What’s at stake…

What’s at stake…

Presidential elections are different from all the other elections we have in this country. If you aren’t familiar with the process, you’d better get familiar, and fast.

After Monday’s Iowa caucus, we have nothing but caucuses and primaries between now and summer, when the political parties get together for a week and then settle the question of which candidate(s) will represent their interests best. We’re done with pure speculation, though the media in general might think otherwise. Folks are finally exercising their right to vote. That is, as long as those rights haven’t been infringed.

While I could trot out all the ways in which campaigns smear candidates in service to proving their worth, I am only going to post two links and then I’m going to ask a lot of the questions I’m getting from Millennials on one hand and conservatives on the other.

With the demonizing of Muslims, backlash against African Americans and Central American refugees recast as “migrants,” Afghanistan, Iraq and (if the GOP get their way) Iran and Syria, we are in our own Wiemar Republic-style Liberal/Conservative war, bringing us to the Election of Exhaustion.

First, from Mother Jones: Here Come the Crazy Clinton Conspiracies of the 1990s

Second, from Amazon.com: The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton

Now that I have those things out of the way, let me make my own position clear: I support Bernie Sanders in the Primaries, including my own in Maryland, where I am a registered Democrat. And I support the winner of the nomination when the Democrats select their candidate in late July this summer. It will be hot as hell in Philadelphia, and oh, so appropriate for the election this time.

So, before New Hampshire’s primary next week, let’s have that conversation.

How does the President win an election?

Every state does it differently when it comes to primaries. Some states, like Iowa, hold caucuses, others have elections. Some of these are open–meaning a voter can cross party lines–but most are closed. No matter how the candidate is selected, at the party convention, where the candidate gets the official nod, we discover the running mates (Vice Presidential candidates) and from then on, the campaigns are all about which candidates will win. But here’s the thing. If you think you’re voting for your candidate, you’re not. You’re voting to select the members of the Electoral College, who will THEN vote for your candidate, assuming they do the job they were sworn to do.

This artifact of the original founding fathers and the first Constitutional Convention in 1787 is destined for retirement eventually. Until that happens, you’d better understand what your vote actually does, or you’re likely to regret your choice, come November.

If I don’t like a candidate I can just write in my own choice, can’t I?

Well, no. It’s not that simple. Sorry. If your write-in candidate isn’t registered in the state that way, your vote goes into the trash. Nice try, but that’s not how it works.

What else am I voting for in November?

Members of the US Senate serve six-year terms and are elected in thirds. One third of the Senate is up for election each two year cycle. In 2016, from (http://www.periodicalpress.senate.gov/reelection-2016/) these senate seats are up for grabs:

DEMOCRATS   

Michael Bennet (Colorado)
Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut)
Barbara Boxer (California) retiring in 2016
Patrick Leahy (Vermont)
Barbara Mikulski (Maryland) retiring in 2016
Patty Murray (Washington)
Harry Reid (Nevada) retiring in 2016  (may go Red)
Brian Schatz (Hawaii)
Charles Schumer (New York)
Ron Wyden (Oregon)

REPUBLICANS

Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire)  (may go Blue)
Roy Blunt (Missouri)
John Boozman (Arkansas)
Richard Burr (North Carolina)
Dan Coats (Indiana) retiring in 2016  (may go Blue)
Mike Crapo (Idaho)
Chuck Grassley (Iowa)
John Hoeven (North Dakota)
Johnny Isakson (Georgia)
Ron Johnson (Wisconsin)  (may go Blue)
Mark Kirk (Illinois)  (may go Blue)
James Lankford (Oklahoma)
Mike Lee (Utah)
John McCain (Arizona)
Jerry Moran (Kansas)
Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
Rand Paul (Kentucky)
Rob Portman (Ohio)
Marco Rubio (Florida)
Tim Scott (South Carolina)
Richard Shelby (Alabama)
John Thune (South Dakota)
Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania)  (may go Blue)
David Vitter (Louisiana) retiring in 2016

To take back the majority, Democrats need to win five seats (four will only tie the GOP). A further ten seats are required to give Democrats a filibuster-proof majority. (We haven’t seen that in the Senate since 1976.)

