Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: No Good Implications

Hello Everyone:

It is a lovely autumn Wednesday afternoon and Blogger Candidate Forum is on baby sitting duty, literally. Fortunately, the very angelic baby Yours Truly is keeping an eye on is fast asleep, which gives Blogger a few minutes of quiet to write.

If you are Mr. Donald Trump right now, the third degree burn of being laugh at during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly has to really hurt.  Strangely, he has not tweeted about it, yet (the operative word). Meanwhile, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is meeting with the President tomorrow, to discuss his future. The likely scenario is DAG Rosenstein and AG Jeff Sessions stay on until after the midterm elections. That would actually be the best option if Mr. Trump wants to avoid anymore scandal affecting his already scandal-prone administration. Finally, a third woman has stepped forward to accuse Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. Julie Swetnick, a client of Michael Avenatti, submitted a signed statement that, as a high school student, Judge Kavanaugh engaged in drunkeness and abusive behavior towards female classmates. Judge Kavanaugh and his principle accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, are scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee and answer questions from Arizona sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell. Committee chair Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) scheduled a vote on Friday.  Regardless, of what happens between now and Friday, the controversy surrounding the Kavanaugh nomination is already having an impact on the upcoming midterm elections.  Shall we have a look.

The headline in Tuesday's Business Insider (; Sept. 25, 2018; date accessed Sept. 26, 2018) said it best, "'You can kiss the midterms goodbye:' Republicans fear for their election fate if Democrats defeat Brett Kavanaugh."  House of Representatives and Senate Republicans, facing re-election, are quaking in their collective boots over the possibility that failure of Kavanaugh nomination could hurt their chances to retain their majority in Congress. 

Breaking news: the Los Angeles Times ( is report Mr. Trump has expressed his preference to retain DAG Rod Rosenstein and may delay their anticipated meeting until after the Kavanaugh hearing.

Reporter Joe Perticone writes, "The Republican Party base rallied around Trump in 2016 in part because of the nearly yearlong Supreme Court vacancy held open by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Now, the GOP must contend with the possibility of Kavanaugh's confirmation falling apart, a move that could be fatal for enthusiasm among the Republican base."  Or generate a backlash toward Democrats hoping to retake one or both houses of Congress.  Regardless, it is do-or-die time for Senate Republicans hoping to "plow through" and get an up-or-down vote on Judge Kavanaugh.

Conservative pundits are also sounding the alarm. No less than Rush Limbaugh told his loyal listeners on Monday,

If the Republicans do not get this vote taken and have Kavanaugh confirmed, you can kiss the midterms goodbye.... You can kiss goodbye the House, and you can kiss goodbye holding the Senate. Because whatever the Democrats think if their base,none thing I know,that if you guys fold on this and cave and keep bending overt backwards... you've done that enough.

Mr. Limbaugh's exhortations aside, the Republican Party was already teetering in the polls.  The Kavanaugh nomination was supposed to energize the Republicans.  After all, what is not love about a well qualified and respected jurist, right?  If that jurist has, how shall Blogger put it, a history, then the Republicans have a problem. The problem is with suburban women. Suburban women are the key to this campaign and many are already leaning Democratic because of their contempt for the President. Jonathan Martin of The New York Times writes, "If Republicans are too harsh in questioning of Dr. Blasey, they risk inviting an even greater backlash at the ballot box in an election where their House majority is in peril and their one-vote Senate majority is teetering" (; Sept. 23, 2018; date accessed Sept. 26, 2018). 

Factor in that a record number of women are standing for election, their voices and their female supporters could ring loudly in highly competitive races in Arizona, Missouri, Florida, and New Jersey in support of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford when she testifying tomorrow.  Her accusations make more hard for GOP candidates to use Judge Kavanaugh as a way to excoriate Democats who fail to support him.  Representive Jay Barnes (R-MS) told the Times, I think the assault allegations neutralize the Kavanaugh situation. This observation is shared by a wide range of GOP leaders.

What worries Rep. Barnes and others is unabashed support from Republican candidates: such as Josh  Hawley, the Missouri state attorney general who is locked in a tight Senate race with incumbent Claire McCaskill. What is keeping Republicans up at night is that his, and Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-S.D) who is challenging Senator Heidi Heitkamp, unflinching supports for Judge Kavanaugh would come back to haunt them.  Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) has already come under fire for dismissing the accusations as hiccup.

Senate Republicans and, by extension, House Republicans, are taking a huge electoral risk on Judge Brett Kavanaugh.  Chris Cillizza writes, "Amid the cultural upheaval of the #MeToo moment and with an election looming less than seven weeks' time, Republicans are daring a woman alleging sexual assault against a nominee for the country's highest court to either put up or shut up" (; Sept. 19, 2018; date accessed Sept. 26, 2018).  Driving all of this is the calendar: The new Supreme Court term begins on October 4 and midterms are November 6. From a political perspective, there is a very chance that the Republicans will lose control of the Senate.  If this possibility comes true, "Republicans would have to try to force Kavanaugh's confirmation through in the lame-duck session held between the election and the swearing in of the new Congress.  A Democratic-controlled Senate would almost certainly refuse to vote Kavanaugh through--particularly after the stalling tactics Republicans put in place when President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the court in 2016" (Ibid). 

