Saturday, September 23, 2017

Why the GOP Still Hasn't Been Able To Repeal Obamacare


For seven years now, all we've heard from Republicans was how horrible the Affordable Care Act was and how they would do everything possible to repeal it. Occasionally, they would insert the word replace at the end to assuage concerns and to fool people into believing they were desirous of coming up with a genuine replacement. The fact is they never had any interest in a real replacement for the ACA and here's why: there isn't one and they know it.

Think about it: the entire thrust of the GOP argument is that Obamacare was a government takeover of the healthcare system; socialized medicine incarnate. The truth was anything but that. Though flawed, the law requires people who do not get their insurance through their employers to purchase insurance from private providers. If they cannot afford that insurance, they can either qualify for subsidies on exchanges or face a fine for non-compliance.

The winners are people on fixed incomes who have historically been priced out of the insurance market and were therefore relegated to hospital emergency rooms and overcrowded clinics for their healthcare; lower income people who now qualify for the Medicaid expansion provision in the law; and people who had pre-existing conditions that barred them from coverage or had policies with lifetime caps for the treatment of illnesses. The losers are small business owners and people who purchase their insurance on their own. Both saw their rates skyrocket since the law was enacted.

The biggest problem the ACA faces at the moment is stabilizing the exchanges, which everyone agrees are in jeopardy of collapsing altogether. Many insurers are pulling out of markets, leaving people with only one choice for health insurance. The reason for this is because the GOP blocked the funding that was going to insurance providers to compensate them for having to cover people with pre-existing conditions and debilitating diseases. That forced those providers to hike their rates to recover their losses. Simply restoring this funding would go a long way towards stabilizing these exchanges and incentivizing providers to go back into markets they had fled only a couple of years ago.

As for the rest of the problems the law has, a bipartisan approach, like the one Democrat Patty Murray and Republican Lamar Alexander were working on, could've begun to address them and deliver on the promise of affordable healthcare for all. But that effort was put on hold to allow yet another GOP hair-brained scheme to repeal the law; this one coming courtesy of Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham. John McCain's decision to vote no on the bill, along with Susan Collins and Rand Paul, who when he watches The Grinch Who Stole Christmas roots for the Grinch, means that this attempt, like the others, will likely fail.

But this failure will not deter the GOP. When you spend the better part of a decade demonizing the signature legislative achievement of your political rival, you've kinda boxed yourself into a corner. In essence, Republicans made a pledge to their base - a pledge that deep down they knew they couldn't fulfill - and now that base is holding them accountable for it.

But here's the thing: that pledge was based on a huge lie. As I started to write above, not only wasn't the Affordable Care Act a socialized takeover of the insurance industry, it was straight out of the conservative playbook, at least according to The Heritage Foundation, which in 1989 wrote a paper on what a healthcare law should look like. That paper became the boiler plate for two landmark pieces of legislation: one in Massachusetts, dubbed Romneycare after Republican governor Mitt Romney, who signed it into law in 2006, and the Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare after Democratic president Barack Obama, who did likewise in 2010.

Both men sought a middle-ground solution to growing healthcare costs that ostensibly kept the private insurance market intact, while mandating that everyone purchase health insurance. The thought was that if everyone bought in, overall rates would go down or at least the rate of increase would slow a bit. It turned out to be the latter, though that slow down only applied to some. Others, as I mentioned before, saw their rates go through the roof.

How and why that happened should concern members of Congress at the moment, not spinning phony propaganda about a law that, had it been proposed by a Republican president, would've been enshrined in the annals of great legislative accomplishments. For those not familiar with the Heritage paper, I encourage you to read it for yourself. While there are some differences between the proposal laid out in the Heritage paper and the ACA, both have enough in common to conclude that far from being a revolutionary hellbent on the destruction of the free enterprise system, Obama was, as his progressive critics have been saying for years, a centrist president who when push came to shove tended to lean more to the right than his Democratic predecessors did.

And yet to listen to most Republicans, Obama was the second coming of Mao Tse Tung. It's sad how far to the right the GOP has drifted over the last twenty-five years. I remember a time when the Grand Old Party had enough room in its ranks for people like Bob Dole and Jacob Javits. Now anyone to the left of Ted Cruz is considered a traitor. I seriously doubt if even Ronald Reagan would be welcomed in today's Republican Party.

And that's why, for all their bombast, Republicans still can't repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. It's not for lack of trying; it's that every time they come up with a plan, it's so far off the reservation that even governors from Red states end up rejecting it. They all agree they want a healthcare plan that gives people access to affordable insurance; they all agree - or at least most of them do - that those who can't afford to buy insurance, should be given some assistance, be it through tax credits or subsidies; they all agree that the poor or indigent should not have to rely on hospital emergency rooms as a last resort. What they can't wrap their heads around is that they already have a law in place that provides for that, and that law is the by-product of conservative ideals that are decades old.

The Affordable Care Act is not a progressive law, as evidenced by the fact that progressives dislike it almost as much as conservatives. Barack Obama knew that when it passed in 2010. His hope was that the GOP would be reasonable and work with him to improve it. In retrospect, his hope proved to be in vain. And now that he is gone, that same GOP, which had fought so long and hard to undo it, is stuck with it, warts and all.

There is ultimately only one thing they can do if they want to extricate themselves from this nightmare: work with their Democratic counterparts to fix the ACA's flaws. But to do that, they will have to admit to their constituents that they lied to them. Obamacare isn't socialized medicine after all; in fact, it's as conservative as apple pie and Chevrolet. And with a little help from both sides of the political aisle, it could become not only a serviceable law, but one which brings genuine relief to millions without being an undo burden on others.

And that's a goal worth fighting for.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Difference Between A Pipe Dream and A Strategy


Throughout the entire 2016 campaign I was very rough on Bernie Sanders, and with good reason. I thought many of his proposals, while laudable and perhaps even morally right, were completely impractical and politically unworkable. From Medicare for all to free college tuition, I never saw any path forward for any of them to see the light of day. The base may have loved his proposals, but love doesn't produce legislation, much less laws.

So it wasn't all that much of a shock that Sanders has once again dipped his big toe into the healthcare debate by introducing a single-payer bill that, not surprisingly, has the support of only one senator - Sherrod Brown of Ohio - from a swing state. The other 15 senators who stood up on that podium with him, from Kirtsen Gillibarnd to Kamala Harris, are about as safe as a new-born baby in her mother's arms.

This stunt - and it is a stunt - is eerily reminiscent of Republican attempts at repealing the Affordable Care Act during the Obama years. The GOP knew full well that so long as Barack Obama was in the White House he would veto any repeal bill that reached his desk, so they were basically free to shoot for the moon as it were. The nuttier and crueler the bill, the more the base lapped it up. But when Trump won the 2016 election, Republicans had a real problem on their hands. They had to actually govern. Repeal and replace wasn't just a rallying cry anymore; it was a sobering moment in which they found out that the majority of the country really didn't support their vision for healthcare.

Now before I go any further, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not conflating what the GOP tried to do for eight years with what Bernie is attempting to do now. What Republicans are proposing is not only morally reprehensible, it's fiscally irresponsible. If any of their hair-brained schemes had become law this year, healthcare costs for a majority of Americans would've gone through the roof. Even if you don't give a shit about the working poor - and there's little evidence that Republicans do - sending insurance markets into that kind of chaos just to make a political point is about as dumb as it gets.

No, what Bernie and his supporters are proposing is not cruel and irresponsible: it's simply a pipe dream, pure and simple. And this is where the parallels exist. Neither the GOP bills to repeal the ACA or Bernie's single-payer bill have an ice-cube's chance in hell of becoming law. And furthermore, both sides know it. Oh, you'll never get them to admit it, but what we are really seeing play out in Washington is a tug of war between the respective bases.

We know what the Right has wanted for years. Indeed, we have more than 50 examples by the Republican-controlled House attempting to mollify that constituency, to no avail. Why? Because, as it turns out, real policy is a lot more complicated than giving speeches at rallies. It involves a little bending and - dare I say it - compromise. And both are four-letter words in today's GOP.

So now it's the Left's turn to huff and puff and throw down the gauntlet. And what better champion to lead the way than the man who progressives still insist would've beaten Dr. Strangelove last November. Bernie Care is their opening salvo in an all-out offensive to remake and reshape the Democratic Party into their own image, and I have no doubt that, just like their Tea Party counterparts did in the 2010 midterms - they will make this issue a litmus test for all Democratic candidates in 2018. Their threat will be simple: support our positions or face a primary challenge.

But in the majority of states that Trump won that actually have Democratic senators running for reelection next year, things are a lot more complicated than that. If you're Joe Manchin or Claire McCaskill or Heidi Heitkamp or Jon Tester, it is a matter of flat out survival. All four of these Democrats, along with a few others, are in for the race of their political lives. At stake is the survival of the Democratic Party. At present, Republicans hold a 52 - 48 seat majority. It is quite conceivable that after next year's midterms that majority could increase by as much as five or six. Of course, it could also stay right where it is or perhaps even shrink a bit. Most political pundits, however, feel that it will be a good day for Democrats if things stay as they are after next November.

