Friday, March 31, 2017

Democratic Senators Need to Filibuster and Vote NO on Gorsuch! (Updated Sunday, April 2)

It's one week before the Senate votes for or against a new life long Supreme Court Justice.  Do you know where your Senator is?    (Updated Sunday, April 2nd) 

Neil Gorsuch is too conservative, too right-wing to be confirmed to a lifelong appointment to the Supreme Court.

Even though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republicans have threatened to change the rules and require only a majority to confirm Gorsuch (the so-called "nuclear" option) if the Democrats filibuster Gorsuch, the Democrats must stick to the filibuster and not let themselves be subject to Republican extortion.  (This article is not about why I believe that Gorsuch is not the right man for the Supreme Court; it is about the logistics needed to keep him from attaining that seat as a
lifelong associate justice.)

Action items are listed at the bottom of this article.

Sixty votes in the Senate are needed to break the filibuster.

As of Sunday afternoon, the Democrats need 5 more Senators to commit to the filibuster. 

The Republicans have a firm 52 votes for Gorsuch: therefore, they need 8 of the 48 Democratic/Independent Senators to vote with them for cloture (to end the filibuster).

Democrats voting for Gorsuch?  Why?

Now, why would any self-respecting Democratic Senator vote for the conservative right-wing Gorsuch?  Unfortunately, some Democratic Senators from some very red Republican states fear for their jobs and a few of them are up for reelection in 2018.  They may be hearing from their constituents in those very red states and they may believe they need to vote for cloture.. which is the same as voting FOR Gorsuch.  So far three Senators from very red states...  Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana .. have announced they will break with the Democrats/Independents and vote for Gorsuch.

The Color-Coded List:

Based on this article at CNN, here's the color-coded list of the 48 Democrats/Independents and their status on the filibuster and nomination of Gorsuch.  The list is alphabetical in order by state. The color key is based on information that was last updated by CNN on Sunday afternoon, April 2nd.  CNN plans on updating this list as information becomes available, and we will do our best to keep this color-coded list up to date.

The Key

Bright Blue:  A solid "no" on both cloture and the Gorsuch nomination itself.
Purple/Pink:  Unclear as to whether or not the Senator will vote no on both cloture and the Gorsuch nomination. (See the CNN article for specifics about each Senator.)   
Red:  Senator has announced that he/she WILL vote for cloture and vote for Gorsuch.

  • California:         Kamala Harris
                            Dianne Feinstein
  • Colorado:          Michael Bennet
  • Connecticut:     Chris Murphy
                             Richard Blumenthal
  • Delaware:          Tom Carper
                              Chris Coons
  • Florida:              Bill Nelson
  • Hawaii:               Mazie Hirono
                              Brian Schatz    
  • Illinois:               Dick Durbin
                              Tammy Duckworth
  • Indiana:              Joe Donnelly
  • Maine:                Angus King (Independent)
  • Maryland:           Ben Cardin
                               Chris Van Hollen
  • Massachusetts:   Elizabeth Warren
                               Ed Markey
  • Michigan:            Gary Peters
                               Debbie Stabenow 
  • Minnesota:          Al Franken
                               Tammy Klobuchar
  • Missouri:              Claire McCaskill
  • Montana:             Jon Tester
  • Nevada:               Catherine Cortez Masto
  • New Hampshire:  Jeanne Shaheen
                               Maggie Hassan
  • New Jersey:        Corey Booker
                               Bob Menendez 
  • New Mexico:        Martin Heinrich
                               Tom Udall
  • New York:           Chuck Shumer
                               Kirsten Gillibrand
  • North Dakota:      Heidi Heitkamp
  • Ohio:                   Sherrod Brown
  • Oregon:               Jeff Merkley
                                Ron Wyden     
  • Pennsylvania:      Bob Casey Jr.
  • Rhode Island:      Sheldon Whitehouse
                                Jack Reed
  • Vermont:              Bernie Sanders (Independent)
                                Pat Leahy 
  • Virginia:               Tim Kaine
                               Mark Warner
  • Washington:        Patty Murray
                               Maria Cantwell
  • West Virginia:     Joe Manchin
  • Wisconsin:          Tammy Baldwin 

