Thank You, Senator McCaskill. You Got My “I’m With Her!” Pledge For 2018

Here’s the headline from The Hill:

Key Dem McCaskill to oppose Gorsuch, back filibuster

The lede:

Image result for claire mccaskillSen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on Friday said she will vote to support a filibuster of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

The announcement makes it significantly harder for Gorsuch to muster the 60 votes he needs to overcome a filibuster and advance to a final confirmation vote.

The fight isn’t over, of course. We still have to worry about these senators:

To avoid a showdown over the rules, it now becomes crucial for Gorsuch to pick up the support of the two remaining undecided Democrats who face reelection next year in strongly pro-Trump states: Sen. Jon Tester(Mont.) and Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind.).

Gorsuch would likely also need the support of senior Democrats such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), who might be concerned about preserving their power to filibuster for the next vacancy on the court.

Other Democrats up in the air are centrist Sens. Mark Warner (Va.) and Chris Coons (Del.), along with Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine), who praised Gorsuch earlier this year as “exceedingly independent.”

But, dammit, it’s good to know that my senator, Claire McCaskill, for whatever reason, decided to do the right thing. To quote a phrase: I’m With Her.

Yes, The Flynn News Is Big, But Let’s Pay Attention To Other Things Republicans Are Doing

Of course I realize the biggest news in the country is about Michael Flynn trying to make a deal to stay out of prison! But there is plenty of time to get to that one, or get to what may be the beginning of the end of Agent Orange. In the mean time, Republicans are doing other things that need attention. Right now, I want to talk about something much more immediately important to a lot of folks, a lot of working folks who don’t earn much money, many of whom, if we believe what we are told, voted for Agent Orange last November.

I will start my post in a weird way.  I will start with a 24-year-old right-wing freak, a typically nasty and bigoted talk show host who hated Hillary Clinton, loved Tr-mp—and Tr-mp loved her, phoning her last month after she said nice stuff about him on Hannity—and who has more than 4 million followers on Facebook. Tomi Lahren, and her Fox-blonde hair, worked for Glenn Beck’s BlazeTV until just recently. Beck fired her because she correctly called anti-choice conservatives “hypocrites” during an appearance on ABC’s The View:

I can’t sit here and be a hypocrite and say I’m for limited government but I think the government should decide what women do with their bodies.

Beck, of course, doesn’t think it is hypocritical to hotly believe in small government but also hotly believe that government should be big enough to snoop around in vaginas and decide what women ought to do with them. The truth is that no matter what they say, conservatives only believe in small government when it comes to things like taxes and healthcare and the environment. But when it comes to probing vaginas and robbing women of their reproductive rights, they love a powerful, Image result for vaginal probes and governmentmanly-thrusting government. Oh, and the point of this piece: when it comes to robbing the working poor of a decent wage, they also love a big government that thrusts its manhood into the lives of the vulnerable.

More than three years ago, I wrote about Oklahoma’s governor, Mary Fallin, signing a bill that banned “cities in Oklahoma from passing a higher minimum wage requirement than the state’s current minimum (which is set at the federal level of $7.25), and that bans those cities from enacting sick and vacation leave requirements on behalf of workers.” At the time, Oklahoma City was in the process of establishing a higher minimum wage than the federal rate, and that bit of decency simply could not happen. I wrote about the hypocrisy involved, about how Republicans love “local control” until local control “conflicts with larger business interests,” the protection of which is the primary reason the Republican Party is able to attract large donors.

Now comes similar news, courtesy of HuffPo:

In an appalling move to keep low-wage workers locked in poverty, the Iowa legislature this week gave final approval to a bill that reverses local minimum wage increases already approved in several counties and bans cities and counties from setting any wage and benefit standards.  It is the first time that a state has nullified local minimum wage ordinances that had already taken effect and forced jurisdictions to lower minimum wage rates that had previously been raised.

