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.

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.


Meanwhile, Republicans Aren’t Focused On How Corrupt Tr-mp Is. They’re Busy Doing Stuff—In The Dark.

Missouri’s own Claire McCaskill produced a video that has gone viral. In it she calls out Senate Republicans—to their faces—for what they are doing on healthcare. Wouldn’t you know it, it fell on a strong Democratic woman to mount a strong attack against dirty old GOP men.

By now, most of you have seen the three-minute video below, but I urge those who haven’t to watch how Senator McCaskill reduces Orrin Hatch, and by extension the entire Republican Party, to a quivering blob of perspiring, I-got-caught-exposing-myself-in-the-park indecency:

As the great Steve Benen put it:

Even by the low standards of contemporary American politics, the dynamic sounds ridiculous: Congress’ majority party is prepared to overhaul the nation’s health care system, making life-or-death decisions affecting tens of millions of Americans, and senators are writing legislation in secret. No hearings, no amendments, no transparency, no input from subject-matter experts, and no effort at bipartisan negotiation.

A group of conservative men are meeting behind closed doors, crafting a plan that will be brought directly to the floor for a vote. There is no precedent for anything like this in the American tradition.

But it’s precisely what we’re watching unfold.

And while I’ve seen some health care proponents express confidence that the Senate GOP’s secret proposal is doomed to fail, I think that confidence is badly misplaced. Republicans have made considerable progress this week on a far-right plan that may have enough support to pass.

While we all have been, understandably, focused on how corrupt Tr-mp and his administration and the Republican Party are, the GOP’s agenda moves on, an agenda that is not only worse than we, as Democrats, think, but worse than we can think.

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.

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


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:

A Moonly Man From Missouri

Midway between Joplin and Springfield you will find Missouri’s House District 157. Interstate 44 cuts right through the rural paradise.

Representing this rustic district is an extremist Republican farmer (you guessed that, didn’t you?) named Mike Moon. In a special election in 2013 that enabled him to get his foot in the legislative door, Lunar Mike got a whopping 3,668 votes, compared to 2,507 for the Democrat. He trounced his 2014 opponent 76% to 24%. Apparently the locals liked either his style or his substance. Let me give you an idea of what kind of substance Lunar Mike is made of:

Loves Jesus. A lot.

Homeschools his five kids.

Filed an article of impeachment against our Democratic Governor.

He says“I do not believe that global warming exists.”

He believes that “the responsibility of providing welfare to persons who have true needs” belongs “to churches, companies, and individuals.”

He offers this as his position on “State Sovereignty”: “We do not need the permission of the Federal government to take action as a sovereign state.”

As far as a woman’s reproductive rights, he is emphatic: “Abortion is wrong!” (I invite you to follow this link and look at his reasoning; it is nothing short of Onionesque.)

Now we come to ObamaCare, courtesy of RawStory today:

State Rep. Mike Moon sponsored a resolution that calls on lawmakers to “insist that each member of the Missouri Congressional delegation endeavor with ‘manly firmness’ and resolve to totally and completely repeal the Affordable Care Act, settling for no less than a full repeal.”

Reaching back to the Declaration of Independence and our spat with King George III, Lunar Mike determined that “manly firmness” was appropriate language to apply to Missouri’s three women in Congress, two of whom have voted thousands upon thousands upon thousands of times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The other unmanly member of Missouri’s congressional delegation, Democrat Claire McCaskill, handled Lunar Mike with womanly firmness:

“I don’t think you prove your manhood by kicking folks off their health coverage and once again letting insurance companies discriminate against women and sick people.”

McCaskill apparently knows nothing of Republican manhood. Doing such things is exactly how today’s Republicans, man and woman, prove their manliness.

In any case, McCaskill’s press release pointed out that Moon’s flacid manhood “would strip more than 200,000 Missourians of health insurance coverage, and—according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office—would raise the national deficit by billions of dollars.”

But Lunar Mike continued flexing his turgid limb and was unmoved by the plight of a couple hundred thousand of his fellow Missourians:

We just want them to know, every man and lady who is representing us, that we are demanding, as citizens of Missouri, that Obamacare be repealed and make it clear we don’t want a replacement.

Manly. No, Moonly.


Claire McCaskill’s “Third Way” Chair And What She Should Do With It

“Well, Senator McCaskill, which side are you on? People who rely on Social Security to get by, or Wall Street movers and shakers?”

