Words Matter

Dear Group,

By the time you read this the Republican-only immigration “compromise” bill on which McMorris Rodgers said she was “working hard” (Green Bluff town hall on May 29th) will either be discarded by the House Republicans for lack of votes to pass it or she and the Republican leadership will scrape up enough Republican votes to sent it on to the Senate and legislative oblivion. 

Her expressions of  concern and sympathy for the Dreamers ring hollow in light of her actions. She refused to sign the discharge petition that fell just two signatures short of forcing a clean vote on the Dreamers fate, a discharge petition that would have temporarily loosened the stranglehold she and the Republican leadership hold on House business. No. Instead, she insisted on using the Dreamers as hostages for a Republican re-write of immigration law affecting all immigration. 

In working to construct this disgusting Republican bill, McMorris Rodgers’ completely ducked any effort at bi-partisanship. Instead, she withdrew into the Republican propaganda bubble where all immigrates, legal or illegal are tarred with the same brush. McMorris Rodgers completely ignores a bi-partisan majority of Representatives who might have actually voted relief for the Dreamers in a clean bill. 

Her rhetoric suggests motherly sympathy–her actions say she’ll smother her sympathy to appease Trump’s, Steven Miller’s, and Jeff Session”s xenophobia, racism, and subversion of American values manifest in their immigration demands.

I leave you today with this observation. Words matter. A week ago Mara Liasson, long time Washington D.C. political correspondent for National Public Radio, spoke at the Bing in downtown Spokane. She is an impressive intellect. Her careful choice of words drove home a very important point: words matter.

Ms. Liasson dispassionately pointed out the obvious, but little-remembered fact that Mr. Trump and his allies over years have set up an artificial and unnecessary aura of crisis around immigration. She cited Trump’s pre-election demonization of Mexicans as drug dealers and rapists, his post election unnecessary cancelation of DACA, the family separations, and, importantly, the early and ongoing linkage of the word “illegal” to any mention of the word “immigration.”

With impeccable verbal hygiene, each time Ms. Liasson mentioned the Republican “compromise” bills, she subtly emphasized reality: Both of these bills use rhetoric and impressions around “illegal” immigration in order to extract a sweeping changes in legal immigration. 

Her carefully stated words hit me hard. I, constantly bathed in the bilge water that is Republican rhetoric, had started to think of immigrants as “illegal,” to imagine, somehow, that immigration was a “problem” in need of “fixing.” I gagged on that realization. 

Listen carefully to the words. Listen to how the Republican propaganda machine pounds home its ideas. Use every opportunity to use the correct words: The Republicans, including our complicit honey-won’t-melt-in-her-mouth mom, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, are building a narrative around supposed horribly threatening illegal immigration in order to justify a massive cutback of legal immigration

Words matter. Don’t let McMorris Rodgers get away with supporting Trump’s and Steven Miller’s racist, xenophobic agenda.

Keep to the high ground,


The Immigration Reality Distortion Field

Dear Group,

There is a reality distortion field that surrounds the Trump administration and his Republican Party. Like most everyone else, I am guilty of slowly absorbing the constant drip, drip, drip of misinformation that oozes out of every pore of the current Republican government. That is a horrible admission. The distortion of fact fostered by this propaganda has even seeped into otherwise credible media. Today I defer to the writing of Shawn Vestal, clear thinker and columnist for the Spokesman. His article last Thursday, June 21, in the Spokesman entitled The myth of the immigration ‘emergency’ collapsed the distortion field and re-injected a dose of reality for me. I reproduce Mr. Vestal’s article below. In my opinion his writing alone makes a subscription to the Spokesman worthwhile. (Click here to consider a subscription.) [The bolding in the article below is mine.]

Shawn Vestal: The myth of the immigration ‘emergency’

“A faulty assumption has continually been employed to justify the current anti-immigrant zealotry, and it goes like this: We are being flooded with illegal immigrants. They are coming in an unstoppable wave. They are threatening our very way of life.

