Friday, April 28, 2017

I'm With Wendy

Weary with Trump fatigue, I had the good fortune to hear Wendy Davis speak at the 100 year anniversary celebration of Planned Parenthood last night.

from Post & Courier

I made my way through the half dozen misfits carrying Defund Planned Parenthood signs (the Post & Courier reported two dozen) into Cannon Green, where the event was held.  I would have been more disconcerted by the creepy protesters, but it is pretty much the same small bunch that show up at any event where women are celebrating the fight for freedom, privacy and the right to the best medical care.  Someone commented, "Well, this is the south."  But back in the 80's, when I lived in Stony Brook, Long Island, there was a small clinic in a strip mall a half mile from my home, where every Saturday morning the local scruffy old men and sad looking women would carry their nasty signs.  So, South Carolina, don't be too quick to take all the credit for misogyny.

I had been ruminating for a couple of days about the bizarre turn of events wherein Bernie Sanders threw his support behind an anti-abortion mayoral candidate.  Apparently he was right on all the other issues, so Bernie claimed his stance on abortion was less consequential than having his opponent win.  Apparently Bernie forgot that he was the politician with clout, that he could have stood up to candidate Mello the way he stood up to the Democratic Party last summer.  He didn't mind doing the "my way or the highway" until it came down to women's reproductive rights.

After all, the guy had the support of "the labor movement and environmentalists and Native Americans and the African American community and the Latino community" so of course he would offer his support.

Seems he forgot that 1/2 of all those people are women.

And sadly, women who will fight their hearts out for all people whose rights are being trammeled will forget, or make excuses for, not fighting for our own rights.

Wendy Davis spoke last night about her own coming to awareness of this during her run for governor.  Once, upon being asked if she was a feminist, she said no -- she still sounded amazed as she recounted the experience.  And later, during the dirty campaign in which her parenting was being dragged through the mud, when she was asked if she thought she was being treated differently because she was a woman... she said no.

And she said we have all done that at some point in our lives.  We still suffer the cultural bias that our welfare comes second, that it is our job to take care of everyone else before ourselves.  That if we stand up for our rights we are being selfish -- and none of us wants to be selfish.

Imagine Bernie saying he would stand behind a candidate who was right on all the issues except that he thought African Americans should not be entitled to the same education as white children.  Or that businesses had a right to not serve members of the LGBT community.  Or that immigrants should be required to show proof of citizenship whenever asked.

This whole "big tent" argument is so typical of Democrats, who live with so much insecurity about their identity that you can argue them into a pretzel on just about anything.  Suppose someone wants to be a Democrat, holds Democratic values in everything but abortion -- do we keep them out of the party?

OMG, don't be ridiculous people.  Anyone can be in the Democratic Party.  But we don't have to support a candidate who is against any one of those values.  Not if we value our values.

I am thinking of the leaders of the Women's March, who initially agreed to partner with the anti-abortion group New Wave Feminists, and then after backlash, changed their mind.  Come to our march, we are all-inclusive, stand with us, but you cannot lead us because your cause is against one group's individual rights.

I am not quite as open-minded.  It angers me that a group which purpose is to deny women rights would call itself "Feminist."  Just as I was appalled that Susan B. Anthony's name had been taken over into the anti-abortion cause.

And there it is again, that double standard.  We would not have welcomed marchers who held signs that were anti-Muslim (pro-Christian freedom), or anti-LGBT (pro-traditional families), but there were signs and banners that heralded "Feminists for Life" and other anti-choice (pro-life) messages.

Ayn Rand said it best (!) when she talked about the importance of selfishness.  Of course, she got it screwed up pretty badly when profit and greed came in to play.  But taking care of ourselves first is a bit like the announcement the flight attendant makes before take-off.  If those oxygen masks come down, you need to put one on yourself before you put them on your kids.  Otherwise, you aren't going to be around and functioning to take care of them at all.

Last night, Davis spoke about why everyone needs to support women's right to determine their own reproductive path.  When women succeed, when they are free to join the work force, make a living wage and work to their potential -- whenever that happens -- the economy flourishes.  Our families flourish.  Our democracy flourishes.

And I have to say it.  I am not as old as Bernie, but I am getting there, so at the risk of offending any men out there, I will speak my mind.  Women are smarter.  Women are able to learn more and faster, juggle more important tasks, because they have always had to do that.  Unless we are Mitt Romney's wife, we don't get away with just raising the kids.  When we work, we work harder, but always having to take care of all those important jobs outside of work.  We can squeeze a lot into the day, and do it well.  And we can prioritize, and get it right.

