Kavanaugh, Politics, and the Conservative Project

I think Susan Collins had no good choice here.  Her vote to confirm buys her a credible and well-funded challenger, but a vote the other way would likely have created a primary challenge from the right.  It seems to me that while Collins has rarely deviated from conservative orthodoxy with respect to her actual votes, she has carefully cultivated a reputation as a moderate (chiefly by claiming to respect reproductive choice for women).  This and incumbency has so far protected her politically, but Democrats (especially women) in Maine will now do everything they can to replace her.  This challenge comes in 2020, when Democrats will also show up in force to vote against Donald Trump if he runs again.  I think she had a better chance to win a challenge from the right and keep the seat by voting no on Kavanaugh but supporting his just-as-conservative replacement.

Joe Manchin faced a similar problem except that he depends on some level of support from conservatives to keep his seat where Collins depends on marginal liberals for hers.  I would suggest to Senator Manchin that (like in Maine) a “right thing to do” vote against Kavanaugh would have kept enough conservatives in his corner as long as he votes to confirm Trump’s next choice.  And as in Maine voting to confirm Kavanaugh will alienate Democrats he needs to win.  It’s too late for a primary challenge from the left, but to win he needs every vote he can get, and many women will now stay home. Continue reading

Brett Kavanaugh

We’re learning a lot about Republicans and Conservatism watching them push through the Kavanaugh confirmation.  The Federalist Society could give them the names of a hundred other judges with the necessary background to join the US Supreme Courtand vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, protect corporations from regulation, and permit expansive voter suppression laws.  Most of these could at least maintain the appearance of impartiality and show more judicial temperament than Kavanaugh showed.

Yet they not only press forward, they feel a need do so in the most mean-spirited way possible. We’ve come to expect that from Donald Trump, and he hasn’t disappointed the last few days.  But until now we could at least try to tell ourselves that senior GOP leaders like Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham would not sink to such a base level.  Continue reading

Ileana Johnson is not a Serious Person

Writing at The Bull Elephant (and Freedom Outpost), Ileana Johnson complains that:

“What is good has become bad, evil has become good, and moral values have been replaced by moral relativism, decadence, and filth. America continues to be fundamentally transformed from the shadows.”

Johnson is a conservative, so she’s not talking about Donald Trump paying porn stars not to talk about his (lack of) skills as a lover. She’s talking about Barack Obama promising to “’fundamentally transform’ America into a socialist paradise of his anti-American and racist ideology.”  I must admit to having a bit of trouble wrapping my mind around this, and Johnson does not elaborate in a way that clears up her meaning.  Continue reading

Saturday Morning Coffee

Going through a few of the open tabs on my iPad with a cup of coffee this morning:

At Talking Points Memo: I saw this Associated Press report: DOJ Lawyer: Steele Said Russian Intelligence Believed it Had Trump Over a Barrel. Looks like Bruce Ohr met with Christopher Steele, who shared some information that did not make it into the dossier Steele wrote for Fusion GPS.  This is one reason why Trump wants to discredit Ohr – he likely knows things the White House would rather keep under wraps.

On a related note, William Saletan lays it all out at Slate:: We Already Know Trump is Betraying His Country.  This is a pretty good rundown of how Donald Trump has put Russia and his wallet before America, including some thoughts on why, all in one place.

At The Atlantic, Yuval Noah Harari lays out his thoughts on Why Technology Favors Tyranny.  He touches on something I’ve given a lot of thought to: how will social norms change as technology replaces workers in the last remaining jobs that don’t require complex education or training (e.g., long-haul truck drivers). If dying industry led to right-wing populism in rust-belt states, what happens when artificial intelligence replaces every worker who drives something for a living?

Fred Clark, a progressive Christian, writes about the intersection between religion and politics, among other things, at Slactivist.  In a series he calls “The MAGA Commission”, Clark discusses the Great Commission Christ gave his followers to spread his word and how the purpose and identity of evangelical Christianity has shifted from this missionary work to politics.  Part One linked above; Parts Two and Three are also up.  Clark is an excellent writer, and I urge all of you to check out his work.  His exegesis of the truly awful (both as writing and theology) Left Behind books and films is especially interesting – and funny as…hell (sorry).

Another Progressive Christian and former megachurch pastor fired for his “provocative” (read: “progressive”) writing, John Pavlovitz asks Christians to Stop Blaming God for your LGBTQ Hatred. He thinks Christians should stop applying the Bible to other people’s lives. Like Clark, Pavlovitz is a great writer, and like Clark has a blog name I wish I’d thought of myself: Stuff That Needs to be Said.  Go check him out.