It’s an emergency!

Set aside, for a moment, the nativism and racism inside this rallying cry. Set aside how strongly such sentiments rely upon the assumed danger of the “they.” What’s particularly incredible about that mantra now – as we begrudgingly stop jailing toddlers at the southern border and ramp up racial profiling on Greyhound buses in Spokane – is that it’s not true.

Not growing. Not a wave.

Not – at least in terms of actual numbers – an emergency.

Last year, the Border Patrol caught about 80 percent fewer “illegal aliens” trying to enter the country as it did in 2000. In real numbers, it fell from roughly 1.6 million to 310,000, the lowest point since 1971, according to federal data.

In Spokane, the drop has been more precipitous: The agents in our regional office apprehended about 15 percent as many undocumented immigrants as they did in 2000. In real numbers, that’s 1,324 apprehensions in 2000, compared to 208 in 2017.

Drug seizures, meanwhile, show a lot of fluctuation. Nationally, the number and the weight of marijuana seizures has been steadily and dramatically declining. The same is true in the Spokane sector, though it went up in 2017 after several years of decline. Cocaine and heroin seizures fluctuate; meth has been rising steadily and alarmingly.

In other words, the statistical picture of drug trafficking along the borders is varied and inconsistent, reflecting a long-term, ongoing problem more than a matter of sudden urgency.

Statistics are always limited: Out of context, a rate of apprehensions may not correlate so much to the size of the problem as it does to the size of the force doing the apprehending.

What if the number of apprehensions plummeted because the number of Border Patrol agents plummeted?

It didn’t. Border Patrol employment has risen dramatically in those years, nationally and in Spokane. A lot of that came after 9/11. But Border Patrol staffing has more than doubled in the same time period – peaking at 21,444 agents in 2011 before dipping slightly again.

In the Spokane sector, that’s gone from 34 agents to 230.

Our immigration system requires reform. But a false sense of emergency has been used to peddle, develop and justify the abandonment of American principles and general human decency. That certainly won’t end just because the administration belatedly recognizes that most Americans won’t abide imprisoning asylum-seeking children.

But at a very basic level – at the level of the factual unit – what’s happening in the country is the opposite of what’s being sold in the immigration panic: Fewer people caught trying to sneak in, even as we’ve ramped up the number of people trying to catch them.

Still, from the top of the government to the field offices of the Border Patrol, the message has been that we are facing a growing threat that must be battled with greater zeal. This week, the Spokane Border Patrol office defended its ramped-up practice of conducting immigration checks on Greyhound buses in Spokane; Council President Ben Stuckart has urged Greyhound to put a stop to the checks, which he argues may violate Spokane city law against discrimination.

“Transportation hubs are used by alien smuggling and drug trafficking organizations to move people, narcotics, and contraband to interior destinations throughout the country,” a Border Patrol spokesman said in a statement. “To combat these growing threats, the U.S. Border Patrol has increased the frequency of transportation checks around the country as an additional enforcement mechanism to reinforce (the agency’s) world-class approach to border security.”

I called the Border Patrol office to ask if they had any concrete evidence to support the notion of these “growing” threats. I was told that the drug seizures show a clearly growing problem; some of those figures do show increases – meth in particular. Others show declines, such as heroin and marijuana.

And the overall picture, as compiled in the agency’s own easy-to-read charts, available on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, simply do not paint a picture of a growing problem.

Bottom line: The total number of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and meth seizures carried out by the Border Patrol and Office of Field Operations has dropped from 585,617 in fiscal year 2012 to 443,689 in fiscal year 2017.

Down 25 percent.”

Striking, isn’t it? Facts matter. If one fails to practice mental hygiene in the face of propaganda one is asking to be led. Hats off to Mr. Vestal for cutting through the fog and snapping me back to reality. 

