Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sunday Reading

Kavanaugh Cursed Either Way — Francis Wilkinson at Bloomberg on the doomed nomination even if he’s confirmed.

One way or another, Brett Kavanaugh will have to pay.

He will not necessarily pay explicitly for whatever it was he did or didn’t do on that contested night long ago. Although if Christine Blasey Ford appears to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and if she acquits herself credibly, then Kavanaugh is unlikely ever to sit on the Supreme Court – no matter what Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says.  [Ed. note: Prof. Ford has agreed to appear before the committee on Thursday, September 27.]

Kavanaugh can wait to see if Ford’s allegations fall apart under questioning. It’s possible she’ll prove a jumble of contradictions. But from what we know so far, it’s hard to imagine she would. Ford doesn’t have to be sure of the color of paint on the wall 35 years ago. She only needs to be sure of the details of the attack as she has already described it.

Conservatives viewing her actions as a product of Democratic skulduggery fool themselves. Her allegations were problematic for Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who first received them in confidence. If Democrats had plotted to weaponize the allegations for best effect, this late-inning muddle would not have resulted.

If McConnell is correct and Republicans manage to push Kavanaugh through to the high court, no matter what, Kavanaugh won’t be out of the woods.

This is not 1991, when Anita Hill accused soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. And Kavanaugh, the beneficiary of virtually every privilege that status and education can afford, is not Thomas.

Democrats in 1991 were already the party of feminists. But many of the Democratic men in Congress – Barbara Mikulski was the lone Democratic woman in the Senate – were just as doltish toward a female accuser as Republican senators are today.

That’s no longer the case. Democrats have four women on the Judiciary Committee, and the men are so different from the cast of 1991 that Senator Chris Coons of Delaware has publicly mused that maybe he should cede his committee time to his two female colleagues who are former prosecutors and superior interviewers.

More important, the Republican Party of 1991 is not the party of 2018. The party leader then was George H.W. Bush, a war hero with pronounced social graces. The current leader is a habitual liar and crude demagogue who has been accused of sexual predation by more than a dozen women while continuing to behave as cad-in-chief.

The GOP of 2018 views the Supreme Court differently as well. Republicans were not facing electoral attrition in those days, desperately trying to sabotage the future. Republicans had held the presidency for three terms and were on the verge of a historic victory in the House over a corrupt and complacent Democratic majority.

Now, Republicans are investing in a partisan court to deliver partisan outcomes to advance partisan goals that are insulated from democratic accountability, such as elections and popular opinion, which Republicans increasingly fear.

That’s why they killed the legitimate nomination of Merrick Garland to the court. And it’s why bad faith saturates their every act concerning the court; they view it as an antidemocratic firewall to protect their culturally narrow and politically unpopular agenda.

It will be in Democrats’ political interest to delegitimize a partisan Republican court waging war against a Congress and state governments under Democratic control. When Democrats regain sufficient strength in Washington, Kavanaugh will appear to them as a wounded, vulnerable prey.

Democrats can revisit evidence of his misleading testimony. They can pursue documentary corroboration, among the vast trove to which Republicans denied the Democrats and the public access, to buttress potential claims of perjury. And if Ford is bullied out of her moment now, they can give the alleged victim a belated but still-powerful platform, designed to her specifications.

A public re-vetting of Kavanaugh would take place in a very different context – almost certainly after special counsel Robert Mueller has given an accounting of his investigation into Donald Trump. By the time Kavanaugh’s case would be reopened and relitigated by a Democratic majority, perhaps not until 2021, everything Trump previously touched will likely appear tainted, and suspect.

The Kavanaugh saga is still fluid and its outcome uncertain. Kavanaugh might yet make it to the Supreme Court. But barring the unlikely collapse of Ford’s allegations, questions of Kavanaugh’s legitimacy will not end. Sooner or later the chalice will reveal itself to be poisoned.

Leonard Pitts, Jr. on the rush to social media judgment.

“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.” Jesus preaches that in the book of Luke.

