Sunday, March 26, 2017

Ted Koppel, Unindicted Co-Conspirator

I notice that Ted Koppel, formerly the host of ABC News' late-night news program "Nightline," got a certain amount of Internet buzz out of his grilling of Sean Hannity on today's edition of "CBS News Sunday Morning."  This grilling culminated in Koppel's assertion that Hannity, and others like him, have "attracted people who are determined that ideology is more important than facts."  You can see this portion of the interview here.

My first reaction to this was, well, better late than never.

After all, it was Koppel, and his relentless prosecution of then-President Jimmy Carter during the Iranian hostage crisis, that helped propel Ronald Reagan and his faith-based politics, including his faith-based economics, into the White House, and subsequently poison our politics over the last 40 years as Koppel, and other right-leaning reporters, helped Americans across the country to determine that "ideology is more important than facts."

And it didn't help that Koppel had the Rev. Jerry Falwell on "Nightline" as an almost nightly guest, ready, willing and able to use the program as an expansion of his political "ministry."  Guests from the other side of the political spectrum were fewer and further between.  To be sure, this trend began to abate in the wake of the televangelical scandal of the late 1980s.  And Koppel was also one of the first reporters to focus an entire program on global warming (in 1989, no less).  But there's no doubt that Koppel's earlier work on "Nightline" helped to make the world of television journalism safer for the Sean Hannitys of the world.

Perhaps this interview is Koppel's way of doing penance.  He should know that there are many people, including me, that are not going to let him off the hook quickly.

The Dollars And Sense Of Investing In The Arts

It's a shame that we now seem to live in a fact-free world.  Because, if facts mattered, especially as they related to the economy, we wouldn't be talking about cutting funding about the arts.  And certainly not about eliminating it altogether, as Donald Trump has proposed.

We would and should be doubling it.  Tripling it.  Quadrupling it.  Anything but cutting it.

Because I could make a compelling case for how much nicer, prettier, livelier, and just plain better life is with the arts as part of it.  Many people could, whether they are artists or patrons.  But not even many of those people realize that the arts don't just make our culture better.  They make our economy better, and in a very big way.

To see exactly how big, take a look at this article, and do the math.  For every dollar given to and spent by the NEA, more than $17,000 is added to the economy.  If we did little more than double the amount currently provided to the NEA, we could very well end up with a federal budget surplus based on that expenditure alone.

In other words, all that would be needed would be for Trump's family to move into the White House, or for Trump to keep the golf schedule that he promised as a candidate that he would keep.

And the fact that he was born in, and has lived most of his life in, the city that relies on the arts for an enormous chunk of its economy makes his proposed NEA cut all the more incomprehensible.

Federal investments in the arts and humanities are one of the few expenditures by our government that actually pays for itself, and then some.  Don't let Trump, or his GOP cronies in Congress, do it.

Why The Filibuster Must Be Abolished--Period

I have written previously about the upcoming vote in the U.S. Senate on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to take the place of Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.  Specifically, I wrote about the need for Senate Democrats to oppose the nomination by way of a filibuster, even if the ultimate consequence is a decision by Senate Republicans to eliminate the use of the filibuster rule for Supreme Court nominations, much as Senate Democrats had done for all other presidential appointments when they held the Senate majority.

But as the vote nears, and the prospects of a filibuster of Judge Gorsuch becomes a bit more likely after Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer pledged to make it happen, I've broadened my view on this subject.  I believe that it is time--perhaps past time--to eliminate the filibuster altogether.


To begin with, the rule itself has a worse-than-checkered history.  Our educational system and political culture has led us to believe that the rule has existed from the birth of the Republic as part of a grander design, to enable the Senate to serve, in the words of George Washington, as a kind of "saucer" to cool the passions of the more-frequently-elected members of the House of Representatives.  In addition, we have been led to believe that the filibuster rule has helped to promote the reputation of the Senate as the "World's Greatest Deliberative Body," by encouraging debate on the issues of the day and the legislation designed to address them.

However, if you look at the actual history of the rule itself, you will find that (a) its adoption was somewhere between a mistake and an afterthought, and (b) it has never been useful in promoting anything but contention and deadlock.  I offer this article from the Brookings Institution's Web site for a lengthier discussion of this history.