Two more things complicating this calculus: the sinking polling numbers of Mr. Trump and Anita Hill.  During the 2016 campaign, then-candidate Trump openly bragged about committing sexual assault despite multiple allegations. The latest CNN-SSRS poll (Ibid; Sept. 10, 2018) "...just 29% of women approved of the job Trump was in office while 65% disapproved.  More tellingly, 57% strongly disapproved of how Trump was doing the job. That speaks to a level of vitriol (and passion) that traditionally, translates into major turnout in the coming election" (; Sept. 19, 2018)

Anita Hill.  The specter of her brutal interrogation continues, to haunt the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearing of Justice Clarence Thomas.  Ms. Hill, a law professor at Brandeis University, alleged that Justice Thomas behaves inappropriately during her employment at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  As an attempt to de-politicize the process, Committee Republicans hired Rachel Mitchell to interrogate Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. The Committee Democrats will ask their own.

Bottom line, there are no real satisfying electoral implications from this process.  If Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, then the consequences will be swift.  The energized female voters will look at it as "nothing's changed" since Anita Hill.  If the Kavanaugh nomination is rejected, the Republican base will also be angry--call it political correctness run amok--take it out on candidates that failed to support Judge Brett Kavanaugh. What is certain is that the upcoming elections will be a referendum on the President and, right now, things look bad, bigly. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: SCOTUS In The #MeToo Era

The Hello Everyone:

It is a lovely early autumn Monday afternoon and a fresh week on the blog.  The Candidate Forum had to shorten its week off because of two rapidly moving stories:  Sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and the controversy surrounding Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Where to begin?  Why not start with DAG Rosenstein.

What is going on at the Department of Justice?

On September 21st, The New York Times reported that DG Rosenstein offered to secretly record the president, in the White House, in order to expose the turmoil engulfing he administration and discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office (; Sept. 21, 2018; date accessed Sept. 24, 2018).  These suggestions were made in the spring of 2017, following the chaos in the wake of James Comey as F.B.I. director. In the days that followed, the president divulged classified information to the Russians, in the Oval Office, revelations came to light that the president demanded loyalty from Mr. Comey and end an investigation into a senior aide. Mr. Rosenstein was two weeks into his tenure and had just taken on the role of overseeing the Russia investigation and played a lead role in Mr. Comey's dismissal (Ibid).

Mr. Rosenstein has denied the story in The Times, issuing two statements, first,

The New York Times's story is inaccurate and factually incorrect. I will not further comment on on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the Department and are advancing their own personal agenda.... But let me be clear about this: based on my personal dealings with the President, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.... (; date accessed Sept. 24, 2018)


I never pursued or authorized recording the President and any suggestion I have ever advocated for the removal of the President is absolutely false.  (Ibid)

Regardless, DAG Rod Rosenstein's time in the Department of Justice may be short lived.  His boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is already on thin ice. However Mr. Trump needs to tread very carefully because the specter of the special counsel looms in the background. If the President uses this as a pretext to fire Mr. Rosenstein, in order to fire the special counsel, it still may not save him because Robert Mueller would be required to turn over his documents to the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, who could decide how to proceed. The President and Mr. Rosenstein are meeting Thursday to discuss the future.  Check out today's episode of the informative podcast The Daily (; Sept. 24, 2018) for a brilliant explanation.  The date coincides with the much anticipated testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. 

Just when you thought things were going smoothly...

...explosive allegations of sexual misconduct involving Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford splashed into the headlines.  

Dr. Ford, a research psychologist at Palo Alto University, told The Washington Post (; Sept. 16, 2018; date accessed Sept. 24, 2018) that during a high school party in the early eighties, a drunken Judge Kavanaugh allegedly pinned her to a bed and began to grope her (; Sept. 16, 2018).  Dr. Ford first disclosed this information to Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a letter sent to her in early July and requested confidentially.  Senator Feinstein iniatially showed the letter to a select group of aides.  However by late summer, the letter became an open secret.  Interestingly, Sen. Feinstein chose to make it a back pocket item, to be taken out if necessary. Eventually, Dr. Ford chose to come forward and speak for the record.  For an excellent explanation, check out last Tuesday's installment of The Daily (; Sept. 18, 2018).

This set off a media firestorm, with self-proclaimed pundits offering their opinions on the matter.  Friends, Yours Truly read some of the vitriol aimed at Dr. Ford and was not surprised about why sexual assault survivors do not come forward. No survivors comes forward simply for the attention. They come forward with the hope of receiving some measure of justice.  Rather than be revictimized by the justice system and society at-large, the survivors stay silent.  The trauma from that violent invasion so great that it obscures memories.  In the meantime, other women came forward.

Yesterday, Ronan Farrow and Janet Mayer of The New Yorker (; Sept. 23, 2018; date accessed Sept. 24, 2018), reported a second allegation of sexual misconduct against Judge Kavanaugh.  This incident is alleged to have taken place at a party at Yale University.  Deborah Ramirez told Mr. Farrow and Ms. Mayer that a drunken Mr. Kavanaugh exposed himself and thrust is bare genitals in her face during a drinking game.  For the record, Ms. Ramirez said that she was also drunk at the time.  Also, Judge Kavanaugh has denied both allegations.  Both Dr. Ford and Ms. Ramirez have requested an F.B.I. investigation but Dr. Ford has backed down from her request for an investigation in exchange for her testimony; the Senate has opened an investigation into the second allegation.  Finally never one to miss an opportunity, Michael Avenetti, the verbose attorney for Stormy Daniels, tweeted about a third woman. All of this brings to mind a similar situation from he not too distant past: Anita Hill. 