So, while Bernie was having his little shindig over in the Senate, at the White House, the two actual leaders of the Democratic Party were busy trying to secure a deal with President Shit-for-brains on DACA. There's no beating around the bush. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have now schooled Donald Trump twice in as many weeks. Last week it was raising the debt ceiling with no offsets or funding for his stupid wall; this week, a deal to rescue eight hundred thousand Dreamers from almost certain deportation next March, again with no funding for the wall.

This is how you make policy, not by pining to your base, but by going into the Lion's den without so much as a chair or a whip. We don't yet know all the details, as they are still fluid. But so far what we do know is this: Trump has apparently acquiesced to allowing the Dreamers to stay in the country in exchange for increased border security. What the hell that means is anyone's guess. But there doesn't appear to be any funding - at least not in this go around - for a border wall.

If Schumer and Pelosi manage to pull this one off, it will be the master stroke of genius for the ages, and for three reasons. One, it will give Democrats something they can actually run on in 2018: a political win. For all his lofty expectations, Sanders has never been a terribly accomplished senator when it comes to passing legislation. Virtually none of his bills have ever become law.

Secondly, this deal, if it goes through, will be yet another thorn in the side of Republican leadership. Any time you can get your bill passed and embarrass Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell in the process, it isn't just a good day; it's fucking Christmas in July.

But lastly, and perhaps most importantly, what this deal does is send the alt-right into a hissy fit. I have written at great length about the racist element that was critical to Trump's success last year, and while I'm still not prepared to say it was the ultimate deciding factor in the outcome, it would be naive to believe it played no role at all. As soon as word leaked out of a pending deal, they all lost their shit like never before. Ann Coulter tweeted, "At this point who doesn't want Trump impeached?" Breitbart referred to him as "Amnesty Don." And Steve (drug mule) King went so far as to say that Trump's base is "blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair."

All throughout the country Trump supporters are burning their Make America Great caps and denouncing Trump as a traitor. Sean Hannity, who if Trump ever stopped short would be wedged in his ass for a week, got his panties in a bunch. And even Rush Limbaugh is thinking about going back to Oxycontin. It all kinda brings a lump to your throat and a tear to your eye, doesn't it?

Seriously, though, we're getting ahead of ourselves. Who knows, maybe Trump gets a call from Steve Bannon and has second thoughts, or thoughts period. As I wrote in an earlier piece his attention span is measured in seconds. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if Trump did a one eighty. In fact, nothing this president has done since taking office has surprised me. Appalled, yes; surprised, no.

But that's not the point. What Schumer and Pelosi did was extraordinary, regardless of how it turns out. Both understand that simply opposing Trump won't work, anymore than opposing him in 2016 worked. They clearly have settled on a strategy that, if properly executed, could prove to be a winning formula for Democrats in purple and red states. After all, you don't get to pass legislation if you don't have the majority, a fact Bernie supporters seem unable to grasp.

Look, there's little doubt that Sanders tapped into something big in 2016. And I give him full props for sounding the alarm regrading the Rust Belt states. Perhaps if Democrats hadn't so arrogantly dismissed his warnings, things might've turned out a bit differently last November. But there's a big difference between a pipe dream and a strategy. For all his positive attributes, Bernie would never have struck that deal with Trump. It would've been beneath him.

And that's why his movement is so dangerous, not just to the Democratic Party but to the country as a whole. Their insistence on instituting a purity test for all their candidates is suicidal. Bill Maher was correct when he said the Left has to learn the difference between an "imperfect friend and a deadly enemy."

Over the last eight years we've seen what happens when one major political party is taken over by a group of extremists hell bent on sterilizing it of all imperfections. The last thing the country needs is for the remaining major political party to have the same thing done to it by another group of extremists. One hundred eighty degrees from wrong is still wrong.

Again, I'm not conflating the Left with the Right; it's clear there are substantive differences. But when both sides employ the same methods to achieve their objectives, what you are left with are two competing visions of America that are totally incompatible with each other.

The ends justifying the means, if I'm not mistaken, is how we got stuck with Trump.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mother Nature Has the Last Laugh


How fitting that on the 16th anniversary of 9/11, the state of Florida was just beginning to dig out from the worst environmental disaster to strike its shores in 25 years. Hurricane Irma swept trough the Keys before making landfall in Naples. The category 4 storm was so wide that the entire peninsula was subjected to hurricane-force winds.

On the east coast, every city from Miami to Charleston, South Carolina was inundated with a storm surge unlike any that has ever been seen. On the west coast, Marco Island was devastated, and in Tampa, owing to the tremendous counter-clockwise winds of Irma, the entire bay was sucked out into the Gulf of Mexico, only to return with a vengeance when the eye passed through. It was surreal to watch.

More than six million Floridians lost power; it might well be weeks before all of them get it back. The damage, particularly to the Keys, will likely cost tens of billions of dollars to repair. From the images we've seen, it will be months, if not years, before the state fully recovers.

Only two weeks earlier, another category 4 hurricane, Harvey, ravaged the state of Texas. The coastal city of Rockport was all but wiped off the map. Houston, the nation's fourth largest city, suffered apocalyptic flooding. Pictures of interstate highways with water up to the overhead signs looked like something out of a sci-fi movie. Congress has already approved $15 billion in relief aid, but it will take many times more that amount before Southeast Texas is made whole. Additionally, it should be noted that Harvey was responsible for Houston's third "500-year" flood in the last three years.

This is the first time in history that two category four hurricanes have made landfall in the U.S. in the same year, and keep in mind we still have three months left in the season. Had it not made contact with the northern coast of Cuba, Irma would most certainly have been the fourth category five hurricane to hit the U.S.; the other three being Andrew in 1992, Camille in 1969 and the infamous unnamed Labor Day hurricane of 1935 which killed over 400 people in the Keys. If you want to know what the fury of a category five hurricane can do, take a look at the pictures of St. Maarten and St. Thomas. Both islands were virtually destroyed.

It is poor science, indeed, to attribute a single weather event to global warming, but we are not talking about a single weather event here. We are talking about two extraordinary weather events within a month of each other that collectively have destroyed thousands of structures, displaced just as many homeowners and, when all is said and done, will end up costing taxpayers over $100 billion in damages. When climate science deniers talk about the costs of oppressive environmental regulations, consider this: that above figure is nothing compared to the price tag that awaits us in the decades to come.

This is no longer an issue that we can put off for another day or a future generation. It is upon us now. We are fast approaching a point of no return. As we speak, both the Antarctic and the Greenland ice sheets are melting. When they are gone, the oceans will rise, not inches, but feet. Low-lying cities like Miami, New Orleans, Chicago and New York will be under water, forcing millions of people to relocate inland. The environment as we know it will be permanently altered and more unpredictable; storms will grow in intensity; droughts will last longer; and forest fires will be far more frequent and considerably more difficult to contain. The cost to the American taxpayer will be measured in the trillions, not billions, of dollars.

Republicans insist that talking about global warming in the aftermath of a major hurricane is akin to ambulance chasing. Yet talking about it before a hurricane apparently is alarmist. For them, there is never an appropriate time to talk about the single greatest threat to our way of life. Even with 98 percent of climate scientists in agreement that global warming is real and caused by man, they still insist the science is unsettled.

I submit it will never be settled for them. And that is the real tragedy here. Almost the entire Republican Party refuses to acknowledge a simple and basic fact: that we are slowly, but surely, cooking the planet and if we don't do something about it, our grandchildren will curse us.

If this is indeed about the economics of global warming rather than merely the science of it, then Harvey and Irma have presented us with the tab of a lifetime. And like the proverbial American Express card bill, we have no choice but to pay it. But we DO have a choice as to how much we pay going forward. Being penny wise and dollar foolish is not an effective strategy for dealing with this issue. It all but guarantees that we will bankrupt our economy and consign future generations to a world that will be increasingly inhospitable and largely uninhabitable.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Art of the Steal


It's a good thing Donald Trump doesn't play poker or he would've had five bankruptcies instead of four. Or is that seven bankruptcies instead of six? I lose track sometimes. At any rate, that hideous tower in midtown Manhattan that bares his name would would have Chuck Schumer's name on it instead.

That's because Chuck Schumer, with the assistance of Nancy Pelosi, not only outsmarted the guy who wrote "The Art of the Deal," he also managed to get him to screw over his own party leaders in the process. To paraphrase Robin, "Holy betrayal, Batman!" The Washington Post said it best: Trump got "suckered." What I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan's office. Talk about a turn of events.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't for a moment believe that this deal is a harbinger of better things to come. Even if Trump were rational, it would be a stretch to see this as anything other than what it is: a one-off. But it's a one-off both Schumer and Pelosi had to take, and take it they did. And who knows, maybe it does lead to bigger fish.

Consider what just went down: Trump signed off on $15 billion in Harvey relief aid without a single dollar in offsets, which many Republicans were insisting on; he agreed to both a debt-ceiling increase AND a continuing budget resolution without any funding for his ridiculous wall; and, because this debt-ceiling deal lasts only 90 days, Trump will have no alternative but to come back to the table and negotiate with Democrats again. Can you say DACA, boys and girls? I knew you could.

