Midterm Elections

Most of yesterday’s elections failed to surprise me, as the “blue wave” did well everywhere except the senate, as it was simply bad math for anything serious to happen. One thing that was fascinating was that in terms of percentage, the youth only made up 13% of the electorate, which is around the same for the last midterm elections. However, it would not surprise me if more people voted overall, due to all of the political discourse over the past few years. Nevertheless, the sun still shines and the world still spins.

One thing I was surprised about was how many people were encouraging others to vote, so long as they did not disagree with them. I received a Voter Guide from NextGen America, which advertised itself as “non-partisan” despite clear partisan appeals to the democrats. It claimed that certain candidates were “against Devos’ plan” and would “stand up to trump” while others would not. “Voter guides” are supposed to educate the population on who is running, not on who they want you to vote for.Voting is a good thing, and getting others’ registered to vote is a great thing that I encourage people to do. However, make sure you respect people’s decisions to vote their conscience, rather than downgrading them for disagreeing. It is antithetical to what the right to vote is about, and I hope that behavior ends.

This was my third time voting and only my second voting in Michigan, and I was nevertheless impressed with the motivation of many to vote. I was throughly impressed with how many busy college students made the effort to vote. It shows that for many voting is important, which is a good sign for our future.

Hopefully, we can combine this enthusiasm for voting with an ability to respect individual’s and their reasons for voting a specific way. We have a long way to go, but I still have hope.

Private Life & Voter Registration

Private Life (Netflix) – I have been slow about watching Netflix movies, but this came as a recommendation from my favorite Movie podcast, Grierson & Leitch. They both gave this movie a very high score, and so I felt obligated to give it a shot. Directed and written by Tamara Jenkins, this movie finds incredible pacing and heart in what could have very easily fallen into a clichéd, sappy love story. Staring Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn, a couple struggles to conceive a child in their late 40s, and goes through numerous trials and tribulations in their quest to have a kid. The pain that this couple feels is not so much in what is said but what is unsaid, how they grimace, look, and sigh. This movie has something important to say about relationships, and is much better than I could have anticipated. If you have a Netflix account, do yourself a favor and watch this film. 9/10

Registering to vote is one of the most important things you can do. Voting is the one of the few times in our democracy where you get to have your voice heard. So I encourage all of you to register to vote, wherever you happen to be. It is easy to look at National Politics and be discouraged, but locally you can have a major impact. I will be writing a Michigan Voting Guide soon enough but until then please make sure to register. When I say I do not care about your affiliation I mean it, what matters is that your voice is heard not if your voice conforms to my own. Please, take the time to register.

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.

 

The Kavanaugh Hearing Was a Mess

For me, I originally felt he had been treated unfairly, as any other Republican President would have nominated him. However, after watching the hearing today, I have become convinced that at the very least the vote needs to be delayed. It was incredibly troubling watching the demeanor of Kavanaugh who was incredibly defensive throughout was horrific to watch from someone looking for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court. Watching Blasey-Ford berated with questions and struggling to recount her own have caused me to believe her. I can understand the need for more evidence, but when someone decides to yell about how his character being assassinated while one recounts the events with poise it tends to lend itself one way.

I hope that senators take the time to delay the vote and really think about who should represent us on our nation’s highest court. To me, Kavanaugh sounds like a frat boy who got his way and was able to get away with more than most. I will not deny his legal mind and talent, however his background certainly made his path to Yale and the District Court easier.

Today was a sad day for everyone involved. I hope that we can move past this. I said in a previous post that this was the moment that our country had been building towards for the past few years. Hyper-partisanship, the #MeToo Movement, and President Trump’s nominee all coming together to in an ugly collision. This was far worse than I could have imagined, and I can only reiterate that we need to delay the hearing and do our best to come together.