Some good reading this morning that could take you on a nice stroll through the internet. Enjoy the holiday weekend.

John McCain

As a veteran, I must pay my respects to a fellow warrior who showed valor far above and beyond his call of duty.  David Foster Wallace described the critical days in a 2000 Rolling Stone article.  An extended quote:

You probably already know what happened. In October of ’67 McCain was himself still a Young Voter and flying his 23rd Vietnam combat mission and his A-4 Skyhawk plane got shot down over Hanoi and he had to eject, which basically means setting off an explosive charge that blows your seat out of the plane, which ejection broke both McCain’s arms and one leg and gave him a concussion and he started falling out of the skies right over Hanoi.

Try to imagine for a second how much this would hurt and how scared you’d be, three limbs broken and falling toward the enemy capital you just tried to bomb. His chute opened late and he landed hard in a little lake in a park right in the middle of downtown Hanoi, Imagine treading water with broken arms and trying to pull the life vest’s toggle with your teeth as a crowd of Vietnamese men swim out toward you (there’s film of this, somebody had a home – movie camera, and the N.V. government released it, though it’s grainy and McCain’s face is hard to see). The crowd pulled him out and then just about killed him.

U.S. bomber pilots were especially hated, for obvious reasons. McCain got bayoneted in the groin; a soldier broke his shoulder apart with a rifle butt. Plus by this time his right knee was bent 90-degrees to the side with the bone sticking out. Try to imagine this.

He finally got tossed on a jeep and taken five blocks to the infamous Hoa Lo prison – a.k.a. the “Hanoi Hilton,” of much movie fame – where they made him beg a week for a doctor and finally set a couple of the fractures without anesthetic and let two other fractures and the groin wound (imagine: groin wound) stay like they were. Then they threw him in a cell. Try for a moment to feel this.

All the media profiles talk about how McCain still can’t lift his arms over his head to comb his hair, which is true. But try to imagine it at the time, yourself in his place, because it’s important. Think about how diametrically opposed to your own self-interest getting knifed in the balls and having fractures set without painkiller would be, and then about getting thrown in a cell to just lie there and hurt, which is what happened. He was delirious with pain for weeks, and his weight dropped to 100 pounds, and the other POWs were sure he would die; and then after a few months like that after his bones mostly knitted and he could sort of stand up they brought him in to the prison commandant’s office and offered to let him go.

This is true. They said he could just leave. They had found out that McCain’s father was one of the top-ranking naval officers in the U.S. Armed Forces (which is true – both his father and grandfather were admirals), and the North Vietnamese wanted the PR coup of mercifully releasing his son, the baby-killer. McCain, 100 pounds and barely able to stand, refused.

The U.S. military’s Code of Conduct for Prisoners of War apparently said that POWs had to be released in the order they were captured, and there were others who’d been in Hoa Lo a long time, and McCain refused to violate the Code. The commandant, not pleased, right there in the office had guards break his ribs, rebreak his arm, knock his teeth out. McCain still refused to leave without the other POWs. And so then he spent four more years in Hoa Lo like this, much of the time in solitary, in the dark, in a closet-sized box called a “punishment cell.” Maybe you’ve heard all this before; it’s been in umpteen different media profiles of McCain.

But try to imagine that moment between getting offered early release and turning it down. Try to imagine it was you. Imagine how loudly your most basic, primal self-interest would have cried out to you in that moment, and all the ways you could rationalize accepting the offer. Can you hear it? It so, would you have refused to go? You simply can’t know for sure. None of us can. It’s hard even to imagine the pain and fear in that moment, much less know how you’d react.

After this demonstration of superior honor and valor and physical and moral courage, John McCain returned home and entered politics.  He turned out to be a pretty standard issue hawkish corporate Republican, with a bit of racism mixed in, who never saw a tax cut or war he didn’t like. He saved the ACA, but he gave us Sarah Palin and never really pushed back against Trumpism the way one might expect a hero who truly loves his country would.

I wonder why not – John McCain showed more physical and moral courage early in life than he did close to the end.  But few human beings could endure what he went through without breaking down completely. He was a true American hero who loved his country, suffered for defending it as his personal honor demanded, and then returned home to continue serving as he felt driven to serve.  I disagreed with him on almost every issue, but I respect few men more than I do John McCain.  Rest in peace.

