released potentially devastating intelligence-gathering secrets, and Agent Orange is more worried about The Apprentice’s ratings. In fact, Kellyanne Conway’s allusion to spying microwaves was in the context of Wikileaks—think: Russia—trying to undermine our national security and our democracy.

♦ Tr-mp delusionally claimed Obama committed a serious felony, referred to the former president as either a “bad” man or a “sick” man, and close to half of the country is willing to believe him.

♦ Tr-mp claims, almost every time he talks about the economy, that it was a “mess” when he took over. Journalists, weary of correcting every lie, every day, don’t even bother to address this one anymore.

♦ Before Tr-mp was in power, the employment numbers were phony. After he’s in power, they are indisputable evidence of his governing genius.

♦ The Office of Management and Budget director, former congressman Mick Mulvaney, has not only told lies about Obamacare, but he accused the Obama administration of “manipulating the numbers” in order “to make the unemployment rate…look smaller than it actually was.” He offered no evidence for this claim, of course, but it is part of radicalizing a segment of the population to doubt the facts and believe the unbelievable.

♦ And speaking of radicalism, that same Mick Mulvaney championed the 2011 government shutdown, believed such shutdowns were “good policy,” and, as a congressman, would have cut government spending to the point that it could be drowned not in Grover Norquist’s infamous bathtub, but in Tr-mp’s gold-plated shitter. During hard economic times, he proposed dramatic cuts in government spending, including defense spending, so much so that John McCain voted against his confirmation as OMB director.

♦ The Speaker of the House has called the GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare an “act of mercy.” Here are examples of Republican mercy: some 24 million folks, many of them elderly and living in nursing homes, will lose their health coverage; older Americans will pay a lot more for their insurance; CBO estimates monthly health insurance premium for a single 64-year-old who makes $26,500 would jump more than 700% (from $1,700 to $14,600)”; defunding Planned Parenthood “would leave many women without services to help them avoid pregnancy, resulting in thousands of additional births”; oh, and rich people will get $600 billion in tax cuts over ten years.

All this and more that is happening around us is radical stuff. There is no doubt about it. And none of it could happen without intentionally radicalizing enough people in the country—not a majority but enough— to make it all possible.

Many of us outside the various fundamentalist tribes have wondered how a culture can exist in faraway places that promotes the idea that people should strap explosives to their torsos to kill and terrorize those who don’t share their theological beliefs. Now we can see how that can happen. It starts with radicalization. It starts with convincing ignorant or unsophisticated or vulnerable people that what they see and hear is false, unless it comes from the radicalizers. Microwave ovens can see what we are doing. Our televisions are spying on us. Only the regime’s numbers are real numbers. “Mercy” means taking away healthcare from millions and giving away millions to billionaires. And on and on.

We have not seen and will not see American radicals on the right strap on explosive vests and blow up people in the town square. Theirs is a different brand of radicalism. What we have seen are these radicals collectively strapping Tr-mpism to the chest of America and threatening to politically blow up the place if they don’t get what they want.

Our job, as resisters, is not to let them terrorize us into submission or to numb us into pessimism and paralysis. Tr-mpism is explosive. It is dangerous. But we can fight it and win. We can protect the truth, respect the facts, and insist that our friends and family and others around us do the same. Then when election time comes, we can vote and strip the radicalizers of their power, if not their ability to make money by radicalizing the gullible.

 

In Praise Of Experience In The Democratic Party’s Fight Against Tr-mpcare

There is a lot of talk among Democrats and left-leaners that the leadership in the Democratic Party is too old and what is needed is new blood. Well, not so fast.

Sure, any political party needs new and younger folks coming into it to supply both energy and fresh ideas. But a healthy party is one in which a combination of experience and youthful exuberance and idealism prevails. After the devastating Congressional Budget Office report on the Republicans’ replacement for Obamacare came out on Monday, what we needed was competence and experience to explain just how devastating it was and how much harm the plan would do to Americans, the poor, the sick, and the old. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer provided that experience.

The video below is the press conference they held. Pay attention to how they marshalled the arguments supplied by the CBO’s analysis of the proposed legislation, and pay attention to how they represented institutional memory—as congressional veterans of past fights with Republicans over health reform—that highlighted Republican hypocrisy and duplicity. Oh. If you don’t watch the entire 16 minutes, at least go to the discussion (starting around 13:40) in which the point is made that it will be rural red state folks who will get hurt and blue state wealthier people who will actually benefit from the heartless GOP plan. Yet, two prominent Democrats are standing there in defense of the red state Republicans. Nothing represents better the differences between the two parties. Watch:

Tr-mp. Russia. Scandal. Won’t Go Away.

A new Quinnipiac poll released yesterday found the following:

Voters disapprove 54 – 32 percent of the way President Donald Tr-mp is handling U.S. policy towards Russia…

American voters support 66 – 30 percent an “independent commission investigating potential links between some of Donald Tr-mp’s campaign advisors and the Russian government.” The only listed party, gender, age or racial group opposed is Republicans, opposed 64 – 30 percent.

A total of 61 percent are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about President Tr-mp’s relationship with Russia. A total of 62 percent of voters say alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election is a “very important” or “somewhat important” issue.

As the great Steve Benen pointed out this morning:

Health care and wiretap conspiracy theories have helped push the Russia scandal off front pages, but the controversy continues to move forward in a way the White House should find alarming.

The Russia scandal may be off the front pages, but it was front and center on the Rachel Maddow show last night. In case you missed it, watch and learn and then wait:

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