Monday, September 16, 2019

Buyback Backlash

Via Digby, the circular mindless drivel of the Very Serious People continues to twirl.

CHUCK TODD: I tell you, this is tricky. Claire, I want to show you some poll numbers here. Among Democrats, the mandatory buyback program is extraordinarily popular, mandatory. This has surprised a lot of people. It’s got 74% support. Now look at it among Independents, and you start to see a declining support for it. But it’s basically one to one, among independents. Now, look at it among Republicans, two to one, essentially, against it, which gives you an overall support number of 52%/44%.

This, to me, seems to be the trap for Democrats, if you will. This is extraordinarily popular. And it’s growing in popularity. And it may be a case where the public’s ahead of the politicians. But you’ve been in that Senate. Are Chris Coons and Pat Toomey right about this?

[…]

SENATOR CLAIRE McCASKILL: Well, this is really what you started with. There’s two things here. Do we want to get things done and reassure the American people that their democracy works? Or do we want to continue to be inspirational only, with policies that, frankly, are not realistic, in terms of the way our government’s set up? They’re not going to get done…

Well, of course they’re not going to get it done.  We knew that from the start.  But what makes me crazy about this and all the other pundit idiocy is their amazement that something so popular with the electorate would hit a brick wall when it arrives in Congress.  Don’t they know about lobbyists, campaign contributions, and threats of retribution for voting against the NRA or any other group that has any kind of clout in their district?

Or, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, it’s so popular no one will vote for it.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Pounding The Table

My takeaway from yesterday’s testimony by Michael Cohen was that we found out details to things we already knew or suspected: Trump is lying racist con man.  But when I was able to tune in, which was not until the very end, I saw that the Republicans spent nearly all their time trying to discredit Mr. Cohen.  Yeah, we already knew he was guilty of lying to Congress; he’s going to jail for that.  And having them get their knickers in a twist about people lying is classic Captain Louis Renault being shocked, shocked to find gambling going on here.

But what I didn’t hear from any of them — and I went back and checked — was any defense of Trump.  It was like he wasn’t even in the picture, and not one of them called Mr. Cohen’s testimony into question on the facts.  It’s like they knew the shit was heading towards the fan and there was little they could do about it but yell.

As Carl Sandburg noted, “If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Live From Capitol Hill

The breaking news banners will be out in force today on cable TV as Michael Cohen, Trump’s former consigliere, goes to Congress to tell his side of the Trump saga.

Cohen, who said in court last year that he once worked to cover up Trump’s “dirty deeds,” will return to the Hill on Wednesday, where those familiar with his testimony say he is expected to describe personal, behind-the-scenes encounters that portray Trump as a lying racist and provide what Cohen’s supporters say they believe is evidence that Trump broke the law after he was sworn in.

But Cohen — who was convicted of lying to Congress and whose allies have been known to exaggerate or misstate the information he possesses — will have to withstand attacks on his credibility. The strength and reliability of his anticipated claims about the president’s possible wrongdoing could not immediately be ascertained.

The Republicans will go after him for lying because, of course, Republicans cannot tolerate lying, exaggeration, or false statements ever at all from anyone no way no how.  So there.

Cohen is expected to describe to lawmakers what he views as Trump’s “lies, racism and cheating,” both as president and in private business, and will describe “personal, behind-the-scenes” interactions he witnessed, a person familiar with the matter said. Perhaps more explosively, he is expected to provide accounts of possible criminal conduct that occurred while Trump was in office, according to two people familiar with his testimony.

It was not immediately clear what those accounts or alleged conduct might be, though one of the people familiar said it had to do with the hush-money payments Cohen helped arrange to buy the silence of women who alleged having affairs with Trump years ago, before he became president. That person said Cohen will provide lawmakers an exhibit to support his assertion; another person said he would provide “very specific details” about the payments, some of which have not been made public.

As sordid and shocking as Mr. Cohen’s revelations about Trump and his dealings may be, it is safe to say that no matter what he says it will not move the needle on the GOP base’s love for Trump one micron.  In fact, it may even harden their support for him because the Deep State and those people (and you know who they are) have had it in for Trump ever since he fleeced his first tenant back in the ’70’s.  And while there may be private misgivings bordering on panic on the Republican side because clearly their president is out of his mind and out of control, they still want their job in Washington because it’s a lot easier — and more lucrative — to say you’re representing your district back in Ohio or Montana or Alabama than it is to actually have to live there and make an honest living.

As for the base itself, they honestly don’t give a shit whether or not Trump lied, cheated, or is a racist because to a lot of them, those are qualities a real man must have to get ahead in this world dominated by political correctness and minorities suddenly having the same rights as everyone else.  (Paying off a porn star?  If only!)  And even if they had any moral qualms about his character, it’s the results that matter according to one billboard seen on I-95 in Broward County, Florida, that thanked Trump for making America First!  So what if the tax cut was basically a Ponzi scheme (Oh, you thought you were getting a big refund? Oops) and the tariffs against the Chinese ripped the bottom out of the agricultural market and the tirade against immigrants left crops rotting in the field and lawns in Beverly Hills unmowed?  What about Hillary’s e-mails?

So, yeah, get the popcorn and enjoy the show, but remember that even when John Dean told the truth about Richard Nixon’s complicity in Watergate in June 1973, it still took another fourteen months for the chickens to really come home to roost, and only then when the Republicans realized that it was their asses on the line if he stayed in office.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

They May Have A Deal

The Washington Post reports that congressional negotiators have reached a deal to avoid another shutdown.

