Category Archives: Congress

Saturday Odds & Sods: I Should’ve Known

Dog Eat Dog by Joni Mitchell.

It was a helluva week with one of the most eventful Thursdays in recent memory. We all thought the “skinny repeal” atrocity would pass. While I’m glad that John McCain voted NO, the real stars of the vote were Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Team Trump has done many stupid things since coming to power but threatening Murkowski takes the cake. This is one tough woman. In 2010, she lost the Republican primary to a teabagger, ran as an independent, and won. Threatening her with an open political grave was futile, she’d already been declared politically dead and came back with a vengeance. Besides, the Murkowskis are a dynasty in Alaska with a collective 36 years in the Senate between Lisa and her father Frank. Take that Ryan Zinke. Z is for zero, zed, and Zinke.

On the local front, the big news was the surprising resignation of Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand. Normand is one of the most popular elected officials in the Gret Stet of Louisiana and a genuine maverick. I’ve both praised and blasted him over the years. You may recall that he was the guy David Vitter hired a gumshoe to spy on. Normand played an important role in defeating Vitter’s goober bid in 2015. On the down side, he was named malaka of the week for one of many bombastic press conferences he gave as Sheriff. He’s becoming the afternoon man at WWL talk radio. I suspect that the station’s money was what did the talking.

The reasons for selecting an Aimee Mann tune as the Saturday post theme song for a second time will be made clear after the break. Suffice it to say that it’s a great tune with a message that fits the post quite neatly. We like things tidy here at First Draft even if  my house is a cluttered mess. Neither Oscar nor Della will lift a paw to help clean. So it goes.

We begin with the 1993 promo video followed by a live version on the Beeb.

I’ve always loved the “dot, dot, dot” harmonies. I originally thought they were singing “bop, bop, bop” but I should’ve known…better. Ponder that as we go to the break.

Continue reading

Skinny Repeal?

I wrote the bulk of this post *before* the Senate turned into an old fashioned insane asylum lacking only the padded walls. I looked in vain for McMurphy and Chief Broom. They were too sane for this bunch. All day long, we saw a series of Senators who claim to hate the “skinny repeal” bill say that they’re voting for it only if it doesn’t become law. This is madness. I think Little Lindsey should be fitted for a strait jacket, especially after he bought Paul Ryan’s vague assurances that there would be a conference committee. Ryan is a seasoned liar and Graham is a gullible fool.

I’m going to sleep before the final vote and posting this via timer. I hope I’m wrong but I think they’ll pass the bill that *everyone* hates. I still think the rest of this post has merit so why not post the fucker? It was written yesterday afternoon when the world was *almost* sane:

It’s beginning to look like Chinless Mitch’s plan is to pass something, anything health carewise in the Senate and take the resulting mess to a conference committee with the House. I have my doubts that Ryan intends to  convene a genuine one. Something Anything is a great early Todd Rundgren album, but it’s no way to run a railroad or the United States Senate for that matter. It’s Mitch McConnell’s latest crime against an institution he claims to revere. It’s high time to restore regular order and send this abomination to the relevant committees. They won’t but they should. So it goes.

Skinny repeal was scored to eliminate coverage for 16 million people and cause premiums to rise 20%. So much for helping the “victims of Obamacare.” Btw, it’s not a “failed left-wing experiment.” The ACA is based on conservative plans and Romneycare in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  That’s why they’re having such a hard time repealing the ACA.

The latest Trumpcare (nothing skinny about him) mess reminds me of the Huey Long quote I trotted out last week. In this instance McConnell is skinning us from both “the ankle up and the ear down.” The Turtle is both High Popalorum *and* Low Popahirum. Who knew such a thing was possible?

All this talk of Skinny Repeal has given me a benign earworm, I’ll give Ray Davies and the Kinks the last word. I mean it this time.

UPDATE: It’s good to be wrong. McCain joined Murkowski and Collins in voting NO. The Turtle got skinned. So much for his wizardry.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Walt Disney’s Musical Monkeyshines Meets Trumpcare Instant Analysis

I’ve done more than my share of strange posts over the twelve years I’ve been blogging. This mashup may well take the cake but somehow it works. The title may be awkward but these are awkward times.

There were plenty of monkeyshines on Capitol Hill yesterday. The motion to proceed to debate the mystery Trumpcare bill passed in the Senate. That’s not the whole ballgame but the bad guys have the momentum right now. If anyone from Nevada is reading this post, it’s time to go off on Senator Dean Heller who tops the list of most endangered GOPers in 2018. I’ll be calling Double Bill Cassidy’s office again but he’ll do what he’s told by the leadership.

This is not the time to give up. Keep calling your Senators. They need to understand that they will pay a price for this vote. Senators *still* do not know what they’re actually voting for. If this weren’t so deadly serious, it would be funnier than a barrel of monkeys or the Marx Brothers’ flick Monkey Business. It’s time to send a big FUCK YOU to congressional Republicans for their health care votes. And what the hell is skinny repeal? It’s got nothing to do with Blake Farenholdt, that’s for sure. If he fought a duel with Collins or Murkowski I have no doubt who would prevail. It wouldn’t be the congresscritter who was once malaka of the week.

A word about John McCain. Every time I go soft on him, he does something terrible. I felt tremendous compassion for him over the de facto death sentence that was his diagnosis. I had planned to make his 2016 primary opponent Kelli Ward malaka of the week for crudely urging McCain to step aside. I deleted that post during McCain’s ludicrous speech after he voted AYE on the motion. If he was really concerned about the institution and “proper order” he would have given that speech *before* the vote and then voted NAY. I rarely yell at the teevee but I did Tuesday afternoon.

Shorter Adrastos:

This is the first time I’ve morphed an Album Cover Art entry into an instant analysis post and it will probably be the last. Lots of things are unprecedented in 2016.

Here’s the cover art. That’s all I got for you.

Awkward Dinner Conversations

Two things. The first is this thread, which will teach you more about what’s really at the heart of Trump’s support than a thousand New York anthropological examinations of Midwestern noble savages ever could:

The second is St. John McCain, pretending once again to be above the process he is in up to his neck, scolding his colleagues as if he could do nothing that would influence their actions:

McCain bemoaned the tone of modern politics, suggesting that wild partisanship was paralyzing the country’s political institutions and tearing the country apart.
“Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and the television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good — our incapacity is their livelihood. Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order.”

And that’s really the heart of it all. Shit had gotten awkward at dinner, for John McCain and for a lot of the wealthier supporters of Trump and his merry band of blithering GOP dicksmacks. It had gotten awkward talking around racism and sexism and general misanthropy and it was harder and harder to find cover for one’s overall contempt for the poor. People had grown less willing to believe in the inherent good will of a party that would start an illegal war, spy on Americans, burn a black president in effigy and grab women by the pussy. The invitations must have stopped coming, or at least slowed down.

How about this, though? NOBODY IN WASHINGTON IS ELECTED TO LIKE EACH OTHER THEY ARE ELECTED TO HELP PEOPLE.

I think it’s nice that there are friendships and bromances (until today, Kerry/McCain 4 EVA). Generally I think it is good that we have a society. I think it’s good to get along with your coworkers. But not when you’re people and they’re skin sacks filled with bees. And not when it requires you to balance your need to keep your buds with your need to serve your constituents, ie do your fucking job when you’re on the clock and bump fuzzies on your own time.

