Saturday, May 5, 2018

Last Call For Coaled Comfort

West Virginia's GOP Senate primary is Tuesday, and the state's Republicans are about to nominate a screamingly racist convicted miner-killing felon to lose to Democrat Joe Manchin in November.  Needless to say, a replay of Roy Moore in Alabama has the party in 100% panic mode.

There is growing concern among Republicans that Don Blankenship, a bombastic coal baron who has spent time in prison, is surging ahead of Tuesday’s West Virginia Senate primary — and a last-minute campaign is underway to stop him.

As the tight contest hurtles to a close, four Republicans said they’d reviewed polling conducted in recent days showing Blankenship, who spent a year in jail following the 2010 explosion at his Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 workers, moving narrowly ahead of his more mainstream GOP rivals, Rep. Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

The Republicans cautioned that the surveys, designed to offer a snapshot of the race, were conducted over a brief period of time and may be overstating Blankenship’s support.

Still, Blankenship’s rivals and other Republicans are alarmed. Many are convinced that a Blankenship win, coming just months after the disastrous Alabama Senate race, would destroy the party’s prospects of defeating Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in November.

Some Republicans involved in the race said they were hoping the White House would intervene ahead of the Tuesday primary, though it remains unclear whether it will do so.

On Thursday, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., sent out a tweet asking “the people of West Virginia to make a wise decision and reject Blankenship.”

“No more fumbles like Alabama,” he added. “We need to win in November.”

Republicans are sinking millions into the race to stop Blankenship, and it's not working.  It's not working at all, because Blankenship is putting his own fortune into winning, and he's running against the most hated man in the state:  Mitch McConnell.

National Republicans have sought to prevent Blankenship from winning the nomination. An outside group aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Mountain Families PAC, has spent $1.3 million on a TV ad campaign targeting the former prisoner. On Friday afternoon, the group began a digital advertisement telling West Virginians, “Don’t vote Don Blankenship.”

The offensive bears similarities to the ultimately unsuccessful one the party launched against former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore in last year’s Alabama Senate race. Moore beat back the national GOP campaign against him and went on to lose the general election to Democrat Doug Jones.

Blankenship has responded in kind, launching a slash-and-burn campaign targeting McConnell.

His scorching attacks have veered into deeply personal, even racially-charged territory.

This week, Blankenship began airing a TV commercial labeling McConnell “Cocaine Mitch,” an apparent reference to a 2014 report that drugs were once found aboard a shipping vessel owned by the family of McConnell’s wife, Taiwanese-born Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Then, a few days later, Blankenship began airing another spot declaring that McConnell’s “China family has given him tens of millions of dollars.”

Believe me when I say Republican primary candidates are paying attention to Blankenship's attacks on McConnell as a path to victory.  It's a free-for-all and everyone's a target now.

The Handmaid's Tale Stage Spectacular

Iowa GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds has done what Ohio GOP Gov. John Kasich won't do: signed into law a ridiculously unconstitutional "fetal heartbeat" abortion ban that will eliminate more than 90% of abortion procedures and will immediately be challenged in court.  Maureen Shaw explains:

Dubbed the “heartbeat bill,” the law will prohibit doctors from providing abortion care once a fetal heartbeat is detected. But heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks after gestation (i.e., six weeks after a pregnant person’s last period began). Given that many women don’t learn they are pregnant until after that benchmark, Iowa's law effectively makes abortion illegal while depriving women of their bodily autonomy.

Indeed, women typically don’t find out they are pregnant until they are, on average, five to seven weeks along (for a number of reasons). The science is clear on this issue but I also know it to be true from personal experience. In my early 20s, I didn’t suspect I was pregnant until I was seven weeks along. I then had to make an appointment with my OB-GYN to confirm the pregnancy and get a referral for abortion care. Just that one appointment delayed my abortion by a week, putting me at 8 weeks gestation. By Iowa’s standards, I would have been ruled ineligible and deprived of a chance to choose the best option for my health and the health of my family.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, of the 3,722 abortions performed in the state in 2016, only 347, or 9 percent of them occurred before six weeks of pregnancy. Based on these numbers, the heartbeat bill will potentially force pregnancy upon the vast majority of pregnant women in Iowa who do not want to have a child.