Keep to the high ground,


CMR’s Non-Solution to the Health Care Dilemma

Dear Group,

On Wednesday I presented a lengthy transcription from McMorris Rodgers’ town hall at Green Bluff demonstrating her lack of comprehension of basic economic and accounting principles as applied to health care. If you haven’t read it I encourage you to do so by clicking here.

Two days later, on Thursday, May 31st, at her “Conversation with Cathy” in Pullman, McMorris Rodgers indicated she is concerned over rising health insurance premiums. Her solution? Deregulation of health insurance offerings and a tax break for those with means (presumably so these folk can better afford the ever increasing price of health care).

The Spokesman did not bother to cover the Pullman town hall at all. You can watch the whole interaction here. I’ve transcribed from that recording the very first exchange (starting at 09:19 after her opening remarks):

Young man: You voted to take health care away from 18 million Americans and I want to know why.

CMR: …Well…The legislation that I voted on didn’t take care away from anyone. What it did was it…ah…what it did was it…ah…it repealed the Affordable Care Act and replaced it with an approach that would empower you as an individual to have more options…and more access, and…ah…would insure…it protected those with pre-existing conditions…ah, but it, what it would do is repeal some of the regulations coming from the federal level so that we would have more options as individuals and small businesses with health insurance plans that would better meet your needs…and right now we continue to see premiums going up for individuals, for families, for small businesses…ah…people have lost their health insurance of choice. People are feeling like they can’t afford their health insurance and I believe we must do better. So I continue to work on legislation that is going to make sure that everyone has affordable and quality health insurance.

Young man: You say everyone… you mean those that can buy it when it gets so expensive they lose their Obamacare? [garbled]

CMR: So,, so…when…ah…no. ah [mild laughter] ahh…When you’re talk…so,,,CBO…this 18 million was the government approved health insurance plans…right? I don’t…you know…that’s where I don’t think that the federal government needs to be the one just because I think individuals should have more options…whether it is Health Savings Accounts, whether it’s association health plans, that’s where I think local, more individuals having more options is going to serve everyone better…and you can make the best decisions for yourself, not the federal government deciding what’s going to have to be in every health insurance plan.   (ending at 11:38)

Step back. McMorris Rodgers demonstrates no recognition of the cost of health care that drives the cost of insurance. The main thrust of her argument is the federal government should not regulate the health insurance market. Essentially she argus health insurance deregulation, a return to the status quo ante of deceptive health insurance policies with acres of unintelligible fine print, THAT will make it all better.

She says she will “continue to work on legislation that is going to make sure that everyone has affordable and quality health insurance.” What does she offer? “Health Savings Accounts” and “Association Health Plans.”

How, Cathy, do either of these things offer health insurance that is “affordable” AND high “quality?” If the underlying cost of health care overall does not change, “affordable” health insurance and high “quality” health insurance inevitably butt heads, one undercuts the other. If the health insurance is cheaper (“affordable”) inevitably it will cover less health care.  

So what is an “Association Health Plan,” anyway? An AHP is another way for Trump and his Republicans to further dismantle the health insurance regulations under the Affordable Care Act. Don’t like the cost of your health insurance? Their answer: Don’t tackle the underlying cost of health care. No. Instead, allow insurance companies to offer health insurance policies that don’t cover what you might need, policies that can exclude people with pre-existing conditions or charge them higher premiums, policies that, in short, become “affordable” by offering a lower “quality” (less comprehensive) product. There is a good summary of how AHPs work in The Washington Post’s The Health 202 from June 19th. AHPs are just a different name for the pre-ACA health insurance offerings that left millions either uninsured (or inadequately insured) and vulnerable to medical bankruptcy. People go without care or they receive care and society pays for it in other ways harder to see: citizen’s financial lives are ruined, providers go uncompensated in the event of medical bankruptcy (and seek payment from other sources), or society pays for it with sicker citizens less able to work or in taxes used to cover disability and medical coverage for the resulting indigent rendered bankrupt by the system. 

