This morning, I headed to Downtown Los Angeles to join the masses in protest outside City Hall. Speeches and entertainers were scheduled, before a march to the Federal Building.
The crowd was huge, and the speeches impassioned. Honestly, I thought the event last week in Westwood was far better, even if overwhelmingly smaller. The speakers were particularly good -- three congressmen (including famously now, Maxine Waters) and a lot of local and state officials. They talked about what could be done and what was being done -- and there even were busses for taking blankets and toys and necessities down to San Diego detention centers.
The speeches Downtown were mostly telling us what was bad and terrible and horrific about Trump and his administration and this action separating children from their parents, along with a lot of immigration stories about themselves, including one young woman who was undocumented and told about her mother and father bringing their family to California. To be clear, those speeches are incredibly valuable in building up emotion and support for unity. But for me, speaking only personally, I didn't need convincing.
I have no idea exactly how many people turned out there, though the Los Angeles Times reports "tens of thousands." MoveOn.org says 70,000. (This appears to have been the biggest in the country. They report Washington, D.C. and New York as each other 35,000. And Chicago at 60,000.) The crowds stretched in all directions -- this above is just looking at the rear. And when I left after 90 minutes, people were still arriving on the Metro trains with signs.
I did leave before the march, which is actually the main thing I was looking forward to. But after 90 minutes of speeches, I had no idea when the march would begin. And since I was pretty much convinced at that point that putting babies in cages was a sick way for the government or humans to act, I took off, knowing that there was a flowing mass of outraged, motivated people shouting their anger still as loudly as when it all began.
And everyone was absolutely civil. Just really, really, incredibly furious.
You most-likely have read by now of the stunning, upset primary win in New York City by 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who beat Rep. Joe Crowley, arguably next in line to replace Nancy Pelosi as Democratic House leader. Even more stunning -- only the week before, local polls had him ahead by 35 points. AND she ended up winning by 15 points. Local polls like for this race are notoriously uncertain, but still -- that's like being in a boat in the middle of the ocean, dropping a rock over the edge and missing the water. If she wins in the general election in November -- and that's probable since the 14th District is so heavily Democratic, Crowley won last time with 83% of the vote -- she'll become the youngest woman ever elected to the House.
She appeared on Stephen Colbert's show Thursday night. It's a very personable interview. She comes across as bright and outgoing (and still a little overwhelmed by it all) -- and also like she's precisely what she is: 28 years-old. There's one exchange, for instance, where she's discussing a conversation with a constituent, and she enthusiastically describes it as, "...and then I go...and then he goes...and then I go..."
Here's the interview -- which includes the wonderful video that made the rounds of when she learned she had won. And she explains the story behind that.
Trump famously, and idiotically, put out a tweet after the election, chiding Crowley for losing, suggesting the reason was that, in this highly-Democratic district, mind you, the congressman was nice enough to him. And yes, Colbert asks her about that, as well...
Okay, so here's an actual Jon Stewart story, following the kerfuffle earlier today on this site. I figured you deserved something better.
So, for those of you who still miss Jon Stewart hosting The Daily Show on Comedy Central, here's an eight-minute fix for you from last night. It's not all funny -- it's not supposed to be all funny. It's just supposed to be pure Jon Stewart, and what he did and does so well.
After doing some deeper investigation, my nagging skepticism that that "Like" I wrote about was actually from Jon Stewart has bubbled more to the surface. And I suspect it likely wasn't, but rather a fake account. So, erring on the far side of caution, I've deleted it.
Boy, it took a LONG time for Trump to make a public statement about this. A full day. (Tweets don't count, but even that was delayed.
Of course, his words here raise some related questions. If as Trump says, the press "should be free from the fear of being violently attacked", will he stop calling them "enemy of the people"? Will he stop attacking them at his rallies where his vitriol is so vicious that reporters in attendance require protection? Will he stop calling every criticism from the press "fake news." Because otherwise, if not, his words today are meaningless and empty.
Actually, even with that, his words here are meaningless and empty. It would certainly help, but to show that his words have actual substance requires dealing with his past attacks directly and acknowledging that they were wrong and harmful, and that his supporters should not hold on to them. The damage is done, and to repair it requires triage and open heart surgery, not a bandage.
A 12-year-old black kid in Cleveland had the cops called on him for...cutting grass! He apparently went a few feet over the property line into the neighbor. BUT -- wait -- as repugnant as this yet-another story is, it turns out to have a great ending. Because of a video the "client" whose lawn he was cutting put out, he's been getting overwhelmed with calls for his summer business!
Here's the follow-up News 5 WEWS TV story. (Best line: him telling the camera -- "Just give me a call. I will be there. On time!”)