But then, Jesus never had Twitter. Or, for that matter, Instagram or Facebook. He never had, in other words, one of the social media platforms on which millions of us routinely judge other people every day. It’s a habit we might do well to reconsider.

Not that anybody should feel remorse over the online humiliation administered to someone like Aaron Schlossberg, captured on video berating people at a New York City cafe for speaking Spanish. And the social media beatdown Jeffrey Whitman took after following another driver to his home in Columbus, Ohio to yell racial slurs should make no one’s eyes sting with sympathy tears.

But what about Geoffrey Owens, the former “Cosby Show” actor who was infamously job-shamed for working at Trader Joe’s? And what about Anthony Torres?

He was video recorded by another passenger a little over a week ago, shaving his face on a New Jersey Transit train as it pulled out of New York City. At one point he even flicked shaving cream to the floor. The clip was posted to Twitter – it has since been removed – where it racked up over 2 million views. The reaction was, not surprisingly, swift and brutal.

Torres was called “disgusting,” a “dumb drunk,” a “slob,” – and an “animal.” Then the Associated Press found him and got his side of the story.

“My life is all screwed up,” Torres told the AP. “That’s the reason I was shaving on the train.”

Torres, it turned out, came to that moment from a lifetime of hard knocks: peripatetic years of chasing work from state to state, sometimes sleeping in motels and bus stations, two strokes since 2016. That day, he was fresh from a homeless shelter. One of his brothers had bought him a ticket so he could go to another brother in South Jersey. Torres, 56, was shaving because he didn’t want to look like what he’s been through.

As to why he didn’t do the obvious — shave in the restroom — Torres’ brother Thomas told the AP that even as a child, Anthony lacked the ability to conceive the consequences of his actions. “When he did what he did, that, to him, was normal.”

After all this came out, the response was what you’d expect: lots of recrimination and a Go Fund Me account that, as of Thursday afternoon, had raised $37,000.

The Internet taketh away, the Internet giveth.

In the process, it leaveth an observer ruminating on the hazards of an era of digital lynch mobs wherein one can carp and fault-find without ever leaving the comfort of one’s couch. Problem is, there is something about viewing other people on screens — viewing them at a remove — that tends to objectify them, make them not quite real. And there is something about the anonymity of social media that does not encourage us to be our best and most compassionate selves.

That can be a toxic combination, as Owens and Torres would surely attest. It’s given us a culture of instant, online opprobrium that falls on both the evil and the unlucky with indiscriminate force. Social media empower us to shame the shameful, but they also allow us to victimize the vulnerable. What does it say about us when we can’t — or won’t — tell the difference? What does it say about what we’ve become?

Someone called Torres an “animal.” But he’s no animal. He’s just a guy whose life hasn’t worked out, just someone’s brother who was trying to get home.

And you can’t deny someone else’s humanity without losing a little of your own.

Doonesbury — Report from the swamp.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Friday, September 21, 2018

But He’s Not A Racist

This does not surprise me at all, but I thought I’d share anyway.

This is reportedly the FIFTH racist incident to strike the campaign of Rep. Ron DeSantis, who started his gubernatorial run by intimating his African American opponent would “monkey up” the state of Florida’s economy if elected.

Politico reports that a Republican donor, who gave DeSantis over $22,000 dollars and got him to speak at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago, took to Twitter and called President Obama a “F—- MUSLIM N—-”

It’s hard to get more racist than that.

As usual with all racists that are caught being racist, Steven M. Alembik told Politico that he’s not a racist and was just mad when he went full-bore KKK on the former president.

Initially, Alembik said he didn’t believe he wrote that but then, after reviewing the tweet, said that “when I write anything inflammatory, it’s because I’m seriously pissed off. I’m an emotional human being. Do I have a filter on what I say? In public, yes. Would I use that word in public? No. This is Twitter.”

He doesn’t think Twitter is public?