Health Savings Accounts? A Health Savings Account is a tax break for those with enough money, time, and attention to set up such an account. It is a self-serving handout to people like Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The tax break takes money out of federal coffers, money that could and should be spent on a host of other things, and rewards that money to the likes of McMorris Rodgers and her upper middle class peers. In fact, the higher the HSA account holder’s marginal tax bracket the more of a tax break an HSA offers. From an accounting standpoint HSAs are another example of the already well-to-do rewarding themselves, another way to increase wealth disparity and widen the chasm of financial insecurity.

I am convinced McMorris Rodgers is fully sincere. How else could she keep a straight face and offer up such nonsense as a solution to the health care dilemma? She lacks the perspective that should allow her to see Health Savings Accounts and Association Health Plans for what they really are. 

McMorris Rodgers doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. 

Keep to the high ground,


P.S.  In the Green Bluff and Pullman town halls combined, McMorris Rodgers acknowledged only medical malpractice lawsuits and the price of drugs as drivers of the price of health care–and failed to offer a useful analysis of either. (I will present her quotes and my thoughts in a later post.)

Health Insurance v. Health Care

The central problem with health care in the United States is its cost. That’s the cost of health care, not the cost of health insurance. The high and growing cost of health insurance as it affects each of us is what we all talk about. The cost of the care itself is the elephant in the room that many seem unable to see and no one talks about. Most of us interact with the cost of health care through insurance companies, so it is natural to focus on the cost of health insurance…kvetch about its cost…and kvetch even louder over the remainder of the bill the insurance doesn’t cover. 

Step back for a moment. Private insurance companies, like any company in the “free market,” exist to make money, whether for shareholders (in the case of for profit companies) or for the salaries of people who work there (in the case of not-for-profit insurance companies). They should make money by providing a service that is pretty straightforward: they smooth out the risk of a devastating bill. That is the fundamental mission of insurance of any kind. 

Consider this: If the annual cost of routine health care per person in the United States were a manageable number relative to income, health insurance companies would have a simple task. People might be content to pay their day to day health care costs out of pocket while also paying  a modest monthly premium to a health insurance company’s financial pool. In the event of a devastating bill affecting a few subscribers the bill gets paid out of the pool. No one goes bankrupt and everyone sleeps better. 

But that is not where we’re at with the cost of health care in this country. In aggregate the money spent on health care per every man, woman, and child in this country is now more than $10,000 per year. Family of four? $40,000. Consider how ridiculous that is. If there were one breadwinner in a family of four and we shared national health care expenses equally (everyone paid the average cost) that breadwinner would need a $20/hour full time job (and pay no taxes) JUST to pay for health costs, no food, no housing, no car, no nothing else. Of course, absent a medical catastrophe, the actual medical bills for this hypothetical family of four wouldn’t be $40,000 per year every year, but SOME FAMILY will have a catastrophe, THAT family will face bills far higher than $40,000—and that family will face bankruptcy.

In Canada that cost per person figure is less than half, around $5000—and the Canadians are healthier and happier than we are. This is the elephant in the room that most cannot see and others intentionally ignore (or try to dismiss as fake news).

So are health insurance companies to blame for the cost? Consider what our screwed up system asks them to do. If a health insurance company is to make any money it doesn’t just have to administer the spreading of risk (the traditional function of insurance), it is asked to control the cost of the health care provided, that is, to bargain with a whole array of health care providers over cost. What gets considered? The bargaining chips (before the ACA) were caps on total annual and lifetime expenditures, exclusive provider networks, numbers of patients (insurance subscribers) offered, limitations of services offered, etc., etc. After all this bargaining a policy containing acres of fine print was offered to insurance subscribers to puzzle over. (All this bargaining requires armies of employees who are paid to spar with providers over what gets paid and how much. That’s a major part of insurance company overhead.)

