How Evangelicals Are Using Trump, How Trump Is Using Evangelicals, And How God Is Using Them Both To Kill Us All

[Note: This lengthy essay will likely be my last for a while, since I traditionally take a few weeks off this time of year. But I offer you something to chew on this Xmas season, something you desperately need to understand about a very strange contingent of this country, a contingent I was once a part of.]

“For many conservative evangelicals, Jerusalem is not about politics. It is not about peace plans or Palestinians or two-state solutions. It is about prophecy. About the Bible. And, most certainly, it is about the end-times.”

Dr. Diana Butler Bass, scholar specializing in American religion and culture

The presidential election of 2012 was held on November 6. Appearing once again that week on The New York Times Bestseller list for Paperback Trade Fiction—in the number one spot—was the book Fifty Shades of Grey. That book had been on the list for 32 weeks. The number two spot that election week was Fifty Shades Darker and number three was Fifty Shades Freed, completing the erotic trilogy about consensual BDSM written by E. L. James.

Obviously, some pious folks on the right considered the popular Fifty Shades trilogy, affectionately known as “Mommy Porn,” a sign of the decadent times, even if some of the decadent readers were ostensibly followers of the decadence-hating Lord:

Tragically, the fact that professing Christians are tearing these books off the shelves comes as no surprise to those watching the spiritual climate of the so-called “church” today. There has been a sad display of sexual atheism that has been plaguing the church for a long time.

nyt bestseller listChristians weren’t just “tearing” libidinous BDSM books off the shelves, however. That same New York Times bestseller list posted a few days before the 2012 presidential election featured a book in the number eight spot called The Harbinger. That book—which had been on the bestseller list at that point for 42 weeks—was written by a Jewish rabbi who, unlike most Jewish rabbis, was a Christian. His name is Jonathan Cahn.

And besides being a Jew who believes Jesus is his savior, Cahn is a strange cat.

The full title of Cahn’s book does not pull any punches: The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery that Holds the Secret of America’s Future. I won’t go into the spooky details, but suffice it to say that Cahn believes that just as God allegedly judged and destroyed ancient Israel for its collective sins, so too will he judge and destroy the United States, if we don’t get our shit together. Cahn believes the 9/11 attacks and the Great Recession were part of God’s warning to us to straighten up or else:

Before God judges a nation, He sends warning. But America, like Israel, has not responded with repentance, but with defiance.

Part of our national defiance was that election of 2012. The voters defiantly and devilishly elected Barack Obama president for a second term. And according to Cahn, they otta notta done that. God was not pleased because Obama supported a woman’s right to choose, a right that some see as a usurpation of God’s authority to wantonly terminate pregnancies himself. And God was not pleased either, according to Cahn, when the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015 and Obama celebrated by lighting up the White’s House in a rainbow of colors. Cahn said:

Mr. President, by what authority did you take the sacred colors of God’s covenant, the colors of His throne, and the sign of His mercy in the face of judgment and turn them against the purposes of God and the Word of God on which you swore your oath?

Cahn wasn’t finished:

The city on the hill has grown darkened. It has forgotten the God of its foundation. The temples of its culture have been expunged of His presence and are now filled with idols in His place. It’s forgotten the warning that was embedded in the vision of the city on the hill. For it was also written and prophesied, “If our hearts shall turn away so we will not obey, but shall be seduced and worship other gods, our pleasures and our profits, and serve them, we shall surely perish.” In other words, we will stand at the precipice of judgment.

Now, you might think that only fringy people like Pat Robertson, Ray Comfort, Glenn Beck, and the folks at World Nut Daily buy into this embarrassing nonsense. Nope. Cahn said back in 2013:

The Harbinger is reaching Capitol Hill and we have gotten word that about fifteen Senators and members of Congress are reading The Harbinger, they are reading the book.

Jesus. Allah. Buddha. Say it ain’t so.

In any case, fast forward to today. Cahn has written another book. This one is called The Paradigm: The Ancient Blueprint That Holds the Mystery of Our Times. Yep. This book piggybacks on the last one, but with more details about who is who. The Amazon summary of the book includes this:

Prepare to be stunned, shocked, illuminated, and amazed. The Paradigm will reveal secrets and mysteries taking place all around you and show you what you never could have imagined.

Yes, you never could have imagined, for instance, that Bill and Hillary Clinton are actually in the Bible. But there they are, albeit in disguise. And so is Barack Obama. And, you might have guessed, so is Donald Tr-mp.

I shit you not.

Bill Clinton is King Ahab, the seventh monarch of Israel, who was, you might suspect, a bad hombre. Ahab brought wicked idolatry to the Israelites through the agency of his nasty little wife, Jezebel. Of course! Hillary is, Kahn says, our very own Jezebel, who may not have plotted to give pagan gods like Baal official status in God’s holy land, but did turn America into a New Age paradise, complete with seances that, of course, didn’t really happen. Again, I shit you not.

isaiah and obama 2Next up is Barack Obama. His biblical role is Joram, the son of, uh, King Ahab and Jezebel (you figure that out). Joram also became King of Israel. According to Kahn, Joram had “a continuous hostility to God,” you know, just like Obama!

Okay. We’re just now getting to the good part. Enter the “warrior.” Or, the WARRIOR! That would obviously be none other than Mr. Two Corinthians himself, Donald J. Tr-mp, playing the part of Jehu, yet another king of Israel. Kahn describes the man God raised up:

He’s a warrior. He’s not even a politician…He’s a warrior. He’s a fighter. He fights with everybody…He’s zealous. He is not gentle at all. He is coarse. He’s a fighter. He’s fighting everybody and he begins this race to the throne…and the Bible describes the race to the throne as, the word is “crazy.” They said he was crazy. He drives crazy. The man drives furiously. It’s crazy. But he gets to the throne. Even though it’s a crazy race, he gets to the throne…The zeal is a crazy zeal, but he’s used by God, and he’s the most unlikely person.

Now, at this point Kahn gets to the denouement. He says Jehu the Tr-mper has “a showdown against the former queen,” Jezebel:

So, you have the former queen, and you have Hillary Clinton. You have the warrior, you have Donald Tr-mp.

Well, what did Tr-mp do to Hillary Clinton? Naturally, Kahn says, against the odds and the pollsters, he beat her in the last election:

So, he wins. He now heads to the capitol city. Jehu heads to the capitol city. Now, why does he head to the capitol city? To drain the swamp.

Once more, I shit you not. Kahn doesn’t tell us whether Jehu hired a bunch of Goldman Sachs swampers to drain the biblical swamp, but that’s an aside to this theological farce.

Perhaps now would be a good time to explain what the Bible says actually (allegedly actually) happened at the hands of Jehu. First, Jehu killed Obama, I mean Joram. Then he turned to Jezebel, I mean Hillary. Wikipedia has a nice summary of her gruesome fate at the hands of the Old Testament Tr-mp:

Knowing that he was coming, Jezebel put on make-up and a formal wig with adornments and looked out a window…Jehu ordered Jezebel’s servants to throw her from the window. Her blood splashed on the wall and horses, and Jehu’s horse trampled her corpse. He entered the palace where, after he ate and drank, he ordered Jezebel’s body to be taken for burial. His servants discovered only her skull, her feet, and the palms of her hands—her flesh had been eaten by stray dogs, just as the prophet Elijah had prophesied.

Compared to that fate, Hillary’s defeat last year doesn’t seem so bad now does it? The threats to “lock her up” seem preferable to being defenestrated, trampled in the street, and turned into Purina Dog Chow at the urging of a prophet of a very pissed off God. I wonder why I didn’t learn that story in Sunday School? Political correctness?

Weirdly, all of that drama takes us to Jerusalem and Tr-mp’s decision to, eventually, put our embassy there and, possibly, bring on the Last Days, the End Times, or maybe, the final installment of The Hunger Games.

TImage result for jerusalemhe ancient history of Jerusalem is as murky as it could be. No need to go deep into the complex of competing claims and the bloody history of the place. True-believing Jews believe King David conquered the city 3000 years ago and made it theirs. Bible-thumping Christians believe Jesus was buried there, until he wasn’t. Virgin-loving Muslims believe Muhammad was beamed up to, well, the Land of Virgins. The bottom line is this: the decision to move the embassy was designed to appease people like Jonathan Cahn and other wild-eyed evangelicals (and some equally wild-eyed Orthodox Jews) who believe Tr-mp is anointed by God to be his divine instrument, apparently a fitful fiddler fiddling with the fate of all of us. Speaking with once disgraced and still disgraceful televangelist Jim Bakker, Cahn said:

Jerusalem is the center of biblical prophecy, everything is centering on it, that’s the end game, that’s the final goal—Jerusalem.

