If I Had a Republican Senator . . .

 . . . or if Heitkamp, Manchin, Donnelly or Jones was one of my US Senators, I’d be sending them a letter that would go something like this:

Dear Senator [Insert Senator’s name here],

I’ve got good news and bad news.  First the bad news.

You’re about to be forced to make an up-or-down vote on Brett Kavanaugh for Associate Supreme Court Justice, and no matter how you come down, you’re going to be screwed.  You can support your President and brave the wrath of every women of either party who values her constitutional right to control her own body, and believe me, you will be hounded in your offices and your town halls and you will be turned out the next time you have to stand in a general election.  People who vote, and women VOTE, don’t like to have rights they’ve been guaranteed for over forty-five years just stripped away.  And don’t forget what you went through last year with Trumpcare.

Or you can take door #2 and bring an abrupt end to your future in the Trumpublican party.  Like I said, either way you’re screwed.

Now the good news.  You don’t have to choose!

You can swear on a stack of Bibles that you will vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as soon as his nomination comes to the Senate floor for a vote.  You can praise him to high heaven and thank Donald J Trump Sr for the opportunity to endorse so inspired a SCOTUS pick.  But you’ve got two good reasons to make the truly conservative choice and withhold your vote for cloture on the nomination, denying a final vote until after mid-term elections, the seating of the new Senate and the completion of Mueller’s investigation into possible criminal activity during the 2016 campaign.

First good reason:  No subject of a federal criminal investigation should be allowed to pick their own judges and jurors,  This is a conservative bedrock principle undergirding the rule of law.  Because of Kavanaugh’s public record opposing even an investigation of a sitting CinC, to avoid a constitutional crisis or damaging impression of a conflict of interest his confirmation should be delayed until the Special Counsel’s investigation has demonstrated that the President is as innocent of wrongdoing as we all know him to be.

And if that reason isn’t enough for you, there’s the conservatively consistent application of the Rules of the Senate, in this case the McConnell rule that no hearings should be held or votes taken in the Senate to deal with a Supreme Court vacancy that occurs less than eight months before a national election.  After all, your voters have a right to be heard!

Believe me, your best bet for political survival is not to take a side on this one until you’re absolutely forced into it.

No disrespect intended,

[Insert your name here]


Faithful Reader, feel free to contact your Republican (or squishy Dem) Senator in their offices and town halls, at lunch, over the phone, or indirectly through letters to your local media, and use my arguments or your own better ones to convince them to back off this nomination.

Make an uncivil racket!  And VOTE at every opportunity!

(photo credit: Fox News)

Let’s Be Frank . . . About Assault Weapons and School Safety

1. Arming Teachers Isn’t Just a Bad Idea, It’s a STUPID Idea. Thought experiment: Teacher with concealed carry handgun is writing a lesson on the board, crazed killer in body armor with AR-15 and high-capacity clip shoots through the lock and kicks open the door, teacher reaches for handgun from shoulder holster, chambers a round and clicks off the safety while turning to face the shooter, during which couple of seconds shooter pumps a dozen rounds through teacher’s torso, then pumps another hundred or so into students. Wait, wait, let’s correct this — teachers with concealed carry handguns should always keep them in hand with round chambered, safety off in anticipation of crazed killer, now we get an additional 100,000 or so annual deaths from accidental firearm discharges in classrooms. Wait, wait, there are lots of other ways this could play out — disgruntled student disarms teacher, kills classmates — nervous white teacher sees brown student reaching into backpack, blows his head off — teacher leaves loaded handgun on toilet tank in ladies’ room (this actually happened) — you can see the possibilities, not many of them have happy endings.

2. The Hardest Hardened School Won’t Keep Kids Safe. Because they’re only in school around seven hours a day, five days a week, nine months out of the year, and mass murders happen in airports, shopping malls, movie theaters, dance clubs, sidewalk cafes, concerts, you know, places where people go. And can’t you just picture 3000 kids lined up for airport style security, backpack searches, full-body patdowns, first hour of every school day? What do you think that would teach them? The sad truth is the only way the very toughest hardened school could keep all kids safe is if they’re never allowed to leave, cuts school right out of the school-to-prison pipeline.