The authors of the Affordable Care Act saw and addressed most of the fine print problems with health insurance (but not with the cost of health care, the main driver of health insurance premiums). The ACA standardized health insurance coverage and in so doing greatly simplified the fine print. Gone were lifetime and annual caps on coverage, gone were weaselly words that excluded pre-existing conditions. In exchange the insurance companies got the “Individual Mandate,” simply a mandate for more people to participate, to spread the risk, the thing insurance companies are supposed to do. What the ACA did NOT do well was tackle the actual cost of health care. Legislative reality and concerted lobbying prevented efforts to allow government to bargain over drug prices and scotched the attempt to offer a “public option.”

The Republican/Libertarian response? Regardless of the intent of the ACA (to provide health insurance for the entire population), the Libertarians saw another government controlled and tax funded social program to be resisted, not improved. They seized on the rising cost of health insurance for the still healthy insurance buyer and completely ignored the ridiculous total and average cost per person of health care. They set to work immediately by every legal and legislative means available to them to dismember the Affordable Care Act. They voted time and time again to repeal the ACA in its entirety, while offering no solution at all for the problems the ACA was designed to fix. They railed endlessly about personal choice, free markets, and government overreach. With all this they assured the cost of health insurance would rise and then they pointed to that rise in cost as yet another reason to dismantle the ACA rather than work on it’s problems. 

And now they’ve hacked away, citing, as McMorris Rodgers has, things like the repeal of the Individual Mandate (as part of their Tax Law) as a crowning achievement of the Republicans under Trump. They’ve hacked away until now they own the mess they’ve created. The complexity of pre-ACA health insurance is looming once again and they don’t have the first clue how to fix it. As I will show you tomorrow, judging by her own words, McMorris Rodgers doesn’t even understand how insurance works.

Keep to the high ground,


CMR’s Shallow Grasp of Medical Economics

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” Mark Twain

Dear Group,

There is a reason that McMorris Rodgers tries hard to stick to message. When she does not stick to message she reveals startling gaps in basic knowledge and understanding. Nowhere is that more apparent than in a town hall speaking about health care.

I’ve transcribed parts of an audio recording of the Green Bluff town hall McMorris Rodgers held on short notice on May 29th. Doing the transcription has driven home for me a fundamental truth: Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the fourth highest ranking Republican in Congress, is ignorant of the basic economics of health care in this country. She is lost in the weeds. 

In what was an oblique response to a man expressing dismay over the rising cost of health insurance for his wife, McMorris Rodgers offered the following. I’ve transcribed it verbatim:

“One thing about Medicare and Medicaid. The government doesn’t pay the full cost of actually providing Medicare and Medicaid. So…ah…any provider, any doctor, any hospital, any physical therapist…anybody who takes Medicare or Medicaid will lose money every time someone comes in with their Medicare card or a Medicaid card. Medicaid is..I believe, 30, 35% of the actual cost and Medicare is 60, 70% of the actual cost…so the providers…how do the providers actually…how do the hospitals stay in business? How does a doctor stay in business? They’re making….so they charge the private health insurance higher so that they can keep their doors open. So…so that’s where we need to be honest about the actual cost…and I believe that the government needs…I have supported for our rural communities…so we’re losing our hospitals in rural areas right now because 70, 80% of their patients are on Medicare or Medicaid and they’re losing so much money every time somebody comes in with Medicare/Medicaid….They can’t keep their doors open!  So…. We’re not being honest about actual cost of, of a what the…way it currently works.. And that’s where I think Medicare is an important program and I, I believe we’ve got to make sure it is secure but it is on a path…right now it is not on a stable path and we’re signing up twenty thousand people a day.”

This is a very peculiar and confused answer to a question about the rising cost of health insurance. She claims private health insurance is expensive because Medicare and Medicaid don’t pay enough to cover the “cost” of keeping the doors open.  She even extends her mis-conception to a justification for her and her party to tackle the “entitlements” of Medicare and Medicaid, a theme she touches on elsewhere at every opportunity. 

