My Thoughts on Brett Kavanaugh

I am sure you have heard enough of the Brett Kavanaugh coverage, and frankly if you do not want to continue I do not blame you. We live in a moment where everyone agrees something went wrong but not on what. We live in a hyper-partisan moment, in which at any point, not conforming is disagreeing or endorsing. I have always been a bit of a renegade, conformity never suited me. At a very early age when kids were declaring markers as there coloring weapon of choice I said crayons. When everyone read Harry Potter I scorned while reading Alex Rider. All of that goes to say, that my opinion will almost assuredly please no one. I enjoy not fitting a mold, as being uncomfortable is all I know. So, if you do not mind, bare with me and maybe you will find something useful.

At the start of this process, I defended Kavanaugh. Republican presidents nominate conservative justices, and while we can be mad at his policy ideas we could not blindly accuse him of being a bad person. It felt that many were out to tarnish his reputation and I found myself agreeing with most conservatives. However, as the allegations came out my opinion changed but I will try to keep it as clean as possible and hopefully some may agree.

There were generally two sides, one saying that there was no evidence corroborating the attack, whilst others automatically believed Dr. Ford in spite of any evidence. To me, I would be shocked if something did not happen, and based on his drinking habits as described by his friends and others, it would not surprise me if he did not remember the event. Regardless, without evidence it is important to assume innocence and therefore while we can believe that Dr. Ford is credible, we can also take the time to investigate and make sure she is telling the truth.

That being said, the main reason I would not have given him my vote is due to his partisanship, as he established very clearly in his hearing that he felt victimized by Democrats and empowered by Republicans. He mentioned the Clintons, and Democrats as attempting to smear him and destroy his life. While I can never imagine having to be placed under that microscope, his performance showed me that he was lacking candor and too partisan to be on the nation’s highest court.

I am surprised that at the very least the nomination was not delayed further, as the senators who delayed it a week must have known that nothing would come out of it. If the FBI had time to investigate they could have credibly proven, disproven, or simply confirmed that there was no corroborating evidence. All of those conclusions help, and can make a better picture for the American people to understand whether or not Judge Kavanaugh is deserving of the position.

There is no doubt that getting rid of or destroying the confirmation on allegations alone would have set a bad precedent, which is why it makes no sense why the FBI was not allowed to fully confirm, deny, or not be able to know the answer. Everyone seemed to be playing politics rather than doing what was best for the country. He is innocent until proven guilty, and why we did not give the qualified members of our government the chance to do that despite his multiple story changes, whining under oath, and potential perjury, makes no sense.

Maybe Dianne Feinstein wanted to calculate the biggest possible political hit. I seriously doubt it, and while it is hard to understand why exactly she did not hand the information over to the FBI as soon as possible, I do feel she genuinely wanted to protect the confidentiality of Dr. Ford. Dr. Ford was, as any of us would be, terrified to be in front of senators answering questions on an assault that happened in high school. I can hardly blame her, and while Senator Feinstein could have acted in better faith, it comes from an understandable place.

My biggest worry coming out of this is that our courts are no longer institutions separate from partisanship. I feel that votes for Justices should be carried out by qualifications only, and that while we can agree or disagree on political stances, that the court is about ruling regardless of personal belief and defending the constitution. Many nominees, including Kavanaugh, echoed this very sentiment as they should, and yet the second nominee to be voted completely along party lines shows that we have come to a point where that is no longer the case.

I expect many to continue to point fingers and use their ultimate fears to justify why the other side of the aisle is despicable. Watching Lindsey Graham grandstand and attack was horrifying, watching Cory Booker attempt to vilify everyone who supports Kavanaugh was also cringe-worthy. This is the beginning of our end, when we cannot even look each other in the face and assume the best intentions. All everyone does, from those in power to those involved in politics, is assume the worst intentions in the other side, and continues to treat each other like villains. Try to assume humanity, even if you cannot understand it. I have been humbled throughout my time here at Michigan by how much I thought I knew and how much I still do not know.

For the record I think America is great, and will continue to remain that way. However, the coming apart is beginning, and if we want it to stop, we must assume the best in each other. Love thy neighbor, and if you really cannot, try to come to some understanding. I am a hypocrite as I am not even the best at it, but try. I promise you will not regret it.

I said awhile ago that this hearing was the political supernova that everything had been building towards. I had hoped as a country we were doing better, but I guess we are not. I hope we can do better.

 

Does Louis CK deserve our attention?

Recently, Louis CK did his first stand up routine since the allegations of him masturbating in front of women were revealed last year. I loved Louis CK, and as a result it is hard for me to know how he should be treated and what we should do as a result of his comeback attempt.

He apologized in a letter and admitted his mistake, which is honorable in comparison to how others acted in the face of allegations. Regardless, what he did is creepy beyond belief, and would at the very least make someone feel incredibly insecure. His actions were also not one of a monster like Harvey Weinstein, they were rather actions of weird, creepy, isolated older man. The difference here is that he is a hero to many of comedy, and that gives him more exposure to a downfall.

I think we must rely on the power of free speech, as Louis has a right to continue to be a comic after his downfall. Personally, I think it is up to the fans to decide how he gets treated. It is up to those who do not want him back to not listen, and those who want him back to go and watch. This should be something free of judgment and rather focused on each individual’s judgment of the situation. This is one of the more convoluted cases to come out of the #MeToo movement, and it should be treated with nuance and care.

