What Next?

Dear Group,

As I write this on Thursday morning many Americans are poised to tune in to the re-started Kavanaugh hearings. Brett Kavanaugh, a nearly sainted figure in the eyes of both the corporate and the religious right, appears to have a sodden, hormone-fueled prep school and college past, a story a growing line of women are anxious to tell. Saint Kavanaugh, for his part, categorically denies that he ever once had an impure thought, modeling his denial on those of his apparent mentor, Donald Trump.

The Donald, proclaiming the wondrous success of his presidency to the General Assembly of the United Nations on Wednesday, was greeted with laughter. He followed up by thumbing his nose at our allies, praising dictators, and setting “patriotism” and nationalism as the primary ideals of the new Amerika, all this from a president who dodged military service himself. 

More on the home front in eastern Washington, Sue Lani Madsen, in a widely unread opinion piece in the Spokesman entitled “Longtime local accountant finds tax cuts will benefit middle class,” tries to convince us the middle class really is better off thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Neither she nor the accountant whose convoluted calculations she quotes seem to understand the concept of inflation, nor do they wonder why it takes a tax accountant to convince us the 99% really are better off. 

Meanwhile, those benefiting from the other eighty percent of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are doing very well. Becky Kramer in Thursday’s Spokesman writes, “Thirteen of Avista’s top executives will receive a combined $18 million in immediate payouts if the Spokane-based utility is sold to Hydro One Ltd., of Toronto.” No need for convoluted calculations there…

McMorris Rodgers, having already brought Devin Nunes and Kellyanne Conway to Spokane to rile up her base and raise funds, is apparently doubling down and planning to host none other than Vice President Pence next week at a private fundraiser. The location and time of day, and even the day of the week, seem to be a moving target. The September 21 Spokesman and many other media outlets reported Pence would appear in Spokane Tuesday, October 2. On September 26th another outlet, the “Spokane Patch” reported Pence’s appearance instead might be Wednesday, October 3. I wonder if Pence is delayed in Washington D.C. so he can add a deciding vote to the Kavanaugh confirmation. Clearly, most Republican Senators have cast off any pretense of an open mind regarding Kavanaugh’s accusers. After stiff arming Merrick Garland and changing the rules to confirm Neil Grouch, they’re certainly not going to let a little thing like some whiney women keep them from establishing corporate dominance on the Supreme Court.

On Wednesday this week at breakfast a friend, a Republican of the thoughtful sort, said, “It feels like the country is unraveling.” 

In the midst of all this news, all this swirl, all this angst, I knocked on doors this week and conversed with a number of registered voters and a few unregistered young people in the precincts around Shadle Library. When I asked the question, “Do you plan to vote in the November election?” I was a little stunned to hear from many, “No, I don’t think so.” Asked why, and listened to, the common thread was “Why bother, it won’t change anything…” I talked health care with twenty year old and helped him register to vote. I talked health care and income inequality and insecurity with a sixty something woman who was essentially in despair, saying she could no longer bear to watch the television. I told them of the desperation I feel that lead me to their door to plead with them to vote. In the end they assured me they would vote…and likely for Lisa Brown. 

Get out this weekend for your favorite candidate and knock on doors. I keep meeting volunteer like myself who have never before in their wildest moments imagined they would be doing this, but we need more people out there. You don’t need to know a bunch of policy positions. You come pre-armed with your sincerity and your personal endorsement. The people we need to convince to cast a ballot are often most impressed just by the fact that someone is at their doorstep, listening, and offering some hope.

Sign up to canvass with Lisa Brown and her campaign this afternoon, Saturday or Sunday at https://secure.ngpvan.com/p/oWPMsHe9j0-qY8t2EeeJnQ2 or call the DCCC office at (509) 954-9132 or stop by at 1507 E. Sprague if you’re in Spokane. If not, there are field offices scattered throughout eastern Washington. 

Go to MyVote.wa.gov check out your ballot for your local area, familiarize yourself with a local candidate and join their campaign. It is all good. Voting is essential, but just waiting until November 5th to figure out for whom you might vote (this year especially) is an abdication of civic responsibility.

Keep to the high ground,


How Old is the Earth and Why is the Answer Important?

Dear Group,

Only the first hour of the debate at the Bing in Spokane on Wednesday, September 19th, was televised. That hour is available to watch here. Another half hour of audience questions followed, questions and answers KHQ did not post. Parts of that half hour I’ve transcribed from recordings made by members of the audience.