And matters have gotten worse since a rule changed allowed for what we have today:  filibusters that take place without a single word uttered by the filibustering senator.  At least when the "talking filibuster" was required, senators who wanted to stop a bill by delay had to sing for their proverbial supper.  Now, they don't have to do that.  The easier it is to obstruct, the greater the likelihood is that there will be obstruction.

Even worse, the greater likelihood of obstruction has been cynically used by Senate majorities of both parties, as a way of avoiding tough votes on controversial measures.  Take the recent (as in last week) House vote on repealing and replacing the now not-so-unpopular Affordable Care Act (yes, "Obamacare," if you will).  Even if Paul Ryan had managed to get his rancid piece of legislation out of the House he allegedly controls, Mitch McCONnell would have allowed the Democrats to filibuster it to death, by finding that it didn't meet the Byrd rule requirement as a piece of revenue-only legislation and was thus subject to the 60-vote cloture hurdle before it could get to an actual vote. Thus, Senate Republicans wouldn't have had to take the heat for throwing 24 million Americans off of their health insurance--and the Democrats could be blamed for it all.

Thus, the filibuster harms the American legislative process in two ways.  It prevents, on the one hand, good ideas from being given a chance to be tested, and ultimately benefit the American people, and, on the other hand, it allows bad ideas to hide behind a threshold that would otherwise allow them to be exposed for what they are.

Some people object to the elimination of the filibuster rule on the grounds that it protects the rights of the minority.  This may be particularly important in the case of appointments of federal judges to lifetime jobs.  However, if judges of a particular philosophical bent become too numerous, or if legislation yields more harm than benefits, then there's already a check-and-balance built into the Constitutional process; it's called the next election.  Apart from this, that's what the judicial system is built for in any case--to protect the rights guaranteed to everyone by the Constitution.  That's the job of the judiciary, not the filibuster.  One suspects that both Senators and voters will be a lot more cautious and thorough in their vetting of judicial candidates if they know in advance that those candidates will be easier to confirm, and difficult to dislodge after that.

This is why there is no reason that Senate Democrats should hesitate for a minute in filibustering Judge Gorsuch's nomination.  If doing so is the beginning of the end of the filibuster, it will ultimately be good for all of us.  And Judge Gorsuch, in any case, is well worth opposing.  I have already made my case for doing so; here is another eloquent argument along the same lines.  And, if that doesn't do it for you, take a look at this.

Your move, Senator Schumer and fellow Senate Democrats.  Do the right thing.  Stand firm.  Stand strong.  And stand for Americans of all political persuasions.  If it means the beginning of the end of the filibuster, you'll have done your job in any case.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Uniqueness Of Our Cities, And The People Who Make Them That Way

I learned about the death of Jimmy Breslin this morning, and found myself mourning not only his death, but the death of a certain, quirky kind of New York along with him.  As a columnist for four different newspapers, and an author of books (fiction and non-fiction), Breslin had a talent for finding stories about what could, in a different era, be called characters.  That is, people who stood out from the crowd, for one reason or another, and weren't worried about what other people thought about it. Of course, Breslin himself was one of those people, so perhaps that helped him find those stories.

His columns, and those of other writers from what feels like a lost world of real journalism (like his New York Daily News colleague Pete Hamill), embody the New York I fell in love with many, many years ago.  A city of characters.  May it always stay that way, and may there always be writers like Jimmy Breslin (or almost like him) to tell us about it.

But Baltimore has its own unique individuals as well.  Take, for example, Rebecca Hoffberger, who launched a museum that is truly unique to Baltimore, but one with a reputation that extends far outside of it.  Take a look.

There is something about urban living, as opposed to its suburban and rural counterparts, that seems to encourage both a greater understanding of people (and empathy for them), and at the same time a willingness to be adventurous in meeting their needs.  Perhaps that is, to borrow from an observation of Sherlock Holmes (by way of Conan Doyle) due to the fact that, in cities, people are quite literally on top of each other.  They are forced to interact and, at the same time, have little room for pretense or artificiality in doing so.

May that always be true, in Baltimore, in New York, and all across America.

Once Again, Humpback Whales Have A Message For Us

It's hard to believe it's been just over 30 years since "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" was released in theaters.  This is the one "Star Trek" film familiar even to non-fans, in part because of the humor derived from its time-travel story frame, but also because the story itself was built around the idea that saving humpback whales in the 20th century was necessary for the survival of Earth in the 23rd century.  In its own way, the film made a very effective statement about the value of and the need for greater conservation of our planet--and perhaps made a real difference in preventing the extinction of many species of whales.

