While you weren’t looking

No doubt Donald J. Trump’s antics consume a lot of your attention. But the Trump administration isn’t alone in trying to dismantle American democracy. While you weren’t looking — or maybe you were just looking the other way — Republicans and Democrats were trying to take your rights away from you.

ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing group funded by the Koch brothers and devoted to taking your rights away from you, has really done it this time.

Today ALEC will be considering the following:

Originally, the U.S. Constitution provided for U.S. Senators to be selected by state legislatures however the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution adopted in 1914 upended 124 years of precedent calling for direct election of U.S. Senators. This change heralded many unintended consequences including greater federal overreach and Senate campaigns that are so costly that U.S. Senators become unduly beholden to special interests. This model policy urges the U.S. Congress to propose a constitutional amendment to overturn the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Yes, that’s right. You’re not hallucinating. ALEC wants to take away your right to directly elect your U.S. Senator by overturning the 17th Amendment of the United States Constitution. And if it succeeds, well, why not the 15th and the 19th too? Gilead plus the Confederacy would really make a lot of Republicans happy.

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It pains me to say this, but there are a bunch of Democrats trying to destroy democracy with a different wrecking ball.

43 Senators — 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats — want to criminalize free speech by making criticism of Israel a felony punishable by a $250,000 fine or 20 years in prison.

The bill, S. 720, called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, is co-sponsored by the following Democratic senators: Michael F. Bennet (CO), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Maria Cantwell (WA), Christopher A. Coons (DE), Joe Donnelly (IN), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (NY), Margaret Wood Hassan (NH), Joe Manchin III (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), Robert Menendez (NJ), Bill Nelson (FL), Gary C. Peters (MI), Charles E. Schumer (NY) and Ron Wyden (OR).

The House version, H. 1697, has 237 co-sponsors, but 63 Democratic representatives decided to trash the First Amendment too: Pete Aguilar (CA), Nanette Diaz Barragan (CA), Joyce Beatty (OH), Sanford D. Bishop (GA), Robert A. Brady (PA), Anthony G. Brown (MD), Tony Cardenas (CA), Kathy Castor (FL), J. Luis Correa (CA), Joe Courtney (CT), John K. Delaney (MD), Theodore E. Deutch (FL), Eliot L. Engel (NY), Ruben Gallego (AZ), Vicente Gonzalez (TX), Josh Gottheimer (NJ), Gene Green (TX), Colleen Hanabusa (HI), Alcee L. Hastings (FL), Brian Higgins (NY), Steny H. Hoyer (MD), Hakeem S. Jeffries (NY), Joseph P. Kennedy (MA), Derek Kilmer (WA), Rick Larsen (WA), John B. Larson (CT), Sander M. Levin (MI), Ted Lieu (CA), Daniel Lipinski (IL), Nita M. Lowey (NY), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY), A. Donald McEachin (VA), Grace Meng (NY), Grace F. Napolitano (CA), Richard E. Neal (MA), Donald Norcross (NJ), Tom O’Halleran (AZ), Frank Pallone (NJ), Jimmy Panetta (CA), Collin C. Peterson (MN), Kathleen M. Rice (NY), Jacky Rosen (NV), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA), C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD), John P. Sarbanes (MD), Adam B. Schiff (CA), Bradley Scott Schneider (IL), Kurt Schrader (OR), David Scott (GA), Brad Sherman (CA), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Albio Sires (NJ), Adam Smith (WA), Darren Soto (FL), Thomas R. Suozzi (NY), Eric Swalwell (CA), Dina Titus (NV), Juan Vargas (CA), Marc A. Veasey (TX), Filemon Vela (TX), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL), and Frederica S. Wilson (FL).

Section 5 of the bill specifically identifies Israel boycotts as political acts to be criminalized.

If this passes, what sorts of political acts and opinion will be criminalized next?

Many of the Democratic senators supporting the bill often cross the aisle to vote for extreme Republican legislation, but it was shocking that Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer chose to join them. And Ron Wyden, for all his great work defending the Fourth Amendment, turned his back on the First. Among the Massachusetts congressional delegation, Joseph Kennedy III (4th Congressional district) won’t be winning his family’s “profiles in courage” award for his betrayal of the Constitution, nor will Richard Neal (1st). I suppose I should be grateful that Bill Keating (9th) — at least for the moment — hasn’t co-sponsored the House version.

Democrats. I’m really trying to like you, but why do you make it so damned hard?

Bill Keating’s Voting Record

I’ve done a little preliminary research on Bill Keating’s voting record in preparation for his Town Hall at Dartmouth High School on August 30th.