Thanks to Bob Gilles for the following question, which he posed in a very jolly, upbeat fashion I cannot express in print.

Bob Gilles: “What is your take on evolution and science? Do you believe the earth is more like 6000 years old or four and a half billion years old?”

CMR: “I get to go first, huh? [laughter] Well. OK. Ummm. The account that I believe is the one in the Bible that God created the world in seven days. [clapping] …made by His creation… [noise] I’m not here…I can’t say how old the earth is. I believe this is an exciting time for us to be living. I’m proud of the innovation and ingenuity of the American people. I’m proud to be an American. It’s the greatest country [loud clapping]…liberty and human rights and religious tolerance and self-determination. So this is a [murmuring] …and science. And I do believe that we need to…ah…know what the science is, respect the science…I’m battling right now to make sure we use science when it comes to making decisions around the Lower Snake River dams and the Snake River system…[trails off]”

It is a free country. Everyone is entitled to their point of view. The point of view McMorris Rodgers publicly endorsed in her answer (a little reluctantly) is consistent with her education. She has never been exposed to the foundations of geology and biology, except, perhaps, to discount the evidence. Her undergraduate degree was taken at the Pensacola Christian College where, among the Articles of Faith, one finds:

We believe that God created the heavens and the earth in six literal days, and that God created all life (Gen. 1). We reject the man-made theory of evolution occurring over millions of years and believe that the earth is approximately 6,000 years old.

No instructor at such an institution would dare offer an unbiased presentation of the physical evidence for a planet that is three and a half billion years old. (The evidence is not only fossils in layers of rock but also the physics of the decay of radioactive isotopes, the stuff of basic science.) 

If everything one is taught begins with the unshakable belief the earth is around 6000 years old (a number calculated based on the “begats” in the Book of Genesis) one must intentionally disregard the bases of nearly all modern science, especially modern geology, continental drift, and, importantly, the geological understanding of the history of climate. (If all ice ages and past documented changes in climate all occurred over 6000 years then everything has to have happened fast. In that mindset modern day concerns over the speed at which climate is changing can be glossed over as unremarkable. McMorris Rodgers analysis, “We’ve been through times when the earth warmed and then also we’ve been through times when the Earth…there’s been more ice on…in the world” is a case in point.)

It is important to recognize adherence to the idea of a 6000 year old earth is not a majority view in America, probably not even among self-described Christians. Much of Christianity, including United Methodism, the tradition in which I was brought up, considers the biblical creation story to be allegorical: “We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology.”  It is worth noting there have been recent (and un-successful) efforts to change Methodist doctrine to an anti-science view. Christianity is not monolithic, and McMorris Rodgers’ views represent only some of those who call themselves Christian. That realization is at the core of her hesitation to directly answer the question Mr. Gilles posed. 

Look at McMorris Rodgers’ answer again. She performed all almost immediate hard pivot to the only “scientific” refuge she knows, her claim of a scientific basis for preserving the Snake River dams, the same pivot she employs every time climate change comes up as a question.

In contrast, Lisa Brown used her time to address the broader issue of climate change:

Dr. Brown: I believe in science [applause] I believe there’s a scientific consensus that human activity and carbon being released into the atmosphere is contributing to climate change and that it is a major, major challenge facing our planet and that instead of withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords like the Trump administration we should progressively work with other countries to come up with an agreement that will help us transition to a clean energy economy. And I also agree with the Congresswoman that we need to not put our head in the sand about science, but utilize science and our best technological practices as we address the issues related to declining fish populations and other important uses of the Columbia and Snake River system and get stake holders together looking at that science and coming up with solutions in a collaborative process.

McMorris Rodgers is entitled to her belief system, but at least in her case that belief system prevents her from comprehending scientific issues of the utmost importance. Lisa Brown was brought up in Roman Catholicism, a faith tradition that, like United Methodism, does not reject scientific consensus. Lisa has the intellectual tools to grapple with scientific issues.

Keep to the high ground,


Lisa Brown on Democracy

Dear Group,

No doubt many of my subscribers read Lisa Brown’s column in the Sunday, September 2, Spokesman opinion page. Below, I present it again for two reasons:

1) For all that I try very hard to keep up with eastern Washington news I missed reading this column when it first appeared. After talking with dozens of voters at the doorsteps it is clear to me no piece of news, no one writing, no TV ad, no speech reaches everyone who should hear or see it. Young registered voters in particular likely do NOT read the paper. I reproduce Lisa’s writing here in the hope of increasing awareness.