Why? Because unless the “Jews return to Israel…and rebuild the third Temple of Solomon on the hilltop the Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary,” Jesus ain’t coming back anytime soon and there won’t be any End Times in which countless numbers of folks will be slaughtered. Thus, in order to hasten his return and start the carnage, shit has to start happening. And what better way to make shit happen than bringing in a shit storm named Tr-mp?

Jesus is supposed to “return to Jerusalem to rule the world from his throne on the Temple Mount,” says Pastor Mike Bickle, once associated with former Texas governor Rick Oops Perry, who is now Secretary of the Department of an Agency to be Remembered Later. I personally could think of better digs than the Temple Mount from which to rule the world, like a white sand beach in the tropics, but then I didn’t write the Bible.

In any case, the indispensable Right Wing Watch informs us:

Over the past decade in particular, Religious Right political gatherings frequently included Israeli flags, the blowing of shofars, and harsh denunciations of the Obama administration for supposedly having betrayed Israel. Religious Right leaders and allied politicians who have warned that God would send natural disasters and otherwise punish the U.S. for insufficiently supporting Israel or pressuring it to give up land in a peace deal include Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, “historian” and political operative David Barton and Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert.

During the presidential campaign, some of Trump’s boosters declared that he was anointed by God, like the biblical Persian King Cyrus, who had freed Jews in his kingdom to return to Jerusalem. Likud Knesset member Yehuda Glick, who came to D.C. for Trump’s inauguration, which he called a “miracle,” said that if Trump moved the embassy, he would be “the latter-day Cyrus!” At a POTUS Shield gathering in March, a speaker suggested that if Trump fully embraced Israel, he could be famous for thousands of years just like Cyrus. And this week, after the policy change, Christian Zionist leader John Hagee returned to that theme, saying that Trump “will be remembered for thousands of years.”

Ah, Pastor John Hagee. When you see or hear his name, you know more crezzy shit is coming, like telling Tr-mp that people will remember him thousands of years from now. Personally, I wouldn’t want to live in a distant time and place where the folks had nothing better to do than remember a man whose pubescent intellect pokes through the cable glory hole every morning and is masturbated by the IQ assassins on Fox & Friends. But that’s just me.

Just yesterday Hagee, a big-time televangelist with a big-ass church in San Antonio, was on CBN News bragging a little bit:

What President Trump is doing is one of the most courageous political things that’s been done in Washington in a long time…President Trump, when I spoke to him in the White House about this several weeks ago, he said this very emphatically. He said, ‘Other presidents have failed you, but I will not disappoint the Christian community in this issue. I will stand with Israel, and we will at some point in time, move the embassy.”

Now that we know Hagee has Tr-mp’s itching ear, it’s time to get really technical and talk about the Jubilee, found in the OT. Hagee said he told Tr-mp,

that God measures everything in modules of 50 years. And I said this is a principle that’s carried out in Leviticus, the 25th chapter. I said, “If you look at 1917, it was a Jubilee Year, and the Balfour Amendment came, and then in 50 years, it was 1967, and Jerusalem was reconnected to Israel, And you add 50 to 1967, and you’re in 2017.” I said, “This is the year to move the embassy and make that declaration because it is a biblical timing of absolute precision.” Thank God, he’s going to do exactly that.

So, at the word of a grifting televangelist who is using a Bronze Age book as his guide, Tr-mp decides to make God’s train to Annihilation Station run on time. Ok. But all this complicated and self-serving ciphering has made me dizzy. But I’m not as dizzy as Pat Robertson’s son, Gordon, who said:

I believe at this point in time, Israel is God’s stopwatch for everything that happens to every nation, including America, from now until the Rapture of the Church and beyond.

Rapture? Did someone say rapture? Yippee! It’s about time we got to some madness made in America! The rapture is distinctively a home turf invention, an interpretation of scripture arising in the early third of the 19th century, with a man named John Nelson Darby doing the heavy lifting. According to End Time Ministries, the rapture is a magical escape plan:

Image result for raptureAt the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, all born again Christians will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). At the sound of the “last trumpet,” the dead who were born again during their lifetime will be resurrected from the dead. At the same time, those who are born again and still alive on earth will be transformed instantly, from mortal beings to immortal beings. Romans 8:11 tells us that our mortal bodies will be made alive if we have God’s spirit living in us.

These flying Christians will, no doubt, cause quite a traffic jam, both up there and down here. But the rapture theory, the version of it that sees Christians rescued before all the bloody fun starts, is an important part of the whole nightmare. It allows many evangelicals to talk tough about the future, believing they will be hanging out at the Cloud Nine Sports Bar when the Last Game, the Super Bowl of Wrath, comes on.

One popular evangelical site says of that awful day:

The Final Holocaust is so terrifying, so deadly, so inescapable that God personally steps in to stop it lest not one human be left alive!

Ah! What a merciful monster! Praise be to him for that compassionate gesture!

The author goes on with his rapturous description:

In the Great Tribulation 2 ½ million die every day for 42 months. In Auschwitz less than a thousand died each day. That means 2500x as many people die every day. Or to put it in Auschwitz terms—the number of people that died every day at Auschwitz will die every 30 seconds in the Great Tribulation! Or in other terms living on earth will be like living in an Auschwitz death camp—and in death toll there will be the equivalent of an Auschwitz Holocaust twice a day for 42 months!

Oh, but that’s only halftime! There’s more:

One out of every two people will die during the Tribulation (see Rev. 6:8 and onward), some through the ravages of war, others by starvation, and amazingly many others by the ‘beasts of the earth’. So, whether by death that comes instantly and thus less dreaded or a slow and painful death that is lingering and agonizing-50 percent of all people will die. The world’s population was 6,415,574,176 yesterday, so that means at least 3,207,500,000 will die.

PictureAll of our trees, “everything green will be destroyed,” these strange Christians say. The sun and moon will grow dark, “as  nature goes into revolt.” Hell will let loose “hordes of locusts, the size of horses,” which “will be allowed to sting men like scorpions.” These “men will beg God to let them die but they will not die,” says the defender of the all-merciful Almighty.

One must keep in mind that these weird true-believers are actually looking for ways to speed up this scenario. Sometimes they get a little giddy contemplating the possibilities. The Christian Broadcasting Network’s Sr. International Correspondent, Gary Lane, called Tr-mp’s decision a “bold step” and “very historic.” Then he told us of its biblical implications:

Related imageFor prophecy, many Christians believe that those steps will lead to a highway from Egypt through Syria, from Cairo to Demascus and through Jordan and Israel. It would be almost like a triangle there. The other significant thing is it may be setting the stage for the biblical battle of Gog and Magog—not the End Times as far as Armageddon is concerned, but the first steps before Armageddon….Very historic times and I think we’re going to see the best is yet to come.

Yikes. Tone it down, big fella. Your inner Tr-mp is showing.

All of this you can escape, presumably, if you’ll just send a seed-faith gift (start with $100; don’t try to cheap your way into heaven!) to the first telepreacher you see (or if you can’t find one, send the dough to me; I’ll make sure the Lord gets it). Oh, and don’t forget to vote for Roy Moore on Tuesday! The WARRIOR Donald Jehu Tr-mp needs him for his swamp-cleaning agenda in D.C.!

Needless to say, this is all nuts. But the gullible don’t think so. And the gullible vote. That is why we had the election of Tr-mp and why we are on the eve of possibly sending a theocrat in Alabama, with a penchant for pedophilia, to Washington D.C. The same people who believe in Bible prophecy, who believe when the time is right that an angry and vengeful God will send horse-size locusts to sting us, kill millions upon millions of us, make rivers overflow with our blood—just after he teleports born-again Christians into bliss—these same folks, at least many of them, believe that all of Tr-mp’s and Moore’s female accusers are lying, as part of a plot to thwart God’s redemptive plan. Whew.