The most heartbreaking thing about all of this, though? Democrats would forgive it tomorrow.

I mean the elected ones, mostly, but also a lot of the rank and file.

If it meant we could help people some more, we would forgive all the horrific things that were said and all the horrific things that were done. For two years of a campaign and the first year of his presidency Barack Obama was subjected to the most vile racist attacks in modern political history.

His response? To try to give the very people who voted against him for vile racist reasons health insurance.

For her entire life Hillary Clinton was subjected to the most vile sexist attacks it’s possible to subject a white woman to, while she served her country with distinction.

Her response? To fight to protect that health insurance.

So I have very little doubt the Democratic Party would forgive it all tomorrow and go back to trying to help people. Some of us wouldn’t forget, but we’d go right back to work. Hell, some of us are still working, dark though our prospects are, to stop this while we still can.

The civility that the GOP is disingenuously begging for? After all this, we’d give it to them. If modern dinner conversation requires that liberals hold themselves in contempt for the very things that the contemptuous public says it wants politicians to do to help them, liberals would sign up for that shit tomorrow because taking one for the team is kind of our entire THING. Our fate is your fate, bitches.

I keep hearing that the past 6 months are the fault of dumb libtard feminazi bitches like myself who impose their political correctness by banning the words “Merry Christmas” and not valuing traditional American values. If my 12-years-of-religious-ed ass agrees that you can say whatever politically incorrect shit to me that you want, can we let people keep their baby’s chemo?

I’d consider that a fair bargain. I think a lot of my fellow libtards would as well, so babies can keep their cancer treatments. So that nobody has to face a bill they can’t pay after their baby dies. I think we would let people lecture us about traditional values. I think we would let them do it and we would fucking smile.

Just let us help people, that’s all we’re asking.

After all this time.

A.

The Finger Of Blame

I don’t know about you but I’m enjoying all the finger pointing over the failure to repeal the ACA. The Turtle is violating every principle of Congressional leadership and making his caucus vote on a bill that cannot pass. Wait a minute, it’s what they’ve been doing since 2009. Of course, they’re in the majority and control the executive branch now. The finger of blame points at them.

POTUS* is pouting and pretending he had nothing to do with it. He claims that he doesn’t “own” this failure. Guess what, Donald, you don’t get to choose what you own when you’re the Oval One. That’s up to the voters. Democrats took the fall for the economy in the 2010 mid-terms even if the finger of blame pointed at the Bush administration and Wall Street greedheads. You don’t get to choose.

It must be great to be Donald Trump. Imagine never having made a mistake in your life. #sarcasm. It’s always someone else’s fault. Now he wants to burn down the health care house because he’s mad. Arson seems to be big in 2017. In politics it usually involves self-immolation. It’s a fiery finger of blame and it’s pointed directly at the Republican party. They own this president*.

It’s time to revisit my Russell Long paraphrase from Monday evening. His mantra was about taxes but all one needs to do is substitute blame for tax and Bob’s your uncle. I still don’t know who Bob is; perhaps he’s a white rural Trump voter or one of their explainers.

Since it’s 2017, let’s meme the Long paraphrase:

The original picture was taken on the 50th Anniversary of Huey Long’s assassination. It’s why he’s peeking out from behind Russell Long. If the Kingfish were around today, he’d probably wonder which part of this story fits the 21st Century GOP:

“The Democratic Party and the Republican Party were just like the old patent medicine drummer that used to come around our country. He had two bottles of medicine. He’d play a banjo and he’d sell two bottles of medicine.

One of those bottles of medicine was called High Popalorum and another one of those bottles of medicine was called Low Popahirum.

Finally somebody around there said is there any difference in these bottles of medicines? ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘considerable. They’re both good but they’re different,’ he said.

‘That High Popalorum is made from the bark off the tree that we take from the top down. And that Low Popahirum is made from the bark that we take from the root up.’

And the only difference that I have found between the Democratic leadership and the Republican leadership was that one of ’em was skinning you from the ankle up and the other from the ear down — when I got to Congress.”

As a seasoned Long paraphraser, I’d substitute McConnell and Trump for the parties, but I’m uncertain which is High Popalorum and which is Low Popahirum. Btw, this was a question posed to me on twitter by my friend Sam Jasper. I wish I had a better answer. All I have for her is a shout-out.

Back to the blame game. It’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys and more disconcerting than a ferret down your trousers. As of this writing, Corey Lewandowski  is claiming that the president* is going to close a deal on Obamacare repeal today. I can count both votes and lies. The votes for ACA repeal are limited and lies from Team Trump are innumerable. You’d think that they’d screw up and tell the truth at some point.

The finger of blame is a venerable phrase but it was used memorably by Neil Finn in the Crowded House song, Fall At Your Feet. I guess you know who has the last word:

Instant Analysis: When The Spell Is Broken

The myth of Mitch McConnell as a master tactician and strategist took a huge hit this evening. His latest gambit to return the GOP’s position to repeal and replace the ACA is tantamount to declaring political bankruptcy. Repeal may not be dead forever but McConnell lacked even the votes to open debate in the Senate. Nobody should spike the ball in celebration because public pressure is what caused the Senate leadership, not the erstwhile moderates, to cave. People should keep calling their Senators but the spell is broken. The Senate seems to have resumed its role as a brake on rotten legislation.

Until the last few days, Republican Senators have been acting like cattle and following their leader and president* to the political slaughterhouse. They’re now in revolt against McConnell and his team. What form it will take is unclear because but they’re revolting in  different ways; pun obviously intended. Some of them like Aqua Buddha and his bobo Mike Lee want a *worse* bill; others are scared shitless of the reaction back home if they strip away aspects of the ACA that have always been popular including Medicaid expansion. Susan Collins was treated like a conquering hero in Maine because of her stand against Trumpcare.

I threw away my crystal ball after last year’s election but something fundamental has changed. It will be interesting to see how the blame game will unfold. It reminds me of an aphorism attributed to former Gret Stet Senator Russell Long: “Don’t tax you. Don’t tax me. Tax that fellow behind the tree.” All you have to do is substitute blame for tax and you have a winner.

Chinless Mitch is trying not to be the “fellow behind the tree.” I’m not sure who his designated patsy will be, but someone will have to take the fall with the more rabid members of the Republican base. It could be a lunatic with a twitter addiction or an overrated Speaker. In short, the Turtle has crawfished on Trumpcare.

Stay tuned

I’ll give Richard Thompson the last word:

First Draft Potpourri: Sanity Clause Edition

I’ve spent the last 177 days feeling like we’re living through a Marx Brothers movie. Until last week, I was certain it was Duck Soup wherein Groucho is the lecherous President of Freedonia, Rufus T. Firefly. The more we learn about Trump Junior’s infamous meeting with the Russian mouthpiece and a cast of thousands, the more it sounds like the stateroom scene in A Night At The Opera. That movie contained this classic exchange between Groucho as Otis B. Driftwood and Chico as Fiorello as they haggled over a contract:

Fiorello: Hey, wait, wait. What does this say here? This thing here.
Driftwood: Oh, that? Oh, that’s the usual clause. That’s in every contract. That just says uh, it says uh, “If any of the parties participating in this contract is shown not to be in their right mind, the entire agreement is automatically nullified.”
Fiorello: Well, I don’t know…
Driftwood: It’s all right, that’s, that’s in every contract. That’s, that’s what they call a ‘sanity clause’.
Fiorello: Ha ha ha ha ha! You can’t fool me! There ain’t no Sanity Clause!

