Living Large In Carson City: The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Just Went Out Edition


The past two weeks have been a strain on all of our collective brains. The Kavanaugh debacle has taken its psychic toll on everyone who still believes our democracy is worth saving. The Chuck (Mob Rule) Grassley (R-IA) orchestrated a “ram him” through campaign that ultimately blew up in his face when Christine Blasey Ford came forward with an accusation of sexual assault against “I like beer” Kavanaugh that caught the Republicans flat footed. The subsequent sham of a FBI “investigation” did little but waste tax payer time and money with the outcome preordained by the White House and the Republicans of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

When Susan Collins (R-ME) stumbled onto the Senate floor last Friday to reveal to the world whether or not she would support Kavanaugh’s confirmation, the excruciating 45-minute long speech was a combination of lies, twists, back flips and denial of Blasey Ford’s claims. It was simply a coward’s way out of a messy situation. Or possibly, Collins had meant to vote for Kavanaugh all along and held off committing to lessen the blow back from Maine voters that was inevitable. It didn’t work. Expect her to face an especially grueling campaign in 2020 which she will have a hard time winning.

Kavanaugh was sworn in shortly after the confirmation vote, but Trump (R-Hell) staged a “victory lap” of sorts by having Kavanaugh and his family assemble in the East Room of the White House for a “staged” swearing in ceremony. Trump’s introduction was part red baiting rhetoric, part kissing ass, and part political rallying cry over the golden boy’s wretched time before those damnable demonic Democrats who only joy is eating babies, destroying a “good” man’s name, and thwarting Trump’s every move.

While speaking with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House during the day on Monday, Trump said that accusations against Kavanaugh were a Democratic “hoax.”

He discussed buzz among some Democrats about potentially trying to impeach Kavanaugh if they take back power in Congress and characterized a just as “a man that did nothing wrong, a man that was caught up in a hoax that was set up by the Democrats, using the Democrats’ lawyers.” . . .

“The American public has seen this charade, has seen this dishonesty by the Democrats,” Trump said, pointing out that a week-long FBI investigation, which Democrats have decried as a mediocre effort by the bureau, found “nothing wrong” about Kavanaugh. Vox

Trump’s rhetoric is disturbing on many levels. First, claiming the accusations against Kavanaugh were a hoax is an outright lie meant to disparage the women who came forward to point guilty fingers at the nominee. Second, calling the Democrats dishonest is  not the way of a healthy political system, which ours is not currently. The Republicans have lost their moral center (if they ever had one), and possibly, their good senses. People are not going to take these accusations lightly.

By this time in the press conference that followed the ceremonial swearing in, I had thrown everything within reach at the television and was spouting evil sounding gobbledygook like Linda Blair’s character, Regan, in The Exorcist. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any crazier, Trump ups the ante,

“On behalf of our nation, I want to apologize to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure,” Trump said, adding that the confirmation process was based on “lies and deception.”

“You, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent,” said Trump . . . NBC

Innocent? As in proven innocent? Put aside the fact that he said “the confirmation process was based on “‘lies and deception”‘, telling Kavanaugh he was “proven innocent” is the height of hypocrisy and may be further proof that the Orange One is not playing with a full deck of mental or moral cards. The FBI investigation was tainted and controlled from the beginning. Credible witnesses came forward but were not given the benefit of the doubt and shelved into silence. The agents didn’t even interview Kavanaugh or Blasey Ford. Color me done with Kavanaugh.

The issue that really has my attention currently is the new Republican talking point championed by just about every Republican from Trump to Grassley to Lindsay Graham (R-SC) is the term “mob rule” as applied to women, protesters, resisters, and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary committee. This is a dangerous ploy for the Republicans and all the rest of America. The term mob rule is meant only for one purpose which is to create an “Us versus Them” reality that demonizes the opposition and fires up the Republican base.