—Michael Bersin, Show Me Progress

My only useful United States Senator is, of course, Claire McCaskill. As a liberal, I have defended her many, many times, despite the fact that she does not subscribe to all of my liberal views. And I have defended her despite the fact that she would never, not in a thousand light years, refer to herself as a liberal. But I respect the political reality here in mixed-up Missouri. This isn’t New Jersey. Wait a minute. New Jersey isn’t New Jersey anymore.

In any case, Senator McCaskill, who often—too often for my tastes—brags about being a centrist, is an honorary co-chair of a public policy group called “Third Way,” a group that is causing third way logoquite a negative stir among activist Democrats.

I want to direct you to the group’s own definition of what it is about, which begins this way:

Third Way represents Americans in the “vital center” — those who believe in pragmatic solutions and principled compromise, but who too often are ignored in Washington.

That is, in fact, who Claire McCaskill says she is. She has many times talked about her pragmatism and her middle-of-the-road credentials. She even campaigned on them in 2012. And while I agree that compromise is often part of a healthy political process, some folks who fashion themselves as moderates think the compromise should happen at the beginning of the process, not at the end. This is an incredibly important point. Moderation in politics ought to be defined as what is left over after a vigorous fight between visions, not the vision itself. Here’s more from the group’s website:

Our mission is to advance moderate policy and political ideas.

What? No one can “advance” a moderate policy or political ideas. Why? Because if that is where you start, if you start in the middle, the compromise will always be toward the reactionaries because change has a tendency to scare people. These Third Way guys have to know that. As with similar efforts in the past, “moderate” means allowing conservatives to frame the economic issues in terms of debt and deficits, and not in terms of people and empowerment. Thus, the apparent purpose of Third Way (which has been around since 2005) is to shoot the liberal lions in the Democratic Party, or, to put it more kindly, to capture them and put them in zoos so they can do no harm to the interests of those, mostly moneyed Wall Streeters, who fund so-called centrist groups like Third Way.

As you have no doubt heard by now, last week a couple of Third Wayers, the group-think tank’s president and its senior vice president for policy, published a piece (Economic Populism Is a Dead End for Democrats”) in, yep, The Wall Street Journal. The piece might be considered the loudest shot so far heard in what the self-described centrists apparently want to be an all-out war for the soul of the Democratic Party.

The authors, sounding like any right-wing talk radio host you know, attacked Bill de Blasio, an unashamed liberal who will soon become the next mayor of New York, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has become a hero among liberals and progressives and anyone who can see the difference between people and corporations. The reason for the attack on these two liberals was because of what the authors called their “populist political and economic fantasy.” When you get away from the Limbaugh-like description, what the shoot-the-lions, Wall Street-friendly folks at Third Way are attacking is the idea, advanced by Senator Warren and others, that we should increase Social Security benefits, not look for ways to slash them.

She told Mother Jones, in response to the Third Way article attacking her, that,

We should stop having a conversation about cutting Social Security a little bit or a lot.

Yes. Democrats, including President Obama, should stop agreeing with Republicans about cutting the most effective government social program in history. And Senator McCaskill should relinquish her “honorary” chair title at Third Way. Why? Because McCaskill, running against teapartier Todd Akin in 2012, essentially ran as something of an economic populist herself.

Six weeks before the election, the St Louis Beacon reported on McCaskill’s criticism of Mitt Romney’s nutty remarks “disparaging Americans who don’t pay income taxes”:

“Congressman Akin has made similar type statements,” McCaskill said, “talking about the ‘velvet chains’ of government dependency…”

Such comments by Akin and Romney, she continued, “just show they are out of touch with so many Missourians who have worked hard all their lives, who have retired, and who believed that Social Security would be there for them, and believe that Medicare would be there for them.”

McCaskill’s point during the conference call was to paint Akin as an “extremist” on such issues, citing his campaign statements criticizing both programs.

“He wants to privatize, voucherize” Medicare, she said, and also privatize Social Security.

McCaskill said that the financial problem facing Social Security could be fixed simply by increasing the cap. Now, any income over roughly $110,000 is not subject to the Social Security tax.

“Simply changing the cap,” she said, “secures (Social Security) for 75 years.”

As for Medicare, a program that the Third Way moneyed elites ostensibly want to save by making a “grand bargain” with Republicans, McCaskill also played the economic populist card:

Jim Hagan, a retired teacher and coach in his 70s from Springfield, Mo., recounted the numerous health problems that he and his wife recently have encountered. “We’d be totally bankrupt if we had to pay” for all the surgeries and medical bills, he said. Medicare, said Hagan, “saves lives, including mine.”