Key lawmakers announced a tentative deal late Monday that would avert another government shutdown at the end of the week while denying President Trump much of the money he’s sought to build new walls along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The agreement came together during intense hours of closed-door negotiations at the Capitol, as lawmakers resurrected talks that had fallen apart over the weekend in a dispute over new Democratic demands to limit immigrant detention. Democrats ultimately dropped some of those demands, which had come under fire from Republicans, clearing the way for a deal.

Hurdles remained, and Trump’s ultimate backing was in doubt after quick opposition emerged from conservatives. But lawmakers on both sides said they were motivated to find agreement by the looming specter of another government shutdown Friday night, three weeks after the last one ended.

“What brought us back together I thought, tonight, was we didn’t want that to happen,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), the lead Republican in the talks.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), who was in Monday’s meetings, said she hoped the negotiators would have a finished product by Wednesday. She said she ran the proposal by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and she signed off on it.

“Some may be happy, some may not be happy,” said Lowey, assessing how Democrats would receive the deal and saying she hoped the agreement would have the votes needed to pass the House. “We did the best we could.”

In other words, both sides gave some and got some.  It’s called “compromise,” and while it’s considered “losing” by Trump and his minions, it’s basically how the world works, and if Congress approves it and he vetoes it, the turd is in his lap.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

It’s On

From the Washington Post:

Trump called Democratic investigations into his administration and business “ridiculous” and “presidential harassment.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in turn accused the president of delivering an “all-out threat” to lawmakers sworn to provide a check and balance on his power.

The oversight wars officially kicked into high gear this week as House Democrats began investigating the Trump administration in earnest. With Thursday hearings scheduled on presidential tax returns and family separations at the Mexican border, and a Friday session to question acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker, the lights are about to shine brightly on a president who has, until now, faced little examination from a Republican Congress.

But Democrats are moving carefully after spending weeks forming their committees, hiring staff and laying the groundwork for coming probes — mindful that Trump is eager to turn their investigations into a political boomerang as his critics demand swift action to uncover various alleged misdeeds.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, Trump lambasted “ridiculous partisan investigations” and built a case that undue Democratic oversight would impede progress for the American people.

“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” he said. “It just doesn’t work that way.”

Pelosi (D-Calif.) reacted sharply to Trump’s insinuation that there could be no progress on legislation while lawmakers pry open the doors of his administration.

“Presidents should not bring threats to the floor of the House,” she said. “It’s not investigation; it’s oversight. It’s our congressional responsibility, and if we didn’t do it, we would be delinquent in our duties.”

Translation: Oh, yeah, it does work that way, and if the evidence leads to it, we’re gonna nail your ass.

And this is why Trump is going off like he’s got something to hide.  From the Daily Beast:

The House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia is officially back. And under the panel’s new Democratic management, it’s beyond supersized.

In its first official business meeting of the new Congress on Wednesday—facilitated by the House Republican leadership’s somewhat belated announcement of GOP membership on the committee—the much-watched House panel voted to re-establish an inquiry into what now might be called Collusion-Plus.

It’s about as different as possible from the committee’s previous investigative incarnation under Republican management, which last year released a report absolving the president and his campaign of any culpability in Russian manipulation of the 2016 election and turned its ire on those within the Justice Department and FBI investigating Trump.

Democratic committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) has made no secret of his emphasis on going after financial ties between Trump and Russia and subpoenaing documents thus far untouched by the panel. And on Wednesday, the committee voted to execute another long-standing priority of Schiff’s: giving Special Counsel Robert Mueller the transcripts of all witnesses before the House probe. Misleading the committee and its Senate counterpart has already led to indictments of former Trump advisers Michael Cohen and Roger Stone—and they may not have been the only ones to give false or incomplete testimony.

For those of us of a certain age and who watched Watergate unfold like one of those huge corpse flowers that stink like rotting flesh when they bloom, this news is taking us back to the the days when Congress began to really look into what was going on.  The outcry then, as now, was “PARTISANSHIP!”, which is the default for everybody who is being investigated by Congress.

Well, of course.  What did you expect?  That’s why the voters elected to put the Democrats in office back in November.  They — we — wanted to change how things were being — or more accurately — not being done.  That’s how it works.  That’s why we have elections.  And elections have consequences.

Trump was saying Tuesday night that as long as Congress is investigating him, there will be no cooperation from the White House, which presumably means he won’t sign any legislation passed by Congress.  Fine.  Rep. Schiff’s committee doesn’t need new legislation to investigate him; neither does Robert Mueller.  And if Trump decides to shut down the government because of the investigation, they can add that on to the articles of impeachment or the justification in the letter removing him from office under Amendment 25.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

For Every Action

From the Washington Post:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday rescinded her invitation to President Trump to deliver the State of the Union in the House next week — denying him a national platform for the annual speech in an extraordinary standoff between the two most powerful figures in the nation.

Late Wednesday, the president signaled a retreat from the standoff, announcing on Twitter that he will wait till the shutdown is over to deliver the address to Congress.

The cancellation — part of an escalating and at times personal feud between the newly elected Democratic speaker and the Republican president — illustrates the extent of the dysfunction that has gripped Washington and America’s body politic amid the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history.

The imbroglio also underscores the extent of the enmity that has developed between Trump and Pelosi, neither of whom appears ready to retreat in their standoff over the president’s demand for money to fund part of his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump will come up with something to hit back at Speaker Pelosi, and if his past actions are any guide, it will be something petty and immature that will get the tongues wagging on cable TV and the tails wagging among the base.  He’ll also find some airplane hangar or empty sports arena to deliver a campaign-rally style speech to feed the slavering masses of smirking and shouting Redhats, making it clear that even without the shutdown, it was a good idea on the part of Ms. Pelosi to not invite him over to the House to shit on the carpet and trash the place.

