Kavanaugh, having established his history of perjury, and a desire to kill Roe v. Wade, moves toward confirmation

I think a lot of people expected the Brett Kavanuagh nomination to be shit show, but I don’t think anyone expected it to go this poorly. As I understand it, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Donald Trump at the outset that, if he were to nominate Kavanaugh, it would be difficult, given his considerable baggage. Trump, however, wanted Kavanaugh… likely because, of the 25 candidates he’d been given to chose from, Kavanaugh was the only one who had stated explicitly that sitting presidents should not be subject to criminal investigation or prosecution… so here were are, watching the GOP attempt to jam through a nominee who appears, among other things, to be liar.

This past week, there were at least four different news stories about lies that had been told, sometimes under oath, by Kavanaugh.

First, there was the story of Kavanaugh’s lying under oath back in 2004 about his involvement in the nomination of William H. Pryor, a controversial anti-abortion rights judge, to the Federal Appeals Court. Kavanaugh testified at the time that he had nothing to do with the Pryor nomination. And we now know that was a lie. As for why Kavanaugh might have lied about helping to shepherd the Pryor nomination through the process when he worked in the George W. Bush administration, it could have something to do with the fact that Pryor had called Roe v. Wade the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law”… Here, courtesy of Senator Patrick Leahy, is a little archival footage.

Second… as long as we’re on the subject of Roe v. Wade… it looks as though Kavanaugh has been lying not only about his role in helping to place anti-abortion activists on the bench, but about his own believes on whether or not the Supreme Court could revisit the ruling that made abortion legal across the United States. As you may recall, early in the process, Kavanaugh told Senator Susan Collins, a pro-choice Republican, that, in his opinion, Roe v. Wade is “settled law,” with the implication, of course, being that he wouldn’t attempt to revisit the decision as a Justice on the Supreme Court. As we learned a few days ago, though, Kavanaugh has expressed a much different opinion privately. In an email that the Republicans had been attempting to keep hidden, Kavanagh wrote in 2003, “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court [sic] can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so.” So, clearly he doesn’t believe there’s anything keeping the Supreme Court from striking down the Roe decision, no matter what he may say to people like Collins, who are looking for anything at all that they might be able to use to justify a vote in favor of his confirmation.

Third, it looks as though Kavanaugh has been lying about what he knew of the Bush administration’s controversial, and some would argue illegal, warrantless wiretapping and detainee interrogation (torture) programs… Here’s a clip from the New York Times.

…Then there are the persistent doubts about his truthfulness in telling senators in 2006 that he had no knowledge of Mr. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program or his detainee treatment policy — claims that have been called into question by yet more emails, which showed he knew about both of those things years before they became public.

As Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois told Judge Kavanaugh on Thursday, “You say that words matter. You claim to be a textualist when you interpret other people’s words, but you don’t want to be held accountable for the plain meaning of your own words”…

And, fourth, it would appear as though Kavanaugh has again lied under oath when discussing whether or not, while working to confirm Bush’s nominees for the federal court, he had received confidential letters and memos stolen from Democratic staffers by GOP Senate aide Manuel Miranda…. In 2004, Senator Orrin Hatch asked Kavanaugh directly if he had received “any documents that appeared to you to have been drafted or prepared by Democratic staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.” Kavanaugh unequivocally that he had not. Again, however, we now know that to have been a lie… As Senator Patrick Leahy has said, it was “untruthful testimony, under oath, and on the record.” And, sadly, it would appear as though it doesn’t matter to Senate Republicans.

Again, I don’t know how much we can realistically do to stop it, given that the Republicans currently hold 51 seats in the Senate to the Democrats’ 49, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t fight like hell, in hopes that, maybe, just maybe, we’re able to get pro-choice Republicans like Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to defect on this issue, like they did on the Republican health care bill last year. I know it’s incredibly unlikely, but we have to at least try. [Assuming we can get every Senate Democrat to vote against Kavanaugh, we’d still need two Republicans to cross over, as, if we just got one, Vice President Pence would be called on to break the tie and cast the deciding vote.]

Who knows what Susan Collins really cares about, but she did go on the record in early July of this year, stating that she, “would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade,” and we should hold her to it. She also said that she viewed abortion as a “constitutional right,” and would vote accordingly… Maybe it was bullshit. Maybe it’s just something that she said to get the support women voters. And maybe a few of them will take her at her word when she says that Kavanaugh told her that Roe v. Wade was “settled law.” I suspect, though, that a great many more won’t. And we’re already seeing evidence of that.