The House of Representatives is selected during every even year election. If you wanted to, you could replace every one of your House representatives every two years. Democrats need 218 seats to gain a majority again, and that’s a total of 30 additional seats to take control back from the GOP. (Democrats presently hold only 188 seats.) http://www.270towin.com/2016-house-election/

The following seats are at risk (according to 270towin.com):

AK-AL  Don Young
1973 22th

AZ-01  Ann Kirkpatrick
2013 2nd
Incumbent not running for re-election in 2016.

AZ-02  Martha McSally
2015 1st

CA-07  Ami Bera
2013 2nd

CA-10  Jeff Denham
2011 3rd

CA-21  David Valadao
2013 2nd

CA-24  Lois Capps
1998 10th
Incumbent not running for re-election in 2016.

CA-25  Steve Knight
2015 1st

CA-49  Darrell Issa
2001 8th

CO-03  Scott Tipton
2011 3rd

CO-06  Mike Coffman
2009 4th

FL-07  John Mica
1993 12th

FL-13  David Jolly
2014 2nd

FL-18  Patrick Murphy
2013 2nd
Incumbent not running for re-election in 2016.

FL-26  Carlos Curbelo
2015 1st

IA-01  Rod Blum
2015 1st

IA-03  David Young
2015 1st

IL-10  Robert Dold
2015 1st

IL-12  Mike Bost
2015 1st

IN-02  Jackie Walorski
2013 2nd

IN-09  Todd Young
2011 3rd
Incumbent not running for re-election in 2016.

KS-03  Kevin Yoder
2011 3rd

ME-02  Bruce Poliquin
2015 1st

MI-01  Dan Benishek
2011 3rd
Incumbent not running for re-election in 2016.

MI-07  Tim Walberg
2011 3rd

MI-08  Mike Bishop
2015 1st

MN-02  John Kline
2003 7th
Incumbent not running for re-election in 2016.

MN-03  Erik Paulsen
2009 4th

MN-08  Rick Nolan
2013 2nd

MT-AL Ryan Zinke
2015 1st

NE-02 Brad Ashford
2015 1st

NH-01 Frank Guinta
2015 1st

NJ-05  Scott Garrett
2003 7th

NV-03  Joe Heck
2011 3rd
Incumbent not running for re-election in 2016.

NV-04  Cresent Hardy
2015 1st

NY-01  Lee Zeldin
2015 1st

NY-03  Steve Israel
2001 8th
Incumbent not running for re-election in 2016.

NY-19 Chris Gibson
2011 3rd
Incumbent not running for re-election in 2016.

NY-21 Elise Stefanik
2015 1st

NY-22 Richard Hanna
2011 3rd
Incumbent not running for re-election in 2016.

NY-23 Tom Reed
2010 4th

NY-24 John Katko
2015 1st

PA-08 Mike Fitzpatrick
2011 3rd
Incumbent not running for re-election in 2016.

PA-16 Joseph Pitts
1997 10th
Incumbent not running for re-election in 2016.

TX-23 Will Hurd
2015 1st

UT-04 Mia Love
2015 1st

VA-05 Robert Hurt
2011 3rd
Incumbent not running for re-election in 2016.

VA-10
Barbara Comstock
2015 1st

WI-08
Reid Ribble
2011 3rd
Incumbent not running for re-election in 2016.

Note: Court-ordered redistricting has led to many Florida and Virginia congressional districts being redrawn for the 2016 election. The map and Representative data on this page reflect the current district boundaries, which will remain in effect until the new Congress is seated in January, 2017. However, the election ratings in the table reflect the new boundaries, as these determine where people will vote in November.

Why should I care?

The Presidency is only one branch of government and the President doesn’t write law. He can ask for law to be enacted or, with strict limits, make executive decisions regarding legal interpretation, but it’s the House that writes the budget and only in cooperation with the Senate. If the House and Senate agree with the President and he sides with corporate interests (Oligarchy, Plutocracy), the people lose their rights to Democracy.