2) Lisa’s topic, protecting democratic institutions, seems frighteningly more pertinent today, just three weeks later, than it did on September 2. Trump seems poised to stomp on Rod Rosenstein, bringing him one step closer to a direct assault on the Mueller investigation. In McMorris Rodgers we have an enthusiastic supporter of Trump’s policies, a supporter so excited to ram through the Republican/Libertarian agenda she is perfectly willing serve as an apologist for whatever Trump does.

Finally, I know Lisa well enough, I have conversed with her enough times, that I am confident these are Lisa’s actual words. (Having listened to, conversed with, and read much material attributed to her opponent, I greatly doubt McMorris Rodgers writes any original material at all.)

Here is Lisa’s column:

I’ll Protect Our Democratic Institutions

Sunday, September 2

My values and views on politics were influenced by growing up the oldest of five siblings in a small town in Illinois where the South meets the Midwest. I was raised Roman Catholic, which was a minority religion in our region.

There were no Catholic schools in Robinson, but nuns came in on Saturdays to teach catechism classes. When told I had to choose a saint’s name for confirmation, I read as many biographies of saints as I could before choosing Rose for “Santa Rosa,” who ministered to the poor in Peru. My Catholic upbringing remains a strong influence on my personal and political outlook to this day.

Like many families, mine had diverse political views. My father is a conservative Republican. My maternal grandfather was a labor union Democrat. Fortunately, they were both Navy veterans and their mutual interests in fishing, baseball, and making a better life for me and my brothers and sisters transcended their political differences.

My mother was a populist. I inherited from her and from my Catholic upbringing a focus on those left out and a skepticism regarding claims made by the powerful.

I experienced the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war in a white working-class small town surrounded by corn and soybean fields, and dominated by the two largest employers in town: an oil refinery and a candy bar factory.

A high school history teacher had a major influence on me. I wanted to understand why there were no black people in my hometown and why there were monuments to battles with Indians, but no indigenous people there anymore. He gave me books to read that put the civil rights movement in context and I came to be inspired by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and by Bobby Kennedy. Their deaths had a tremendous impact on me.

During high school, I watched the congressional Watergate hearings leading up to the resignation of President Richard Nixon on television, throughout the summer of 1974. I watched them with fascination whenever I wasn’t serving fried chicken, burgers, and milkshakes at “Mr. Drumstick.”

I couldn’t vote yet, but it impressed me that Congress had the power to hold the president accountable and that there were members of Nixon’s own political party who put the Constitution and laws of our country above their personal career interests and party loyalty. Others were quiet and complicit. Yet, the system worked because our leaders stood up for our values and principles, and chose our country over their party.

I believe we face a situation today that could be even more serious than Watergate. But are there enough members of the majority party who will stand up to the president, as many of Nixon’s party did then?

As a member of Congress, my commitment would be to the Constitution and laws of the United States over either political party. At times, that means demanding accountability from our leaders when they violate or undermine our country’s laws. I believe the Trump administration’s separation of families at the southern border was a travesty of justice for some families seeking asylum here and likely involved serious violations of our laws. I fault Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Republican leaders for not allowing congressional hearings to get to the bottom of what occurred and for not taking decisive action to secure justice for families still suffering.

Congress’ constitutional power and duty to check the administration’s actions cannot be undertaken lightly, which is why I cannot yet answer the often-asked question of whether I would vote to impeach the president. We have all seen plenty of smoke, but we won’t know if there’s fire until we evaluate carefully and fully the evidence from the conclusion of the Mueller investigation.

The investigation should be allowed to proceed without interference. I strongly disagree with Rep. McMorris Rodgers, who refuses to rule out impeaching Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and who says her confidence needs to be restored in our country’s Department of Justice and FBI.

She also declines to offer an opinion on the possible pardon of Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign manager, convicted of various crimes and soon to stand trial on yet more. I do not believe he should be pardoned.

Regardless of who knew what and when, or what its ultimate effects, we know that Russia interfered significantly in our 2016 national elections. Given this consensus, congressional inaction to prevent future interference in our elections is simply unconscionable.