There isn’t one when it comes to being president*, alas. The country needs a sanity pause as well as a sanity clause but we’re unlikely to get either as long as the Insult Comedian watches teevee in the White House.

Let’s break things down First Draft potpourri style. I should post the segment titles in the form of a question but it’s too hot to do so. I have to preserve as many of my diminishing little grey cells as possible.

The Dog Ate The Country: Trump spokescreeps and apologists have been making some very lame “the dog ate my homework” excuses. In this case, it’s more like the dog ate the country. One of my favorites is the “they’re inexperienced” excuse. Paul Manafort was at that meeting. He’s not a rookie, he’s a veteran shitbag. One might even call him a grizzled ratfucker.

The latest lame excuse comes from Trump’s  bible thumping shyster, Jay Sekulow. He opined that the Secret Service should have prevented Trump Junior’s stateroom scene meeting. The Secret Service is supposed to protect family members from outsiders, not themselves. They’d have to expand their remit dramatically since they didn’t stop Billy Carter from meeting with sinister Libyan types when his brother was president. I’ve gotten used to writing president with an asterisk and had to stop myself. We used to have real presidents instead of the mountebank we have now. So it goes.

Let’s move on to health care deform, I mean “reform.”

The Walnuts Factor: The fact that Chinless Mitch has postponed any votes on his health care bill until John McCain recovers from surgery and is back in town is an indication of weakness. As of now, they don’t have the votes.  It’s either going to pass 50-50 or lose by 6 to 10 votes. If it’s a sure loser, the rats will flee the sinking ship but we’re waiting on a third firm no vote to join Susan Collins and Aqua Buddha. Can they make like Claus vov Bulow and have a stunning Reversal of Fortune? Absolutely. As of now they’re more like the comatose Sunny von Bulow…

One more thing. I know people who think that Mitch McConnell is some sort of legislative wizard. When it comes to obstructionism, maybe so. This is an entirely different matter as it involves passing legislation. An online friend of mine compared him to Tom Brady who engineered a wild comeback in the last Super Bowl. A reminder: Brady led an undefeated Pats team into the Super Bowl against the New York Giants and lost. Shit happens. Nobody’s a wizard except in Harry Potter world.

Not Everything Sucks: This is Athenae’s mantra but I felt like borrowing it from her. You can have it back, A. Promise. The BBC announced the identity of the 13th Doctor Who and it’s the first woman, Jodie Whittaker. She’s best known for playing Beth Latimer in Broadchurch, which co-stars the 11th Doctor, David Tennant. It’s a splendid choice.

Some fan boys are acting as if they’ve been castrated but a female Time Lord comports with the Doctor Who universe. There’s *already* an evil female Time Lord, Missy. If you’re not a Whovian, I assume your eyes just glazed over like a rogue donut.

Here’s the BBC announcement tweet:

That concludes this edition of First Draft potpourri. I’m just trying to restore a hint of sanity to the world. I think a sanity clause should be mandatory for future Oval Ones.

I’ll give Groucho and Chico the last word:

Hail Freedonia.

Say It With Me … RACISM!

I just can’t wrap my mind around why the GOP won’t defend the fundamental conservatism of Obamacare: 

Republicans are engaged in a brutal civil war between hard-liners and moderates as they struggle to craft legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. The episode invites an almost existential question for the GOP: Why, after seven years of nearly endless war against Obamacare, is the party unable to deliver a more conservative policy that provides access to health care to a similar number of Americans?

Give me a minute. It’ll come to me.

As a life-long Republican who has spent months contemplating this question, I’ve come to an answer that will be hard for many conservatives to swallow: Passing an Obamacare replacement is difficult because the existing system is fundamentally a collection of moderately conservative policies.

But it was championed by a black president! HOW can it be conservative? HOW can it be familiar to, say, a Mitt Romney or a John McCain? How, when it has the fingerprints of a man named Barack all over it?

To be sure, the suggestion that Obamacare is based on conservative principles is anathema to the modern incarnation of the GOP. Opposition to the legislation has become so central to the party’s agenda that simply writing these words will surely brand me as a Republican apostate.

I can’t imagine why that would be true.

If you force insurance companies to cover people who are already sick, you need market interventions such as the individual mandate and sufficiently generous tax subsidies to prevent a death spiral. And for people with few resources, these subsidies follow the wisdom of Reagan and provide Medicaid coverage.

Unfortunately, these marketplace realities run afoul of the Republican Party’s newly developed preternatural love for completely unfettered markets — a love that is simply incompatible with reality and our party’s history.

No, your party’s history is much more compatible with virulent racism and horror stories about black people mooching off the system. You suck Ronald Reagan’s legacy long and hard throughout this piece but fail to mention that his anti-government rhetoric relied entirely on a worldview driven by fear of nonwhites.

Where you said “love for completely unfettered markets?” You meant “love for gerrymandered votes that can only be won by promising to punish poor minorities and women.”

I have many problems with Obamacare, but they don’t stem from a belief that any government intervention in markets is a nonstarter. Such a belief cannot be, and frankly has never been, the litmus test for policy in the Republican Party.

You sweet summer child. Right now the litmus test for policy is “will it piss off my liberal sister-in-law?” A litmus test based on actual government intervention would be a step UP. I swear, we’re gonna spend the next 4 years (if we’re unlucky, the next 40) twisting ourselves into knots to pretend none of what’s happening is driven by racist spite when that’s all our politics are anymore.

A.

Quote Of The Day: Health Care Edition

I like to call my friend Clancy DuBos the dean of New Orleans political commentators. I’m not sure if he likes the nickname as it sounds rather bureaucratic. Perhaps I should call myself the vice-dean whatever the hell that means. I *could* promote Clancy to chancellor, but it’s a title that evokes British or German politics, not the Gret Stet of Louisiana.

That was a roundabout way of praising Clancy for one of the best columns he’s ever written. He urges Gret Stet GOP Senators John Neely Kennedy and Bill Cassidy to put country and state ahead of the more rabid members of their base and fix the ACA, not destroy it:

So the question Kennedy and Cassidy must answer is “Whom do you represent?”

It appears Kennedy is inextricably in the thrall of the GOP’s right wing, his world-class education notwithstanding. The more moderate Cassidy, on the other hand, appears genuinely torn between his conscience (including physicians’ legendary oath to “first, do no harm”) and his political party.

To his credit, Cassidy has pledged not to support any bill that fails the “Jimmy Kimmel test” in terms of adequate coverage for all (as Donald Trump promised during the campaign). Cassidy also joined fellow Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine to introduce the Patient Freedom Act of 2017. Their bill, which would provide transparency on health care prices, has been ignored by the Senate’s GOP leadership.

Given the Senate’s slim, two-vote GOP majority, Cassidy could influence the future of American health care policy not only because he is a physician but also because he has at times shown the courage to speak the truth, even when truth doesn’t serve the interests of his party. I wish I could say the same of Kennedy.

Both men will cast their votes soon. Will Dr. Cassidy do no harm, or will he follow the money? His decision, like senators’ votes on civil rights bills in the 1960s, will determine how future generations remember him.