And not for nothing, I take issue with the tone of that last paragraph of the article quoted above.  It makes it sound as if both sides are responsible for the standoff.  That, my friends, is the insidious creep of Broderism, named after the late David Broder, a columnist for the Post who was able to always blame both sides of an issue regardless of who actually picked a fight: “Well, you know, we really shouldn’t blame the Japanese for bombing Pearl Harbor; we bear some responsibility for provoking them.”  (No, he never said that — at least not on the record — but you get the idea.)  The current advocate for Broderism on the TV is MSNBC’s Chuck Todd who seems to be able to find a both-sides-now argument in just about everything.  It’s supposed to be a way to demonstrate fairness and objectivity, but in reality it’s feckless and lazy, and giving Trump and his minions an inch to make their case just encourages them to make their tantrums and rants more a legitimate part of the discussion.  That is bullshit.

I have no idea how Trump will hit back, but when he does, expect the Broderists to call it even.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Nancy’s Deftness

Where Trump uses a bulldozer, Nancy Pelosi uses a scalpel.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked President Trump on Wednesday to scrap or delay his Jan. 29 State of the Union address amid the partial government shutdown, an extraordinary request that escalated the partisan battle over his border wall even as bipartisan groups of lawmakers pressed him to reopen the government and make room for compromise.

In a letter to Mr. Trump that underscored how the shutdown fight has poisoned hopes of bipartisan comity at the start of divided government, Ms. Pelosi cited security concerns as her reason for proposing that the president postpone the annual presidential ritual of addressing a joint session of Congress in a televised speech during prime time — or perhaps submit a written message instead.

Security aside, her move would deprive Mr. Trump of one of the brightest spotlights of a president’s year, intensified this year by Democratic control of the House and the drama of the longest government shutdown in the nation’s history.

“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government reopens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has reopened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on Jan. 29,” Ms. Pelosi wrote.

The best part is that Trump can’t just show up on Capitol Hill to deliver his bloviating stream-of-consciousness ramble; he has to be invited.  And Speaker Pelosi just told him, and very politely, “Sorry, you can’t come.”  And there’s nothing he can do about it.

Aside from the Democrats wresting control of the House from the GOP, this is my favorite result of the election of 2018: we know have a grown-up in charge of at least one part of the government.  (Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell has been doing everything he can to lie low and let the government shutdown go by as if he’s got nothing to do with it.  Which, of course, he does.)

But perhaps the best part is that the more Trump carries on with his tantrums, the calmer and cooler Speaker Pelosi becomes.  And that just drives Trump even more crazy, as if there’s a limit.  He’s so used to getting his way and having the bluster and ranting win, but he’s never been forced to deal with someone who doesn’t rise to the bait.

We may get our first SOTU delivered by Twitter.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Sunday Reading

The Best Path — Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker on the way forward for Democrats.

One of the worst side effects of Trumpism is the way that it drives its opponents into reactive mode, amid an atmosphere of cooked-up chaos. Donald Trump wants to build a “great, great wall,” and last week he considered declaring a national emergency to do it, despite the fact that illegal border crossings have drastically decreased since 2000, and that many of those trying to cross these days are women and children who are not evading border guards but seeking them out, to ask for asylum. At the outset of 2019, we’re in the second week of a partial government shutdown—which Trump said could last for months or years—because congressional Democrats have had to take his fixation seriously and insist that they won’t allocate the five billion dollars that he wants for the wall. (The actual costs of a concrete barrier could climb as high as forty billion dollars, according to an analysis in M.I.T. Technology Review, and a report from the Government Accountability Office warns that the wall could “cost more than projected, take longer than planned, or not fully perform as expected.”)

Democrats are offering two compromises that would reopen government agencies and give the Department of Homeland Security $1.3 billion to improve border-security technology and other measures, including fortified fencing. Meanwhile, some sense of the psychological vagaries that Democrats have to contend with can be derived from the increasingly peculiar way that Trump talks about the wall, as though it were not a policy but a totem—for the protection of his own ego, perhaps. “The wheel, the wall, some things never get old,” he said last week, at a rambling Cabinet meeting.

Still, whatever compromise is eventually reached to reopen the government, the best path forward for the Democrats as they take over the House of Representatives—the most effective way to counter the Administration’s frantic, unmoored agenda-setting, while also motivating voters for 2020—will be to pursue ambitious ideas. These could include the once utopian-sounding Medicare for All; a Green New Deal, to combat climate change while creating jobs; a national fifteen-dollar minimum wage; and a Voting Rights Advancement Act, to revive some of the protections that the Supreme Court eradicated in 2013, in Shelby County v. Holder.

Such proposals are backed by the Party’s fired-up progressives, but not all Democrats in the House support them, and they are highly unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate, let alone be signed into law by Trump. Yet they strike many people as fair and humane, if politically complicated. In a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, seventy per cent of respondents were in favor of Medicare for All. Support has also grown among doctors, who were once vocal critics of any single-payer system. It’s true that support tends to drop when pollsters tell people that they may have to pay more taxes, or that the government may exert “too much control.” But opponents can also be swayed when told that the plan would reduce the role of private insurers, or guarantee “that all Americans have health insurance as a basic right.”

Even if such proposals can’t make it out of Congress this term, they can help form a blueprint for a future in which the Democrats control the White House or the Senate. And, by bringing them up now, Democrats create the occasion to hammer out what a Green New Deal might actually look like, or how a national minimum wage might affect the working poor, while forcing Republicans to explain why they reject these approaches. Pete Buttigieg, the Democratic mayor of South Bend, Indiana—and a potential Presidential candidate—told the Times that it was important for Democrats to air big ideas, such as “whether guaranteed income is now right,” in part because only sweeping proposals to improve people’s lives can compete with the starkness and the simplicity of walls and bans and MAGA. In a sign that the Democratic leadership is listening, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, announced last week that she would support holding hearings on Medicare for All.

