Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

It’s Midnight in Mobile

Dateline – South of South Carolina     

     Alabama will decide tomorrow whether Roy Moore or Doug Jones will be its next U.S. Senator. Forecasters say the election is too close to call. That’s because the forecasters are using polling data. You know how unreliable polls can be. 

     If anybody knows who the winner will be, she’s in Alabama right now and has been there all her life.  She talks to lots of people in her line of work,  hundreds of people every day, and she knows her people.  She’s right there, standing on the street or sitting in a car or behind a store counter.  She knows but nobody’s asked her.

     Roy Moore was a legend long before this election. He first surfaced nationally when he  defied a court order directing him to remove a Ten Commandants display from his courthouse. He was booted off the Supreme Court of Alabama.  He got reelected a few years later but he got removed again.  This time he ordered Alabama judges not to recognize same-sex marriages after the US Supreme Court said that was unconstitutional. 

      Moore ran for Governor twice, both times losing in the primaries. He ruled on a few sexual assault cases.  Jones put out an ad saying that Moore ruled in favor of the sex offenders. That isn’t quite true;  his votes would have affected a re-trial of the cases.

      His opponent and the media have taken a lively interest in Moore’s misadventures since a woman in her thirties accused Moore of assaulting her when she was 14 years old. In Alabama, that was and is against the law.  And Moore must have known, because he was a district attorney at the time, one of those fellows whose job is to put away people who break the law.    

     Other women have told similar stories.  Moore admits to dating some teenagers when he was in his thirties but says the girls were all of legal age.  Ah, but did he check their learner’s permits?  The age of the girls is not the point.  The point is that they saw Moore as a powerful man, and that’s the reason that a lot of girls  wouldn’t stop him or didn’t tell their stories.

       At any other time, Moore would have been run out of town on a rail. But this is not just any time. It’s tax bill time.  First, the Republican National Committee pulled back and cut off funds to the campaign. Realizing that they would need Moore’s vote to pass their tax plan, the Republicans have closed ranks. Even the future ex-President flip-flopped for Moore.   At least Trump was candid: anyone but a liberal democrat.

     You don’t hear much about Doug Jones.  He started as a staff attorney for the U.S, Senate Judiciary Committee.  After that, he went home to Dixie to serve as an Assistant U.S. Attorney.  After a few years he went into private practice but returned to government work when Bill Clinton appointed him U.S. Attorney.  After that, he’s bounced in and out of government appointments.  His appointments have been political.  There’s no record that Jones had to be relieved of  his post.   Jones considers himself a middle of the road kind of guy.  He wants to reduce corporate taxes but would vote against the tax bill.

     Democrats have been pouring money and a ground-game into the Jones campaign, especially in the last few days. If there is a big turnout, particularly among African-Americans, Jones could pull off an upset. The Republicans are all-in too. They are throwing all their resources at this election, because a Moore victory makes passage of the tax bill feasible, and a Jones victory makes it dead on arrival.

      In all the hullabaloo about the political impact of the election,  some people have taken their eyes off the sparrow.  Not Richard Shelby, Alabama’s senior senator and a Republican.  Shelby said he believed the accuser and added that Jeff Sessions said he had no reason to doubt her story.  Shelby said, “”I didn’t vote for Roy Moore. I wouldn’t vote for Roy Moore. I think the Republican Party can do better.”  Shelby made his statement on CNN, which guarantees it would be aired three times per hour,  not at a Birmingham Botanical Garden fund-raiser.  

     The odds are good that even if Moore wins, he won’t be in Washington long; maybe long enough to cast one vote.

Update: what-the-hell-is-happening-with-these-alabama-polls?

Al Franken’s Final Bow

When Scott Fitzgerald said that there are no second acts in American lives, he could have been talking about Al Franken. The curtain is about to ring down on his second – and likely final – act as junior Senator for the State of Minnesota. Many of his Democratic colleagues and lots of his Republican adversaries have demanded his resignation over a growing number of sexual misconduct incidents. After all,   Conyers is gone.  Roy Moore may be walking into a shooting gallery. Franken will resign. The culture demands it because the Groper-in-Chief is the elephant in the room.   All of the fallen misogynists are placeholders for the future ex-president. Their careers are dying for his sins as well as their own.