Both Kennedy and Cassidy are former Democrats who identified with the center-left of the party. Kennedy did so as an elected official and statewide candidate, so he’s forever overcompensating by hicking it up and pandering to the Trumpers. Why a well-educated, articulate man like Neely is willing to sound like a peckerwood in public is one of the mysteries of Gret Stet politics. Public Peckerwood? That would be a helluva name for a bluegrass band.

Senator/Doctor Cassidy is reachable but has been a follower, not a leader in his political career. As a doctor who practiced in Louisiana’s public hospital system, he *should* know the devastating impact the proposed changes to Medicaid will have. People will die if McConnell’s reverse Robin Hoodism becomes the law of the land. Make that the law of the jungle. Transferring wealth from Medicaid recipients to the 1% is Social Darwinism at its worst.

I hereby challenge Senator/Doctor Cassidy to live up to both his titles and do the right thing. He will be forgotten after he leaves office if he remains in the pocket of leader McConnell. He has a chance to prove that he’s his own man, not merely Bitter Vitter’s creature. Health care is a fundamental human right that should not be bartered away. Doctor Cassidy knows that. It’s time for Senator Cassidy to vote his conscience, not the party line.

‘if we all are willing to be okay with helping others and being helped’

There’s a whole thread here worth reading but this is the part I want to talk about, as a way of addressing with the sensitivity our GOP masters demand the shortcomings of their latest attempt at legislation:

Every night, as a lullaby, I sing Kick Forever Young.

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others and let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung
And may you stay forever young

In the dark sleepless nights, I often pondered that third line. Its latter half. I know the rationale behind doing for others. Why would you wish to have someone let others do for them? Why would you want that for them? And what I settled on in those thin hours was that accepting help without fear of it was a grace we make far too little of.

You have to be able to reach your hand out. You have to know your own powerlessness if you’re going to survive it. You have to know that you can be at others’ mercy, utterly, and that you will be okay. You have to know that you will not be okay, and you will be okay.

How many of us are afraid to reach out, to not just help but be helped? How many of us have told ourselves, have been told, over and over, for years, that we have to wall ourselves up, wall ourselves off? That nobody’s gonna help us, that nothing’s gonna change? I mean it, how many? The whole world’s out to get us, that’s the message on every TV screen every night, so stay inside and be afraid.

It’s no wonder we’ve rationalized it. Otherwise you’d look at the world — traffic accidents, guns, carcinogens in the air, a sidewalk crack sticking up for your foot to catch — and go stark raving mad inside a second.

If an illness is not something bad that happens to anyone, but some deep inner flaw, some error in judgment or planning or faith, then your illness cannot happen to me, a virtuous hard-working person who Is Good. If you can be made to somehow deserve what happened to you (and injuries do just happen; two years ago I could run three miles a day) then nothing will happen to me.

I think a lot of the rank-and-file GOP “personal responsibility” rhetoric you hear from people who are likely to be hurt by the same policies of austerity they voted for comes from that fear. I think a lot of them are convinced that if they just shove the suffocation that is knowing human frailty into a suitcase and bury it in the yard, they will be fine. I think a lot of them quake with the knowledge that this is all a crap shoot, we are all one phone call away from disaster, all the time, always.

No one, a very wise friend once explained to me patiently, wants to think of themselves as having benefitted OR suffered from a system beyond their control. They’re afraid to help others because they’re afraid to be helped. Being helped means being weak, and being weak means losing. I think a lot of them are afraid.

Some of them, of course, are just horrific motherfucking assholes who’d sell their own fucked mothers for a tax cut and the chance to kick a hobo. However, I am trying to have the compassion our GOP critics want us to have for their feelings and sincere beliefs, for their philosophies and needs and wants. I am not being mean; this is the most generous possible view: They are cowards.

Cowards won’t let others do for them. Cowards don’t put themselves at the world’s mercy. Cowards don’t admit to the randomness of fate. Cowards lock their doors and pretend that there is a slavering horde out there and that a door or a lock will stop it. Cowards can’t admit they need help. Cowards can’t accept it, and cowards certainly can’t offer it. Cowards think alone protects them. Cowards think they’re alone.

There is no way to live your life without others. There is no way to be alone. Contact is inevitable, leading to information bleed. Every story ever told is a hand reaching out to another, saying see, I too am here. It’s not that no man is an island; you can set yourself apart. But you’ll do it in the most strenuous opposition to your every human instinct. We are built to love and care for each other. That’s all we’re for. We forget that at our peril.

When we forget it, this is what happens. We take the only thing that is all of us together taking care of each other — government, as those filthy hippies like to call it — and we just decide to fail it on purpose. We turn on our own, on ourselves, and we make up lies about imperfect systems being worse than us all being together and trying to fix things. We vote for people who promise to drown us in the bathtub, burn us to the ground, make us disappear.

We’re so afraid of doing for others, letting others do for us. We build a ladder, but it isn’t to the stars.

A.

First Draft Potpourri For $400, Alex

Remember when we had the odd slow news weekend? That’s become a rarity in the era of the Insult Comedian and the failed Republican Congress. The scandals and bad legislation keep flying at us like Russian malware attacks. Hence this recurring feature. I’m not planning to restrict First Draft Potpourri to just one day. I prefer to be like the Scarlet Pimpernel:

They seek him here, they seek him there.

Those Frenchies seek him everywhere, that damned elusive pimpernel.

Frenchies? I guess that’s not too bad as ethnic slurs go. Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan stepped in a pile of guinea doo-doo by referring to “Dago Red” wine in an interview that consisted of slamming the Italian-American leader of his caucus, Nancy D’Alessandro Pelosi. Ryan subsequently apologized for using what he claimed was the local lingo in his part of Ohio. Attaboy, Timmy. I wonder if you’ve been called the other M word recently; Malaka. Probably not.

Many New Orleans eateries used to carry an item called the “wop salad.” I took the pulse of my community and found only one place in the metro area that still calls it that. It’s Rocky and Carlo’s in Chalmette. It’s in St. Bernard Parish which once had a councilman named Joey DiFatta. That’s apropos of nothing but I miss him. It’s doubtful that the Chalmatians feel the same way.

Let’s get back to Nancy Smash, she’s become the anti-pinup girl for GOP fundraisers and mad men. It’s no surprise: they’re particularly fond of slamming powerful women. I was, however, gobsmacked that some of the simpler folk on twitter think this is a new move. Wingnuts have always had a target or three in Congress: Ted Kennedy was their main whipping boy for many years. He was librul and came from a den of inquity/librul city, Boston. Nancy Smash, of course, represents San Francisco, but she remains at heart the daughter of  former Baltimore Mayor Tommy D’Alessandro. She takes the best of machine politics and mashes it up with progressive positions on the issues. She has her critics, but I say bring it on, Berners. If you can get the votes, you win. That is if you know how to count votes. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Speaking of vote counting, the drama over the Senate health care reform* bill is coming down to a head count. I’m neither as optimistic nor pessimistic as some pro-ACA observers. There are four GOPers who want a worse bill. I think they’re posturing: it’s what Ted Cruz and Aqua Buddha do. The so-called moderates are staging a “woe is me” pantomime but they tend to fold like a drunk with a pair of deuces. Besides, Chinless Mitch will not bring a bill to the floor that he doesn’t have 50 votes + Mike Pence. McConnell is a totally reprehensible human being but the fucker can count. There is, however, an outside possibility that he wants to lose the vote and blame it on the president*.