In 1991, then-President George H.W. Bush nominated then-Judge Clarence Thomas to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. In late summer 1991, Democratic committee staff members began hearing rumors that Judge Thomas sexually harassed one or more women who worked him. One of the women was Anita Hill, who worked with him at the Department of Education and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  In early September, Ms. Hill decided to speak to the committee and asked for anonymity. Judge Thomas' confirmation hearings began on September 10 and ended ten days later. By the end of September, the F.B.I. interviews both Ms. Hill and Judge Thomas. In early October, Ms. Hill announced she would testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The members of the Committee excoriated Ms. Hill, at one point accusing her of lifting her story from The Exorcist. Eventually Judge Clarence Thomas was confirmed by the full Senate (; Sept. 23, 2018; date accessed Sept. 24, 2018).  The question is has anyone learned anything from Anita Hill's truly terrible experience?  Ms. Hill provides us with the solution.

In a recent Op-Ed in The New York Times, Ms. Hill offers very clear guidelines on how the Senate Judiciary Committee can get it right this time.  The 2018 iteration of the Committee needs to demonstrate a clear understanding that sexual violence is a part of the social fabric that elected officials must respond to.  Anita Hill, a professor of social policy and women's, gender and sexuality at Brandeis University, offers a few ground rules:

Refrain from pitting the public interest in confronting sexual harassment against the need for a fair confirmation hearing.... Select a neutral investigative body with experience in sexual misconduct cases that will investigate the incident in question and present its findings to the committee.... Do not rush these hearing. Doing so would not only signal hat sexual assault accusations are not important--.... Finally, refer to Christine Blasey Ford by name....  (; Sept. 18, 2018; date accessed Sept. 24, 2018)

Experience makes a person wiser.  

The heightened awareness of sexual violence has made the public more sensitive to a survivors claims but in 1991, the situation was vastly different. No one believed Anita Hill. How was that possible?  Justice  Clarence Thomas' nomination was popular.  A Gallup poll released in July of that year, not long after his nomination, showed that "52 percent of Americans supported his confirmation" (; Sept. 17, 2018; date accessed Sept. 24, 2018). Second, when Ms. Hill came forward to testify, Judge Thomas' support six percent.  Although many Americans supported delaying the confirmation vote until Ms. Hill testified, her testimony did little to dissuade the public.."Forty-seven percent of Americans thought the accusations against Thomas were not true, while 21 percent thought they were..." (Ibid). Interestingly, perspectives began to shift a year after his confirmation, as more Americans began to believe Anita Hill. What changed?  Women. 

More to the point, how women perceived sexual harassment following Ms. Hill's testimony. Five years before Justice Thomas' confirmation, "...17 percent of Americans said sexual harassment was a 'big problem' for women in the workplace according to a Time/Yanklovich Clancy Shulman poll.  The majority--67 percent--said it was 'somewhat of a problem" (Ibid). Once Ms. Hill's allegations surfaced, the polls presented numbers that suggested an increased sensitivity to sexual harassment.  This increased months after the proceedings finished.  The next question is how is Judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings being filtered through the #MeToo prism?

In a recent poll conducted by ABC News and The Washington Post, "72 percent of Americans said sexual harassment was a serious problem for women in the workplace--.... (Ibid)". This is a big jump from a similar poll conducted in 2011 in which "47 percent of Americans said that sexual harassment was a serious problem (Ibid)."  Another difference, Judge Kavanaugh is not quite as popular as Justice Thomas.

Other difference include: Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation comes during a high,y polarized period in American politics.  Ms. Hill worked for Justice Thomas while Judge Kavanaugh, Dr. Ford, and Ms. Ramirez were in their teens and there was alcohol involved.  Finally, there is the issue of race.  Both Justice Thomas and Ms. Hill are African Americans.

Given all the factors, it is hard to figure what the final outcome will be, confirmation or rejection. There are options: Delay Thursday's sure to be blockbuster hearings until a full investigation is completed or continue as planned and bring it to a vote before the full Senate.  What if nomination is rejected?  The President can nominate someone else. Now that would be the ultimate case of Karma biting hard if Mr. Trump nominated and the Senate confirmed Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's choice to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia's seat. However, complicating all of this is the upcoming midterm elections, which we will talk about on Wednesday.  

Monday, September 17, 2018


Hello Everyone:

It is a lovely Monday and the start of a short week on the blog. Blogger has a family commitment and the Candidate Forum needed a week off. Breaking news: Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing him of sexual assault, will testify before the United States Senate next Monday. Blogger does not think that Judge Kavanaugh will withdraw his name from consideration nor will it prevent him from taking a seat on the high court. Yours Truly cannot wait to read Mr. Trump's tweet on the subject. Should be fun. You know what else is fun?  Talking about micromobility. 