Theoretically, both the House and Senate should be providing laws that enhance or clarify the Constitution. In reality, there’s a wide margin of interpretation regarding what is and isn’t Constitutional, and a majority of law is now written to protect the wealthy and screw the poor and lower middle classes. And there is presently nothing to stop them from adding whatever riders (commonly known as “pork”) they want to bills that must pass, like the NDAA, which also pays our service members’ salaries.

So what? What does that mean to our current government?

Well, if the House and Senate disagree about what the President thinks will help the people of our country, they can stop legislation from reaching the President or, through a series of tacked on amendments, push through their own agenda by adding riders to bills that force the President to do things that aren’t in the best interests of the people. Without a majority on the side of the President, nothing gets done.

Some people are fine with that, but they’re generally not the ones who need help the most.

Well, if it’s not Constitutional, who fixes the problem?

Theoretically that’s where the third branch comes in. That’s the court system, led by the Supreme Court. And here’s the biggest problem we face today, in February, just as the 2016 election year gets underway.

Why is that a big deal?

The Supreme Court consists of nine lifetime appointments. It’s the Justice’s decision to retire if he or she doesn’t die in office first. While there is an impeachment process outlined, no Supreme Court justice has ever been impeached.

At present, the following justices are over the age of 67 (legal retirement age):

  • Clarence Thomas (age 67)
  • Stephen Breyer (age 77)
  • Anthony Kennedy (age 79)
  • Antonin Scalia (age 79)
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg (age 82)

Five Four of the nine eight are old enough to retire from ordinary service. Three of these are on the liberal side of the courts. And there is virtually no chance whatsoever that the next President won’t be required to appoint at least one new member. The general age range of new court justices appointed is 50-55. They tend to serve at least 20 years on the bench, but Scalia is was just 8 months shy of his 30th anniversary.*

While the President can appoint a justice, the Senate has to agree on the appointment. So chew on this: If the Senate retains their GOP majorities, but the President is a Democrat, approval will be difficult at best. If the GOP wins the presidency, and the Senate retains its majority, there is no chance whatsoever that the court will see another liberal appointment. Possibly ever.*

[Now that one of these is gone, how will it work in practice instead of theory? I can’t predict the future, but this might be the year the Senate suspends the summer recess.]

What else is going on?

Well, now that you mention it, there’s that little matter of a Constitutional Convention. Remember when I mentioned it a few paragraphs ago? Did you know we are somewhere between two and five states away from having enough states to call one? True. It only takes 34, and Texas’ declaration is the most recent. Imagine the Constitution without any of the amendments beyond the Bill of Rights. That’s 17 additional amendments some conservatives would dearly love to see abolished.

So what does all this mean?

It means that if you choose to throw your vote behind any candidate except the one that wins the Democratic nomination, you are voting for the GOP. And if that happens, and they get control of all three branches of government, this could be the last time you get to vote on anything. Imagine what this country would be like under President McCain or President Romney. Now imagine President Cruz. It’s not terribly far-fetched.

Considering what the court system has done to eliminate voting rights protection, women’s rights to health and work, fair wages and so much more, what are you prepared to risk, to support your passion?

[* Edited to fix inaccuracies regarding the approval process (2/15/2016), and to correct grammar (2/29/2016).]

 

Unemployment Blackmail

Unemployment Blackmail

ex·tor·tion [ik-stawr-shuhn]
noun
1. an act or instance of extorting.
2. Law. the crime of obtaining money or some other thing
of value by the abuse of one’s office or authority.
3. oppressive or illegal exaction, as of excessive price
or interest: the extortions of usurers.
4. anything extorted.

Yesterday on Facebook, this little gem popped up in my feed. I was nearly done for the night, and with all Facebook’s recent monkey business and tampering with the way news filters through, I might have missed it. But no, it hit me about this time last night and I…I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I’ve been quiet, trying to concentrate on getting through school and the holidays, but I have to say I could not have imagined the depths the GOP will stoop to relieve us poor saps of the one thing that could get them unseated in November. Not until last night, at least.