3. Good Guy With a Gun Beats Bad Guy With a Gun Is Just a Cynical Feckin’ Lie. There were good guys with guns at Columbine and Parkland, they were helpless to do anything. There were good guys, armed and well-trained military veterans, on campus at Roseburg, they didn’t make any difference. There were good guys with guns guarding Jack Kennedy when his head was blown apart by a rifle bullet, and at least half-a-dozen good guys with guns within five feet of Ronnie Reagan AND his assassin that couldn’t stop him from getting off six rounds in less than two seconds, hitting four people. And remember the Gabby Giffords shooting? There was a good guy with a gun there too, when the good guy without a gun was struggling with the killer for the gun, the good guy with the gun didn’t know who to shoot and he later admitted that he thought the good guy without a gun was actually the bad guy with a gun, so the smartest thing he did that day was to not try to be a good guy with a gun because he was gonna shoot the wrong guy. I’d say “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” is a myth, but that’s unfair to myths — at least a good myth expresses some poetic truth.

4. Assault Rifles Have Only One Purpose — To Kill the Most People in the Shortest Time. That’s it, that’s all they’re good for*. You can’t hunt with them, unless just killing for fun is your bag (not the greatest sign that you can be trusted with weapons), because their bullets do so much damage they destroy any part of the meat or the trophy that they touch. They’re designed to do maximum damage, to kill whatever they hit, and to overwhelm opposition with rapid fire. Only a society with a death wish would allow them to be owned and carried by civilians, and everybody knows this. That’s why the vast majority of Americans of all political persuasions want them to be banned, along with specialty accessories that make them even more lethal — bump stocks, trigger cranks, high capacity magazines. The first and most important steps to making our children — hell, ALL of us — safer are to outlaw the sale, manufacture and import of military grade weapons except under license and contract to our military organizations, to outlaw the possession of rapid-fire accessories and high-capacity magazines, to appropriate money to buy back and take out of circulation as many as their current owners are willing to part with, to register every one that remains in private hands with the registered owners held accountable for any crimes committed with them, and to impose mandatory hard jail time for failure to comply.

*There is arguably one other use — guys who like to pretend that they’re macho action heros can blow off ammo with them at shooting ranges. My suggestion to these fantasy-role-playing tough guys is that if it helps them feel manly to handle a military assault rifle, then they should join the military. And if they’re not the kind of material our armed services want, then that’s a damned good reason why they should never be allowed near military weapons.

5. The 2nd Amendment Doesn’t Apply Here. The Bill of Rights does NOT confer an unlimited right for anyone to own any weapon, and it never has. The Founding Fathers themselves as well as every judicial precedent and legal interpretation accepted by the Supreme Court (whose job it is to tell us what the Constitution means) for the first 221 years of the Republic held that the 2nd Amendment confers no individual right to any American to own any weapon.  That interpretation of the law is less than ten years old and it came from the pen of Antonin Scalia, the most reflexively rightwing partisan to sit on the Court in at least the last three generations. And even HE agreed that the states and local governments are empowered to impose reasonable limits on weapons ownership. We had a constitutional ban on ownership of assault weapons before any of the Parkland victims were even born, and we’d still have one if the Bush II administration hadn’t allowed it to expire. We could have it again before this Easter if Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan would allow a vote on the bill that stands before Congress right now. Everyone knows that the right to own machine guns, hand grenades, shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft missiles or suitcase nuclear bombs isn’t constitutionally guaranteed, no military-grade weapon should be different.

6. Gun Safety Laws Make a Difference. Don’t fall for that favorite line from do-nothing lawmakers, “This new law won’t make a difference, if a killer is determined to get a gun, nothing will stop him” or the variant version “This proposal wouldn’t have prevented that tragedy”. This is an even stupider argument than 1. 2. and 3. above. To see how profoundly stupid and insulting it is, just substitute any other prohibited activity — for example, “We have laws against bank robbery but people still rob banks, so bank robbery might as well  be legal” — see what I mean? California and Connecticut have the toughest state gun safety laws in the country, and some of the lowest rates of gun violence, Florida has some of the loosest laws and among the worst violence. The US is unique in the world for the looseness of its laws and its incredible prevalence of massacres, suicides, gun accidents and murders. Tough gun safety laws are the only way to fix this mess.

7. The NRA Isn’t a Gun Rights Lobby, It’s a Gun PROFITS Lobby. They pose as protectors of our liberties and the voice of gun enthusiasts, and when I was a kid they were the leading national organization promoting gun safety education and regulation, but they haven’t been that for over forty years. Polling consistently shows that their extremist positions are not supported by most Americans of either major party, not by most gun owners, not even by most of their own membership. The leadership of the NRA is funded by gun manufacturers and dealers with the sole aim of maximizing their profits by controlling lawmakers at federal and state levels.