Comment at Virginia Right

Ellwood Sanders is a regular contributor to Virginia Right, a conservative blog edited by Tom White.  Yesterday he posted an article criticizing Leslie Cockburn and Chuck Schumer for having “perverted legal questions into political ones.”  It seems Cockburn tweeted that the Trump Administration demonstrated its “lack of respect for states’ rights and Virginians’ health.,” and Schumer pointed out that the Bret Kavanaugh nomination “would put a dagger through the heart” of Democrats’ belief that health care is America’s number one issue. Continue reading

More Guns, More Shootings

Another day, another mass shooting, this time at a video game tournament in Jacksonville, Florida.  Since the shooter turned his weapon on himself before police could arrest him we’ll likely never know just why.  He may have had a personal grudge against another player or just got pissed when he lost.

Of course, the gun nut lobbyists at the National Rifle Association wasted no time bringing out the “more guns in the room would have either deterred the shooter or allowed someone to bring him down” chestnut.  (Or maybe they just want to ban headsets in public.)  So I have to express my exasperation with people who believe that mass shooting tragedies can be prevented by creating an armed society and normalizing guns in public places. Continue reading

An Observation on the State of the Democratic Party

Isaac Chotiner has a podcast at Slate called “I Have to Ask,” and this week he interviewed Michelle Goldberg, now a New York Times columnist.  They cover lots of topics, including Omarosa and the Russia investigation.  But this bit caught my eye:

“Whenever I’m in New York, I can work myself into this state of really bleak despair, and then I go out and travel and meet … it’s not even necessarily Democratic Party activists as much as Indivisible activists or Democratic Socialists of America chapters or these sort of grass-roots groups that have sprung up since the election and are just doing so much work. And it always makes me feel so much more hopeful about the future.

You hear the same story over and over again of these kind of middle-aged women who, they voted, but they didn’t necessarily pay super close attention to primaries, maybe they had to look up what congressional district they were in, and who woke up the day after the election and were so shattered and looked around for somewhere they could go and found either an offshoot of Pantsuit Nation or a local Indivisible meeting.

And you meet these women, and they go to meetings now four or five nights a week. They have all new friends. They are just astonishing organizers, and they’re kind of using this intense local knowledge that they have. You can’t replicate that when it comes to canvassing, somebody who just knows everyone on the block. So you see that being deployed everywhere, and that I think is why you’re seeing these numbers in some of the special elections, these swings that are even bigger than the swings you see on the generic ballot.”

I can tell you that I saw the same thing all over Virginia’s First Congressional District during the primary campaign this spring, and these folks don’t seem to be tiring.  So I’m more optimistic than some of my fellow Progressives that we’re really about to see a Blue Wave in November.

Go listen to the podcast or read the transcript.  Lots of good stuff.

Saturday Morning Coffee

A few links to things I read this morning:

Not sure what to think about the Omarosa Manigault-Newman thing, but this Slate article gives an interesting take.  I like this part:

Either because or despite the fact that Omarosa once belonged to this lair of liars, one can admire the skill with which she has orchestrated these tapes’ release so as to maximally damage the White House’s credibility just as it was trying to torpedo hers. The tapes are essentially booby traps. Katrina Pierson’s reputation may not be a central concern in Trumpworld, but Lara Trump’s is getting closer; no wonder the White House is scared. Omarosa knows—as even his lawyers do—that a man who lies about everything must be guarded against, and learned that lesson early.

Can’t wait to see who gets caught in the next “booby trap.” Go read.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has a plan to save Capitalism and has introduced legislation.  Over at the Washington Post, Warren answers a few questions for Jennifer Rubin.  Asked about cheating and insider trading, Warren responds:

Sure, it includes insider trading — but it’s a lot more than that. In a well-functioning market, companies compete by providing better products, better service, or better prices. That kind of competition benefits customers and rewards businesses that out-innovate or out-work their competitors.

But when companies can deceive their customers about the quality or price of their products, that’s cheating — and the market stops working. Companies that are willing to deceive their customers are rewarded with more business, while honest companies struggle to keep up. That’s bad for customers and bad for the companies that just want to do the right thing.

Yves Smith explains why she thinks this would be good for shareholders over at Naked Capitalism.  Definitely following this one.

Finally, if you don’t know about XKCD yet, you should go check it out, especially if you’re interested in coding or math.  Great cartoons, including one of my all-time favorites. But if you’re worried about hackers getting into voting machines, this cartoon won’t make you feel better.