Democrats bracing for town hall protests directed at them ask Bernie Sanders for help
Some lawmakers have asked Sanders (I-Vt.) to help keep activist anger trained on Republicans.
By https://www.facebook.com/daveweigel?fref=ts

Senior Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday sought to stave off town-hall protests from their own party, asking Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to reach out and urge activists to redirect their anger at Republicans instead of at moderate Democratic lawmakers.

The request came in a weekly meeting of top Democratic senators, according to a senator in attendance, ahead of a congressional recess next week when lawmakers in both parties are expected to face large crowds stirred in recent weeks by President Trump’s early executive actions and ongoing Republican attempts to revamp the Affordable Care Act.

Over the past two weeks, crowds — and conflict-hungry media crews — have swarmed town halls and protested at congressional offices. Republicans have gotten the brunt of it, with several members escorted by police through lines of shouting protesters, and some caught scrapping or rescheduling public events or leaving out back doors to dodge angry activists.

But protesters have also gathered in blue states, marching to Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s home in Brooklyn to demand the obstruction of Trump nominees, and showing up at the offices of safe-seat Democrats to demand that they filibuster Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

Such stories spurred Democrats to ask Sanders for help, according to Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who attended the meeting on Tuesday.

“They basically explained to Bernie, it looks like you could be the person that could calm down and make sure their energy and all this enthusiasm is directed in all the right proper channels,” Manchin said. “Bernie has a voice, and if [protesters] want to be active, then direct them to where the problem may be or where they anticipate a problem.”

The intraparty drama puts top party leaders like Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a tricky political position. He can either fully embrace the far left and its rejuvenated activism — and risk alienating moderate lawmakers and voters — or push back too hard against the new activity and anger the party’s base of support.

The request to Sanders came during a meeting with Schumer and a leadership team that stretches the ideological spectrum of his caucus. In addition to Sanders, a self-described socialist, and moderate Manchin, the group included Sens. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), among others.

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The fact that centrist Dems and traitors like Manchin are trying to hide behind Bernie because they’re afraid of their base actually demanding things from them is hilarious and pathetic.

Democrats voting for Neil Gorsuch will have to answer to this progressive grassroots group

  • Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) better consider themselves on notice.A political action committee founded by grassroots progressives is raising money to mount a primary challenge to any Democratic candidate who votes for Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. 
  • Launched in early 2017, the PAC — #WeWillReplaceYou, a project of the grassroots group All of Us — endeavors to pressure congressional Democrats to oppose Trump’s agenda at all costs.
  • “We had spelled out some criteria that we expected all Democrats to adhere to, but we had not actually called for any particular member of Congress to be primaried until Manchin became the first senator to announce his proud support for Neil Gorsuch,” Claire Sandberg, cofounder of All of Us, said in an interview. Read more. (4/4/2017 1:20 PM)
Military-Trained Police May Be Less Hasty To Shoot, But That Got This Vet Fired
A Marine-turned-cop was fired after he did not shoot a man who had a gun. His Marine training led him to believe there wasn't clear hostile intent; his bosses say he risked other officers' lives.

There are plenty of recent stories involving white police officers who have shot and killed black men, including some who are on trial for those shootings.  Then there’s the case of a white cop who did not shoot a black man holding a gun — and it may have cost him his job.

It started with a 911 call for help in Weirton, W.Va., on May 6 at 2:51 a.m.  An emergency dispatcher in turn put out a call for an officer.

“Had a female stating they needed someone right now.  She sounded hysterical,” the dispatcher said.  “Hung up the phone, will not answer on call back.”

Nearest to the address was Stephen Mader, a 25-year-old Marine Corps veteran and rookie cop who was alone in his squad car.  He got to the house and saw Ronald D. Williams, a 23-year-old black man, standing outside with his hands behind his back.

“And I say, ‘Show me your hands,’ and he’s like, 'Naw, I can’t do that,’ ” Mader told NPR. “I said, 'Show me your f'ing hands.’ And then he brings his hands from behind his back and puts them down to his side. And that’s when I noticed he had a silver pistol in his right hand.”

Mader didn’t know it, but Williams’ girlfriend, who was inside the apartment with their infant son, had called 911 again.  She told the dispatcher:

“My ex-boyfriend’s here.  He has a gun.  He doesn’t have a clip in the gun.  There’s no clip in the gun.  He’s drunk.  He’s drunk.  He took the clip out of the gun and he said he was going to threaten the police with it just so they would shoot him.  He does not have a clip in the gun." 

On the 911 tape you hear Officer Mader on the radio saying, "We have a gun here."  All the dispatcher said to the cops is this: "Watch out for a weapon.”

Mader drew his weapon and told Williams to drop the pistol.

“Aim in on him, and I say, 'Drop your gun.  Drop your gun,’ ” Mader told NPR.  “And he said, 'I can’t do that.  Just shoot me.'  And I told him, I said, 'I’m not gonna shoot you, brother — just put down the gun.’ ”

So even though Mader didn’t know what Williams’ girlfriend told 911 — that the gun was empty and the man was trying to commit “suicide by cop” — Mader didn’t shoot.