Time for an account of one of my favorite non-obscene LBJ stories. It involves  a conversation he had with Hubert Humphrey when they served together in the Senate. LBJ looked at HHH and said: “The problem with you liberals Hubert is that you cain’t count. That’s why you cain’t get shit done. Learn to count.” The no-account HHH learned his lesson and applied it when he was lead Senator on the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

I’ve heard rumbling about Jane and Bernie Sanders’ financial dealings for quite some time. Nothing seemed to come of it until recently. It turns out the feds are looking into issues surrounding her tenure as President of Bennington College. I have no idea if there’s anything to it but they’ve lawyered up; hiring Dollar Bill Jefferson’s mouthpiece, Larry Cassidy who also defended Scooter Libby. He lost those cases but has a good reputation. Stay tuned.

The Insult Comedian continues to tweet like a demented moron. It’s annoying as hell but it’s proof positive that he doesn’t know anything about the first rule of holes: if you’re in one, stop digging. He’s also denounced former President Obama for using the word mean. The Darnold seems to think he owns the word. I wonder if he’s coming after Crowded House next?

That concludes this edition of First Draft Potpourri. I’ll be stirring the pot again some time soon. I am relentless.

A Deaf Frog

One of the best jokes about jumping to the wrong conclusion is that of the scientist and the frog. The scientist tells the frog to jump and the frog does so. The scientist then cuts off one of the frog’s legs and repeats the command. The frog continues to jump until the scientist has removed all four legs, at which point, the frog remains still.

The scientist then makes this entry in his notes: “After removing all four legs, frog goes deaf.”

An equally disgusting and yet not nearly as funny series of answers emerged this week in regard to how public figures dealt with problematic situations.

Bill Cosby, who has apparently told more people to “relax” than Frankie Goes to Hollywood, had his fate delayed when a Pennsylvania jury deadlocked 10-2 in his sexual-assault case. Cosby has been accused of scores of women (and that’s literally accurate, sadly) of drugging and raping them over the past several decades. In this singular case, involving an administrator in the Temple University athletic program, Cosby was said to have used Quaaludes to knock her unconscious before having sex with her against her will in 2004. Cosby remains free on bond while the state considers its next move, which will likely be a retrial.

What will Cosby be doing with all this free time, now that a Cosby Show reunion show is likely out of the question? He’s planned a series of town-hall meetings in which he will “educate” young men and married men how to avoid accusations of sexual assault in this litigious society:

 

Ebonee M. Benson, who works with Mr. Wyatt and joined him on the program, said the need for awareness had grown because the statutes of limitations on sexual assault have been extended in several states. In some cases the legislative efforts were aided by women who have accused Mr. Cosby of molesting them.

“People need to be educated on a brush against the shoulder,” she said. “Anything at this point can be considered sexual assault.”

 

Or, y’know, the lecture could just be, “Don’t drug and fuck people against their will. And pull up your damned pants.” However, as Cosby sees it, the problem isn’t the fucking, but rather needing to find ways to make sure it doesn’t come back to haunt you.

Speaking of things that can come back to haunt you, the White House has figured out that people will actually recall the official and unofficial comments people make and hold you to them. Everything from the evening news to late-night comedy shows use the clip montage on an almost daily basis to showcase what an official is saying now compared to the exact opposite thing that person said over the past six months. Trump, Spicer, Conway, Sessions and more all have fallen victim to the “Here’s a statement they made today that is directly contradicted by the nine times they said the exact opposite thing.”

The answer was clear earlier this week: Stop the taping. The White House has set up a series of bizarre rules that limit live presentation of the press briefing, no cameras and limitations on audio. In an even dumber decision, it issued an edict to the media (whose job it is to tell the public stuff) not to tell the public the instructions the news outlets received on how this off-the-camera approach was supposed to work. So, in short, we’re doing something shitty to you and we want to tell you what that shitty thing is, but don’t you dare report that we told you about this shitty thing we’re going to do to you.

Speaking of shitty things that are being done to the public, the Senate has drafted its version of the “Repeal and Replace Obamacare with Something Great” bill. The Republicans have known for quite some time that debating health care is a long, tiring and dicey process. The Affordable Care Act hearings went on for an interminable amount of time, with all sorts of maneuvering in hopes of derailing it. Although the ACA isn’t perfect, thanks in large part to these speed bumps and road blocks put up by opponents of the bill at the time, it is providing insurance to more than 23 million more people than the House version of Trumpcare would.

The senate realizes two things:

  1. Cutting people off of health coverage, including Medicaid and any other Medi-help, is likely to result in people losing their shit.
  2. Since they are essentially doing exactly that, people are likely to lose their shit.

The solution is simple: Don’t show people what you’re working on. Much like a 4-year-old who is covering up his homework so mom can’t see how shitty his penmanship is, Mitch McConnell and his crew of unnamed bill-makers have sat in secret for the past couple weeks, crafting whatever it is they are crafting. The reveal on Thursday showed that it was essentially the same shit as the House bill, only potentially worse. McConnell upped his game by pushing for a vote within a week and refusing to say he’d allow for at least 10 hours of debate and discussion on it.

It makes little sense to attempt to apply common sense to these kinds of solutions, as none really applies. At best, the solutions are Machiavellian maneuvers and at worst they are like people who put pennies in the fuse box to get the power back on.

It also does little good to call people out on this kind of bullshit, given that most of the people who display this level of chutzpah lack the inherent ability to be ashamed of themselves. All they see in front of them is what their myopic vision of self-assuredness allows them to see.

A deaf frog.

No Mystery

It’s no mystery that the just released Senate health care bill is horrible.

It’s no mystery that Republicans want to destroy Medicaid and Medicare.

It’s no mystery that center-right Republicans will bitch and moan before falling in line.

It’s no mystery that Gret Stet Senator Bill Cassidy will vote as a Republican politician, not as a physician who worked in the Charity Hospital system.

It’s no mystery that Mitch McConnell has no respect for the customs and traditions of the Senate.

It’s no mystery that this reform* will inflict pain on millions of people and damage the economy.

It’s no mystery that Republicans think they can successfully lie to the voters about the impact of this wildly unpopular reform*.

It’s no mystery that I hope I’m wrong about some of this. Three no votes will kill this horrendous legislation. If you’re represented by a Republican Senator, please pick up the phone and call.

It’s no mystery that the last word goes to Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Al Di Meola, and Lenny White:

Deep Blog’s Separated At Birth Theory Of The Georgia 6 Race

You may recall my friend Deep Blog from the 2015 Gret Stet Goober race. He only comes out during Southern elections, apparently. He has a unique theory as to what really happened in the Handel-Ossoff race:

I’m sorry that Ossoff didn’t handle Handel but it was *always* going to be an uphill climb in such a Republican district. I was among those who thought Ossoff’s best chance was winning the primary. He still ran a good race against the odds with a double-digit swing in the vote. It wasn’t enough but this is Newt’s old district for chrissake.

Ossoff’s defeat is disappointing. A win in the Georgia 6 would have been of great symbolic importance but symbolism isn’t everything. I live in the even Deeper South and his loss has nothing to do with his alleged ideological impurity. If Democrats are to mount a comeback in the 2018 cycle, we have to get over imposing purity tests and focus on coalition building. It’s how John Bel Edwards defeated David Vitter in the 2015 Gret Stet Goober race. Edwards is a blue dog but he’s governed as a center-left Democrat. If he had run as a proto-Berner, he’d be out of politics and Diaper Dave would be governor.