And the pièce de ré·sis·tance of this whole deal came the following day when Trump called Pelosi to say how pleased he was with all the good press he was getting. That was when Pelosi told him to tweet that the Dreamers had nothing to worry about. Yes, Pelosi actually told Trump to do something and, yes, he actually did it. I damn near wet myself when I read about it. Cesar Millan doesn't have that kind of success with dogs.

Frankly, I'm fucking impressed. I didn't think Schumer and Pelosi had it in them to pull something like this off. But then I have to remember they were dealing with a man whose attention span is measured in seconds, and who has an ego the size of Texas. Based on the picture we saw of Schumer and Trump in the Oval Office, I'll bet my bottom dollar the former was in schmooze overdrive and the latter was eating it up like a love-starved puppy.

And just in case you were wondering why Schumer and Pelosi would agree to any deal with this president, there's a very good reason. Forget the debt-ceiling increase for a moment. I'll grant you that sooner or later, even the GOP would've come to their senses and realized that now that they have the reins of power, playing chicken with the nation's debt was suicidal. Inevitably they would've caved and increased it. And I'll even grant you that the Harvey relief aid would've passed, especially since the state that was devastated just happens to be the largest GOP stronghold in the country. You don't mess with Texas if you're a Republican. Period.

But here's why this deal was so huge: it pissed off the Republicans big time; in fact it was nothing short of total humiliation. What Trump did to McConnell and Ryan in front of the entire country was about as stupid a stunt as he has ever pulled, and that's saying something. With Robert Mueller breathing down his neck and three Congressional committees investigating the "Rusher" thing, the only person standing between him and a possible conviction in the Senate is, you guessed it, ole Turtle face. And Trump, by throwing down with the Dems, just told him to go fuck himself.

Do not think for even a moment that McConnell is going to forget what happened. Ryan might, but McConnell has been in Washington long enough to know where the bodies are buried. And you can take this much to the bank: he will get even. Like Michael Corelone with his brother Fredo, McConnell will bide his time and when the opportunity presents itself he will strike.

For instance, let's say Mueller sometime next Spring - perhaps sooner - starts handing down indictments of Trump officials and then recommends to Congress that there is sufficient evidence to warrant an impeachment trial of Trump himself. Maybe Ryan can delay things in the House, but what if he can't. What if by that time, the GOP decides to cut its losses. The House votes to impeach and it proceeds to the Senate, where 67 votes will be needed to boot Trump from office. You seriously think McConnell is going to stick his neck out to protect the man who screwed him, especially with Mike Pence warming up in the bullpen? The Russians are right: revenge is a dish best served cold.

It's obvious what Schumer is doing here, and McConnell knows it, even if shit-for-brains doesn't. He's capitalizing on a growing rift between the Administration and the GOP; he's also making it more and more difficult for both Ryan and McConnell to get their agenda passed. Tax reform? You can toss that into the same scrap heap with Obamacare repeal. Both are ostensibly DOA.

Look for Schumer to dangle some treats in front of Trump's nose, like maybe a couple of billion dollars for more border patrol agents in exchange for DACA. Then maybe a middle-class tax package, with a slightly less ambitious corporate tax rate reduction than the one Republicans initially wanted, and a promise to back him on his infrastructure plan. Even Bernie might be on board with that.

And while Congressional Republicans seethe over the Turncoat in Chief in the White House, Schumer, Pelosi, et al, can finally run on something positive in the 2018 midterms besides their hatred for this president. That's called leading with your head instead of your chin, which is something Democrats have had great difficulty understanding for quite some time.

Voters want action, not rhetoric. Trump may be the most polarizing figure in American politics, but Democrats are not going to beat him by simply calling him names or staying on the sidelines. To win they must become a relevant force in Washington. Chuck Schumer understands this.

And if his party has any sense left at all, they will follow his lead.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Bruce Bartlett Is Right


Never let it be said that Bruce Bartlett leaves anything in the bullpen. When it comes to speaking his mind, the word ambiguity is NOT in his vocabulary. Monday afternoon, Bartlett posted the following on Facebook:
"There is no longer any doubt--ALL (100%) of Trump supporters are racists. If you don't like it, fuck you."
A couple of hours later he elaborated further by posting this:
"If I had said that all members of the KKK are racists, no one would doubt that I am right. The KKK has a long history of racism and no one would believe a person who joined in ignorance of that fact. Same with Trump. His personal record of racism is long, dating back at least to when he was sued for not renting apartments to blacks in the 1970s, to his demand that the Central Park 5 be executed without a trial (they were later found innocent), to his disgusting denial of Obama's citizenship. His xenophobia borders on racism as does his his Islamophobia. Trump has an irrational hatred of everything Obama did that I believe is motivated by racism. EVERY major racist and racist group in America supports Trump unequivocally and he has never renounced it. Therefore, it is a simple matter of logic that ANYONE who supports this asshole is a racist. I rest my case."
He then clarified his comments by posting this:
"I did not say all Trump VOTERS are racists, nor did I even imply that all Republicans are racists. What I said is that all Trump SUPPORTERS are racists. That means the people who support Trump now, today, after all his horrible racist statements and actions. Those people are racists."
So, in the spirit of being unambiguous, let me just state that the only thing I would've changed in Bartlett's original post would be to add the word core in front of supporters. Because I do believe it is important to separate those people who would - to use Trump's own words - stick by him even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue from the people who support some of the things he's doing, like tax reform and appointing conservative judges to the bench. There will, I suppose, be those people who, regardless of the nominee, will vote strictly along party lines. I don't think it's fair to include them in this group.

But, apart from that, yeah Bartlett nailed it, especially his second post, which I think underscores the real tragedy here. Trump's election wasn't merely an indictment of the political institutions of this country; it was an indictment of the electorate, or at least a good chunk of it. Seven months into his administration and Trump is polling in the mid-30s. That it has not sunk any lower can mean only one thing: these are the people who are his core supporters; the very ones Bartlett was referring to.

It is nothing less than a national embarrassment to come to the realization that roughly one third of the country is comprised of racists, xenophobes, sexists, homophobes, you name it. In fact, it breaks my heart just typing out the words. While Trump did not invent any of these vices - sadly, they've been a part of the American psyche since the founding - he nonetheless amplified them in a way no politician has dared do. And he gave voice to the most depraved elements in our society in a way not seen since the Reconstruction Era.

Now before I go any further, I'm going to reiterate what Bartlett said in his third posting by differentiating between Trump's voters and his supporters. You can be a Trump voter without necessarily being a Trump supporter, but not vice versa. The distinction is not subtle. Let me explain.

Last November, Trump received about 46 percent of the popular vote. Assuming that 35 percent core was included, that meant that the remaining 11 percent he received consisted mainly of independents, blue-collar Democrats (many of them in the Rest-Belt states), and loyal (R) Republicans. That 11 percent, especially in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, gave him the White House, but that 35 percent was the reason he didn't suffer a Walter Mondale-type defeat. Even before the polls closed, Trump had approximately 40 percent of the electoral college sewn up.

Now you know why Bartlett was fuming and why what he said had to be said. For months now, the media has been dancing around this, desperately trying to pretend that what we're witnessing isn't really happening. Watching the cable news shows these days is like watching a really dysfunctional family who can't come to grips with the fact that daddy is an alcoholic who beats his wife. Yes, they've been all over the Mueller investigation, but that's only because of the leaks that have been oozing out of this administration. They simply can't or won't bring themselves to admit what deep down they know is true: that we have a racist in the White House and his core supporters are at least partly responsible for putting him there.

Think about it. This is a man who has no moral compass to speak of; who goes wherever the winds take him. Yet, since assuming office, he has bent over backwards to appease his base. Why? From his Muslim ban to his repeal of DACA, everything he has done has fit a pattern that would make any racist blush with pride. Did you see Jeff Sessions' face during his press conference announcing the repeal? The last time Sessions looked that happy he was probably getting laid. Eight hundred thousand people are six months away from being deported and our "esteemed" attorney general was about as giddy as the Grinch who stole Christmas. I'll bet the ranch that down in Louisiana, David Duke was cuming in his pants.

I don't know what's going to happen to Bartlett. Knowing how squeamish the press is, it wouldn't surprise me if he gets canned from The New York Times or The Fiscal Times or both. But a more appropriate response, not just from the aforementioned publications, but from the press and media in general, would be to finally wake up, grow a spine and call a spade a spade.

Journalists do violence to their profession when they attempt to soft-pedal issues which demand complete earnestness. Bruce Bartlett knew the truth and had the courage to speak it. If all that ends up happening is that he becomes a sacrificial lamb, the Fourth Estate will have a lot more than just his reputation to answer for.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Why the Alt-Left Isn't the Answer To the Alt-Right


Normally I don't follow the entertainment world much, apart from deciding which movie I want to see or album I want to download. For one thing, I truly don't care what any of them have to say. It's nice that George Clooney thinks that Darfur is an atrocity - and, for the record, it is - but his intervention notwithstanding, not much is likely to change there unless a concerted effort by other nations is put forth.

Secondly, in case you haven't noticed, Hollywood isn't real popular with a majority of people these days. There's a justifiable resentment that those in the industry, for better or worse, live in a bubble where they can afford to poke their heads out and cherry pick the causes they believe in. Susan Sarandon's views on the 2016 election underscore just how completely detached many of these people are. In an interview on MSNBC, she told Chris Hayes that she thought a Trump presidency might be better for the country because he "will bring the revolution immediately, if he gets in. Then things will really, you know, explode."

