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#EndorseThis: Tammy Duckworth Zings Trump With Derisive Nickname Of His Own

Fighting Donald Trump on his own level is not always a good idea. When our insecure, juvenile POTUS “brands” an opponent “Lyin’ Ted” or “Dicky Durbin,” it’s often best to move on and let Trump’s pathos and lack of class speak for itself.

But there comes a time to return fire. On Saturday, Illinois senator and Army combat veteran Tammy Duckworth decided she had had enough from Trump after he tweeted that Democrats are “holding the military hostage” by voting down a partisan, temporary funding bill to keep the government open under GOP terms.

Reminding us that Trump is a “five-deferment draft dodger” who now has the chutzpah to lecture war vets in Congress about taking care of our military, Duckworth nails him with a brand-new nickname.

Just click.

 

How Neil Gorsuch Snowed One Side Of The Senate Aisle

WASHINGTON — Judge Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court nominee speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, had all the answers — or so it seemed — at the theater.

Yet President Trump’s man for the Supreme Court deftly dodged Democratic efforts to engage on women’s constitutional privacy rights, dark money in politics, surveillance, corporations and torture. Substance was not his strong suit.

Not so long ago, as a Bush White House Justice official, Gorsuch wrote a presidential signing statement on detainee treatment that raised eyebrows. “I was a lawyer for a client,” Gorsuch shrugged it off.

As a sitting federal judge, his refrain was something like this: Judges don’t give a “whit” about politics, so I can’t prejudge this or that. We just apply the law. We’re all human beings, but a judge has to put that aside.

Here’s what the Gorsuch brought to his role. A perfect head of silver hair, suggesting wisdom at age 49, just like Alexander Hamilton. His Harvard and Oxford credentials worn lightly with easy manners. He knew his lines by heart under the lights and cameras in the Hart building hearing room.

“I’d like to convey to you, from the bottom of my heart … that I’m a fair judge. …I can promise you absolutely nothing less,” Gorsuch said. “Anyone, any law is going to get a fair and square deal with me.”

You could hear the corn popping in Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley’s plain-spoken voice as he presided over his party’s love fest

But wait, there’s more.

Back home in “the West,” the Colorado native said, “I love my life,” lest there be doubt. He’d be doing us a favor to leave the great outdoors.

Lord knows the embattled, unpopular President Trump desperately needs his first win in office. The talk in the halls is that Gorsuch may hand him a victory in early April, when the full Senate votes on his confirmation. As of now, Gorsuch needs 60 votes from a closely divided Senate: 52-48.

Whether he can pick up eight votes among the vexed, scrappy Democratic minority, though, is not a done deal. Senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., landed a few punches as the leading antagonists.

Durbin brought up one of Gorsuch’s dissents in the case of a trucker stuck with frozen brakes in subzero weather in Chicago. It was “so cold, but not as cold as your dissent, Judge Gorsuch,” Durbin declared.

Gorsuch looked pained.

Whitehouse noted that millions of “dark” dollars had been raised to buttress Gorsuch’s nomination, without names attached. “They obviously think you will be worth their money,” Whitehouse said bluntly.

Gorsuch’s rulings raised concern that he will be sympathetic to the Chief Justice John Roberts “corporate court,” senators said.

Among all the players, a ghost hovered in the room: Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s final pick for the high court last March. Republicans blocked the highly respected Garland, the first Supreme Court nominee who never had a hearing, from his day in the Judiciary Committee’s court.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein pointedly raised “the very unusual circumstance.” Everyone at the hearing knew a sore was seething under the surface.

Gorsuch rated Garland as an “outstanding judge.” He even called him to tell him he’d been nominated. That’s the kind of winner he is.

The four-day drama was watched closely because Gorsuch will effectively step into the shoes of ferocious conservative Antonin Scalia, who died last winter.

Gorsuch likes to say he was skiing when he heard of Scalia’s death. The older man, a mentor, and he were fly-fishing buddies.

And the story goes that he wept as he skied down the mountain slope. “I am not embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t see the rest of the way down the mountain for the tears,” he said.

Well. I have a better takeaway. Gorsuch also wept because a Democratic president would presumably fill the seat meant for him.

Has Washington made me cynical?

Here’s where I’m almost sure he lied under oath: “I never dreamt I’d be sitting here, I can tell you that.”