McCaskill contends that the GOP approach, as proposed by now-Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, is to allocate a certain annual amount to the elderly and then tell them “now it’s your problem” to find insurance coverage.

Hagan said that most elderly, including himself, wouldn’t be able to obtain insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

McCaskill’s campaign has focused heavily on Medicare, Social Security and government-backed student loans.

Now, if that isn’t the same kind of economic populism that Third Way honchos attacked in The Wall Street Journal, please tell me what it is. And tell me why Claire McCaskill would continue to be an “honorary” co-chair—co-chair!—of a group so adamantly opposed to what she ran on just a year ago?

Not only that, as The Nation reported, in order to raise funds, Third Way hired one of the top corporate lobbying firms in Washington—a firm whose “largest client is the US Chamber of Commerce.” The same Chamber of Commerce that hammered Claire McCaskill in 2012! Something is wrong with that picture.

The Nation also noted how “several Third Way trustees gave campaign money to Mitt Romney.” Huh? Remember the gist of that Romney campaign? Most of us are moochers and President Obama was some kind of left-winger who was going to turn the country into a European socialist state quotefull of even more moochers. How can Senator McCaskill co-chair a group that has as trustees people who invested in Mittens?

Now we have HuffPo reporting that one of the writers of the Third Way piece in last week’s WSJ admits that Elizabeth Warren’s liberalism was beginning to gain traction and the money-men had to move fast. Jim Kessler, Third Way’s senior vice president for policy who co-authored the infamous op-ed, said:

The impetus was really — we saw after the most recently, this push that okay, it’s time to really move the national Democratic Party to a much more liberal agenda, in this case, Senator Warren was the standard bearer — she’s on the cover of a lot of magazines. We were a bit alarmed by that…

That Social Security plan was the final moment for us. That Social Security plan had been out there but really languishing — because Senator Warren has such a powerful compelling voice, she started talking about it, and it suddenly it became much more talked about and viable alternative.

As I said, the “Social Security plan” that scared the Democrat out of those wealthy “Democrats” at Third Way is very closely related, if not identical, to what Senator McCaskill told Missourians she supported, when she was seeking our votes in 2012. And if Senator McCaskill meant what she said about Social Security last year, if she truly meant it, then she should not only give Third Way its honorary chair back, she should give it back by publicly pounding its pooh-bahs over the heads with it.

senator mccaskill and third way

Socialism’s Surprising Supporters In Southwest Missouri

Let’s begin with a relatively lengthy selection from the Joplin Globe’s endorsement of Mittens Romney in 2012, and please follow the logic the paper used to toss its 2008 Obama endorsement under the editorial bus:

And on the issue that most threatens our nation’s future well-being — unchecked federal spending — this nation is more than stalled. It is in reverse. […]

During the first debate, Romney bluntly warned moderator Jim Lehrer that he would cut off funds for public broadcasting if the nation was having to borrow money from China to pay for it. If true, it’s the kind of thing a debtor nation must do.

The Obama campaign attacked Romney on that point.

Sure, funding for public broadcasting is an insignificant part of the budget, but if Obama isn’t even willing to cut one one-hundreth of 1 percent of federal spending for something that is non-vital to America, then the president is not serious about reducing spending at all.

If Obama is not serious about that, he is the wrong person for the job.

Let’s review:

♦ “Unchecked federal spending” “threatens our nation’s future well-being”

♦ A “debtor nation” should not spend money on “non vital” stuff, if it has to “borrow money from China to pay for it”

♦ Because Obama doesn’t  recognize what “non vital” stuff is and won’t therefore cut it out of the budget, “he is the wrong person for the job”

Got it? Okay. Now, we can proceed to this morning’s banner headline in the same paper that endorsed Mittens:

joplin globe headline on federal money

Just where, you might ask, will Joplin “get” all that dough? Oh, that’s easy:

JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin will receive $113 million from a $125 million state grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for disaster recovery.


HUD statements said the award came from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act that President Barack Obama signed Jan. 29 that designates $16 billion for U.S. disaster recovery.

“President Barack Obama signed…” Ouch. That’s gotta hurt. The scary socialist president sent our city some socialism-tainted simoleons.

Amazingly, Joplin’s city manager wasn’t expecting the windfall:

City Manager Mark Rohr said the grant was a surprise to city officials, who earlier had applied for $1.72 billion from HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program for tornado recovery and received $45.2 million.