If Franken’s follies were limited to his first act, comedian and humorist, he might have survived. Not that shoving his tongue down Leann Tweeden’s throat passes for stagecraft or that the prank photo of Franken seeming to grab her breasts would get him on the short list for the Mark Twain Award. But USO shows have never been high-brow affairs. Bob Hope ran on fumes for decades by parading Ms. Va-Va-Va-Voom in front of our weary troops. Different times, different mores perhaps, but Bob probably kept both hands on his own putter. 

As a Senator, Franken supported legislation that called for equal pay for women and freedom in their reproductive rights choices.  He sponsored a bill from which he has removed his name.  After the USO scandal broke he stood defiant, calling  for the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate him.  No Senator had been unseated for acts undertaken before taking office. He thought he could withstand the scrutiny.  Not any more.

The funny man got the hook when more victims stepped forward, complaining that Senator Al groped them during photo ops at the Minnesota State Fair. Franken said he didn’t remember; between the fried mooseburgers on a stick and the Four-H shows, one could lose their mind and forget locking their mitts like a vice grips on a voter’s buttocks.   Five was too much, though, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the list continues to grow.  In fact, he’s lucky that the sheep and cows have maintained their vow of silence.

Franken has been a hard-working Senator, and he has taken his state’s interests seriously and knowledgeably. He’s a smart and articulate guy. He’s done his homework and has gone after Jeff Sessions and Betsy Devos in their confirmation hearings, nailing them with their own words.  Being an honorary Minnesotan, I’ve observed his supporter’s silent disapproval. His constituents were not calling for his ouster but they were ashamed of his behavior. Liberals wanted to give him a pass, but he should not get special treatment. It doesn’t matter if his heart is in the right place if his hands are not.

 

A Half-Week in Review

It’s only Thursday night so it’s cocky  to think of this as a whole week in review. Maybe a half-week. Things could look different Saturday night. Not so different, though, to make this snapshot obsolete.

The tax bill is taxiing on the runway but it’s anybody’s guess if that mountain of guano has enough ground speed to take off. Late arriving analysis makes the deal a stinker on taxes. Not to mention all the social policy it tries to shove down everybody’s gullet. As it stands, a lot of members of Congress who vote for it will fall on their swords if the bill becomes law. Donors love the bill. Voters don’t.   As for me, everything besides the tax bill is only noise. The bill is radical. It’s not just a tax bill.

For the still-curious, there’s a new wrinkle in the Russia probe. The future ex-President was strong-arming Senators to shut it down last summer. That’s not necessarily a crime. It sure makes Comey’s firing more about Putin than Clinton. The Troll in Chief says this will be over in a month. Thanks, but I’ll take the points.

Staggering Rex Tillerson. Don’t call the boss a moron, especially if he is. The insiders say Rex is out. Pompeo goes from CIA to State and Tommy Cotton of Arkansas leaves the Senate to be the Spook in Chief. Arkansas holds on to its GOP Senate seat. Whispers are that this positions the CIA to stonewall investigators. None of this eyewash has amything to do with diplomacy or espionage. It’s doubtful that this subtlety originated in the Oval Office. So, who is calling the shots?

Did any sexual predator get outed today? The heat is turned up on Franken and Lauper. Keillor is benefitting from a backlash and a weak case. The Reign of Terror is not over. The accusations are looked at more closely. Why does Santa have all those kids on his lap? Is it really St. Nick filling up his list?

The stock market crashed 24k today. A lot of Americans can’t buy in. It’s no Party for them.They will get hosed on taxes without any payoff. Meet the new Serf, same as the Old Serf.

The details may change in the next few days. The big picture is the so-called tax bill, and it won’t change. Besides the trillion dollar payback to the plutocrats, it changes health care and education policy. The rich get rich, and the poor get children. The big payback won’t go into new domestic jobs. The U.S. will be a friendlier tax haven for the Global Parasites. 

The Times Still are A-Changin’

 

Our law school put on a show every year, spoofing the faculty. Ham that I am, I participated  in all three shows. I want to tell you about one of them. 

