Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Last Call For The Criminalization Of Dissent

Some good news to end the evening for once: Arizona Republicans have abandoned their bill to turn protesting the Trump regime into a state felony after outrage spread across the country over the legislation.

The speaker of the Arizona House said he won't hear a bill that makes participating in or helping organize a protest that turns into a riot an offense that could lead to criminal racketeering charges, a move prompted by widespread criticism that the legislation sought to limit First Amendment rights. 
The measure passed last week by the Senate drew nationwide attention, particularly from civil libertarians, because it classified violent protest as an organized crime and said protesters who didn't initially intend to riot could still face criminal charges. That attention led Speaker J.D. Mesnard to decide Monday to kill it for the session. 
Mesnard told The Associated Press that people all across the country now believe that the Arizona Legislature is trying to enact a law that will suppress their First Amendment right to assemble. 
"It's gotten a lot of attention, and frankly whether it's fair or unfair, whether its accurate or inaccurate, at this point doesn't matter," he told the AP. "That's certainly not what the Legislature wants to be about — I know that's not what the sponsor wanted in the first place. The best way to send a very clear signal that we're not doing it is to not move the bill." 
The Republican House speaker controls the path of legislation through his chamber, so Mesnard's decision means the bill is dead
The Arizona legislation is the latest in a string of proposals in Republican-led states intended to crack down on protests. South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard is pursuing legislation to make it clear that his emergency response powers apply to destructive protests, create new trespassing penalties and make it a crime to obstruct highways, a move prompted by protests in North Dakota over the Dakota Access pipeline. A recent Washington Post tally showed efforts in 18 states, with proposals like stiffer penalties for blocking highways to increased trespassing penalties on critical infrastructure.

Arizona's bill was the most egregious, and the intent was certainly to turn the state's next Black Lives Matter or immigration protest into an opportunity to declare thousands to be felons, throw them in prison (or deport them) and remove their right to vote.  Like most states, Arizona does not allow felons to vote, and if convicted of multiple felonies, that disenfranchisement is permanent.

But several other states are moving to criminalize mass protests.  Republicans in Arizona may have been defeated for now, but eventually this bill or something like it will be passed, and it will be used against people of color to disenfranchise. harm, or even kill.

More Buyer's Remorse In The Bluegrass State

Another month, another story of GOP voters here in Kentucky now terrified that they will lose their Medicaid expansion in the state, and are turning to Trump to beg to be spared.

Whitesburg, Kentucky, is a quiet town nestled in the Appalachian Mountains and close to the Virginia border – coal country. It has a population of 2,100 and a deep history of hard work and perseverance. 
“Around here you keep a job and you do as they say no matter what because you’ve got to work to survive,” said Mike Taylor, a former coal truck driver. 
Coal has been at the heart of the local economy for generations, but it’s also the root of health issues for many. 
Taylor was diagnosed with “Black Lung,” a deadly lung disease caused by breathing in coal dust, in 2015. He is on three different inhalers and uses an oxygen tank and a nebulizer machine. 
When he gained insurance through the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, he began seeking regular care at Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation, a community clinic where his physician, Dr. Van Breeding, also happens to be his old high school classmate. 
“These people need care,” said Breeding, a primary care physician. “I take care of classmates of mine everyday … people who I went to kindergarten with who are disabled now, who can’t work. So imagine you’re 55 years old and you’re worn out.” 
“And these are the people who have been helped by the Affordable Care Act and these are the people who we can’t turn our backs on,” he added. 
Breeding believes the ACA is crucial to the health of his community. His father was a coal miner, he said, so he is all too familiar with the toll Black Lung disease can take. 
“We're seeing that it's a political war over health care and the collateral damage is the patient's health and life and the quality of life,” Breeding said. “Change the name if ‘Obamacare’ is offensive to Republicans, change the name, and call it what you will, but provide these people who are desperate, and I mean desperate, desperate for some type of health care.” 
Taylor said the health insurance he has under ACA not only saved his life, but also helped his brother-in-law and his former coworkers. 
“It’s a good thing to have it. The insurance,” he said. “I think they just need to reform it.”