Police get trained on de-escalation, but in that moment Mader was leaning more on training from the Marine Corps and experience in Afghanistan.  That knowledge can be a key difference between police officers with military backgrounds and those without.

“Before you go to Afghanistan, they give you training,” Mader said.  “You need to be able to kind of read people.  Not everybody over there is a bad guy, but they all dress the same.  That’s kind of what the situation was that night.”

Backup arrives

In Afghanistan, the rules of engagement sometimes were stricter than use-of-force rules for civilian police in America.  Erica Gaston, a human rights lawyer who studied the military’s rules of engagement in Afghanistan, said that especially was true in the later years of the war.

“There was an emphasis on winning hearts and minds, and focusing more on stabilizing communities and protecting the civilian population,” Gaston said.

In Weirton, Mader still had those wartime rules in mind.  The Marines had taught him to wait for clear hostile intent before opening fire, something he didn’t see from Williams.

“For me, it wasn’t enough to kind of take someone’s life because they’re holding a gun that’s not pointed at me,” Mader said.

But then — and this all happened in seconds — Mader’s backup arrived.  All they knew is that the dispatcher said there was a weapon.  Mader remembers that Williams walked toward them as they drove up and got out of their cars.

“Their weapons are drawn, and they’re screaming at him to drop the gun,” Mader said.  “At that point he starts waving the gun, back and forth between us.”

One of the officers fired four shots, and a bullet hit Williams in the side of the head, leaving him on the pavement.  The dispatcher called an ambulance, but the officers saw there was no hope in giving first aid.  Mader went inside to check on the girlfriend and baby.

The gun did turn out to be empty, though Mader said the officers had no way of knowing that for sure.

He said that though he tried to talk to Williams one-on-one while he was there, when the other officers showed up, all they saw was someone waving a gun around.

“The one officer felt that his life was in danger, along with others’, and he decided to fire at the subject,” Mader said.  “And I believe he was justified in what he did.”

“A better understanding of rules of engagement”

What Mader thinks was not justified happened a few days later: Police Chief Rob Alexander told Mader that he was being fired for putting his fellow officers’ lives in danger.

“When the officers arrived on the scene, they seen these two in a standoff pointing guns at each other, and that officer froze,” Alexander said at a press conference in September.

But what Alexander characterizes as hesitation others may see as experience.  Around the country, police chiefs who’ve hired war veterans have commented on their maturity and self-control when facing danger.

Dave Wilson, chief in the Wisconsin town of Shell Lake, an Iraq War veteran himself, said the vets he has hired make for ideal cops.

“If anything else, they have a better understanding of rules of engagement and use of force than others might,” Wilson said.  “They’re used to seeing people holding guns, and they take the time to assess the real danger of the situation.”

Researchers are starting to look at this, too.  At Washington State University, Stephen James is part of an effort to test law enforcement officers’ reactions in simulators, and one of the factors they’re tracking is whether the officers are veterans.  The data haven’t been compiled, yet, but he said other studies of how the brain operates under pressure would suggest that veterans are more “patient.”

“Combat vets who’ve been exposed to extreme violence have a different 'threat threshold,’ ” James said, “which means that they’re in more control of their physiology, and they’re not allowing this fight-or-flight response to drive them into action.”

But in Weirton, officials said it wasn’t just Mader’s failure to shoot that got him fired.  City Manager Travis Blosser said other reasons included “illegal searches in a vehicle, to the use of profanity with citizens and then also contaminating a crime scene of a potential homicide investigation.”

The city manager and police chief would not comment further for this story.

West Virginia State Police Sgt. Jim Gibson, who led an investigation of the shooting, told NPR that he thought Mader believed he was doing the right thing — but that the town of Weirton was justified in deciding that for a variety of reasons, Mader wasn’t cut out to be a policeman.

Mader said he still wants to be a cop and wishes things hadn’t happened so quickly that night.

“If I had maybe 30 more seconds, maybe it would’ve went different,” Mader said.  “Maybe I could have talked him down and just put him in handcuffs that night.”

The ACLU has been in touch with Mader, and he’s considering legal action.  In the meantime, he’s supporting his wife and their two kids as a commercial truck driver.

So what if, instead of just giving police forces military-grade equipment and combat tactics, they also received de-escalation and “win hearts & minds” training?  If they were taught not just how to attack, but also when to – and when not to – attack?


In coal country, thousands of miners have lost jobs. While there aren’t any easy solutions, in West Virginia, two farmers are doing what they can to keep wealth in their community and provide healthy food to more people.

In the parking lot of the Five Loaves and Two Fishes Food Bank in McDowell County, squash and basil are growing in 18 tall white towers without any dirt. It’s a farming method called hydroponics. The vegetables sprout from tiny holes as water and nutrients flood the roots.

Joel McKinney built this hydroponic garden because it produces a lot of food yet takes up just a little space.

He also gives away some of his produce to the food pantry, which is run by his parents. And along with a handful of other farmers, he has started a farmers market outside the food pantry. The goal is to raise the profile of local farming in the community and help small farmers make extra income.

With so many coal miners out of work now, the number in need of food has soared.