8. Mass Murders Are Good for Keeping Profits Up. A nasty truth the death lobbyists don’t want you to think about is that nationally publicized mass murder events are good for business. Every time one of these horrific massacres happens, there’s a spike in gun sales. You’ll hear that gun sales have slackened off since Trump replaced Obama because gun enthusiasts aren’t as afraid that the gummint’s comin’ for their guns, and that’s true. Monthly sales figures for 2017 were lower than 2016, even in months where mass shootings made the news. But that’s just one of the ways they manipulate facts by comparing apples to oranges. The comparison that matters is gun sales in the days before a massacre vs sales immediately after a massacre, and they always go up. Mass murders improve the corporate bottom line and that’s why the NRA makes sure their servants in Congress never do anything that would stop them from happening. Their corporate lifeblood is literally the blood of our children, our neighbors, our families. They are the closest thing to pure evil that exists in America today.

9. It’s a Waste of Time To Try To Convince the Other Side. Know where the bodies are buried (and why) and never stop speaking the truth, but don’t spend energy trying to change minds of those who’ve been brainwashed by the NRA . They have their own set of alternative facts and a media bubble that reinforces their ignorance and intransigence. We need to understand how gun violence operates in our country, not to change minds, but to protect ourselves from being confused by their bullshit.

10. But That Doesn’t Mean We Have To Let Them Choose Our Lawmakers. We outnumber them almost nine-to-one, we can have the laws we need if we make ending the bloodbath our first priority. Know who’s running in every primary and general election where you have a voice, know where they stand on the reforms you want to see, and find out who’s taking money from the NRA. Make that the single issue on which you decide who gets your vote. And the good news is that when we throw out the NRA shills, we get other bonuses, because lawmakers who put human welfare and happiness ahead of corporate greed are also more likely to support social, racial, gender and economic justice.

11. Make Sure You’re Registered, Make Sure You Vote, Throw the Bastards Out. This last point isn’t so much about guns and safe spaces to live out our lives as it is a reminder that there are powerful forces working every day to make it harder for you to vote. In many states just because you’ve been registered your whole adult life doesn’t mean you won’t be turned away from voting if you present the wrong ID, if the middle initial on your birth certificate doesn’t appear on your driver’s license for example, or if you have a college ID but not an open carry license, if you took your husband’s name when you got married but didn’t clear it with the registrar of voters, if you have a common name (George Washington, Tom Jefferson, Jack Kennedy) and someone in another state with the same name owes $500 on some ten-year-old traffic violations. Verify your registration before voting day, don’t ever skip an opportunity to vote for any office or issue, and know WHY you support the choice you decide to make.

The Kids Are All Right, They Know Where They Want To Go, Let’s Help Them Make America Better Again

Recipe for Yule Eve Foaming Wassail . . . with digressions

[This morning a good friend asked me for my foaming wassail recipe.  Remembering that I’d posted this nine years ago, my second ever blog post on dear departed Open Salon, I’ve pulled it out of my archive to share again with the world, updated notes in brackets and italics]

Next Saturday night will be Yule Eve [this year it’ll be on Wednesday 12/20 or Thursday 12/21, depending on your longitude], otherwise known as Midwinter Eve or the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.  When better to throw an all-night party?

On this night for the last twenty-plus years, Risa and I have opened our door from sundown till sunup to family, friends, friends of friends, neighbors, acquaintances, colleagues — basically anyone who knows about the party, or knows someone who knows about it, is welcome [sorry folks, we discontinued the family tradition after 2011, so please don’t show up, though my son Neil has revived it at his place in Victoria BC].  From year to year the character of the party varies.  When the solstice falls during the week, it’s usually a tamer gathering than on a Friday or Saturday.  As our kids have grown older, the median age of the partiers has gotten younger, and as we and our cohort have aged, the early morning hangers-on don’t seem to hang on the way we used to.

We encourage folks to bring their musical instruments, something to eat, drink or smoke, and their own bedding if they plan to stay the night and don’t plan to stay awake the whole time.  Risa bakes fresh gingerbread men the night before and sets up a decorating station with colored icings, always a hit with the kids of all ages.  And I make my foaming wassail.