On a vote of 29-21, Republicans in the Iowa Senate voted unanimously for the bill, which passed the House earlier.  After signing it today, Governor Terry Branstad will forever be known as the governor who robbed tens of thousands of Iowa’s lowest-paid workers of their pay raises.

An Associated Press article noted that up to 100,000 workers may be affected and quoted a local organizer for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement:

It’s a big business measure. It’s something that actively makes Iowans poorer and does not represent working people at all.

Now, just why would Republicans want to make Iowans, or anyone, poorer? The Iowa City Press-Citizen tells us:

“This prevents a patchwork quilt of different regulations,” and ensures uniformity for wages on a statewide basis, said Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, who spoke in favor of the bill.

Uniformity. That’s it. Uniformity. No good can come when some working folks are making $10.10 an hour (the minimum wage passed in Iowa’s Johnson County, home of the University of Iowa) when they could all be making $7.25.  HuffPo gave us a snapshot of who these working folks are:

Eighty-four percent of these workers are 20 years of age or older. Nearly 60 percent work full-time. More than half are women. Thirty-one percent are parents. Almost a third are at least 40 years old. And now they face not only low pay, but pay cuts.

Small price to pay for uniformity. HuffPo tells us why all this is happening:

In recent years, more and more cities have enacted local minimum wage laws as a means of improving jobs for local workers – especially when state legislatures refuse to act.  In response, corporate lobbyists from groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are going over the heads of local leaders and pushing preemption laws to strip cities of the power to act. To date, 23 other states have enacted minimum wage preemption laws, including the notorious case of Alabama last year, which blocked a higher minimum passed by the City of Birmingham from taking effect.

Here in Missouri, where our Republican legislators have been engaged in a race to the bottom with Kansas (oh, and ain’t it wonderful that the governor of Brownbackistan just vetoed an expansion of Medicaid that would have helped 150,000 low-income folks? Don’t ask me why so many Republicans dislike poor people; I don’t have any answers), we have the same stop-the-locals-from-increasing-the-minimum-wage issue brewing.  Mitchell Hirsch, writing for The Hill, gave us the details:

Back in 2015, the elected Board of Aldermen in St. Louis approved, and Mayor Francis Slay signed, an ordinance to set St. Louis’s minimum wage at $8.25 per hour and then raise it gradually to $11 by January 2018. Lickety split, Republican state lawmakers passed a law to bar cities from enacting local minimum wages, and business groups pressed a lawsuit to try to halt the St. Louis raise. Lawmakers overrode then-Governor Jay Nixon’s veto to enact the measure, and the lawsuit yielded an injunction halting the St. Louis wage increase before it took effect.

But last month, a unanimous Missouri Supreme Court ruled that state law did not prohibit St. Louis from moving ahead with its higher minimum wage. As a result, when the injunction is lifted — which could happen in a matter of days — St. Louis’ minimum wage will increase to $10 per hour, giving 70,000 low-wage workers there a badly needed raise.

And so, on March 1, one day after the high court’s decision, Republican lawmakers dusted off their minimum wage preemption bill and rewrote it to be a local minimum wage nullification bill — one that would nullify, even retroactively, the St. Louis raises and impose state-mandated wage suppression targeting Missouri’s underpaid workers.

Hirsch told us that “business lobbyists in Jefferson City” are hard at work:

They are telling state lawmakers to drop everything in order to rush through “emergency” legislation to make sure the workers don’t get these raises, claiming that raising pay for workers at the bottom somehow poses a threat to Missouri’s public health and safety.

“Pubic health and safety” is, admittedly, a better excuse than “uniformity.” But it is still all bullshit based on greed. Hirsch offered us some reality to counter the bullshit:

Research comparing job-growth patterns in neighboring cities or counties with differing minimum wages shows that higher minimum wages effectively boost incomes without slowing job growth or making businesses leave.