It was 1977, and I was in my second year. Two classmates and I wrote the script, and two others penned lyrics for our song parodies. Except for two that I had written. One was a parody of Ray Charles’ “What I’d Say.”  It was called “Res Ipsa Loquitur,” which means “the thing speaks for itself,” riffing on accident lawyers. The lyrics were funny enough, and we had a tort professor named Robert Waters, who many students called Muddy. The other song was an original entitled, “Be My Chicken.”  It was a pastiche of blues songs with risqué double-entendres. It had nothing to do with law.  

I rehearsed both songs for the cast and crew. They decided that the Chicken song was too dirty. It included the word “cock,” as in rooster. But I didn’t  mean rooster, Besides, rooster didn’t scan. The Chicken song was cut, but the ambulance chaser song remained, and it got lots of laughs.  Did I mention that Professor Waters was African-American, and I performed in black-face? In today’s America, the reactions would be the opposite.  I still do the Chicken song at parties, while the other received a suitable burial. I am embarrassed by my lack of judgment and empathy, but it was Florida in the Seventies. Red Ipsa Loquitur, y’all.

“My Fair Lady” is a 1956  musical about an uneducated Cockney girl who becomes  an elegant, middle-class woman under the tutelage of a self-proclaimed misogynist and elitist.  They fall in love – sort of—and she comes back to live under his aristocratic roof, the curtain falling as she retrieves his slippers.  She makes this choice despite the declared affections of an idle-rich young man, who haunts the woman’s neighborhood, winsomely singing,”Let the time go by, I don’t care if I can be here on the street where you live.” In other words, a Stalker.

In the 1978 film, “Animal House,” all types of debauchery and mayhem are exploited for laughs, including a college freshman’s attempt to intoxicate and have sex with an under-age girl. Statutory Rape.  Now that scene would end up on the cutting room floor.

Also in 1978, Rodney Dangerfield joked,” I have three children —one of each.” His joke about homosexuality was a harbinger for the politics of gender identity and its bathroom conundrum.

These are cultural touchstones marking the changes in sensitivity on issues of race and sexuality in American culture in the last sixty years.  We can look at the past as unenlightened, but except for myself perhaps, the talents behind these celebrated works were not cave dwellers. The current outpouring of accounts of sexual assault helps us as a culture move from the theoretical to the actual.  Millennials may know intuitively what we boomers had to learn. 

Victims of sexual assault have broken free of repressed and suppressed recollections, many involving cultural icons.  The accounts offer a look into sexual roles  going back thirty or more years to the present. Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein have been accused of rape. Bill O’Reilly has paid off cases of sexual assault.  Kevin Spacey and Roy Moore allegedly forced themselves upon minors.  Louis C.K. has admitted to exposing himself and jerking off in front of  several female comics,  a rumor that had circulated for years.  Those women have issued reports now.   At first, they did not speak up, in deference to his power in show business and that he’d been generous helping them build their careers. 

The case of Al Franken raises different  issues.  Franken, then a comic on a 2006 USO tour, admits  to aggressively kissing another entertainer in a scene calling for a “stage kiss.” This scenario was a recurring gag in 1982’s “Tootsie,” in which Dustin Hoffman’s cross-dressing character is repeatedly over-kissed by her soap opera co-star with a reputation for such hi-jinks. By the way, Dustin Hoffman himself stands accused of misconduct. The USO tours were enormously popular during earlier wars, when Bob Hope paraded a number of voluptuous women, immodestly dressed, in front of an audience of drooling GIs.   With Franken, the kiss, which was immediately repulsed by the victim, was embellished by a photo taken of Franken fondling or appearing to fondle the victim’s breasts while she was asleep on a transport plane.  The photo was included in a commemorative album distributed after the tour,  to the victim’s horror. 

Franken’s behavior creates a different kind of problem for the people who traditionally side with the victim.  Franken is now a U.S. Senator for the State of Minnesota, and he unfailingly takes the victim’s side in these situations. His allies and constituents are forced to reconcile Franken’s private lechery with his admirable public work.  Michelle Goldberg, a New York Times columnist, has called for his resignation or at least an ethics hearing. He is receiving a pass from many of his supporters.