Four days ago, the actor James Woods posted a tweet which read, "Now that a United States Congresswoman has called for harassment against Republicans and the inevitable violence that will come of it, I urge all of you to a) get armed, and b) vote. Your life literally depends on it."
As I mentioned a while back, I worked on two movies with the fellow, and though he wouldn't remember me, we didn't fly back from Mexico sitting next to one another, and have talked at length. He was always...well, let's just say "edgy," but he also always was a somewhat reasonable and interesting person much of the time. But times change.
I usually don't see most of his fevered rants these days, and when I do I tend to ignore them. But this one seemed especially irresponsible even by his low standards. Not that he likely read it, but I sent a reply --
"You are wrong about what Rep. Waters said (I was at the event & heard her entire 6-minute speech) -- she spoke ONLY of 'cabinet members' & 'telling them they're wrong.' That you're suggesting the response to telling off cabinet members is 'inevitable' gunfire shows your emptiness"
I wanted to say a LOT more, but Twitter has its character limitations. As does James Woods.
To be clear, Woods doesn't hold any responsibility for the mass shooting in Anapolis. That took place four days later, and I have no reason to believe the mass killer reads, let alone was inspired by James Woods' tweets. But Woods has a high profile among the easily-impressionable, unthinking crowd of the far right, and his sick words only add kindling to their insanity.
(Nor is this mass killing even remotely related to Maxine Waters, inevitably or otherwise, since -- as I noted -- she merely calls for "telling" cabinet members their actions are unacceptable.)
Someone who does bear responsibility though sent out the following heartfelt tweet yesterday --
What's actually most impressive about this tweet from Trump is that I'm impressed he was able to type with all that blood on his hands.
Mind you, considering that he's called the press "the enemy of the people," it would be nice if he could please explain why his thoughts and prayers are with the victims. That seems such a contradiction. Indeed, one might almost have instead expected him to give the gunman a medal. Apparently the few saner heads still there at the White House prevailed.
It did occur to me that the next time Trump decides to drag out people who had a loved one killed, he really doesn't have to seek out five different families who lost someone to car accidents with five different illegal immigrants, as he did a few days ago. Rather, he can make it logistically so much easier by just finding another white guy who committed a mass shooting.
The other day, Gov. Matt Bevins (R-KY) blamed the rash of mass school killings in part on cell phones. (No, really.) I haven't heard from Mr. Bevins yet it cell phones were to blame in the Annapolis shootings, as well, or his some other appliance was at fault. And currently being tracked down by the police for investigation.
I haven't seen any comment yet from the corporate gun-manufacturer-owned NRA, though I'm sure they've chimed in with something to blame for the latest mass gun killing other than...well, y'know, guns. Perhaps however they've just been busy shredding their money laundering communications with Russia.
Though to give them full credit, in a previous video on NRA TV (sorry, I don't know when this was exactly) their spokesman Dana Loesch called for journalists to be “curb stomped” and referred to to journalists as “rat bastards.” For the record, according to Wikipedia, the definition of curb stomp is -- "a form of assault in which a victim's mouth is forcefully placed on a curb and then stomped from behind, causing severe injuries and sometimes death."
And just yesterday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent out a tweet in which he wrote that "We are all ALL to blame for this mess."
But of course, Rubio's reprehensibility aside, we are NOT "all ALL to blame for this mess. Only one person has called the press the "enemy of the people." And only one party has defended him and not criticized him for it. And only one man and one party have been crying out on a regular basis about "fake news" and demonizing the press. And that's Trump & Marco Rubio's GOP.
Let's head back to Stephen Colbert, but in a different venue. Here he is with Patrick Wilson (two-time Tony nominee for the musicals The Full Monty and Oklahoma!, and Emmy-winner for HBO's mini-series Angels in America) at Citi Field in New York to sing the National Anthem. I do love harmony. And if it wasn't for their jerseys, it would be near-perfect.
(And I won't even delve far into comparing the thought, preparation and skill that went into this to when Roseanne Barr "sang" the Anthem in San Diego. )
Okay, I didn't see that coming. But then I don't appear to have been alone. So, Anthony Kennedy is leaving the Supreme Court. Various thoughts.
First -- Aghhhhhh.
Fine, enough of that. That pretty much covers it all. And so we move on.