We empathize.  We don't have to be living on $2 a day, as too many Americans are doing, or live without health care.  We can understand what that means to our quality of life, and also how the suffering of others ripples through the rest of America.

What we women need to do now is put that oxygen mask on ourselves before we take care of anyone else.  We need to stop letting right wingnuts and christian extremists tie our hands, cut off our ability to live well and then criticize us for not working hard enough to succeed.

What do you get angry about?  Really, really angry?  Take that anger and personalize it.  Don't minimize what it means when our Democratic Party suggests that they can support a candidate who won't fight for us just because he will fight for other groups.

And we need to stop trying to find a rational argument that will convince the anti-abortion bigots that it is their right to determine the path of our lives.  The argument is:  It is my body, and it is none of your business.

After all, that argument has been working quite well for the NRA, despite all the lives lost because of their perceived right to carry weapons.  But that is an argument for another day.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Letting Women In

Nikki Haley was no doubt appointed to be UN ambassador because the idiot who had been elected saw the UN as irrelevant.  But, as we here in South Carolina know, Nikki is smart.  And as I said after Hurricane Matthew, give her a task that isn't partisan, and she may well shine.  So here we have this woman who seems to be one of the very few decisions Trump has done right.  With the added bonus of getting her out of our hair, and out of partisan politics.

Meanwhile, with all the incredibly stupid things being said by Trump's minions, I wonder why it is only Kellyanne Conway who appears to be confined to the White House basement where she continues to carry the title of counselor to the president without actually having to be in his face.  If she were a man, like say, Sean Spicer, maybe she would continue to be welcome at all the questionable goings-on, and the dumb things she says publicly could actually be traced back to the dumb decisions being made by her boss.  And let us not forget that, after managing to step up and reign the batshit crazy candidate in to the point where he was actually elected, Trump had the nerve to offer her the position of press secretary, rather than a role with substance.

What to do with the women?  Party Democrats don't seem to be having any better time with this problem.  The party that claims to represent the American people just keep choosing what they believe is the safe option.  Elizabeth Warren scares them.  They couldn't ignore Hillary the second time around, but their lukewarm support conveyed to voters, who walked away in droves shaking their heads saying, "I don't know what it is about her, but I just don't trust her."  You could barely see the excitement from the party regulars.

And yet these are both incredibly smart, competent women.

Now this weekend, here in South Carolina, our state Democratic Party apparently is having their convention.  I am in the position where I tend to know more than the typical voter, but have kept a cautious distance from official political organizations.  So if I speak out of ignorance, you can imagine that most voters know even less about what is going on.  And yet they make decisions about who to vote for, and possibly even more important, whether to vote at all, based pretty much not from what they are hearing from us, but what they hear from our more powerful and ballsy opponents.

It disturbs me that the Democratic Party, state and national, keeps banging their heads against the wall hoping that this time they won't end up with a headache.  Tom Perez instead of Keith Ellison for national party chair, for example.  The result of this being the awkward pairing of Perez with Bernie Sanders in a nationwide tour that is trying to convince voters that they need to get excited about being Democrats.

Here in SC, the Democratic Party is about to begin their convention.  They will be voting for party leaders.  I am hearing of support by party members for a candidate for party chair that they are bringing back to SC from Oklahoma, where he headed the state party from 2011 to 2015.  Trav Robertson seems to be a safe candidate, with experience, who has led a center-conservative Democratic Party to very little success.  Oh, and he managed Vincent Sheheen's first unsuccessful big for governor in 2010.  And let me point out the obvious:  he is a man.

Also running is:  a woman.  Susan Yarbrough Smith has been an activist since her college days.  She has operated on the grassroots and Party level, and has the kind of brains, dedication and energy that I can only envy.  And yet, what I have heard, is that Robertson is being more seriously considered because of his experience.  And I have also heard it said that "he is originally from here."

I don't know if y'all who are supporting a man instead of an extremely qualified woman can hear yourselves, but what I am hearing is the sound of being afraid to make waves.

And just as in the upcoming primary special election in SC's fifth district, people in the party, people who should know better, are throwing their support -- and their money -- behind the shiny object that is a white, male, former senior advisor at Goldman Sachs.  Rather than a smart young woman who actually lives and works among the middle class in her community.  The reason?  You guessed it:  she is too young and inexperienced (unlike the yahoos that are running Congress into the ground on the republican side these days, but please don't get me started...).