The characterization evokes fear of an unknown and out-of-control mass of people, and it taps into grievances about the nation’s fast-moving cultural and demographic shifts that Republicans say are working against them. With its emphasis on the impact on traditional values and white voters, particularly men, it strikes the same notes as earlier Trump-fanned attention to immigrants, MS-13 gang members and African American football players protesting police treatment of young black men. WAPO

The adoption of this term by mainstream Republicans is telling in that it reveals a deep-seated fear that runs through the minds of the deplorables, and supposedly, all Republicans at this point. It is problematic because it ultimately throws the ball into Trump’s court and leaves the mob for him to deal with going forward. The possibilities are endless and none have a happy ending. Suppose the mid-terms tilt toward the Democrats winning big, really big, as in gaining control of both the House and the Senate. Trump and the Republicans could easily declare the outcome invalid due to outside interference by a foreign power or some other equally damaging claim. This would result in a massive outcry by Democrats. Don’t put it past Trump to declare martial law until the election results could be altered more favorably for the Republicans.

In the future legal protests by law-abiding American citizens could be curtailed or stopped all together simply by citing the dangerous mob rule equation, effectively silencing free speech on topics not to the Republican’s liking. The mob rule gambit is a rabbit hole of unknown dimensions that sane people would avoid at all costs. Yet, there in lies the rub with Trump. There are few people of either party that think Trump is not capable of such a move. Indeed, it seems like something he would relish.

Mob rule is not a product of women protesting and demanding that victims of sexual assault be heard and believed. It is not a result of protests by women who want control of their bodies and the right to choose to have an abortion or not. It is not a group of Senators who want a fair and balanced hearing on a candidate for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land. It is not people standing up and calling out racially based oppression by police forces across the land.

Mob rule is a Trump rally where his supporters chant “lock her up” or “CNN sucks”. It is a mob of alt right racists and bigots marching the streets of  Charlottesville, VA. Mob rule is a cabal of old white men who are afraid of losing their white privilege to people of color. Most of all, unfortunately, mob rule is whatever Trump and his minions say it is.




Living Large In Carson City: Candy Is Dandy But Liquor Is Quicker Edition

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Another week, another turn of events that no one expected or  could have foreseen. Thursday saw Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh telling their sides of the brouhaha that came about when allegations arose pointing to Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge having sexually assaulted Blasey Ford back when the three were in high school. Predictably, other women came forward with increasingly disturbing accusations about Kavanaugh’s less than honorable actions toward women that occurred throughout his high school and college careers.

Then there is the drinking thing. In his fiery rebuttal to Blasey Ford’s accusations, Kavanaugh went full metal jacket attacking, denying and sanctimoniously portraying himself as nothing less than a saint among sinners during his high school and college days. It worked for the optics, but reality has different parameters.  Old friends stepped up countering Kavanaugh’s claims that he never drank to excess during those formative years. One comment from his freshman roommate, James Roche, sums up the gist of what most thought of Kavanaugh’s denials,

“Although Brett was normally reserved,” Roche explained, “he was a notably heavy drinker” and was “frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk,” and that Kavanaugh “became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk.”

Thursday was an amazing day for a look at how our government, the Senate specifically, has gone off the rails. Partisan bickering is the law of the land these days, and no one seemed to know how to get the engine back on the rails. At the end of the marathon Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, most people who endured the spectacle were drained emotionally and mentally. I know I was. Yet, nothing seemed to have been decided on any front. The tone deaf Republicans on the committee maintained their insistence on plowing ahead with a vote for confirmation despite the allegations and the veracity of Blasey Ford excruciating account of what transpired all those years ago. It felt as if the Republicans had unceremoniously punked us all.

Then, lo and behold, Jeff Flake (R-AZ) grew a pair. Disturbed by Kavanaugh’s wildly partisan and often disrespectful engagement with the Judiciary committee’s Democrats, and an encounter with two sexual assault victims in an elevator, Flake had his come to Jesus moment. Partnering with Chris Coons (D-DE), Flake decided to vote for passing Kavanaugh out of committee with the caveat that the FBI reopen the Kavanaugh investigation for no longer than one week to investigate the accusations that surfaced against nominee.