As of now, we don’t know what Missouri’s version of Tr-mp, Governor Eric Greitens, will do if that nasty GOP bill makes it to his desk. But, as we have found with Tr-mp and Paul Ryan and other Republicans, they cannot be confused with the facts. They have their big-donor interests to protect and facts just get in the way of doing that. But there is one fact they cannot dodge, one fact they cannot run away from: they are not small-government conservatives. They love big government as much as, if not more than, any wild-eyed liberal. It’s just that they love it for different reasons:

  • They love it when it reaches between the legs of women and grabs them by their reproductive rights.
  • They love it when it comes to a massive military budget.
  • They love it when it subsidizes agriculture.
  • They love it when it subsidizes the fossil fuel industry.
  • They love it when it wants to build a big and beautiful wall at the border.
  • They love it when it wants to round up and deport the immigrants who make our hotel beds and pick our fruit.
  • They love it when they send the cops out to prosecute the war on drugs.
  • They love it when it restricts the voting rights of people of color.
  • They love it when it discriminates against non-Christians.
  • They love it when it tries to bust unions.

And, as this post makes clear, they love big government when it comes to keeping the minimum wage as low as possible, either in the name of “uniformity” or protecting “public health and safety” or whatever reason they can invent to defend the indefensible.

So, tomorrow we can get back to Mike Flynn and Tr-mp’s Russia problem. Today, though, let’s think about the utter hypocrisy of a political party whose leaders speak so loudly about the dangers of big government, even as they use big government to serve their own interests.

If You’re Not Yet Scared About What’s Happening Here And Around The World, Watch This And You Will Be

Invest 20 minutes of your time watching the opening segment of The Rachel Maddow Show from last night, March 29. You won’t regret it, unless you are one of those who don’t want to worry that we are at a pivotal and dangerous moment in world history:

Colbert, Comcast, And Corruption, Featuring Roy Blunt And Ozark Billy Long

“I guarantee you there is not one person, not one voter of any political stripe anywhere in America who asked for this. No one in America stood up at a town hall and said ‘Sir, I demand you let somebody else make money off my shameful desires. Maybe blackmail me one day.’”

—Stephen Colbert

The Verge published a great piece yesterday (“The 265 members of Congress who sold you out to ISPs, and how much it cost to buy them”) on the shameful passage—first by the Senate and then the House—of a resolution overturning a common-sense FCC rule (thank you, Obama!) that would, if it were to take effect this year, require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to explicitly get your permission before sharing data about your browsing history, email content, geographical location, and other forms of sensitive communications. The Joint Resolution (S.J.34) passed the Senate 50-48, with no Democrats supporting it. In the House, it passed 215-205, with, you guessed it, no Democrats supporting it. Tr-mp has indicated he will sign it, since, obviously, he doesn’t have a damned thing to hide from anyone.

As Stephen Colbert said, one can’t imagine there was a public outcry for such a stupid and privacy-damning move by Congress. So, then, why did it happen, and happen so fast? From Verge:

The only people who seem to want this are the people who are going to make lots of money from it. (Hint: they work for companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T.) Incidentally, these people and their companies routinely give lots of money to members of Congress.

Routinely. Give. Lots. Of. Money. To. Congress.

Helpfully, The Verge published the amount of money the telecom industry gave to each of those who voted for the resolution. For those of us who live in Missouri, and particularly for those of us who live in southwest Missouri, we can see how much the locals got for selling out our privacy to our ISPs (the amounts are for the most recent election cycle for each member):

Senator Roy Blunt got $185,550. Yep—$185,550. To put that in perspective, only Mitch McConnell ($251,110) and John Thune ($215,000) got more than ol’ Roy.

Rep. Ozark Billy Long got a whopping $57,250. To put that in perspective, of the 215 Republicans who voted for the resolution, Long got more money than all but 16 of them, and some of those who got more than he got were part of House leadership. You can do a lot of eating and drinking and gambling with $57,250, something Long has a passion for, as opposed to, say, holding town halls in his district.