Ingredient list:

a pound of honey

a dozen eggs

three to four quarts of beer, ale, stout or other brewed malt beverage

a bottle of sherry

a half-pint of brandy or liqueur

mulling spices (I generally use stick cinnamon, whole cloves and allspice berries, freshly grated nutmeg, fresh sliced ginger root and powdered mace)


When I’ve gauged that the party has reached something approaching a critical mass, usually between nine and ten pm, I clear some elbow room in the kitchen (we have an open plan kitchen and living space, so I don’t have to leave the festivities), gather a trusted assistant or two mostly to clean up behind me, and go to work.

First melt the honey in a small saucepan with a couple of cups of water and the mulling spices, bring it to a slow simmer and leave it there.

Next, pour the beer and sherry together into a pot with a capacity of at least a couple of gallons and start warming it over a very low flame; you want to bring it just to the point where it would start boiling if you let it go another half-minute.

Now it’s time to separate the eggs, and here I have to make a digression to honor my Grandma Rose Walton who was born in the nineteenth century, who read me comic books and Babar stories and gave me back rubs always with a Chesterfield cigarette at hand, whom I promised at the age of five to marry when I grew up, and who was hit by a car at the age of 82 while crossing the street in front of her house.  Among the things I learned from her were that Communists were not the demons they were made out to be in the newspapers but just people who thought everyone should have an equal share in the good things of life, and the proper way to separate eggs.

To separate eggs, you need two bowls, a cup and a table knife.  Holding an egg in one hand, strike it sharply on its equator with the knife to make a clean sharp break in the shell.  Now put down the knife, and taking the eggshell in both hands separate it into two hemispheres, carefully rolling the yolk into the larger half without breaking it, and allowing the white to spill out into the cup below.  Now carefully roll the yolk into the smaller half of the eggshell, allowing the rest of the white to spill into the cup.  Dump the yolk into the bowl reserved for yolks, but inspect the eggwhite in the cup before pouring it into the bowl reserved for whites.  If there’s any trace of yolk in the white, put it in the yolk bowl and try to do better with the next egg, because you’ll never get those eggwhites to whip up into stiff peaks if there’s any yolk in the bowl with them.  So my Grandma taught me and I still believe her.

Repeat twelve times.

Now that you’ve got the eggs separated, whip the whites until they’re stiff enough to stand up in little peaks.

When I was younger and more of a purist, I actually did this by hand with a whisk, but for several years now I’ve found that the electric hand mixer does a better job in less time.  In these days of global warming awareness, I leave it to you to decide how best to reconcile your responsibility to the planet with the need for a more perfect wassail.  In my defense, I swear that I only use the electric mixer for this one task and only once a year.

Now quickly whip the yolks until they’re smooth and frothy, and then add to them the mulled honey (don’t forget to strain out the chunky mulling spice bits) a little bit at a time, whipping the mixture constantly so as not to allow the eggs to curdle.

Once you’ve finished combining the yolk and honey mixture, fold (do not stir!) it into the whipped egg whites, being careful to disturb them only as much as it takes to incorporate the cholesterol and sugar into the airy essence of albumen.

By now, your beer/sherry mix should be steaming hot.  Remove it from the heat, add the egg/honey mix and the brandy and serve warm, steaming and foamy.

At our house we serve it up in the silver punch bowl I won forty years ago on “Tic-Tac-Dough” [sadly lost with all our other possessions in the 2012 fire, so it goes], with Risa leading the revelers in a spirited rendition of the Gloucestershire Wassail song as the steaming bowl is carried to the table.

Make this recipe your own, and fold it into your own family traditions as it pleases you.

Blessed Yule!  Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again!

The Hat

You know the Hat I’m talking about.  Not the one in the picture above, the other one, its little brother.

The Hat manufactured in China for the Drumpf to sell to the hordes who flocked to his ersatz Nuremburg rallies, the chumps, the deplorables, the liberal-baiters, Obama-haters, the unholy rollers, “Lock Her Up” howlers, immigrant bashers, protester punchers, the dead-ender wannabe-winners whose dream was to Make America Hate Again, White Again, who looked up at the contorted face of ignorance and malice and malignant self-regard and saw the person they wished they could be.

The Hat we all saw in Charlottesville marching under the banners of Nazis and Slavers and KKK terrorists.

Did you see the video of the Dear Leader reading the words someone else wrote for him? Did you see on his face the distaste and reluctance he was feeling at having to offer a sop to the decency expected from anyone in his position on the occasion of a national tragedy? Did you see how his countenance changed when ad-libbing at the end — “on many sides, on many sides” — when he spoke words of his own to deflect accountability — nothing out of the ordinary here, happens all the time, not my fault. Same as it ever was.