 

Tottenham and Caitlin Flanagan

My beloved Spurs seem to be in some weird holding pattern, as they fell short to Inter Milan who came roaring back in the last ten minutes. Suddenly, the momentum we had earlier in the season has diminished, and Mauricio Pochettino losing his cool certainly does not help things. This could be a challenge, as the criticism will begin to come if the losing continues. With the new stadium still on hold, and now the winning spell drying up, the criticism will come. How Spurs will respond remains a question, and my hope is the ship can be righted. It is a long season, but this does not look good.

She’s telling the truth, I said to myself, in a way that was neither outraged nor political, just matter-of-fact. The event she described is completely believable, but the psychologists’ notes sealed the deal. Maybe some new piece of evidence will come to light to change my mind, but with the facts on the ground as we now have them, I believe her.

This is from a wonderful article by Atlantic staff writer Caitlin Flanagan, who has written beautifully on the #MeToo as well as numerous other pieces of political commentary. This one is particularly striking, detailing the change in how sexual encounters was thought of and her conclusion that this could have happened. I have been ambiguous about my feelings toward the confirmation, as Kavanaugh is and still seems like the Conservative Justice other presidents would have appointed. However, that will all come into question if this is true, and now the nomination has the potential to become the supernova everything in our political sphere has been building towards. Folks, this is going to be a bumpy ride.

Brett Kavanaugh

The Kavanaugh hearing began and with it, utter chaos. While much of it dealt with delays Kavanaugh delivered a very good performance albeit with one exception. He did not shake the hand of a Fred Guttenberg, a father who lost his child at Parkland. It is a sad moment, and so I find it hard to discuss the loss of a child, however I do not believe Brett Kavanaugh to be in the wrong. Multiple angles show security beginning to approach him and frankly he did approach the table when he was supposed to be on break. He was tired from a hearing that many people would not have lasted five minutes in (including myself), and I think many people just want to destroy his character.

While many will disagree with his jurisprudence, including myself, that does not take away from the fact that Brett is a man of character and we should treat him as such. Would Republicans do the same thing if the situation were reversed? Potentially, but that does not make it any better. I think Brett will be confirmed, and while for many it will be a sad day, I think it is good to have a man of high honor and integrity on the court. There is no question in my mind that Merrick Garland should at least have gotten a vote, but this is the hand that has been dealt. Instead of lashing out and complaining that the other side has done worse, maybe we can compromise and learn from each other. Perhaps that is naive, but it is still my hope nevertheless.

Minding the Gap, Boogie Nights, and Donald Trump

Yesterday was a movie day, as I sat in my new apartment taking in Ann Arbor. I watched two both of which were phenomenal.

  1. Minding The Gap (Hulu) – Bing Liu’s debut feature is one of beauty and heartbreak in the American heartland, a story about himself and his two best friends. Skateboarding brings them together, but it is domestic violence that makes their connection all the more stronger and horrifying. Zach and Kiere, the two other subjects in this film along with Bing share a certain amount of anger, and often do not know how to express it. Skateboarding was their sweet escape, but as they grow up, they must realize who they need to become. It is beautifully filmed and told, with old skateboard footage and candid interviews that are honest and true to their subjects. This is the movie that Liu was born to make, and it comes out as moving as any film I have seen this year. 9.7/10
  2. Boogie Nights – Paul Thomas Anderson has made some of the most fascinating epic films, with There Will Be Blood being one of my favorites. His 1997 film Boogie Nights, covers the porn industry from 1977 to 1983 through the eyes of Dirk Diggler. While the movie covers the adult film industry, it focuses on the business side of pornography and brings out the characters of the people in it. Anderson always leaves a sense of dread, that behind these seemingly perfect lives is something more sinister waiting to come out. Burt Reynolds (Burt Reynolds!) is a standout as Jack Horner, the film maker determined to make adult films that mean something. 8.8/10

While I would like to just talk about movies today it seems the world has forced me into at least an article recommendation for the Cohen-Manafort fiasco. Frankly, I do not know how much of it I find interesting anymore, but my hope is that at the very least justice will be served. This more clearly puts Trump in the line of fire, and it will become significantly harder to keep calling this investigation a “witch-hunt” so long as two people in his closest circle are convicted. Conservative columnist Bret Stephens tweeted out the following, “I’ve been skeptical about the wisdom and merit of impeachment. Cohen’s guilty plea changes that. The president is clearly guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. He should resign his office or be impeached and removed from office.” I could not agree more. If you are looking for a great explainer article, look no further than this one from Lawfare.