The politics and the less invasive nature of the offense support Franken, but so do the outdated  mores of earlier times.  Franken grew up in the sixties and seventies.  Our “take” on sexual matters was different. A male was expected to be the initiator, and the female was the boundary setter. “No” was the word when uttered in combination with a physical withdrawal. The line was thus drawn. One might say that “No”  should have been sufficient.  But there was countervailing  part of the ritual that called for a certain amount of female protest, as if to say, “I don’t l, do this but, well, because it’s you…” Face was saved, parental encomiums heard but not always followed.

Franken and his fellow player were performers in a show. This isn’t meant to suggest that Franken was justified: it was “Tootsie” for real.  As a performer, he knew better. The photo was at the least in bad taste and at worst evidence of a battery, touching without consent while the woman slept.  Franken crossed the line.  Yet, I can’t equate it with the other scandals because it is by degrees closer to the aggressiveness that once was condoned.  However, if later we find out that Stuart Smalley really wasn’t good enough, his show will be canceled too. 

 

Louis Louis, Oh Baby, You Gotta Go

Louis CK

Louis CK, comedian, writer, produce and mentor to  young  male and female comedians, has also been a big jerk-off for a long time. This past week, accusers from past and near-present, told similar stories about Louis asking to masturbate in front of them. Louis rose to stardom as a stand-upcomecdian, from which he gained the power to help or hurt another performer’s career. Thus, several people, fearful of  reprisals, stood silently for this treatment until this week, when’s Loius’ situation erupted.

Louis’s M.O. was common knowledge in the entertainment industry. There were intimations published in the last few years. Tig Notaro, a Louis protegé,  beseeched him to come clean long before the story became news.  Louis ignored the advce but often made reference to his issues in his stand-up sets.  Writers are told to write what they know, and Louis heeded that.   The story has been  in his material for all to hear. Talking about masturbation to a full house is not the same as putting on show and tell for an audience of one. 

Media and advertising businesses buy Louis’ services. After the Weinstein and Spacey scandals of the past couple of weeks, the industries had an Action Plan in place. Louis’ new film has been shelved, and  his Netflix contract has been canceled.  Don’t for a moment believe that the industry response was caused by sudden knowledge or lucidity. Show biz, like baseball, is morally relativistic.  Louis CK was a moneymaker.  Alas, he’s been felled by a single stroke. 

CK also has a game plan compiled by avoiding the pratfalls of  his  predecessors.  

  • Bill Cosby, a pioneer in the field, and still the poster boy for miscreant behavior.  Just because he wasn’t convicted (yet), doesn’t mean he’s innocent.  Even worse, generations of kids saw him as a model parent.  
  • Harvey Weinsrein could not intimidate or buy his way out of trouble again. He’s accused of rape in addition to multiple incidents of assault. .He’ll never work in show business again, unless he gets to produce prison plays. Max Bialystock, move aside!
  • Kevin Spacey denied having come on to  a 14 year-old  — but if it even happened he was drunk. Spacey  by the way, acknowledged he was gay. Even my Dachshund knew that.  Too like, too late.  He got the Trotsky treatment, being  airbrushed out of the J. Paul Getty biopic.  House of Cards was shut down. Bryan Cranston says that Spacey’s career is over. Cranston’s on a PR feeding frenzy lately. Maybe Bryan wants to play President again and sees his chance to be the new Frank Underwood.. Power’s gone to his head.
  • Anthony Weiner and  Matthew Weiner,  both accused of misconduct, might consider a name change.  The optics, you know.

The big mistake these and other losers have made is that they claim innocence, then additional or new charges surface.  Judge Roy Moore, categorically denies assaulting a fourteen yeas-old when he was an assistant district attorney in Elowah County, Alabama.  Moore has been under invitation of ethical misconduct in the past. Moore was sanctioned for refusing to pull down a Ten Commandment monument he’d commissioned for his courthouse.  Besides he will  rely on the argument that the Mosaic Tablets says it’s a mortal sing to covet your neighbor’s  wife and his ass   It doesn’t comment on the neighbor’s daughter.  The Alabama hound won’t hunt. Right now, he’s running for U.S. Senate, and he probably figures that he has nothing more to lose.

CK may end up OK,  He went against the conventional wisdom by admitting his wrongdoing and the pain he’s inflicted .  Keeping with his confessional style, he also discussed the ill effect of power on his behavior.  He has taken a temporary vow of silence.  He’s a talented writer and producer. He ha a reputation for being supportive of young talent. His rising tide has lifted many of their boats.     CK is finished as a performer, but he may still find writing and producing work once he’s paid his dues.