Action Items

If your Senator is bright blue in the list above, thank them.  Our Democratic Senators (and Representatives) look pretty tired to me lately.  They need a thank you either via email, phone, or on their Facebook page.  Especially thank Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.  Apparently these three Senators, all up for reelection in 2018, were targeted by the Republicans to vote against the filibuster as they represent states that (narrowly) voted for Donald Trump in November.  But those three held firm!  We should ALL thank them, no matter what state we are from.

If your Senator is purple/pink in the list above, you may want to link over to the CNN article to see exactly what comment he or she made about the Gorsuch nomination.  Then you may wish to contact them via email or phone and ask for a clear comment about a clear vote in favor of the filibuster and against Gorsuch.

If your Senator is red in the list above (or if you have Republican Senators), it is unclear that you should do anything other than work to turn your state more blue!  However, I really do believe that writing or calling your Senator about your opposition to Gorsuch IS important, even in a red state like West Virginia or North Dakota.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Paul Ryan: "A Disappointing Day" Because They Couldn't Throw 26 Million off of Health Insurance?

Ryan then tried to sound happy because they came SO CLOSE to getting rid of health insurance (and thus health care) for tens of millions of people?

Let's keep fighting, people! These Republicans are scum and they have to go!

Monday, March 13, 2017

TrumpCare Equals NoCare for 24 Million Americans?!

The long-awaited report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office on the impact of the Republican TrumpCare bill was released this afternoon, Monday, March 13th, just about an hour ago. 

Over a decade, 24 million people will lose health insurance, and therefore, access to health care.     

I saved this cartoon from 2009... I just updated it based on CBO scoring.

The long-awaited report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office on the impact of the Republican TrumpCare bill was released this afternoon, Monday, March 13th, just about an hour ago.  The CBO estimates that, over a decade 24 million people will lose health insurance, and therefore, access to health care.   Let's see how Trump, Fox, and Republicans as a whole spin this report.

From an article at the Hill:
The Congressional Budget Office on Monday projected that the number of uninsured people would grow by 14 million in 2018 under the Republican ObamaCare replacement bill, with that number rising to 24 million a decade.
The long-awaited analysis from the nonpartisan congressional scorekeeper is likely to shake up the debate in Congress over the measure, which could come up for a vote in the House next week.
The estimate of the drop in coverage is larger than even many analysts had predicted.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Republican Thinking: The Poor are "Lazy Turds"!

"Republican Thinking" is often so wrong.. and often terribly sad as well, especially when the poor among us are dismissed as "Lazy Turds".  "Republican Thinking" impacts millions of people in this country and is one of the reasons why we have Trump in the White House and Republicans in Congress... and one of the reasons why we are falling behind so many other developed countries.

As an example, take the following quote, posted in a comment by "Steve" to an article about issues of poverty and economics:

Let me repeat the essence of this quote:
The truth is that, in the U.S., if you are unhappy being poor you can simply get a job and problem over.  Able bodied person (sic) in the U.S. do not have to be poor.  It's a choice. 
Plenty of jobs here in the U.S. if the lazy turds would go to work. 
"Lazy Turds"

I've heard this over and over, that anybody can get out of poverty..  but most people don't go as far as to call the poor, mostly children, older people, people who are disabled, and people working minimum wage jobs "lazy turds".