Bird and Lime scooters, autonomous vehicles, dockekess and electric bicycles are everywhere.  For better or worse, they are not going anywhere and are gaining popularity as a form of environmentally conscious, alternative, compact form of transportation.  They are part of the "micromobility revolution" sweeping the United States, coast-to-coast, reshaping the urban environment.  Let us begin with what is a micromobility vehicle is.

Micromobility is a "...compact sized vehicle designed for personal mobility with one or two passengers. There are different types of micro-mobility vehicles such as standing, chair, cycle and car-type and most of gem run via electricity" (; Sept. 30, 2014; date accessed Sept. 17, 2018).  Micromobility is a part of the trend toward urban living over the past ten years.  As public transit improved, younger (i.e. Millennials) city dwellers began to move away from single occupancy cars as a primary means for getting around, seeking out mobility alternatives.  (; Mar. 27, 2018; date accessed Sept. 17, 2018)

In essence, micromobility "consists of the ways in which we get around in the 'first and last mile' of trips" (Ibid). The idea began began with public transportation agencies and cities, like Santa Monica, who took the intiative to provide bike share programs near transit stations.  Santa Moncia's Breeze system (; date accessed Sept. 17, 2018) and bus system combine to create an effective micromobility network; that has enjoyed popularity and significant growth from the start (Ibid).  Traditionally, urban mobility has been dominated by single occupancy vehicles (cars or taxis) and public transportation.  Over the past few years the largest American cities have witnessed an expansion of micromobility options and changing urban mobility. 

Accelerated urbanization has focused economic activity in localized centers. This has resulted in a denser urban population which has led to growing congestion and ground level pollution, increasing health costs, and gridlocked growth opportunities (; Oct. 6, 2017; date accessed Sept. 17, 2018). Further, urban populations are now comprised of digital natives and immigrants with different expectations on where they want to live and move.  Smart technologies has created new service models, causing "disruptive transformation of urban mobility" (Ibid). 

 Venkat Sumantran, Charles Finem and Gonsalvez, the authors of Faster, Smarter, Greener, argue that the "new world of urban mobility is moving toward...'CHIP' mobility environment--meaning connected, heterogeneous, intelligent, personalized. (Ibid). The authors told CityLab a year ago, that cities can do a lot to encourage CHIP by,

...encourage innovators and make space for a multitude of mobility solutions including pedestrians, bikes, and rise-sharing services.  They need to invest in better physical and digital connectivity and develop hubs that ease the transactions across heterogeneous modes.  Many cities are embarking on 'smart-city' investments which can help provide system and real-time data to support smartphone apps... (Ibid)

If you want to talk about micromobility in terms of who stands to benefit and who does not, the answer is simple. Cities and regions that embrace

...the idea of connected, heterogeneous, and intelligent mobility architectures, build coalitions of companies, citizens,band regional planners to work together,many align policies and investments accordingly.... (Ibid)

Others that stand to benefit are ecosystems that foster techonological innovation and business model experimentation. 

The transportation marketplace is blurring the line between private and public modes of transportation, thanks to Uber, Lyft, and newer services such as Chariot and Via. Considered regulation and policy is necessary to ensure a smooth between public and private modes. Mobility is the essence of human civilizations and ease of mobility is crucial as cities become more dense.  Some cities will move more quickly towards transportation innovation and those who follow. Other cities will place greater emphasis on individual preference, others on the collective good. Regardless, the hope is a move towards the collective greater good. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Judge Kavanaugh

Hello Everyone:

It is a very lovely Wednesday afternoon and time for Blogger Candidate Forum. Last week, the tech gremlins set in, Yours Truly was all set to chat about the contentious confirmation Supreme Court hearings, however, Anonymous had different ideas. Today, we are finally going to talk about appellate court Judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Contentious is one way to describe it. Another way to describe the hearings is evasive. As in, Judge Kavanaugh's answers or non-answers left more questions for the Senate and the public.  Even more puzzling was the lack of documentation available to the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee. Now that the main part of the hearings are completed, it is time to take a look at what happened and what comes next. 

Alright let us start at the beginning with the basic facts.  In July, Judge Kavanaugh was nominated by Mr. Donald Trump to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.  Justice Kennedy has been a frequent swing vote, often siding with his liberal colleagues on issues such as abortion, affirmative action, and LGBT rights (; July 9, 2018; date accessed Sept. 12, 2018). If confirmed, Judge Kavanaugh would tilt the court towards a more conservative direction.  Judge Kavanaugh previously worked for the George W. Bush administration and most important: Independent counsel Ken Starr's investigation of former-President Bill Clinton (Ibid). 

During the nineties, Judge Kavanaugh was part of the special prosecutor Ken Starr's investigation into Pres. Clinton.  Then-lawyer Brett Kavanaugh helped draft the questions that Pres. Clinton answered during his testimony before the Office of Independent Counsel, regarding his finances and relation with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Judge Kavanaugh sent a memo to Mr. Starr saying that Pres. Clinton had disgraced his office, the legal system and the American people. He then proposed a series of questions about the relationship, complete with graphic descriptions of their relationship (; Aug. 17, 2018; date accessed Sept. 12, 2018).  During his tenure with the Starr team, Judge Kavanaugh appeared to be quite eager to press for an indictment of Pres. Clinton however his time in the Bush White House that changed his opinion. 