It wasn’t enough just to believe PoliticsUSA, though. I needed to find corroboration that didn’t link back to the original article, so imagine my surprise when I found this.

Here’s the whole clip from C-SPAN2.

Seriously? Okay, folks. I’m back. Miss me?

This is why the GOP pulled benefits from our Veterans and those suffering from long-term unemployment? (That, by the way, includes me. I fell off the unemployment ranks three years ago. That’s why I’m back in college again, even though I have a perfectly valid B.A.)

There’s no polite term for extortion. It’s illegal. Why aren’t these gentlemen going to prison for violating Federal law? Because someone told them it was okay to do this.

Well, get this. We have just shy of nine months to let these criminals know they can’t pull this crap and get away with it. Show them the door.

Mitch McConnell is up for re-election THIS November. So are roughly one-third of the other Senate seats and ALL the Representatives in the House.

If you allow these thugs to stay the course, you’re just as guilty as they are.

Do something about it.

You have nine months.

And here we are…

And here we are…

At 11:58 pm on Monday, September 30, 2013.

Lest there be any question or confusion in anyone’s mind over who is directly responsible for the closure of our national parks, the sudden and explicable shutting down of services far and wide throughout the country, and the eternal brinkmanship of the Tea Party, this article sums it up for you:

Boehner Refuses To Allow Vote on Popular Democratic Bill That Would Avoid Government Shutdown

That’s right, kids. The Hydra is just about ready to eat itself, and all because political theatre is more important than running the country.

But why? Why?

Here’s what’s been brewing in my head the last two weeks, thanks to yet another mass shooting, in my neck of the woods. Better buckle your seatbelts and hang on. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis driven by delusions

On September 16, 2013, something remarkable happened. Again.

13 people died, including a mentally ill man, aged 34. Those are the details you can gather from the article above. Additional details have surfaced about how Alexis’ behavior was cause for concern, but not sufficiently off to justify actual medical treatment. He was, as far as anyone knew, fit enough to hold a security clearance and to purchase guns and ammunition. And as soon as the act was over, and it was clear the shooter was dead, all we had left was a series of clues that added up to a head-scratchingly vague image of what drove this man to commit random murders that morning.

This time, the discussion of gun control ended before it even had a chance to start, because the timing was so close to the end of the government’s fiscal year, even this tremendous loss of life, just a short mile or so away from Capitol Hill, was insufficient to jumpstart the discussion of sane guidelines for owning and operating a firearm.

Stunning, really, because one short week later, all the news reports could talk about was whether there would be compromise.

I could have told them then that there wouldn’t be. There’s no reason for compromise. You can’t compromise with terrorists.

These senselessness acts of violence and mayhem are no less vile than the one perpetrated by the members of our House of Representatives against this country and our people. Republicants, Thuglicans, Tea Publicans – call them what you want, but whatever, you need to wake up and realize that the whole group is suffering from a case of paranoid schizophrenia, and we have left the disease untreated because we can’t seem to figure out what to do with the mentally ill.

These citizens, armed with hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars are telling the rest of us that we’re to blame for the mess our country is in.

A ‘post-democracy’ phase

Really?

Why are we in this mess today?

Because people in Ohio (a state bought and sold by ALEC) elected John Boehner again in 2012.

Boehner has zero interest in working the differences out. It’s not why he was elected.

The extreme Right elected him and his ilk because they don’t WANT the rest of the country to know that the way to fix the problem is to reverse 30 years of Trickle Down Damage, brought on by people who believed the horse hockey Saint Reagan fed them when he said all we needed to do was make it easier for the rich to spend their money and everyone would win.

It took 30 years for us to get where we are today, and the plutocracy like what they have just fine. Keep the scum down and they can’t rise up like they did in France because they’re too busy chasing turban-wrapped shadows and uppity black Presidents. 