So, as I take a deep breath and attempt to regain my composure, I would like all you Dems and liberals out there to seriously think about your commitment to moving women forward.  We aren't going to get experienced women unless you are willing to actually trust women to be in positions to get experience.  And there are plenty of smart women to choose from.  What it will take is to stop making excuses.

And here is the thing.  You can keep throwing your support behind the safe guy, and you can keep coming up with the same outcome.  Or you can get really excited about someone who is different.  Someone who talks like a Democrat and really understands the people she would be working for.  And then maybe they would actually be motivated to come out and vote.

Friday, April 21, 2017

When Money Just Isn't Enough

The Ironic Cherry reads...

The True Story Behind the
Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy
by David Daley

I continue to wait for Democrats to create a catchy (memorable) phrase for "emoluments clause."  You know, like republicans renamed the "estate tax" the unforgettable and terrifying "death tax."  Something that would put Trump's obscene conflicts of interest front and center in the mind of the American people.

David Daley realized that the most important threat to democracy today is the redistricting that happened in 2010.  But not even its more apt term, "gerrymandering" is enough to cause us to bolt upright from a sound political sleep.  That's why he titled his book "Ratfucked."  He defines it as "a dirty deed done dirt cheap" and places it originally, and not surprisingly, in the Nixon White House, where the term was used to describe operatives in Nixon's inner circle.

The plot to steal America once and for all for the republican party began with the gift by the Supreme Court of Citizens United.  One clever and far-sighted republican realized that it really wouldn't take a lot of money in a lot of races to turn the tide; a study of the states where legislatures would control the redistricting after the 2010 census showed which states would gain or lose seats after reapportionment and would then be redrawing maps from scratch.  A fairly modest amount of money (by today's standards) poured into a few critical state races.  Sleepy Dems would wake up to find blue and purple states suddenly controlled by republicans, states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina.  (Remember when NC used to be the smarter of the Carolinas?)

The gerrymander goes way back, but these days it is done with computer programs and the enormous amounts of personal data collected on each of us resulting in stunningly bizarre district maps.  With chapters about several of the more fascinating and dysfunctional gerrymanders, he describes the process and the result in a way that makes this a true page-turner.  For one instance, he takes us into Michigan's District 14:

He takes a day to drive the entire 170 miles of the border, in order to "understand those juts, notches and tangrams and to see what, if anything, is different from one side of the street to the other."

What he finds is a surgical precision wherein poor, mostly African American communities are forced into the district, including boarded up houses and a completely closed national park.  On the other side, even right across the street, are the affluent neighborhoods.  This is part of his description:

"The mapmaker draws his first joke farther down Michigan Avenue.  Tiger Stadium used to sit at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull; the site is now a park.  It would have been in the 14th.  The baseball team's new home, Comerica Park, is just a mile away, as is Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions play.  Both are outside the lines.  This may be the mapmaker's favorite dig:  time and again, whenever the 14th might include a local landmark -- Faygo soda's headquarters, the Detroit Zoo, a major General Motors plant -- it contorts itself in another direction.  There will be no easy campaign cash and no famous constituency for the member of Congress from the 14th."

What he describes as "the growth atop the snake's head" is on a street that cuts in and out across three districts.  Turns out that that strange growth at the top of the 14th is an actual dump.

There are two critical aspects to this national redistricting.  First, you want to pack a couple of districts in the state with minorities.  Which leads to races, as in my own District 6 in South Carolina, that resulted in 2016 in a victory for Jim Clyburn with over 70% of the vote.  I then lost the ability to vote against Mark Sanford in my former district, District 1.  Sanford won with a more modest 58.6 % of the vote.  Which is part two of this devious scheme.  Not only do you want to pack a few districts with Democrats, you want to spread a few out over primarily republican districts, so you can have more of those majority republican districts that will nonetheless be safe.

Here is the gerrymandered District 1:

Sadly, republicans have been able to use the part of the Voting Rights Act which mandated the opportunity for minorities "to elect representatives of their choice" to advance their own power grab.  In 1990 the then head of the Republican National Committee made a proposal to the Congressional Black Caucus.  It was an unholy alliance that gave African Americans more representation in Congress by packing a few districts so that republicans could spread their constituencies across more districts.  In retrospect, this turned out not to increase the representation of the black communities in Congress, merely to assure them a few seats.  And those districts continue to be poor and powerless, with failing schools, crumbling infrastructure, and polluted drinking water.

The result of all this trickery is mind blowing.  Democrats consistently receive more votes for congress, but republicans walk away with a crazy but untouchable majority in the House.