As of today, we’re told that 3,000 coat hangers have been mailed to the offices of Senator Collins by pro-choice voters. More importantly, tough, over 30,00 people have come together online to pledge $860,891 toward the campaign of her Democratic opponent in 2020, should she decide to vote in favor of Kavanaugh… Here some of the donors are, talking about the campaign.

Will it be enough? I suspect not. But I love the fact that people in Maine and Alaska are once again going after Collins and Murkowski, urging them to stand up on behalf of women (and those who value truth) in their state. It’s good to see, especially now, as we’re headed into the midterms.

If you know anyone… and I mean anyone… in Maine or Alaska, please have them find a local office for either Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski, and call today. Or, better yet, have them drop by one of their offices in person to drop off a few hangers.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Hitchcock includes a subtle shout-out to Ypsilanti in North By Northwest

It’s rare that Ypsilanti shows up in popular culture. For a while, we were seeing images of Ypsi pop up in films, like Drew Barrymore’s Whip It, and Robert DeNiro’s Stone, but it’s not too often that you buy a record, or see a movie, and actually hear the word “Ypsilanti” being spoken. So, I was incredibly happy last night to hear the name of our hometown mentioned in the background while watching Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest with my six year old son. It happens toward the middle of the film, at the one-hour-and-four-minute mark, just as Eva Marie Saint exits the phone booth in Chicago’s LaSalle Station, where she and Cary Grant had just arrived on the 20th Century Limited.

If you’re interested in hearing how other people in American popular culture have pronounced “Ypsilanti” over the years, be sure to check out Elvis Costello’s song Sugarcane, which contains the line, “Here in Ypsilanti, they don’t wear any panties.”

And, yes, I know that Hitchcock likely didn’t go out of his way to include the shout-out to Ypsilanti. I do like the idea, however, that he might have included it purposefully… I mean, what if Ypisilanti shows up in every one of his films, and we just haven’t noticed it? What if it was a thing for him, like his famous cameos?

Posted in Art and Culture, Pop Culture, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Obama Speaks

I know it’s old news by this point, but, if you haven’t yet, I’d suggest that you make some time and watch President Obama’s speech to students at the University of Illinois which is so infuriating the right today. [The hypocrites at Fox News called it “disgraceful” and “divisive”, and ridiculed President Obama for coming across as “pompous” for having the audacity to… wait for it… note his own accomplishments in office.] It was good so see an uncharastically fiery Obama coming off the sidelines, and giving voice to what many of us have been thinking about these past few years, talking about racism and corruption, and asking, among other things, “How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?”

While I appreciate Obama’s decision, after leaving the White House, to pull back from public life, and allow others to take center stage in the fight against Trumpism, I’m glad to see him come back. Our democracy hangs in the balance as we approach these upcoming midterm elections, and he knows it. He knows, in order to save this nation of ours, and bring Donald Trump to justice, we’re going to need everyone doing his or her part, and that includes him. And, for me, it felt really good to hear him put the niceties aside for a moment, and acknowledge the terrible reality of our current situation… which is that we’ve allowed an extremely dangerous conman to take over our government, and we’re all going to have to fight like hell to restore the rule of law, undo the damage, and regain our place in the world.

Here, if you’d like to call the family together, is the video.

The entire transcript can be found here, but here’s an little excerpt.

…Each time we painstakingly pull ourselves closer to our founding ideals: that all of us are created equal, endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, the ideals that say every child should have opportunity, and every man and woman in this country who’s willing to work hard should be able to find a job and support their family and pursue their small piece of the American dream. Ideals that say we have a collective responsibility to care for the sick and the infirm. And we have a responsibility to conserve the amazing bounty, the resources of this country and of this planet for future generations.

Each time we’ve gotten closer to those ideals, somebody somewhere has pushed back. The status quo pushes back. Sometimes the backlash comes from people who are genuinely, if wrongly, fearful of change.

More often it’s manufactured by the powerful and the privileged, who want to keep us divided, and keep us angry and keep us cynical, because it helps them maintain the status quo and keep their power and keep their privilege. And you happen to be coming of age during one of those moments.