But as I keep saying, these people voted for Republicans up and down the line, at the state level last year when they elected Matt Bevin in 2015, and again last year handing the state legislature over to the GOP and decimating the Democrats, re-electing Rand Paul, and giving Trump a 17-point win.

Now all of a sudden they're worried that when Obamacare was going to be repealed, it was going to affect them.  They never thought that would happen, that it would only be taken away from those people in order to benefit people like themselves, because they're good people.

Turns out of course Republicans only care about people making six figures or more.  Turns out when Bevin turns Medicaid into a program like Indiana's "skin in the game" plan where you pay the premium or lose everything, and on top of that funding is cut to shreds by Republicans in Congress turning it into a block grant, not only will the 450,000 people who got health insurance lose it, but hundreds of thousands more will get kicked off the program too.

Maybe by 2020 when the state's uninsured rate is back up to 25% or so, maybe people here will get it.

Sen. Udall's Balancing Act

New Mexico Dem Sen. Tom Udall has an...interesting...plan for solving the Supreme Court issue: talk a current justice into retiring, leaving seven on the high court, then confirming both Neil Gorsuch and Obama nominee Merrick Garland at the same time.

Sen. Tom Udall has an idea that could place both Judge Neil Gorsuch and Judge Merrick Garland on the Supreme Court at the same time. 
The Democrat from New Mexico presented the plan Monday morning to Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, as well as to Gorsuch's team of White House aides and former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who's been attending Gorsuch's meetings with senators. 
His proposal is for Trump to meet privately with Supreme Court justices who are interested in retirement. If one of those justices decided they would be willing to retire, and if Trump promises to nominate Garland, President Barack Obama's unconfirmed former SCOTUS pick, in their place, then the retiring justice would submit a letter of resignation contingent on that promise. 
Then, both Garland and Gorsuch would be voted on simultaneously. 
It's a far-fetched idea, and Udall told reporters he got no response or comment from Gorsuch's team in the room. But he added that he's been talking to other senators about it. 
A spokesman from Gorsuch's team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If this sounds familiar, that's because we've seen this before, just not in this administration.

The idea closely follows a plot line from an episode of "The West Wing" television show. In season 5, episode 17, "The Supremes," a spot on the Supreme Court opens up and the White House works out a deal with another justice to retire so they can replace him with both a liberal justice while Republicans can get their pick of a more conservative justice. 
Jennifer Talhelm, communications director for Udall, told CNN that the senator did not get the idea from the West Wing, and that while he has maybe seen an episode or two, he doesn't watch the show. 
She said Udall has wanted to see Trump pick Garland all along, and his more recent idea came after he was speaking with a constituent who said they'd like to see both Garland and Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. 
Speaking to reporters, Udall also recalled the time that President Lyndon B. Johnson wanted his adviser Abe Fortas on the Supreme Court, so he persuaded Justice Arthur Goldberg to retire by promising him the position of ambassador to the United Nations. 
So what would be Trump's motivation to move ahead with this idea? 
"It's a good chance for Trump to try to unite the country," Udall said.

I can see the draw, but Republicans aren't about to go for this.  They know that Gorsuch will get confirmed, and there's an extremely good chance that either Justice Ginsburg, Breyer, or Kennedy will retire by 2020, giving Trump a second pick to tilt the court to a 6-3 conservative bent that would end legalized abortion, affirmative action, and maybe even same-sex marriage.  It would certainly continue the Roberts Court path of rolling back the New Deal and Great Society.

Udall makes a good pitch, and it's as good as it's going to get for Democrats.  But Republicans don't want to unite the country, they want to dominate it, and leave liberals and liberalism broken, bleeding, and crushed on the floor, without rights, without power, and without hope.


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