When Mitt Romney made those ill-timed comments and the nice guy waiting tables caught him on camera, he wasn’t talking to the general voters. He was talking to his infernal brotherhood. And now, his puppet masters are mad because they didn’t get their way last November, so here we are, 45 minutes after midnight and not a budget in sight. 

The only way this has to do with the Democrats is that they are not the Tea Party. Ergo, they are W.R.O.N.G.

And the worst thing is, every last one of the Tea Party’s supporters has swallowed the crap the Koch brothers have fed them through the last 30 years. Y’all should be ashamed of yourselves.

The only difference between what Aaron Alexis did and what the House Republicans are doing now is that he was shot for his crimes. Instant retribution. The House of Representatives is still getting a big, fat paycheck (more in a year than I’ve made in the last 10 years, combined). They’re not going to see anything happen – at least until November 2014. (See that countdown ticker to the right? That’s how long we have before we can fix this mess.)

The last time the government shut down, Newt Gingrich was in the driver seat. Even Newt has figured out this is wrong-headed.

Newt Gingrich: ‘No Grand Strategy’ Around Possible Government Shutdown

Maybe the Affordable Care Act will do what we haven’t been able to accomplish since the GOP sucked the life out of the House in the 1990s – finally win the government back so that we can rise back up to our former glory as a compassionate country that takes care of its own. Instead of throwing our most vulnerable citizens under the bus, perhaps we can find a way to make it possible for us to enjoy life again. But first, the Tea Party has to go.

Someone needs to stop the insanity.

And the sooner, the better.

Out of touch…

Out of touch…

A listing by "Class" of the Republican Senators who voted against the UN Treaty.
A listing by “Class” of the Republican Senators who voted against the UN Treaty.

Earlier this week, the GOP went out of its way to remind us just how out of touch they are with the rest of the world by denying ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. They did it in spite of support from more moderate members of the party, including Senator John McCain, while retired Senator Bob Dole (ill and confined to a wheelchair), looked on.

While there might still be some small shred of hope that we can save our country from the ongoing ravages of the Tea-obsessed class of 2010, it’s clear from the illustration above just how far we have to go before we see anything like real progress. The vote on December 4 needed a mere eight additional votes for ratification, but no matter how you slice it, with only three of those leaving office in January, there’s very little chance we’ll see much in the way of change for at least the next two years.

I think we’ll see a bit more positive movement, but unless I’m very much mistaken and the Supreme Court comes through on tossing out some of the more offensive legislation like DOMA, we’re pretty much stuck until 2014.

Best buckle down and enjoy the ride. It’s shaping up to be a long two years.

How the Senate Failed U.S. Businesses (and Bob Dole)

A Tribute to Senator George McGovern (1922-2012)

A Tribute to Senator George McGovern (1922-2012)

I mentioned earlier that I grew up in a single-parent household. Dad was as devoted to his role as a Democrat as some were to their various religious sects.  By observing my father as he worked to protect and improve the School Without Walls (SWW), I learned early how much politics affects our day-to-day lives.

Dad, part of a group of  students, teachers and parents joined together at the height of the 1968 riots, became the representative and eventual leader of the program, using John Bremer’s Parkway Program in Philadelphia as a guide. Based on Bremer’s educational philosophy, SWW followed a path of learning and exploration that widened the base of each student’s experience far past the traditional chalkboard and into the community at large.

SWW suffered through the Rochester City School District’s repeated attempts to shut the program down, forming grass-roots movements that helped preserve the program so that each year it grew stronger and more stable. Over the first three years, the school community held long meetings to work on strategy and to protest the nearly continual threat to the school’s existence.

In 1972, when I was in 4th grade, I began my life-long love-hate relationship with American politics. My school assignment was (and remains) a classic: Follow the election and report back what you learned. The 1972 Presidential Election was a major life lesson for me, because I was rooting for Senator George McGovern.

There were a lot of things happening in 1972. On TV we were watching All in the Family, Maude, M*A*S*H, and other shows in addition to the news. I was so wrapped up in family TV time I had goldfish named Huntley, Brinkley and Walter (because Cronkite was harder to pronounce, I guess). Dad had reel to reel tapes of the Beatles, Pete Seeger, Hair, Buffy Ste. Marie, and others. I was as much into the anti-war movement as an eight-year-old could be.