Also I will be away from tomorrow until Sunday and will not have my computer with me. I will not be writing anything during that time and will write as soon as I get back on Sunday evening. Have a great rest of your week everyone and happy El Tráfico week!

The Departed & Brett Kavanaugh

The Departed was added to my Netflix queue recently, and after finishing it for the first time I cannot say enough about it. Fast paced, smartly written, and hilarious one liners throughout. A story about two imposters or “rats”, one who is pretending to be a cop whilst spying for a criminal, and the other who is pretending to be a criminal spying for the cops. Their lives seem to circle but never quite touch, until they are met in an explosive finale. Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Wahlberg are absolute standouts, as well as Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson. This is a movie full of complicated shades, so all I can say is go see it before I spoil something or say more. Scorsese is brilliant. 9.3/10

Our debate about judges takes place in the language of principle. We pretend to debate judicial philosophies, when we all know there was no philosophical objection to confirming Merrick Garland. We pretend to debate whether a given dilatory tactic is legitimate or not, when everyone on both sides of the argument knows they will adopt the other’s arguments the moment power changes hands. We strike principled poses about what the Constitution requires of the Senate or what the Senate’s precedents allow, because we don’t like acknowledging that the only real principle at issue in the Senate’s treatment of judicial confirmations boils down to power—who has it and who doesn’t at any given moment in time.

This quote is from a wonderful piece by Benjamin Wittes, regarding increasing partisanship and how that affects Brett Kavanaugh. I have tried to sound the alarm on extreme partisanship in the past, but this is simply much better than anything I could have written. I encourage you to read this and some of his other work, as he does a great job of breaking down numerous legal issues and gives terrific commentary on many of our legal issues of the day.

How should we follow the news and live today?

Our news and our opinions seem to drive our everyday lives more and more, and it by no means has to be this way. Here are some suggestions on how we should try to follow the news and live as we head into an increasingly hostile world.

  1. Get a digital subscription to a respectable print newspaper (preferably the New York Times), and read articles there to get a sense of the day and some of the editorials to see where current opinion is.
  2. Avoid Cable news. It is designed to keep you worried, upset, and frightened and uses that fear to gain customers and keep people watching. It is a dishonest representation of our news cycle and will cause you more stress than its worth
  3. If you cannot follow the news without TV, watch PBS Newshour or BBC.
  4. Find podcasts that can give you a wide variety of news and opinion. Some of my favorites are the New York Times’ The Daily and The Economist’s The Week Ahead. 
  5. Listen to as many sides of the conversation as you can (if you only watch MSNBC and listen to Pod Save America, listen to Ben Shapiro once or twice). The more you understand the other side the harder it will be to view people as others.
  6. If you absolutely must, take Arthur Brook’s advice and take some time off from news and politics. Political news coverage should not define your life, and if its beginning too it may be time to make a change.
  7. If you are using social media to get your news coverage, it may be time to either delete social media or take a break from it. It distorts much of what happens and tends to be extremely confrontational.
  8. “Learn how to learn from those who offend you.”
  9. Be strong in you convictions, but also be open to discussion and change.
  10. Treat everyone you talk to as human and someone who is smart enough to come to their own conclusions, even if they are heinous. If we act like people are lost causes or act as those they cannot be talked to, we lose them permanently.

I am sure there is plenty I missed so please chime in with any of your thoughts and ideas as well.

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.