 

General Kelly Fails History and Arithmatic

 

 

John Kelly, retired Marine General and current White House Chief of Staff, wandered into No Man’s Land the other day without his helmet. Holding court on the roots of the Civil War, he chalked up the conflagration to a failure of the parties to compromise. Please General, , put down your pencil and close your blue book.

Before 1861 the civilized world had rejected slavery as immoral. Racist views remained, as they do today, and colonialism continued to foster those views, but legal and social lines had been drawn. Our country could not come to grips slavery, putting economic interest ahead of principle. Even Russia freed all of its serfs in 1861, and nobody was mistaking Tsarist Russia for a democracy.

At the constitutional convention of 1787 the founders haggled over counting people, The size of a state’s congressional delegation is determined by the size of its population, which included non-voters, such as women and indentured servants, and non-property owners; excluded Indians not being taxed. The slave states originally endorsed equal counting for slaves until they realized that by doing so they would be recognizing equality. They were happy to compromise if it left the rationale for slavery intact

Hence, the odious three-fifths rule, the first of several ante-bellum compromises, treating each “other person” as counting for three-fifths. Still, counting a slave as a partial person is a cynical sort of compromise. After all, General, what marching orders would you assign to three-fifths of a soldier?

The three-fifths rule preserved the precarious balance for the original thirteen states. As a new state joined, it declared itself slave or free depending on its pre-statehood laws. In 1820, with 22 states evenly split, Missouri, a slave-owning territory, was presented for statehood. Seeking to preserve a balance between free and slave states, Congress admitted Maine, a free state, at the same time as Missouri, a slave state. The other part of this law, known as the Missouri Compromise, barred slavery in the portion of the Louisiana Purchase north of the 36’ 30” parallel. This line skitters along what became the north boundaries of North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee, all slave states. Another unholy compromise that only deferred correction of the structural defect baked into the Constitution.

Onward our sordid history did advance. The Compromise of 1850 strengthened the reach of the fugitive slave law while abolishing slavery in the nation’s capital. Still, the waters continued to roil. Each new state’s admission presented the country with the quandary of maintaining the status quo in Congress between slave and free states until 1861. The center did not hold, and war broke out.

When John Kelly said that the Civil War was caused by a failure of compromise, he can only have meant another deal that would perpetuate slavery in the United States. Each compromise that failed to recognize African-Americans as people, not property, was immoral. General, if you are going to be on the wrong side of history, stay on the other end of the microphone.

 

 

 

 

If You Like the Tax Code, You’ll Love the New Healthcare

There’s an old jibe about legislation: A camel is a horse designed by committee.   At least it’s true when sides are compromising to find agreement. Rarely does the process generate an outcome of equine beauty.  On a positive note, the result may be functional and sturdy, if a bit ungainly.

We long for simple answers: a flat tax with no deductions or customized loopholes. Sadly, it is a creature with the beauty of a thoroughbred but not much horse-sense. America’s a complicated country. We’d all like a one-size fits all plan that’s fair.  At the moment our tax law is complicated but nobody thinks it’s fair. We might be able to write a plan that a four year-old would understand but there will be critics – always- and simplicity does not necessarily result in fairness.

Universal healthcare the presents a simliar challenge. While a single payer plan with the same benefits for all resulting in high quality care is a worthy goal, in our heterogeneous country, One does not want to bear the burdens of the Other – no matter  if One has benefited historically from the Other’s free or cheap land or labors.  So be it.

Our benighted health care plan has absorbed an inordinate amount of attention for 7 years, even more so since the ascendancy of Ubu Trump.  This year’s  several variations had  the virtue of being simple but had nothing much to do with health care. They were about the RE-redistribution of wealth.  They didn’t tackle costs at all. If anything, insurers would have had freer rein to break the insurance market into segments. As for Medicaid, that “problem” would be eliminated first by burdening states with financial and administrative responsibility. The states then could make their budgets by curtailing the program in every different way imaginable.  The result would be Health Care 1.0, a return to the politics and economics of the  past. State by state coverage would kill the possibility of broad, diverse pools, the kind that make universal healthcare viable.