Here is Colbert’s take on it, even though, if you think about it, none of what is happening is really all that funny:

Why Democrats Must Filibuster Gorsuch, Part II

A friend, a fellow blogger, and a first-rate thinker, responded to my piece urging Senator Claire McCaskill to filibuster the Gorsuch confirmation. Here is, in full, what Jim Wheeler wrote:

I understand your passion on this, Duane, and your outrage over the Garland nomination. I share your feelings. But, I’m having some doubts about your strategy here. It seems to me that uniform party opposition on Gorsuch and other issues will only harden and extend political enmity. Given his penchant for petty revenge, I would expect that even if Tr-mp is forced to withdraw Gorsuch, his next nominee will be worse, not better.

Also, I think forcing the nuclear option for SCOTUS nominees would be bad for the country in the long run. It would only solidify the partisan divide. The Republic is designed to function on compromise, so for Democrats to abandon that, even if the other side has done so, is a big deal. I think Harry Reid screwed up by invoking it for cabinet positions.

Here is my reply:

Once again, Jim, I always have to take a step back and reevaluate my position when we disagree about something like this. Needless to say, it took me a long time to come to the position I did. I read all I could about the counter-strategies, the relatively unattractive options Democrats have in this situation. I thought a lot about the ramifications, too, both if we do what you advocate and if we do what I advocate. Those ramifications, as we both know, cannot be known until one action or the other is taken. So, both of us are merely speculating about a future situation. Keeping that in mind, allow me to indicate where I disagree with you and why:

1) I strongly disagree with your take on what Harry Reid did with the filibuster in 2013 when he was Majority Leader. His action wasn’t primarily done because of cabinet position vacancies. It had to do with the courts. The alternative to what Reid did would have been, essentially, to allow Republicans to control who could and couldn’t hold federal judgeships, including on the all-important U.S. Courts of Appeals. Republicans were slow-walking judicial appointments (sort of a preview of the more aggressive move involving Merrick Garland). They took obstruction to levels never seen before. And there were no signs they would relent.

If Reid had not done something, many of the judges that are in the federal system, appointed by Obama, would not be in the system. That they are there is a legacy that will help us fight Tr-mpism, as things go forward (I expect, for instance, the Justice Department’s move against sanctuary cities will be tangled up in the courts for years; we may see the value of Obama/Reid appointees here and elsewhere). The bottom line is that Democrats either had to tolerate the intolerable, or fight back. If 70,000 votes or so had changed last November, we wouldn’t be worrying about any of this. Reid had no way of knowing how dumb or uninformed or misinformed a handful of crucial voters would be three years later, especially given what those voters should have seen in Tr-mp. At least, as far as the federal courts go, we have some way to fight back and possibly mitigate some of the damage coming.

2) I disagree with your assumption that, if Gorsuch is withdrawn, the next choice would be worse. There would be no point, as far as McConnell is concerned, to keep the filibuster only to go through this whole thing again. He would be hanged from the highest tree. If he decides to keep the filibuster alive, then Gorsuch will not be confirmed—if Dems stick to their guns. And McConnell would then have to insist that the next nominee be somewhat to the left of a man, Gorsuch, who, by many accounts, is more conservative than Scalia on many issues. That would be a victory, albeit a small one.

3) Let’s think through what you said: “I think forcing the nuclear option for SCOTUS nominees would be bad for the country in the long run. It would only solidify the partisan divide.” There are two things here I want to confront. One I’ll put in the form of a question: What good does it do, given that Tr-mp’s list of future appointees are all right-wing judges, to keep the filibuster in place for extremist nominees (Gorsuch is one of those, for sure), if McConnell can always threaten to go nuclear should Democrats attempt to use a future filibuster against those future extremist nominees? The only way the filibuster can work is if there is a threat to use it. If McConnell can always count on Dems not to ultimately use it, for fear he will do away with it, then he has the best of both worlds and Democrats have the worst. He doesn’t have to take the heat for doing away with the filibuster because Democrats, de facto, would be doing away with it by fearing to use it.