The 116th Congress is unusual in many ways. It has the largest freshman class in fifty years, the most women ever (a hundred and twenty-seven), the first Muslim and Native American women, and the first Latinas elected from Texas. It skews younger (eleven freshmen are under the age of thirty-five, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, at twenty-nine, is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress) and more progressive (the Congressional Progressive Caucus has grown from seventy-eight members to ninety-six). Its brightest lights are more likely to break protocol—by joining a sit-in at Pelosi’s office, or by dishing about the arcane workings of the Capitol on Instagram—than their predecessors were. The freshman class is hipper, over all, and more unpredictable. It’s one of the most highly educated groups of incoming House members in modern history, according to the Brookings Institution, and also the least politically experienced: only forty-one per cent have held prior office. This may mean that they will be refreshingly unwilling to get hung up on precedent, but it could also make them a fractious bunch.

There are already tensions: between the progressives with activist backgrounds and the moderates who painstakingly peeled away districts that went for Trump in 2016; between senior members who want the newbies to wait their turn and the newbies who aren’t looking for their permission. The Los Angeles Times reported that “several freshmen have asked for—some have demanded—prime slots on powerful legislative committees.” Representative Jackie Speier said of her new colleagues, “They’re going to shake this place up, and that’s kind of a good thing.” Some mutual befuddlement will be unavoidable. When Representative Rashida Tlaib, shortly after being sworn in, told a group of activists, “We’re gonna impeach the motherfucker,” Pelosi allowed that, “generationally, that would not be the language I would use.”

If all this sounds daunting, here’s a hopeful point to keep in mind about that record number of women, a hundred and six of whom are Democrats: research shows that women in Congress are more effective than their male counterparts at securing spending for their districts, which perhaps bodes well for the bipartisan project of infrastructure investment. They also sponsor and co-sponsor more legislation.

Inevitably, the House Democrats will be preoccupied with investigating Trump and with the traps that he keeps setting for them. Their challenge will be to work with the Senate to pass what positive legislation they can—while reminding Americans of how much more might be accomplished once the Trump era is over.

Brace For Impact — Marina Koren in The Atlantic on the impending collision of galaxies.  No, really.

Ah, the Milky Way, our glittering home in the cosmos. Seen in an unencumbered night sky, far from the glare of city lights, it seems magnificent and eternal in its enormity. Nothing could shift this ancient web of stars, nothing could disturb its transcendent stoicism.

Except, that is, another galaxy. Galaxies orbit millions of light-years apart, but gravity, the immutable magnet of the cosmos, can pull them together, producing spectacular collisions that reshuffle stars millions of years. According to the leading theory, the Milky Way will collide with one of its closest neighbors, Andromeda, sometime between 6 billion and 8 billion years from now.

But the Milky Way may face another galactic threat before that, from a different neighbor. A new study predicts our galaxy will collide with a galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud between 1 billion and 4 billion years from now.

This is a rather surprising change in schedule, considering that the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is close enough to be seen with the naked eye, is currently moving away from the Milky Way. What gives?

Marius Cautun, an astrophysicist at Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology, says that recent observations of the Large Magellanic Cloud have revealed that the galaxy has more mass than previously thought. Cautun and his fellow researchers decided to run computer simulations that took this new factor into account and fast-forwarded the conditions of our cosmic neighborhood. They tested multiple scenarios, making adjustments in mass, velocity, and other measures. In the end, the simulations predicted that in several hundred million years, the Large Magellanic Cloud will turn around and head straight for the center of the Milky Way.

“The collision between our galaxy and the [Large Magellanic Cloud] takes place in the majority of cases—over 93 percent,” Cautun says.The collision would be a slow showdown, unfolding over the course of billions of years. Stars from the Large Magellanic Cloud would ricochet like pinballs, dislodging some of the Milky Way’s stars from their orbits. Our galaxy as a whole would survive, but some stars may be flung right out of the Milky Way, Cautun says.Meanwhile, the sleeping, supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way would wake up. Like volcanoes, black holes alternate between peaceful dormancy and ferocious activity, depending on the surrounding conditions. Ours is in a quiet period. But the chaos of the merger would send cosmic gas swirling toward it, and cosmic gas is dinner to black holes. The resulting feast is a spectacular show. A disk of luminous, hot cosmic material swirls around the black hole at great speed, and bursts of high-energy radiation erupt from its center. Cautun says one serving of a Large Magellanic Cloud could lead our black hole to gobble up enough material to grow 10 times its current size.And what would happen to us, if there is any kind of “us”—life in some form—on Earth when this all goes down?It is possible that our sun could be among the small fraction of stars that gets lobbed from the galaxy. The jostling would disturb the orbits of our solar system’s planets, which could be perilous for any inhabitants. Even a small change in the relationship between the sun and the Earth could knock it out of the region where liquid water (and, therefore, life) can exist.If life on Earth survived, though, it would take ages for anyone to realize the planet’s position in the cosmos has shifted. Like the merger, the solar system’s ejection would occur over such a large timescale that it’d be almost meaningless to humans. “Only at the end of the collision could our descendants tell if we have been kicked out of our galaxy,” Cautun says.

The change in scenery would be remarkable. In this scenario, “our descendants will see a very different night sky, much darker than currently, with only a modest bright patch that will correspond to the Milky Way galaxy,” Cautun says. “It will be tremendously more difficult for our descendants to travel to other stars—if they haven’t yet done so by that time.”

If this imagined future scares you, consider that a collision with Andromeda would be much worse. The Milky Way would easily devour the smaller Large Magellanic Cloud and maintain its signature spiral shape, even if its insides will be all jumbled. Andromeda, on the other hand, is about the same size as the Milky Way. Astronomers expect that mashup to be destructive, and the Milky Way as we know it—the neat, shimmering band of stars—is unlikely to survive.