I hope other folks will contribute additional voting information and issues. Email me (with URLs) at


Not progressive

Progressive organizations are urging support for eight bills:

  • Medicare for All: H.R. 676 Medicare For All Act
  • Free College Tuition: H.R. 1880 College for All Act of 2017
  • Worker Rights: H.R.15 – Raise the Wage Act
  • Women’s Rights: H.R.771 – Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act of 2017
  • Voting Rights: H.R. 2840 – Automatic Voter Registration Act
  • Environmental Justice: Climate Change Bill – Renewable Energy
  • Criminal Justice and Immigrant Rights: H.R.3543 – Justice is Not For Sale Act of 2017
  • Taxing Wall Street: H.R. 1144 – Inclusive Prosperity Act

Bill Keating has not co-sponsored any of them.


Keating voted YEA with Blue Dog Democrats on H.R. 3192, a Republican bill which reduces transparency for mortgage lending institutions.

Keating also voted YEA with conservative Democrats on H.R. 1737, a Republican bill which neutered the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s oversight of Indirect Auto Lending and Compliance with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.


Keating is a hard-liner on immigration.

Keating and five other Democrats voted for H.R. 3009, the “Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act,” a Republican bill to withhold funding for states and municipalities with “sanctuary” policies.

Keating and Blue Dog Democrats voted for H.R. 4038, the “American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015.” The Republican bill adds additional obstacles to the already-onerous screening and vetting of Syrian refugees.

Keating voted YEA on H.R. 3004, “Kate’s Law,” a Republican bill which expands indefinite detention of migrants who repeatedly cross the border. The bill will do nothing to prevent future actions by desperate people but it will increase the number of private prisons in the United States.

Civil Liberties

Keating gets good grades on civil liberties for women’s and LGBTQ issues. However, when it comes to surveillance and Fourth Amendment issues, Keating is no friend and he gets only middling ones: “Keating supported ‘cybersecurity’ legislation, and opposed defunding the government’s Section 702 surveillance programs (PRISM and Upstream); however, he supports banning backdoor searches on US persons. He voted for the USA FREEDOM Act, which purportedly reformed the small amount of government surveillance that occurs under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, and continued to support it even after its reforms were watered down to the point where there was much debate about whether it would do more harm than good to pass it.” Keating also refused to let PATRIOT Act extensions expire under “sunset” provisions, including this and this one.

Militarism and Foreign Policy

Keating voted NAY on a resolution to bar President Obama from using an AUMF to invade Libya. The resolution would have required Congress to declare war — per the U.S. Constitution. Keating did, however, vote YEA on ending the war in Afghanistan.

Keating was reluctant to support Obama’s and Kerry’s Iran deal and has courted the MEK, an exile group which until 2012 was designated a terrorist organization seeking to overthrow and replace the Iranian government with its own “government-in-exile.” Thanks to Republican and Democratic hawks the designation was lifted.

Keating is pro-Likud. He has fought international efforts to support a Two State Solution, advocated moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, opposed the use of the word “Palestine” and threatened to cut off U.S. contributions to the U.N. and funding for U.N. refugee efforts because of the international body’s criticism of Israel’s land theft and occupation.

Keating, along with Democratic hawks, sent a letter to Rex Tillerson affirming their support for Trump’s policies on NATO and for Tillerson’s office. Keating shares Republicans’ view that NATO needs to be stronger to oppose Russia.

Keating cheered Donald Trump’s deployment of tomahawk missiles, which were in violation of both AUMF statements and the U.S. Constitution.

The True Flag

Review of “The True Flag” by Stephen Kinzer (ISBN 9781627792165)

Stephen Kinzer’s The True Flag is an account of the moment the United States embraced Empire and never again looked back. The U.S. had already taken Native American and Mexican land by force and tasted victory in Cuba. Now it was contemplating making the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam — and Hawaii — permanent colonies. Powerful business and political interests, including Theodore Roosevelt, who had made a name for himself on San Juan Hill in Cuba, were unapologetic advocates of empire.

For the Imperialists there was little difference between taking Texas or the Philippines. From the moment the U.S. became a nation, Thomas Jefferson described America as a new empire and set forth the goal of taking Spanish territory when “our population can be sufficiently advanced to gain it from them piece by piece.”

But in 1898 there was a powerful, national “Anti-Imperialist League” — founded in Massachusetts, with at least a hundred chapters. It was led by former Senator and Interior Secretary Carl Schurz, magnate Andrew Carnegie, labor chief Samuel Gompers, civil rights advocate Booker T. Washington, Democratic Party leader William Jennings Bryant, co-founder of the Republican Party George Bouthwell, former presidents Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison — all opposed the Treaty of Paris advanced by President William McKinley that would foist “Christian” rule over the “niggers” and savages of the Philippines.

For over a month the issue was debated in the Senate and the true soul of American Imperialism was bared and permanently read into the Congressional Record. Kinzer makes use of the Record, as well as contemporary newspaper accounts in his excellent book.