 As always, Josh Marshall nails how we should respond to last night’s loss:

What Democrats need to resist at all costs is the temperamental inclination to fall into spasms of self-loathing over this defeat – specifically, the idea that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the party because of this loss. I saw one Democrat on Twitter tonight ask if Ossoff’s loss didn’t mean “the Democratic party apparatus needs a total overhaul on every single level?”

Maybe the Democrats do need a fundamental overhaul. But doing 10 to 15 points better than a House candidate has done in this district since the 1970s simply isn’t evidence for that. There’s also a toxic desire on the part of many to use this painful defeat as an opening to relitigate intra-party grievances. Losing is hard. Taking a loss and getting up the next day to keep fighting to get to the next level takes endurance and guts. Many cannot resist the temptation to trade that sting for a toxic self-validation. All I can say to that is that parties build majorities by finding ways to unite competing factions over common interests and goals – something Donald Trump should help with a lot. They almost never get there when they are locked in internecine struggle or when either faction thinks it can or does destroy the other. That’s just not how it works.

This is a big disappointment. But remember, by any objective measure these races show a Democratic party resurgent and a GOP on the ropes. These seats came open because they were vacated by people Trump picked for cabinet appointments. They got those picks because they came from safe seats. They are by no means a cross section of House seats. The thing to do is learn what we can from coming up just short and move on to the next fight. No one should expect any of this to be easy. If you do, bow out of civic questions and just watch movies and TV. We need people with more endurance.

Speaking of teevee, I’ll give Margo Martindale as Mags Bennett the last word. Literally.

Legislation Needs to Actually Do Stuff

For shit’s sake, THIS: 

The Senate bill, like the House bill, has two aims: to complete the final act of the Republicans’ six-year-long performance art piece, “Repeal and Replace Obamacare,” and to cut taxes for the very rich.

[snip]

Now that they have it all, though, the only thing they’re missing is an actual plan. Rather than push for a viable alternative like Medicare for All, or concede the ACA represents the best solution for insuring more people in a private insurance system and work to remedy its flaws, Republicans have decided to insure fewer people while shoveling money towards the rich. But they will be able to say that they finished their greatest work: They repealed and replaced. That’s why House Republicans passed their repeal largely without reading it, and before its effects could be scored by the Congressional Budget Office. And no one captured the sentiment better than President-elect Trump in January. When asked at a press conference what his plan to repeal and replace Obamacare was, he offered the perfect answer: “It will be repeal and replace.”

But CNN will indulge them if this blobfish of a bill passes, with a FINALLY A WIN FOR TRUMP AND RYAN AND MCCONNELL, as if they’re the dumbass kid on the team who finally hit a run in T-ball. That’s all they know, and it’s all that matters to them now.

The abortion fights taught them this. Say what you like about the movement pro-lifers and I will say plenty, but on their laziest days they work harder at supporting their cause than do the politicians they elect.

To get voters, and donors, and get re-elected, the GOP didn’t have to address any societal problems related to women’s bodily autonomy or the economic realities of bearing children or the thorny medical issues that arise in trying to balance the life of a woman and the life of a fetus. They just had to show up at church and bleat about IT’S A CHILD STOPS A BEATING HEART IRRESPONSIBLE SLUTS PUNISHMENT ARGLE BLARGE FLAP. That was all they needed to do to win, and it worked, for the past 40 years. They won.

There’s going to be so much winning.

We’re tired of it, that’s for sure. We’re tired of people in office who don’t know how to do anything, these know-nothing Teawads who primaried actual adults (evil adults, but still) and need to have recent history explained to them like they’re children. Who think withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement is good because fuck you. Who think you can yell North Korea into becoming another country. And who don’t have to care about what’s in health care legislation, to vote for it.

We’re tired of all the winning.

A.

You Never Thought

Really? You never thought? 

WASHINGTON – “I never thought I’d go to baseball practice and get shot at,” said Rep. Rodney Davis R-Ill., who was at bat Wednesday morning when a gunman started shooting at GOP lawmakers practicing for their annual charity congressional game.

“I was at bat. I was hitting. I heard a loud bang,” Davis said, talking at the Capitol, still in his scoffed practice clothes.

“It felt like somebody…dropped a big piece of metal. The next thing I heard was ‘everybody run, he’s got a gun. And we immediately ran and got into the dugout.”

You never thought, Rep. Davis?

You never thought you’d be subject to violence at baseball practice?

You never thought a madman with a gun would be staring YOU down?

You never thought you’d be running from bullets?

That was nice. That you never thought.

Nice for you to be safe. Nice for you to be protected. Nice for you to feel secure. Nice for your colleagues. I mean that sincerely. I don’t begrudge you that sense of safety. I think a lot of people like you share it. I think that’s a good thing.

You should feel safe. Everybody should.

I don’t want you to feel endangered. I don’t want to join the chorus of “see, don’t you get it now?!” going on on social media today. You shouldn’t have been scared to be in public, enjoying yourself. Enjoying your life. Feeling able to do that.

You shouldn’t have been afraid of a random hail of bullets. Nobody should.

Children in elementary school shouldn’t have had to feel that way, either.

Families on city streets. People at a shopping mall, attending a football game, going to work, coming home on the train, walking to church, playing soccer, swimming in the community pool. None of those people should have to be afraid.

None of them should have to expect, because of where they live or who they are or what they love, that they will be in mortal peril, just for going outside. Just for living in the world. Just for living their lives.

None of them should have to think about getting shot at.

None of them, none of us, should have to spend every day cowering in fear of a culture of armed paranoia that makes ordinary acts into reckless endeavors. None of us should have to delude ourselves — and we all have to, to a certain extent — that we can’t be touched by violence. Violence should not be so common that we have to lie to ourselves in order to avoid going mad.

I am not glad you were afraid, Rep. Davis. Your fear doesn’t make anyone else less fearful. Your actions could. Because you shouldn’t have to think you’ll go to baseball practice and get shot at.

I’m sorry that now, you do.

A.

Instant Analysis: The Sessions Session

I don’t like Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. He’s a racist pinhead who has a problem with being questioned by a brilliant woman of color such as Sen. Kamala Harris. It would be fun to pit the two of them one-on-one because she really gets under Jeff Bo’s skin. I cannot imagine why. Actually, I can: there are two reasons. He resisted the temptation to call her uppity but you know he wanted to.

There were no earth-shaking revelations thereby proving that Jeff Bo isn’t as dumb as he looks. He floated the notion of preemptive executive privilege by stating that executive privilege was Trump’s to invoke and he wanted to retain his option to do so. Say what? This is a new concept. Of course, GOPers love going preemptive on the world’s ass as they did with the Iraq war. This is likely to turn out as badly as that.

Overall, I thought Intelligence Committee Democrats did well; even Joe Manchin made sense for a change. I guess he wasn’t late for a bill-shooting. And Ron Wyden had Jeff Bo sputtering like Porky Pig, which was most amusing even if it wasn’t terrible edifying.