While Democrats are agonizing over how to reach Trump voters, even though Hillary got three million more votes (and how many more presidential elections are we going to lose before we figure out a way to get rid of the electoral college?), we really, really need to take a smart look at the process.  If you pack Democratic voters in a couple of districts, giving them 80% majorities, spread out the rest in majority republican districts with more modest but reliable majorities, it doesn't matter how many $3 donations, how much door-knocking, how relevant the message.

Some states are actually moving toward fixing this abomination, including our own state of South Carolina.  A bill sponsored by Dems Nikki Seltzer, Mia McLeod, and Mike Fanning proposes establishing an independent, bipartisan commission to redraw districts.  Unfortunately, those in power have no incentive to support such a bill.  But a recent Winthrop Poll shows that 63% of South Carolina voters support such a commission.  We need to raise the same ruckus over this issue as we have over the ACA and Trump's taxes, because it is the issue on which the future of our democracy depends.

I hate to say it, but this book is an entertaining way to become more informed, and more passionate, about redistricting.  The number crunching, the map-making, the incredible amount of information about each of us that has gone into this bastardization of the democratic process, isn't just important.  It is really a gripping story.  And it is too bad that in our pseudo genteel society the Dems haven't come up with a more attention grabbing word than "gerrymander."  Because what it really is, is ratfucking.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Dems with Time on Their Hands

I have been known in these pages to gripe about the Democratic Party standing on the sidelines while good candidates struggle to be heard against well-connected and well-heeled republicans.  I have urged in a strident tone party Democrats to jump in and help level the playing field.

Well, be careful what you wish for.

While Tea Bagger Mick Mulvaney is fulfilling all his wet dreams by being able to use the eraser end of his pencil to cut from the budget every penny his former constituents depend on to survive, the race to replace him in South Carolina's District 5 has heated up.

In Kansas, in a district in which Trump won by 27 points, the House seat in last week's special election went to the republican candidate, but beating Democrat James Thompson by less than 7 points.  It appears that, while actual Democratic voters are fired up and ready to go, the Democratic Party took a look at the race and said, "Nah, too hard."

In Georgia's 6th, Jon Ossoff has had such a head of steam by virtue not only of his great credentials, a strong endorsement by Congressman John Lewis and the excitement of voters, that the Democratic Party has leaped into the battle.  He has been in the news for months, beginning with Rachel Maddow's interview with Daily Kos' David Nir, in which she scolded Party Dems for sitting on the sidelines and ended up lighting a fire under them.  He is so hot that republicans are paying for ridiculous attack ads to counter the groundswell of support.  And don't be surprised if the Trump-and-Pence show makes an appearance.

I am proud to say that here in South Carolina's 5th, while the republican clown car predictably is full (seven candidates) we have had three good people stand up to run in the Democratic Primary for Mulvaney's seat.

Here's the thing.  A few weeks ago, to my amazement, I got an email from Daily Kos endorsing Archie Parnell.  Not too long after that I heard that he was being endorsed by former Congressman John Spratt.  Then, last week, my email box was hit by pleas for donations from familiar names like Robby Mook, Daniel Barash, and the candidate himself.

Since I am not in the district, my first thought was to wonder who had given away the email list.  I hadn't gotten any mass emails from the woman I am endorsing, Alexis Frank.

And the publicity has been skewed.  The Union Daily Times reported on an event appearance by a Parnell staff member by referring to Parnell as "the sole Democrat" running.  Take this headline in The State:  "In SC Congress race, Goldman Sachs executive faces student."  Maybe if Alexis was a guy, the headline might have been "...Goldman Sachs executive faces army veteran."

This was an octopus of a candidate.  Suddenly he was everywhere.  It was a slick political race of the type we don't usually see in sleepy South Carolina towns.

When I first became aware of the race, I had sent an email to Alexis, asking for her positions on an array of issues.  She responded immediately, and I wrote endorsing her on my blog.  Parnell may look harmless,

and the video of his announcement with his wife wisecracking in the background was certainly clever.  But behind it all is the fact that he is a former Goldman Sachs senior advisor -- a fact that he does not explicitly mention, merely talking about his international financial expertise.

And with that, along with all the fund raising spam I have been getting from the various and sundry familiar names, and with the professional slickness of the campaign, I realized that Parnell's connections come not just from GS, but from Hillary.

I can almost picture those big guys at GS urging Archie to run.  And political contacts being made.

I hate to say it.  I believe Hillary's heart is in the right place, as are the campaign staff that don't really want to be twiddling their thumbs while Democratic candidates fall in special elections.  But here's the thing.