Did you see him try to scurry away as quickly as possible, only to be reminded that he was there for another one of his staged signing ceremonies, walking back past the podium, ignoring questions? And after show-and-tell, passing the podium one more time, disdaining another opportunity to clarify his stand on Nazism and white supremacy and domestic terrorist murder, shaking his head in contemptuous denial?

The Drumpf’s normalizers and apologists have been doing their best for the last couple of years to play down the fact that his core supporters include racists and violent extremists, adherents of treasonous rebellion and fascist mass murder. But you know who thinks Drumpf’s a Nazi? Other Nazis. You know who thinks he’s a white supremacist? Other white supremacists. Within minutes of his televised statement, Nazi bloggers were congratulating each other for the support they were getting from the White House.

A woman was murdered this past weekend for resisting Nazis on the streets of America.

Let that sink in.

A woman was murdered for resisting Nazis on the streets of America, and Drumpf wants us to think this is normal — nothing to see here folks, move along.

A woman was murdered.  For resisting Nazis.  On the streets of America.  And the terrorist movement responsible for this atrocity is populated by Americans who claim they’re acting in the name of the President, who wear his Hat and trumpet his message and expect the rest of the country to cower in our rooms and leave the streets to them.

That Hat, with its message and its #MAGA meme, is now joined forever with the other symbols of hatred, ignorance, violence and contempt for American ideals that terrorists marched under last weekend.

Anyone who’d wear the Hat in public again after the events in Charlottesville is declaring adherence to one side, and it’s not America’s side.

Joining the Club

So Kim Jong Un’s Independence Day present for America was a ballistic missile test, and People-Who-Know-What-They’re-Talking-About have determined that if you flatten the parabola that dropped it just off the coast into the Sea of Japan, then it might be able to reach Alaska.

This is serious stuff.  Every time one more nation joins the exclusive club whose membership requirement is the capacity to toss a nuclear weapon a few thousand miles with malice aforethought (or no forethought at all), it’s serious.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is baby steps from that goal, maybe already there for its closest neighbors.

From our putative leaders and PWKWTTA I’ve been hearing some saber-rattling, some goofy tweets, some gloomy assessments, even sometimes a little common sense, but I haven’t heard much about what strikes me as the best antidote to the threat of more war, and that would be more peace.

Hear me out.

Everybody says Afghanistan is the longest war in our history at a mere fifteen years and counting, but actually we’ve been embedded in a war with North Korea for almost seven decades, just about my whole lifetime and longer than those of most living Americans.  It’s been going on uninterrupted for so long and with so little consequence to most of us that we’re barely even aware of it.

But a whole generation of North Koreans were born, lived long, and died in their old age in a nation at war, and none in the current leadership have known a single day of their lives when their country wasn’t at war with the most fearsome nuclear power on the planet, nor have they ever been allowed to just drop it off their minds.

And lest any of us forget, the last country to voluntarily give up its nukes was hammered back into the Dark Ages with a Nobel Peace Laureate leading from behind (Libya, look it up).  So let’s just say that hoping the most paranoid national leadership on the planet is going to give up its best insurance against regime change or worse from its eternal and almost infinitely overpowering blood enemy is probably a couple of hopes too far.

But maybe they could be persuaded to put it on hold as part of a treaty to finally bring an end to the state of war on the Korean peninsula.  Maybe a treaty recognizing their legitimacy, signed by the occupant of the White House as well as the president of their cultural sibs to the South, witnessed by their powerful neighbors and guaranteed by the UN under whose banner the Yankee devils fought their grandparents, maybe peace could be the peace offering they’ve been holding out for.

We don’t know.  It hasn’t been offered.

Obviously, it wouldn’t be a simple undertaking, especially under the current leadership in the US.  Each of the divided Koreas would have to see it in their best interest, and that means no re-unification in this generation.  Nor would China ever acquiesce to having a united Korea allied with its chief global rival sitting on its northeast border, but they might be glad to have an answer to their Korean refugee problem, especially if it kept a near neighbor from being  armed with nukes.

South Korea and the rest of East Asia could find economic benefits in a DPRK that wasn’t off-limits to investment, and the South in particular could renew cultural ties and reunite families and personal networks, while no people would benefit more than the citizens of the North.