I don't know whether or not it is worth arguing with people who think this way.  Being poor is a choice?  
  • Is being born into a poor family a choice?
  • Is having some kind of disability a choice?
  • Is having a child or a spouse who gets injured or sick and becomes disabled a choice?
  • Can people always move for a better job?  Is that really a choice for many people?
  • Is losing your job and being too old to get another decent job a choice?
  • Is merely GETTING old a choice?  Is that anything we can do something about?
  • What about having an accident, an injury, an illness and not having family members or friends who are able to help:  Is that a choice?
  • At what age does getting a degree or an advanced degree no longer make any difference in terms of getting a better job? 
Job hunting may be better now than it was 6 or 8 years ago, but many people are still struggling.  

People who were older, in their 50's or 60's when the recession hit, may still be struggling; they may not have been able to get a job anywhere close to the level or the pay of the job they had before the recession.

I have a acquaintance, now in her mid 50's, who lost her job in the recession, who has still only had a procession of temporary jobs, who lost her car in an accident and was not able to get another one, who lost her husband to cancer a few years ago, who has had to move several times because she could not pay the rent.  She would like to move to a different area of the country, but it's not as easy as "Steve" seems to think it is.  She doesn't even have the money for that kind of move right now.  And she's bright and articulate.  

Poor people, people who really can't get a decent job for any of a dozen reasons, may not be "lazy turds"; they may actually work much harder than people with cushy 6 figure desk jobs.  I know that's hard for people who indulge in "Republican thinking" to even consider.  I've known people who sold stuff on eBay, collected cans, did odd jobs for pay, drove people around for uber, wrote for blogs, tried dozens of work-at-home schemes, got certificates or degrees... And they still were making no more than minimum wage and/or couldn't find a "regular" job that kept them above the poverty level.

The article linked to above was originally published at the Atlantic and written by Annie Lowrey.  It's based on an interview with Nobel Laureate Angus Deaton.  

From the article: a speech at a conference held by the National Association for Business Economics, Deaton, the Nobel laureate and emeritus Princeton economist, pointed out that inequality among countries is decreasing, while inequality within countries is increasing. China and India are making dramatic economic improvements, while parts of sub-Saharan Africa are seeing much more modest gains. In developed countries, the rich have gotten much richer while the middle class has shriveled.
The final question of this article is actually the title:  Is it better to be poor in Bangladesh or the Mississippi Delta?

Good question...  What do you think?          

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Trump's Seventh Weekend

Donald Trump has now been President of the United States for six weeks, and we are in the seventh weekend with Trump as President.  Most people reading this consider these past six weeks a scary disaster.

United States of America:  The upside down flag signals distress.
So much has happened, most of it not very good, during these past 7 weeks.  We've seen huge protests all over the country; we've seen Democrats in Congress staging all-night filibusters; we've seen people who are here without documentation (often people who have been here for decades) pulled away from their families, sometimes in front of those families, we've seen incredible messes at airports as the DHS tried to enforce Trump's "Muslim ban"; we've seen and heard Trump apologists, people both inside and outside the administration, say that Trump and his agenda is "good".

We've heard of or seen proposals to make defense contractors even richer while we "rebuild" the military. We've heard of or seen proposals to take money out of the State Department, to get rid of ObamaCare (and pull health care from tens of millions of people); we've heard of or seen of proposals to cut food stamps, Social Security, Medicare, you name it; anything that helps people (vs. anything that gives more and more money to the richest among us) should be cut according to the epistle of Trump and the Republcians.

Jobs?  But he's going to bring back jobs!   

Jobs? Coal?  Infrastructure?  Any of us who have followed these issues over the last few years know that these issues are not easy to resolve and the idea that Trump will wave a magic wand and suddenly we will have tens of thousands of coal mining and road building jobs is just plain malarkey.  I would like to think that many of the Trump supporters were well-meaning people who believed in the propaganda of the Trump "miracle" of jobs (despite the 15 million jobs added under Obama) and they weren't just stone-cold racists.  In case you don't know, Trump is inheriting one of the strongest economics of any incoming president in modern times.  

The Russians!