For all the observations over the years that Kennedy was the swing vote -- and he was -- in more recent years he appears to have been swinging much more to the right. I saw a graphic yesterday that said of the 14 decisions this year where the Supreme Court was split 5-4, they all were conservative with Kennedy voting with the right wing. That's not to say he didn't vote more moderately or even liberally on occasion. But at least for the past year, those votes came when they weren't as critical to change the result. His last two votes were particularly troubling for liberals -- allowing the limited travel ban on Muslims and permitting employees of "public sector" jobs that are covered by unions (like teachers, police officers and other public employees) to withhold dues while still getting protections from the contracts negotiated. (Gee, what a swell idea, which sort of contradicts the very point of unions -- I mean, hey, why join a union if you can get the protections?)
This isn't to say that whoever Trump names won't be far more reactionary and not ever a swing vote. But then, if you're always swinging right these days, it doesn't matter significantly if that fifth vote is a quiet, tentative aye, or a booming AYE!!!! It's still an aye.
I know there was a lot of discussion in the media yesterday about what action Democrats can take about this upcoming nomination, to perhaps get the votes that will allow them to do what Republicans did to block Merrick Garland. An aye for an aye, as it were... A couple things: first, that seems a long shot given that they're in the minority, whereas Republicans were then in the majority. Added to that is there are probably a few moderately conservative Democratic senators up for re-election this fall where blocking a conservative nominee would be seen as problematic in their home states. So, they might vote yes -- meaning that Democrats would have to get even more Republicans to flip and vote no in order to put the nomination on hold. That's possible, if those few Republicans can be convinced it means losing Roe v. Wade otherwise -- but it's another long shot. Which leaves convincing Republicans to live by their own sick, made-up rule of not voting on a Supreme Court nominee right before an election. And that, of course, is also a long shot. Not only on basic principle, asking Republicans to act against their own self interest and country -- but also, as much as Democrats have been trying to make the case that the two situations are the same...they aren't the same. Republicans reprehensibly held off voting on Merrick Garland because they made the then-empty case that whoever was elected president should get to name the next nominee -- not that the next elected-Senate should be allowed to vote on the next nominee.
Which brings up another point -- let's say Democrats somehow, someway do manage to hold off the next nominee until after the mid-term election. A) By all accounts, people aren't expecting Democrats to flip the Senate, so then we'd be right back where we are now. And B), if for some reason Democrats do take the Senate, do they expect to not approve a nominee for two more years? And that's beyond the the additional next six months until the next Senate is sworn in Perhaps the "dream" is that if they unexpectedly manage to take the Senate, Trump will then feel compelled to name someone more like Anthony Kennedy, a swing Justice, rather than a doctrinaire conservative. It's possible, sure. But toss in yet another long shot.
There are a LOT of long shots here. And when you get that many piling up, your really shouldn't expect them to come through. Traveling in the land of "If...and if...and if...and if...and if this all happens, then....maybe, possibly conceivably this could happen," is no way to fly.
So, it seems pretty likely that Trump will get his nominee. The only serious hope is that he or she is not profoundly, unbendingly conservative -- or head-bangingly pathetic (like if he does nominate "Judge Jeanine" like he supposedly wanted to before endding with Neil Gorsuch). which is what all the Democratic battling now should hope to accomplish.
Left out of much of the discussion I heard yesterday was mention of what I think is even a worse situation. (And yes, how about that?! There is an even worse situation.) And that's what happens during the next 2-1/2 years if Ruth Bader Ginsberg leaves an opening. If that happens, the closer it is to the next presidential election then the more hope there is that it could be held off replacing her. Admittedly, the concept of a Ginsberg opening is yet another "if" -- but that's a serious possibility, long discussed because of her age and health. And if it occurred, that would mean replacing, not a fairly-conservative swing vote with a serious conservative, but one of the most liberal voices the Court has had. I wish her the best. I wish us all the best.
And as for "the best" -- the best I can see coming from all this are two things. The first is, as mentioned, that Democratic senators can put up a good another fight to make the White House see that a somewhat more moderately-conservative nominee is named. And the second is that Trump having this nominee to name (and possibly two, eventually) will grippingly galvanize liberals, progressives and independents in a way that will guarantee not just a Blue Wave but a Blue Tsunami and maybe even flip the Senate (which would offer a protection for that other opening, should it come). After all, this is really significantly more a Democratic election issue than a Republican one. You aren't likely going to get Republican voters rushing to the polls in a mid-term election to defend a Supreme Court nominee they already have. But you are likely to get Democrats horrified and with their hair on fire whatever happens in the months before the election -- whether the nominee is already confirmed, which makes a Democratic House and Senate all the more necessary, or whether it turns out the nominee isn't yet confirmed...which makes a Democratic House and Senate almost all the more necessary, or maybe more so.
There isn't a "good view" on this, unfortunately. But there are some possibly good takeaways that can come from it. And driving Democrats (and perhaps independents) to the polls in massive droves is the one, possible "if" that could be very good.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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