Surely every reader of this email has puzzled over a health care “Explanation of Benefits” (EOB). You have seen a $500 charge for a service that has an “allowable” of $200, and an actual payment to the provider of only $160. When I was in practice the occasional patient would express dismay that I was only being paid a tiny fraction of my charge. I did not disabuse them of their notion by explaining the truth: the charge is a number basically pulled out of thin air. Why? Simple. The charge is set high enough so that if there is an insurance company out there that isn’t paying attention and will pay nearly that much then a nearly (or completely) outrageous charge level will “capture” that amount. If the provider doesn’t charge enough then money will be left on the table. One trouble with that system is, of course, that a patient with no insurance whatsoever sees an astronomical bill. 

The posted charge bears only the loosest relationship to the cost of providing the care. Apparently in McMorris Rodgers’ vaunted, sacred…and imaginary…health care “free market” what a provider charges for a service is the same as the cost. She says providers “lose money” every time they take care of a Medicare or Medicaid patient. Horse manure. If that were true most ophthalmology practices (largely dependent on Medicare age patients) would have gone out of business long ago.

To assess “cost” she would actually require numbers for a given medical facility that detail the fixed costs (rent, utilities, furniture,insurance, etc.), the variable costs (employee salaries and hourly wages, equipment, etc.), and some idea of the profits the providers expect and take home. 

McMorris Rodgers in spite of her youthful apple stand experience and in spite of her “MBA lite” (Executive Masters of Business Administration) missed the basic courses in economics and accounting. If she had been exposed to such course and actually learned the material she would not confuse “charge” and “cost.” She would not be susceptible to self-serving pleas from lobbyists who hope to convince her that Medicare routinely short-changes medical providers. More importantly, she wouldn’t brusquely dismiss (as she did at Green Bluff) a questioner who pointed out medical care might be cheaper if insurance companies didn’t run overhead many times higher than Medicare. 

The scariest thing is that McMorris Rodgers is very concerned and sincere in her presentation, however halting and confused it is. She is not play acting. She really is sincere. She can be sincere because she doesn’t understand that she doesn’t understand.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. I am reminded of Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ convolution about one of Trump’s lies: “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

Matt Shea and the Red Pill

Dear Group,

Many of you recognize the name Matt Shea, fewer know he has been the the State Representative from Spokane Valley, Legislative District 4, since 2008, and even fewer know how far out on the flapping fringes of conspiracy theory his ideas really are. 

Let’s start with this premise: If most voters actually spent the time necessary to get to know the candidates rather than voting based on name recognition or not voting at all, legislators like Matt Shea would be voted out. If I didn’t believe that I would fall into a fit of despair. 

Which brings me to Matt Shea and the Red Pill. The Red Pill Expo runs June 21-23, this Thursday afternoon through Saturday evening, at the Spokane Convention Center. For a mere $470.25 you can still get an all inclusive (apart from lodging) general admission ticket online. The only mention in the Spokesman Review occurred on June 10 and identifies the gathering as “Freedom Force Red Pill Expo Conference – Freedom Force International, June 17-26, Spokane Convention Center, 100 attendees.” If you visit the Freedom Force International website you find this whole thing is the brainchild of G. Edward Griffin, a now 86 year old conspiracy theorist who has pushed his views through books, films, and conferences. He is also the lead speaker among twenty-eight speakers at the Spokane Red Pill Expo. For much of his life Mr. Griffin has been a member and officer of the John Birch Society.

The term “Red Pill” comes from a scene in the film The Matrix, in which the protagonist is offered the choice of a red pill, representing truth and self-knowledge, or a blue pill representing a return to blissful ignorance. I invite you to explore the Red Pill Expo website and decide if any of their tripe represents the “truth and knowledge” they claim to offer.