Believe it or not, whales are back in the news.  And they may, indirectly, be sending a message to us now that's just as important as the one they sent in "Star Trek IV" to the alien probe menacing the Earth.  Here is a story on CNN about humpback whales massing in large groups, for no scientifically discernible reason.  Thus far, the only observable aspect of the behavior of the so-called "supergroups" is that they appear to be focused on feeding.  But it is highly unusual, in that humpbacks usually are seen alone, in pairs, or in small groups, as noted in the story.

Somehow, it seems impossible for me to disconnect the behavior of these humpback supergroups from what's happening in our climate.  The more carbon dioxide trapped in our atmosphere, the warmer the oceans.  And the warmer the oceans, the more disruption in both the existence and location of food sources for many ocean species, including humpbacks.  Thus, the humpbacks have to congregate wherever they can find food.  And they may not be able to find it for very much longer.

The human race learned its lesson in "Star Trek IV" about the value of humpback whales, and conservation in general.  Can the human race, outside of movie theaters, relearn that lesson and apply it to its own future.  I hope and pray that it can.  These days, however, I'm forced to wonder.

If Trump Is The Next Carter, Is Bernie The Next Reagan?

For those of us still in the process of trying to make sense out of the presidential election and its consequences, this might be a useful place to start.  And a somewhat hopeful one as well, if you lean to the left.  The author makes a compelling case for viewing Donald Trump as occupying a place in presidential history roughly equivalent to Jimmy Carter.  It's an interesting comparison, especially if you contrast the differences in the personal lives of the two men.  Politically, however, it's a comparison that makes a great deal of sense.

Carter came to the White House in 1976, the first presidential election held after the Watergate scandal and Nixon's resignation.  He ran as an outside-the-Beltway candidate, promising never to lie and to provide a government, in his words, "as good as the American people."  His opponent, Gerald Ford, was Nixon's unelected successor, presiding over an uninspiring economy and a gaffe-prone image, the latter characteristic being most notable for launching the career of Chevy Chase.  On top of this, Ford had granted Nixon an unconditional, blanket pardon that covered all of Nixon's presidency.  By doing so, he effectively joined himself at the hip to the Watergate disgrace.

Despite all of these disadvantages, and the appeal of Carter as a newcomer to Washington, Ford almost won.  I recall going to bed at college the night of that election, convinced that Ford would win, and being surprised by waking up to a Carter victory.  A very, very narrow victory.  And no sooner had he done so than he found himself almost in what would become perpetual confrontation with a Congress controlled by his own party.  A Congress led by two of the last members of the New Deal generation, Tip O'Neill and Robert Byrd, and one that had demonstrated its independence and institutional fortitude in impeaching Nixon.  The outcome?  A "disjunctive" Presidency that lasted one term.  It would take 12 years for the Democratic party to reclaim the Oval Office.

Now, let's take a look at Trump.

Like Carter, he ran as an outsider, although he built that status not on the basis of his personal integrity (of which he has none).  Like Carter, he built his political popularity on flattering his voters, to which he added a willingness to mimic their worst characteristics, including threats of violence. Unlike Carter, he was running against a President presiding over a growing economy, but found a way to distract voters from that fact by relying on the glue that has held the national Republican coalition together for years--race.  In effect, Barack Obama's skin color became the equivalent of Ford's propensity for clumsiness.  And, much as Ford's pardon tied him to Nixon, Obama's continuation of the Bush-Cheney "perpetual war" in the Middle East (notwithstanding the Iraq withdrawal) tied him to his unpopular predecessors.  And, just like Carter, Trump won a late-night, nail-biting, justthisclose victory.

But, just like Carter, although Trump shares power with a Congress controlled by his own party, this Congress has no use for the populism of its President.  Like the O'Neil-Byrd Congress, Capitol Hill is in the grip of a rigid ideology--not the New Deal, of course, but supply-side Reaganomics.  Take the approach of Republicans in the House of Representatives toward replacing the Affordable Care Act,   Actually, they're only planning to partially replace it.  How?  By replacing much of the Federal subsides for buying health insurance with--wait for it--tax cuts.  And not just any tax cuts, but cuts that disproportionately benefit the donor base of the Republican party.  In other words, the people most likely to be hurt by this change (if it ever happens) are Trump voters.