Real people's lives have been profoundly impacted by this man since he was elected and the fate of the Republic is hanging in the balance, but, by all means, let's sit back and wait for an explosion so we can usher in Sarandon's revolution, like it's some fucking soap opera or TV drama series. Maybe HBO can call it Game of Schlongs. I swear you can't smack the shit out of these people enough for my tastes.

But on this particular occasion, I decided to read a piece in the Entertainment section of The Huffington Post, and all I can say is my blood began to boil. It was about the flack that Jessica Chastain has been getting over the comments she made on Twitter concerning the Charlottesville attack. Chastain was trying to make what I think is a valid point that responding to hatred with violence is not the solution. Well, apparently, that didn't go over very well with a number of people, and they made their feelings quite clear.

Here is one exchange that occurred between Chastain and a certain follower:

Chastain: Returning violence for violence multiplies violence. I'm here for changing the world through peaceful protests, calling my reps, and VOTING

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Yavin: If we're gonna go with MLK, Jr. 

I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."

Chastain: If the color of my skin is going to cause you to generalize, perhaps you shd look back over whether or not I've been silent to injustice.

Yavin:  I am merely saying that telling people who the "alt-right" want to kill not to fight back is not helpful. If someone wants to kill me debating them isn't going to help. Calling my reps isn't going to help me in that moment. Please listen to people without your privileges.

Chastain: Nonviolent protest has NOTHING to do with self defense.

There were a few others who chimed in on the thread, some positive, most negative. I encourage you to read them when you get the chance. The point is that a perfectly legitimate argument about the counter protesters in Charlottesville was dismissed by many because it didn't fit a certain narrative that they were looking to advance.

Take this Yavin clown, for instance. First he completely misinterprets one of Martin Luther King, Jr's most famous writings, and then compounds his ignorance by suggesting that Chastain's privilege somehow disqualifies her from being able have an informed opinion about the issue of racism and how to combat it. That is the height of arrogance.

Any thinking person, regardless of race or social status, knows full well that King detested violence of any sort. His entire life was devoted to peaceful resistance to bigotry. When he wrote about the disappointment he felt towards white moderates, he was referring to people who would not take a stand against injustice, but instead preferred what King called a "negative peace" over a "positive peace." 

To put it another way, what King is really saying is that many whites who were sympathetic to what he was fighting for didn't want to roll up their sleeves and march with him. They were the consummate arm-chair quarterbacks, completely justified in passing judgment, all while having no skin in the game. 

Nowhere in this writing, or any of his others, does King call for armed resistance to his oppressors. Like Paul before him, his imprisonment was its own form of justification. "My grace is sufficient for you," it is written in Second Corinthians, "for my power is made perfect in weakness." King's admonishment to white moderates was a warning to all of us that standing on the sidelines is not acceptable. As it is written in James, "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds."

My point is that Chastain has nothing to apologize for. The subsequent tearful video she released on Twitter was totally unnecessary. She was right, even if the majority of people didn't agree with her. The alternative to the alt-right, isn't an alt-left. Mind you, I'm not inferring that we should accept that there is a false equivalence here. There is a huge difference between white supremacists and those who oppose them. But one can oppose racists without employing their tactics and methods. 

Just look at what happened in Boston as a prime example. A large group of counter-protesters showed up and peacefully spoke out against the bigotry of the alt-right protesters. Not one punch was throw, or shot fired, and the entire world got to see first hand the correct way of confronting hatred. They honored the memory MLK and, by their actions, set an example for how all of us should respond.

If history has taught us anything, it's that the forces of evil will never relent. Even now, far-right conservatives are attempting to reframe this "debate" by saying it's just about statues. We cannot take the bait. It is much more than mere statues. It is about what those statues represent to a certain segment of the population, and we must never let anyone forget that.

But attempting to silence those we vehemently disagree with is not the answer. We will not be successful if we lose the moral high ground. Violent counter protests, be they in Charlottesville, Virginia or Berkeley, California, will only serve to make the ridiculous "both sides" claim offered by Donald Trump seem that much more palatable to some. As Jelani Cobb wrote in The New Yorker:
Trump exudes a malign charisma, and witnessing its appeal and the license that it grants him has been destabilizing for a wide swath of the left. Some of Trump’s opponents have said that they are waiting for a Reichstag fire—a false crisis that will be used to justify the Administration’s worst instincts. We have not yet encountered such a moment, but the clear dictate of common sense is that no one should be in the business of providing this President with matches.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Robert Mueller's August Surprise


In a stunning development, investigators for Special Counsel Robert Mueller have joined forces with those of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in the Paul Manafort probe. The announcement comes just days after Donald Trump's pardoning of former sheriff Joe Arpaio, and, unless you believe in coincidences, the intent could not be clearer: state convictions, unlike federal ones, are not subject to presidential pardons.

It's well known that Schneiderman has been investigating Manafort's real estate holdings for some time, and the joint effort with Mueller will give investigators on both teams that much more leverage to flip the former Trump campaign manager. And once they have Manafort, the dominos will start to fall.

There is, of course, another, even better, reason for Mueller and Schneiderman to join forces: to delver a message loud and clear to Trump himself. Anybody he pardons will not only be subject to criminal prosecution at the state level, but will lose the ability to plead the Fifth Amendment, meaning they will have to tell the truth under oath. He can pardon the universe if he wants, but he cannot prevent the truth from coming out.

You have to wonder whether Mueller would've resorted to such drastic measures had Trump not issued the Arpaio pardon. You also have to wonder whether this joint venture was made to ensure that in the event he was fired by Trump, Mueller's findings would wind up in friendlier hands. My guess is we'll never know.

What we do know is this: Schneiderman is no fan of this president. Remember it was his lawsuit that forced Trump to shell out 25 million dollars as part of a settlement for his scam university. Now with Mueller's investigators at his disposal, there's no telling what he might uncover; and, just to reiterate: there isn't a damn thing Trump can do to stop him.

As if that news wasn't good enough, both The Hill and The Daily Beast are reporting that Mueller is now working with the IRS's Criminal Investigations unit. This means that Mueller almost certainly has Trump's tax returns and has strong reason to believe that there's something rotten in Denmark.

According to retired IRS agent Martin Sheil, "The FBI’s expertise is spread out over so many statutes—and particularly since 9/11, where they really focused on counterintelligence and counter-terror—that they simply don’t have the financial investigative expertise that the CI agents have. When CI brings a case to a U.S. Attorney, it is done. It’s wrapped up with a ribbon and a bow. It’s just comprehensive."

A ribbon and a bow, heh? Gee, that would be a nice present to give a weary and torn nation, and just in time for the holidays; or, for all you evangelicals who sold your souls last November, if you prefer: Holy days.

Either works for me, ribbon or no ribbon.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Incendiary


The Huffington Post's headline read, "American Psycho." It was, by far, the most accurate take on what happened in Phoenix, Arizona last night. But what we witnessed was a lot more than just a psychotic rant; it was nothing short of a complete meltdown. A sitting president stood up, not just in front of his frenzied base, but before an entire nation and proceeded to dissolve in front of our very eyes. If there were any doubts about the stability of this man before last night, they have all been removed.

Just when you thought he couldn't sink any lower than his depraved response to what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, this president shamelessly one-up'd himself. So much for John Kelly's influence, or Steve Bannon's departure, for that matter. Captain Queeg was a one-man wrecking crew on that stage.

Consider that in just 77 minutes he managed to savagely attack both Republican senators from Arizona, as well as the majority leader of the Senate; he continued his assault on the media - his favorite target, it seems - even going so far as to falsely claim that they were pulling the live stream of his speech; he doubled down on his comments on Charlottesville, conveniently omitting the infamous "many sides" part; he practically French-kissed Fox News's Sean Hannity and Fox and Friends; he teased the crowd that he will pardon Joe Arpaio, though he added he wouldn't do it now because it would be too "controversial;" threatened to shut down the government if he didn't get the funding for his wall; and, lastly, I swear I'm not making this up, he bragged that his apartment was "bigger and more beautiful" than the ones the fake journalists who were covering him were living in.

You not only couldn't make this shit up, you wouldn't even try. No rational person could concoct a scenario in which the President of the United States was so unhinged that even a satirist would insist you were putting him on. Seriously, when you read a story about Trump in The Onion and think to yourself, didn't I read this in The New York Times? it's time to pack your bags and head for the hills. We have now entered into a new dimension where satire and reality are one in the same, and a fractured country hangs in the balance.

And that is precisely what this man wants. Howard Fineman summed it up best when he wrote,
Donald Trump seems perfectly willing to destroy the country to maintain his own power. He is racing to undermine the federal political system — if not all American public life — before still-independent forces (for now, the federal courts, the press and Congress) undermine him.

The goal, as always with Trump, is to win amid the chaos he sows, to be the last man standing in rubble. And “winning” is rapidly being reduced to the raw, basic terms he prefers: brute survival. With a record-setting low approval rating, world crises everywhere and a special counsel on his tail, the main victory he can hope for is staying in office.