So when Senator McGovern became an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, I knew who I wanted for my president.

Eero Saarinen-inspired table and chairs like the ones we had growing up.
Image from http://cityissue.com/id22.html

The night of the election I sat in the kitchen, watching our small portable TV (featured prominently on our round, white table, very similar to the one pictured above). I sat and swiveled around, because sitting still wasn’t one of my strong suits, watching the returns as they rolled in. As the hours rolled by, I watched in horror as Nixon took state after state.

The experience shook me so, I cried.

I recall being in Sun Valley Idaho at a relatively posh (for us) hotel room watching TV on August 8th, 1974, hearing Dad holler at the TV screen “They got the son of a bitch,” as Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace. During our Spring Break in 1976, we took a trip to Washington, DC. I believe it was our first, though I could be remembering wrong. It was a long time ago.

Dad took us to the FBI, the Mint, on a tour of the White House and Washington Monument, and to the Capitol, where we happened across Senator McGovern on his way elsewhere. I don’t remember what I said, only that he was substantially taller than Dad, very gracious and willing to shake my hand.

Senator McGovern died two days ago, having served a long and respected life, even as he is most remembered for that bitter defeat. As our country has become increasingly divided, it saddens me that the legacy people will remember most is Nixon’s landslide victory, however ill-gotten it might have been, and Gerald Ford’s subsequent pardoning of a man who should have gone to jail. Nixon set a precedent that is so firmly in place today, in our current election, that the Republican candidate can say anything and still be a serious threat, even in the face of what his predecessors have done.

I hope, for our sake, we can learn from history. I fear that we will not, and that we will pay a far higher price than anyone might imagine when we go to the polls two weeks from today.

Rest in peace, Senator. I believed in you then and I still believe in you now.

Huffington Post: McGovern’s Patriotism — And How the 2012 Campaign Dishonors It

The Washington Post: George McGovern, the man who never gave up

My senators are on the correct side of this issue. Are yours?

My senators are on the correct side of this issue. Are yours?

Thursday, a discriminatory policy that deprives our military of qualified troops, endangers our national security, and violates the simple American principles of integrity, fairness, and equality was allowed to remain law.

Every Republican senator but one — Senator Susan Collins — voted to prevent the passage of legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Several of them had previously claimed to support repeal, but voted “no” Thursday.

It’s a frustrating setback, but here’s the good news: We are just three votes away from moving forward on repeal.

And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and our allies in the Senate are promising another vote on repeal before Congress heads home for the year. There is still a chance for this to pass.

Allies in the Senate are not done fighting. The President is not done fighting. And I know you’re not, either.

Write the Republicans standing in the way in the Senate — and tell them to get on the right side of history.

There’s no question that Thursday’s vote was disappointing.

But we also have a lot of reasons to be proud today.

The letters to the editor you wrote and the phone calls you made — and the 582,000 petitions you signed — have been crucial in building support for repeal.

Thursday morning, OFA volunteers delivered those petitions to Senator Collins’ office. And Thursday afternoon, she voted to move this bill forward.

Now your work can help make sure we secure the votes necessary to finally put an end to this unfair policy.

One final push might be all it takes.

I know we still have a lot of fight left in us. Write Republicans now — and tell them to stop standing in the way:

http://my.barackobama.com/DADTRepealLetters

RIP Ted Kennedy…

RIP Ted Kennedy…

First news item of the day.

I don’t know what time I went to bed last night. I’m trying unsuccessfully to restore my laptop to Windows2000, because I have no use for Ubuntu, and I was hoping to drift until 7:30, but no, not with that news.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Kennedy

There is one sibling left of his generation.

A year is a respectable amount of time to live with a brain tumor, but still, it’s a terrible way to go and it gives me pause because he was one month older than my dad.

I foresee terrible trouble ahead….

Theme: Elation by Kaira.