Check out the twenty-seven Speakers. Copy and paste a name or two into wikipedia.org. You won’t be disappointed. My personal favorite is Lord Christopher Monckton, “Internationally known expert on climate change.” He has zero education or credentials in science, unless a British lordship qualifies. His education includes a degree in Classics and a diploma in journalism. His many other bizarre views byond vociferous climate denial are detailed and referenced in his wikipedia article.

In the second row of speakers at Red Pill is Washington State’s very own Matt Shea. His bio includes the statement: “As the ranking Republican on the House Environment Committee, Matt insists legislative decisions are based on sound, peer-reviewed science that protects both the state’s environment and jobs that preserve Washington’s quality of life.” Really?? A man without a single scientific credential who shares the podium with a cast of conspiracy theorists?? Sorry, if these are the peers to whom he looks for review…

To round out your acquaintance with this man I encourage a visit to his wikipedia.org entry. Look under Personal Life and Controversy. Check out the links to articles detailing allegations made by his ex-wife and his experience threatening a motorist with an illegally carried pistol. Visit his Facebook page. Sample his leadership qualities expressed on his bi-weekly show on Patriot Radio broadcast on the American Christian Network. 

I still have hope that the average oblivious voter, even a standard fiscal conservative Republican voter, if they took the time to check out Red Pill might think twice about casting a vote for this man. 

I’ve met and talked with Matt Shea’s Democratic challenger in Legislative District 4, Ted Cummings. He’s the real deal. Visit his website, tedforwashington.com. Make a donation. 

If you’ve followed some of the links in this article you will have confirmed a disturbing truth about the Republican Party in general. The Party may have the same name. It may claim descent from Abraham Lincoln. But today’s Republican Party is not even the Republican Party of the Bushes. Today’s Republican Party is well on the way down the road to right wing extremism. The election of Donald J. Trump has just shined a spotlight on the takeover. Leave them in office at your peril.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Several of Mr.Griffin’s books were published through the John Birch Society, a far right fringe group whose founder list includes Fred C. Koch, father of Charles and David Koch, current instigators of the Koch donor group detailed by Jane Mayer in Dark Money. William F. Buckley, Jr., for many years the intellectual underpinning of American conservatism and founder of The National Review, kept the John Birch Society identified as a fringe element of the conservative movement. With Buckley’s death in 2008 many would argue the Birchers have taken over the Republican Party with the help of the Koch brothers. This New Yorker article chronicles Buckley’s resistance to the JBS and the subsequent rise of the Tea Party. Written in 2010 the article foreshadows things that have now come to pass.

P.P.S. In case you missed it on the Red Pill website, a featured speaker at the Spokane Red Pill is the widow of LaVoy Finicum, the man who guaranteed his own death by pulling a gun on the law enforcement officers who pulled over his vehicle outside the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Matt Shea visited the illegal occupation of Malheur in support of the occupiers…

CMR, DACA, and the Discharge Petition

Dear Group,

McMorris Rodgers (with Paul Ryan) just avoided a display of something close to real democracy. Instead, they went for the partisan politics and Congressional gridlock on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). (You could be excused if you missed this detail while the Tweeter in Chief keep attention on HIS antics.)

I discussed the DACA discharge petition in CMR’s DACA Bait and Switch. In this case, the discharge petition, a parliamentary maneuver by Republican moderates, would have forced a vote on four DACA bills. At the Green Bluff town hall, McMorris Rodgers announced she was “working hard” to find a solution for the Dreamers. Then, despite some who have characterized her as moderate, she refused to sign the discharge petition. Instead, her “working hard” was to come up with a hard line Republican bill and tamp down the insurrection by the Republican moderates. Apparently, the last thing the Republican leadership wants is a bill that actually addresses straight on the plight of the Dreamers. They know that would be way too popular with the American people.

Last Tuesday Ryan’s office announced the discharge petition had failed…for lack of two more Republican co-signers. All 193 Democrats and 23 Republicans had signed. Tuesday was the deadline for the discharge petition to force a floor vote during the month of June. (I’ve been unable to figure out if its backers would have to start again from square one to mount another challenge in July.) The Ryan/McMorris Rodgers team used their “leadership” to strong-arm moderates members away from signing the discharge petition and an embarrassing set of votes. 