Cautun says that a collision between the Milky Way and the Large Magellanic Cloud would shift our galaxy’s position in space. Even still, Andromeda will still come for it, however many billions of years later.

“Ultimately, there is no escape,” he says.

[Photo: ESO/S. Brunier]

Doonesbury — Correcting the record.

Friday, January 4, 2019

The Real Work Begins Now

Charles P. Pierce in Esquire via Balloon Juice:

Besides Tlaib, Illan Omar, a Somali immigrant from Minnesota, also was sworn in, resplendent in a white-and-gold hijab. A few rows in front of Omar in the House chamber was Deb Haaland of New Mexico, dressed in turquoise jewelry and traditional Pueblo Native costume. Along with Sharice Davids of Kansas, Haaland is one of the first two Native American women to be elected to the Congress. After the morning’s business was concluded, the two women enfolded each other, weeping, in a long embrace, Haaland using David’s scarf to wipe away her tears.

All of these new members of the House, it needn’t be said, were members of the Democratic Party. So was virtually every person of color in the chamber. On the other side of the hall was a largely monochromatic new Republican minority that channelled its foul mood through the person of Congresswoman Liz Cheney, child of the Undead, who spit up a bitter, Trumpian nominating speech on behalf of Republican leader Kevin McCarthy’s candidacy for the speakership. She even went to “build that wall,” which got her a hoot and a holler from her fellow Republicans, but which was drowned out by the sound of happy children and grandchildren from the other side of the aisle. It was as though someone had grafted a Chuck E. Cheese onto a funeral parlor.

Nancy Pelosi, because she is smarter than everyone in the House, and much smarter than anyone in the White House, god knows, was re-elected easily to be the new Speaker, although the balloting was not devoid of hilarity. Pelosi and McCarthy were the only two announced candidates, but votes also were cast for Reps. Jim Jordan, Cheri Bustos, and Marcia Fudge, as well as for Senator Tammy Duckworth, defeated Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Conor Lamb, the rookie from Pennsylvania, voted for Rep. Joe Kennedy, who got a good laugh out of it, and Ron Kind, Democrat of Wisconsin, voted for Rep. John Lewis, who looked rather frosty about it. Two Democratic House members voted “Present.” And Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey haplessly voted, “No,” which was not on the menu. Tim Ryan of Ohio and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, both of whom made noises months ago about challenging Pelosi, both voted for her. And, when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voted for Pelosi, there was some kind of organized whoo-hoo from the Republican side. She simply makes them completely crazy.

The most touching moment of the balloting came when Lucy McBath of Georgia dedicated her vote for Pelosi to her late son, Jordan, murdered for the offense of playing his music too loudly for the white guy in the next car. McBath threw herself into the fight for sensible gun laws, and that culminated in her election in November. This was quite a moment, as was the embrace between Davids and Haaland. It took 240 years for people like the two of them to represent their fellow citizens in a government that did so much bloody damage to their people…

It is a different place now, this House of Representatives. There is something of the future in it, and god alone knows where it will lead, but the work, the real work, begins now.

Let’s do this.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

New Day Dawning

I’m safely ensconced in my hotel in Blue Ash after an uneventful flight from MIA to CVG and picking up a very nice rented Cadillac (!) for the drive here.  (The Cadillac XTS was priced below the econo-box so of course I snapped it up.  It’s like driving a Barcalounger with a dashboard from an iPhone, but handles like a Mustang.)

I’ll be spending the day with Mom and Dad, visiting friends and running errands, such as doing bird-feeder maintenance and helping put away the Christmas decorations.

But in the background there will be the chatter from TV as the new Congress gets underway, getting the House back into safe hands.  And after seeing clips from the weird cabinet meeting at the White House yesterday, it will be like taking the keys to the Oldsmobile away from a relative who is piteously descending into the fog and setting off Silver Alerts from the highway patrol.

Normalization means seeing the POTUS ramble incoherently on important policy matters, watching the grifter he put in charge of the Department of Justice give a cringeworthy performance during the morning’s televised “dear leader” session, and yet being completely unsurprised.

[…]

This Trump press conference is like one of those viral videos where the kid in the back seat just got out of the dentist.

If it wasn’t for the fact that our safety, security, and financial future are in jeopardy by being run by a whackjob, this would be a laugh-riot worthy of Mel Brooks and Larry, Moe and Curly.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Time for my annual recap and predictions for this year and next.  Let’s look back at how I did a year ago.

  • There will be indictments at a very high level in the administration as the Mueller investigation rumbles on.  Plea bargains and deals will be made and revelations will come forth, and by summer there will be genuine questions about whether or not the administration will survive.  But there won’t be a move to impeach Trump as long as there are Republican majorities in the Congress, and invoking the 25th Amendment is a non-starter.

I’ll give myself a B on that since it was pretty much that way a year ago and the gears of justice grind slowly but irresistibly.  No high-level members of the administration were indicted, but shame and scandal did bring down an impressive number of folks who had hard passes to the West Wing.

  • The Democrats will make great gains in the mid-term elections in November.  This is a safe bet because the party out of power usually does in the first mid-term of new president.  The Democrats will take back the Senate and narrow the gap in the House to the point that Speaker Paul Ryan with either quit or be so powerless that he’s just hanging around to collect pension points.  (No, he will not lose his re-election bid.)

I’ll go with a C on that since I hit the nail on the head in the first sentence; I should have just left it there.  But no; I had it backwards: the House flipped but the GOP still has the Senate, and who knew that Paul Ryan would decide to quit?