It’s not only an emotional imperative for Trump, it’s a deliberate ― and thus far successful ― strategy.
When you think about it, it all begins to make sense. Trump doesn't win the 2016 election without dividing the country. He incendiary rhetoric - as reprehensible as it was and still is - has a perverse logic behind it. And it was specifically targeted towards those groups that were the most susceptible to it: the disenfranchised, the bitter and the despondent. They were the ones who came to his rallies chanting "lock her up" and "build that wall." Trump played them like a violin and they carried him across the threshold.

Yes, some of the attendees at his rallies were racists or had racist tendencies, but not all of them. In fact, most were just people who were angry and without hope. Trump, with the skill of a surgeon, directed that anger outward instead of inward and gave them something they could hang their hats on. When no one else would listen to them, Trump gave them a platform and a cause.

And so he continues to pander to the same people who put him in the White House, knowing full well that he does not have the support of the majority of the electorate. He could care less. He got elected with only 46 percent of the popular vote, so why would he bother to concern himself with polls. He beat every Republican that took him on; he beat the ultimate establishment candidate in Hillary Clinton; and despite the whirlwind that continues to surround his administration, he's still the president.

He has no plans for governing. Indeed, governing was never part of his agenda. His sole aim is to divide and conquer the nation, first by undermining its institutions, then by taking them over one by one. We've already seen evidence of this at both the Justice and State Departments. His voter fraud commission is a blatant attempt to suppress Democratic turnout in 2020.

He is doing what all despots do: destroying the ability of the system to challenge him. It is as brilliant as it is sinister. And if he isn't stopped soon, either by Robert Mueller or by Senate Republicans, it will be too late to put out the fire.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Don't Be Distracted By Bannon's Firing


The news that Steve Bannon has been fired by Donald Trump is being heralded by pundits and the media as a major turning point for a White House that has been in a constant state of chaos since January 20. Bannon's alt-right influence, we're told, was a cancer on the presidency and was undermining what little chance Trump has of being an effective leader. With him out of the way, some semblance of order will be restored and the administration can get on with passing its agenda.

Forgive me while I choke on my bile, but I seem to recall the same sentiment being expressed when people like Mike Flynn, Sean Spicer and Anthony Scaramucci were shown the door. All three were distractions that had to go. The hiring of John Kelly as White House Chief of Staff, they say, all but sealed Bannon's fate. The theory goes that Kelly wanted him out so out he went.

Not to throw cold water on the pundits and the media, but what's the big deal here? Yes, Bannon was a cancer on the presidency, but no more or less than some of the other characters in Trump's cabinet. Let's not forget that, as of now, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka are still gainfully employed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. They might not have the resume of a Steve Bannon, but they are every bit as loathsome.

Miller, you'll recall, was the runt who went on all the cable news shows and said that Trump's decisions would not be challenged, even after the Muslim ban was stayed by a federal district court. And Gorka has been doing his best impersonation of Dr. Strangelove over the whole North Korean crisis. If both these men had their way, everyone who disagreed with Trump's policies would either be locked up or dead from nuclear fallout.

It's also important to remember that while it's true that Bannon played a role in helping Trump get elected, by no means was it a major one. Let's not forget that long before Bannon joined the campaign, Trump was spewing his hateful rhetoric all over the electorate. The "Mexicans are rapists" slur came almost a year before he was hired. His departure hardly means that Trump will turn into Mahatma Gandhi.

No, Bannon's real contribution was not what he brought directly to the campaign, but rather what his presence meant to the alt-right movement. With Bannon on board, they knew they had a sympathetic ear should Trump get elected, so they turned out in record numbers to see to it that he won.

But like most relationships born in hell, there can only be one Lucifer. And with Trump's super-sized ego, that meant Bannon's days were numbered. The real question isn't how the administration will act now that Mini-Me is gone - really, we're talking about this White House, remember? - but rather what will Bannon do now that he's back at Breitbart. Trump's ego may be the size of the Grand Canyon, but people like Bannon have had a hard on for the establishment their whole adult lives. If Trump thought he was getting rid of a headache by jettisoning Bannon, I've got some bad news for him. He's about to get a "bigly" migraine. I can just see it now: Trump getting attacked by the left, the center and the alt-right. Ain't life grand? I mean, what's a megalomaniac to do these days?

Meanwhile, the white nationalists, or supremacists, or whatever the fuck you want to call these scum bags continue to hold their "freedom" rallies. The latest one was in Boston. Thankfully, the usual number of stormtroopers that showed up this time was down significantly from the number that showed up in Charlottesville last week and the number of people who showed up as counter protestors this time was significantly greater. I'm guessing the white pussies called it a day when they saw how badly they were outnumbered.

Which I guess is proof positive love "trumps" hate after all. Boy, Bannon really has his work cut out for him.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Letter To Christians Who Voted for Trump


Look, I understand why frustrated blue-collar workers in the Rust-Belt states voted for Trump. When you've been screwed over by both major political parties as much as they have, you tend to do irrational things like vote for someone who has about as much in common with you as you would with a sheep dog.

And I certainly get why racists voted for him. His shameful response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia is only the latest in a long line of examples of this president's pandering to the most vile and depraved elements in our society that began with him referring to Mexicans as rapists. When David Duke is praising you, you haven't just lost the moral high ground, you've thoroughly disgraced the office.

And to a certain extent, I even get the whole "let's blow everything up and see what happens" mindset that drove many voters to pull the lever for Trump. No doubt many of them are beginning to discover that blowing things up can have unforeseen consequences. Maybe next time, they'll think twice before going down that rabbit hole. Or maybe they'll just stay home and pull another kind of lever. And yes, I meant that the way it sounded.

But what I really don't understand - and have never been able to wrap my head around - is how anyone who calls him or herself a Christian could seriously vote for Trump. Now, before I go any further, I want to distinguish between people like Ralph Reed, Pat Robinson and their ilk and the millions of Christians who go to church every Sunday and profess their devotion to Christ. If your primary source of income is peddling your faith for political gain, you're not a Christian, you're a whore.

Look, I know some of you. And trust me, I get it. You're conservatives - most of you that is - and you've voted Republican your entire lives. From Reagan to Bush 43, you've faithfully gone to the mat for the GOP. And I think I know why, or at least I hope I do. You deplore the Roe v. Wade decision and have made it your life's mission to do whatever you can to try and get it reversed. And the best way to do that is through the Supreme Court; hence, the conservative voting record. Who knows, maybe if enough Democratic politicians hadn't so flippantly dismissed your concerns, we wouldn't be in the pickle we're in now. But that's a topic for a long overdue letter to the Democratic Party that I haven't as of yet written. Don't worry, I'll get around to them. I usually do.

But here's my question to all of you who pulled the lever for Trump. Was Neil Gorsuch really worth your soul? I'm quite serious here. Was he? Because if you really believe that you can rationalize the conduct of this president by saying, as Reed did on Bill Maher's Real Time show, that at least Trump kept his word on his Supreme Court pick, than I truly feel sorry for you. You have betrayed the very faith you swore to uphold. You are no better than Peter, who denied Jesus three times and just as bad as Judas, who sold him out for a few pieces of silver.

And please spare me with the typical "Hillary was the greater evil" bullshit. She was flawed, no doubt about it, and she ran one of the most inept campaigns in modern history, but she was nowhere near as deplorable as Trump, and deep down you know it. Apart from her stances on abortion and gay rights, she was about as mainstream as they come for a Democrat. That's why the Left never accepted her. She wasn't one of them, and they knew it. They loved Bernie; they despised her. How could you not see that?

Maybe you did, but you just didn't care. All you cared about was that damned Supreme Court pick. If only Antonin Scalia hadn't died, perhaps you might've voted differently. By all means, convince yourselves of that, if it allows you to sleep better at night, which it most assuredly should not. You don't get a mulligan on this one. Jesus may forgive you, but the country won't, nor should it. And so long as we're talking about abortion, answer me this: if this maniac starts World War III, how many millions of babies do you suppose will die needlessly, along with their parents? Your righteous indignation rings as hollow as one of Trump's foreign-made "Make America Great" caps.

As Christians, we are called to walk a different path from nonbelievers, and we are accountable for our actions when they reflect negatively upon the Church. Our savior does not say be kind to others, except when it is politically expedient not to. Indeed, we are commanded to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. You may fool yourselves, but you cannot fool God. He sees your heart. John Pavlovitz summed it up best:
You knew exactly who this man [Trump] was while you held your noses and covered your eyes and you endorsed him anyway. You are fully responsible for the flood of personal sewage now engulfing children and adults of color, those in the LGBTQ community, those in the Muslim community, members of the Jewish community.
You chose the guy whose entire resume is built on supremacy and privilege and bigotry, whose entire campaign was about manufacturing and leveraging fear of the other (the other in this case, being anyone not white, straight, and Christian).
Pavlovitz left out "male" in that last paragraph, though I suppose that's to be expected. Even within the more progressives strands of Christianity, there is a streak of chauvinism that is as old as the Church itself. For my part, the Access Hollywood tape was as offensive as anything Trump has said or done over the last two years. But apart from that omission, he nailed it.