A primary is a different animal.  A primary is where the Democratic Party gets a chance to make headlines, to get people to show up.  It is a time when the Party can say, "look at all these great candidates that want to run for office.  Give them a listen."  It is a way of making people aware that, for one thing, there is an election happening, and for another, that there are real issues that need to be talked about.  And we Democrats have a few really good people that aren't afraid to get up there and debate those issues.

And, by the way, it gives the eventual winner the experience and confidence to go on and make their case to all the people.

Instead, we have the national Democratic Party coming into our town and putting their finger on the scale.  Much like what the DNC did under Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, when she decided that it would be better to try to block Bernie Sanders from the spotlight because he might hinder Hillary Clinton's shot at the nomination.  When in fact, the more the merrier should have been the call.

Meanwhile, Parnell never got back to my email asking for his stand on the issues, but at least now he has issues listed on his website.  It concerns me that his primary cause seems to be simplifying the tax code so we all can pay less in taxes.  That is a republican game, wherein they throw a few dollars at the middle class, millions more to the 1%, resulting in budget cuts to important programs to cover the loss in taxes.

The other concern I have is that he is running on his ability to "work with" republicans.  Wow.  So we have a Congress run by an extreme right-wing party which purpose is to cut needed programs from the working class and the poor, and Archie wants to work on compromise?  For too many years our party has been Charlie Brown hoping to get a chance at the football.  We make deals that cost us dearly, like Obama backing off on a public option so that the health insurance industry could retain control over the market, for that matter Ted Kennedy "working with" W. on the Medicare drug plan that would fatten the already bulging pockets of the pharmaceutical industry.

We saw President Obama get smacked around by a party that will do anything to win, including refusing to hold hearings for a moderate, well-respected Supreme Court nominee.  That is an insult to the Constitution that I believe even Scalia might have balked at.

It is a sad day when once again, the Democratic Party chases down the shiny object instead of doing the smart thing -- and more important, the right thing.

So here is what we can do about our SC District 5 special election.  The primary is coming up fast, on May 2.

1.  Continue to spread the word.  If you aren't in District 5, you surely know somebody who knows somebody who lives there.  Facebook, phone calls, or over Easter dinner, introduce people to Alexis Frank.

2.  Tell them why it is important to vote in the primary.  Let them know we don't need another representative of Wall Street going to Washington to simplify the tax code in order to make his old buddies richer.  And we don't need someone who is eager to work with republicans to cut programs.  It chills me when I hear people even suggest "working with" Trump on health care.  Because I guarantee, whatever we gain we will have more to lose.  We have been sliding down that slippery slope of compromise for too many decades.

3.  Those who live in District 5, show up whenever there is an event.  Support Alexis, ask questions of her and Parnell.  Ask Parnell the tough questions he hasn't yet had to answer.  What would he do about the minimum wage?  About raising the Social Security retirement age?  About vouchers for schools?  What business incentives does he support/oppose?  Where does he stand on women's reproductive rights?  Funding Planned Parenthood?  What rights should religious institutions have?  What would he do about campaign finance?  What should be done about immigration?

4.  Donate.  She's like us.  She doesn't have Wall Street bankrolling her.  That's why we need her fighting for us.  But she needs all we can give.

And Vote, Vote, Vote.  Remember that these special elections have low turnout, and getting out there, and taking someone with you, will make a difference.

Let's show the Goldman Sachs / Hillary bunch that we Dems can make our own decisions among ourselves.  And when we have a primary winner and we really need the power, the expertise and the deep pockets, we hope they will stand there with us.

Alexis Frank for Congress
SC District 5
Primary Tuesday May 2

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Playing at the Town Hall

One thing you can say about our own Lindsey Graham is that he is having a good ole time.  I watched all I could tolerate of his performance at his town hall on April 1, about a half hour.  Of the two of us, he was the only one really enjoying himself.

He knew he was being televised, and he had a full house, in a way a captive audience at his mercy.  Which I must say was a pretty clever turnaround after all the legislators who have been caught as though running red-handed from a crime scene.  Which they pretty much were, given the horrendous acts they had committed on their constituents over the past years.

Anyway, the thing about Lindsey is that he does a smooth transition, back and forth, from a level headed, rational person to a rabid right wingnut.  Likewise, his strut across the stage and his ready laugh go from charming to a bit maniacal.

What he did on Saturday was maintain control even in the face of a furious, fed up audience.  They were actually constituents, but he sure made it feel like they were an audience.

He started off with Russia.  Russia was easy.  I could tell he knew he nailed it with the audience, because we all know that Russia is the bad guy.  Trump was another easy one, because by now we all have shorthand for what we think of him, and we knew he agreed.  And that even though he hoped the Senate could do a sound investigation, the most important thing was not to get in the way of the FBI.