 Trumpcare would have disfavored the old and infirm who, with or without pre-existing condition coverage, would have to bear their own costs directly. The young and feckless could take their chances and ride bareback. Still, the young and feckless should appreciate that even if they eat right, exercise regularly and take good care  of themselves, one day they’ll get sick and die. Don’t bother to ask – the high deductible tolls for thee.  

And that, good people, is why there are horses and camels. While the GOP caucus has been fiddling, Senators Alexander and Murphy  have been trying to put out the fire. They’ve come up with a plan to stabilize the insurance markets, one which appears to have Ubu’s approval as a stop gap, one of those temporary measures that ripen into monuments. At least the future ex-president would not get to pull down the system by unilaterally defunding the subsidies and playing hide-away with the enrollment program, which is his current game plan. Democrats will vote for it. The ball is in the GOP’s court.

 The Alexander-Murray Plan, which is bipartisan (!), starts by accepting that Obamacare is the law and that the subsidies must be restored to maintain it. In turn, states would be permitted to offer a policy variant that affords less care and therefore costs less.  Healthcare lite perhaps, but health care nevertheless.  In a capitalist system, money always holds privilege. That’s an explanation, not an endorsement -and that’s why many of our horses have humps.

Prez to PR: I Know a Boat You Can Get On

UNICEF Puerto Rico Relief

How You Can Help

As far as Puerto Ricans are concerned, future ex-President Donald Trump has given literal meaning to the expression, “fair weather friend.”  The entire island was devastated by Hurricane Maria: no power, food or drinking water; destroyed buildings and submerged land.  Puerto Rico got pulverized, worse than Naples, Florida and Houston, Texas combined.  

You wouldn’t know from the White House reaction that anything but a Boricua Festival was going on down there.  The future ex-President, while barnstorming for 2020, has been consumed with  NFL and the NBA players who are protesting against police brutality, a subject he chooses not to acknowledge (see, e.g., Arpaio pardon). While he’s been profaning African-American athletes and lecturing them on ingratitude, the people of Puerto Rico, mostly Latino US Citizens all, have been largely ignored.  Some would say that he ignores them because they have no federal voting rights.Maybe he’s drawing plans to turn it into Trump Island.

Trump is sending a message to Puerto Rico. In so many words, “Vaya con Dìos.”  His purposeful neglect is part of the Bleaching of America, a White nationalist  regression to a White Protestant majority. Okay, and add White Catholics from Western European stock. Oh, and Jews – we’ll get back to you. But the brown people south of Key West need not apply.  Please don’t scratch the Wall. It was just painted.

Trump said that he will not rest until Puerto Ricans are safe, just before he took his afternoon nap.  In Puerto Rico, Governor Ricardo Rosselló begged for aid to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.  As reported by CNN:

“The governor joined others in emphasizing that Puerto Ricans are American citizens. ‘We need something tangible, a bill that actually answers to our need right now,’ he said.”  
 
Lest the carrot fail,  he added the stick. Rosselló continued:
 
‘Otherwise, there will be … a massive exodus to the (mainland) United States.’
 
Now, there’s a thought that would twist the Presidential nutsack. Massive immigration turning powerless islanders into weaponized voters once they establish state residency. As a matter of fact, Democrats are planning settlements in rural Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania for all comers. The runoff will land in Florida.  One would think that’s enough to scare Trump into action.  Of course, he’s overselling FEMA’s response, sending teams in to towns to take claims. 
 
Maybe he’s hoping the territories, thoroughly disgusted will decide to break away. Maybe he’s counting on that. In that case, you can expect new suitors offering Yuan, Rupees and Rubles.  Don’t say it can’t happen. China has run roughshod over Africa and no doubt would like to establish a beach head in San Juan, once the beaches are rebuilt of course.  Chinese Russian or Indian entrepreneurs,.  Anyone with the money to rebuild Puerto Rico will effectively own it.
 
Trump may chase Latinos out of the US but he is inviting other global powers into the Western Hemisphere.  President Monroe would be rolling over on his doctrine, John Kerry’s rejection of Monroe notwithstanding. The US would be very sorry to see Sanskrit, Cyrillic lettering or Chinese pictographs along the barren Condado boulevards.
 