After initially claiming he’s not a racist, he went on a weird (but all too common among racists) rant about the double standard associated with the N-word:

“So somebody like Chris Rock can get up onstage and use the word and there’s no problem? But some white guy says it and he’s a racist? Really?” the 67-year-old Alembik said, noting that what’s considered racially charged language now wasn’t racist when he was a kid. “I grew up in New York in the ‘50s. We were the k—-. They were the n——. They were the goyim. And those were the s—-.”

Yep, he’s a racist through and through.

This is Florida and we have an African-American running for governor.  Actually, I’m surprised it’s only the fifth recorded incident.  There will be more.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Rush To Judgeship

The Republicans are in an awful hurry to get Brett Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court, pushing Prof. Ford with the “take-it-or-leave-it” deadline to testify on Monday.  It’s as if they know that if they can’t whoop him through next week, it’s all going to go sideways until after the election when perhaps the rising tide and gorge of voters see what they’re pulling off sweeps a bunch of Republicans out of office and their chances go a-glimmering.

Ironically, they were smugly content to keep the Scalia seat open on the court for over 400 days while Merrick Garland cooled his heels waiting for so much as a postcard from Mitch McConnell, and now all of a sudden it’s really important to get it done.  Kinda like there’s some political reason for it, huh?

A lot of us were hoping that they learned a lesson from the Anita Hill / Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991.  Unfortunately the lesson the Republicans learned and still practice is that you can vilify a witness and defend a predator and get your creepy guy onto the court, and that’s all that matters.  They’ve learned nothing from history, and to them the #MeToo movement is nothing but a bunch of shrill women with made-up stories and exaggerated claims because some dude brushed up against them in the elevator and didn’t fall over with apologies and a court settlement.  They got their guy on the Supreme Court and that’s all that matters.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Culture Of Victimhood

Only in Trump world would someone who stands accused of being a sexual predator be portrayed as a victim.

“I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this, to be honest with you,” Mr. Trump said of the judge. “I feel so badly for him. This is not a man that deserves this.”

Yeah, and Prof. Blasey Ford doesn’t deserve to get death threats and being forced to go into hiding because she spoke up.

In the letter to the Judiciary Committee, Dr. Blasey’s lawyers said that she has been the target of “vicious harassment and even death threats” since her name was made public on Sunday in an interview published in The Washington Post. Her email has been hacked, she has been impersonated online and she and her family have been forced to relocate out of their home, according to the lawyers, Ms. Banks and her partner, Debra S. Katz.

She has nothing to gain from coming forward except to save us from putting yet another creep on the Supreme Court.

But to the Republicans, playing the victim is always their backstop.  Oh, the burden of paying higher taxes just because we make so much money; pity us for having to press 1 for English when calling in to the bank; why is it that we, the oppressed and persecuted Christians, have to bear the immeasurable humiliation of being told “Happy Holidays”?  We’re the white guys; we’re supposed to be in charge.

President Obama made a good point in one of his speeches last week.

“Even the folks who won don’t seem happy. Have you noticed that?” Obama told the Cleveland crowd, decrying the country’s “broken” politics. Republicans won the presidency, House and Senate, he said, but “they’re still mad, which is interesting.”

It’s because they don’t understand the point of how to get along in an ostensibly free society.  No, you can’t go around and call people names or treat them like shit and get away with it.  No, you can’t just have your way without taking other people into consideration and listening to their ideas.  No, you can’t make a zillion dollars and not expect to pay for the things that support you, like police, utilities, and public education.  You can live in your gated community, but you have to pay for it above and beyond the monthly maintenance fee.  In short, you have to act like an adult, and if you’re going to be in charge — or just aspire to it — you have a duty to act like you understand that basic human concept.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Preview Of Coming Distractions

Josh Marshall at TPM shares what he thinks will be coming up for Brett Kavanaugh and the Republicans trying to get him on the Supreme Court.

The smart people I talk to are fairly confident, or at least they were this afternoon, that in the end Senate Republicans will be able to push Kavanaugh through. I’m not sure they’re right. The situation has been changed dramatically in the 30 hours or so since the Post published Professor Ford’s account along with additional details which tend to bolster her credility [sic].