Once he got us all warmed up he tossed the bucket of cold water at us.  Gorsuch.  He’s been playing that tune since the nomination.  Lindsey Graham LOVES Neil Gorsuch.  How could he not?  Gorsuch is as slick as they come – as I learned to say in the South, he cleans up real good.  But underneath that well-dressed white haired dignified suit of armor is an angry, mean control freak.  Gorsuch is going to act out every damn thing Graham can only dream of.  He will consistently rule for corporations, which I don’t even think is the most important issue for Graham.  More important, he will take down women, dashing any hope for reproductive rights, worker rights, and basically, self-determination here in the 21st century.

Because Lindsey truly has a thing about women.  He could be reasonable about Obama, but when it comes to Hillary, his hatred is visceral.  And lately, you can see it in his eyes when he talks about Susan Rice.  Women in power.  Competent women.

So when those types of issues come up, that’s when we see crazy Lindsey.  That’s when facts fly out the window.  I believe this is why his defense of Gorsuch on Saturday was so shrill.  As though he had no idea that the nominee was even more right-wing than Scalia, he told the group that if they couldn’t see how qualified Gorsuch is then “you are blinded by your own partisanship.”  And that our problem with Gorsuch was entirely to do with Trump (and not Merrick Garland):  “You want to set the election aside because you can’t accept the results – that’s your problem,” adding, inevitably, that Trump is being investigated by the FBI, big deal, “so was Hillary Clinton.”  And of course, bringing up the made-up “Biden rule,” as though he has so much respect for Biden’s philosophy that he would follow him anywhere.

After that things went downhill.

There was the usual “Obamacare is failing,” followed by the very strange accusation that the ACA “was not designed to get us health care but to get single payer through the back door.”  A truly through-the-looking-glass moment as I recalled progressives’ anger at Obama, who had not just omitted the possibility of single-payer altogether, but also did away with a “public option” at the polite request of the insurance industry.

When that idiocy brought about some loud boos, he laughed and said, “Good fun!  This is better than going to the Flower Show.”  And proceeded to tell folks that if they like single payer, well, Canada has it.  And if we want his insurance we can join the military, apparently believing that his stint in the military is what makes him deserving of government health care, and not just being an American.  Adding that the VA system is a failure not because it does not have the funding to streamline and have more doctors, but because it is a monopoly.  Ending with a fantastical suggestion for improving health care with a combination of managed care for people of high risk (anybody remember the abomination known as managed care?), tax credits, and allowing sales across state lines.  Done and done.  Everybody insured.

About Betsy DeVos:  “She has spent most of her life working on alternatives to failing schools.”  The alternative being taking money out of public schools to profit private schools.

Around about that time, Graham had a brief attack of sanity.  Regarding social security and medicare, he offered that those with high incomes, like himself, should pay more, take less.  But then came the trade-off:  We should all be willing to raise the retirement and Medicare ages.

Now this has been a bee in Lindsey's bonnet for a very long time.  Way back in 2011, I made an ad for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee pleading with Lindsey not to change the social security retirement age.  It was actually featured on Keith Olbermann's Countdown; it was my fifteen minutes of fame and a truly proud moment.

Point being, that Lindsey is so out of touch with his constituents that he has no clue how many of us finally retire with aches and pains and actual disabilities at age 62, or force ourselves to work to age 66.  He has dismissed us whiners by saying we can just apply for disability, as though his gang of criminals has made it real easy for people who are hurting to cash in.  He has no idea how, thanks to folks on his side of the aisle, Medicare has been chipped and hacked at until it requires costly private supplements, another boon for the insurance industry.  I don't know how people survived before the pharmaceutical boondoggle known as Medicare Part D, but the way it stands now, with the drug plan, we are all in a position where cutting meds in half or living without them -- or not -- is a real option.

And then there is Planned Parenthood, where Lindsey has his final split from reality.  Again, a woman thing.  He doesn't much care about facts at this point, saying that the debate about funding "is about providing abortion services."

Lindsey is not an idiot.  He knows the government does not pay for abortion services -- although they damn well should -- yet he contends that this is the crux of the issue.  And this sometimes rational legislator is willing to not just vote for, but support cutting a truly essential source of women's reproductive health care because they also do abortions.  Like his blind spot with Hillary, the thought of women making their own choices about their bodies brings him to near Trump-level irrationality.

And I am just sick to death of having these unmarried old white guys obsessing over control of women's bodies.