Image result for evangelical vote 2016While it is true that an overwhelming number of evangelicals—we’re talking about mostly white folks here—voted for Tr-mp, most of them didn’t do so because they expected Tr-mp to move our embassy to Jerusalem and hasten The End. There were many different reasons for their vote. But cultural grievances and fear—fear of dying, fear of God’s wrath, fear of facing hell—is always mixed in the electoral soup. The preachers who bank (literally) on these grievances and fear are out in full force these days. Their black-and-white sermons and public pronouncements; their insistence that Christian America is under an unholy threat, both from within and without; their framing politics as a good-versus-evil zero-sum game, has a profound effect, especially when the message is reinforced on Fox “News” and on talk radio and online. After all, if it weren’t for white evangelicals, Tr-mp would likely be in Moscow right now interviewing pee-shooting hookers for jobs at his yet-to-be-completed hotel there.

As for the Roy Moore-Doug Jones race ending tomorrow, a Pew study indicates that about one-half—one-half!—of Alabamians are white evangelicals. These folks are frequently bombarded with religious propaganda emanating from some very strange teachers. It is no wonder that Tr-mp seems like a persecuted hero to them, or that a gun-toting, teen-loving theocrat gets the benefit of their divinely derived doubt. As I said, that propaganda is rooted in grievance and fear, powerful motivators to believe the unbelievable—and powerful motivators to vote.

From the start I believed that the Democrat Doug Jones had no better than a two in ten chance to win in Alabama. Perhaps his odds are better now. Perhaps he will win, but I still have my serious doubts. I hope I’m wrong and people in Alabama surprise me. But no matter what happens tomorrow, this is bigger than just this one race. We still have the spooky specter of an evangelical-fueled Tr-mpism running and ruining the country, possibly the world.

The truth is that Tr-mp is using evangelicals, and evangelicals, mostly white, are using Tr-mp. He needs their votes and they need his judicial appointments, who will stop reproductive rights and gay marriage, two issues that to these zealots demonstrate our decadence even more than the success of mommy porn a few years ago. But there are some freakish evangelical extremists who are also looking to accelerate what they believe is taking way too long to actualize (for God’s sake, Hal Lindsey has been preaching this the-end-is-near hokum for almost 50 years and still going): a series of events involving Israel and her geographical and spiritual enemies that will lead to unspeakable destruction and the death of countless people—particularly and oddly, countless numbers of Jews.

So, wsimulated image of rapturee have Tr-mp’s plan to move our embassy to Jerusalem, seen by evangelicals as a pleasure-enhancing, Israel-affirming act that will, they believe, lead to the outpouring of God’s wrath on, of all people, the people of Israel. If Fifty Shades of Grey represented cultural degeneracy related to the boundaries of pain and pleasure,” surely this strange evangelical eschatology represents something much, much worse. Because there is something disturbingly sadistic about people championing a foreign policy that they believe culminates in inexpressible suffering, while those raptured rapturous champions watch it all from the clouds.

_________________________________________________

For your education or for your pleasure, your choice, I am posting two videos. The first one is the source of many of the quotes I used from Rabbi Jonathan Cahn. You really should watch the entire presentation, which has been viewed 1.2 million times. Marvel at the fast talk, the dreadful hermeneutics and theology, the slick sales pitch. And look at that audience, as the light goes off in their heads.

The second video is from this past weekend. It features two of my favorite peeps, Joy Reid and Frank Schaeffer, discussing the whole End Times nonsense. Enjoy!

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Justice For Franken?

“I of all people am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.”

—Al Franken, December 7, 2017

I have followed Al Franken’s political career closely. I have read his books. I wanted him to run for president. Now, he’s on his way out of politics. And it was his Democratic colleagues who insisted on it. Were they right in doing so? Was justice served in Franken’s case?

The most basic definition of justice is “fairness.” But what is fair and unfair in this world is, ultimately, left for people to judge. In a criminal or civil trial, a judge or jury theoretically metes out justice, even though all of us can point to cases in which we believe justice was not served by a particular verdict. Thus, the achievement of courtroom justice—where an objective law is supposed to be applied to the subjective circumstances—is to some extent in the eye of the beholder. And, as beholders, our eyes are cloudy with all kinds of experiences that cause us to evaluate a set of facts very differently.

Outside the courtroom—where we don’t have objective laws to guide us and where the rules of evidence are not codified—the concept of justice is even murkier. In such a lawless and ruleless domain, the clouds in our eyes matter even more. Rather than applying a statute to a set of facts, we are left with applying our own sense of right and wrong to what may or may not be facts. And because we all acquire our personal sense of right and wrong and our perception of reality in different ways, through different experiences, naturally our judgments will frequently vary.

In the case of Al Franken, anyone could tell by listening to his speech on the Senate floor today that he does not believe he has been dealt with justly:

A couple months ago I felt that we had entered an important moment in the history of this country. We were finally beginning to listen to women about the ways in which men’s actions affect them. The moment was long overdue. I was excited for that conversation and hopeful that it would result in real change that made life better for women all across the country and in every part of our society. Then the conversation turned to me.

Over the last few weeks, a number of women have come forward to talk about how they felt my actions had affected them. I was, I was shocked. I was upset. But in responding to their claims I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation, because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously.

I think that was the right thing to do. I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven’t done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently. I said at the outset that the ethics committee was the right venue for these allegations to be heard and investigated and evaluated on their merits. That I was prepared to cooperate fully and that I was confident in the outcome.

You know an important part of the conversation we’ve been having last few months has been about how men abused their power and privilege to hurt women. I am proud that during my time in the Senate I have used my power to be a champion of women and that I have earned a reputation as someone who respects the women I work alongside everyday. I know there’s been a very different picture of me painted over the last few weeks, but I know who I really am.

Serving in the United States Senate has been the great honor of my life. I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator — nothing — has brought dishonor on this institution, and I am confident that the ethics committee would agree.

Nevertheless, today I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate.

“Nevertheless.” Clearly Franken doesn’t believe justice-as-fairness is being done in his case. But just as clearly, many of his Democratic colleagues, many of them his friends, disagree. Some of them offered reasons, thoughtful reasons, for their very public calls for Franken to resign. Senator Tammy Duckworth said she was “deeply disappointed” by his behavior. She thanked “all those across America who have come forward to share their stories,” and said “their courage and strength in driving this long-overdue national conversation is awe-inspiring.”

My senator, Claire McCaskill, simply tweeted at 10:34 yesterday morning: “Al Franken should resign.” That was it. A spokesman for her said she would not offer any other comment beyond what she had said previously, after the allegations first surfaced.

It was just about a month ago when Franken appeared with McCaskill in St. Louis at the annual Truman Dinner fundraiser for the Missouri Democratic Party. Franken was the featured speaker. The St. Louis Post Dispatch wrote:

Much of Franken’s speech was spent playing up McCaskill’s ability to work across the aisle with Republicans. He said she has the crucial element in the Senate of being “tough without being a jerk.”

I suppose McCaskill’s “Al Franken should resign” tweet was an example of toughness. Whether it was “without being a jerk,” I will leave up to you. But my response to her tweet went in another direction, having to do with her recent meeting with Tr-mp:

Ok, then. But now we, as your Missouri supporters, expect you to never go to the Tr-mp White House again and meet with (*normalize*) the self-admitted sexual predator who lives there. Deal?

Image result for mccaskill sits beside trumpObviously McCaskill did not respond. She is, apparently, out of responses on the Franken matter. But the point stands: If McCaskill doesn’t want Al Franken to stay in the Senate and conduct business there, that’s her judgment. But justice—my concept of it anyway— demands that she refuse to do business with Tr-mp, who admitted his sexual predation on a bus, just before he met a Hollywood star. Will McCaskill ever go to the White’s House and meet with Tr-mp again? The last time she did she was seated right next to him. I didn’t see her refuse to take that seat. I haven’t heard her call for his resignation. Consistency demands it now.

Since most of the Senate Democrats, including Bernie Sanders, are on record asking for Franken’s resignation, they are all obliged to refuse to deal with Tr-mp, and they are all obliged to ask for his resignation. Will they? Will they stop meeting with him? Will each of them ask for his resignation?

Here is what Bernie Sanders tweeted out this morning:

We have a president who acknowledged on tape that he assaulted women. I would hope that he pays attention to what’s going on and think about resigning.

Bernie hopes Tr-mp will pay attention. He hopes he will think about resigning. He said the same thing on CBS this morning, and that statement leaves one wondering just what Bernie has been doing for the last couple of years. We know, and Bernie knows, Tr-mp is paying attention. And we know, and Bernie knows, Tr-mp isn’t thinking about resigning. What is unknown is whether Bernie and the Democrats will continue to deal with the sexual predator in the White’s House, will continue to normalize his administration.