On the other point you made about solidifying the partisan divide, I’m afraid the divide is much too solid to ever melt at this point. In 1987, Reagan’s FCC chairman did away with the Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to present political issues in a balanced way, to present a diversity of views. The end of that policy paved the way for Rush Limbaugh, who paved the way for Fox “News,” who paved the way for Matt Drudge/Andrew Breitbart, all of which, you guessed it, made Tr-mpism possible. I am convinced, since I was a rabid conservative at the time, that Limbaugh and right-wing talk radio made the destructive Gingrich revolution possible in 1994, a very calculated reaction to the much-hated, much-Image result for newt gingrich 1994vilified Bill Clinton. Gingrich, and a small group of conservative radicals, effectively nationalized that election in 1994. And it was a triumphant Gingrich, who would become Speaker of the House, who essentially created the extreme partisan divide in Congress of which you speak.

I was deep into studying politics at that time and I cheered for such division. I was part of the problem. I was, as I have said, radicalized by Limbaugh and, if you can believe it, by Gingrich. I wrote a paper in college, I think it was 1984, lauding Gingrich as an up-and-coming leader who would soon rise to power in Congress. He had organized young and unknown radical right-wingers in 1983 by creating an organization called the Conservative Opportunity Society (COS). Read what Vin Weber, a congressman at the time and second founding member, later said about why they organized themselves:

It’s important in a second way to understand that part of Gingrich’s strategy, and all of our strategy, was to understand that while we created a faction within the Congress, we could multiply its strength beyond its numbers if we also did something outside of the Congress to create a faction, if you will, in the country.

It is vitally important to understand this strategy. It was not only to divide the Congress, but the country. That was the heart of the strategy. To divide and conquer. That’s the same strategy employed by right-wing radio hosts, by Fox “News,” by Breitbart. In Gingrich’s case, he effectively used his COS to network with other conservative activist groups and gain strength for the movement he was creating. Inside the House, his COS members very effectively used C-SPAN, which, according to Weber, had an audience of political junkies that numbered in the hundreds of thousands. After legislative business was done for the day, these radicals spoke before an empty chamber, all of which C-SPAN was committed to broadcasting. Here’s what Weber said about how that worked:

We found out, real quickly, that they were out there. Wherever Bob [Walker] or I or Newt or Duncan Hunter went, we shortly found out that there were all sorts of C Span junkies, if you will, that watched us, that identified with COS, that paid attention to what we were saying, and that were ready to contact their Congress people. We found a lot of the senior members who were not part of COS, maybe some who were quite hostile to see us, would find themselves going home, speaking to a Republican audience and afterwards, a number of their own constituents and supporters would come up and say, ‘Isn’t it great what those guys on COS are doing. I hope you’re helping out Newt and Vin and Bob.’ So the reach of C Span was tremendously important in that way.

Weber explained how Tip O’Neill, Democratic Speaker at the time, missed the point of what Gingrich and his radical followers were doing. O’Neill couldn’t figure out why they would want to spend so much time speaking to an empty chamber. But they were speaking to those C-SPAN cameras, to those thousands and thousands of potential converts who were watching. “It was just an ongoing set of communications that we were aiming at the American people,” Weber said. (This is in effect what Tr-mp’s Twitter account does today.) Then came the ’94 election and the infamous Contract with America. Weber said,

Nationalizing the election was always part of the strategy, taking the issues directly to the country, getting outside of the committee rooms and getting outside of the Congress was always part of the strategy.

One forgets how radical a notion that was. Presidential elections are, technically, the only “national” elections we have. We all vote for president and only a handful of us vote for our particular representative in the House. So, how did these radical House Republicans manage to nationalize a non-presidential election? Weber explained:

In terms of the strategy that we employed, I think one of the most helpful things to think about is that he had a construct and we really developed it. We needed to develop as a party – wedge issues and magnet issues. It’s a fairly simple notion with wedge issues, or ideas that really separated the Democratic majority from the public, issues where they were plainly wrong and the public did not support them. But they were, for a variety of reasons, not paying a political price. In those cases our assignment was to find ways of making clear the differences between the Democratic Party and the public on those issues driving a wedge between the Democrats and their constituencies.