And Trump is fully on-board with this, despite the fact that he's promised universal health care in the past.  Then again, he promised not to cut Social Security, and look at what's happening to that promise.  Out the window.  On moral grounds, no less.  Don't count on those factory jobs to come back, Rust Belters.

So, to complete the comparison all the way into the next Presidential election, all the Democrats would need to do is to find themselves another Reagan.  Somebody at the upper end of the age spectrum, who had spent his whole life devoted to ideological causes.  Someone not closely identified with the establishment of the party, but who has millions of fiercely loyal partisans within it. Someone who had run against the party nominee in the previous election, and came up just short of a historic upset in the nomination process.  Someone whose presence hung over that nominee, even at a triumphant nominating convention.

In other words, someone like ... gasp ... Bernie Sanders.

Amazing, isn't it?  But what's even more amazing is that, once again, the Democrats may be poised to blow it.

Whatever else you do, don't let them.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

You Almost Might Want To Trade Places

I got married late in life but, in my case, it was well worth the wait.  As I have told my wife on more than one occasion, I found someone who was one in a trillion.  I can honestly say that, had I been lucky in no other respect (and I've been lucky in many respects), meeting and marrying her would and has made me the luckiest man in the world.

If marrying late (to be precise, at the age of 35) has given me any specific perspective on family life in general, it is the preciousness of time, which seems to get faster and fast as I get older.  I'm 60 now, and have two granddaughters I'm looking forward to seeing this weekend.  But, as I realize how few in number the years ahead of me are, it makes me all the more determined to make the most of weekends like this.  That's how I've tried to approach every day of the nearly 25 years thus far that I've been married, and that's how I'll approach the rest of them.

So it would be impossible for me not to appreciate this piece in the New York Times, a dating profile that a dying woman wrote on behalf of her husband.  No bitterness.  No self-absorption.  Just a deep and abiding gratitude for what she was given, and the wish that it will continue for the man with whom she has shared her life.

I'm not sure who is more remarkable, the husband or the wife.  In any case, both of them give the rest of us something to live for:  a deeper appreciation of time's limits on all of us, and the need to make all of the moments we have count as much as possible.

To both of them, thank you.  And G-d bless you and your families.

From One Generation To Another, But In The Same Theater

In spite of the need to pay attention to our present political situation, I think I'm going to take a break from politics here for a little bit, and write about more pleasant topics.

The fall of 1972 was kind of a revolutionary (pardon the pun) year in my life:  I saw the film version of the Broadway musical "1776" and visited my first Broadway theater, and fell in love with both.  I had been interested in theater before that, even taking an acting class at Center Stage in Baltimore. But, for some reason, that was the moment I really fell in love with theater, especially theater in New York.  Maybe it was the leading men involved.  In the case of my first Broadway theater, the now-departed Morosco, it was Alan Bates in Simon Gray's "Butley."  And, of course, in the case of "1776," it was William Daniels as John Adams.

Daniels has had a long career and a significant number of memorable roles, which he talks about in his soon-to-be published autobiography.  But he spent two years on Broadway playing Adams and, though he had been working for a while, it was probably the beginning of the phase of his career as a star.  And all of those two years were just around the corner from where the Morosco was, at the 46th Street Theater (now the Richard Rodgers).  So, for those two years, it was his professional and artistic home, in a role where (as he note in the linked article) he was almost always on stage .

Thanks to landmarking, nearly all of Broadway's historic theaters are now protected, so the Rodgers is still with us.  How amazing is it that it is once again the home of a Broadway musical about the founding of our nation, "Hamilton."  And what a wonderful moment it must have been for both Daniels and Lin-Manuel Miranda to meet backstage, in the same building where both of them became stars.

I've written about all this previously, but it's worth doing so again, if for no other reason (apart from taking my mind off Trump) than the fact that it points up the way in which historic structures unite us across time, in the same space.  To borrow a phrase from Hebrew, L'dor V'dor (from one generation to another).  May the Rodgers and other theaters do that for many years to come.