I have butted heads with Christians from time to time over the years on a wide range of topics from healthcare to taxing the wealthy. And while I strongly disagreed with the notion that Jesus was, somehow, a pull yourself up by your own bootstraps kinda guy, I nevertheless shrugged my shoulders and moved on. No sense arguing with people who are convinced that somewhere in the Bible there's a verse that actually reads: "God helps those who help themselves." Spoiler alert, there isn't.

But I cannot and will not simply "shrug" my shoulders regarding this man and the people within my faith who helped put him in the White House. There are some axes you can't grind enough. I am both infuriated at and deeply embarrassed for anyone who calls the Christian faith their own who looked at this man and concluded he passes the smell test.

Let's leave the Supreme Court out of it for the moment. Tell me, what was it about him that led you to think he was a God-fearing man? Was it the way he arrogantly boasted that he didn't need to confess his sins because he hadn't made any mistakes? Or was it when he said his favorite Bible passage was Two Corinthians? Two Corinthians?! My God, the man opened up a Bible, saw a "2" next to the word Corinthians and didn't even know that you're suppose to say Second Corinthians. Anyone who's spent more than a couple of months going to church would know that. Apart from getting married three times, I doubt he's ever set foot in one.

Or perhaps it was when he made fun of a disabled reporter at one of his rallies and, at another rally, said he'd like to punch someone in the face. Yes, that's it. I mean, who can forget that uplifting passage in Matthew 8, when Jesus mocks the man with leprosy, then punches one of his disciples in the face for wasting his time with such trash. Or how about in John 6, when Jesus is told there isn't enough food for all the people who showed up to hear him speak and he turns to his disciples and says, "Next time you mopes stick me with a mob like this, I'll feed YOU to the fishes." But my favorite passage of all time has got to be the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says "Blessed am I for putting up with you losers." It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

In all seriousness, though, are you not appalled at what this man has done and the way he has comported himself since being sworn in? Have you no shame? How do you live with yourselves knowing you helped get him elected? And how hard do you have to bite down and swallow trying to minimize the impact of the damage he is doing to the very country you have been swearing is a Christian nation ever since you were saved?

I've heard the lame excuses some of who have come up with to defend your vote. Excuses like, "Aren't we all imperfect?", and "This is a fallen world and we are not of it", and this doozy, "God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise." Really now! Then why couldn't He have done the same with Hillary? She was certainly foolish, and in your own words, just as bad as Trump. Could she not have been an instrument through which His will could've been fulfilled?

Yes, but then Hillary wouldn't have nominated Gorsuch. And without Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, I guess God would be powerless, just like he was when Moses took it upon himself to murder an Egyptian guard and was exiled to the desert for forty years. Funny, but for people who supposedly believe in an omnipotent God who is the creator of the universe, it's astonishing how little faith you actually have in Him when it comes to its welfare. He might as well be the janitor at a high school for all the credit He gets.

Face it, you blew it. Deep down where you live, you know you made a deal with the devil and you just can't bring yourselves to admit it. You hear what comes out of Trump's mouth on TV and you spy the room to make sure your kids aren't there listening to it. I'll bet your paycheck - and mine too - that on more than one occasion you've had to take them aside and explain to them that this is not the way Christians are supposed to behave. And I'll bet their college tuition that you saw the look of bewilderment in their eyes and your heart sank into the pit of your stomach, because in that instant you were convicted. Even in your denial there is still that intuitive sense of right and wrong that comes directly from God and which can never be torn from us. It is both a gift and a curse.

Me? I'm fine with my decision. Last November, I voted for the candidate, warts and all, who was the best choice to lead this nation; the candidate who wasn't a misogynist, a racist, an anti-semite, a xenophobe, a demigod, who didn't have the temperament of a four-year old and who had the capacity to grasp the enormous weight and honor of the office she was running for. Policies aside, I have seen nothing over the last seven months that has made me regret that vote. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Would you? Seriously, with everything that has gone down since he was sworn in, would you still vote for him? If the answer is no, then say so, loud and clear. They say confession is good for the soul; this would be as good a time as any to put that theory to the test. You cannot undo what you have done, but you can certainly atone for it. Assuming Trump is not impeached, he will most assuredly run for reelection in 2020. You will get your chance at redemption then.

But if your answer is yes, you would vote for him again, I honestly don't know what I can say to you that I haven't already said. Your logic has all the recklessness of a drunk driver, who after learning he had just totaled his car, celebrated by going out and getting drunk again. Only the good Lord knows how you sleep nights. But know this: it will not be your conscious that will ultimately condemn you; it will be God himself.

The words of Jesus from chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew are quite clear and inviolable. They should serve as a warning to any and all Christians who think they can rationalize their way into the kingdom of Heaven.

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What Jennifer Rubin Still Doesn't Get About the 2016 Election


"Most Republicans in Congress would prefer a stable, very conservative president who once served in the House and governed a red state. All they have to do is get Trump out of there and the Pence presidency can begin. Well, sure, but how is that going to happen?"

Ever since last November, I've written at great length about the unwillingness of Democrats and liberals to accept the election results. Their fixation on a meaningless popular vote count and James Comey's October surprise, along with the typical finger-pointing that always accompanies such an epic defeat, is proof positive that the party still has no idea what really happened and, more to the point, is ill prepared to keep it from happening again in 2020.

Well, it's somewhat comforting that liberals and Democrats aren't the only ones who either haven't gotten the memo on the 2016 election, or if they did, have refused to read it. Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post, is a conservative writer whose recent piece "They Could Have Pence as President, for Heaven's Sake" underscores just how deep the denial is on both sides of the political spectrum.

Let me just say straight up that I admire Rubin's courage, along with that of her fellow cohorts David Frum, David Brooks, Michael Gleason, Ross Douthat, and a handful of others I have read over the course of the last several months since il Duce assumed the title of dictator in waiting. And I can only imagine what they must be going through knowing that someone as repulsive as Trump not only won their party's nomination but the presidency as well. The ghosts of Lincoln and Reagan must be spinning in their graves.

But you see, here's what Rubin, et al don't quite get about the 2016 election. The voters did NOT elect a Republican for president. Yes, I understand, there was an R next to Trump's name. I clearly saw it on the ballot when I went to vote that day. And, yes, I'm painfully aware that Republicans retained their majorities in both Houses of Congress and still control two thirds of the state legislatures in the country.

But here's the thing: despite the most inept campaign in modern history, Democrats still netted six House seats and two Senate seats. And then there's Clinton's popular vote margin - I swear the only time you'll ever hear me tout this as a positive - along with a several state ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage and legalize pot. It's not an unreasonable argument to make that without gerrymandering, Dems might well have taken back the House in 2012 and solidified their hold in 2016.

Anyone who could objectively look at the political landscape of this country and say that it is conservative just isn't paying attention. I'm not saying it's liberal, mind you. There are clearly parts of the country where Bernie Sanders' message not only wouldn't have resonated with voters, it would've been soundly defeated, and I'm not just talking about the deep South or Plain states.

What happened last November had virtually nothing to do with either the Democrats or the Republicans, nor was it about liberal vs. conservative ideology. Had Trump run as a Romulan he would've won the election. What we witnessed was, quite simply, a populist wave, very similar to the one that led to the Brexit vote in Great Britain. It was an uprising of the working class against the elitists in both parties. And Trump not only rode that wave, he was primarily responsible for its cresting.

To suggest, as Rubin does, that a President Mike Pence would somehow be the answer to all the Republican's woes is to imagine a set of facts that is at odds with reality. Yes, Pence is more stable than Trump, I'll give Rubin that. But then Charles Cheswick would be more stable than Trump. But the simple truth is that Pence, despite his conservative bonafides, is a slightly more charming version of Ted Cruz. Had he gone up against Clinton she would've routed him.

In fact, the only Republican candidate, apart from Trump, that had any chance of beating Clinton last November was Ohio governor John Kasich. Take away Trump's populism and Kasich's centrism - or what passes for centrism in the GOP these days - and Hillary wins going away. Indeed, the fact that polls still show Trump beating her even with all the scandals that have rocked his administration should tell you that this populist movement is hardly a passing fancy. Why else do you think Republicans haven't gotten rid of him? It's not Trump they fear; it's his base.

But I'm not the only one who thinks this idea of a post-Trump Pence presidency is a fairy tale. Ronald Klain, also of The Washington Post, points out that "in the 213 years since the 12th Amendment created our system of joint presidential-vice-presidential tickets, no vice president has been elected to the highest office after serving with a president who declined to seek, or was defeated in seeking, a second elected term. And as for coming to office via the president’s ouster, the only vice president to follow that path, Gerald Ford, lost when he campaigned to retain the office — and he had far less to do with President Richard M. Nixon’s scandals than Pence does with the mess around Trump."

Put succinctly, Pence's fate is tied to Trump's. If Trump goes down, so does Pence. Whether he is forced out via impeachment (the odds are less than 50/50), resigns (highly unlikely), or decides not to run in 2020 (a distinct possibility), the odds of Pence winning a general election against what will hopefully be a much stronger Democratic nominee is remote at best. Consider that since the end of World War II, only once has a sitting vice president won the White House. And Mike Pence is NO George H.W. Bush.

Maybe Congressional Republicans, along with a majority of conservatives, would prefer a President Mike Pence, as Rubin suggested, but that sentiment is most assuredly not shared by the majority of the voters. Trump's ascendancy is a sign that the political institutions of this country have failed to do the jobs they were tasked to do. This breakdown did not happen overnight; it was decades in the making.