The FBI at this moment is two days into an investigation of sexual misconduct by  Kavanaugh dating back to his high school and college days. Trump stated early on that the FBI will conduct the investigation however they deem necessary. In and article on NBC’s website, the authors, Ken Dilanian, Geoff Bennett and Kristen Welker, quote Trump as saying,

Trump said the FBI had “free rein” in the investigation.

“They’re going to do whatever they have to do,” he said. “Whatever it is they do, they’ll be doing—things that we never even thought of. And hopefully at the conclusion everything will be fine.” NBC News

This is where I get off the bus. The accusations of sexual assault are serious, but the investigation seems doomed by partisan chicanery on the Republican’s part. Don McGahn, White House Counsel and Assistant to the President, is orchestrating the investigation and, at this point, seems hell bent on not allowing the FBI to do a thorough inquiry into what happened or to look at all accusations beyond Blasey Ford and one other woman’s claims of misconduct. Few people would be surprised by this fact having witnessed the Republican duplicity that has surrounded the confirmation hearings to date.

The point that most people are beginning to see as central to the confirmation proceedings is that Kavanaugh is a liar, pure and simple. People for the American Way published a blistering summation of how Kavanaugh has dissembled and mislead both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the American people. What is disturbing is how callous the Republicans and their supporters have been throughout the process. Facts are superfluous. The pain and suffering of the alleged victims means nothing to these people. They disguise their partisanship by openly and falsely accusing the Democrats of exactly what they are guilty of doing and by painting them as unpatriotic and driven to ruin Kavanaugh’s good name and future as a Supreme Court justice.

In the end the extension of the FBI investigation is more of the same in what goes on in Trump’s universe. It’s a distraction. Trump and his minions, including Mitch McConnell (R-KY), honestly believe that the sexual accusations are superfluous to whether or not Kavanaugh is confirmed. Regardless of the FBI conclusions, they believe that they have the votes to push him through.

Flake is an outlier, but does he have the backbone to stand up to his Republican counterparts? Sure, he’s on his way out of the Senate next January, but how deep does his allegiance to the party run? Can he live up to his claim that if Kavanaugh lied to the committee about sexual allegations it would be a deal breaker? What about Kavanaugh’s lies about drinking, misrepresenting his judicial accomplishments, and other lies that he told as a matter of course?

There is also this to consider. In an article for Quartz by Heather Timmons titled, Inexperienced and “sanctimonious:” Trump’s top Supreme Court pick was downgraded by peers, makes this point,

In 2003, “it was noted that he had never tried a case to verdict or judgment; that his litigation experience over the years was always in the company of senior counsel; and that he had very little experience with criminal cases,” the ABA’s 2006 report says. The additional interviews in 2006 “expanded upon those earlier concerns”:

One judge who witnessed the nominee’s oral presentation in court commented that the nominee was “less than adequate” before the court, had been “sanctimonious,” and demonstrated “experience on the level of an associate.” A lawyer who had observed him during a different court proceeding stated: “Mr. Kavanaugh did not handle the case well as an advocate and dissembled.” Other lawyers expressed similar concerns, repeating in substance that the nominee was young and inexperienced in the practice of law.

Yet, the Republicans have circled the wagons and intend to go through with a vote for confirmation as early as Friday of this week. On one hand, the Republicans see Kavanaugh as a win/win candidate. If he is confirmed, viola, they have an ideologue on the bench for possibly the next 20 or 30 years who they can depend on to deliver the deciding vote on wide range of topics that could remake the American experience as we know it. If he is voted down, they have an instant rallying cry that could spur their base next month to get out the vote and jeopardize the expected Blue Wave putting taking back the House by Democrats in peril. You can forget about the Senate entirely.