A Tale Of Three Scumbags

After every election, win or lose, Democrats are always lectured by the media to reach across the aisle.  That's right:  Democrats.  It just seems to be expected that the relative position of the two parties in American democracy are always supposed to be the same:  the Republicans hold the football, and the Democrats try to kick it.  And, whether you're a regular student of the comic strip "Peanuts" or of American politics, you know what happens next.  Democrats end up flat on their backs, Republicans get to keep the football--and who knows what else.

This double standard sadly reflects the winning team-losing team perspective that now dominates what masquerades for political coverage in what's left of the mainstream media.  Once upon a time (and in my lifetime), politics was as much a discussion of ideas as of the people who made it their career and the people who were being served.  Sadly, since the Reagan years, and with the concurrent consolidation of media outlets by corporate conglomerates, all of that has changed. News has become a commodity to be sold to the largest possible number of buyers.

As a consequence, news is now subject to a motto inaccurately attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, but which is one of my favorites (it's on a sign in my office):  "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss things, small minds discuss other people."  The reality is that their are more average minds than great ones, and probably more small minds than average ones.  In the lowest common denominator world of mass sales, media is thus sold as coverage of people--even political media.  It goes a long way toward explaining how we ended up with a President who has no experience governing even so much as a stop light.  It definitely explains the ease with which Republicans sell the idea that what's theirs is theirs, and everything else is negotiable.  They know how to sell.  It's really all they know, but they know it very well.

For the sake of discussion, however, if not fairness, let's suspend the rules of reality and pretend that a world in which Democrats always ask "How high?" every time the Republicans scream "Jump!" is really the way things ought to be.  And, in this world, Democrats are always obliged to compromise with the other side, even in years where they have prevailed in elections.

My question is this.

Why should they?

Quite apart from the rancidness of their ideas, and with a handful of notable exceptions, today's Republican Party is nothing more than a rotting collection of rotten scumbags.

Does that sound excessively mean?  Well, I won't insist on it.  Judge for yourself.

In the White House, as Donald Trump's principal adviser, we have Steve Bannon, formerly of the alternative-facts, white-nationalist Web site Breitbart.  That alone should disqualify him from his present position.  However, just in case it's not enough for you, you may want to ponder this: Bannon is an advocate for what surely must be the single most racist book ever published and sold in general circulation.  I am speaking of "The Camp of the Saints," a vile, consciously racist, virtually pornographic book written in the 1970s by a French author, who I shall not name (I don't like the idea of giving him any more publicity than is absolutely necessary).  You can, in any case, read more about it in absolutely excruciating detail here.  It's enough to say it's about an "invasion" of the West by Indians.  Trust me:  it goes downhill from that sentence very quickly.

Never mind, for the moment, the obvious question of why a man who advocates such garbage is given a place in the White House.  Here's the real question, relative to our current thesis:  how do you find common ground with someone who thinks this way?  If you are even close to being a decent human being, you don't.  You shun that person every chance you get.

And the same goes for two other real prizes.  One of them is named Tom Cotton.  He is a U.S. Senator from Arkansas (which speaks poorly of Arkansas).  In the final years of the Obama Administration, he was one of the instigators of a full-page newspaper ad inviting the Iranian Government to violate the nuclear agreement with Iran that had recently been negotiated (and endorsed by Israeli security experts).  Bad enough, right?  Well, just in case it's not, here's something else:  Cotton held up the confirmation of one of Obama's diplomatic nominees, a friend of the then-President's from law school, because Cotton knew that doing so would cause Obama "special pain" (the senator's words, as spoken directly to the nominee when she ask him what the reason for the hold-up was).  She died later, never having had a chance to have her nomination considered.  Again, I'm not making this up.

Oh, and let's not forget the members of the media echo chamber that enable the scumbags in government; they can match them scum for scum.

Once upon a time, thanks to Marconi and others, radio became a great resource for spreading culture and news around the world.  In the Internet age, however, radio has largely become the medium of choice for right-wing gasbags.  And none are gassier than Mark Levin, who has a nightly three-hour radio show in which he spews venom that he either makes up on the spot or plans in advance (it's hard to tell, and that's after subjecting myself several times on long drives).  Levin and his ilk are like Biff Barnes, a sportscaster made up by George Carlin for one of his routines:  "I call 'em as I see 'em, and if I don't see 'em, I make 'em up!"  If that's not bad enough, in order to spread the lie that Obama personally wiretapped Trump, he goes so far as to use Helen Keller as a punching bag.