As a member of the White House legal counsel and staff secretary, Judge Kavanaugh was privy to the important documents handled by the president.  Years later, he wrote in the Minnesota Law Review "that experience in the executive branch made him a better and more independent judge (Ibid; July 10, 2018). He proposed, Provide sitting presidents with a temporary deferral of civil suits and of criminal prosecutions, and investigations (Ibid).  He stressed that no one, including the president, is above the law and the Constitution provides a remedy--impeachment and removal from office. Here is the problem: What to do about a president who is facing a special counsel, multiple state and federal investigations?  As a Supreme Court justice, would Judge Kavanaugh continue to support executive, as his writings indict?  Understandably it has given his critics the impression that the president is picking his own judge

This has Democrats up in metaphoric arms. However, there is just one very big problem. The president wants Judge Kavanaugh confirmed before the November 6 midterm elections.

The irony of the rush job is Judge Merrick Garland.  Judge Garland was nominated by former President Barack Obama to fill the seat left open by the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to let the process go forward.  None of the Republican members of the Senate refused to meet with Judge Garland and the nomination expired.  However, Karma bites back: A coalition of Democrats, led by Jon Cooper and Scott Dworkin, filed a criminal complaint that Judge Kavanaugh "lied under oath before the Senate back in 2004 and 2006 when he said he was unaware he read and used stolen emails in 2002. He was undergoing confirmation hearings to become a district and appellate judge. The judge hearing the complaint--wait for it--Merrick Garland. (; Sept. 9, 2018; date accessed Sept. 12, 2018). 

Be that as it may, the problem with the president's demand is that Committee members have not had sufficient time to review Judge Kavanaugh's paper trail.  A month before hearings began, the National Archive general counsel Gary Stern in Judiciary Committer chair Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that in response to his request to begin 

...rolling production to the later than August 1, 2018, and "complete the  rolling production by Augst 15, 2018."... The National Archive is ...not able to complete our review of all the records that you have requested by August 15, 2018.... and currently expect to be able to complete the remaining 600,00 pages by the end of October 2018,... (; Aug. 2, 2018; date accessed. Sept. 12, 2018).

This meant Committee members, thanks to a last minute release of papers by Bush administration lawyers, were not quite as prepared as they wanted to be. This left Democrats fuming and Republicans indifferent.  This inspired Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) to release "committee confidential" emails from Judge Kavanaugh regarding hid views on racial diversity during a fraught moment during last Thursday's hearing (; Sept. 6, 2018; date accessed Sept. 12, 2018).  To fill-in the blanks, Senate Democrats submitted 1,278 written questions, the most of any SCOTUS nomineeto Judge Kavanaugh, something the Republicans say is a stall tactic (; Sept. 12, 2018). The questions are intended to serve as clarification and follow-ups to questions he answered in public. (Ibid)

Where do things stand?  The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on whether to forward his nomination to the full Senate for final confirmation tomorrow (no; Sept. 10, 2018; date accessed Sept. 12, 2018). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems confident that Judge Brett Kavanaugh will take his seat on the Supreme Court in October. The numbers favor--barely--Senate Republicans. In order to win confirmation, Judge Kavanaugh would need a yes vote from every Republican, including Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) neither of whom have publicly declared their intentions. Some red state Democrats may vote in favor of Judge Kavanaugh, though none have said anything. 

Stay tuned

Monday, September 10, 2018

"Shelter Crisis"

Hello Everyone: 

Welcome to a fresh week on the blog.  Speculation continues over the true identity of Anonymous. Vice President Mike Pence continues to deny that he wrote the essay but it is anyone's guess as to who is The Mole. Yours Truly was teasing the youngest nephew that he was The Mole. Blogger always wonders what he is doing on the computer.  According to his mum, he plays bloody games. Hmm, maybe time to curtail his computer time. Alright, on to something far more constructive.  

One of the many intractable problems facing Los Angeles is homelessness.  L.A. Is home to 31,516 transient men and women, 75 percent of whom are not currently housed (; May 31, 2018; date accessed Sept. 10, 2018). The big question facing Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council is where to house the men and women, who make the sidewalks their home, on a temporary and permanent basis.  One solution supported by City Council president and 10th council district representative Herb Wesson is a temporary shelter in the heart of Koreatown, the heart of Mr. Wesson's constituency.

Koreatown is located in the Mid-Wilshire area, half way between old money L.A. Hancock Park and Downtown L.A.  This vibrant community home to many small businesses, restaurants, and bars catering to the Korean community.  K-Town, as it is known to the locals, is also home to a transient population.  In April, Mayor Garcetti declared a "shelter crisis" (Ibid; Apr. 17, 2018) and since, civic officials have identified potential location for approximately 1,500 new temporary shelter beds (Ibid; June 29, 2018). Most of the sites are fairly innocuous except for one: The site located on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Vermont Avenue.  

The site was first proposed by the mayor and Mr. Wesson in May and located a block from the nearby subway station.  In recent years, the community has rapidly with 52 major projects in various stages of development (Ibid; Aug. 10, 2018). Concurrent with the development boom is a growing transient population (Ibid; May 31, 2017). Elijah Chilland reported in Curbed Los Angeles, "According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, Council District 10, which includes Koreatown, was home to more than 1,500 homeless residents in 2017--a 36 percent increase over a year earlier (Ibid; May 2, 2018)."  Mayor Garcetti has proposed $20 million for the 2018-19 city budget, shared equally by all 15 council districts, "ideally allowing each to establish a 1,000-bed shelter (Ibid)."