It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years. Rooted in our past, but also born out of the enormous upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes…

So you have come of age during a time of growing inequality, of fracturing of economic opportunity. That growing economic divide compounded other divisions in our country. Regional, racial, religious, cultural, it made it harder to build consensus on issues. It made politicians less willing to compromise, which increased gridlock, which made people even more cynical about politics.

And then the reckless behavior of financial elites triggered a massive financial crisis, 10 years ago this week, that resulted in the worst recession in our lifetimes and caused years of hardships for the American people. For many of your parents, for many of your families.

Most of you weren’t old enough to fully focus on what was going on at the time, but when I came into office in 2009, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. 800,000. Millions of people were losing their homes. Many were worried we were entering into a second Great Depression…

And even though your generation is the most diverse in history, with a greater acceptance and celebration of our differences than ever before, those are the kinds of conditions that are ripe for exploitation by politicians who have no compunction and no shame about tapping into America’s dark history of racial and ethnic and religious division. Appealing to tribe, appealing to fear, pitting one group against another, telling people that order and security will be restored if it weren’t for those who don’t look like us, or don’t sound like us, or don’t pray like we do. That’s an old playbook. It’s as old as time.

And in a healthy democracy, it doesn’t work. Our antibodies kick in, and people of goodwill from across the political spectrum call out the bigots and the fearmongers, and work to compromise and get things done and promote the better angels of our nature.

But when there’s a vacuum in our democracy, when we don’t vote, we take our basic rights and freedom for granted, when we turn away and stop paying attention, and stop engaging, and stop believing, and look for the newest diversion, the electronic versions of bread and circuses, then other voices fill the void.

A politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment takes hold. And demagogues promise simple fixes to complex promises. No promise to fight for the little guy as they cater to the wealthiest and most powerful. They’ll promise to clean up corruption, and then plunder away. They start undermining norms that ensure accountability. And try to change the rules to entrench their power further. And they appeal to racial nationalism that’s barely veiled, if veiled at all. Sound familiar?

I understand this is not just a matter of Democrats versus Republican or liberals versus conservatives. At various times in our history, this kind of politics has infected both parties. Southern Democrats were the bigger defenders of slavery. It took a Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, to end it. Dixiecrats filibustered antilynching legislation, opposed the idea of expanding civil rights. And although it was a Democratic president and a majority Democratic Congress, spurred on by young marchers and protesters that got the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act over the finish line, those historic laws also got passed because of the leadership of Republicans like Illinois’ own Everett Dirksen…

So neither party has had a monopoly on wisdom. Neither party has been exclusively responsible for us going backwards instead of forwards, but I have to say this, because sometimes we hear ‘Oh, a plague on both your houses.’

Over the past few decades — it wasn’t true when Jim Edgar was a governor here in Illinois, or Jim Thompson was governor. Got a lot of good Republican friends here in Illinois, but over the past few decades, the politics of division, resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican Party.

This Congress has championed the unwinding of campaign finance laws to give billionaires outside influence over our politics, systematically attacked voting rights to make it harder for young people, and minorities and the poor to vote. Handed out tax cuts without regard to deficits. Slashed the safety net wherever it could, cast dozens of votes to take away health insurance from ordinary Americans, embraced wild conspiracy theories like those surrounding Benghazi. Or my birth certificate. Rejected science. Rejected facts on things like climate change. Embraced a rising absolutism from a willingness to default on America’s debt by not paying our bills, to a refusal to even meet, much less consider, a qualified nominee for the Supreme Court because he happened to be nominated by a Democratic president.

None of this is conservative. I don’t mean to pretend I’m channeling Abraham Lincoln now, but that’s not what he had in mind, I think, when he helped form the Republican Party. It’s not conservative. It sure isn’t normal. It’s radical.

It’s a vision that says the protection of our power and those who back us is all that matters even when it hurts the country. It’s a vision who says the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and campaign finance, set the agenda. And over the past two years this vision is nearing its logical conclusion, so that with Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, without any checks or balances whatsoever, they have provided another $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to people like me who I promise don’t need it. And don’t even pretend to pay for them. It’s supposed to be the party — supposedly — of fiscal conservatism. Suddenly deficits do not matter.

Even though just two years ago, when the deficit was lower, they said I couldn’t afford to help working families or seniors on Medicare, because the deficit was an existential crisis.

What changed? What changed?

They’re subsidizing corporate polluters with taxpayer dollars, allowing dishonest lenders to take advantage of veterans and students and consumers again. They have made it so that the only nation on Earth to pull out of the global climate agreement. It’s not North Korea, it’s not Syria, it’s not Russia or Saudi Arabia. It’s us, the only country. There are a lot of countries in the world. We’re the only ones.