As a member of Congress, among my highest priorities would be reforms that strengthen the transparency of our campaign finance system and secure the integrity of our elections and democratic institutions. Our democratic system transcends partisanship and demands nothing less than our best efforts to protect and sustain it.

I dread to consider what the rest of this week will bring, between the Kavanaugh hearings and Trump’s threat to fire Rosenstein. McMorris Rodgers will not speak out. She will adopt Trump’s excuse for firing the Deputy Attorney General: the allegation Rosenstein once uttered words to suggest disloyalty to Der Fuhrer. Never mind the New York Times article cites anonymous sources from within the administration, Rosenstein has denied the allegations, and, considering the context of the time (Comey’s firing and Trump’s using Rosenstein as an excuse), any reasonable person should have considered the 25th Amendment. 

If Rosenstein is fired all of McMorris Rodgers’ lip service about “letting Mueller do his job” and “due process” will sound very hollow. Will she have the spine to defend democratic checks and balances by engaging in Congressional action or will she continue as a loyal lieutenant of the Republican/Libertarian revolution? We have a hint from her private Spokane Club fundraiser with Devin Nunes on July 30, where Nunes argues that impeaching Rosenstein has to wait until after Kavanaugh is seated. (Read my analysis of that meeting here.)

Keep to the high ground,


Was He Punished for Drug Pricing? Look again.

Dear Group,

Remember Martin Shrkeli, the nasty, un-repentent founder and chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals? He was briefly infamous for jacking up the price of a tablet of Daraprim (an old antibiotic) from $13.50 to $750.00 overnight in 2015. Do you remember a sense of satisfaction when he was sentenced to prison for seven years? Did you think, well, he got what was coming to him for such a heinous act? Think again. He may have gotten what was coming to him, but he wasn’t sent to prison for an immoral price hike that put people’s lives at risk. He was put in prison for defrauding the investor class.

Think about that. In 2015 Daraprim (pyrimethamine) had been around for sixty-two years. As an ophthalmologist, I used Daraprim to treat a vision-threatening infection by a parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. Later, its main use was for treatment of AIDS patients with a life-threatening systemic infection with the same pathogen. In 2015 when Shrkeli hiked the price of Daraprim, Turing was the only manufacturer. Cost to produce a tablet? In India at the time a dose of pyrimethamine could be purchased for as little as $0.10. The price hike left patients (and their doctors) scrambling to find funding for vision-saving or even life-saving treatment. The money from the inflated prices went to Shrkeli and Turing’s stockholders. Some patients no doubt had to forego treatment. These were folks too sick to navigate the complex web of pharmacy insurance or lacking the wherewithal to smuggle the drug into the country, Such people are in no condition to mount a political campaign. In our system they can be allowed to suffer. Their collective voice is too quiet for a free market Republican to hear. 

It is a grim irony that Shkreli went to prison not for a price hike that fell on the vulnerable, likely blinding some and hastening the death of others. No, he went to prison for “defrauding investors in two failed hedge funds.” Such is our system, such is the fealty the Republican/Libertarians pay to the “free market.” There were dramatic hearings in 2015 in the Republican majority House…and no action whatsoever. 

What does Daraprim cost today in the United States? $746.18 per tablet at Costco according to a quick online search. In Canada? $1.38 per tablet is the highest price I could find.

Outraged yet? It would take only a minute to come up with numerous other examples of immorally priced drugs, each affecting a relatively small group of patients, patients who spend time struggling with health insurance companies for coverage of inflated drug prices, patients who go without essential medicines or take half doses because they simply can’t afford the price, patients who pay ridiculous insurance premiums in part because of the unconscionable prices drug companies are allowed to charge.  

If you take this issue to McMorris Rodgers’ local office, perhaps her staff (funded by your tax dollars-Member’s Representational Allowance) will help you find some compassionate program to help you pay the bill…or perhaps you can appeal to Go-Fund-Me. What you will NOT get from McMorris Rodgers is any action to rein in the cost of pharmaceuticals. You will not get a bill to encourage reimportation from Canada. You will not get legislation to allow Medicare/Medicaid to volume bargain with the drug companies on price. Those straightforward ideas are contradictory to Republican/Libertarian “free market” ideology. Never mind health care and drugs are not part of a free market.