As the transient population continues to rise, civic officials have launched a number programs aimed at housing the majority of L.A. County's 43,000 homeless people (Ibid; Apr. 11, 2018).  However, do not expect overnight success.  Be that as it may, what is it about the proposed Koreatown site that has community members up in arms?

The proposed shelter, on city-owned property, would be designated a temporary shelter.  This means that no more than 100 people could live there for no more than three years at a time (; June 4, 2018; date accessed Sept. 10, 2018). Some of you may be thinking: A proposed temporary shelter on city property, what is the problem?  Amy Powell writes, "Many Koreatown residents and businesses owners oppose the location, saying they are concerned about problems including the attracting of more homeless to the area that won't be able to fit in the shelter."  Community members further contend that they were not consulted about the choice of locations. 

Others have argued that "other neighborhoods of Los Angeles have a higher concentration of homeless and would better serve as a location for more shelter."  Still others have argued that it would be too close to school and residential areas. Some have accused Herb Wesson, who is African American, of protecting his own neighborhood. In the face of all the protests, Mr. Wesson began to look for alternative sites and promised more community outreach.  

This is how the system is supposed to work, to a point.  A June 30 editorial in the Los Angeles Times states,

...Communities should have input on decisions that will affect them, they should have their questions answered, and they should be encouraged to provide advice and assistance on tough public policy dilemmas on challenging issues like homelessness.... (; June 30, 2018; date accessed Sept. 10, 2018)

The Times posits,

But it is absolutely essential that community opportunity not be allowed to derail the plan to house homeless people in Wesson's district--or any of the other council districts in the city.  This is part of the mayor's program to build bridge housing--shelters... Where armory-style cots are replaced with real beds... (Ibid)

One thing that the editorial and Curbed Los Angeles fail to mention is the number of homeless that require short- and long-term medical and mental health treatment, in some cases supervised care.  It is no secret that there a number of transients who suffer from physical disabilities, serious mental health problems, and addiction-alcoholism.  This often makes it difficult to find suitable housing and proper care.  The result is men and women who desperately need care, wind up remaining unhoused, endangering themselves and the population at large. Second, some of the homeless are living on the streets because circumstances in their lives.  Unable to afford to remain in their homes, individuals and sometimes whole families wind up on the streets.  There needs to be programs that address their concerns.

The point of building more temporary shelters, across Los Angeles is to get people off the streets and out of encampments while they wait for more permanent shelter the city is trying to build with funds from 2016's Propositin HHH. The point is to build shelter in areas with high concentrations of transient encampments (like Koreatown) and do more outreach to get people off the streets and into shelters.

A small number of council members have introduced intiatives to begin studies on building bridge housing in their districts. The Los Angeles City Council members also need to remember, going forward, that no site will be perfect.  Meaning, in densely populated areas, like Koreatown, it may impossible to build temporary or permanent housing that is not near a school, library, residential or business area. Opposition is a good thing but it should stop these projects from moving forward if Los Angeles is to control and improve its homeless crisis.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Who Is The Mole

Hello Everyone: 

Blogger Candidate Forum is back with you after a brief technical delay. Welcome to The Mole edition. The question driving Washington D.C. and the Internet completely insane is "Who is Anonymous?"  For those who have not read the explosive essay in the editorial section of the New York Times (; Sept. 5, 2018), it details a group of senior staffers trying to thwart parts of the president's agenda and his worst impulses. Today the Times's podcast "The Daily," ( took an in-depth look at how the Op-Ed came into fruition. Host Michael Barbaro interviewed editor Jim Dao, who described having to go through intermediaries to ascertain the true identity of Anonymous and why he granted him or her anonymity.  So who is Anonymous?  The answer is known only to a handful of Times editors.  The only we know about Anonymous is that it is a senior official in the Trump White House whose job would be jeopardized is his or her true identity was disclosed. Shall we have a look?

Anonymous writes,

The dilemma--which he does not fully grasp--is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. 

I would know. I am one of them. 

Anonymous make it perfectly clear that the mystery group of senior officials are not the popular "resistance" of the left. On the contrary, they are dedicated making the administration a success.  In fact, Anonymous points to effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military,... as examples of these successes.  Conveniently omitting the ill-conceived Travel Ban, the daily stripping away of basic civil liberties, the slashing of Obamacare benefits, the assault on women's reproductive rights, auctioning off public lands to oil and mining companies, and so on. This gives Blogger the impression that Anonymous is someone with higher aspirations whose hedging his or her bets.  Could it be Vice President Mike Pence?  Anonymous adds,

But thes successes have come despite--not because of--the president's leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty, and ineffective.

Very damning stuff.

What makes Blogger think it is VPOTUS? Simple, there are three people in Washington who have the most to gain if POTUS is forced out: VPOTUS, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and outgoing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WS).  Vice President assumes the office and it would fall to Congress to appoint a new Vice President. The last time that happened was after the late President Richard Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment for his role in the Watergate scandal.  Each of these men are more traditional Republicans--smaller government, less regulation, fiscal prudence.  Anonymous appears to share this political outlook:

Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people.  At best, he has invoked these ideals on scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright. 