Now that our side has tried, convicted, and pronounced sentence on one of our own, whether it was fair or not, it is past time that they stop engaging a man who has no business holding the once-high office he holds. If our side doesn’t want to deal with Senator Al Franken, they damn sure should not deal with Tr-mp, who has admitted to doing much worse. Yet, today Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer—who as Minority Leader called on Franken to resign—are in fact meeting with him. We, as Democrats, should demand this double-standard come to an end.

Finally, back to the concept of justice. Despite his obvious reluctance to believe justice-as-fairness was done in his case, Franken is doing the right thing, the just thing, by resigning. There is a utilitarian concept of justice that says a just result is one that ends with the best possible consequences. In Franken’s case, without the support of his colleagues, he cannot serve his constituents as well as he did before. He knows that. He also knows he will continue to be a diversion and, thus, distract from what he called today “the proud legacy of progressive advocacy” of which he has been a part. So, despite his other failings, Franken deserves credit for not trying to fight this one out, as so many lesser politicians have done and are doing. His constituents should thank him and his colleagues should thank him.

And all Democrats should use this moment as a dedication to, or rededication to, the vital #Never-Tr-mp resistance movement.

Jeff Flake And My Apology

Published on December 5, 2017, at 12:27pm

On October 24 of this year, I made a terrible mistake. I posted the text, with my praise, of Republican Senator Jeff Flake’s speech on the Senate floor that outlined the “moral treason” of the Republican Party. Here’s part of what I wrote and the part I am most ashamed of:

If I could have, at the moment those old words came through my television, I would have put my liberal Democrat arms around conservative Republican Jeff Flake and given him a big American hug. As I said, he will disappoint, but today we shared something that we Americans cannot afford to lose, but are fast losing—and may be unable to save.

Jeff Flake.jpgThis is a blog of repentance. Thus, I repent. I am sorry for saying that. I am sorry for feeling it. I am sorry I am such a terrible judge of people. I truly thought there was some glimmer of principle behind what Jeff Flake said that day. There wasn’t.

Just a few minutes ago I turned on my television and saw Flake sitting right next to Tr-mp during a luncheon to discuss, among other things, the harmful GOP tax fraud bill making its way through Congress. Flake sat right next to Tr-mp. Right next to him. Right next to him when he endorsed the pedophile from Alabama. Flake couldn’t have been closer unless he sat on Tr-mp’s lap.

Which is where he now belongs.

All that Flake previously said, about not normalizing “the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals,” about not “meekly” accepting “the daily sundering of our country,” is as worthless as a degree from Tr-mp University, or a Sunday School lesson from Roy Moore. Flake said in October,

Without fear of the consequences, and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal.

Dear Mr. Flake: When you sit next to Tr-mp, when you sit next to him while he is telling lie after lie, while he is endorsing a pedophile, while he speaks of “unity,” you are making him and his lies normal. I don’t care why you do it. You, Jeff Flake, are making it normal. You said in October:

It is often said that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up? — what are we going to say?

You, Mr. Flake, will have to answer to that next generation, to your kids and grandkids. What are you going to say? How are you going to explain why you sat next to such a degenerate man, such a man whose behavior you said is “reckless, outrageous, and undignified,” as well as “dangerous to a democracy”? What are you going to say? That you sat there normalizing such a man in order to give tax cuts to wealthy donors? Is that what you will say? That you allowed yourself to be used as a prop in the normalization of indecency, or eagerly volunteered for the job, in order to rid the country of the estate tax?

Huh?

Senator Flake, you may as well go ahead and endorse Roy Moore now and get it over with. There’s no sense in pretending any more. You have made a fool of yourself.

And made a fool out of a lowly liberal blogger here in Joplin. Thanks a lot.

GOP Tax Bill: “People Will Die”

Besides giving Ozark Billy Long a big rhetorical belly rub on national TV, Tr-mp’s appearance in Missouri today means nothing, of course. He rushed here to sell the used-car economics behind the rich-get-richer GOP tax plan that now looks like it possibly may become law faster than you can say “Happy Holidays” “Merry Christmas.” But all Tr-mp is doing in our state today is what he always does. Lying. One whopper after another.

As I write this he is telling a cheering crowd of alternative-fact folks that “there has never been a ten-month president (sic) that (sic) has accomplished what we have accomplished.” He also said the tax plan he is selling “is gonna cost me a fortune” and that “the rich people actually don’t like me,” which caused some in the audience to laugh either because they understood the lies, or, much more likely, because they didn’t. In any case, after the lies and the cheers for the lies from gullible or wealthy (or both) Missourians, Tr-mp will go back to that dump called the White’s House and tweet out Holy War video clips, which will make evangelicals in Alabama very happy.

Meanwhile, there is that horrific mess of a tax bill that, as the editorial board of The New York Times pointed out this morning, is actually getting worse by the minute. “Even by the collapsing standards of Congress this is astounding,” said the editorial. By “Congress” the Times meant Republicans in Congress, which the editorial board made clear:

This is how Senate Republicans compromise these days: They could make their enormously unpopular tax bill, which lavishes benefits on corporations and wealthy families, more generous to real estate tycoons and hedge fund billionaires to win over a couple of lawmakers who say the legislation doesn’t do enough for small businesses.

That’s how weird shit is these days. Everyone this side of Sean Hannity understands what’s going on. Republicans are offering us a used car we have seen on the lot before. The big idea behind the legislation—trickle-down voodoo—has a lot of miles on it. The tires are bald. The muffler is dragging the ground. The windshield is cracked. And the aggressive, thick-bellied salesman, who knows nothing about the Brownbackistanian car, is an obnoxious prick.

It would be funny if it weren’t so, well, so damned serious. There is a lot at stake for some vulnerable folks, as well as our children and grandchildren. Heck, there is a lot at stake for all of us who didn’t eat “24-carat gold flakes, sweet potatoes topped with caviar, and squab” with our Turkey last week.

You can find a lot of places on the internet that have analyzed the deceitful plan in detail (a good place to go is here). But I rather liked the way Harvard economist Larry Summers, who worked in both the Obama and Clinton administrations, put it during an appearance with MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle this morning:

RUHLE: If there’s one thing in here you want senators to pay attention to, what is it?

SUMMERS: People will die because of the health care reforms. And our country will be living on a shoestring for decades because of the increases in the deficit that will result. This is a serious threat to our national security because of what it will mean over time for our ability to fund national defense, which obviously is becoming a more and more urgent priority with what is happening in North Korea and other parts of the world.

And the claims that it will produce a big-spurt economic growth are fundamentally dishonest. You look at the kinds of evidence cited. Half the time when you check the footnotes, they don’t say what people claim they say. This has been the lowest quality debate on a major public policy that I’ve seen in 25 years of watching things in Washington.

Summers went on to discuss the effects of the increase in our national debt:

SUMMERS: One and a half trillion dollars, which is the cost of this bill over ten years, is close to $5000 for the average person, $20,000 for the average family of four. That’s a fair-sized burden, and ultimately it’s their taxes that are gonna have to pay it off. It also means that there’s going to be less room for the federal government to do everything it needs to do: to protect our national security…to take care of an aging society…to repair [our] infrastructure…To somehow suggest that we can just starve the government and have a healthy economy, I think that is very wrong.

You can see that if this thing passes, the ill effects might not be realized until, say, the Democrats possibly take back the House in 2018, or, Allah willing, they take back the SummersWhite’s House in 2020. And you can see that the Republicans will then blame Democrats for all the ill. And you can see that deficits and debts will suddenly become very important to Republicans again. And you can see, if you look hard enough, new Tea Party gatherings in downtown Joplin and elsewhere. But I digress. Back to Larry Summers.

The economist from Harvard got into what Ruhle referred to as “the Bob Corker trigger,” which is a last-minute consideration designed to win over the reluctant senator and part-time deficit hawk from Tennessee. Essentially, Corker is demanding a way to automatically raise taxes if the voodoo economics at the center of the bill fails yet again and federal revenues shrink and the debt rises (you know, like always happens with massive tax giveaways to the wealthy). Here is what Summers said about the trigger:

SUMMERS: Stephanie, this is flat-earth economics. If the economy slows down, that’s the moment we’re gonna want to have more stimulus, not the moment when we’re gonna want to deliver a one-two punch to the economy after it’s already gotten the first blow. This is introducing what economists call procyclicality. It’s a step in exactly the wrong direction. And the truth is, as anyone who has been around Washington knows…it’s a phony. If it’s supposed to happen, it won’t. When the economy turns down, which it will some day, Congress, [with] the economy headed into a recession, is not gonna let some trigger from four years before cause us to have a major tax increase. So, anyone who takes consolation from that trigger should be thinking about buying the Brooklyn Bridge.