  • There will be a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but it won’t happen until after the mid-terms and Trump’s appointment will flail as the Democrats in the Senate block the confirmation on the grounds that the next president gets to choose the replacement.

I’ll take an A- on that since I got the timing wrong, but I think Brett Kavanaugh did a great job of flailing (“I like beer!”) before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The predator still got on the court, though, and we all hold RBG in the Light for at least another two years.

  • There will be irrefutable proof that the Russians not only meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, but they’ve had a hand in elections in Europe as well and will be a factor in the U.S. mid-terms.  Vladimir Putin will be re-elected, of course.

A+ Duh.

  • Raul Castro will figure out a way to still run Cuba even if he steps down as president, and there will be no lessening of the authoritarian rule.

Another A+, but what did anyone expect?  Trump’s half-assed attempts to restrain trade with Cuba, along with Marco Rubio doing his yapping perrito act, only make it more ironic when it’s the administration’s policy to cozy up to dictators like Putin and the Saudis.  If Trump owned a hotel in Havana he’d be down there in a second sucking up to the regime with video to prove it.

  • The U.S. economy will continue to grow, but there will be dark clouds on the horizon as the deficit grows thanks to the giveaways in the GOP tax bill.  If the GOP engineers cuts to entitlement programs and the number of uninsured for healthcare increases, the strain on the economy will be too much.

I’ll take a B on this since I didn’t factor in tariffs and the trade war(s) he’s launched that led to wild uncertainty in the markets, not to mention Trump’s bashing of the Fed chair that he appointed and told him to do what he’s doing.

  • This “America First” foreign policy will backfire.  All it does is tell our allies “You’re on your own.”  If we ever need them, they’re more likely to turn their backs on us.

I get an A on this because it has and they are.

  • The white supremacist movement will not abate.  Count on seeing more violence against minorities and more mass shootings.

Sadly, a very predictable A on that.

  • A viable Democratic candidate will emerge as a major contender for the 2020 election, and it will most likely be a woman.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren is considered to be the default, but I wouldn’t rule out Sen. Kamala Harris of California or Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York just yet.  (Sen. Gillibrand would drive Trump even further around the bend.  She was appointed to the Senate to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat when she became Secretary of State in 2009.)

I get a B on this because it was rather easy to spot and I’m already getting begging e-mails from Ms. Harris.

  • On a personal level, this will be a busy year for my work in theatre with a full production of “All Together Now” opening in March and several other works out there for consideration.  I will also be entering my last full year of employment in my present job (retirement happens in August 2019) but I’ll keep working.

This was a great year for my playwriting with a lot of new friends and opportunities out there and more to come in 2019 (see below).

  • People and fads we never heard about will have their fifteen minutes.

Yep.  I’ve already blocked them out.

Okay, on to the predictions.

  • Barring natural causes or intervention from an outside force, Trump will still be in office on December 31, 2019.  There is no way he will leave voluntarily and even with the House of Representatives in Democratic control and articles of impeachment being drafted they will not get to the Senate floor because the Republicans are either too afraid to rile up the base or they’re too enamored of their own grip on power to care about the government being headed by a poor imitation of a tin-pot banana republic authoritarian douche-canoe.
  • The Mueller Report will be released to Congress and even though it’s supposed to be classified it will be leaked with great fanfare and pundit predictions of the end of the Trump administration with calls for frog-marching him and his minions out of the West Wing.  Despite that, see above.
  • There will be no wall.  There never will be.  Immigration will still be a triggering issue as even more refugees die in U.S. custody.
  • There will be no meaningful changes to gun laws even if the NRA goes broke.  There will be more mass shootings, thoughts and prayers will be offered, and we’ll be told yet again that now is not the time to talk about it.
  • Obamacare will survive its latest challenge because the ruling by the judge in Texas declaring the entire law unconstitutional will be tossed and turned into a case study in law schools everywhere on the topic of exasperatingly stupid reasoning.
  • Roe vs. Wade will still stand.
  • With the Democrats in control of the House, the government will be in permanent gridlock even after they work out some sort of deal to end the current shutdown over the mythological wall.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will become the Willie Horton for the GOP base and blamed for everything from budget deficits to the toast falling butter-side down.
  • We will have a pretty good idea who the Democratic front-runner will be in 2020.  I think Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s chances are still good (she announced her exploratory committee as I was writing this), as are Sen. Kamala Harris’s, and don’t count out Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, but who knew that Beto O’Rourke, a charismatic loser in the Texas senate race, would raise a lot of hopes?  That said, fifteen years ago when I started this blog, Howard Dean looked like the guy who was going to beat George W. Bush.
  • The economy will continue with its wild gyrations, pretty much following the gyrations of the mood of Trump and his thumb-driven Twitter-fed economic exhortations.  The tax cuts and the tariffs will land on the backs of the people who provide the income to the government and the deficit will soon be out there beyond the Tesla in outer space.  But unlike that Martian-bound convertible, the economy will come crashing back to Earth (probably about the time I retire in August) and Trump will blame everyone else.
  • There will be a natural event that will convince even skeptics that climate change and sea level rise is real and happening.  Unfortunately, nothing will be done about it even if lots of lives are lost because [spoiler alert] nothing ever is done.
  • I’m going out on a limb here with foreign affairs predictions, but I have a feeling that Brexit will end up in the dustbin of history.
  • Personally, this will be a transition year.  My retirement from Miami-Dade County Public Schools occurs officially on August 31, 2019, and I’m already actively looking for something both meaningful and income-producing to do after that.  (E-mail me for a copy of my resume; nothing ventured, nothing sprained.)  My play “Can’t Live Without You” opens at the Willow Theatre in Boca Raton, Florida, for a two-week run on March 30, and I’m planning on returning to the William Inge Theatre Festival for the 28th time, either with a play or most assuredly with a scholarly paper.  I have my bid in for a variety of other theatre events and productions; I think I’m getting the hang of this playwriting thing.
  • I will do this again next year.  I hope.  As Bobby says, “Hope is my greatest weakness.”