More likely Anonymous is working off recordings and notes. In fact, the worst thing Anonymous accuses POTUS of is amorality.  Anonymous writes,

The root of the problem is the president's amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any first principles that guide his decision making process. 

Anonymous writes that colleagues were so deeply troubled by the petty, vindictive, mean spirited erratic behavior that they considered invoking Article 4 of the 25th Amendment (; date accessed Sept. 8, 2018) but opted not to do so because of the constitutional crisis that would follow.  Rather, the biggest concern is the direction the United States is headed in:

The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

Forget all this "lodestar" nonsense, Anonymous is all about values. Sounds familiar but VPOTUS is not the writer.  He is the possible inside contact, quietly gathering information and passing to an intermediary, who passed it to the actual writer.

The actual writer may not be someone in the West Wing.  Even it was a West Wing staffer, they would not be so foolish as to use their White House-issued devices because Secret Service monitors them. The writer used a device unknown to Secret Service. Another theory is the writer is in the East Wing.  The East Wing is where the Office of The First Lady is located. 

Melania Trump has emerged as one of chief suspects in the great Anonymous mystery.  One theory, put forth by Blogger ally Team Nutmeg, is FLOTUS charmed some young, good looking, eager male staffer into writing te essay.  Blogger's theory is that she has had enough of the daily public humiliation and decided to turn the tables. The East Wing is the perfect cover because no one would think to look there.  Blogger has another theory.  The writer is not in the White House at all.  The writer is a former staffer looking for payback.  Yours Truly has floated the idea that former senior adviser Steve Bannon is the writer.  His motive is revenge for being forced out.

Let us take a step back for a minute and look at the big picture. When you take this Op-Ed in context with Fire And Fury Inside The Trump White House by Michael Wolff; A Higher Loyalty by James Comey;  Unhinged: An Insider's Account of The Trump White House by Omarosa Manigault Newman; Fear Trump In The White House by Bob Woodward, Anonymous' essay fits into this greater narrative of an off the rails presidency.  In total they paint a picture of a president who is more concerned about marketing his brand than doing the work of the people.  Therefore, it is little wonder that that staffers are exasperated by the 

...repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back. 

Thus, it is little wonder that whoever or whoevers is looking for some outlet to vent all this frustration over an out of control White House.  Where does that leave the average American?  Take a break from playing Clue: The White Mole Edition and heed these sage words by Anonymous:

...But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.

Here, here


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Hollywood Singapore; August 24, 2018

Hello Everyone:

Blogger is back from a nice three-day weekend, ready to go.  Shall we start with a little news?  The Senate Judiciary Committee opened hearings on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in contentious fashion. There were protesters but most important thing to note was the midnight release by lawyers from George W. Bush White House of Judge Kavanaugh's legal papers after the Trump adminsitration, citing executive privilege, refused to release his papers. This infuriated Democratic senators on the committee who motioned for an adjournment until they could fully review them. A fair enough request that was denied by the majority Republican members.  What would be the harm in giving committee members some time to review and better prepare questions for Judge Kavanaugh?  Obviously it was a politically motivated decision to rush through his nomination in time for possible (big possibility) impeachment hearings, should trends hold and the Democrats become the majority in Congress. Day one is done and more tomorrow. In the meantime, Singapore is having a Hollywoord moment. 

Movies have a way of shaping cities in a very romantic way. For example, the movies of Woody Allen have ruined (in a good way) the cities of Manhattan, London, Paris, and Barcelona with gorgeous art direction and cinematography. However, when it comes to non-Western cities--such as Singapore and Tokyo--the picture gets blurred. Mimi Kirk writes in her CityLab article "The Selective Singapore of 'Crazy Rich Asians,', "... when Hollywood invoked non-Western metropolises for this purpose, the portrayal can be shallow--though this may not register with register with or feel significant to Western audiences."

Sofia Coppola's witty 2003 movie Lost in Translation is story of two lonely Americans who find each other in the neon-lit jungle of Tokyo. The movie was well loved in the United States (Blogger enjoyed it as well) but--winning an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and three Golden Globes--however Asian Americans (; date accessed Sept. 4, 2018) Japanese audiences and critics were less than enamored.  Robert Marquand wrote in The Christian Science Monitor,

... the film is under attack for cultural bias, and for maximizing its humor by depicting Japanese as robotic and cartoon-like. The question is: to what degree is the film insensitive-and to what extent is this kind of "poking fun" that some ethnic groups now ignore? (; Apr. 19, 2004; date accessed Sept. 4, 2018)

The critics cited the "depictions of Japanese people (short, eccentric, unable to pronounce English correctly) and urban life (alienating, hypersexualized, and either ultramodern or nostalgically traditional) discriminatory [filmquarterly; Sept. 1, 2005; date accessed Sept. 4, 2018] and insulting."

Flash forward to 2018 and the crazy successful romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians, based on the 2013 book by Singaporean-American writer Kevin Kwan. Ms. KIrk writes, "The Southeast Asian city-state's lush green spaces and modern architecture serve as an apt co-star to the equally beautiful and polished 1 percent at the center of the plot, which concerns a Chinese-American woman who travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend's insanely rich and snobbish family for the first time."