And I'm supposed to sit down with this guy and reason together?  With any of them?  Give me a break.

That's my tale of three scumbags.  Sadly, there are many more:  a party, and now a government, that's chock-full of them.  And, as long as that's the case, they can wait until hell freezes over before I try to reason with any of them.  I'm going to fight like hell to put them out of business.

And, if you believe in what this nation is supposed to be, you'll do the same.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Is Kansas Finally Waking Up?

You remember Kansas.  For most of us, much of our lives, it was mainly the place from which Dorothy and Toto were snatched by a tornado to be deposited in the Land of Oz.  The way things have been going there over the past several years, it's a wonder that everyone in the state isn't praying for tornadoes.

Sam Brownback went from representing the state in the U.S. Senate to the governor's chair, determined to prove once and for all that Reaganomics worked everywhere it was applied.  He cut taxes.  He cut spending.  He told all of us to stand back and wait for the economic miracle to appear.

Well, if there was an economic miracle to wait for here, its name could only be Godot.  But, as far as most Kansans are concerned, a better name for it would be Disaster.  Or, more specifically, Bankruptcy.

But then, like Dorothy's house falling out of the sky to kill the Witch of the East, a miracle occurred. Kansans got angry with a falling state credit rating and a collapsing state school system, among other things.  And, even more amazingly, they connected this anger to its proper source: the tax cuts and the idiots who supported them.  And so, there is now hope that the tax cuts will be repealed, without the help of Brownback, who is cowardly allowing the state legislature to bail him and themselves out of his misery.

You can read about it here.  You can even read about something more amazing here:  Kansas legislators embracing the idea of accepting the Obamacare expansion of Medicare!

Toto, I've got a funny feeling Kansas isn't "in Kansas" anymore.  Let's hope not, anyway.

Donald Trump, Immigrant Hypocrite

If you listened to the speech that Donald Trump read (read, not made) to a joint session of Congress last week, you know that immigrants took front-and-center in that speech.  Only not in the way that immigrants deserve.  For all of the ridiculous praise heaped on the speech for allegedly sounding "presidential," it had nothing much in the way of inspiration when it comes to those who take a chance on coming here and believing that the American Dream might be able to include them. Well, not anymore.

Immigrants are dangerous.  Immigrants are terrorists who can't be vetted.  Immigrants pour across our supposedly defenseless boarders, snatching jobs away from citizens and driving down wages for everyone.  Immigrants are more likely than native-born Americans to be killers, ready to gun down any citizen that dares to cross their paths.  Immigrants, in short, are The Enemy Within, and should only be allowed to come into this country if they can prove, in some government-approved way, to "add value" to the country.  By "value," of course, we're talking about the kind that folds into your wallet or deposits into a financial account.  This, of course, is pure (or impure) Trump:  all relationships are transactional.  Once upon a time, the motto of this country was "E Pluribus Unum." In the age of Trump, it's "What's In It For Me?"

But make no mistake:  in this respect, Trump is completely consistent.  All relationships are indeed transactional.  Which is why he's perfectly happy to sponsor foreign workers for his vineyard, much as he outsources his branded consumer products to overseas factories.  No "America First" here!

The first rule of Trump voting:  you only listen to what he says, not what he does.  In other words, its just like the relationship between conservatives and conservatism.

The Three-Point Case Against Neil Gorsuch

As utterly insane as the first six week's of Donald Trump's "Presidency" have been (and insane is the nicest adjective that I can think of), it can be hard to remember that, in the middle of all the insanity, there is yet a very important piece of business to transact.  Or, as some might prefer it (and by some, I mean including me), not to transact at all.  Nevertheless, it is important in no small part because its potential impact exceeds any potential length of Trump's stay in the White House.  It is his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to fill the Merrick Garland seat on the Supreme Court.

You can be forgiven for not remembering Justice Garland's career on the Court.  That's because, although it should have happened, it never did.  The Chief Judge of the D.C. federal Circuit Court of Appeals, Garland was nominated almost a year ago by then-President Obama to fill a seat that had been vacated by the sudden death of Antonin Scalia.  However, given that all of this was taking place in the last year of Obama's term, combined with the prospect of a contentious presidential election around the corner, Mitch McCONnell, the Senate majority leader, decided to play Russian roulette with the constitutional responsibility of the Senate to approve or disapprove of a Supreme Court nominee.  He said their would be no vote, based on a rule he cobbled out of thin air based on a quote from Vice President Biden.