While McMorris Rodgers remains in office and in a Republican majority remains in Congress there will be no relief. Voting her out won’t fix this right away, but it is a necessary beginning. Lisa Brown understands health care economics and will work toward rational drug pricing. Here is your chance to elect a Representative to get things started.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Please understand I am convinced of Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ fundamental desire to do good, but I fear she lacks the open mind, the education, and the mental bandwidth to deal with many issues. Her deep, unfounded faith the “free market” will solve all problems blinds her to circumstances where the market is not free. Drug prices and health care are cardinal examples.

CMR and Kavanaugh

After I wrote this missive, Dr. Blasey Ford tentatively agreed to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. We would do well to remember the details of what Anita Hill was put through in 1991 as we listen to the grilling by men who, by their own words, have already made up their minds, who view this hearing as barely necessary window-dressing to approving the nominee. 

Dear Group,

Republican disappointment, even anger, at Dr. Christin Blasey Ford for coming forward now against the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is understandable. Kavanaugh’s appointment would be the culmination of decades of ground work by corporate interests ignited, according to some, by reaction to Ralph Nader’s 1960s consumer advocacy. [See Powell Memorandum]  To have those decades of effort thwarted now, with victory in sight, must be frustrating, even more so since the problem arises from a woman. After all, Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans have cast aside both precedent and decency by stiff-arming Merrick Garland and then tossing out the traditional sixty vote majority requirement to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. Both were desperate acts, but they were just the prelude to the main goal: obtaining a Supreme Court majority that favors the oligarchy oner the individual.

Now they face a conundrum: Rush the nomination to the floor, vote, grab the goal…and reap a backlash against a Supreme Court majority deemed illegitimate or slow down the process perhaps for weeks to properly gather evidence and avoid a repeat of nasty male Senators attacking a female accuser, a woman up to now without the time, resources, and preparation the Republicans have amassed behind Kavanaugh? 

Then last Saturday morning the daughter of Ronald Reagan, Patti Davis, weighed in on the side of Dr. Ford and for deliberate process by recounting her rape by a prominent music executive. It came out in an article entitled “Why I don’t recall all the details of my sexual assault.” The article recounts the rape and her subsequent silence and confusion. Davis’ story was widely covered, including the New York Times and published in the Spokesman and the Washington Post, probably among others.

So where do Lisa Brown and McMorris Rodgers stand on all of this? We have some clues from last Wednesday’s debate:

Moderator: What should be the next steps on Capitol Hill in this [Kavanaugh’s] nomination process?

Dr. Brown: Well, certainly there needs to be a full investigation of the allegation. And the woman who has come forward needs, deserves to have an investigation done in an independent way and be heard. And the rush to judgement…confirm as quickly as possible…is not the right thing for a lifetime appointment and it runs over the rights of women just like what happened in 1991 when Anita Hill came forward with her allegations. That inspired a whole generation of women to run for office. I ran for office in 1992 and I predict that woman in the United States want this to be thoroughly investigated without a quick confirmation.

CMR: Well we’re working through the process. I think it’s important that we give every woman an opportunity to be heard. I think that that’s very important. In my understanding the Senate has scheduled a hearing for Monday where both Kavanaugh and the accuser will be in front of the Senate and given a chance to be heard and to answer questions and I just think we need to continue to allow this process to play out.

“In my understanding.” Could McMorris Rodgers be more disingenuous? She holds the fourth most powerful post in the Republican hierarchy. She knows exactly what the stakes are. She knows all the players and all the corporate donors. She has pushed for a Republican/Libertarian majority on the Supreme Court for years. Does she really imagine Dr. Ford could get a fair hearing today in front of a bunch of frustrated old white male Republican Senators bent on getting Kavanaugh seated?

The next day McMorris Rodgers’ “positive disruptor,” Mr. Trump, came out on Twitter:

I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents,” the president tweeted.

How can McMorris Rodgers support a man capable of such a statement? Does she really not understand the gross unfairness of the process McConnell and Grassley are offering? Does she not remember the Anita Hill grilling? (Perhaps she missed it. She was fresh out of the Pensacola Christian College and working in the office of a staunch Republican state legislator at the time. Has McMorris Rodgers ever been exposed to the degrading details of those hearings?)

I copy below an article (with good links to the information quoted) that I found useful in putting this controversy in context. You can see it and a lot more at Popular Info written by Judd Legum. It provides a detailed comparison of the power dynamics in 1991 and the Republican efforts to use the same power against Dr. Ford. 