The Donald’s dilemma: Rebuild the US territories and maintain hegemony or cast them aside, leaving them open to other influences. The tempests and US indifference have created the potential for Colonialism in the Caribbean. This may sound ridiculous.  Nevertheless, whoever saves the people of Puerto Rico will then hold the trump card.
 

The Specter of Arlen is Haunting America

The late Arlen Specter rose through Pennsylvania state politics to the office of U.S. Senator. His journey was instructive.  From 1951-1965, he was a Democrat. He read the shifting winds, running as a Republican  and winning the race for Philadelphia District Attorney.   In 1980, he was elected Senator, where he remained for the rest of his career.

He was often controversial but mostly effective in the Senate.  His inquisition of Anita Hill in the momentous hearings on the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination, the rebuke of his party over its impeachment  of Bill Clinton, his criticism and investigation of Bush II’s warrantless wiretapping of Americans, are a few highlights of his Senate tenure, which ended in 2010, after his defection, when he was defeated in his bid for reëlection. 

Specter was part of what remained of the centrist element of the GOP. As the party veered farther to the right, he broke ranks more often with his Republican caucus.  As the polarization in the Senate became extreme, his crossing over became critical, sometimes being the vote on which a bill hinged. He was one of three Republicans who voted in favor of the 2009 Recovery Act.

Feeling the changing mood of Republican voters, in 2009, he switched parties,  becoming a Democrat again. He constituted the 60th Senator in the filibuster-proof Senate that passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010.  Later that year, he was defeated by a Republican challenger. 

Last week’s Republican primary in Alabama brought Arlen Specter to mind. Roy Moore, twice thrown off the Alabama Supreme Court for trying to turn his back in time, bested Luther Strange, placeholder after Jeff Sessions vacated his seat to become Trump’s Attorney General.  Trump, spilling political capital, jumped into the fray, backing  Strange. To the liberal eye, Moore and Strange don’t seem very different. But for those more attuned to the subtlety of Republican politics, there may be a world of difference.

There is a splintering among Republicans. There is the off-the-charts reactionaries, like Ted Cruz, archly conservative and just plainly arch. Then there is someone like Mitch McConnell, deeply conservative but pragmatic, without the evangelical overlay.  There are one or  two centrists left, who, like Specter,  weigh in on matters from a non-ideological point of view. Susan Collins of Maine falls within that bracket. She deliberates over issues like healthcare.  She is an endangered species.

And in a category all his own, Rand Paul.

If the party fractures, some incumbents will have to decide if they still belong under the Republican flag. The farther right the party moves, the more likely the remaining centrists will have to find a new home.  They may not join the Democrats, as Specter did, especially if the Elizabeth Warren wing is ascendant. Possibly, there may be a coalition of moderates from both camps, which may be sufficient to hold the necessary majorities to legislate.

A Pox on the Donor Class

When the True Media reported that the latest Repeal Obamacare Putsch is being spurred by the fury of Republican donors, I was, well, furious. This GOP-controlled Congress has spent most of its term trying to repeal our health care law with nothing to replace it. Improvements are out of the question. It’s a tax reduction wolf  in sheep’s clothing. 

These Senators are so beholden and beaten down that they cower before their corporate overlords. Money in politics has made the very idea of representation laughable. Our system is grotesque, a freak show unspooling daily, reality TV with consequences.  The wealthy GOP backers have been promised repeal for seven years, and they’ve paid a pile of money for it. With repeal failing, the donors are shutting the spigot. The pols are groveling to save themselves from financial ruin, from having that carpet of cash pulled out from ‘neath their feet. This is their last chance.

The exception proves the rule.  John McCain, diagnosed with brain cancer, no longer cares about the money, and he’s virtually alone in opposing the bill. He’s calling for bipartisanship, a pitch for unity in the waning days of his career.  Maybe he thinks that this will become his legacy, pushing Sarah Palin into the second paragraph. 

It would be naive to think that money in politics is new.  Its impact was never so blatant, its minions so obsequious.  They’re dispensing with hearings and an analysis by the impartial Congressional Budget Office. It’s yet another Bum’s Rush that affects one-sixth of the country’s economy.  Desperation’s in the air. Failure has few friends and fewer financiers. 

 

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