And the Russians...  We KNOW the Russians were meddling in the 2016 elections; we don't know what the role (if any) Trump et al played in the meddling as we don't have any smoking guns yet.  But we have plenty of blame, consternation, and confusion to go around.      

Yesterday and today, we've heard allegations from the Trump administration that Obama wire "tapped" Trump during the campaign!  Now Trump wants to investigate Obama!  What's that about?

The Best Defense is a Strong Offense.

Now the best defense is a strong offense, and that is what Trump is doing here... He is pulling the focus away from him and his band of Russian-influenced flunkies and he is trying to put the focus back on Obama and the Democrats.  Unfortunately we have many stupid people in this country that will believe him.

So what happens to all of us now?  

How do we make any sense out of this absolute and terrifying chaos?   

First of all, if you are as disturbed about the Trump/Republican administration as I am, don't assume that you represent an overwhelming majority of the people of this country.  The threat is real, and it isn't just coming from Trump; it's coming from people who actually believe the guy and voted for him.  As we look on in horror, we have to remember that somewhere between 38 and 44% of the voters of this country STILL approve of the guy!  I find that number more disturbing than anything that Trump is doing. (We ignore or dismiss polls at our own peril.)

Secondly, we have to remember that people vote with their pocketbooks.  Right now the stock market is on a tear and jobs numbers keep increasing.  (Thanks Obama!)  If these trends continue under Trump, the Republicans may well hold on to Congress in 2018, no matter what horrors the right manages to inflict on our liberties, our Constituion, our voting rights, our democratic institutions.  (Most of the economic "improvement" under Republicans, however, will probably be a bubble, as we really have an economy that Trickles UP vs. Trickles down.  More about that later.)  But we still have to be aware of this.. Many people value jobs and money in their pockets more than they value freedom of speech or voting rights.. especially freedoms and rights of "others".     

So how do we fight back?

1.  Keep informed.  Watch/read at more liberal sites/stations, but also give a cursory look to see what the righties are talking about.  Don't allow yourself to be blind-sided by people spouting Republican or Trump talking points.  Watch for "fake news" from the right or the left --meaning don't get taken in by headlines or clickbait sites.  And if a headline is too good to be true (something like "Republicans turning on Trump.  Impeachment hearings to begin soon."), it probably is not true.    

2.  Indivisible.  There are many, many movements and meetings out there.  Join one.  Find and like a Facebook page for one or more.  Petitioning and letter-writing and calling are great and important, but showing up in person for a march or at a CongressCritter's office really makes an impression.

3.  Choose one or two issues that are most important to you.
 If you spread yourself too thin, you may find yourself depressed, overwhelmed, and unable to do anything.

4.  Keep a dialogue.  Posting and sharing memes that show Donald Trump as Hitler or Trump at his ugliest may make you feel good (and therefore some of that might be necessary), but they don't help in rebuilding this country .. and that's what we need to do:  We need to rebuild this country from the ground up, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, family member to family member.  Some people may be too far gone, but many are not.  Trump did not win with a majority, and the Republicans as a whole are not a majority party in terms of the people of this country.  

5.  Be strong in your convictions and your beliefs.  No, shipping out millions of undocumented immigrants is NOT good for the country; it's horrific to see parents being pulled away from their children....    Keeping people out of the country just because they are refugees, students, visitors, or immigrants from certain Muslim-majority countries is NOT good for the country.  Be careful about getting into arguments with people who try to convince you of things such as "they are criminals; they shouldn't be here".  It's much more complex than that and you may not be able to argue with someone who tries such oversimplification.

5.  Take some time for yourself.  Preserving and protecting the ideals and the values of the United States of America in these troubled times is energy-sapping.  There is so much against us.  It's OK to take a few days off from politics, a few days off from even reading about politics.  Especially as we greet Spring.

So far, this has been the most significant (and depressing) year that I can remember.  Work hard, fight hard, keep the faith!  We can win this, for ourselves, our families, the world!  But it won't be easy!
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