McCONnell won the game when Trump (sort-of) won the election.  In the process, constitutional government and the American people lost.  And now, Judge Gorsuch, the son of one of the absolutely meanest Republican appointees in history, appears ready to be rubber-stamped onto a former third branch of government, itself poised in the process to become a rubber stamp.

Corporate media slobbered all over the news about the Gorsuch nomination, in much the same way that they slobbered all over Trump's State of the Union address this past week.  The former was "mainstream," the latter was "presidential."  This is sadly a tribute to the extent to which, as someone once said, all journalism is tabloid journalism--the triumph of style over substance.  Were Judge Gorsuch "mainstream," he would not have been on Trump's pre-election list of prospective appointees, the list that conservatives had to sign off on before they could embrace him.  And the SOTU address was little more than his standard litany of rhetorical punching bags, dressed up in fancier language.

But that SOTU address, as it turns out, was not the "pivot" moment that corporate media had long dreamed of, the moment when Trump could magically turn into someone they could approve of and then get back to making money.  It was an island of "normalcy" in the Sea of Trump, a sea filled with tidal waves, typhoons and hidden reefs.  The waves and typhoons are Trump's lust for popularity and vendettas against those who oppose him.  The reefs are his connections to Russia, and led this past week to finding his Attorney General on the brink of resignation, and a tweet-storm in which he accused his predecessor of personally wiretapping him.

Sorry to break this too you, corporate media, but no, there's never going to be any "pivot."  There is nothing "presidential" about Donald Trump.  He is a dangerously unstable narcissist who cares about nothing except himself, and his short-term popularity.  Such a person, regardless of his or her professed politics, should not be in the White House in the first place.  And that is all the more true when, as in this case, we have no idea whatsoever of the extent to which he is the real-life Manchurian Candidate.

Those facts form the basis of my first point against installing Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. A lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land must not be in the hands of a madman/foreign agent, until (if ever) the cloud of doubt on both points is removed.  And no, I'm not alone in thinking this way.  Here are one, two, and even three concurring opinions.

 As for the other two points:

The Supreme Court, in order to fulfill its Constitutional purpose, cannot be politicized.  McCONnell's decision to play wait-and-see-if-we-get-an-all-GOP-government, combined with the pre-election commitment from Republican senators to spend four years blocking any prospective Clinton judicial appointees, represents the worst form of politicization.  In form and substance, it overthrows any real control by the voters of the appointment process.  And it prevents the court system--and the Supreme Court in particular--from serving as an independent check on the excesses of the political process. Again, two concurring opinions, here and here.  Both of which, incidentally, lead me into my third point.

The Democratic Party has got to stop letting the bad guys steal the voters' lunch money. Unsurprisingly, there are media voices telling Senate Democrats that there's no point in putting up a fight, that doing so would simply lead to McCONnell nuking the filibuster rule, that it's better to preserve that weapon for later.  You can hear (or read) one of those voices here, if you've got the stomach for it.  Sadly, there appear to be plenty of Democrats ready to heed this "advice."

But why?  Why wait to use a weapon that may or may not be easier to use?  Why telegraph weakness?  At what point in the recent dealings between the two parties has that worked for Democrats, or their voters?  To fail to even attempt a filibuster is to simply make it easier to fold the next time (and there will be a next time) a fight shows up at their doorstep.  Ultimately, the filibuster rule becomes useless as a weapon, because the other side knows you're afraid to use it.

But if the other side knows you're ready to fight, that gives them a different set of calculations to make.  Even if they do nuke the filibuster at that point, that forces them, and the voters, to live with the consequences of their bad ideas.  That gives the voters more of a chance to do what McCONnell allegedly wants them to do--to "weigh in."  And when the consequences of the bad ideas leads to a Democratic majority, that makes it all the easier to give the American people the things they want from Democrats in the first place.

For the sake of Constitutional government, for the sake of a real two-party system, and above all for the sake of a nation that is not just a proxy for another nation, the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court must be stopped.  Stone cold dead in its tracks.  And right now.  No matter what McCONnell, the corporate media, or Herr Twitler has to say about it.