At the debate on Wednesday Lisa Brown got the right answer. McMorris Rodgers tried to distance herself from a process she supports and with which she is intimately involved. Don’t let her get away with it. There is no reason not to use more time to have a full and fair hearing. Demanding Dr. Ford’s appearance today (or anytime in the next couple weeks before a thorough investigation can be conducted) is a male Republican power play with the tacit approval of “our” Representative.

Keep to the high ground,



The Anita Hill playbook

The Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled a hearing next Monday with Dr. Christine Ford, the woman who says that she was sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh, and did before speaking with her. Ford, through a lawyer, responded that she wanted to cooperate with the committee but requested that the FBI conduct an investigation of her allegation first, which is the process the committee used for Anita Hill in 1991.

In a letter to Ford’s lawyer sent Wednesday afternoon, Grassley refused and said he planned on proceeding with the hearing on Monday. 

What’s the rush? First, Republicans are desperate to confirm Kavanaugh before the midterm election. To save time, they dispensed with the normal process for gathering records, which is run by the nonpartisan National Archives, and delegated the task to an old friend of Kavanaugh, Bill Burck. 

But there is another reason that Republicans are insisting Ford testify in just four days: They are seeking to maximize Kavanaugh’s advantage over Ford in a public hearing. 

Kavanaugh has the full resources of the White House, the Republican Party and a phalanx of outside groups to prepare him for the hearing and reinforce his message. The White House counsel, communications director, and press secretary have reportedly been grilling Kavanaugh for hours to prepare him.

White House officials engaged in a two-hour practice session, known as a murder board, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with Kavanaugh, where he answered questions on his past, his partying, his dating and the accuser’s account. Participants included McGahn, deputy chief of staff Bill Shine, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Raj Shah, who is leading communications. 

Ford, up until a few days ago, was not a public figure. She has no entourage of political professionals to prepare her for a public cross-examination by 11 Republican men. In recent days, she has been subjected to death threats, forced out of her home and into hiding. 

Republicans want to pressure her to testify as soon as possible — before she can reasonably be expected to prepare and before more facts emerge that could bolster her account. 

They know this works because that’s exactly what they did with Anita Hill. And that’s not the only tactic Republicans are dusting off from 1991. 

The time pressure

In 1991, Republicans and Democrats agreed that hearings were necessary to consider Anita Hill’s allegations. Some Democrats advocated for a few weeks to investigate and prepare for the hearing. 

But the Republicans pushed for an immediate hearing — and their position prevailed. There was a break of just two days between the decision to hold a hearing and the hearing itself. Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson explain how it went down in their 1994 book, Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas:

…Republicans wanted to get the new hearings over with immediately. “The idea,” [Republican Senator John] Danforth later conceded, “was to have them begin as quickly as possible and to last as briefly as possible.”

Appealing to [Democratic Senator Joe] Biden’s constant desire to seem evenhanded, Danforth and [Republican Senator Bob] Dole argued that fairness dictated speed. Biden initially wanted an interval of two weeks, but now he agreed to constraints that all but sealed Hill’s fate. The new hearings would begin that Friday, October 11…

There would thus be only two days to investigate Hill’s charge, find and interview other witnesses, and prepare for the new hearings, which would run through the weekend if necessary. If time ran out before important allegations were explored or witnesses heard, nothing could be done. “The schedule,” commented another Democratic senator, “was insanity.”

The decision, Mayer and Abramson write, sealed the power dynamics:

Three days before the hearings were to open, Thomas had the full weight of the White House and Senate Republicans behind him. But Hill was about to travel to Washington as an outsider with no connections, an ordinary citizen with strengths and weaknesses, pressured against her own instincts into challenging the most powerful institutions in American society largely by herself. 

Today, Republicans are seeking to put Ford in the same position. They demanded Ford commit to a hearing just two days after she first made her story public.

Unlike Ford, Anita Hill at least had the benefit of an FBI investigation into her allegations.

In his letter to Ford, Grassley not only rejected her call for a delay but moved the timeline up further. He said that, if Ford wished to appear, she would need to submit a prepared statement and biography by Friday at 10 AM.

The insane woman

Before the hearings began in 1991, allies of Thomas sought to portray Hill as mentally unstable. Mayer and Abramson tell the tale:

Armstrong Williams, an equally loyal member of Thomas’s circle, pitched in too, pronouncing Hill virtually mentally unstable with respect to Thomas. As he put it in an interview with the Wall Street Journal for a story that ran the day the hearings opened, “There is a thin line between her sanity and insanity.” Later, in another interview, he said, referring to Hill, “Sister has emotional problems.”