It was highly likely Kavanaugh would be confirmed before these revelations. But even then it was close. There’s very little room for error or defections. Quite simply, Kavanaugh wasn’t a terribly good witness for himself or a very good liar in his first hearing. (I mentioned earlier that I thought he should be removed from his current job as judge on the DC Circuit Court because of the pretty strong evidence he has repeatedly perjured himself about his connection to the Manny Miranda email hacking scandal from 2004.)

Based on all this, I strongly suspect that the upshot of this new hearing will be that a fair minded person, one without strong preconceived opinions, will believe that what Ford alleges likely did happen. That should allow every Democrat to vote against Kavanaugh. I don’t think it’s likely that every Republican walks that plank, even with all the conservative movement has invested in Kavanaugh. I have no secret knowledge on this. It’s just my sense. The nature of conduct, the high likelihood it’s true, the apparent fact that Kavanaugh is lying all combine with the intensity of the #metoo historical moment – I am just skeptical they can pull this off.

He worries that the backlash from the right-wing evangelical nutsery if Kavanaugh either withdraws or is not confirmed will be intense.  He’s their big shot at getting Roe v. Wade overturned, and that is all they care about.  But it would also energize women of all parties if he is confirmed; proof once again that men can do anything and get away with it.  That will have an interesting impact on the mid-terms; a record number of women are running for federal and state offices across the country, and how this sideshow of a Supreme Court nomination plays out could be crucial in the outcome of races from Rhode Island to California.

Meanwhile, you can be sure that Trump isn’t going to let this go on without his braying via his thumbs.

Trump won’t let this go. We know Trump never likes to admit he’s wrong and cannot stomach defeat. In this case we have the additional factor that as a serial sexual predator, President Trump has a deep identification with any man accused of sexual misconduct. He won’t give this up easily or quietly.

Mitch McConnell reportedly warned Trump that of the people he was considering, Kavanaugh would face the hardest time getting confirmed. I don’t think McConnell had anything like this in mind. But Trump picked Kavanaugh because he liked him.

The White House has already signaled through their press minions and Fox News that they will release the banshees, including as many blonde white women on their payroll that they can get in front of a camera, that Prof. Ford is a lying schemer who was plotting ever since high school to get even with Kavanaugh because she knew back then that he would be appointed by Trump and this is payback time.  (Just like Barack Obama’s mother planned to have him become president and faked the birth certificate.)

There will be a public hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee next Monday where both Judge Kavanaugh and Prof. Ford will testify.  Stock up on Jiffy-Pop.

Monday, September 17, 2018

If History Is Any Guide

The fact that Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser of sexual assault has come forward and is willing to testify is good in that it removes the shadow of anonymity behind which his supporters can hide and dismiss the claim.  But if history — in the name of Anita Hill — is any guide, it is she who will be vilified and Judge Kavanaugh portrayed as the victim, and the Republicans will still vote to confirm him to the Supreme Court.

It’s not just the intervening years since Anita Hill testified that Clarence Thomas displayed himself as a sexual predator or the emergence of the #MeToo movement have elevated the consciousness of sexual assault and the pervasive ways in which the perpetrators try to convince us that it’s all a witch hunt.  They haven’t, even though the number of people who have been brought to justice — or at least been identified and faced the consequences — has risen dramatically in the last few years.  It’s only been happening among those who have a conscience, and oddly enough, the people who preached the loudest about “character counts” and worried endlessly about what to tell the children, are the ones who rise to the defense of the accused and find creative ways of dismissing the charges.

The vote may be delayed.  Christine Blasey Ford may give testimony on live TV, reenacting the Clarence Thomas hearings of 1991.  But in the end — and especially with their party led by someone who was able to be elected while bragging about committing sexual assault — they will find a way to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the court.  Then he and Justice Thomas can share a Coke and a smile.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sunday Reading

It’s my birthday, so let’s lighten things up a little.

Are They Back? — Charles P. Pierce reports on strange goings-on out in New Mexico.