There is only one thing to take away from the Kavanaugh debacle. Just when you think our elected officials have mucked things up past repair, their capacity for self-destruction makes them want for more. How our Republic has lasted this long is a true mystery to me.

Living Large In Carson City: The Bread And Circus Show Comes To Washington Edition

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Image: The Morning Call

Yesterday was one of those days that will remain in our memories forever. Where were you when Nixon resigned? Where were you when the first man walked on the moon? Where were you when you heard that John Kennedy was dead? In the future we will add, where were you when the Senate Judiciary Committee chose to ignore a sexually assaulted woman in favor of her alleged assailant. A man who is a part of the “good ole’ boy” network that grooms the elite of Washington society for positions like the one Brett Kavanaugh is hoping to fill on the Supreme Court. It was that kind of day.

I confess to watching the entire circus from gavel to gavel. The first part, Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, was a study in integrity and an important civics lesson. Integrity in that she had a narrative to tell, and she told it with humility and emotion, but not in a way that elicited undue sympathy (although I can’t believe anyone could watch her speaking without feeling sympathy). A study in civics because she knew what had been done to her and chose to tell the story, not for personal gain, but simply because it was the right thing to do. A sexual predator was on the shortlist for a seat on the Supreme Court, and she felt it was her civic duty to speak out, although reluctantly, to ensure that the Senate Judiciary Committee and the president had all the information pertinent to choosing a qualified subject.

Later in the day, things came apart when Kavanaugh took his seat at the witness table. His anger and incredulity of being put through such a rancorous and contentious grilling was evident in his 40-minute long opening remarks. Alternately, while bellowing out his objections to crying then back to bellowing then starting all over again, several points became very clear.

First, his belief in his accomplishments was huge. Granted, he has had a charmed life up until now attending a private high school, admission to Yale and then acceptance into Yale Law School, all of which he proudly chronicled over and over again. From there his grooming cycle took him to Ken Starr’s investigation of the Clintons, legal counsel in Bush’s White House then a federal circuit judgeship. And naturally, in his eyes, the Supreme Court was supposed to be his next stop. It’s the way the grooming process works.

His disdain for the process that would subject an anointed one such as himself to public scrutiny was palpable. When questioned, he fairly mocked the Democratic senators by throwing their questions back at them. This tactic didn’t work all that well on Senator Whitehouse (D-RI), and especially not on Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who Kavanaugh had to apologize to after making insensitive remarks about her drinking habits. As the daughter of a recovering alcoholic, Kavanaugh’s flippant hectoring of Klobuchar came off as brutish and bullying, which it was.

In the end, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) brought the session to a halt when he asked Kavanaugh to turn around and ask White House Counsel, Don McGahn, seated behind Kavanaugh, if he would ask the president to reopen the FBI file on Kavanaugh so the allegations brought against him by Blasey Ford could be investigated. Kavanaugh refused to commit to making the request.

The rest of the day was a mishmash of crazy on an epic scale. Having asked for an outside counsel to grill Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh, the senators abandoned that tactic to ask their own questions after Durbin put the nominee on the ropes. The questioning devolved almost immediately to a partisan, unhinged tirade by Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to a weird come to Jesus moment instigated by John Kennedy (R-LA) that looked like a cross between The Waltons and the horror movie Halloween with Kennedy starring in the role of Michael Meyers. 

The one truth that came from these exchanges is that, truly, the Senate Judiciary Committee has become a partisan political body beholding to the White House and Donald Trump over the objections of the 10 politically neutered Democrats who sit on their hands and dream of better days. Kavanaugh in his opening remarks and subsequent testimony emerged as a hardcore ideologue who, in his mind, has paid his dues and deserves the right to sit on the highest court in the land for the rest of his life. The fact that he would steer the court hard to the right and rule through his ideological mindset was evident in his words and the support he expected from the Republicans who sit on the committee. The problem for Kavanaugh was that he thought the fix was in. It wasn’t. Not yet.