Rohr said city officials thought the $45 million award, made in January 2012, was the result of the application and did not know that more money would be on the way.

“We’re very pleased and grateful for the assistance we’ve gotten, and we intend to use the money wisely to help the city recover in the best way possible,” Rohr said.

The city manager didn’t exactly say this money was “vital” to the needs of Joplin, did he? In fact, he sort of sounded like he—we—had won the lottery.

Well, this liberal—and Joplin resident—says good for Joplin.

But conservative readers of the Joplin Globe, especially readers who lauded the paper’s endorsement of socialism-hating Romney, had every right to expect, upon reading this story, that the paper would publish an editorial this morning expressing grave concerns about all that “unchecked federal spending,” right?

I mean, the Globe told us that we should not borrow money from China to pay for “non vital” stuff because we are such a “debtor nation,” so logic would dictate that the paper tell the city manager to wrap up the money and send it right back to President Obama, right?


In today’s paper, there was no such send-the-money-back-to-the-treasury editorial. Nope. Nothing about unchecked federal spending, debtor nation, or China. And I would bet ten-thousand Romney dollars that there will never be such an editorial in the Joplin Globe. Never.

Oh, by the way, speaking of the money the feds—no, the good people of the United States—have sent here to J-Town since the tornado in 2011, the Globe reports:

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said the block grant raises the amount of federal funding Joplin has received to more than $350 million. 

I’m not a math whiz but I think that amounts to about $7,000 for every man, woman, child, and editorial writer in this Romney-for-president town.

Finally, to top off the amazing account of all that federal money rolling into the Republican-red, socialism-hating streets of Joplin, we have this from the Globe’s story:

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s office issued a statement saying that the award was the result of legislation Blunt sponsored that made the $45 million available to Joplin. He also has sought continued aid that is earmarked for the areas in most need, his staff said. Blunt, R-Mo., met at City Hall with Joplin and Duquesne officials within weeks after the May 2011 tornado to ask them what would be needed for recovery.

“When a disaster exceeds the ability of communities and states, the federal government has a responsibility to help people rebuild,” Blunt said in the statement. “I’m pleased these funds will continue to help local leaders, businesses and families in Missouri recover and reinvest for the future.”

If you made it through that without spewing up your breakfast—because you remember that small-government Roy Blunt voted against helping victims of Hurricane Sandy—then maybe you can agree with me that the headline of this story should have been:

Joplin Benefits From More Socialism, Thanks To Selective Socialist Senator Roy Blunt

The New Deviants?

Here’s the latest regarding Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill:

claire mccaskill on gay marriage

As the story makes clear, her position is one of freedom. She said:

While churches should never be required to conduct marriages outside of their religious beliefs, neither should the government tell people who they have a right to marry.

McCaskill also talked about an “uncomfortable inequality” and said,

Supporting marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples is simply the right thing to do for our country, a country founded on the principles of liberty and equality.

Meanwhile, many folks on the right, who talk a lot about “a country founded on the principles of liberty and equality,” don’t think those principles extend to folks who have the Gay Disease. The president of the Family Research Council, a powerful force in Republican politics, said in response to Republican Senator Rob Portman’s change of heart on the issue of gay marriage:

I commend Senator Portman for his unconditional love for his son.  Regardless of a child’s choices, the love of a parent can and should be a guiding beacon in the lives of their sons and daughters.  Unconditional love, however, does not mean unconditional support in choices that are both harmful to them and society as a whole.  This is especially true when we approach public policy.  Our unconditional love for our children should not override the historical and social science evidence which makes abundantly clear what is best for all children and for society – being raised by a married mother and father.

The Family Research Council, in case you aren’t sufficiently scared of what the Gay Disease can do to society, published a helpful post titled, “The Negative Health Effects of Homosexuality.” I will summarize it for you: Gay sex will kill us all!

The truth behind most of the opposition to same-sex marriage is that it is based on the fact that the Bible has a problem with homosexuality, namely that people with the Gay Disease should be killed, or, more accurately in these New Testament times, people with the Gay Disease should let Jesus heal them.

Fortunately, the times are changing rather quickly.

It is good that people like Claire McCaskill are rejecting the idea that there is something wrong with homosexuals. And it is even better that people are coming around to the idea that same-sex marriage is about liberty and equality.

And best of all is that the way things are going, some day the deviants among us will be those who want to deny other people liberty and equality based on Iron Age theology.

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