While the presentation of the city and its residents may not be as offensive as Lost in Translation, the question is this a Hollywood version of Singapore?

Ms. KIrk shares her experience of living in the city-state between 2011-13: "...I took great pleasure in recognizing beloved spaces I frequented: acacia tree-lined highways, inexpensive open-air food and drink complexes called hawker centers [; Dec. 6, 2011; date accessed Sept. 4, 2018], streets lined with shophouses.  But I was struck that I didn't see what I most associat with Singapore: public housing, public transportation, and a diverse ethnic and religious population."

American audiences and critics are crazy raving over Crazy Rich Asians.  What really makes it stand out from the giggly rom-com crowd is its "all-Asian cast who don't look or act like the usual Asian tropes of American cinema."  Washington Post reporter Allyson Chu, who is Chinese-American, wrote about her experience seeing the trailers,

It's an entire movie about Asians without martial arts or stereotypical nerd...a film with Asian character who are like me. (; date accessed Sept. 4, 2018)

Not all Singaporeans have enthusiastically embraced the movie, offering criticism that Ms. Kirk tends to agree with:  "Journalist Kirsten Han noted that the film's depiction of Singapore is as realistic as Gossip Girl is of America, and pointed to its lack of ethnic minorities..., 15 percent of the country's citizens are Malay and 6.6 percent are Indian.  Ms. Han wrote in Foreign Policy,

The film's producers are well-versed in American racial politics and white dominance but don't seem to have realized that, in the Singaporean context of power and privilege, Chinese Singaporean--especially the superrich ones--are the 'white people' here.  (; Aug, 17, 2018; date accessed Sept. 4, 2018)

CNN reported (; Aug. 22, 2018; date accessed Sept. 4, 2018) that Singaporean audiences seemed to enjoy the movie however viewer comments were mixed:

The movie did not depict our culture in all its depth,.... Not everyone is rich here, a lot of people live normal lives...

Admittedly, when it comes to all things Singaporean, Westerners are working from tabla rasa.  Mimi Kirk observes, "The city-state is sometimes confused with being part of China [; Sept. 15, 2017; date accessed Sept. 4, 2018]-a notion the film strengthens with an opening quote by Napoleon:
China is s sleeping giant.  Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move the world.  Pro tip: Singapore is NOT part of China.

Mimi Kirk noticed that Americans (including Yours Truly) know things about Singapore: "that it has immense wealth [; Oct. 26, 2017; date accessed Sept. 4, 2018] and it has strict laws, such as high fines [Ibid; Aug. 4, 2015] for selling gum or spitting [seriously]."  Crazy Rich Asians reinforces the wealth stereotype and he depiction of its urban spaces "affirms this one-dimensional view of the city and its people."

Although one of the early scenes takes place at Ms. Kirk's beloved hawker center, the majority of the film focuses on the pretty, shiny parts of the city-state, tailored to perfection for a movie about the extremely wealthy: "the luxury casino and hotel Marina Bay Sands [; date accessed; Sept. 4, 2018], the fantastical Gardens by the Bay [; date accessed Sept. 4, 2018], the Disney-like Sentosa Island [; date accessed Sept. 4, 2018], and the gleaming colonial Raffles Hotel [; date accessed Sept. 4, 2018]."

The majority of Singaporeans live in public housing blocks--HBDs--unseen in the movie.  Nor do we see thriving area like Little India, where foreign workers spend their day off. Also absent is the typical why Singapireans get around.  Only about 15 percent of the population (; date accessed Sept. 4, 2018) can afford  a car (; June 18, 2013; date accessed Sept 4, 2018) therefore, buses and subways are the usual way to go.

You could argue that since the film is about the Singaporean 1 percent, it makes sense to only show the elite spaces.  However, "the result is a sense of place so wealthy and ethnically Chinese it feels hermetically sealed from anything--or anyone--else."

This image matters because Asia has been "othered" by the West for centuries (; date accessed Sept. 4, 2018), filtered through a Western sense of authority and supremacy.  Nowhere is this more acutely true than the Hollywood version of Asia (; Sept. 5, 2017; date accessed Sept. 4, 2018).

What excited and pleased Asian-Americans was how Crazy Rich Asians put Asians front and center of a story of success and romance, a place usually reserved for Caucasian actors. However, Mark Tseng-Putterman write in the Atlantic, "the story is one of white norms, when representation means literally swapping Asians faces onto white bodies (; Aug. 23, 2018; date accessed Sept. 4, 2018)."  The Asian faces are a specific type: "ethnic Chinese, Christian, and educated in the West."  What is missing is more full picture of Singapore, "one with brown South and Southeast Asians as well as city soac d that aren't quite so deluxe and perfect."  Once again, the West reaffirms its supremacy, through this story, by speaking for the East.

Crazy Rich Asians' director John Chu responded to criticisms (; Aug. 21, 2018; date accessed Sept. 4, 2018) in press conference by flatly stating that no movie can be all things to all people. He said,

We decided very early on that this is not the movie to solve all representation issues,... This is a very specific movie, we have a specific world, very specific characters.

Singaporean writer Pooja Nansi perfectly responded on the Chinese-centric website Inkstone: 

You can't have your dim sum and eat it too,.... You can't position yourself as a vehicle for representation and then wash your hands of that role when questioned about those you are eclipsing.