Ruhle asked Summers about the lack of analysis and modeling from Treasury officials and others that they say supports their wild-eyed claims about the tax plan and the imagined massive economic growth that it will supposedly engender. Summers responded:

SUMMERS: Look, I find the degree of irresponsibility stunning…The reason the analysis is so bad is that the conclusion is so absurd…This tax bill in a way corrupts anyone who touches it because you can’t make an honest argument that it’s gonna pay for itself. And since you can’t make an honest argument that it’s gonna pay for itself—and people feel a need to make that argument—they’ve got no choice but to resort to dishonest arguments.

Finally, Summers summed up the tax proposal:

It’s something that cheats the future.

If we’re going to cheat the future, if we’re going to spend money we don’t have to get something we don’t need, why spend it on a crummy used car that a creepy commission-seeking salesman is trying to pawn off on us? Let’s go big. Let’s just give every American 5000 bucks and call it good.

At least some folks can have a good time before they die.

 

Listen To The Women, Evaluate The Evidence, Then Pass Judgment

Five days ago, when the accusations against Sen. Al Franken came out, when right-wingers were gloating and left-leaners were in a panic and some were overreacting, I was on Twitter urging caution:

…this isn’t Roy Moore territory–yet. We shouldn’t lose our ability to evaluate the relative severity of inappropriate behavior.

A short time later, I responded to a tweet by left-leaning writer Jimmy Williams, who had written that he hoped “ANY woman or man accusing ANY sitting senator of sexual harassment creates an Ethics Committee investigation.” I wrote:

Sorry, but we should stipulate that the accusations be credible ones or this whole exercise will become meaningless and hurt real victims.

Those two elements—evaluating the relative severity of the alleged behavior and evaluating the credibility of the accusations—were lost in the rush to judgment during the immediate days following the charges against Franken. Among those rushing to judgment was another liberal writer and a woman whose opinion I greatly respect, Michelle Goldberg. Writing for The New York Times, she said of Franken, “I think he should go, and the governor should appoint a woman to fill his seat.” Now, after some reflection, and after many pundits are beginning to evaluate what is happening more soberly, Goldberg has had second thoughts:

Personally, I’m torn by competing impulses. I want to see sexual harassment finally taken seriously but fear participating in a sex panic. My instinct is often to defend men I like, but I don’t want to be an enabler or a sucker. I try not to be a hypocrite, while being aware that the right plays on the media’s desire to seem fair-minded, which is part of what led to wildly excessive coverage of Hillary Clinton’s emails during the presidential campaign, among other distortions.

Goldberg noted the fact that it is “organizations with liberal values” that are expected to react decisively against alleged sin in their own camps, while little accountability is expected from Republicans. She continued:

As a result, it sometimes feels as if liberal institutions are devouring themselves over sex while conservatives, unburdened by the pretense of caring about gender equality, blithely continue their misrule.

Adding to the confusion is the way so many different behaviors are being lumped together. Weinstein’s sadistic serial predation isn’t comparable to Louis C.K.’s exhibitionism. The groping Franken has been accused of isn’t in the same moral universe as Moore’s alleged sexual abuse of minors. It seems perverse that Franken could be on his way out of the Senate while Moore might be on his way in.

Obviously, with all the allegations flying around about creepy, caddish, even criminal behavior toward women, this is a major cultural moment. As I have always held, the women making such accusations should be believed until evidence surfaces that casts doubt on their charges. But that means the initial claims have to be subjected to an analysis that takes account of the available evidence, including the responses of those charged.

Image result for roy moore and bibleOf course we should treat the claims of offended and abused women with utmost seriousness. But we also have to treat the process of evaluating guilt or innocence with equal seriousness, as well as determining the proper penalty for bad behavior. Because, in time, we will see some charges advanced against men in power (so far, that’s who we are talking about) that are not true, that are part of a vendetta, either personal or political. And when that happens, if just one innocent man suffers because of such a vendetta—especially one aided and abetted by our eagerness to right past cultural wrongs—you can bet the creeps, cads, and criminals among us, employing nervous men as their mouthpieces, will use that miscarriage of justice as part of an attempt to squelch the vital movement we see sweeping the country, from California to Michigan to New York to, yes, Alabama.

Brown, McCaskill, And Sanders Fighting The Good Fight

One of my favorite Democrats in the Senate is Sherrod Brown. If you watched any news this past weekend, you were treated to his pissing off the insufferable Orrin Hatch, during a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee last Thursday night.

Brown called bullshit on the Republican claim that their tax “reform” bill was all about increased incomes for middle-class folks. The senator from Ohio said:

I just think it would be nice, just tonight, before we go home, to just acknowledge, well that this tax cut really is not for the middle class, it’s for the rich. And that whole thing about higher wages, it’s a good selling point, but we know companies just don’t give away higher wages. They just don’t give away higher wages just because they have more money. Corporations are sitting on a lot of money now. They’re sitting on a lot of profits now. I don’t see wages going up. So, just spare us the bank shot, spare us the sarcasm and the satire, and let’s move forward.

Hatch, of course, grew indignant and began touting his former impoverishment, saying,

I come from the poor people, and I’ve been here working my whole stinking career for people who don’t have a chance, and I really resent anybody saying I’m just doing it for the rich. Give me a break. I think you guys overplay that all the time, and it gets old. And, frankly, you ought to quit it…I get kind of sick and tired of it.

Now, one has to credit Hatch for properly calling his career “stinking.” But beyond that, anyone who thinks he has spent that stinking career working “for the [sic] poor people,” for “people who don’t have a chance,” I have a degree from Tr-mp University I’ll sell ya. As for Hatch being sick and tired, Brown said:

I get sick and tired of the richest people in this country getting richer and richer and richer….

He was gaveled down by the snowflake from Utah.

That leads me to my own senator, Claire McCaskill, who was just here in Joplin for a town hall-style meeting on Saturday (she was rudely treated by only one right-winger in the audience; that’s progress). During the meeting, she tried to educate the locals:

As I go around the state, particularly in some of the rural communities, where it is tough in terms of jobs and it is tough in terms of the AG economy, so, talking about a tax code that we could reform to really help those folks, but instead, Republicans are putting forth a bill that is really focused on people that make more than $1 million dollars.

McCaskill doesn’t just talk truth about Republicans while here in Missouri. She also had a few things to say during a Senate Finance Committee meeting last week, also featuring Orrin Hatch:

Clearly, that notorious fighter for the poor, Mr. Hatch, had no idea what was in the bill he was defending. But, aw shucks, neither does the man Republicans are counting on to sign it, should they succeed in ramming it through Congress.

Now we come to an appearance by Bernie Sanders on CNN’s State of the Union. Here is the Vermont senator’s exchange with host Jake Tapper:

TAPPER: President Trump is accusing Democrats of being obstructionists on the tax issue. He tweeted — quote — “If Democrats were not such obstructionists and understood the power of lower taxes, we would be able to get many of their ideas into the bill.” What’s your response?

SANDERS: Well, that’s total nonsense. Democrats have been completely shut out of this process, just as they were shut out of the health care legislation process. Here is the fact. And Trump should understand this. What this legislation is about is fulfilling the promises, Republican promises, made to wealthy campaign contributors. There is a reason why the billionaire class provides hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions to Republicans. And now is payback time.

What this legislation is about, Jake, is giving 50 percent of the tax benefits to the top 1 percent, and at the end of 10 years in the House bill, forcing almost 50 percent of the middle class to actually pay more in taxes. What this legislation is about, absolutely insanely, is repealing the estate tax, a $269 billion tax break, not for the top 1 percent, but for the top two-tenths of one 1 percent, a handful of the wealthiest families in this country, like the Walton family and the Koch brothers family and other very wealthy families….And, by the way, Jake, one other point.

When they run up a $1.5 trillion deficit, as they will in this legislation, they’re going to come back — and that’s what Paul Ryan is saying — they’re going to come back with massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, because they say, oh, my goodness, the deficit and the national debt are too high.