They’re undermining our alliances, cozying up to Russia. What happened to the Republican Party? Its central organizing principle in foreign policy was the fight against communism, and now they’re cozying up to the former head of the KGB. Actively blocking legislation that would defend our elections from Russian attack. What happened? They’re sabotaging the Affordable Care Act, it’s already cost more than 3 million Americans their health insurance. And if they’re still in power next fall, you better believe they’re coming at it again. They have said so.

In a healthy democracy there’s some checks and balances on this kind of behavior, this kind of inconsistency, but right now there’s nothing. Republicans who know better in Congress — and they’re there — they’re quoted saying, ‘Yeah, we know this is kind of crazy,’ are still bending over backwards to shield this behavior from scrutiny, or accountability or consequence. They seem utterly unwilling to find the backbone to safeguard the institutions that make our democracy work…

And by the way, the claim that everything will turn out OK, because there are people inside who secretly aren’t following the president’s orders, that is not a check. I’m being serious here. That’s now how our democracy is supposed to work. These people aren’t elected. They’re not accountable. They’re not doing us a service by actively promoting 90 percent of the crazy stuff that’s coming out of this White House and saying don’t worry, we’re preventing the other 10 percent. That’s not how things are supposed to work. This is not normal. These are extraordinary times.

And they’re dangerous times.

But here’s the good news. In two months, we have the chance — not the certainty, but the chance — to restore some semblance of some sanity to our politics. Because there is actually only one real check on bad policy and abuses of power. And that’s you. You and your vote…

I know we’ve got to win this first, and I hate to put even more pressure on Obama, but, listening to this speech, I can’t help but imagine what he might say to mark the occasion once the Trump crime family is driven from power. Maybe it’s because I was just in Gettysburg not too long ago, thinking about the historic weight of the words Lincoln spoke there, but I suspect there’s a really good chance that, when the time comes, Obama may be the one to put all of this in context and point the way forward. Let’s just hope he doesn’t make that speech from the site of an actual battleground.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Donald Trump demands that the traitors in his midst be identified and handed over to the authorities

Generally speaking, I have have very little sympathy for those who have chosen to work for Donald Trump. And I certainly don’t think of them as heroes, which, based on things I’ve read in the past, is how many of them apparently see themselves. They argue that, by remaining in the administration, they’re able to keep Donald Trump from doing even more damage to the fabric of our nation. I can certainly understand why someone working in the White House right now might want to see himself, or herself, as an heroic figure, rather than as a co-conspirator in any number of crimes, but I don’t buy it. If these senior members of the Trump administration really felt that strongly about the threat posed by this President, they could just walk out onto the White House lawn, call a press conference, and urge Congress to act. Instead, though, they continue to enable Donald Trump as he threatens longtime allies and rips immigrant children from their parents, apparently telling themselves all the while that it’s OK because they were able to stop him from doing things that might be even more dangerous, and more racist.

Yesterday, as you may recall, news broke that Bob Woodward’s explosive new book about Trump will contain a story about White House economic adviser Gary Cohn removing papers from Donald Trump’s desk, in hopes of avoiding a national security crisis in South Korea. Trump, Cohn apparently felt, couldn’t be trusted to read whatever was in those papers, objectively asses the information that they contained, and give thoughtful direction. So, according to Woodward’s account, he just took the documents in question off Trump’s desk. And, this story, of course, was a shared alongside quotes from members of Trump’s senior staff about his being an “idiot” who had the understanding of “a fifth- or sixth-grader”.

So, as you might imagine, we started today with news about a White House-wide “witch hunt”, as Donald Trump looked to discover the identity of those individuals who had turned on him, and talked with Bob Woodward about the absolute insanity of his presidency.

But then things got even more strange late this afternoon, when the New York Times broke with standard protocol and posted an anonymous op-ed from a person they referred to as “a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure“… Here’s a brief excerpt from the essay, which is titled, “I am part of the resistance, inside the Trump administration.”

…The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.