On Tuesday, Joe DiGenova, a lawyer with close ties to the White House who reguarly consults with the president, declared Ford a “loon.”

She really doesn’t want to testify. Because when she does, she’s going to look like the loon that she is. She may very well believe everything she’s saying, and that is one of the signs of lunacy, believing something that isn’t real.

Grassley offered a slightly toned down version of DiGenova’s attack, saying he didn’t “doubt that [Ford] believes what she says.” Left unsaid is that Grassley believes she might be delusional.

The polygraph

Grassley’s suggestion that Ford is imagining has another benefit: It explains how she passed a polygraph test. 

This was the same tack taken against Hill, who also passed a polygraph exam. 

Hill might not be a standard liar, as they had earlier implied, but, the Republicans now suggested in the open hearing room, she might be so delusional she believed her own lies. If so, she could pass a polygraph test and still be wrong about Thomas.

The political pawn

Republicans have sought to portray Ford as doing the political bidding of Democrats. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), for example, claimed Ford was requesting an FBI investigation only to delay a vote on Kavanaugh until after the midterm elections.


Lindsey Graham@LindseyGrahamSC

Requiring an FBI investigation of a 36 year old allegation (without specific references to time or location) before Professor Ford will appear before the Judiciary Committee is not about finding the truth, but delaying the process till after the midterm elections.

September 19, 2018

A similar effort was made against Hill. During the hearing, Senator Hank Brown (R-CO), sought to portray Hill as a “radical, pro-choice feminist” who was attacking Thomas because “he was now in a position to threaten the Roeruling.”


The objective then, as it is now, is to establish a motive for the woman to lie.

What Anita Hill says now

In an interview on Wednesday evening with PBS Newshour, Hill urged that the hearing be delayed to make time for a professional investigation of Ford’s allegations.

When you get a professional involved, they will know the questions to ask, they will know the places to go, they will know the people to call on as witnesses to complete what is a thorough investigation.

So there — there’s a lot more than we can learn. I think, so often, we get — fall into this trap saying, oh, this is a he said/she said situation. And that rarely is the case. There is very often — and most often, I would say — ways that testimony can be corroborated, either through other individuals or other circumstances that are similar.

“[W]e have senators who are deciding about who is going to sit on the highest court, but they can’t really put partisanship aside long enough to put together a fair hearing to get to the truth about this situation,” Hill concluded. 

Maybe, 27 years later, it’s time to start listening to Anita Hill?

The latest from Ford

In a statement released Wednesday evening, Ford’s attorney, Lisa Banks, renewed her request for a delay and a full investigation but suggested that Ford might appear if all relevant witnesses were included: 

[T]he Committee’s stated plan to move forward with a hearing that has only two witnesses is not a fair or good faith investigation; there are multiple witnesses whose names have appeared publicly and should be included in any proceeding.

(For more on other potential witnesses see yesterday’s Popular Information.)

Thanks for reading! Please send your feedback and hate mail to judd@popular.info.

Popular Information comes out Monday through Thursday and will return on Monday, September 24.

The Parallel Universe/No-Go

First, KHQ shows its colors. The first hour of Wednesday’s Lisa Brown v. McMorris Rodgers debate aired live on KHQ, Channel 6. Lisa Brown made the last statement, the debate closed with music, and as the music ended a particularly nasty and inaccurate McMorris Rodgers approved attack ad started up accusing Lisa Brown of being responsible for raising tuition at WSU by 80%. I was at the Bing, but I have listened to the audio. KHQ pretended to a non-partisan presentation. The ad placement, to say nothing of the ad’s content, makes a mockery of impartiality. I urge anyone who saw this attack ad placement to call KHQ to object and to submit a letter to the editor of the Spokesman.

Dear Group,

Last weekend I attended my high school reunion in Wisconsin. Several old friends whispered to me that we were in the most Republican county in the nation. Even so, it was not hard to find former classmates experiencing the same sense of dismay as I am feeling. So much for pervasive redness. 

All conversations were warm and cordial: kids, grandkids, retirement, what keeps one busy, the flood of fragmentary memories of place and people, the classmates who had died, the sense of mortality, of time moving on.

One classmate asked, “Are you still traveling a lot?” We talked a little of Europe and South America, and then he asked, “Isn’t it kind of scary, though, with those ‘no-go zones’?”