The Harris-Sessions duel, however, was the centerpiece of the hearing. Jeff Bo was rattled, indignant, and amnesiac in his dealings with the rookie Senator/veteran prosecutor. She done good. Once again, Senator Walnuts acted like he was chairman and interrupted her. I guess he has a (Richard) Burr up his butt or something…

The Republican lowlights were Lankford of Oklahoma and Cotton of Arkansas. Lankford claimed that the story about Trump’s desire to fire Bobby Three Sticks came from an unsourced story. In fact, it came from Christopher Ruddy of Newsmax; one of many extremists who has access to this President. And he said it on teevee. I guess Lankford inhaled too may gas fumes during his last meeting with the Okie oil men who own him.

As to Cotton, he’s shaved so he no longer looks like a diseased yak. That’s a good thing, but he went off on a spy/action movie tangent that was preposterous. I wonder if he plans to call Michael Bay to testify about whether the Russians have interfered with the new Transformers movie…

Congressional Republicans still seem *publicly* willing to go down with the Good Ship Trump. I’m not certain that they’re all that certain behind the scenes but certainty is in short supply nowadays. Except, that is, in the preceeding sentence.

The hearing was essentially all noise. Jeff Bo and his enablers danced around the crucial point: Trump told Lester Holt that he fired Comey over the Russia affair. All the shit about Jeff Bo’s sympathy for Hillary was bullshit and unworthy of the Senate’s attention. I’m glad Jack Reed called him on it. Score one for Rhode Island.

The hearing didn’t advance our knowledge of much of anything. Jeff Bo upheld a venerable Southern tradition and filibustered committee Democrats. He started off on the attack and ended up where he belongs: on the defensive. It was a display of very white privilege from a very white administration.

Jeff Bo used the weasel words familiar to everyone who has watched hearings such as this: “I don’t remember, I don’t recall. I’ve got no memory of anything at all.”

I just quoted Peter Gabriel, not Jeff Bo. That’s why PG gets the last word:

 

Instant Analysis: Comeypalooza

Screen shot from the New York Times Comeypalooza video feed.

There was only one Republican in the hearing room who was concerned about Russian interference in the 2016 election: James Comey. That’s the appalling state of our politics right now. The Senators on that panel were unable to say, “Trump had nothing to do with it, but the Russians should mind their own business.” Comey called it an attack on America: He’s absolutely right. The selfishness that permeates the Republican party was out in the open today. It’s no shocker but it’s still not a pretty sight. Remember when the GOP were a party of flag waving anti-Soviet super patriots? Now they’re Putin’s pawns.

I’m no Comey fan but he gives good testimony. He even pointed out a few instances where Trump told the truth. That made Comey even more credible when he said that he wrote his contemporaneous memos out of concern that Trump would lie about their conversations. It was refreshing to hear Trump bluntly referred to as a liar, especially under oath. Comey may not have the best judgment but he’s not a liar.

The best Democratic questioners were Warner and Harris. I was relieved that none of the men on the committee rudely interrupted Ms. Harris as they did during the Rosenstein-Rogers-Coats hearing. I omitted Angus King because he’s an independent but the man gives good indignation. He should consider waxing his mustache to add some panache to the proceedings.

The worst Republicans were Johns Cornyn and McCain. Cornhole looks like the Senator from central casting; if they were casting idiot lickspittles, they got their man. It was  Clinton email this, Clinton email that, which led Comey to state unequivocally that there was “no case.” I halfway expected Senator Cornhole to demand an appearance by Anthony Weiner…

Senator Walnuts was pitiful. He seemed confused as to what the subject of the hearing was. We expect them to pivot to HRC but he did it in a way that Comedy did not understand. I’m no doctor but McCain appears to be showing early signs of dementia. One would think that he would be the *other* Republican in the room to be outraged by Russian interference in 2016 but he was so out of it that it’s unclear what he thinks. Sad.

I was not one of those who expected a bombshell or knock-out punch this morning. Political and legal investigations are processes. It’s the accumulation of information and evidence that matters the most. These things take time to unfold even in the internet age. Patience is still called for. More likely than not, it will take a Democratic Congress to remove the president* from office via impeachment. I think, however, that a Pence led 25th Amendment legal coup is increasingly possible.

We can always count on the Insult Comedian to make things worse. He has three addictions: money, applause, and the tweeter tube. He’s incapable of resisting the temptation to showboat. Remember when he called Comey just that? It’s what Trump does: project his own fantasies and weaknesses on to others. Believe me.

I like to write my instant analysis posts before reading what others have to say. I think today’s hearing and Comey’s written statement advanced our knowledge of what’s going on. I would love to be a fly on the wall in the closed hearing this afternoon. Of course, McCain might pull out a fly swatter and chase me around the room. He’s that far gone. Believe me.

Samuel Johnson famously said that the last refuge of a scoundrel is patriotism. In 2017, the last refuge of a scoundrel is defending the indefensible: the integrity of Donald J. Trump.  As Gertrude Stein would surely add, there is no there there.

I want to meet Mick Mulvaney…

I want to meet Mick Mulvaney, this man of billions who has the audacity to call people like my mother-in-law thieves.

She sat in a hospital recliner this week with a giant blackening scar running down her leg as a stream of people she barely knew entered and exited at a rapid pace, spewing information into her stroke-impaired mind. She looked like a child who had lost her mother at the grocery store as doctors changed orders and nurses took readings, her eyes darting from one to the other as they spoke over her in multi-syllabic jargon.

She had put off a knee replacement until she cleared 65 so that her Medicare would help cover the bills. Each day, she rose on two dysfunctional joints that had worn ligaments, cartilage and bone. Her entire left side remained frozen in a tense and contracted state, the result of a massive stroke several years back.

The doctor decided to do her “good” leg first, so it could heal and provide the most support. When my wife protested, the doctor noted it was the only way to move forward with this. He also promised she’d be “good as new” after her two-night stay in the hospital and ready to go home.

My wife knew better.

Her mother couldn’t go but short distances without pain or exhaustion and that was when the “good” leg was working. Her bladder failed her often, as she tried desperately to make it to the bathroom before suffering the indignity of asking for a fresh nightgown. She rarely left the house and her movement was mostly confined to a wheelchair.

She needed a lot of rehab and she would need a nursing home to do it, my wife argued. The doctor didn’t think so at the time, but he eventually came around to it. However, the rule of Medicare is a three-midnight stay, or no nursing home.

My mother-in-law spent most of her two days in a drug-induced haze of opiates and numbing agents as we kept trying to figure out with these people how all this would work. By the time they had us convinced if we were there 24/7, we could keep her at home, they changed their mind and set up a nursing home bed.

The cost was more than $350 per day, not counting therapy and meds. Mom subsists on about $800 of social security and a $200 pension, the result of decades in the Catholic school system.

She cashed in her state pension, earned through years of working at northwoods schools near the UP of Michigan, a total of $8,000, but the nursing home needed two weeks up front.

As these numbers and costs and such flew around her head, I saw her bright blue eyes and I almost broke.

If the eyes are truly the windows to the soul, her eyes showed terror; they had the look of a child witnessing an unspeakable act. They told of loss, panic and fear rolled into one.

This is why I want to meet Mick Mulvaney.

I want him to see those eyes and tell her how this budget he proposed can be anything but a decimating blow to people like her who have no hope but the mercy of the government.