The terms of the peace including the means of enforcing a halt, possibly even some retreat from DPRK’s current nuclear capability, would be crucial.  Real access for international inspectors to all nuclear and conventional military facilities on both sides of the 38th parallel would have to be part of any agreement.  Exchanging military observers between the two Koreas might help the peace as much as cultural and educational exchanges.  Reopening the Kaesong common industrial zone, as new President Moon Jae-in has clearly advocated, maybe with stronger protections for workers and the environment, could only facilitate North-South economic ties.

What’s in it for America?  The only feasible way to stop another country from gaining the ability to nuke us in our beds.  And all the benefits that accrue from reducing military tensions in a dangerous part of the world.  More peace.  That’s not nothing.

DPRK is poised to join one of the most exclusive, and most deadly, clubs in the world.  Shouldn’t we offer them a chance to join the other big club, the one of countries not at war?  Maybe that’s the club they really always wanted to join anyway.

I don’t pretend to be one of the PWKWTTA when it comes to global strategy, but for the life of me I can’t see why a plan along these lines wouldn’t be worth trying.  I’m taking this opportunity to invite anyone interested to explain to me why it’s not.

Get the Habit


Election Day is just a few weeks away.  Are you ready?

Not the next Presidential election, that’s November 2020.  And the supremely important congressional midterms, when America will get our first chance to put the brakes on the Trumpocalypse, aren’t till 2018.

But here in California’s Sonoma County our next election is on March 7 2017, just 27 days off as I write these words, and I’ll bet that wherever you live in the USA, there’s a county or district or state election coming up soon where you can make your voice heard.

I’ve got my sample ballot (downloaded from the county registrar’s office to save paper and postage), complete with text of the measures I’ll be voting on, official arguments by supporters and opponents, and directions to my polling place.  My county representatives are seeking my approval on a measure to impose a business tax on suppliers and retailers of cannabis, newly legal in our great state, and on the same ballot I’ll be voting as a resident of the Sonoma Valley Health Care District on the question of renewing an expiring parcel tax to fund the continued operation of emergency services at our local hospital.

My position on these issues is irrelevant.  What’s important is that I won’t pass up the opportunity to have my voice heard on these two questions which will impact the lives of every voter and non-voter, every taxpayer, every neighbor, property owner, visitor, every man, woman and child who may need or use county or district services, including roads, housing, fire safety, police, environmental protection and health care.

America has endured years of gridlock and government dysfunction at federal, state and local levels largely because so few of us turn out to vote more than once every four years.  Not enough of us pay attention when the superstars aren’t on the ballot, and half or more don’t even bother when they are.

No opportunity to vote is too unimportant to bother with.  Marching and protesting matter and they sure can make you feel less isolated and powerless, but the only way to turn our anger and frustration into real change is to turn out and vote — in every election, at every level.

So even if you think the next measure put before you on a ballot is trivial, or a no-brainer that can’t lose, just take a moment to consider what you’d like to say to the 70,000 or so non-voters in three states who turned over executive power and control of the world’s largest military and nuclear arsenal to a demented ignoramus and his white supremacist, anti-Semitic fascist political guru.

If you can’t justify voting on off-years and local issues for any other reason, then think of it as practice for the big ones.  Check your registration and make sure it’s valid and up-to-date.  Get your ballot, figure out where you stand on each choice, know how and where to submit your vote, and then DO IT!  The more you practice, the easier it’ll be the next time.

Your country needs you to stand up and be counted.  Start today.

Make it a habit.

Pressure Drop Where It Matters – Democrat Shills for Big Pharma


Thirteen Democrats in the US Senate voted against their constituents in favor of the pharmaceutical lobby the other night.

I’ve been trying lately to make it easy for those who follow me on Facebook or Twitter or on this blog to put pressure on those senators who are vulnerable in the next election by posting their office phone numbers in one easy-to-look-up place.

Today I’m taking the focus off the Repubs.

Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders introduced an amendment that would have made it legal for Americans to purchase prescription drugs from Canada, where prices can be as much as 90% lower for the same drugs produced in the same facilities by the same manufacturers, because lawmakers in the US, at the bidding of Big Pharma lobbyists, have acted for years to keep prices artificially high for Americans.