This is a terrible, terrible piece of legislation, and it must be defeated.

That was quite a takedown of the phony Republican tax (and, for now, healthcare) bill. But Sanders wasn’t finished:

TAPPER: So, Republicans’ response to the idea that 50 percent is going to the top 1 percent is, the top 1 percent pays a disproportionate amount of taxes. I do want to better understand your objection to this aspect of the bill. Is it the size of the tax cut going to the wealthy that bothers you or the idea that the wealthy are getting any tax cut at all?

SANDERS: Well, first of all, what the Republicans are forgetting about is, yes, the rich pay more in taxes because we have massive income and wealth and equality in America. Fifty-two percent of all new income in America is going to the top 1 percent. Duh. Yes, the rich are going to be paying more in taxes.

Now, Sanders just about said it all right there—just about. The most beautiful part of what he said, the most concise framing of the issues voters may hear in the next two election cycles, was what he said next:

SANDERS: But does anybody watching this program really believe that the major crisis facing our country—when the middle class is shrinking, when our infrastructure is falling apart, when young people can’t afford to go to college, are leaving school deeply in debt, when 28 million people have no health insurance—does anyone really think that the major crisis facing this country is the need to give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the very richest people in this country?

That was what wrestling fans might call a flying spinning heel kick. In one sentence, in 81 extemporaneous but eloquent words, Sanders struck his Republican opponents with the truth. 

Good for him. And although Republicans won’t listen, if voters do, good for the country.

 

Packing The Courts While We Aren’t Paying Attention

Don’t count me among those who are giving credit to Mitch McConnell for trying to ditch Roy Moore. Five minutes ago, McConnell was trying to get the lawless theocrat elected. Nor will I give credit to most of the other Republicans who have spoken against Moore. Almost to a man, and woman, they all were recently rooting for Moore (Sen. Flake, excepted) to win and, thus, help the GOP screw the working class by raining tax cuts on the wealthy. A few truly courageous victims of Moore’s white evangelical Christian virtues spoke up and changed the dynamics of the Alabama special election and, essentially, forced national Republicans to say what they should have said a long time ago.

Missouri’s Republican senator, Roy Blunt, finally chimed in:

Alabama voters should have a better choice, and Judge Moore should have better answers to these charges.

Blunt had no problem with the Orange Predator during last year’s presidential election. He didn’t demand that Tr-mp “have better answers” to the 20 or so women who accused him of either sexual assault or sexual harassment. Nope. When Tr-mp denied the charges, when he claimed “locker room talk,” Blunt was on board. The evidence against Tr-mp was at least as compelling as the evidence against Roy Moore. But Blunt, like his colleagues throughout Congress, was all-in on Tr-mp. All. In. And Tr-mp has done, and continues to do, more damage to the country than a Senator Moore could ever dream of doing. Yet, Blunt and McConnell and nearly all Republicans who matter are hard at work aiding and abetting Tr-mp’s disastrous reign—especially when it comes to federal judges and our courts.

Julia Ioffe, who just exposed Tr-mp Junior’s collusion with WikiLeaks-Russia, was on television this morning explaining the un-American behavior of the second creepiest Tr-mp in the family. At one point, Ioffe mentioned how all the craziness surrounding Tr-mp amounted to “flooding the zone,” while he and Republicans in the U.S. Senate are able to quietly “pack the courts.” Huh? You mean Tr-mp is getting something done besides trashing the Constitution and the environment? Is he packing the courts, too?

Hell yes, he is.

Over the weekend, Charlie Savage wrote an eye-opening article for The New York Times (“Tr-mp Is Rapidly Reshaping the Judiciary. Here’s How.”). Savage began with Donald McGahn’s “secret battle plan to fill the federal appeals courts with young and deeply conservative judges.” That plan was formulated during the transition, before McGahn became Tr-mp’s White’s House counsel. Savage wrote:

Mr. McGahn, instructed by Mr. Trump to maximize the opportunity to reshape the judiciary, mapped out potential nominees and a strategy, according to two people familiar with the effort: Start by filling vacancies on appeals courts with multiple openings and where Democratic senators up for re-election next year in states won by Mr. Trump — like Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania — could be pressured not to block his nominees. And to speed them through confirmation, avoid clogging the Senate with too many nominees for the district courts, where legal philosophy is less crucial.

Savage pointed out just how successful the plan has been. Tr-mp is on a record-setting pace in getting his judges through the process. But there is a very dark side to how Tr-mp is able to set records and shape the judiciary:

Republicans are systematically filling appellate seats they held open during President Barack Obama’s final two years in office with a particularly conservative group of judges with life tenure.

Yes. For two years Republicans cheated Obama out of his right to appoint such judges. Actually, they cheated him and us. They essentially nullified our votes, when it came to shaping the judiciary. And they treated Obama like three-fifths of a president. Sure, we all saw Republicans openly and unashamedly steal a Supreme Court vacancy from the two-term uppity black man in the White’s House. We saw Neil Gorsuch wither on the Senate’s vine. But not many people knew about all those appellate judges Obama did not get to appoint. Not many people knew that Obama did not get to make as big a mark on the judiciary as he was entitled to make, as we were entitled to expect as his voters.

And we have Mitch McConnell, who some people are lauding over his throwing shade on Roy Moore, to thank for it.

I waited and waited for media outlets to pick up on an interview McConnell did two Sundays ago with right-wing nut Hugh Hewitt. But I couldn’t find a single television segment or a single news article about it. I suppose it was crowded out by the massacre of praying Christians in Texas and other outrages. But while our attention has been turned to mass shootings and collusion with Russia and Tr-mp embarrassing us abroad, our children’s future is being placed in the hands of reactionary judges, some qualified to do the dirty work and some not. Here’s what McConnell had to say to Hugh Hewitt:

MITCH MCCONNELL: There were 1,200 executive branch appointments subject to confirmation in the Senate. I not only didn’t allow the Supreme Court vacancy to be filled during the last year of Barack Obama, I also didn’t allow a lot of other federal judgeships to be filled. So when President Trump got elected, and we held our majority, we had the largest number of federal judicial vacancies to be filled since the early 1950s. And the President is sending up spectacular nominees. Barack Obama only had 60 Democrats in the Senate, got three circuit judges in his first year. We did four the week you and I are talking. We had already done four. That’s eight. And we’ll do more before the end of the year. In conjunction with the President and his spectacular White House counsel, Don McGahn, we are making permanent, long lasting changes to the federal judiciary.

If that doesn’t piss you off, if that doesn’t make your blood boil, then try this:

HUGH HEWITT: And so these 21 federal circuit vacancies that were inherited are almost as important as the Supreme Court. Are you satisfied that the White House is moving fast enough, because while there are 21 vacancies, there have only been 14 nominees, only 11 with their paperwork done. You confirmed eight. You’ll get the other three done. But we still got another ten nominees to come up to you.

MITCH MCCONNELL: Yeah, I am convinced they’re moving fast enough. It takes a while to do the vetting and to get them in the pipeline. And now the pipeline is beginning to fill up. And we’re not going to be a bottleneck up here in the Senate. As you’ve noticed, as soon as the circuit judge comes out of committee, I call them up. I’m in charge of the schedule. I’ve got to choose what to bring up. Confirmation of circuit court judges is my top priority. As they come out of the committee, they will be called up.

In case you don’t know why the various U.S. Courts of Appeals are, except in rare cases, more important than the Supreme Court, there were over 50,000 federal appeals filed in the 12-month period ending June 30 of this year. Think about that. Thousands of decisions are issued by those courts and how many do you suppose are reviewed by the nine justices on the Supreme Court? Here’s what the Court itself says:

The Court receives approximately 7,000-8,000 petitions for a writ of certiorari each Term.  The Court grants and hears oral argument in about 80 cases.

Appeals Court statisticsThousands and thousands of decisions are made by federal appellate judges without review by the Supreme Court. That’s why Republicans are so giddy about what McConnell and Tr-mp are doing. As I said, conservative zealots are literally mucking up the future for our kids and grandkids. And it isn’t just at the appellate level. The zealots are advancing unqualified people to the federal district courts, too. The latest has made a splash on some news outlets:

A 36-year-old lawyer who has never tried a case and who was unanimously deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association has been approved for a lifetime federal district judgeship by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

That Times article quotes Kristine Lucius of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. She said it was “unprecedented” to have so many unqualified nominees for the district court. She added:

When you think of how much power a district court nominee has over life and death decisions every day, it’s really irresponsible to put someone on with that little experience.