Until both major political parties get that, come up with a strategy to fix what's broken in Washington and develop a message that will resonate with the electorate, Trump, or perhaps someone even worse, will remain in power.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Even David Duke Knows Who and What You Are, Mr. President


Let me be as blunt as I can here, Mr. President. You are a coward. There, I said it. I could've chosen any noun or adjective to describe you: ignorant, stupid, incompetent, childish, conman, opportunist, fraud, sexist, racist, they all apply, especially the last one. But coward suits you best.

You can run, sir, but you cannot hide. Your tweets give you away. They reveal your true heart. You are as transparent as a wooden nickel. You have all the moral courage of Judas Iscariot, except that at least Judas had the good taste to kill himself. You would never be so selfless.

At your rallies last year - and even at some this year - you encouraged the kind of attack that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday. Oh, maybe not in so many words, you're much too clever to do that. But the dog whistles you employed came through loud and clear.

In an interview on CNN last year you were asked to disavow David Duke and instead you replied that you didn't even know who he was. Really? You don't know who David Duke is? Well, Mr. President, he apparently knows who you are, and so do his supporters. They were the neo-Nazis and Klansmen who showed up and proudly proclaimed they were there to fulfill a promise you made to them during the campaign: that they would get their country back. They were there to collect, Mr. President.

Your response to the attack and the tragic murder of Heather Heyer and the dozen or more who were injured - some critically - at the hands of James Fields was depraved, even for you. First you had this to say from your golf club:

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides ― on many sides. It has been going on for a long time in our country -- not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America."

Then, after learning someone had been murdered, you tweeted this:

"Condolences to the family of the young woman killed today, and best regards to all of those injured, in Charlottesville, Virginia. So sad!"

Okay, two things: First off, best regards? Are you shitting me? Best regards? These people aren't contestants on one of your fucking reality TV shows. They were mowed down in cold blood by a white supremacist who took his cue from your hate-filled rhetoric. You might as well've paid for the gas in his car, you malevolent piece of trash.

Secondly, and most importantly, there aren't "many sides" here. There is only one side that is responsible for what happened, and what's more, you know it. That's why I'm calling you a coward. These scum bags didn't vote for Hillary Clinton, or Bernie, or Jill Stein or even Captain Video himself, Gary Johnson. They voted for you because you spoke their lingo. They see you as their one true deliverer; that's why they ventured out of the rabbit holes and caves they dwell in to pull the lever for you last November. You are their bitch. They know it and you know it. So stop pretending.

Jesus, man, your own wife responded before you did. What kind of president lets his first lady take the lead in such a moment? Maybe if the attack had occurred in Guam, you could've said something truly inspiring like, "I bet tourism goes through the roof as a result of this attack." Or maybe had it occurred on a golf course, we might've gotten a more empathetic response. After all, we all know you love to golf. Apart from tweeting demeaning and offensive comments, it's your favorite pastime. Of course, had the attacker been a Muslim, I'm sure you would've found the courage to condemn him. You did, after all, claim you saw thousands of them cheering and celebrating on 9/11.

You've attacked journalists, you've attacked world leaders - with the exception of Vladimir Putin [but then that's another story altogether, isn't it?], now you're going after Mitch McConnell, the one man in the Senate standing between you and a possible impeachment conviction. But when it comes to calling out white nationalists the best you can summon is this phony false equivalence bullshit.

Even Marco Rubio had the courage to call this what it was. Marco Rubio, for Christ's sake! The last time he took a stand on anything it was to put his name on an immigration bill, only to fold like a two-dollar bill once he caught flack for it from the Right. Time will tell if history repeats itself, but for now, he has you beat in the integrity department. Then again, most of humanity has you beat there.

You are a disgrace to the office and to this country. There is only one thing left for you to do, and it would be, by far, the bravest thing you've ever done quite possibly in your entire life: resign. But knowing you the way I think I do, I sincerely doubt it would ever come to pass. You're far too arrogant and vain to admit defeat. If you had been the captain of the Titanic you would've dragged everyone on board down with you. On second thought, you'd have saved your own sorry ass and left everyone else behind to drown.

But just in case you have a change of heart - assuming you have one - and some shred of decency manages to penetrate that skull of yours, you should be comforted in knowing that the following words would fit very nicely in a tweet:

I hereby resign the office of the presidency effective at noon tomorrow. 

Sincerely, Donald J. Trump.

I'll even send you a nice thank you along with a dozen roses to Ivanka.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid


As tensions continue to mount between the United States and North Korea, it is becoming increasingly apparent that a showdown is imminent. The only question that remains is who will throw the first punch? Based on the rhetoric that has come from Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, it's anybody's guess.

And now China has entered the picture - as if they were ever out of it in the first place - by announcing that if North Korea strikes first it will stay neutral, but if the U.S. or South Korea should launch a preemptive strike, it "will prevent them from doing so."

In case you were wondering what the word "prevent" means, google this: How many nukes does China have? The answer is approximately 260. Puny by international standards - for instance, the U.S. has about 4500 warheads - but considerably more than the 64 at Kim's disposal.

I have gone over ever possibly scenario in my head and none of them have ended well. It is clear that Kim is determined to provoke Trump by threatening to launch a missile towards Guam. At present, North Korea has the ability to strike the mainland of the U.S. with an ICBM. And as if that wasn't bad enough, they also appear to have the ability to attach a miniature warhead to an ICBM, meaning North Korea now has the capacity to start a nuclear war.

Trump, sadly, is taking Kim's bait and ratcheting it up several notches. From his resort at Berchtesgaden, President Shitenstein said the following: "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States, or they will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before."

He then followed that gem up with this tweet: "Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!"

And to calm the residents of Guam, he actually said this to its governor: "I have to tell you, you have become extremely famous all over the world. They are talking about Guam; and they’re talking about you. And when it comes to tourism, I can say this: You’re going to go up, like, tenfold with the expenditure of no money."

Right, because nothing attracts tourists more than the prospect of being able to glow in the dark.

OMFG!!!

Forget everything else: the EPA war on the environment; the gutting of every single regulation on the books; the pandering of the most racist elements in the country; the voter fraud commission whose real goal is to strike from the rolls potentially millions of eligible Democratic voters; the recent impaneled grand jury that is investigating Trump's associates and his business dealings. We are now at DEFCON 2. Next stop is DEFCON 1 and oblivion.

I'm not being hyperbolic here. If you are not afraid, you should be. In fact, you should be very afraid. We could be days, if not hours, away from nuclear war and the deaths of millions, if not billions, of people. The last time the world came this close to an all-out nuclear exchange was the Cuban-Missile Crisis of 1962. Back then, though, we had two responsible leaders in John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, both of whom knew that if either side pressed the button, both would perish. It was called MAD, mutually assured destruction.

Looking at the current clowns who preside over the U.S. and North Korea, the term MAD has a considerably different and quite literal meaning. The combined temperament of Kim and Trump wouldn't qualify for adolescent status. In fact, the only difference between the two is that Kim seems better informed about the situation than his counterpart, who treats daily briefings like they were dentist appointments.

And in case you were wondering what our defensive capability is, I have some bad news for you. If Kim launches, say, four ICBMs loaded with miniature warheads towards the U.S. mainland, we don't have the capacity to knock all of them down with any degree of certainty. The likelihood is that one or more will reach their targets. Yes, the U.S. will respond and North Korea will be wiped off the face of the Earth, but millions of Americans will die in the exchange. Los Angeles? San Francisco? Seattle? Portland? Who knows which or how many of these cities will be hit. Even the destruction of one of them would effectively cripple the U.S. economy as we know it. California, by itself, qualifies as the world's sixth largest economy. You don't replace that much GDP overnight.

If you're a deeply religious person, now would be a good time to get on your knees and pray to the God of your understanding that we make it through this. If you're a moderately religious person, pray as hard as you can for clearer heads to prevail. And even if you're a card-carrying member of the American Atheist Society, pray anyway. You can make up your own god if you like. Just do something, anything. Shitting your pants shouldn't be your only option, especially since I've already shit mine.

In my 56 years on this planet, I have never once gone to bed wondering if the world would still be there in the morning. The last few nights, though, I have done just that.

As a species, we have flirted with our own mortality several times and, by the grace of God, we have managed to survive. Funny thing about grace: it is NOT an entitlement.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Why Dems Should Take RAISE Act Seriously


Back in 2013, I had the honor of attending the graduation of my nephew from Texas A&M. I flew down to Houston the day before and rented a car to make the hour and a half trek towards College Station. Because all the hotels in town were booked, I was forced to find accommodations 10 miles to the south.

Traveling north on Route 6, I inadvertently exited too soon and found myself in a town that would've made Mayberry look like Midtown Manhattan. I pride myself on being an acute observer - something I developed during my retail days - and took notice of the cars in town. A couple of sedans, no minivans and a shitload of pickups - I lost count at about twenty. I didn't recall seeing a single "import." Mostly Fords and Chevys. There was one traffic light in the town, along with a stop sign, which I made damn certain to come to a complete stop at. No way in hell I was gonna end up in a jail cell in Texas.