It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t…

Again, I don’t see these people as heroes. A hero, it would seem to me, would be someone who left the administration, and then did something tangible to stop the madness. And, by my count, the only person who has even come close has been Omarosa Manigault Newman, who, while not exactly a pillar of virtue, at least refused to take the pay-off that offered to her as she exited the White House, and instead went to the press to talk about what she’d seen. [According to reports at the time, she was offered $15,000 a month for her silence.] Say with you will about Manigault Newman and her motivations, but this is significantly more than we’ve seen from the likes of Republican party stalwarts like Dina Powell and Rex Tillerson, or any of the others who have abandoned the Trump ship over the past year. Any one of them could have done the right thing, and, whether they were afraid of being publicly attacked by Donald Trump, or just really loved his tax cuts and Supreme Court picks, they stayed silent. And, worse yet, in my opinion, are those self-described “heroes” who still serve in the West Wing.

But I will give these folks credit for pushing the betrayal storyline along. The idea of “an agent of the resistance” working right beneath his nose, I suspect, will eat at Donald Trump like nothing to this date has, and I can’t wait to see how he responds. I suspect it’ll be even more Shakespearean that yesterday’s revelation about how he refuses to enter the Oval Office alone, for fear of being battered about by the ghosts LBJ and other former presidents. The weight, my friends, hangs heavy on this man, and the final scene cannot be far off at this point. I just hope, when it comes, it’s not too bloody… With that said, I’ve always maintained that this would end in murder, and I don’t see any reason to change that prediction now.

update: OK, since I started writing this, Trump has read the New York Times op-ed and responded. He, like the mob boss that he is, is demanding that the “gutless” traitor who authored the piece be handed over to the authorities so that he might be able to exact some kind of retribution. This, my friends, is not normal. Not by a long shot.

Posted in History, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

In their final seconds as a party, the Republicans attempt to push Brett Kavanaugh over the goal line

The above photo, inspired by Margret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale, was taken this morning, outside the Senate chamber where Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing was being held… Kavanaugh, as I suspect all of you likely know by this point, would represent the deciding vote on the bench on any number of issues, including a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices. [Republican Senator Susan Collins seems willing to take Kavanaugh at his word when he tells her that Roe v. Wade is “settled law”, but you can be certain, as he was vetted by the Heritage Foundation, that he passed their abortion litmus test, indicating that, if given the opportunity, he’d vote to end abortion.]

Kavanaugh, as some you may recall, has also spoken in the past about his belief that a sitting president should not be subject to criminal investigation or prosecution, which might kind of be relevant at this point in our history, given that our current President is now an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal case. [In a 2009 article published by the Minnesota Law Review, Kavanaugh argues that, “The indictment and trial of a sitting president… would cripple the federal government.” Kavanaugh says in the same law review article that, if a president is truly corrupt, Congress has a means by which to remove him from office through impeachment. As we’ve seen, however, that check against the power of the President doesn’t always hold up under pressure.]

Given that Republican’s argued that President Obama couldn’t even so much as nominate a Supreme Court Justice in an election year, it’s seem hypocritical that the Republicans are now pushing so hard to get Kavanaugh seated before the midterm elections, but they know that Trump’s window gets a little more narrow with every new indictment. And they know, if they want someone to do the bidding of the rich and powerful for the next several decades, Kavanaugh’s there man. Which is why they’re cramming his nomination through, and refusing to release much of anything from the 35-month period during which he served as White House Staff Secretary from July 2003 to May 2006, during which, we can assume, Kavanaugh would have weighed in the Bush administration’s controversial torture policy, among other things.

The Republicans did release an additional 42,000 pages of Kavanaugh documents last night, on the eve of the hearing, but it’s still just a drop in the bucket, as something like 96% of the requested documents have yet to be released, which, as you might imagine, is not the way these things are usually done. [When Elena Kagan was nominated to the bench, nearly every word that she’d written while working for the Clinton administration was made public.]

But the Republicans have the votes, and they hold every lever of power, so, barring some unforeseen development, Kavanaugh will be placed on the bench, just like Neil Gorsuch, who took the seat that rightfully belonged to Merrick Garland… Yes, it looks as though this is a done deal, but we cannot stop fighting. If you have a moment, please call your senators and demand that they stand up and do the right thing, and not allow a President under federal investigation to install a Supreme Court Justice who has said on the record that he does not believe that presidents should be indicted while in office. Putting aside abortion, gay marriage, affirmative action, and any number of other things, we cannot allow this President, who is currently the focus of a corruption investigation, to place on the Supreme Court a man who has given every indication that he would vote to stop the Mueller investigation.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 85 Comments

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