Instead, McMorris Rodgers and company have hurriedly put together a hard-line immigration bill that stands little chance of passage in the House and virtually no chance in the Senate. McMorris Rodgers, who lets the word “bipartisan” pass her lips with some frequency in town halls, worked to concoct a three hundred plus page bill entirely behind closed doors with Republicans only, struggling to come up with a compromise between the factions of her own Party and completely ignoring Democrats.

There will be no straight-up vote on the plight of the Dreamers as a stand alone bill. No, the bill McMorris Rodgers “worked hard” to put together offers a Steven Miller/Trump/Bannon xenophobic overhaul of immigration rules. McMorris Rodgers and company wish to pose this as a compromise. It is not compromise, it is extortion. The two issues it proposes to solve are issues Trump and his administration have intentionally made into acute problems. “OK, we’ll lay off of the Dreamers. We’ll give them permanent residency status and a complicated, lengthy path to citizenship (we don’t want the path to citizenship and voting to be easy or certain…they might vote us out!)” Of course, the need to rescue the Dreamers is all on account of Trump’s executive order to end DACA. “We’ll make the problem urgent and then we’ll offer a fix as a bargaining tool.” So this is “the art of the deal”?

The other concession in the Ryan/McMorris bill is extortion based Jeff Sessions instructions to separate children from parents at the border (heavily backed by the gaunt racist, Steven Miller), apparently as a way to discourage asylum seekers. Voila! “We’ll create this outrage and then as a bargaining chip we’ll offer to fix the problem we’ve created!” 

What do Steven Miller/Trump/Sessions/Bannon and the Republicans get? A dramatic tightening of immigration and asylum rules in line with their racist/nativist tendencies plus massive funding for Trump’s border wall.

From the NYTimes last Thursday, June 14th:

“We’re bringing legislation that’s been carefully crafted and negotiated to the floor,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin said Thursday. “We won’t guarantee passage.”

And its passage is far from assured. Within hours of the draft’s release, Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said that it would urge lawmakers to vote against the measure, deriding it as “amnesty.”

If the Heritage Foundation calls it “amnesty” there won’t be enough Republican votes to pass this horror even out of the House (much less the Senate) and the Democrats won’t and shouldn’t cave in to extortion. 

McMorris Rodgers will keep saying she’s “working hard.” She’ll try to leave the impression with her constituents she’s seeking a solution for the Dreamers. She tears up while listening to the Dreamers’ stories. Will she support a discharge charge that forces a straight vote on their plight, a vote that might actually show a whiff of real bipartisanship, of real democratic voting, of the will of the majority of the people of the United States? No. Will she stand up to her racist, xenophobic, blustery President? No. Instead, she is “working hard” to play Republican hardball politics that sacrifice the Dreamers and asylum-seeking families on the altar of Trump/Miller/Bannon nativism.

This bill she on which she “worked hard” is not based on the America I was brought up to cherish, not the America I was taught about in school, not the America of the Statue of Liberty. This bill speaks of a mean and inward-looking America, a fearful America, an America I struggle to recognize. 

What good is McMorris Rodgers’ “leadership position” if all she does with it is follow the worst instincts of a hateful, morally bankrupt President and his enablers?

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Trump, the mercurial emperor, has already promised not to sign McMorris Rodgers’ and Paul Ryan’s “moderate” bill. Does anyone remember months ago when Trump famously said something like “send me a bill to fix DACA and I’ll sign it?” I remember it because Trump’s words sent the diligent and very earnest Mormon boy scout, the Senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, to his desk for an all-nighter trying to craft a bill that would we a workable bi-partisan compromise. His effort was slammed. That experience may finally have awakened this one Republican to the authoritarian threat this President embodies.