But we are indeed left with crazy Uncle Lindsey.  He might toss you a quarter, but then you have to listen to him rant about Hillary and abortion if you want to keep it.  Unlike the other unmarried right wingnut who "represents" South Carolina in the Senate, at least Lindsey's head clears every once in awhile.  Is it good enough?

Graham has fought off challenges from the right.  He has lately blown away what the state Democratic Party seemed to think was its best chance, a challenger with the all the right stands on the issues, but one who was outmatched in the ability to take center stage.

Invincible?  I'm afraid it would take lots of money and a candidate brimming with personality and chutzpah, who could talk to the folks as though they were having barbecue and beer, and damned, knew what they were going through with that dad-gum gub'mint and was shore gonna fix it.  Somebody who could make even a thick-headed southerner admit that they didn't want their nutty next-door neighbor carrying a gun, or their teenage daughter having to have a baby when that nasty boy she was with got her knocked up.

That would surely do it.  And there's somebody out there just dying to step up. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Case for Eight Justices

Our own Lindsey Graham is having just too darn much fun at his town halls.  He loves the attention, loves to perform.  And doesn't give a rat's ass what we Dems have come to say.  He's not there to listen.  Buffered by misinformation about Planned Parenthood and abortion funding, a now regular misquote of Joe Biden's, and truly ironic comments about Democratic partisanship, his message is basically that Donald Trump is president, and we should just "get over it."

Graham justifies defunding Planned Parenthood to prevent the government from funding abortions, which it doesn't.

And after House republicans voted over fifty times to repeal the Affordable Care Act at an estimated cost of over $75 million, with big money behind challenges going to the Supremes, Graham is accusing DEMS of being partisan, and advising us to "get over it?"

And then there is the Joe Biden quote, that he has gleefully dragged out whenever asked about the Senate's refusal to even hear Merrick Garland's nomination by President Obama.

First of all, since when do republicans propose to follow anything Joe Biden advises?

Apart from that, the reality is that Joe Biden actually suggested that IF a seat became vacant during an election year, the nomination should not happen until after election day -- NOT until the newly elected president takes office.  The reasoning being that an election season should not be sullied by a contentious Supreme Court nomination debate (There are plenty of other things with which to sully it.).  His point being that the nomination should occur by the sitting president, but after Election Day.

Never passing up an opportunity to twist the truth to their advantage, republicans quickly named the misquote the "Biden Rule," and drag it out whenever convenient, happily during Obama's last year in office.

So let's stick the "Biden Rule" where it belongs and get on with the real issues about the Gorsuch nomination.

Most of us plain old American citizens don't really understand how important the Supreme Court is to the actual face of our day to day democracy.  We know about Roe v. Wade, and the more political of us know why Citizens United was bad, but truly, as we go about our daily lives, the make-up of the Supreme Court is the most important force in America.  The successful nominee will determine the direction of our country, and our lives, for decades.

It has been a bad time for the country because the Supremes have been ruled by narcissistic right wingnuts like Scalia, paranoid right wingnuts like Clarence Thomas,  and bought and paid for right wingnuts like Chief Justice Roberts for a very long time.  I can imagine the rage over the vacancies leading to the appointments of Sotomayor and Kagan during Obama's term.  After the initial shock, I imagine the republican response to Scalia's death was, "enough is enough --  NO MORE OBAMA JUSTICES!"

Of course we were stunned when McConnell pulled the "Biden Rule" from out of his ass, although we should not have been.  The republicans in Congress had done nothing other than plot to retake control for the eight years of Obama's presidency.  Their entire agenda had been centered around "NO."  They were primed to obstruct.

So, all the excuses to keep the quite moderate and well-respected Merrick Garland off the court are bullshit.  He was the legitimately chosen and extremely competent nominee and was denied a hearing and a vote.  The end.

But Dems being Dems, we are witnessing the waffling and spinning off that seems to always go on, and always results in splits that diminish our power and our message to the people.  That message being that we are standing together because it is the right thing to do and we feel that strongly about it that we will risk our careers to stand together.  You know, like the republicans did to regain Congress.

So, whether to filibuster or not?  Jeez, the justifications I've heard for voting for Gorsuch rather than filibuster have truly made me want to pull out my white hair.  He's going to get the votes anyway?  So I'll just help them along???  How about:  We don't want the republicans to change the rules and eliminate the filibuster, because then we can't use it next time.  Now that is truly the Democratic principle we all know and love, the one that says we should all cower and hope nobody notices that we aren't taking a stand.