Last night the Republicans decided to push forward and vote on the Kavanaugh nomination Friday, which they did on a party line vote a few hours ago. The one outlier was Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Flake has been on the fence concerning the Kavanaugh nomination but agreed to vote to pass Kavanaugh on to a vote on the Senate floor if the committee agreed to postpone the final vote for one week so the FBI can look into the allegations against Kavanaugh by Blasey Ford. An hour ago, the Republican led committee agreed to the one week hiatus for the final vote.

So, what does this mean for Kavanaugh? On one hand, the investigation could exonerate him. While the FBI is one of the premiere law enforcement agencies in the world, the attack Blasey Ford claims took place occurred 30 plus years ago. It might be difficult to nail down any definitive conclusion on Kavanaugh’s guilt or innocence. Conversely, considering the secretive manner in which this nomination has been conducted, Kavanaugh might find himself in deep trouble if the FBI gets lucky and taps into a group of his old friends who are willing to talk about those days openly. If they find a collaborating witness who was at the party that night or if Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s high school friend, talks candidly (he has already agreed to being questioned by the FBI) Kavanaugh may find himself in even more trouble.

Best case scenario, the FBI gets lucky and backs Blasey Ford’s accusations. Or Kavanaugh gets off the hook. It isn’t beyond reason to think that Americans may wake up next week and find that Kavanaguh has withdrawn his name for consideration. Why would he do this? If he knows that his past will come to light, he can gracefully back out citing the pressure on his wife and family and claim it just isn’t worth it. Or he may play it out and see what happens. Regardless, with what America knows now about Brett Kavanaugh, he has proven himself to be a respected jurist, but also a secretive, dissembler of the truth who should not be seated on the highest court in the land. Let the FBI find what they will.

Living Large In Carson City: The Best Government Money Can Buy . . . Or Not Edition


The United States Senate has always been considered the prestigious body of the United States Congress. Serving seven year terms, only one-third of Senators are up for reelection in given voting cycle. The Founding Fathers wanted to to give Senators a bit of stability that didn’t change as often as other members of Congress. Member of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms making their tenure in office a little less certain from election to election. Consequently, the Senate is seen as more of a cornerstone of the government, unlike the House members who face an uncertain fate every two years at the ballot box. In the House’s favor, however, it’s members can be seen as having a more direct relationship with voters since they seek their vote more frequently to remain in office. While Senators enjoy a bit of elitism , House members, by necessity, are scrappers who potentially have to take on new rivals three times as often.  For a couple of centuries, this formula has worked fairly well. Not so today.

The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process to the Supreme Court demonstrates just how partisan the body has become and how dysfunctional  it is on every level. While Democrats have their share of blame, the Republican Senators in charge of the Judiciary Committee have proven their lack of integrity is equaled only by their ideological propensity to do everything they can to change the makeup of the court to serve the will of their base. Granted, the Democrats would do the same if given the opportunity, but Americans can only hope they would do it with less of a Machiavellian approach than the rapacious Republican majority.

The situation with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford since her story came out last week has devolved from one of a witness caught by her own sense of right and wrong and the Republican hate machine that is willing to destroy her completely. It is shameful to see respected members of the Senate acting like third grade bullies stomping their feet like children who haven’t gotten their way. Chairman Chuck Grassley is a man on a mission who is willing to overlook any transgression Kavanaugh may have committed in regard to Ford’s allegations. It’s shameful. It’s not right, but so goes the political minefield that is the American political scene today.

This past weekend another woman stepped forward with an even more egregious story (although Ford’s history is no less so) of the alleged antics of the embattled Kavanaugh.  Deborah Ramirez, a former classmate of his, recounted an incident at a drunken fraternity party where she alleges Kavanaugh exposed himself and thrust his penis in her face which she inadvertently touched without her consent. You can’t make this shit up.