I finally arrived at my destination; an inn that would've made Motel 6 look like Club Med. I remember the TV worked and the shower was functional, even if the bathroom door wouldn't close, and the next-door neighbors - I assumed they were living there - would occasionally get into, shall we say, a few "heated" arguments.

The image of that town is something I've never been quite able to shake from my memory, which is strange because in so many ways it is the town that most of the country never sees, unless, like me, they get lost on the way to their true destination. Rural America has thousands of towns just like the one I found myself in that afternoon: small, insular, and inconsequential. In the grand scheme of things, they matter about as much as a flea on a donkey's ass.

But while those of us in the cities and suburbs may have ignored their presence, in the rural parts of the country, where none of us dared to go, their dander was just starting to rise. Decades of being pissed on and made fun of by the "elites" can do funny things to people. The term flyover states refers to areas of the country that have either gone unnoticed or been taken for granted; places where going out to a Papa John's is a major event. To say they did not appreciated being looked down upon would be an understatement. You can cut the resentment in these towns with a machete, that's how thick it is and how deep it runs.

Most of us never saw the political tsunami of 2016 I suspect because most of us didn't want to. Like me, they had "better" things to do than pay attention to what we flippantly referred to as the armpit of America. They were hicks without hope, backwards and innocuous. They mattered as much to us as those industrial towns in places like Ohio and Michigan, where plants that once employed thousands of workers had been shut down for years, resulting in massive unemployment and a seething anger.

Well, a funny thing happened on November 8: those small hick towns in rural America joined forces with those industrial towns in the Rust-Belt states and gave the rest of us a giant middle finger. Almost as if on cue, they rose up and made their voices heard loud and clear. They were done being pissed on; now they would finally get the respect they deserved.

It's difficult for us to imagine, but for these people Donald Trump has become something of a folk hero. He was the candidate who told them the system was rigged and that they were being screwed, as if anyone there needed to be reminded. But Trump did more than just channel their rage; he told them he could help them. Politicians had promised them the moon before, only to fail miserably. But the difference between those past politicians and Trump was that Trump didn't just tell them he could fix things; he told them who was to blame for the mess: corrupt politicians and, of course, outsiders, e.g., illegal immigrants.

The former is an argument that, admittedly, has been used before, sometimes successfully. Every party paints the other as corrupt and responsible for the problems that beset the country. The last two wave elections - one Republican, the other Democrat - is proof that the electorate can often fall for this strategy. But Trump, despite running as a Republican, threw his own party under the bus as well as the Democrats. He was relentless in his assault of the entire political system; a variation on the old "a pox on both your houses" theme. And it worked brilliantly. To his supporters, he was not only authentic, but incorruptible. The GOP hated him, the Democrats hated him, therefore, he must be the real deal.

But it was his successful deployment of the latter that won him the White House. The constant blaming of foreigners who come to this country to steal jobs away from hard-working Americans. Whether the result of "terrible" trade deals or bad immigration policy, Trump pledged to end what he called the "carnage." America first, by extension, meant Americans only. Anyone who was considered an outsider had to leave. It was a form of nationalism and xenophobia on a scale never before seen in this country and, for Trump, it proved to be his meal ticket. From his "Mexicans are rapists" charge to his proposed ban of all Muslims entering the country, an astounding number of people bought in and voted for him on election day.

And despite the controversies that have ensnared his administration over the last six months, most of these voters have stuck with him. These are not people who read The New York Times or The Washington Post. Nor are they likely to watch CNN. Indeed, for many of them, Fox News is too mainstream. So when Trump says that the Russia scandal is fake news, they believe him, and no amount of evidence to the contrary is likely to persuade them otherwise. They aren't just supporters, they're disciples of a strange cult. And like all cults, the light of day never enters. Reason and reality are shunned for deception and lies. There is one simple rule: the leader speaks, the followers listen. In a rare moment of candor, Trump was correct when he said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any of his supporters. If that isn't the definition of a cult, I don't know what is.

But cults can only succeed where there is a breakdown in traditional institutions; be they religious or political. Trump saw an opportunity and cashed in. He knew that neither party had paid much attention to what was happening in both rural and industrial America. Republicans were fixated on maximizing corporate profits and expanding trade which led to the slashing of countless jobs at home and depressed salaries in the ones that remained. The result was that employees worked longer hours for less pay. Whole communities were torn apart and faced massive unemployment.

Democrats should have seized on the opportunity afforded them and used it as a rallying cry, but instead they too bedded down with Wall Street and became co-consiprators with Republicans. Both parties became obsessed with "soft" money and pandered to their respective bases. Republicans, the top 1 percent of wage earners; Democrats, the big cities and special interests, e.g., minorities. The once big tent party was all but estranged from two thirds of the country's geography.

If you don't believe me, that a good look at the election results from last November. Clinton won all the big cities: Boston, New York, Philly, D.C., Miami, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Denver, L.A., San Fran and Seattle. Trump won most of the rest. And he won by appealing to voters who felt left behind by this modern, culturally diverse, pluralistic economy. Many of them were blue-collar workers who longed for a return to the good old days when they were richly rewarded for their labor and everybody looked and sounded alike. They saw the influx of immigrants into the country as a threat, not just to their livelihoods, but to the neighborhoods they lived in and the very culture they grew up with. TV shows that catered to a demographic which no longer represented their values, along with once beloved radio stations that switched to more popular music formats, only served to reinforce their resentments.

So these people, egged on by Trump's rhetoric, in fear voted for a past that will never return, and against a future they cannot wrap their heads around. It wasn't just a case of revisionist history gone amuck, this was nothing less than a total rejection of the direction the country was heading in; a direction they view as inimical to their best interests.

The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment or RAISE Act that was recently introduced by GOP Senators Tom Cotton and David Purdue - and subsequently endorsed by Trump and the Far Right - would seek to cut in half the number of legal immigrants that can come into this country legally, and those immigrants that do gain legal status would have to pass a merit test to determine their worthiness. This isn't the first time the nation has attempted to place a litmus test on immigrants. Lyndon Johnson tried and failed in 1965.

Thankfully, this bill will suffer the same fate, and for one very important reason: its underlining premise is a fraud and everyone knows it. The bill claims that low-skilled immigrants take jobs away from hard-working Americans. There is no evidence that this is the case. In fact, just the opposite; many of these low-skilled immigrants end up taking jobs that would otherwise go unfilled. Ask any farmer in the South or the Midwest. The overwhelming majority of workers who tend to their crops come from Latin America. They can't get Americans to endure the back-breaking work that these jobs demand regardless of the pay rate. Hell, in my neck of the woods you can't even find enough of them to fill the vacancies at fast-food joints. The idea that immigrants are the reason Americans can't find enough low-paying jobs is laughable. Besides, the goal shouldn't be filling low-paying jobs; it should be creating more high-paying ones, and this bill doesn't do a damn thing to address that.

As for the provision in the bill requiring any and all immigrants to be fluent in English, had this been the law a century ago, the vast majority of immigrants from Italy, Germany, Poland and China would never have been allowed to settle here. Virtually none of them spoke English, fluent or otherwise. It wasn't until the second generation that the sons and daughters of these immigrants became fluent in English and began to make significant contributions to this country by becoming doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, plumbers, electricians, construction workers and, yes, even politicians.

I suspect that what's really going on here has more to do with where these immigrants are coming from rather than whether they can speak the language. Notice how the Cotton-Purdue bill failed to mention immigrants from, say, Slovenia. No sense telling the current occupant of the White House that his wife wouldn't "merit" being in the country. Not unless you think "My husband vould make very good president" constitutes fluent English. If that's the case, the guy who takes my order at Wendy's is a fucking Rhodes scholar.

But this is why I think Democrats should take this bill seriously: not because it will address any of the real problems that beset our economy, but because an awful lot of people who live in the states Trump won think it will. Let's be clear here: the RAISE Act will not lead to an increase in high-paying jobs, nor will it bring relief to employers looking to fill low-paying ones. All it does is pander to the fears that people have about their future prospects. When they see a Hispanic working at a fast-food restaurant, especially one who struggles with the English language, it just reinforces the belief that their jobs are being stolen from them by immigrants. It matters not that many of them wouldn't want those jobs anyway. All that matters is the image that worker saying, "Welcome to Burger King, may I take your order?"

Some lies are tough, if not impossible, to break. But the first rule shouldn't be to deny that there's a reason the lie exists. My fear is that Democrats will do what they typically do: dismiss this ridiculous excuse for a bill, and with it the very legitimate fears of the people it was designed to appease. In politics this is called throwing the baby out with the bathwater, something Democrats do exceedingly well.

The way to win back the people who voted for Trump is to find out what makes them tick. Take their concerns seriously and come up with real solutions that actually work. Sensible immigration policy should be more than just granting unfettered access to immigrants who want to be a part of this great experiment we call democracy; it's about reassuring those who were born here that you give a shit about their needs.

Think about it this way: if you adopted a child and brought them into a home where you already had one, and then treated that adopted child better, how long would it be before your older child felt neglected and became resentful? If you think that's an overly simplistic way of looking at the issue of immigration, I suggest that the next time you go out for a drive, you take a detour through a small town and take a good look around.

Who knows, maybe, like me, you might learn a thing or two.