If you are looking for a good discussion of this issue click here.

The nuclear option

In my latest column for the Michigan Review, I discuss the nuclear option and its impact on the future of American politics:

Regardless of which party you may more closely identify with, our judiciary is meant to interpret the law and how it relates to the U.S. Constitution. This should not be a partisan matter, and the nuclear option will make sure it gets treated as one.

 

Facebook needs to change

A few weeks ago, Silicon Valley reporter Kara Swisher held a podcast interview with Mark Zuckerberg, in which they dissected the controversies surrounding Facebook and social media. Zuckerberg, brought an unprompted example about Holocaust deniers to support his reasoning for keeping shows like Infowars on Facebook. That swallowed much of the headlines, and stirred controversy online.

Kara Swisher wrote a column in the New York Times breaking down the interview, and while I do not agree with her every word, there is one thing we cannot avoid. Facebook still sees itself as a startup, whilst the rest of the world sees it as a behemoth. Facebook acts as though if they act as though they are still just some small service that wants to connect people, rather than the News feed, entertainment outlet, and ultimately critical component of everyday life for so many. The fact that they still manage to act as though they can just ignore fake news outlets and others is ridiculous, and borderline absurd. Many will argue that they have taken steps to mitigate fake news. At this point, it almost feels out of spite, in response to the backlash the company has received.

What is the solution? I have no idea, because I understand why you would not want to discriminate between different types of speech. It creates arbitrary standards, and makes it hard to draw clear lines between what is dangerous speech and what is not. However, if Facebook wants to be the news source it wants and claims to be, than it has some responsibility to inform others of which sites are “fake news” and which are not.

To what extent any of this will help is hard to guess. As long as the internet exists, there will be forums to amplify speech that we disagree with. Regardless, Facebook needs to stop with the naivety and really think long and hard about what Facebook is and what it will become.

“Ghost Guns”

When I was just a freshman in high school, the current President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate Kevin de León gave us a speech about “Ghost Guns.” They have recently been interjected into our political debate, thanks to Cody Wilson, whose 3-D printed guns were almost allowed for sale. That was until it was blocked by the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington, after a lawsuit was filed by eight states attorneys generals and the attorney general for Washington D.C. Citing, “a likelihood of irreparable harm,” the sale of undetectable firearms was blocked.

It is frankly hard to think of one good usage that could come out of the use of an undetectable firearm. Firearms that are designed not to be noticed, only seem to be a means to hurt someone, or get a gun on a plane if someone is exceptionally worried about their self-defense during their layover. However, I wonder if there is an actual solution to this issue besides an outright ban. As long as the internet exists, people will be able to get their hands on dangerous weapons, and rather than outright ban I wonder if regulation would simply be a better solution.

I also worry about the coverage of this issue and how that may magnify the need and want to purchase these guns. In Malcolm Gladwell’s 2015 article “Thresholds of Violence,” he discussed the increase of school shootings:

The problem is not that there is an endless supply of deeply disturbed young men who are willing to contemplate horrific acts. It’s worse. It’s that young men no longer need to be deeply disturbed to contemplate horrific acts.

Kids who feel isolated and alone, who are odd or just in a need of attention, may be more susceptible to committing a school shooting. That is a horrifying sentence, especially for someone who felt isolated as a child like myself. The more we freakout rather than legislate and regulate, will this cause the group of kids willing to commit dangerous acts to expand further.

While I am not advocating for any gun usage let alone this one, if there is a will there is a way. I hope we can be careful and nuanced in discussing this rather than shoving the issue aside. I still believe gun control is important, and in a perfect world, this gun would not only be illegal but impossible to obtain. I understand the fear and the danger, and if someone has a gun I would recommend running rather than “standing your own ground.” However, we have certain rights, and the irreparable harm caused by this gun will be available to someone in a short period of time. Rather than run the other way, I think we should consider how we can regulate and prevent it from being extremely dangerous, or invest in ways to detect its presence.

Regardless, do not expect this to be the last thing you will hear on “ghost guns,” as they will certainly be available whether the government likes it or not. I hope we invest time in a solution rather than hope it will not be an issue if it is outlawed. Whether we like it or not, these guns will be readily available and it is best that we be ready tackle them head on.

This American Life Does it Again

In This American Life’s latest episode “ICE Capades,” reporters Naida Reiman, Jeremy Raff, and Miki Meek break down the U.S. Immigrations and Custom Enforcement Agency and some of its most fascinating tales and stories. Act two of the episode, titled “The Iceman,” is particularly striking as it describes an investigation in which ICE and undocumented immigrants united in an investigation to stop Patria Zuniga, who posed as an immigration attorney in order to extort money from undocumented immigrants.

This story helps bring to light the agency that has been a subject of political ire as of late. It also helps show its importance as an investigative agency, which is often overlooked in favor of the separation of families. I am by no means condoning the separation of families, however this is not the necessarily the agency’s most important function. Eliminating the agency could hurt serious investigation’s all across the country, and should be thought about seriously before just supporting its elimination.

Often in political discourse today, there is no thought of having a nuanced discussion. Instead many prefer to just force their own opinion on others and condemn those who do not subscribe to their beliefs. I hope that before more pieces of legislation are introduced about this topic, people have a serious discussion about whether or not eliminating the agency will actually have positive benefits in the long run.