Then we've got our perennial Dems in name only:  Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp, this time joined by Joe Donnelly.  Overlooking what was done to their sitting president and his nominee, they are claiming that they are voting yes because Gorsuch is qualified.  And they are afraid if they vote no they won't get re-elected.

Neil Gorsuch is the kind of right-wing obsessive-compulsive weasel who has made lots of bad decisions, but know just how to cross his t's and dot his i's so that they won't be overturned.  He is farther right than Antonin Scalia, and doesn't have his sense of humor.  He is John Roberts on steroids.  He is a moral twin to Mike Pence, who believe that God has granted them the power to make the poor and powerless swing in the breeze.

Fun fact:  Mike Pence reports that he will not dine alone with a woman who is not his wife.  I imagine his hair turned white from the amount of scrubbing he does to try to get the dirty thoughts out of his head.  I also wish the not-dining-with-women-alone thing were true of Gorsuch; it would be a great relief to our three woman justices once he is confirmed.

But enough comic relief.

The big money is on Gorsuch.  There are lovely ads put out by the Judicial Crisis Network telling us to call our Senators and tell them to confirm this wonderful man.  No surprise, the Judicial Crisis Network is a right wing dark money group which in fact fueled their self-named judicial crisis immediately after Obama nominated Merrick Garland.  It appears that McConnell isn't all that smart or politically determined; what it takes is those big guys who have kept the idiot in office all these years to tell him what stand to take.

Googling these dark and dirty groups, going backwards till my head spun, I came up with the Wellspring Committee run by Ann Corkery, moneyed religious right attorney who doesn't just put her money where her mouth is; she puts her mouth there too, as with an article for RealClearPolitics explaining how the Dems opposition to Jeff Sessions is based on falsehoods and,
"One, the left's reflexive opposition to all things Donald Trump.  Two, the left's prep work for the next confirmation battle over Trump's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court."
As far as facts and arguments go, we could say she's like Ann Coulter, but smarter.  And much richer.

The other nice thing about Corkery, Wellspring, Judicial Crisis Network, and all those other dark money groups is that they don't have to tell you who they really are and what they really do.  Corkery's twitter feed is a private group -- I didn't know you could even do that.  Secret money, secret affiliations, secret lives.  What we do know about all these groups and all this money behind Gorsuch is that their primary function is to protect their own power.  They are the people behind the corporations that run the country.  They are the "christian" conservatives that continue to put their money into controlling the rest of us with their fake family values, funding opposition to women's rights so that only women with money and influence can determine their reproductive lives and their futures.  They include the NRA and the Kochs.  JCN not only welcomes into their fold Dems who cave like Manchin and Heitkamp, they take to task their right-wing Supreme Court jurists who find against their interests, calling out Chief Justice Roberts for his decision on Obamacare.

If you want to try to follow the money, this is the article to read:

And while you are there, please feel free to donate to Open Secrets, a group that we are really going to need to ferret out the dark money during these dark days.

So, we have Dems that are doing all they can to slow down the inevitable appointment of extremist Neil Gorsuch.  He will rule against minorities, against women, against voting rights.  He will always, always rule in favor of corporations and the religious right.

A shame the Dems couldn't get it together, like, right from the beginning of this battle.  They knew Trump couldn't have come up with a qualified nominee (one who could speak in complete sentences with words of more than one syllable, and who hadn't been indicted on anything) all on his own.  The deal that has made Paul Ryan Trump's lapdog may have had more to do with choosing the right Supreme Court justice than with agreeing on repealing Obamacare.  We all know that other than furthering Trump's fame and fortune, he really doesn't care what gets done.  We know he was handed a list of acceptable nominees, and can only assume he closed his eyes and pointed to Gorsuch.

Dems united in this battle, refusing to accept anyone who was not Merrick Garland, and the DNC putting money into ads and publicity insisting on same, might have still gotten us Gorsuch, but might have put things off for quite awhile.  The fuss about having to have nine justices just doesn't hold water.  I think the Supremes have done just fine with four and four.  Because in order to accomplish anything, four would have to be persuasive enough to convince a fifth to come over.  I put my money on my team.  I believe the women justices are smarter and more determined than those characters on the right.  I believe Kennedy has been persuaded more than once since his pal Scalia has found out once and for all whether satan really exists.

Without a skeevy Mike Pence being able to cast a deciding vote as he does in the Senate, an eight judge court might be the closest thing to nonpartisan, democratic decisions we will have.

What can we do?  We can make that call that the Judicial Crisis Network wants us to make.

Call your Senator:  202-224-3121 and tell them NO to Neil Gorsuch.