OK, this is pretty weird. From The Alamogordo Daily News:

The Sunspot Observatory is temporarily closed due to a security issue at the facility that’s located 17 miles south of Cloudcroft in the Sacramento Mountains Friday, an Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) spokeswoman Shari Lifson said.“The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy who manages the facility is addressing a security issue at this time,” Lifson said. “We have decided to vacate the facility at this time as precautionary measure. It was our decision to evacuate the facility.”

(Aside: how great is it that there are places in New Mexico called Sunspot and Cloudcroft? Rivendell must have been booked.)

The facility is the National Solar Observatory facility at Sacramento Peak that’s managed by AURA. Apache Point Observatory (APO) is currently in operation. APO was not evacuated. APO is about a mile away from Sunspot observatory. She said AURA does not have a comment about the type of security issue at this time. “I am actually not sure (when the facility was vacated) but it will stay vacated until further notice,” Lifson said. “It’s the people that vacated. At this time, it’s the facility that’s closed.”

Oh, OK.

She said she cannot comment on whether the FBI was involved in the situation. Otero County Sheriff Benny House said the Otero County Sheriff’s Office was asked to standby.

Wait. What?

“The FBI is refusing to tell us what’s going on,” House said. “We’ve got people up there (at Sunspot) that requested us to standby while they evacuate it. Nobody would really elaborate on any of the circumstances as to why. The FBI were up there. What their purpose was nobody will say.” He said he has a lot of unanswered question about what occurred at Sunspot. “But for the FBI to get involved that quick and be so secretive about it, there was a lot of stuff going on up there,” House said. “There was a Blackhawk helicopter, a bunch of people around antennas and work crews on towers but nobody would tell us anything.”

Sunspot, I would point out is only 134 miles from Roswell, as the alien gravity-powered spacecraft flies.

I’m just sayin’.

Love Me Tinder — Irving Ruan imagines legendary lovers meeting via social networking.

Romeo and Juliet

ROMEO: My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth with a tender kiss . . .

JULIET: Um, I shalt not wanteth sexual congress.

ROMEO: Thus with a text I die!

Two days elapse.

ROMEO: Heyyy, I think I killed your cousin.

Gatsby and Daisy

GATSBY: I’m glad we finally matched. I’ve been stalking you from West Egg for five years.

DAISY: Jesus Christ.

GATSBY: I’ve missed you! And by the way, I’m very rich and look like Leonardo DiCaprio.

DAISY: James, I’m married.

GATSBY: Then why are you on Tinder?

DAISY: I’m bored. LOL.

Lancelot and Guinevere

GUINEVERE: Nice sword 😉

LANCELOT: Thanks! We probably shouldn’t be chatting—feels like betraying Arthur.

GUINEVERE: It’ll be our little secret 😉 Meet me for a drink tonight in Camelot’s dungeon?

LANCELOT: Can’t. I’m teaching a seminar on sword-juggling. Can you do Friday?

GUINEVERE: I’ll be out of town for my niece’s birthday.

LANCELOT: Scheduling in 512 A.D. suuucks.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth

LADY MACBETH: Wanna Murder King Duncan and chill?

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy

MR. DARCY: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. Hi 😉

ELIZABETH: What the fuck.

MR. DARCY: Well, this is the first time that opening line didn’t work.

ELIZABETH: I could easily forgive your pride, if you had not mortified mine.

MR. DARCY: So . . . no sexual congress?

Dante and Beatrice

BEATRICE: Your profile says that you’re a writer who was exiled from Florence for twenty years—so, basically a travel blogger!

DANTE: Not really. I’m writing an allegorical comedy starring myself, Satan, and a tiny boat.

BEATRICE: So you’re a comedian!

DANTE: Not really.“The Divine Comedy” is just a working title. On a separate note, would you like a nude drawing I made of myself on papyrus?

Two days elapse.

DANTE: So this is Purgatory.

Catherine and Heathcliff

HEATHCLIFF: Less than a mile away, huh? 😉

CATHERINE: Hehe 😉 What’re you up to tonight?

HEATHCLIFF: Being emo. You?

CATHERINE: Same.

Doonesbury — Getting the message out.

Saturday, September 15, 2018