Yes, it is irresponsible. And, given how we got to this point, given that many of these appointments were stolen from President Obama, it is unforgivable.

So, the next time you hear some pundit giving Mitch McConnell or some other Republican credit for doing the right thing on Roy Moore, remember that almost all Republicans supported and still support a pussy-grabbing, court-packing Tr-mp, whose damaging court picks—most of them white men—will be around long after he is gone.

federal appeals courts by president

What Democrats Need To Understand Before 2018

As you will figure out (if you haven’t already) from watching the Vox video below, technology and globalization aren’t going away. They are two powerful forces shaping our collective lives today, two forces that, in purely economic terms, have both good and bad effects. One of the bad effects is the increasingly large money gap between the wealthy and everyone else. Most Democrats believe that government, particularly the federal government, can help mitigate the rapidly worsening income and wealth inequality that is, essentially, a plague on our economic system. Unfortunately, it is Republicans who are in the position to reconstruct our tax code—an instrument of behavior modification—and they are hard at work reconstructing it to favor, even more than it does now, their rich donors. If they are successful, their plan will not only increase the federal debt for no good reason, but leave vulnerable populations even more vulnerable, when Republicans return next year with planned cuts to social programs to address “the debt” they are now ignoring.

There has been a lot of talk about just how Democrats should confront the next wave of elections in 2018 and 2020. Obviously, one domestic policy component of any electoral strategy is to run against Tr-mpism, which means embracing diversity and inclusion and, uh, reality. Another domestic policy component is to put forward a realistic plan for expanding health coverage (can anyone say, “public option”?). And still another component is to articulate an economic vision for the country that addresses income inequality without damaging our prospects for economic growth. In other words, Democrats have to come up with a plan—one that can be simply expressed—that acknowledges the reality of the changes brought upon us by technology and globalization, without trying to roll back the clock to simpler times, when America was the dominant economic force in the world. This won’t be an easy task, but it begins with acknowledging reality (and building on the ideas advanced by the Clinton campaign last year). The video below will help:

John Kelly’s Southern Strategy

Now that Tr-mp’s chief of staff, John Kelly, has outed himself as a card-carrying Tr-mper, we can move on with the job of trying to save our democracy ourselves. We’re not going to get any help from a man who is either as confused as he can be about the Civil War, slavery, and Robert E. Lee, or is just a tie-wearing white supremacist in the White’s House. You decide.

First of all, Kelly gave an interview, a very rare one for him, on Monday evening to Fox’s Laura Ingraham, trying, no doubt, to boost not only Tr-mp’s sinking ratings, but also the ratings for Ingraham’s brand new show, unashamedly a Tr-mp propaganda platform that Fox specializes in. Ingraham is a cross between Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity, which is why she has been a thang in the conservative media complex for years now. So, Kelly appearing on her show and only on her show is all we really need to know about him, in terms of hoping he would bring some sanity to the White’s House—at one point he used the it-polls-well phrase, “agents of the swamp,” to describe opponents. But there is more, much more, to know about him (go here for some of his past behavior).

Kelly, of course, recently lied about congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who just happens to be black. He absolutely lied about her when he was trying to defend Tr-mp’s call to the widow of a fallen soldier, who also happens to be a black woman. The fact that he lied through all that is not up for debate. Yet last night Ingraham asked him about the matter and about whether the thought he had something to apologize for. This is how that ended:

KELLY:  Oh, no.  No.  Never.  Well, I’ll apologize if I need to.  But for something like that, absolutely not.  I stand by my comments.

INGRAHAM:  Washington —

KELLY:  But I’d just as soon let that go.

He stands by his lie, and the arrogant way he said he wouldn’t apologize was stunning. He stands by the lie just like he stands by Tr-mp, who is a lie incarnated in an orange skinsuit. For Kelly, a black congresswoman apparently has no rights that a white man in the White’s House is bound to respect. Period. But, being a white gentleman who claimed he’d heard “screams out of the graves” at Arlington before he lied about the congresswoman, said he’d “just as soon let that go.” Thus, the interview moved on to the Civil War and another lie, or three.

In the context of some well-meaning folks planning on removing plaques honoring George Washington and Robert E. Lee from their historic church in Alexandria, Virginia—just why the hell were those plaques there anyway?—Ingraham asked Kelly:

INGRAHAM: What is your reaction to that type of attempt to pull down little markers of history?

KELLY: Well, history’s history. And, uh, there are certain things in history that were not so good and other things that were very, very good. I think we make a mistake, though, as a society and certainly as individuals, when we take what is today accepted as right and wrong and go back 100, 200, 300 years or more and say what those people— what Christopher Columbus did was wrong, you know, 500 years later. Uh, it’s inconceivable to me that you would take what we think now and apply it back then…I think it’s just very, very dangerous, and it shows you, uh, how much of a lack of appreciation of history and what history is.

I will tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man. He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of ability to compromise led to the Civil War. And men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.

Everything Kelly said was wrong, except for maybe the fact that history really is history. And sometimes I’m not even sure about that anymore. But in any case, let’s start with what he said regarding the way we look back at history. He said it was “inconceivable”definition: “not capable of being imagined or grasped mentally”—to him that “you would take what we think now and apply it back then.” Huh? IImage result for southern strategynconceivable? Really? He can’t imagine how folks living today might look back at, say, slavery and decide, “Hey, that was wrong”? Kelly can’t mentally grasp that? Well, of course he can grasp that. He just doesn’t want to grasp it, for whatever reason. Nobody (well, almost nobody) condones the so-called “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” by going back and applying a unique set of moral standards to post-WWI Germans. There were people alive at the time and living in Germany who knew it was absolutely wrong to target Jews, just as there were people living in colonial and post-colonial America who knew that it was wrong to enslave other people. And even if they didn’t, we do. And we have every right to look back and emphatically say of our ancestors, “You were wrong.” And we certainly have the right to not honor them with plaques and monuments.

Next we have the obnoxious “Robert E. Lee was an honorable man” claim based on what Kelly said about Lee giving “up his country to fight for his state” because states were “more important than country” in Lee’s day. My, oh, my. Where did Kelly go to school? Where did he get such nonsense? I’ll let Columbia University history professor Stephanie McCurry explain where it might have come from:

That statement could have been given by [former Confederate general] Jubal Early in 1880. What’s so strange about this statement is how closely it tracks or resembles the view of the Civil War that the South had finally got the nation to embrace by the early 20th century. It’s the Jim Crow version of the causes of the Civil War. I mean, it tracks all of the major talking points of this pro-Confederate view of the Civil War.

Robert E. Lee was a traitor, as I have written before. He wasn’t merely fighting for the state of Virginia. He was fighting for the Confederacy, which made itself the enemy of the United States. That’s not even in doubt. The fact that Kelly tried to muddy the waters is evidence that he has a strong sympathy for “the Jim Crow version of the causes of the Civil War.” Or it is evidence that he is playing Nixon’s Southern Strategy political game. Or both.

As for Kelly’s breathtakingly weird claim that “the lack of ability to compromise led to the Civil War,” another historian, Yale professor David Blight, said:

This is profound ignorance, that’s what one has to say first, at least of pretty basic things about the American historical narrative. I mean, it’s one thing to hear it from Trump who, let’s be honest, just really doesn’t know any history and has demonstrated it over and over and over. But General Kelly has a long history in the American military…Any serious person who knows anything about this can look at the late 1850s and then the secession crisis and know that they tried all kind of compromise measures during the secession winter, and nothing worked. Nothing was viable.

Abraham Lincoln tried, up to the last minute, everything he could think of to prevent the war. You don’t even have to be a professor at Columbia or Yale to know that. Just read Lincoln’s first inaugural address, which I will quote at length:

Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that—

I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.

Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations and had never recanted them; and more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:

Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.

I now reiterate these sentiments, and in doing so I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration.

I remind you those words were offered in March of 1861. Five weeks later Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard opened fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina and the treacherous war against the United States was on. Compromise simply wasn’t possible with white people who thought they had a God-given right to enslave black people. As Professor McCurry put it:

In 1861, compromise wasn’t possible because some southerners just wanted out. They wanted a separate nation where they could protect slavery into the indefinite future. That’s what they said when they seceded. That’s what they said in their constitution when they wrote one.