The amendment was supported by a dozen Republicans, way more than enough for it to pass if Democrats had stuck together.  Here are the Dirty Baker’s Dozen we can hold responsible for enabling the continued gouging of their constituents:

Michael Bennett of Colorado, Tom Carper and Chris Coons of Delaware, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Jon Tester of Montana, Bob Menendez and Cory Booker of New Jersey, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Mark Warner of Virginia, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington

Seven of these turncoats have to stand for re-election in 2018.  I’m listing them with the phone numbers for their Washington and regional offices.

Tom Carper, Delaware, 202-224-2441, 302-573-6291, 302-674-3308, 302-856-7690

Jon Tester, Montana, 202-224-2644, 406-252-0550, 406-586-4450, 406-723-3277, 406-365-2391, 406-452-9585, 406-449-5401, 406-257-3360, 406-728-3003

Bob Menendez, New Jersey, 202-224-4744, 973-645-3030, 856-757-5353

Martin Heinrich, New Mexico, 202-224-5521, 505-346-6601, 505-325-5030, 575-523-6561, 575-622-7113, 505-988-6647

Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota, 202-224-2043, 701-258-4648, 701-232-8030, 701-225-0974, 701-775-9601, 701-852-0703

Bob Casey, Pennsylvania, 202-224-6324, 215-405-9660, 570-941-0930, 814-874-5080, 717-231-7540, 412-803-7370, 814-357-0314, 610-782-9470

Maria Cantwell, Washington, 202-224-3441, 206-220-6400, 509-353-2507, 253-572-2281, 425-303-0114, 360-696-7838, 509-946-8106

If you live in one of their states, you can apply the kind of pressure that counts to make your voice and opinions matter.  Simply call at least one of the phone numbers for your Senator, and leave the message that you’re a constituent, you’re paying attention, you will vote in the Democratic primary in 2018, and your support will be determined by how your Senator stands on the issues that matter to you.

Let them know that you saw how they put the interests of Big Pharma ahead of your own interests, and that if they don’t change their subservience to corporate lobbyists, you’ll be working to defeat them in the 2018 primary election.

Pressure Drop Where It Matters – Foreign Relations

foreign relations

Jeff Flake, Committee Chair, Arizona, 202-224-4521, 602-840-1891, 520-575-8633

Bob Corker, Tennessee, 202-224-3344, 901-683-1910, 615-279-8125, 865-637-4180, 731-664-2294, 423-753-2263, 423-756-2757

John Barasso, Wyoming, 202-224-6441, 307-672-6456, 307-362-5012, 307-856-6642, 307-772-2451, 307-261-6413

The three senators listed above are Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who are up for re-election in 2018, the next election cycle for Congress.  The phone numbers are for their Washington and regional offices.

If you live in one of these states, you can apply the kind of pressure that counts to make your voice and opinions matter.  Simply call at least one of the phone numbers for your Senator, and leave the message that you’re a constituent, you’re paying attention, you will vote in 2018, and your vote will be determined by how your Senator stands on the issues that matter to you.

Do it every time there’s a critical issue before the Foreign Relations Committee, like today.

January 11, 2017 — The Committee is holding hearings on the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be Trump’s Secretary of State.  Let your senator know how you feel about turning America’s top diplomatic job over to  a man to whom Vladimir Putin personally awarded the highest civilian honor Russia gives to non-citizens, a man who stands to benefit financially by lifting sanctions imposed on Russia after its annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine, sanctions he personally lobbied against, a man who financed climate change denialism even while being warned by his own scientists about the global warming catastrophe to which his corporation was contributing, under whose leadership Exxon profited from illegal deals with designated terrorist nations, just to name a few of his conflicts and betrayals of America’s interests.  Let your senator know that you’ll be voting in 2018, and you’ll be working to defeat him if he supports Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State.

Pressure Drop Where It Matters – Judiciary


Jeff Flake, Arizona, 202-224-4521, 602-840-1891, 520-575-8633

Ted Cruz, Texas, 202-224-5922, 512-916-5834, 214-599-8749, 713-718-3057, 210-340-2885, 903-593-5130, 956-686-7339

Orrin Hatch, Utah, 202-224-5251, 435-586-8435, 801-625-5672, 801-375-7881, 801-524-4380, 435-634-1795

The three senators listed above are Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who are up for re-election in 2018, the next election cycle for Congress.  The phone numbers are for their Washington and regional offices.

If you live in one of these states, you can apply the kind of pressure that counts to make your voice and opinions matter.  Simply call at least one of the phone numbers for your Senator, and leave the message that you’re a constituent, you’re paying attention, you will vote in 2018, and your vote will be determined by how your Senator stands on the issues that matter to you.