She, like Ford, has memory issues that are the basis of the Republicans’ attacks on the two women. They are quick to point out that their are no corroborating witnesses and the amount of time that has passed will make it difficult to prove one way or the other that the alleged offenses took place. This on a day when Bill Cosby goes before a judge to face possibly 30 years behind bars for sexual indiscretions he committed decades in the past. The Republican’s support of Kavanaugh is gut wrenching to watch and harder still to justify, regardless of the fact that their whole approach is politically motivated and ideologically driven. If he is innocent, the FBI would substantiate his claims with a thorough investigation. Yet, the Republicans are dead set against any new information that may come to light.

Now, Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniel’s attorney, claims he there is a third woman who has credible information that will implicate both Kavanaugh and his longtime friend, Mark Judge, in taking part in “train” raping drunken women.

Avenatti later tweeted that he had been in contact with Mike Davis, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s chief counsel for nominations. In an email, Avenatti told Davis that his team was aware of “significant evidence” that Brett Kavanaugh, his former classmate Mark Judge and others targeted women with alcohol and drugs at parties in the 1980s in order to allow “a train” of men to take advantage of them sexually.

One has to ask how many allegations have to surface before a. the Republicans decide enough is enough and unhook their anchor line to the hapless Kavanaugh or b. Kavanaugh throws up his hands and says he is out of the running. Something tells me that the Republicans either cannot or will not cash in their investment in Kavanaugh. This is partly due to unmitigated gall over having a sure thing blow up in their faces and partly due to the optics of the situation as seen by their base if they cut bait and run. It is hard not to feel a little delighted by their predicament.

Surrounding all of this is the unsenatorial manner in which all facets of the debacle are playing out. Many of the Senators simply do not care about the allegations and claim they will vote for Kavanaugh regardless of the evidence that may come to light. Mitch McConnell is the man who controls more of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing than anyone else in America. He stated,

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed that lawmakers will vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in the “near future,” during a speech on the Senate floor in which he strongly criticized Democrats for what he continually called a “smear campaign” against the judge.

“The Democrats have already made up their minds and chosen their tactics,” McConnell said. “Delay. Obstruct. Resist.”

The Kentucky lawmaker added: “This shameful smear campaign has hit a new low… Senate Democrats are trying to destroy a man’s personal and professional life.” Fox News

Besides the hypocrisy that surrounds McConnell on a daily basis, he seems to forget his orchestrating the hold up of Garland Merrick confirmation to the Supreme Court for over a year at the end of the Obama’s second term. If anyone is responsible for the “Delay. Obstruct. Resist” mindset of the Democrats, it is his unprofessional attitude about how the balance of power should or could be maintained if the Republicans were less ideologically driven and more . . . well Senatorial.

Ultimately, Trump’s shadow falls over the confirmation hearings like a diseased blanket meant to pass on small pox to the American voter. He was uncharacteristically quite through the weekend, striking a moderate tone of “let’s wait and see”. Monday, the gloves came off,

President Donald Trump on Wednesday cast doubt on the allegation of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and said that the judge “has been treated very, very tough.”

“I can only say this, he is such an outstanding man, very hard for me to imagine that anything happened,” Trump said.  CNBC

What happens this Thursday when Ford and Kavanaugh have their chance to air their accusations and defenses is anyone’s guess. Kavanaugh and his wife appeared on Fox News Monday where he had his talking points down. He reiterated two things: he wanted fairness and a chance to be heard and tell his side of the story. Here is a breakdown of the interview dissecting his performance CNN.

The question is will Kavanaugh conduct himself in the Judiciary Committee like he has all through the confirmation process which comes down to avoiding answering the hard questions on grounds that they are speculative or claiming judicial ignorance. He has claimed he never had sex until much later after high school, and that he was basically a model student who should be praised rather than being held responsible for his past indiscretions. Abused or abuser? The truth is out there.