Behind the scenes were the Imperialists — Henry Cabot Lodge, Theodore Roosevelt, William Randolph Hearst, and Senators from mainly what we would now call the red states. American industry wanted to expand beyond its limited trade with Europe, the states of the North had tasted victory in the Civil War, and suddenly there were new enemies and new markets to conquer. Finally, the crumbs of Spain’s disintegrating empire were simply too tempting to resist, and the Philippines were seen as a stepping-stone to China. Nationalistic, “jingoistic” fervor gripped the nation, and it was not merely industry and commerce itching for war — it was also the average American who was aching for conquest.

While debate over America’s soul was raging in the Senate — and this is how serious the moral risks of Imperialism were seen at the time — the Philippines had already been occupied. In what even at that time had become standard operating procedure, President McKinley instructed General Arthur MacArthur (father of General Douglas MacArthur) to provoke a military response from the Philippine military. The resulting massacre claimed 3,000 Filipino and 60 American lives and galvanized public opinion in favor of possession of the islands.

On the same day that the battle in Manila occurred, three American newspapers published a new poem by Rudyard Kipling called “The White Man’s Burden: the United States and the Philippine Islands.” Kipling’s work was everything Americans wanted to hear, and had been specifically written for the occasion:

Take up the White Man’s burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go send your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need
To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child
Take up the White Man’s burden
In patience to abide
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;

This was an anthem for Christian warriors. This was a rationale for conquest. Moreover, it was a glorification of a better race performing its Christian duty to serve their captives’ needs, these “new-caught, sullen peoples, half devil and half child,” and — curiously — to “veil the threat of terror.”

Since the beginnings of Imperial America, the threat of terror from non-Christians and non-white has always been a rationale for occupation.

The final nail in the coffin of American anti-Imperialism was the betrayal by William Jennings Bryan, head of the Democratic Party, who decided to play along with the Republican Imperialists, supporting the Treaty of Paris, and then begging for Philippine independence. That was his shockingly naive strategy. Bryan, who saw himself as a “pragmatic progressive,” managed to shake the resolve of at least a dozen Democrats, who ended up voting with the Republicans.

Senator Eugene Hale of Maine, a fundamentalist who cheered the U.S. acquisition of Hawaii because of his state’s many missionaries, was nevertheless shocked by the bloody Filipino insurgency and the brutal manner in which is was suppressed: “More Filipinos have been killed by the guns of our army and navy than were patriots killed in any six battles of the Revolutionary War. […] The slaughter of people in no way equal to us […] has stupefied the American mind. No one has said that our mission of commerce and of the gospel was to be preceded by the slaughter of thousands of persons.”

But senators like Hale had been deceiving themselves all along. McKinley and his generals certainly anticipated the slaughter. They planned it.

The Imperialists ran their victory lap and boasted that the United States was now the most fearsome military in the world. Indiana Senator Albert Beveridge felt no need to address the East Coast elites or their swishy European friends. After the U.S. victory over the Filipinos, Beveridge did what today’s chickenhawk Congressmen do — traveled to the Philippines on a “fact-finding mission” and met with the American occupation commander, General Elwell Otis, who was fighting an insurgency with 30,000 troops. Like today’s Senators who strap on the kevlar and pose for patriotic constituents, Beveridge did all that and thanked the troops for their service. American troops, he said, were “Saxon types” with “racial virtue in their veins.” They were “manifest destiny personified.”

“We are the most militant nation on earth,” Beveridge crowed. “We have more of the world, we know more of the world, we are better prepared to bless the world and thus to bless ourselves. The great people of the American Republic, from whom flow all our large and elemental movements, feel that the day of our empire, as a soverign force of earth, is in its first grey dawn.”

And Beveridge had nailed it. This, the theme of Kinzer’s book, was indeed the grey dawn in which the American empire was born. Or at least its paternity acknowledged.

The story ends, as we know, with the United States committing war crimes in the Philippines, including mass slaughter of civilians and the use of an early form of waterboarding, carving out what is now an American gulag in Guantanamo, Cuba, and making the other seized territories permanent gifts to pineapple barons and American sweatshops. Eventually Hawaii became a state. Puerto Rico was plundered by Congress, victimized by investment schemes created for industry that financially bankrupted the island for generations to come.

Now, over a century later, the only thing that’s changed is that a modern-day “Anti-Imperialist League” is all but unimaginable in a nation at permanent war for generations. And Democrats and Republicans are still unanimous in continuing to take up the “White Man’s Burden” — invading any land they fancy and preempting any threat of terror from sullen brown devils with their childish, savage ways.

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Earlier this year Terry Gross did an interview with Stephen Kinzer on Fresh Air.