They were successful. Wedge politics worked. They had their Contract with America. They demagogued Clinton’s healthcare reform efforts. They argued for a Balanced Budget Amendment. They argued for a voluntary School Prayer Amendment. They used such issues to drive that Gingrich “wedge between the Democrats and their constituencies.” And that 1994 election proved to be a disaster for Democrats. Republicans took over the House, with a 54-seat swing, the largest gain since 1946. In the Senate, the GOP gained eight seats, and the day after the election, one Democratic senator switched parties. The country hasn’t been the same since. Essentially, all congressional elections have been nationalized. We especially saw that happen in the 2010 congressional election, perhaps the most consequential election of them all. That 2010 election featured Gingrich-style politics on steroids. It was the election that led us directly to Tr-mpism, to what we see today. And it’s no accident that Gingrich has mostly been a Tr-mp cheerleader.

This all leads me back to your original statement, Jim:

I think forcing the nuclear option for SCOTUS nominees would be bad for the country in the long run. It would only solidify the partisan divide. The Republic is designed to function on compromise, so for Democrats to abandon that, even if the other side has done so, is a big deal.

You couldn’t be more right that our country was “designed to function on compromise.” But there has to be two parties to compromise, both sides making concessions. One party can’t surrender and call that compromise. As far as I’m concerned, being afraid to act boldly at this moment, afraid of the nuclear option on SCOTUS nominees, represents surrender, not compromise. The partisan divide is here to stay. In fact, it is going to get worse, now that our information stream has been irreparably polluted and facts are no longer things we can count on even hard-core partisans on one side to share with hard-core partisans on the other. We can’t go back. All that is left is to fight like hell to get back control of the Congress by doing what Gingrich did so long ago: drive wedges between the various constituencies in the Republican Party (we saw a glimpse of this during the failed effort to repeal Obamacare; and we will see more in the fight over tax reform). And while our Democratic leaders are conducting that wedge-issue warfare, they have to show our solid base of voters, those who are sympathetic to our vision of what government should be, that they are willing to fight for that vision, fight for essential principles, fight for fairness, and fight the vulgar Tr-mpism that is corrupting, perhaps beyond repair, the country.

For me at least, this Gorsuch confirmation vote will either send a signal that our leaders are in this fight to win it, to try to mitigate the disaster of Tr-mpism, or are in it not to lose their next election. I remind you that the infamous Gingrich revolution began because Gingrich resented the mindset of defeatist Republicans who didn’t think they would ever be in the majority and were content with that reality (Rush Limbaugh would echo this idea almost daily on his radio show). Again, listen to what Weber said:

I guess the most important thing that I remember from my early conversations with Newt is that he believed that we could be in the majority. He also understood that the major impediment to becoming a majority was our own mind-set, the minority party mind set, as we put it. It was the sense that we couldn’t become a majority and since probably a majority of the members in the Republican Party believed that, even if they didn’t articulate it, it drove them to behave in ways that hurt the Republicans.

So it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because we’re in the minority, we act a certain way that assures that we’re going to stay in the minority. That’s the first thing I really remembered Newt saying.

Before their triumph in 1994, Gingrich and his radical followers had many setbacks. But they persevered. The didn’t give up. And their efforts eventually changed American politics. I happen to think Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Fox “News” and Breitbart represent negative forces not only in our politics, but in our society at large. But those forces are here to stay. We cannot defeat them once and for all. We can only hope to manage them, to keep them from doing lasting harm to people and the institutions vital to our survival as a functioning democracy. And we cannot do that by standing by and waiting for a sunnier day. There won’t be a sunnier day. We are in the gloom of a long winter and we either build a fire of our own to keep our political vision alive, to keep our voters warm and ready to fight, to let the other side know that fight is coming, or we surrender to the cold and ultimately deadly reality of Tr-mpism, either the form we see today or something worse in the future.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, that’s what I have concluded is at stake here, my friend.


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.


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:

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