In Coal Country, Farmers Get Creative To Bridge The Fresh Produce Gap

Photos: Roxy Todd/West Virginia Public Broadcasting


On Saturday evening, I found myself in a white-out blizzard, driving up steep and curvy West Virginia back roads. Normally, I would have admitted defeat and turned back. But I kept going, propelled up the mountain by thoughts of the unique Mardi Gras foods and festivities that awaited me in an improbable-seeming Swiss village at top.

Owing to both this seclusion and the continuous preservation efforts of determined locals, Helvetia has retained much of its Swiss character and traditions over the years. Witness the historic and charming Alpine-style buildings — some of which date to the town’s founding. There are the Cheese Haus and Beekeeper Inn, and the town’s only restaurant — The Hutte (pronounced HOO-tay) — which serves traditional Swiss-German fare. And the celebration of this heritage culminates in the yearly pre-Lenten festival, Fasnacht.

Swiss Village + West Virginia + Mardi Gras Feast = Fasnacht

Photo credit: Pat Jarrett for NPR

Republicans Just Failed to Defund Planned Parenthood — But They're Not Giving Up Yet
By Mic

Senate Republicans on Monday failed to advance a bill that would cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood.

Two Democrats, Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), joined 51 Republicans in voting for the legislation, which Republicans Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) both voted against, the latter for procedural purposes. The bill’s 53 votes fell short of the 60 needed to go forward.

But House Speaker John Boehner is promising more action.


Holiday feasts are always in need of something special.

Can a sprinkle of artisanal salt noticeably pump up the experience?

Let’s meet a new Appalachian salt-maker in West Virginia and find out.

J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works is nestled in the Kanawha River Valley, just southeast of the capital city of Charleston in the small town of Malden (not to be confused with Maldon, a sea salt brand from the U.K.). It’s mostly pasture land, with cows nearby.

Amid the livestock, there’s a new, small — you could call it micro — salt works.

“This is our well, in the field over here. It goes down 350 feet,” Nancy Bruns, CEO of J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works, says.

The wellhead is simple, white and about 2 feet high. It took a couple of weeks to drill, and then came the salty water.

Fine Brine From Appalachia: The Fancy Mountain Salt That Chefs Prize

Photos: Noah Adams for NPR

Could be ‘days’ before water in parts of W.Va. is safe to drink

NBC News: Nearly 800 people in 9 counties in West Virginia reported symptoms after a chemical spill contaminated water in the area. 

The widespread leak triggered a tap-water ban for 300,000 residents. West Virginia American Water Co. announced Thursday its water supply was contaminated. The company’s president says it could be days before water is safe to drink again in the area.

Follow the latest at Breaking News

Photo: Residents pick up drinking water at the state capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, on Jan. 10, 2013. (Lisa Hechesky/Reuters)

Our climate is obviously changing; it has always been changing. With all the unrest around the global [sic], why should Congress divert funds from the mission of our military and national security to support a political ideology. This amendment will ensure we maximize our military might without diverting funds for a politically motivated agenda.
Here Are All The Republicans Dropping Their Support For Donald Trump
The list is expanding to sitting senators, members of Congress and governors.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah)

Rep. Martha Roby (Ala.)

Rep. Chris Stewart (Utah)

Rep. Bradley Byrne (Ala.)

Rep. Joe Heck (Nev.)

Rep. Cresent Hardy (Nev.)

Rep. Scott Garrett (N.J.)

Rep. Ann Wagner (Mo.)

Rep. Rodney Davis (Ill.)

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.)

Sen. Mike Crapo (Idaho)

Sen. John Thune (S.D.)

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.)

Sen. Deb Fischer (Neb.)

Sen. Dan Sullivan (Alaska)

Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.)

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.)

Gov. Gary Herbert (Utah)

Gov. Dennis Dauggard (S.D.)

Gov. Robert Bentley (Ala.)

There’s also some GOP lawmakers who didn’t support Trump before but are now taking it a step further and saying he needs to drop out. They include Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Mike Lee (Utah), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Reps. Mike Coffman (Colo.), Barbara Comstock (Va.), Fred Upton (Mich.) and Charlie Dent (Pa.).

***Remember, these people previously endorsed Donald Trump even after he had already made numerous offensive comments.  Now they are outraged, but look at all the comments Trump has made during the last year that didn’t get them to withdraw their endorsement of Trump.

All five residents of a West Virginia town voted to ban LGBT discrimination

Following a unanimous vote by all five of its residents, Thurmond, W.Va., is now the smallest town in the nation with a ban on employment, housing and public accommodation discrimination against LGBT individuals. 

It all makes a difference.  And the message sent by this small town will have an impact far beyond its size.

Winter Storm Jonas Bringing Peak Impacts to Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Saturday; Blizzard Warnings From D.C. to New York City

Weather Channel:  A winter storm is battering the eastern part of the United States with snow totals topping 30 inches in at least West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. At least 40 inches of snow was reported near Glengary, W.Va., and snowfall rates of 1-3 inches were reported from Washington, DC to New York City.

Follow updates on Breaking News.