If you not have heard of no-go zones, take a moment and google the term. According to this image, there are pockets of population, usually inhabited by immigrants, often Muslims, into which the police have simply given up trying to maintain order. Such areas are often characterized as given over to sharia law. The overall painted image is one of a spreading cancer across the map of Europe (or Michigan or …), a cancer eating away at white christian society. It is an image cut of the same cloth as Trump’s memory of seeing Muslims celebrating on rooftops in New Jersey as they watched the twin towers collapse–a complete fiction. For the Fox news listener or frequent visitor to the right wing internet, “no-go zone” is a trigger term, easily conjuring a frightening image of any unfamiliar place. 

When I heard my classmate’s honest question I knew where I was about to tread. Anyone seriously asking such a question is not going to respond well to a direct challenge of his fact base. I spent a minute describing the ground I have covered in my travels, the foreign-ness of it.. I simply stated that in my experience no-go zones do not exist, that, in fact, I doubt their existence. I said I was suspicious that the concept of no-go zones was far overblown and may have been hatched for political ends. He seemed mildly surprised…and interested. 

The idea of scary “no-go zones” was injected into the public consciousness in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris in January 2015. Fox News first talked up the term, which even CNN picked it up briefly. The mayor of Paris threatened to sue Fox News over their inaccurate portrayal. The threatened suit was a blip in the media, mostly unnoticed. Listeners to mainstream media have rarely heard the term “no-go zone” since the Hebdo shooting. Not so on the right. The opportunity to paint Europe as suffering a slow motion takeover by Muslim immigrants was just too useful to let die. Once introduced by Fox News, right wing commentators like Rush Limbaugh picked up the meme, nurtured it, circulated it. Taking advantage of most Americans limited foreign travel experience it was easy to play up the threat, magnify the fear of “the other.” 

Like “moving the embassy to Jerusalem,” the term “no-go zone” is now code for listeners in the parallel media ecosystem. “No go” is shorthand for “be frightened, be worried” about the other come to take over our country. We listeners to NPR would do well to pay attention to the words and the associated image.

The right wing propaganda machine was painstakingly grown but not quite mature when Trump was elected. Fox News (launched in 1996) is the first example that comes to mind, but Fox is now only a small part of a whole ecosystem that includes Breitbart, the Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller, The Washington Free Beacon, and a broad network of well funded conservative talk radio and many (nominally) “Christian” radio outlets. This media ecosystem provided the platform Trump used to become President. The media ecosystem may not have been fully ripe when Trump and Bannon commandeered it. Many of us were reading National Geographic, watching PBS, and reading the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and almost willfully unaware of the growth of the right wing propaganda machine, vaguely hoping it contained only a few people on a lunatic fringe. Only when Trump threatened reporters, declared “fake news,” and welcomed sketchy media outlets to take part in White House press conferences did alarms began to ring. 

Now we find ourselves having conversations with former classmates who mention phrases like “moving the embassy to Jerusalem” and “no-go zones” that light up mental images for them, images of which we are mostly ignorant, not having been sufficiently primed. It behooves us to pay attention, to ask for definitions and expansions, and to declare it when our experience and values contradict the ideas presented…face-to-face, time and time again. We are losing our common language. We need to understand not just the words but the images that light up in the minds of the folks with whom we converse.

Knock on doors this weekend and have conversations. This November is our best chance to start on a path to understanding each other again.

Keep to the high ground,


The Debate. Were Minds Changed?

Dear Group,

Last evening the first of four scheduled debates was held. The first hour was broadcast live from the Bing theater on KHQ. For another half hour after the broadcast the candidates took questions from among those video recorded a little earlier. The theater was packed. I venture there were very few in attendance whose mind wasn’t already made up, and fewer still whose minds were changed. Some who watched on television were perhaps less partisan.

Both candidates acquitted themselves well with no memorable stumbles. 

This debate and the three that will follow are important, but do not make the mistake of thinking the applause heard tonight is indicative. This election will be won by convincing Democratic voters who don’t usually vote in the midterms to cast ballots this November. That will take knocking on doors and phone banking.

Come on out with Indivisible this Sunday or Monday (see details above) or connect with the canvassing links in the Calendar section below. There are door knocking events every day until November 6. Don’t wake up on the 7th wondering if you could have done more…

Keep to the high ground,