Previous to this bill being signed, Iowa already imposed numerous restrictions on abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortions after 20 weeks gestation are banned in the state unless the woman’s life is endangered, and public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape, incest or fetal anomaly. The governor must approve each Medicaid-funded abortion. Women are also forced to undergo an ultrasound prior to obtaining an abortion, and a pregnant minors’ parent or parents must be notified before the procedure can be performed.

In this context, Iowa’s heartbeat bill isn’t entirely unexpected. But it is unlikely to go into effect in light of judicial precedent. Federal courts have already thwarted similar attempts to ban abortions in Ohio, North Dakota and elsewhere.

So what’s the endgame here? As Robyn Marty has previously noted: “Anti-abortion groups no longer fear that the Supreme Court, given its current and future mix of justices, will uphold Roe if another case makes its way there.” In other words, they’re attempting to use this bill as a test case to get the issue in front of the Supreme Court, where they hope a post-Trump court will gut abortion rights nationwide.

Indeed, state Sen. Rick Bertrand (R-Sioux City) publicly declared as much during the bill’s floor debate: "Today we will begin this journey as Iowa becomes ground zero nationally for the life movement and the starting line back to the Supreme Court. I believe this bill will be the vehicle that will ultimately provide change and provide the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade."

Bertrand’s “opportunity” is a dystopian nightmare for women. Imposing such a punitive law would decimate women’s self-determination by eliminating the ability to plan their families. And make no mistake: low-income and financially overburdened women have been shown to suffer the brunt of other, similar abortion bans (as those with financial resources are better able to travel out of state to seek abortion care).

We're one new Trump-appointed justice away from losing essentially every court-based civil rights, reproductive rights, and equality-based protection gained in the last 60 years.  The clock is not on our side, and if Trump gets re-elected, the game is essentially over.

I'm not sure what it's going to take in order to get people to realize this, but we're already well on the road to things being far too late.

A Fairbanks-Weather Friend

Now that GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that no legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller will ever get a vote in the Senate, let alone a Trump signature, useless "moderate Republicans" like Alaska's Lisa Murkowski are more than happy to sign on to an effort that requires nothing on their part.

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said this week that the Russia investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller III should be allowed to proceed to its natural end and that she would support legislation approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee to protect the inquiry.

Murkowski, in a wide-ranging interview with the Daily News-Miner editorial board Wednesday, also praised the FBI and said the agency has a "a serious and significant role" in the investigation.

"I have said all along that Mueller should be allowed to take this investigation wherever it takes him and his team," she said. "And I said that at the beginning and I repeat that, because I believe very, very firmly in that. And I think any efforts to thwart that are dangerous.

"If the investigation takes them to an additional turn that needs to be followed, I think this is what we're asking for when we ask for an independent investigation," she said. "That means that the president can't meddle. That means that the attorney general can't meddle. That means that the United States Senate can't meddle, and I just firmly believe that they should be able to take it where it goes."

Murkowski added, however, that she doesn't want to see the investigation go on indefinitely — "You know, this is going to be years and years and years" — and that the probe eventually must reach its natural end.

"And I think you have people of goodwill and good faith that are working to do just that," she said.

"I do not subscribe that this is some kind of a witch hunt," she said, referring to President Donald Trump's oft-repeated criticism of the special counsel inquiry into alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election and that now appears to have spread to other matters involving Trump and his associates.

Murkowski doesn't face Alaska voters until 2022, and by then Trump will either have his second term or will be gone, so either way Murkowski, like the rest of the GOP senators elected in 2016 along with Trump, doesn't have to do anything at all.

It's easy for Murkowski to say whatever she wants about Trump, but expecting her to do anything is ludicrous.  No Republican will lift a finger to stop Trump or to protect Mueller and/or Rod Rosenstein when the time comes, and it pisses me off to see Murkowski try to take credit for something that she'll never actually act upon.

All of the GOP has to go.
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