So spoke Gorsuch, with a straight face.

Under Incarceration Problem? Prison Workers Union Hits Back Against Cotton’s Claims

The president of a prison workers union hit back against comments made late last week by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton that the U.S. has an “under-incarceration problem,” highlighting the different conversations being had about mass incarceration in the country.

“Even with the recent inmate decline, our prison system remains terribly overcrowded and understaffed. For example, high and medium security facilities are 32% and 47% overcrowded, respectively,” wrote Eric Young, President of the Council of Prison Locals, a union representing over 30,000 prison workers across the country, in a letter addressed to Cotton. “Given these statistics, it’s hard for me to understand why you would think our country has a problem with ‘under incarceration.'”

Cotton gave a speech last week at the Hudson Institute in which he said that the nation had an “under incarceration problem,” apparently ignorant of a vastly different national conversation focused over the effects of the “tough on crime” criminal justice policy pursued by successive administrations over the past 30 years.

Cotton’s speech also conflated the low rate of arrests for property and violent crimes with a dearth of inmates filling American prisons. “Law enforcement is able to arrest or identify a likely perpetrator for only 19 percent of property crimes and 47 percent of violent crimes,” he said during his speech. If anything, we have an under-incarceration problem.”

The Council of Prison Locals, on the other hand, has been an advocate of criminal justice reform that would see nonviolent offenders and other inmates who pose no threat to the general public, like those in jail on drug possession charges, be given lighter sentences.

“We accept that the sentencing reform package pending in the U.S. Senate is not a perfect bill. However, this is one of those areas where we must not allow the perfect to get in the way of the good – and this is a good bill,” wrote Young in another letter to Democrat Senate Whip Dick Durbin back in 2013 when the Smart Sentencing Act of 2013 was being drafted. “The Grassley compromise bill takes much needed steps in the direction of reducing the number of people we keep incarcerated at federal prisons while also providing fairness in sentencing.”

Nevertheless, Cotton’s office was undaunted by the arguments of a prison guard union with an intimately greater day-to-day interaction with the country’s prison population. “When over half of violent crimes go unsolved, there are many heinous murderers and other dangerous offenders walking the streets who should be in prison,” said Cotton’s communications director, Caroline Rabbitt, to Politico. “Ask the wife, son, or father of a murder victim whose assailant is never arrested whether there’s at least one more criminal who should be incarcerated.”

Given nearly half of the prison population consists of people arrested on drug possession charges, there are plenty of Americans who also don’t deserve to be incarcerated for what constitutes a misdemeanor in other countries.

Photo: Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) discusses the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 on Capitol Hill in Washington October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron    

Senators Propose Sentencing Reform To Reduce Prison Overcrowding

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — U.S. senators on Thursday proposed a bipartisan plan for reforming criminal justice, aiming to ditch harsh sentencing laws that lead to prison overcrowding and to limit solitary confinement for juveniles.

The legislative proposal would end the national “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” law, which mandates life sentences for people convicted of a violent felony after two or more previous convictions, including drug crimes.

The proposal would also give judges more leeway in sentencing low-level offenders, and improve prisoner rehabilitation programs. But under the measure, enhanced prison penalties could still be applied to offenders with prior convictions for serious violent offenses and serious drug felonies, a Senate fact sheet said.

The legislation was introduced by nine senators from both political parties, including Republican Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat.

A separate bill in the House of Representatives would also reduce use of mandatory sentences.

The outlook for passage of either measure was uncertain.

“The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country on earth,” Durbin said.

While mandatory minimum sentences were once seen as a strong deterrent, they have too often been unfair, and led to overcrowded prisons and tighter budgets, Durbin said.

The drum beat for reform has grown as U.S. crime rates have drastically declined over the past two decades. Lengthy prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders are increasingly seen as racially imbalanced and disproportionate to the crimes.

President Barack Obama, a Democrat, also favors criminal justice reform. During the summer he toured a federal prison and vowed to work to address prison overcrowding.

More than 1.5 million Americans were in state or federal prisons at the end of 2013, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. African-Americans were 15 percent of the U.S. population at that time but accounted for about a third of its prisoners.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Grant McCool)

Photo: Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (C) delivers remarks at a bi-partisan news conference on criminal justice reform, The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington October 1, 2015. Listening are Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) (L) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (R). REUTERS/Gary Cameron