Okay, your turn.  Meanwhile, I wish continued good health and a long life to all of you and hope you make it through 2019 none the worse for wear.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Big 4-Oh!

The final count on the Democrats’ gain in the midterms is 40.

TJ Cox defeated three-term Republican Rep. David Valadao on Wednesday, giving Democrats a gain of seven House seats in California and 40 nationwide — the party’s strongest midterm showing since the Watergate era in the mid-1970s.

Cox clinched his victory more than three weeks after election day, when updated results from Fresno and Kings counties pushed his lead over Valadao to 529 votes. The contest was the country’s last remaining undecided congressional contest.

Cox, 55, trailed the GOP lawmaker by nearly 4,400 votes on election night but steadily gained ground as mail-in and other ballots tipped his way.

“Let this be a message to every Republican,” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a tweet claiming victory. “If you come for Americans’ livelihoods, we WILL come for your seats.”

Not only that, it’s the most diverse House makeup ever.

The congressional freshman class of 2019 is perhaps best described in superlatives. It is the most racially diverse and most female group of representatives ever elected to the House, whose history spans more than 200 years. And it boasts an avalanche of firsts, from the first Native American congresswomen to the first Muslim congresswomen.

Now let’s do something with it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Really, Guys?

This is so inside-the-Beltway and it’s such a whiff that it’s barely worth taking up valuable pixels when I could be putting up a cat video, but apparently sixteen Democrats are not wild about electing Nancy Pelosi as Speaker again.

As Scott Lemiuex at LGM notes, this is just sad.

She will be the most powerful woman in America; third in the line of succession to the presidency, so if Trump gets impeached (or carried out under medication) and Pence gets raptured, she’s the president.  The last time she was Speaker, she marshaled the party to get Obamacare, the financial stimulus packages that saved the country from a depression, Dodd-Frank, and just about any other piece of legislation the MAGA-mites want to repeal.  That alone should be the reason she gets the job.

Yes, she’s establishment, but she gets things done.  Pissing off the GOP is just icing.

And yes, the specter of 16 white guys telling a woman where her place is just makes it worse.

My guess is that once they see that the other 230 Democrats are not with them, they’ll end up voting for her and say it was all symbolic and just to make a point.  Yeah.  And they’ll find that their Capitol Hill parking space is now in Alexandria.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Hat Honor

Via the Washington Post:

Democrats want to change a rule banning House members from wearing hats on the chamber floor to accommodate the first Muslim women to ever be elected to Congress — one of whom wears a headscarf.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rules Committee ranking Democrat Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.) and congresswoman-elect Ilhan Omar of Minnesota are the co-authors of the proposal, which was included as part of a slate of rule changes that Democrats will seek to implement once they assume control of the House next year.

Omar, who was born in Somalia but came to the United States as a refu­gee, wears a headscarf — something that could fall afoul of the 181-year-old House rule banning members from wearing any kind of hat on the floor. Democrats are proposing changing the rule to allow all religious headwear into the House chamber, though it is unclear whether members of other faiths would take advantage of it.

The proposed change, which House Democrats say is to promote diversity and ensure that the freedom of religious expression is protected on Capitol Hill, effectively doubles as a rebuke of the anti-Muslim rhetoric voiced by Republican candidates in several 2018 midterm races. It also is notable for coming at a time when several U.S. allies in Europe are adopting countrywide bans on face veils.

Democrats proposed the change alongside a pledge to create an independent diversity office and ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity to ensure that the most diverse Congress in history pursues the creation of a diverse workforce as well.

The rule would also apply to those of the Jewish faith who wish to wear a yarmulke, or kippah, on the House floor.

If and when the GOP takes over the House again, they’ll probably reinstate the ban except for MAGA hats.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Down To The Wire

There will be a vote at 10:30 a.m. in the Senate for cloture on the Kavanaugh nomination, which means that if there are enough Republicans to vote yes — assuming no Democrats do — the Senate will then move forward with the confirmation vote on Saturday.

According to Adam L. Silverman at Balloon Juice, as of last night it was still a near thing whether or not there were enough votes for cloture.  At least one Republican will not be there on Saturday because of a family wedding, and wavering Democrats — the ones who are up for reelection in red states such as South Dakota and Indiana — are making their intentions known, however cautiously.

I’m thinking — and it’s based purely on history and age-old cynicism — that we will be will-o’-the-wisp hopeful that the Senate will not confirm him because of some kind of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” bravery from a few Republicans who would rather stand for decency than poll numbers.  But we know how this movie ends; if you’re over 30 you saw how it went with Clarence Thomas in 1991, and I’m yet to be convinced that we, and especially the old-boys club in the Senate, have evolved beyond that time.  I’ve also yet to see anyone of substance call out the Republicans for their rank hypocrisy in demanding due process for Brett Kavanaugh — innocent until proven guilty! — but chanted “Lock her up!” at Hillary Clinton and now Prof. Blasey Ford.

Their motives, by the way, are not to put just this one man on the court.  As far as his judicial rulings go and his history on the bench, he’s one of many conservative judges to pick from, and if for some reason Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t make it there will be plenty more for Trump to choose from, if he hasn’t already.  But with the slim possibility of the Senate flipping and the attitude of the GOP leadership being what it is, it’s more about sticking it to the Democrats than it is about the future of the Supreme Court.  They’re still pissed off that America elected a black man twice as president when everyone knows that the White House belongs to the rich white guys, not the descendants of the slaves who built it.  This is their continuing middle finger to the rest of us, including old white guys like me who happen to believe that everyone is entitled to a place at the table, not just the dudes and bros who puke beer, grope women, and go to Yale because, hey, it’s what’s expected.  It’s the continuing reinforcement of the idea that the Republicans don’t govern, they rule.