So, we have to decide what it is that motivated Kelly—who was born into an Irish Catholic family in Boston—not only to arrogantly refuse to apologize to an African-American congresswoman he lied about, but what motivated him to offer a version of our history that is a knife in the heart of any chance of a lasting racial reconciliation. About that white-centric version of history, Professor Blight said:

It’s just so absurd. It’s just so sad. It’s just so disappointing that generations of history have been written to explode all of this and yet millions of people — serious people; experienced, serious people and now people with tremendous power — have grown up believing all this.

It is absurd. It is sad. It is disappointing. Just like Tr-mp.

Image result for cartoons on the southern strategy and trump

Jeff Flake And The Moral Treason Of The Republican Party

Published on October 24, 2017 @3:30pm

Senator Jeff Flake will no doubt disappoint Democrats with his votes as time goes by. We should expect that. He is after all a conservative Republican. But for this one moment we should appreciate what he did today on the floor of the United States Senate. The speech he gave was stunningly well-written and will go down as one of the great speeches in Senate, no, American history. It reflected not only a Burkean temperament that the conservative movement in this country abandoned long ago, but was a condemnation of the behavior of most of his fellow Republicans, as well as a longing, a cry for a pre-Tr-mp America.

I have posted the entire transcript below, which you should read, as Flake’s delivery wasn’t exactly perfect. But there was a portion of it where he quoted from Teddy Roosevelt’s famous editorial that appeared in the Kansas City Star in 1918, during WWI. Here is part of what Flake quoted:

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. 

If I could have, at the moment those old words came through my television, I would have put my liberal Democrat arms around conservative Republican Jeff Flake and given him a big American hug. As I said, he will disappoint, but today we shared something that we Americans cannot afford to lose, but are fast losing—and may be unable to save.

Below is the transcript of the speech as it was prepared for delivery (courtesy of azcentral.com):

Mr. President, I rise today to address a matter that has been much on my mind, at a moment when it seems that our democracy is more defined by our discord and our dysfunction than it is by our values and our principles. Let me begin by noting a somewhat obvious point that these offices that we hold are not ours to hold indefinitely.  We are not here simply to mark time. Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office. And there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles.

Now is such a time.

Image result for jeff flake speech on floor todayIt must also be said that I rise today with no small measure of regret. Regret, because of the state of our disunion, regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics, regret because of the indecency of our discourse, regret because of the coarseness of our leadership, regret for the compromise of our moral authority, and by our — all of our — complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs. It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.

In this century, a new phrase has entered the language to describe the accommodation of a new and undesirable order — that phrase being “the new normal.” But we must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue — with the tone set at the top.

We must never regard as “normal” the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country — the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions; the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have all been elected to serve.

None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal. We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that this is just the way things are now. If we simply become inured to this condition, thinking that this is just politics as usual, then heaven help us. Without fear of the consequences, and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal.

Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as “telling it like it is,” when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.

And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy. Such behavior does not project strength — because our strength comes from our values. It instead projects a corruption of the spirit, and weakness.

It is often said that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up? — what are we going to say?

Mr. President, I rise today to say: Enough. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous never becomes normal. With respect and humility, I must say that we have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it. We know better than that. By now, we all know better than that.

Here, today, I stand to say that we would better serve the country and better fulfill our obligations under the constitution by adhering to our Article 1 “old normal” — Mr. Madison’s doctrine of the separation of powers. This genius innovation which affirms Madison’s status as a true visionary and for which Madison argued in Federalist 51 — held that the equal branches of our government would balance and counteract each other when necessary. “Ambition counteracts ambition,” he wrote.

But what happens if ambition fails to counteract ambition? What happens if stability fails to assert itself in the face of chaos and instability? If decency fails to call out indecency? Were the shoe on the other foot, would we Republicans meekly accept such behavior on display from dominant Democrats? Of course not, and we would be wrong if we did.

When we remain silent and fail to act when we know that that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do — because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseum — when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of the institutions of our liberty, then we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations. Those things are far more important than politics.

Now, I am aware that more politically savvy people than I caution against such talk. I am aware that a segment of my party believes that anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect.

If I have been critical, it not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States. If I have been critical, it is because I believe that it is my obligation to do so, as a matter of duty and conscience. The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters — the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.

A Republican president named Roosevelt had this to say about the president and a citizen’s relationship to the office:

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants.He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.” President Roosevelt continued: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

Acting on conscience and principle is the manner in which we express our moral selves, and as such, loyalty to conscience and principle should supersede loyalty to any man or party. We can all be forgiven for failing in that measure from time to time. I certainly put myself at the top of the list of those who fall short in that regard. I am holier-than-none. But too often, we rush not to salvage principle but to forgive and excuse our failures so that we might accommodate them and go right on failing — until the accommodation itself becomes our principle.

In that way and over time, we can justify almost any behavior and sacrifice almost any principle. I’m afraid that is where we now find ourselves.

When a leader correctly identifies real hurt and insecurity in our country and instead of addressing it goes looking for somebody to blame, there is perhaps nothing more devastating to a pluralistic society. Leadership knows that most often a good place to start in assigning blame is to first look somewhat closer to home. Leadership knows where the buck stops. Humility helps. Character counts. Leadership does not knowingly encourage or feed ugly and debased appetites in us.

Leadership lives by the American creed: E Pluribus Unum. From many, one. American leadership looks to the world, and just as Lincoln did, sees the family of man. Humanity is not a zero-sum game. When we have been at our most prosperous, we have also been at our most principled. And when we do well, the rest of the world also does well.

These articles of civic faith have been central to the American identity for as long as we have all been alive. They are our birthright and our obligation. We must guard them jealously, and pass them on for as long as the calendar has days. To betray them or to be unserious in their defense is a betrayal of the fundamental obligations of American leadership. And to behave as if they don’t matter is simply not who we are.

Now, the efficacy of American leadership around the globe has come into question. When the United States emerged from World War II we contributed about half of the world’s economic activity. It would have been easy to secure our dominance, keeping the countries that had been defeated or greatly weakened during the war in their place.  We didn’t do that. It would have been easy to focus inward. We resisted those impulses. Instead, we financed reconstruction of shattered countries and created international organizations and institutions that have helped provide security and foster prosperity around the world for more than 70 years.

Now, it seems that we, the architects of this visionary rules-based world order that has brought so much freedom and prosperity, are the ones most eager to abandon it.

The implications of this abandonment are profound. And the beneficiaries of this rather radical departure in the American approach to the world are the ideological enemies of our values. Despotism loves a vacuum. And our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership. Why are they doing this? None of this is normal. And what do we as United States Senators have to say about it?

The principles that underlie our politics, the values of our founding, are too vital to our identity and to our survival to allow them to be compromised by the requirements of politics. Because politics can make us silent when we should speak, and silence can equal complicity.

I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit.

I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles.

To that end, I am announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019.

It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, and who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party — the party that for so long has defined itself by belief in those things. It is also clear to me for the moment we have given in or given up on those core principles in favor of the more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment. To be clear, the anger and resentment that the people feel at the royal mess we have created are justified. But anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.

There is an undeniable potency to a populist appeal — but mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people. In the case of the Republican party, those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking minority party.

We were not made great as a country by indulging or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorying in the things which divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake. And we did not become the beacon of freedom in the darkest corners of the world by flouting our institutions and failing to understand just how hard-won and vulnerable they are.

This spell will eventually break. That is my belief. We will return to ourselves once more, and I say the sooner the better. Because to have a healthy government we must have healthy and functioning parties. We must respect each other again in an atmosphere of shared facts and shared values, comity and good faith. We must argue our positions fervently, and never be afraid to compromise. We must assume the best of our fellow man, and always look for the good. Until that days comes, we must be unafraid to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it. Because it does.

I plan to spend the remaining fourteen months of my senate term doing just that.

Mr. President, the graveyard is full of indispensable men and women — none of us here is indispensable. Nor were even the great figures from history who toiled at these very desks in this very chamber to shape this country that we have inherited. What is indispensable are the values that they consecrated in Philadelphia and in this place, values which have endured and will endure for so long as men and women wish to remain free. What is indispensable is what we do here in defense of those values. A political career doesn’t mean much if we are complicit in undermining those values.

I thank my colleagues for indulging me here today, and will close by borrowing the words of President Lincoln, who knew more about healing enmity and preserving our founding values than any other American who has ever lived. His words from his first inaugural were a prayer in his time, and are no less so in ours:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

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