Do it every time there’s a critical issue before the Judiciary Committee, like today.

January 10 – 11, 2017 — The Committee is holding hearings on the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be Trump’s Attorney General.  Let your senator know how you feel about putting control of federal law enforcement in the hands of an avowed racist who’s dedicated his life to fighting against voting rights, LGBTQ rights, and women’s safety from violent abuse, to name just a few of his odious positions.  Let your senator know that you’ll be voting in 2018, and you’ll be working to defeat him if he supports Jeff Sessions for Attorney General.

Affordable by Any Other Name


What’s in a name?

Sometimes a lot.  Take the name Obamacare.  While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been a tremendous success at bringing healthcare to millions of previously uninsured, reducing the rate of increase of healthcare costs, extending the solvency of Medicare, reducing drug costs for seniors, and eliminating unfair practices like cutting off coverage for people as soon as they get sick, while most of its individual features are wildly popular in themselves, the pejorative nickname “Obamacare” given to  its insurance marketplace reforms by Tea Party radicals and anti-government professional know-nothings have made it an easy target for misleading propaganda.

Congressional Republicans rode to victory in 2010 on a package of outright lies about the ACA, abetted by prejudice against the first black President and the usual low voter turnout in midterm elections.  They’ve spent the next six years taking repeated meaningless votes to repeal the dreaded mythical “government takeover” of medical care.  Now that they control all branches of the federal government, they find themselves having to deliver on their pledges to repeal and replace.

This presents the GOP with a serious problem.  They can’t repeal the ACA without throwing millions of their own base voters back into a dysfunctional unregulated health insurance market.  They’ve promised to replace the ACA with a different plan that won’t take away anyone’s current coverage, but they have no such plan.

The ACA already is the Republican healthcare plan.  They call it Obamacare, but it’s more accurately “Romneycare” or “GOPcare” or “HeritageCare”.  With a very few changes, the plan Obama pushed through Congress in his first term was the plan the rightwing think tank Heritage Foundation came up with as an alternative to “Hillarycare”, the comprehensive health care package created under the First Lady’s leadership in the ’90s.  They managed to get it implemented in Massachusetts under Governor Mitt Romney, and though it was far from comprehensive and left control of healthcare in the hands of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, it’s been enough of an improvement over the chaotic unregulated system it replaced to enjoy wide popular and political support.  It’s the only plan the Republicans have ever had.

With the Pussygrabber-in-Chief promising to preserve popular features of the ACA like pre-existing condition coverage and extended eligibilty for young adult children on their parents’ plans, with hospitals in the rural areas of red states that serve the heart of the Republican coalition in danger of collapse if the ACA is repealed, with insurance companies ready to pull out of the market if the individual mandate is taken away, the Congressional Republicans are facing a massive backlash if they don’t fulfill their promise to repeal, and a catastrophic collapse if they abandon the only alternative plan they’ve ever been able to come with, the plan they love to call “Obamacare”.

Here’s my modest proposal.

Forget about “Repeal and Replace”.  Go for “Repair and Rename”.  Fix the problems around the edges of the ACA that have become apparent to anyone paying attention during the rollout over the last six years. and then rebrand it as “Trumpcare”.

Let the Republicans have their old market-based health care plan back.  It was never the plan progressive Democrats wanted anyway,  Let them call modest repairs a “repeal” if they want to, give them the comfortable fiction that continuity under a  new name is “replacement”.  Let them own the individual mandate, and the profit guarantees for private insurance companies, and the price-gouging by Big Pharma.  Stop calling it Obamacare, free the Democrats from having to defend it, and let us pursue the real alternatives to for-profit health care, starting with competitive public options on any blue-state exchanges where we can get them implemented, and a renewed commitment by the DNC for a national  single-payer system.

Call it Trumpcare, let the Twit-in-Chief claim all the credit for it, he will anyway.  Who cares what nickname the system carries, as long as we don’t throw tens of millions of struggling families to the wolves.  Who knows, if we let Drumpf and the GOP hog the credit, some of those red state governors who’ve refused to accept federally-funded expansion of Medicaid out of spite might start allowing their less-fortunate constituents to have the same benefits enjoyed by their blue-state brothers and sisters.  Millions more could get health insurance coverage just by giving the GOP back their own plan.

Really, what’s in a name?  The ACA by any other name would smell as . . . well, smelly.