So I’m not holding out a lot of hope that there will be profiles in courage emerging from the Senate today or tomorrow.  I hope I’m wrong, but then, hope is my greatest weakness.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Consumed With Rage

Robin Abcarian in the Los Angeles Times:

I wasn’t in that Maryland bedroom in 1982. You weren’t there.

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh says he wasn’t there. But after listening to every word uttered by his tearful, yet calm and respectful accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, and Kavanaugh’s combative, weepy refutation, I have no choice but to conclude she is credible and he is not.

He is not suited to a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Because of his self-pity and rage.

Because of the way he shredded the idea that he can be an impartial arbiter on the high court when he accused Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee of seeking “revenge on the behalf of the Clintons” and “left-wing opposition groups.”

Because of the insulting way he spoke to Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar when she asked whether he ever drank so much he could not remember what happened. (“You’re talking about a blackout,” he said in a nasty tone. “I don’t know. Have you?”)

Because he refused to give a straight answer about whether he would support an FBI investigation into Ford’s charges.

Because he interrupted Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal who was in the middle of asking a question, then had the cluelessness to say, “Let me finish.”

Kavanaugh’s anger may be understandable in a man who claims — hyperbolically — that his life and family have been “destroyed” by what he says are false allegations of sexual assault.

But they are hardly what we deserve or expect in a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, which has so much control over Americans’ lives, especially women’s.

Ford, 51, a psychologist who studies trauma, was a mesmerizing witness.

She seemed honest, and pained, and, as she put it, “100%” certain that the 17-year-old boy who threw her on a bed, ground his hips against her and covered her mouth so she could not scream was Kavanaugh.

She practically pleaded for an FBI investigation that would include the only witness to the alleged attack, Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge. Judge, who once wrote a memoir about his blackout drinking in high school, said in a statement to the Senate committee via his attorney that he has no memory of the event and never saw his friend behave in such a manner.

She spoke knowledgeably about the biological processes of how memory works.

When asked to describe her most vivid memory of the assault, she replied, “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense.”

When she described the room where the alleged assault took place, and the loud music and the laughter of the two teen boys who were in cahoots, I believe that every viewer who has ever been assaulted probably had an unpleasant flashback. I know I did.

Like Anita Hill before her, Ford had wanted to remain anonymous.

But when she was outed, she said she felt she had no choice but to tell her story, knowing full well, as she testified, that the experience would be like stepping in front of a moving train, and that she would probably be “annihilated.” As she said this, however, she displayed not a whit of self-pity.

It was clear that Kavanaugh’s Judiciary Committee supporters don’t particularly care whether or not he assaulted Ford all those years ago at a high school party.

And they knew — all 11 men — that they could not trust themselves to come off as caring, so they hired Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona sex-crimes prosecutor, whose plodding questions seemed to infuriate them. They wanted fireworks. She was a wet blanket.

Their pent-up rage exploded after Ford finished her testimony. They sidelined Mitchell, and turned their wrath on Democrats, who were accused of withholding information in order to delay the confirmation until after the midterm elections, when Democrats have a fighting chance of gaining the majority in the Senate and could scuttle Kavanaugh’s nomination.

In tones verging on hysteria, they railed about the timing of the allegations (as if there is a good time to step forward alleging you’ve been attacked by a Supreme Court nominee).

I’ve never seen a theatrical outburst like Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s display of self-righteous anger, sparked by Democratic Sen. Richard J. Durbin’s simple assertion that if Kavanaugh truly cared about clearing his good name, he should want to have the FBI investigate Ford’s claims. “God help anyone else that gets nominated,” Graham said, forgetting that Neil M. Gorsuch was confirmed last year with barely a ripple.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch’s outraged voice broke as he scornfully dismissed the idea that anyone would care what had happened in high school. And yet, Ford had very specifically discussed the “anxiety, phobia and PTSD-like symptoms” that she had felt, intensely, in the first four years after the assault, and intermittently thereafter.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, forgetting his recitation of “Green Eggs and Ham” during a Senate filibuster, called it “one of the most shameful events in the history of the United States Senate.”

Again and again, Kavanaugh, 53, was described by his supporters as a victim — not of Ford, because of course, it’s no longer acceptable to publicly attack a victim of sexual assault — but of Democrats.

Ford, they said, was a victim, too. Of Democrats.

Just as I believed Anita Hill in 1991, I believe Christine Blasey Ford.

I wouldn’t put Kavanaugh in jail for what he did when he was 17, but I sure as hell wouldn’t put him on the Supreme Court.

 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

TMI

I did not need to know that Brett Kavanaugh was — or claimed to be — a virgin long after high school and beyond.  That’s information I don’t need to hear from anyone; not the guy at the deli counter, not the guy driving the Super Shuttle, not even the hunky guy with the bulging biceps and killer smile who sits across from me at Starbucks, and certainly not the guy holding out for a seat on the Supreme Court.

I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but there are some things best kept to yourself.  I would think that he would know that since he comes from the upper class and went to a classy prep school and Yale.  So I’m hard-pressed to understand why he’d go on Fox News (well, that I get) with his wife (that must have been an interesting ride home) and give America the mental image of someone holding back their virginity.

Setting aside all the accusations and drama; does this revelation on national TV demonstrate the judgment we’re looking for in a Supreme Court justice?  Who talks about that sort of thing in a job interview, much less on cable unless it’s the Jerry Springer Christmas special?

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.

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.

Thursday, September 6, 2018