I want him to drive out to this rural town of 3,300, many of whom voted for his boss, and call my mother-in-law a thief. This woman, who once was horrified that her father taught her child to grab a grape from the grocery store and try it before buying it, is a thief?

I want him to stand there and explain how she’s not a taxpayer who put up with so much in her life to support a family of five and worked until she was physically unable to any more.

I want him, with that “Leprechaun-meets-Jack-Torrance” look on his face, to say to her, “I’m sorry you’re hurting, but that’s not my problem. This nation has bills to pay.”

If this country is worth anything, it’s because of people like my mother-in-law. She spent her life teaching Sunday school to poor children and working with the autistic kids whom society discarded. She kept food on the table and her family in line for nighttime meals and homework sessions. She pushed herself out of pure American grit: The idea that you don’t take from others, but you work so you can give back.

When people like her break down, it’s not out of greed or laziness or a sense that they are owed something. It’s because something happened beyond their control and they need the rest of us to say, “Relax. We got this.”

Tax cuts don’t do that. Medicine does.

GDP growth charts don’t do that. Safety nets do.

This is something the Mick Mulvaneys of the world will never get: Money isn’t everything. It’s what we do with the money that defines our humanity.

The Spirit Of ’73: The Unraveling

Two Flags by Jasper Johns.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Watergate was my formative political experience. I lived through it and experienced the drip, drip, drip of daily revelations. Part of my teenage rebellion was arguing with my father about Watergate. He was a Nixon delegate in 1972 and didn’t buy any of it until, that is, the summer of 1974. He met Barry Goldwater Jr at some function. Goldwater told Lou that John Dean was a close friend of his and that he believed his story. Lou’s belief in Nixon was badly shaken although he continued to tell me not to be gleeful over his downfall. I continued dancing on Tricky Dick’s political grave. I have the same plan with the Insult Comedian.

Something fundamentally changed with the Comey memo revelation. The Trump-Russia scandal reached critical mass on that day followed by the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel yesterday.  When I heard the news, I couldn’t resist saying “I told you so” on Social Media. The Cardinal rule of American politics is NEVER MESS WITH THE FBI. Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon all wanted to fire J Edgar Hoover. Harry Truman despised Hoover. None of them fired him because, in LBJ’s memorable phrase, they preferred him inside the tent pissing out to outside the tent pissing in. NEVER MESS WITH THE FBI.

Messing with the FBI was Nixon’s undoing. The infamous “smoking gun” tape involved his attempt to get acting FBI director and Nixon sycophant L. Patrick Gray to kill the investigation. Gray tried but, in the end, messing with the FBI destroyed his reputation. He was one of many Nixon dignity wraiths. Sound familiar?

I was a “who was Deep Throat” buff until Mark Felt revealed his identity in 2005. He was on my short list along with Alexander Haig. Haig was my number one candidate because Woodward and Bernstein wrote so glowingly about him in The Final Days. That’s Woodward’s typical modus operandi with anonymous sources but he didn’t do that with Felt. The lesson of Deep Throat: NEVER MESS WITH THE FBI.

The timing of the Mueller appointment is no accident. Rod Rosenstein is testifying on Capitol Hill today. It’s also an attempt to scrub some of the tarnish off his reputation. It’s what happens when you become one of Trump’s dignity wraiths. It reminds me of a line from the super trashy movie The Oscar: “You lay down with pigs, you come up smelling like garbage.” That’s the fate of Trump’s dignity wraiths.

It’s time for his staff to lawyer up and/or resign. Trump destroys everything he touches. I like what Never Trump conservative Rick Wilson had to say about this:

Every day you get up, slide into the seat of your Prius or Tahoe (and if you’re senior enough, exchange a few polite words with your driver) and start checking Twitter. Whatever it is that you’re feeling, it doesn’t feel anything like Morning in America. It feels like some faraway kleptocracy where the center hasn’t held, the airfield and radio station have fallen to the rebels, and the Maximum Leader is holed up in his secret bunker waiting for the other shoe to drop.

<SNIP>

Sticking with Trump to the bitter end and pretending the unfolding chaos is just “fake news” won’t save your reputation as the walls close in. It won’t ease the judgment of history. It won’t do anything to polish up your future Wikipedia entry.

Cutting ties with a man who is destructive to our values, profoundly divisive, contemptuous of the rule of law and incontrovertibly unfit to serve in the highest office in the land just might. Do it now.

Shorter Rick Wilson: don’t be a dignity wraith, jump in a lifeboat and paddle like hell to the shore. Congressional Republicans would be well-advised to do likewise but they’re slow learners. It will take time for them to come around. They won’t do it out of patriotism or principle but because they’re staring into their political graves. Even Mitch McConnell will betray Trump eventually. He’s the most cynical man in public life and would sell his grandmother to maintain his slender majority. But it will take time. It’s what happens when you mess with the FBI.

The good news is that this sort of scandal consumes Washington and the worst parts of Trump’s agenda are in serious jeopardy. Here’s Rick Wilson again:

…your president botched Trumpcare 1.0 and contributed little as House Speaker Paul Ryan managed to ram public-relations nightmare, Trumpcare 2.0, through the House at the cost of much political blood and treasure. Instead, Trump’s fumbles have left many members of Congress ducking town hall meetings like they’re in the Witness Protection Program. The DOA tax bill and the rest of Trump’s agenda are deader and more pungent than six-day-old fish.

Senate Democrats need to keep the pressure up. For one thing, they should fight anyone Trump appoints to head the FBI. The administration’s* flirtation with Joe Lieberman only shows how out of touch they are. He’s unpopular with Senate Democrats and loathed by the rank and file. This can only be explained as an attempt to buy off Little Lindsey and Senator Walnuts.

As for the president* himself, Trump’s Razor is still in effect. Bigly. When there’s a problem, he only makes it worse with whiny, outlandish tweets and inappropriate public comments. The Coast Guard’s commencement ceremony is not a place for political comments such as this:

Never, ever, ever give up. Things will work out just fine. Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can’t let them get you down. You can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams. I guess that’s why we won.

I guess he forgot that his proposed budget cut the Coast Guard by 14%. The Insult Comedian is not a details man. The Trumpian toddler tantrum continued on twitter this morning. This is what some internet smart ass had to say about it:

Trump is not only the whiner-in-chief, he’s the arsonist-in-chief. I think David Bowie put it best in the song below, “He’s putting out fire with gasoline.”

Trump has the power to fire Mueller and is stupid enough to do so. But the reaction to that would make the Comey firing look like a weenie roast. Mueller is one of the few genuinely non-partisan figures in public life. He’s been appointed to high office by Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. Bobby Three Sticks survived the Bush years with his reputation intact, in part, because of his opposition to torture.

It’s time to circle back to the post title. Because of my Watergate fixation, I am usually the first person to tell people NOT to compare a given scandal to it. The events of the last two weeks have led me to invoke the Spirit of ’73, which was when people stood up to a criminal enterprise operating out of the White House.

While it’s true that Trump cannot be indicted while in office, the pressure from the Mueller investigation and others will make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to finish his term. Another question posed by the unraveling is: what happens to his sanctimonious Veep? He appears to be implicated in the Flynn cover up. He may need to pardon himself as well as his master.

The unraveling will take time and patience but Trump sealed his eventual fate by firing Comey. Repeat after me: NEVER MESS WITH THE FBI.

Let’s give Tom Petty the last word: