Tuesday Reads: Last Words on Kobe Bryant

Good Morning!!

Two days after the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, there has been almost no attention paid to the other 7 people who died in the tragic accident. Read about them at Buzzfeed News: Teenage Girls And Beloved Coaches Were Among The 9 Victims Of The Helicopter Crash That Killed Kobe Bryant.

John Altobelli, a 56-year-old head baseball coach at Orange Coast College, along with his wife, Keri, and youngest daughter, Alyssa, 13, were among those who died.

Alyssa and Gianna were teammates at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy. The team was set to play against a Fresno youth team on Sunday afternoon, the Fresno Bee reported.

John Altobelli had been a coach and mentor at Orange Coast College (OCC) for 27 years, helping many student-athletes earn scholarships so they could play at the four-year level, the college said in a statement.

“Coach Alto,” the college said, helped lead the Pirates to more than 700 wins and four state championships. He was named the National Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association in 2019.

Altobelli family

The Altobelli’s are survived by two other children, a son JJ and daughter Lexi, now orphans.

Christina Mauser, 38, was the assistant coach for the Mamba Academy basketball team.

“My kids and I are devastated,” her husband, Matt Mauser, wrote in a Facebook post. “We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash.”

The couple has three children, ages 11, 9, and 3….

Sarah Chester and her 13-year-old daughter, Payton, also died in the crash. Payton was a basketball player, NBC News reported.

Todd Schmidt, the former principal at Harbor View Elementary School, wrote a heartfelt tribute to Payton, his former student, and her mother, calling them “two gorgeous human beings.”

“While the world mourns the loss of a dynamic athlete and humanitarian, I mourn the loss of two people just as important…their impact was just as meaningful, their loss will be just as keenly felt, and our hearts are just as broken,” Schmidt wrote in a Facebook post.

Christina Mauser

Chester leaves behind a husband Chris and two 16-year-old sons Hayden and Riley.

Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the helicopter, was a beloved figure in the aviation community. He was “instrument-rated” which meant he was able to fly in fog and clouds, KTLA reporter Christina Pascucci said.

Zobayan was Bryant’s private pilot, according to one of his flight students, Darren Kemp.

So many people–including young children–are devastated by these deaths, but all the attention has gone to the former basketball player. I still can’t get past my anger at the lionizing of Bryant, who was credibly accused of rape and never publicly dealt with the damage he did to the life of a 19-year-old woman. Ever since I saw the way the basketball stars were treated as if they could do no wrong in my high school, I’ve resented the way athletes are allowed to get away with almost anything, especially violence against women.

Sarah and Payton Chester

Somewhere the woman that Bryant raped is watching the coverage of his death and most likely reliving the trauma she experienced as she sees so much praise heaped upon her abuser.

On Sunday, Jill Filipovic wrote that Bryant has a “complicated legacy.” No, it’s not really complicated. He was a huge basketball star with a giant ego and he got away with rape. He’s certainly not alone in that. Gavin Polone at the Hollywood Reporter:

I guess our society thinks that certain transgressions by celebrities can be forgiven. What’s perplexing is the con­trast between which wrongs are and aren’t forgivable. Based on what I’ve read, I believe Kobe most probably raped a woman and still was paid $26 million in 2015 by Nike, Hublot, Panini Authentic, Turkish Airlines and others to endorse their products; Ben Roethlisberger was accused of raping two women and still made more than $35 million for one year as an NFL quarterback; Greg Hardy certainly beat the shit out of his ex-girlfriend and was signed to play defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys; Jameis Winston was sued for the rape of a student at FSU and didn’t even break stride to the NFL (having watched the victim’s recounting of events, I believe her). Both R. Kelly and Michael Jackson were accused of sexual misconduct, yet the former still is performing and the latter practically has been deified.

But what isn’t forgiven? Killing someone? Nope, Ray Lewis was accused of that, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and now is an NFL analyst for ESPN. Donte Stallworth killed a pedestrian while driving drunk and played the next year. So violence, especially against women, can be excused.

Ara Zobayan

Here’s a piece at Vice by Albert Berneko that counters Filipovic’s “complicated legacy” notion: Kobe Bryant Was No More Complicated Than Anyone Else.

Maybe the actual very last thing the world needs or ever will need, ever again, is for one more man’s power or fame or brilliance or death to be used as a reason to throw the word “complicated” over his abuses like an obscuring blanket. It’s a dishonest sidestep, anyway. Everyone is complicated. You can be a tortured mass of endless complications and still never sexually assault anyone.

What the fact of having committed, or having credibly been accused of committing, sexual assault complicates for an acclaimed celebrity is the feelings—or maybe, at most, the immediate social situation—of those who’d like to go right on celebrating him. Ironically, or maybe not ironically, nothing smooths this complication more easily than the word “complicated”: Be sure to include it in your hosannas. It is a way to skip past the discomfort and ambiguity of actually grappling with the acclaimed celebrity’s monstrousness straight to the part where you congratulate yourself for having done so. I have integrated the fullness of this imperfect person; when I now return to praising him, be sure that it is with the appropriate level of personal internal conflicted feeling.

It seems reasonable to guess that former Los Angeles Laker star Kobe Bryant was a complicated person, because he was a person and not the Archangel Gabriel. More relevant to a summation of his life, he was also a great and spectacular basketball player, one of the biggest stars in the history of the sport, and a powerful man who, in 2003 and at the height of his celebrity, was credibly accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel employee and then avoided a trial by leaking his accuser’s identity and shaming her into silence. I don’t think these things complicate each other, unless you happen to believe there’s a personal moral component to being good at making contested jump-shots.

Marty Baron

To top off the protect-Kobe hysteria, Marty Baron, editor of the Washington Post–who was editor of the Boston Globe when the Spotlight team exposed sexual abuse in the Catholic Church–publicly shamed one of his reporters, Felicia Sonmez who is a survivor of sexual assault.

Vanity Fair:  “There’s Incredible Outrage”: Washington Post Newsroom Revolts after Reporter Suspended for Kobe Bryant Tweets.

As the collective grief crested on Twitter following TMZ’s shocking scoop that Kobe Bryant had been killed in a helicopter crash, Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez had a different idea. She shared a 2016 Daily Beast story detailing a rape allegation made against the NBA legend more than a decade earlier. “Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality,” she tweeted Sunday, “even if that public figure is beloved and that totality unsettling.”

Vitriol and threats streamed into Sonmez’s inbox, which she relayed on Twitter, along with screenshots of the attacks. The Bryant-related tweets have since been deleted. By Sunday afternoon, Somnez had been suspended—placed on “administrative leave”—a move that’s prompted anger and confusion inside the Post newsroom. “There’s incredible outrage. The outrage is like nothing I’ve ever seen here,” one Post source told us. “People just feel like it was way over the top.”

The Daily Beast article was an exhaustive chronicle of the allegations against Bryant and his response to them. While far from flattering to Bryant, it described an inescapable part of his history, and, fraught as social media can be in the current world of journalism, it was difficult for many to see how posting it was out of bounds. Post staffers were looking for clarity Monday after managing editor Tracy Grant said in a statement that Sonmez violated the newsroom’s social media policy and “displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues.”

Felicia Sonmez

I hope you’ll go read the rest. Sonmez spent the night in a hotel after her address was posted on-line by outraged Kobe fans. I’d also suggest reading this piece in the Post by Eric Wemple: The Post’s misguided suspension of Felicia Sonmez over Kobe Bryant tweets.

I’ll be quiet about this now, but I just had to get it off my chest. I can acknowledge that millions of people are sad about the death of their idol. I just think there should be some recognition that the way we treat (male) athletes in our culture means that the people who dare to say no to their desires are publicly shamed and punished.

Some other news stories to check out today:

On the Bolton revelations:

NYT: Bolton Was Concerned That Trump Did Favors for Autocratic Leaders, Book Says.

WaPo: Bolton book roils Washington as onetime allies turn on Trump’s former national security adviser.

Barbara McQuade at WaPo: Trump waived executive privilege when he called Bolton a liar.

Daily Beast: Top Ukraine Official: I Trusted Bolton More Than Anyone.

Other impeachment news and comment:

Axios: Republicans brace for domino effect on witnesses.

Impeachment expert Frank Bowman at The Atlantic: Trump’s Defense Against Subpoenas Makes No Legal Sense.

WaPo: Trump’s impeachment defense: Who is paying the president’s lawyers?

Jamelle Bouie at NYT: Mitch McConnell’s Complicity Has Deep Roots.

Vetting Bernie Sanders (finally)

NYT: Bernie Sanders and His Internet Army.

David Frum at the Atlantic: Bernie Can’t Win.

Richard North Patterson at the Bulwark: This Is How Trump Would Destroy Bernie Sanders.

Jonathan Chait at NY Mag: Running Bernie Sanders Against Trump Would Be an Act of Insanity.

Other campaign news:

NYT: How Some People of Color Feel Inside the Buttigieg Campaign.

Politico: Why Biden scaled back in New Hampshire.

What stories are you following today?

 


Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

As usual, there’s way too much important news to cover today. I long for the days when Obama was president and there weren’t scandals and outrages every single day including Saturdays and Sundays.

Overhead view of the shelter for migrant children in Clint, TX

After the public response to Trump’s concentration camps/torture chambers for children on border, NBC News reports: Almost 300 migrant children removed from Texas facility described as ‘appalling.’

Almost 300 migrant children have been removed from a border patrol facility in Texas after media reports of lawyers describing “appalling” and potentially dangerous conditions, Department of Homeland Security officials told NBC News….

The children who were removed were being held at a border station in Clint, Texas. Some were wearing dirty clothes covered in mucus or even urine, said Elora Mukherjee, the director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School. Teenage mothers wore clothing stained with breast milk. None of the children had access to soap or toothpaste, she said.

The children have been taken to a tent detention camp also in El Paso, Texas, where they will remain under the custody of Border Patrol until they can be placed with the Department of Health and Human Services, the DHS officials said. The Associated Press first reported on the conditions at the facility.

But will conditions be better in the tent camp? Who knows? Reporters aren’t allowed in to report on Trump’s concentration camps. The Washington Post: Migrant children are suffering at the border. But reporters are kept away from the story.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Clint, Texas is seen in this undated image from Google Maps.

News stories emerged last week about squalid conditions at a Border Patrol detention facility housing about 300 migrant children on the U.S.-Mexico border. The media accounts described the facility in Clint, Tex., near El Paso, that houses children separated from their parents by order of the Trump administration.

Apart from their appalling specifics, the stories were notable for one element: They were all based on secondhand accounts. Reporters were unable to see the facilities themselves or speak to any of the children. Instead, they relied on descriptions provided by lawyers and advocates who were granted access under a legal settlement with the Border Patrol.

The blackout on press access has left Americans largely in the dark about conditions in government facilities designed to handle migrants who have crossed the border. Photographs and TV images are both rare and often dated. Rarer still are interviews with federal agency managers and employees and with the children themselves.

Journalists, government officials and migrant advocates agree that permitting reporters to see the facilities firsthand would change public perceptions about the treatment of migrants. There’s disagreement, however, about how it would change.

“If journalists had access to the detention centers at the border where children are being held in filthy conditions, those centers would not exist,” said Elora Mukherjee, an attorney who interviewed children at the Texas facility and described them to reporters last week. “If videos were released there would be massive changes” because the public outcry would be enormous.

From left: Meagan O’Toole-Pitts, Ashley Cortez, Oliver Cortez, and his father, Mark Cortez, attempt to drop off diapers and toys for detained children at the immigration detention center in Clint. Courtesy of Armando Martinez Photography

The Boarder Patrol won’t even accept donations from people who want to help the children, according to The Texas Tribune.

Oh, and good old Melania chose yesterday to tweet about helping children. Raw Story: Melania Trump ripped for bragging about helping children while her husband runs concentration camps for kids. “Be best” like her husband the child abuser and rapist?

Two more important stories on this topic:

Damon Linker at The Week: Trump’s border policy: If cruelty isn’t the point, what is?

Dahlia Lithwick and Margo Schlanger at Slate: What You Need to Know About the Crisis at the Border.

Big media largely ignored or downplayed E. Jean Carroll’s rape allegation against Trump. Now multiple outlets are asking why it wasn’t treated as front page news.

Paul Waldman at The Washington Post: Have we become numb to Trump’s loathsomeness?

When we look back on June 2019, we’ll say that this was the time when a credible allegation of rape was made against the president of the United States, and he had already shown himself to be such a loathsome character that it was treated as a third-tier story, not worthy of much more than a passing mention here and there in the news.

After New York magazine published author and advice columnist E. Jean Carroll’s account last Friday of an encounter she says she had with Trump in a Bergdorf Goodman that ended with him raping her in a dressing room, many of our most important news outlets reacted with only minor interest. Most of the nation’s biggest newspapers — aside from The Post — left it off on their front page the next day. None of the five Sunday shows mentioned it at all.

There are many reasons to find Carroll’s allegation credible. She’s a fairly well-known public figure. Her description of what happened to her — him slamming her against a wall, mashing his face against hers, yanking down her tights, and penetrating her — accords not only with the allegations of multiple other women but Trump’s own words on that infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which he bragged that he can sexually assault any woman he pleases. “I just start kissing them, it’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

Yet Trump’s position on Carroll’s allegation is the same he has taken on all the others: She’s a liar. He doesn’t say it was a misunderstanding or it was consensual, just that she’s a liar.

A liar and somehow not the sort of woman he would choose to rape, according to Trump.

The New York Times: ‘She’s Not My Type’: Accused Again of Sexual Assault, Trump Resorts to Old Insult.

Mr. Trump said that E. Jean Carroll, who wrote for years for Elle magazine, was “lying” when she said that he threw her up against a wall and forced himself on her in the mid-1990s, and he insisted that he did not know her.

“I’ll say it with great respect,” he said in an interview with The Hill, a Capitol Hill news organization. “No. 1, she’s not my type. No. 2, it never happened. It never happened, O.K.?” [….]

In the Hill interview, Mr. Trump said Ms. Carroll was making up the story. “Totally lying. I don’t know anything about her,” he said. “I know nothing about this woman. I know nothing about her. She is — it’s just a terrible thing that people can make statements like that.”

Mr. Trump in the past has rejected other sexual assault accusations by asserting that the women who accused him of taking advantage of them were not attractive enough to engage in such behavior.

“Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you,” Trump told supporters at a campaign event in 2016 after a woman accused him of putting his hand up her skirt while on an airplane. “You don’t know. That would not be my first choice.” As the crowd laughed, he said, “Check out her Facebook, you’ll understand.”

Of course Carroll is very much his “type.” She was a blonde beauty queen and a cheerleader, for cripes sake.

Look at the photos. I’d say she fits the mold, wouldn’t you? Here’s another take on this story at The Atlantic: The Cruel Paradox at the Heart of E. Jean Carroll’s Allegation Against Trump.

Yesterday, the dotard in chief issued new sanctions against Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, who has been dead for 20 years. Iran responded that the Trump administration is “afflicted with mental retardation.” CBS This Morning: Iran leaders lash out at White House over “idiotic” new sanctions.

Officials in Iran lashed out on Tuesday at the latest round of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, casting doubt on any hope of an imminent diplomatic end to the standoff over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. President Hassan Rouhani called the new U.S. sanctions “outrageous and idiotic,” and suggested the Trump administration was “afflicted by mental retardation” for imposing them.

The country’s foreign ministry spokesman said the latest move by the U.S. brought a “permanent closure” to any hope of diplomacy between the two nations.

President Trump imposed the new sanctions on Monday. For the first time they target Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directly, barring his access to the international financial system. The punitive measures — which add to a long list of financial sanctions already slapped on Tehran by Mr. Trump since he pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear deal with Iran last year — also target other officials.

Rouhani mocked Mr. Trump over the sanctions, saying: “You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks?”

CBS News White House correspondent Ben Tracy says the latest statements from Iran are further evidence that President Trump’s strategy, of forcing the Islamic Republic to change its behavior by strangling its economy, is not working.

Oh, and Trump is still thinking about cutting off military aid to Japan. Bloomberg: Trump Muses Privately About Ending Postwar Japan Defense Pact.

President Donald Trump has recently mused to confidants about withdrawing from a longstanding defense treaty with Japan, according to three people familiar with the matter, in his latest complaint about what he sees as unfair U.S. security pacts.

Trump regards the accord as too one-sided because it promises U.S. aid if Japan is ever attacked, but doesn’t oblige Japan’s military to come to America’s defense, the people said. The treaty, signed more than 60 years ago, forms the foundation of the alliance between the countries that emerged from World War II….

Exiting the pact would jeopardize a postwar alliance that has helped guarantee security in the Asia Pacific, laying the foundation for the region’s economic rise. Under the terms of its surrender in World War II, Japan agreed to a pacifist constitution in which it renounced the right to wage war….

Scrapping the treaty would risk ceding security of the Western Pacific to China and potentially spurring a fresh nuclear arms race, if Japan decided it needed to protect itself from nuclear-armed neighbors. It would also call into question the U.S.’s military commitments to Australia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and a host of other allies around the world.

This man is really really old.

Joe Biden is still leading in the polls as we approach the first Democratic primary debate on Wednesday and Thursday, so here are a couple of interesting pieces on Biden.

Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: Joe Biden Doesn’t Look So Electable in Person.

On Saturday, Joe Biden was one of 20 presidential candidates to speak at a Planned Parenthood forum in Columbia, S.C., held right next door to the state’s Democratic convention. It was just a couple of weeks after he’d reversed his longtime support for the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion. One of the moderators asked him what he’d say to pro-choice voters who have concerns about his mixed record on the issue.

This was part of his answer: “The fact of the matter is that we’re in a situation where mortality rate for poor women and black women, here in this state, 26.5 percent of the, 24, 25.6 people, who of 100,000 who need, who end up dying as a consequence of birth, it’s absolutely absurd.” (He was referring to South Carolina’s maternal mortality rate, which is 26.5 maternal deaths per 100,000 births.)

Seeing Biden on the stump often feels like watching an actor who can’t quite remember his lines. Even if you don’t support him, it’s hard not to feel anxious on his behalf.

I had the chance to watch Biden campaign three times over the weekend, when almost the entire Democratic field descended on Columbia. On Friday he appeared at the famous fish fry held by Congressman Jim Clyburn. The next day he was at the Planned Parenthood event and at the state convention.

Biden speaks at James Clyburn’s fish fry.

His performance was unnerving. I don’t want Biden to be the nominee for ideological reasons, but polls show him far ahead, and if he’s going to be the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer against Donald Trump, I want him to be a strong one. He didn’t seem strong in South Carolina.

Donald Trump, of course, also speaks in gibberish, but with a bombastic unearned confidence; rather than flailing around for the right figure he makes one up. Biden, by contrast, was just shaky. And while there’s great affection for him on the ground, there’s little excitement. You can see why his campaign has been limiting his public events and why he’s been avoiding the press.

The Washington Post: Once the poorest senator, ‘Middle Class Joe’ Biden has reaped millions in income since leaving the vice presidency.

Biden points out on the presidential campaign trail that he was often the poorest member of the United States Senate, and for at least a decade has referred to himself as “Middle Class Joe.” But since leaving office he has enjoyed an explosion of wealth, making millions of dollars largely from book deals and speaking fees that ranged to as much as $200,000 per speech, public documents show.

As Biden traveled the country before announcing his presidential campaign this spring, his sponsors provided VIP hotel suites, town cars and professional drivers, chartered flights and travel expense reimbursements that for some of his appearances reached at least $10,000 per event, according to contracts obtained by The Post through public records requests.

The Washington Post found at least 65 instances in which Biden gave a speech or appeared at a book event; in at least 10 instances he did not take a fee, although in some of those cases he was reimbursed for travel expenses. Biden’s campaign said he has given less than 50 paid speeches, but declined to be more specific about exactly how many he delivered, or how much he earned in total.

I’d better wrap this up; this post is getting way too long. What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads: Women’s Bodies, Women’s Lives

Peonies, by Claude Monet

Good Morning!!

Even as we worry about Trump and Bolton starting a war with Iran and about the Democrats refusing to follow the Impeachment road map provided by Robert Mueller, American women must face the fact that our very personhood is being attacked.

Personally, I have decided that I will not vote for any man for president. The right of women to make decisions about our own bodies is too important.

Here’s the latest on the War on Women:

NBC News: Missouri Senate passes bill to outlaw abortion at 8 weeks.

Missouri’s Senate has passed what its authors call one of the nation’s most stringent anti-abortion bills, which would outlaw nearly all abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy.

The Republican-led Senate passed the bill, dubbed Missouri Stands With The Unborn, by a margin of 24 to 10 early Thursday morning….

Missouri’s move comes hours after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill that would introduce a near-total abortion ban in that state. Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy.

Louisiana is following suit with its own “heartbeat” abortion ban, which was approved unopposed by the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday.

Abortion right activists are mobilizing in Alabama. The Washington Post: Governor signs Alabama abortion ban, which has galvanized support on both sides, setting up a lengthy fight.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — As a crop duster with a banner saying “Abortion is okay” hummed above the capitol, circling back and forth around the governor’s mansion, a group of women below let out a cheer.

Amaryllis by Piet Mondrian (1910)

“Just another day in Alabama,” said Mia Raven, director of People Organizing for Women’s Empowerment and Rights (POWER) House. “We knew this would pass and we got ready.”

Amanda Reyes, who works with an abortion fund, was wearing an “I’m on the pill” T-shirt, complete with instructions printed on the back detailing how to get a medical abortion. She also looked skyward: “Here it comes again! That’s just the coolest thing.”

Hours after the Alabama Senate voted late Tuesday to ban abortions in almost all circumstances — including in cases of rape and incest — women’s rights activists and abortion rights advocates said the decision to approve the nation’s strictest abortion measure has energized them. Knowing that the bill was designed to challenge Roe v. Wade, they are gearing up for the fight.

The Washington Post: Louisiana ‘heartbeat’ abortion ban nearing final passage.

BATON ROUGE, La. — A proposal to ban abortions in Louisiana as early as the sixth week of pregnancy continued to speed through the state legislature Wednesday, the same day Alabama’s governor signed the nation’s most restrictive law against the procedure.

Without objection, the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee backed legislation to prohibit abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected, similar to laws passed in several conservative states that are aimed at challenging the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion. Louisiana’s ban, however, only would take effect if a federal appeals court upholds a similar law in Mississippi.

Louisiana’s so-called fetal “heartbeat bill” is sponsored by state Sen. John Milkovich, one of several measures that lawmakers are advancing to add new restrictions on abortion. Senators already have supported the bill, which will next receive full House consideration, one step from final passage. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has indicated he will sign the measure if it reaches his desk.

The New York Times sums up the current abortion landscape: ‘The Time Is Now’: States Are Rushing to Restrict Abortion, or to Protect It.

Alex Katz, Tulips 4, 2013

States across the country are passing some of the most restrictive abortion legislation in decades, deepening the growing divide between liberal and conservative states and setting up momentous court battles that could profoundly reshape abortion access in America….

The national race to pass new legislation began last fall, after President Trump chose Brett M. Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court, adding what some predicted would be a fifth vote to uphold new limits on abortion. Red states rushed to pass more restrictions and blue states to pass protections.

Now, as state legislative sessions draw to a close in many places, experts count about 30 abortion laws that have passed so far.

That is not necessarily more than in past years, said Elizabeth Nash, a legal expert at the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights.

What’s different is the laws themselves, which have gone further than ever to frontally challenge Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling that established federal protections for abortion.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Interestingly, these extreme laws could be interfering with right wing plans to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Flowers in a Glass Vase by John Constable (c. 1814)

Even Pat Robertson thinks the Alabama law is too “extreme.” The Washington Post: Televangelist Pat Robertson: Alabama’s abortion ban is ‘extreme’ and has ‘gone too far.’

Longtime televangelist Pat Robertson decried Alabama’s new abortion ban as “extreme,” saying on his show on Wednesday that the state legislature has “gone too far.”

Alabama’s law, which has been passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, includes a penalty of up to 99 years in prison for doctors who perform abortions and has no exceptions for rape or incest, Robertson noted on his show.

“They want to challenge Roe vs. Wade, but my humble view is I don’t think that’s the case I’d want to bring to the Supreme Court because I think this one will lose,” Robertson told viewers of CBN’s “The 700 Club” on Wednesday.

David G. Savage at The Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court is not eager to overturn Roe vs. Wade — at least not soon.

The Supreme Court justices will meet behind closed doors Thursday morning and are expected to debate and discuss — for the 14th time — Indiana’s appeal of court rulings that have blocked a law to prohibit certain abortions.

The high court’s action — or so far, nonaction — in Indiana’s case gives one clue as to how the court’s conservative majority will decide the fate of abortion bans recently passed by lawmakers in Alabama and Georgia. Republican Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama signed her state’s ban into law on Wednesday.

Pot of Geraniums, Henri Matisse

Lawmakers in those states have said they approved the bans in an effort to force the high court to reconsider Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The justices have many ways to avoid such a sweeping ruling, however. And Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in his 14 years on the high court, has typically resisted moving quickly to decide major controversies or to announce abrupt, far-reaching changes in the law.

Roberts’ history, along with the court’s handling of abortion cases in recent years, suggests he will not move to overturn the right to abortion soon, or all at once, and is particularly unlikely to do so in the next year or two with a presidential election pending.

At Slate, Dahlia Lithwick makes a similar argument: Alabama’s Extremist Abortion Bill Ruins John Roberts’ Roe Plan.

One could feel sorry for Chief Justice John Roberts. He is, after all, caught in an unsightly squeeze play between anti-abortion zealots in Alabama, and slightly less wild-eyed anti-abortion zealots in Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and Indiana (the court seems unable to make a decision on whether to grant the Indiana petition it has been sitting on for months now). There’s finally a five-justice majority within striking distance of a decades-long dream to overturn Roe v. Wade, and the anti-choice activists are getting ahead of themselves like slurring drunks at a frat party and making everything more transparently nasty than it need be.

Hibiscus by Hiroshige (c. 1845)

There are easy and near invisible ways for the high court to end Roe. That has always been, and remains, the logical trajectory. As Mark Joseph Stern has shown, when Brett Kavanaugh came onto the court, with his dog whistles and signaling around reproductive rights, it became clear that he would guide the court to simply allow states to erect more and more barriers to abortion access (dolphin-skin window coverings on every clinic!). The five justices in the majority would do it all while finding ways to say that such regulations were not an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose. The courts and state legislatures could continue their lilting love songs to the need for the states to protect maternal health and to help confused mommies make good choices, and nobody need dirty their hands by acknowledging that the real goal of three decades’ worth of cumbersome clinic regulations and admitting privileges laws were just pretexts for closing clinics and ending abortion altogether.

Read the rest at Slate.

(Mostly) male legislators are ignoring the realities of actual women’s lives.

When Senator Clyde Chambliss, a Republican, for example, was asked if the law would allow for incest victims to obtain abortions, he responded: “Yes, until she knows she’s pregnant.”

He did not elaborate on how someone would have an abortion before she knows she’s pregnant, outside of claiming, “It takes time for all the chromosomes to come together.”

Flower Garden by Gustav Klimt, 1905

Women’s bodies, lives, and futures are quite literally in the hands of men who seemingly couldn’t pass a high school health class. That’s part of what’s so hard about watching these debates: It’s not just that women’s rights and autonomy are being legislated away, but that it’s being done by complete morons.

This lack of remedial understanding of women’s bodies is not limited to Alabama. Representative John Becker of Ohio, a Republican, for example, sponsored a bill to limit insurance coverage for abortions, but claimed that it would have an exception for ectopic pregnancies, when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus. “That treatment would be removing the embryo from the fallopian tube and reinserting it in the uterus,” he said, explaining a procedure that doesn’t exist and isn’t medically possible.

There is also Texas state Representative Dan Flynn, a Republican, who believes abortion requires cutting into a woman’s uterus, or Vito Barbieri, the Idaho state Representative, a Republican, who thought you could give a woman a remote gynecological exam by having her swallow a tiny camera.

Shannon Dingle at USA Today: I was 12 years old and pregnant. Alabama’s abortion ban bill would punish girls like me.

Roses and Lillies by Henri Fantin-Latour (1888)

I was that 11-year-old pregnant by rape in Ohio, except I had just turned 12 and lived in Florida….She is 11. She has experienced and is experiencing violating trauma. Maybe someday she will tell her story, but today is not that day.

I can tell my story, though. I was newly 12. I lived in a suburb of Tampa. I had gotten my period a couple years before, and it came regularly once it started. I knew to expect it every 32 days.

It was July, the summer between sixth and seventh grade, when days 33, 34, 35 and more passed with no period. I had read in one of my sister’s Seventeen magazines that periods aren’t always regular, so I figured this was my first one of those.

It wasn’t….I never chose to have sex at such a young age, but abusers in my family chose to rape me. I had lost count of the number of times by then. With a dad high ranking in the county sheriff’s office, I didn’t trust going to the police. I had tried to tell teachers and church volunteers, but that never went anywhere, either.

Please go read the rest if you haven’t already.

Women and girls in the U.S. are in real danger. For me this is the number one issue for women in the upcoming presidential election.

As always, this is an open thread.


Thursday Reads: Happy Valentine’s Day

Les Pivoines 1907 par Henri Matisse

Happy Valentine’s Day, Sky Dancers!!

Andrew McCabe’s book The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump will be released on Tuesday, and he will be interviewed on 60 Minutes on Sunday night. This might be one 60 Minutes I decide to watch.

McCabe was deputy director of the FBI under James Comey and he became acting director after Trump fired Comey. Trump attacked McCabe repeatedly, and eventually succeeded in driving him out of office. Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe one day before he could have retired with his full pension.

Today The Atlantic published an article adapted from McCabe’s book: Every Day Is a New Low in Trump’s White House.

On Wednesday, May 10, 2017, my first full day on the job as acting director of the FBI, I sat down with senior staff involved in the Russia case—the investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. As the meeting began, my secretary relayed a message that the White House was calling. The president himself was on the line. I had spoken with him the night before, in the Oval Office, when he told me he had fired James Comey.

Bouquet on a Bamboo Table (1903) Henri Matisse

A call like this was highly unusual. Presidents do not, typically, call FBI directors. There should be no direct contact between the president and the director, except for national-security purposes. The reason is simple. Investigations and prosecutions need to be pursued without a hint of suspicion that someone who wields power has put a thumb on the scale.

The Russia team was in my office. I took the call on an unclassified line. That was another strange thing—the president was calling on a phone that was not secure. The voice on the other end said, It’s Don Trump calling. I said, Hello, Mr. President, how are you? Apart from my surprise that he was calling at all, I was surprised that he referred to himself as “Don.”

The president said, I’m good. You know—boy, it’s incredible, it’s such a great thing, people are really happy about the fact that the director’s gone, and it’s just remarkable what people are saying. Have you seen that? Are you seeing that, too?

He went on: I received hundreds of messages from FBI people—how happy they are that I fired him. There are people saying things on the media, have you seen that? What’s it like there in the building?

McCabe describes the reaction of FBI employees as one of shock and dismay. Trump then said he wanted to come to the FBI and “show all my FBI people how much I love them.” McCabe thought that was a terrible idea, but agreed to meet with Trump about it. Next, Trump:

Flowers and Fruit by Henri Matisse

…began to talk about how upset he was that Comey had flown home on his government plane from Los Angeles—Comey had been giving a speech there when he learned he was fired. The president wanted to know how that had happened.

I told him that bureau lawyers had assured me there was no legal issue with Comey coming home on the plane. I decided that he should do so. The existing threat assessment indicated he was still at risk, so he needed a protection detail. Since the members of the protection detail would all be coming home, it made sense to bring everybody back on the same plane they had used to fly out there. It was coming back anyway. The president flew off the handle: That’s not right! I don’t approve of that! That’s wrong! He reiterated his point five or seven times.

I said, I’m sorry that you disagree, sir. But it was my decision, and that’s how I decided. The president said, I want you to look into that! I thought to myself: What am I going to look into? I just told you I made that decision.

The ranting against Comey spiraled. I waited until he had talked himself out.

After that Trump taunted McCabe about his wife’s losing campaign for the Virginia Senate, asking McCabe, “How did she handle losing? Is it tough to lose?” and later saying “Yeah, that must’ve been really tough. To lose. To be a loser.”

I once had a boss who was a monstrous whack job like Trump. It was crazy-making. The entire department under this man functioned like an alcoholic family with an unpredictable, out-of-control father. You never knew what horrible thing would happen next. It was total chaos, as the White House seems to be. I’m glad McCabe is telling the truth about what he experienced.

Two more articles based on the McCabe book:

CBS News 60 Minutes: McCabe Says He Ordered the Obstruction of Justice Probe of President Trump.

The New York Times: McCabe Says Justice Officials Discussed Recruiting Cabinet Members to Push Trump Out of Office.

Bouquet of Flowers in a White Vase, 1909, by Henri Matisse

I expect Trump will be ranting about McCabe on Twitter and in the Oval Office, but he can’t do anything to shut McCabe up anymore.

Soon we’ll have a new U.S. Attorney General, William Barr, and already the corruption surrounding him has a very bad odor. CNN reports that Barr’s daughter and son-in-law are leaving the Justice Department for new jobs at FinCEN and the White House Counsel’s office respectively.

Mary Daly, Barr’s oldest daughter and the director of Opioid Enforcement and Prevention Efforts in the deputy attorney general’s office, is leaving for a position at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit, a Justice official said.

Tyler McGaughey, the husband of Barr’s youngest daughter, has been detailed from the powerful US attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, to the White House counsel’s office, two officials said.

It’s not clear if McGaughey’s switch is a result of Barr’s pending new role, and the kind of work he’ll be handling at the White House is not public knowledge.
Daly’s husband will remain in his position in the Justice Department’s National Security Division for now.

Henri Matisse: Les Anemones

The moves were by choice and are not required under federal nepotism laws, but Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, called them “a good idea” to “avoid the bad optics that could come from the appearance of them working for him.”
However, Shaub added that McGaughey’s detail to the White House counsel’s office was “concerning.”

“That’s troubling because it raises further questions about Barr’s independence,” Shaub said.

Read more at the CNN link.

If you listened to Rachel Maddow’s podcast about Spiro Agnew (or even if you didn’t) you should read this op-ed at The Washington Post by three attorneys who were involved in that corruption case: We should demand high standards from William Barr. Spiro Agnew’s case shows why, by Barnet D. Skolnik, Russell T. Baker Jr., and Ronald S. Liebman.

In the winter of 1973, 46 years ago, the three of us were assistant U.S. attorneys in Baltimore starting a federal grand jury investigation of a corrupt Democratic county chief executive in Maryland. That investigation ultimately led to the prosecution of his corrupt Republican predecessor — the man who went on to become the state’s governor and then President Richard M. Nixon’s vice president, Spiro T. Agnew.

On Oct. 10, 1973, Agnew entered a plea to a criminal tax felony for failure to report the hundreds of thousands of dollars he’d received in bribes and kickbacks as county executive, governor and even vice president. All paid in cash, $100 bills delivered in white envelopes.

And he resigned.

Henri Matisse. Vase of Irises. 1912

From the beginning of our investigation, months before we had seen any indication that he had taken kickbacks, Agnew, along with top White House and administration officials and even Nixon himself, repeatedly tried to impede, obstruct and terminate the investigation in nefarious ways. Some of those efforts were unknown to us then and have come to light only now thanks to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and her “Bagman” podcast.

When newspapers began to report that he was under criminal investigation in the summer of 1973, Agnew aroused his base by screaming “witch hunt” and launching a vicious assault on the “lying” press, the “partisan” Justice Department, and the “biased” and “liberal Democrat” prosecutors in Baltimore.

If Agnew and Nixon had succeeded in derailing our investigation, the most corrupt man ever to sit a heartbeat away might have become the president of our country when Nixon was forced to resign less than a year later. But our investigation was protected — first, by our staunch and courageous boss, the late George Beall, the U.S. attorney for Maryland and a prominent Maryland Republican, and second, by the man who had become the new U.S. attorney general that spring, Elliot L. Richardson.

The authors then go on to explain why Barr should not be confirmed unless he commits to releasing Robert Mueller’s findings to the public. Read the whole thing at the WaPo.

There is so much more news! Here are some links to check out:

Flowers by Henri Matisse

Just Security: Who is Richard Burr, Really? Why the public can’t trust his voice in the Russia probe. (This is an incredibly important story. Corruption is all around us.)

NBC News: ‘Whistleblower’ seeks protection after sounding alarm over White House security clearances.

Politico: Judge rules Manafort lied to Mueller about contacts with Russian.

The New York Times: House Votes to Halt Aid for Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen.

Gulf News: Trump backer Tom Barrack defends Saudi Arabia.

The Washington Post: Trump confidant Thomas Barrack apologizes for saying U.S. has committed ‘equal or worse’ atrocities to killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The New York Times: Maria Ressa, Philippine Journalist Critical of Rodrigo Duterte, Is Released After Arrest.

HuffPost: I Wish I’d Had A ‘Late-Term Abortion’ Instead Of Having My Daughter. (Trigger warning for rape description)

Vice: Being Raised by Two Narcissists Taught Me How to Deal with Trump.

The New York Times: Ryan Adams Dangled Success. Women Say They Paid a Price.

Contemptor: Fox News Rejects Commercial for Documentary that Says Nazis are Bad.

So . . . what stories have you been following?


Lazy Saturday Reads: I Have No Words

Judith Slaying Holofernes, Artemisia Gentileschi

Good Morning!!

I have no words today.

Thanks to Delphyne for this article at The Guardian: More savage than Caravaggio: the woman who took revenge in oil.

Two women are holding a man down on a bed. One presses her fist against his head, so he can’t raise it from the mattress, while her companion pins his torso in place. They are well-built with powerful arms but even so it takes their combined strength to keep their victim immobilised as one of them cuts through his throat with a gleaming sword. Blood spurts from deep red geysers as she saws. She won’t stop until his head is fully severed. Her victim’s eyes are wide open. He knows exactly what is happening to him.

The dying man is Holofernes, an enemy of the Israelites in the Old Testament, and the young woman beheading him is Judith, his divinely appointed assassin. Yet at the same time he is also an Italian painter called Agostino Tassi, while the woman with the sword is Artemisia Gentileschi, who painted this. It is, effectively, a self-portrait.

Susanna and the Elders, artemisia gentileschi

Two big, blood-drenched paintings of Judith and Holofernes by Gentileschi survive, one in the Capodimonte in Naples, the other in the Uffizi in Florence. They are almost identical except for small details – in Naples Judith’s dress is blue, in Florence yellow – as if this image was a nightmare she kept having, the final act to a tragedy endlessly replaying in her head.

“This is the ring you gave me and these are your promises!” yelled Gentileschi as she was tortured in a Rome courtroom in 1612. Ropes were wrapped around her fingers and pulled tight. The judge had advised moderate use of the sibille, as this torture was called, for she was after all 18. Across the court sat the man who had raped her. No one thought of torturing him. Defiantly, Gentileschi told him her thumbscrews were the wedding ring he’d promised. Again and again, she repeated that her testimony about the rape was reliable: “It is true, it is true, it is true, it is true.

Tassi was hired by Gentileschi’s father to give her painting lessons.

Tassi tricked his way into her room and started making unwanted offers of sex, she testified. “He then threw me on to the edge of the bed, pushing me with a hand on my breast, and he put a knee between my thighs to prevent me from closing them. Lifting my clothes, he placed a hand with a handkerchief on my mouth to keep me from screaming.”

She fought back. “I scratched his face,” she told the court, “and pulled his hair and, before he penetrated me again, I grasped his penis so tight that I even removed a piece of flesh.” But she couldn’t stop him. Afterwards, she rushed to a drawer and got out a knife. “I’d like to kill you with this knife because you have dishonoured me,” she shouted. He opened his coat and said: “Here I am.” Gentileschi threw the knife but he shielded himself. “Otherwise,” she said, “I might have killed him.”

1498 self portrait, artemisia gentileschi

Read the rest at The Guardian. It’s a story that still rings true today. Gentileschi’s rapist was found guilty but wasn’t punished, and she was tortured. It’s a story as old as time and as modern as today when a Senate dominated by old, white Republican will elevate an attempted rapist, sexual abuser, and right wing political activist to the highest court in the land.

Centuries after Gentileschi was tortured by the legal system of her day, women are still routinely raped, sexually abused, and even murdered in the name of male supremacy. And when they dare to speak about what was done to them, they are abused again by the “justice” system and betrayed by colluding women like Maine Senator Susan Collins.

What is wrong with these men, beginning with Donald Trump, pretender to the presidency? Because I’m feeling mean, I’m going to post this Twitter thread.

I’m not sure I agree with this analysis, but I have always seen Trump as effeminate. His vanity, his hair, his odd hand gestures, he’s so far from masculine. Is that why he hates and abuses women? Because he feels weak and inadequate? That’s what I suspect.

Here’s piece by Jaco at The St. Louis American: Brett Kavanaugh and Republican white maledom.

Like most 68-year-old white males, I’m disgusted that an ideologue and perjurer accused of sexual assault is about to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

That sentence, of course is a lie. And the lie is in the first seven words. Most 68-year-old white males want Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. The respected Quinnipiac University poll shows 48 percent of Americans polled oppose Kavanaugh, while 42 percent support him. But 59 percent of white men want Kavanaugh, along with 45 percent of white women.

African Americans oppose Kavanaugh by 81 percent, while Hispanics dislike him by a 65 percent margin. In fact, the poll finds Kavanaugh is unpopular among every demographic group except white people over age 50, where the majority support him. Not co-incidentally, white people over age 50 vote in huge numbers and control the big money donations to the GOP.

Self-Portrait as a Lute Player, Artemisia Gentileschi

The entire Kavanaugh process has been one of the most blatant examples of minority rule since apartheid fell. Kavanaugh raged in self-pity during testimony. The White House limited the FBI “investigation” into sexual assault charges. Trump mocked Kavanaugh’s accuser. Majority Leader U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell sniffed that the GOP “won’t be intimidated” by sexual assault survivors. In every case, conservative white men snarled about how they, not Prof. Christine Blasey Ford or the rule of law, were the victims.

Charlie Cook, founder of the often-indispensable Cook Political Report, crunched the numbers and found that conservative Republican white males make up 18 percent of the American population. And yet they make up 100 percent of the GOP on the Senate Judiciary Committee, 100 percent of Republican leadership in the Senate, and 84 percent of the GOP Senate majority.

They’re determined to put a man with the judicial temperament of Bart Simpson on the bench for one simple reason. They want him as the fifth Supreme Court vote to erase every “liberal” decision of the last 60 years that has given expanded rights to blacks, Hispanics, women, gays, consumers, workers, and anyone else not part of conservative white maledom.

Click on the link to read the rest.

More recommended reads:

Yahoo News: Christine Blasey Ford’s Attorneys Reveal Statement From Corroborating Witness.

Yahoo News: Minutes after Sen. Susan Collins announced her support for Brett Kavanaugh, the site to fund her opponent was so overwhelmed that it crashed.

Statement from Debbie Ramirez (PDF)

The New York Times Editorial Board: The High Court Brought Low. Don’t let Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh have the last word about American justice.

Michael Tomasky at The New York Times: The Supreme Court’s Legitimacy Crisis.

Dahlia Lithwick and Susan Matthews: Investigation at Yale Law School.

Yahoo News: Lawsuits point to large trove of unreleased Kavanaugh White House documents.

The New York Times: House Democrat Promises Kavanaugh Investigation if Party Wins Control.

The Intercept: Sen. Susan Collins and Brett Kavanaugh are both in the Bush family inner circle. That helps explain her vote.

The New Yorker: The Tears of Brett Kavanaugh.

That’s all I have for now. Please take care of yourselves this weekend.