The Florida recount crisis involves 43,000 disputed votes in four counties in Florida in the year 2000. This year there could be tens of millions of paper mail in ballots for the election officials to count, and they will be operating without a full complement of workers. This is going to work out perfectly.
Christine Blasey Ford accuses Brett Kavanaugh of trying to rape her during a party while they were in prep school. The political stakes are high: if Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote fails in the Senate and Democrats win the body back in November, conservatives will watch their dream of a solidly reliable 5-4 majority go up in smoke.
What makes the research psychologist’s charge culturally interesting — why people can’t talk about much else this week — are its many layers of debatability.
Is it right to derail a man’s career, or anyone’s anything, over a charge that can’t be verified? Is “innocent until proven guilty” still a thing?
Assuming Ford is truthful (and no new victims of Kavanaugh’s alleged piggery step forward), is a single disgraceful act by a 17-year-old (she was 15) a dealbreaker? 17-year-olds are more aggressive and impulsive than adults. It’s not their fault. It’s their brains’. Out-of-control teens don’t necessarily become crazy adults. That’s why we have a separate justice system for children. On the other hand, most of the people I knew as kids haven’t changed that much.
If Kavanaugh’s school buddy hadn’t busted up the scene, would he have raped Ford? Maybe, maybe not. But what she alleges, pinning her down and covering her mouth, would be unlawful restraint — a serious criminal offense.
I don’t know what happened. If this were a jury instructed to convict beyond a reasonable doubt, I’d have to let Kavanaugh walk.
My gut tells me Ford is telling the truth. She told her own shrink in 2012. She passed a polygraph. Her account describes an encounter that, though terrifying, could have gone worse. If she wanted to destroy Kavanaugh’s bid for the high court, she could claim that he’d raped her. Kavanaugh was a prep boy. He’s still a douche. Ford’s description sounds like vintage late-1970s/early-1980s douchbaggery. Douches gonna douche.
Again, I don’t know.
But here’s the thing: we can’t know. He said-she said is a cliché for a reason. This took place, or didn’t, in an age before smartphones and security cameras. People had privacy. Which they sometimes abused.
Republicans want the he and the she to testify under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 24th. Anita Hill 2.0! Ford’s lawyer says that’s too soon because her client wouldn’t have enough time to prepare. For what it’s worth, Ford’s lawyer is right; Kavanaugh had months to prepare for his cakewalk; she deserves the same before getting grilled.
If and when America gets its spectacle — Monday, Monday, Monday! Ford vs. Kavanaugh! Visit the concession stand! — we will know nothing more than we do today. She says it happened. He says it didn’t. She can’t prove it did. He can’t prove it didn’t.
What’s really on trial here is #MeToo.
Some dude, a pompous, angry “white knight,” tweeted the semi-official motto of #MeToo the other day: “BELIEVE ALL WOMEN! DISCUSSION OVER.” Nice try, but fascism isn’t the law yet. Discussion continues. Discussion will continue for the foreseeable future.
Because this discussion is inherently unresolveable.
It will not be resolved. But it will end.
#MeToo will end with a whimper. Give us a few more Aziz Ansaris and we’ll be too exhausted to continue. Yet #MeToo will have accomplished a lot. Its “Believe All Women” battle cry will be dismissed as the ridiculous attempted overcorrection it obviously is. No one deserves to be believed, not at face value, not without evidence, just because they’re a woman (or a man).
What people need and deserve, accuser and accused alike, is to be respected, taken seriously, and listened to. Pre-#MeToo, too many female accusers were dismissed out of hand, even mocked, frequently disrespected and revictimized. Too many male offenders were believed simply for belonging to the half of the population privileged under patriarchy.
Society needs to arrive at a place where people of underprivileged status are heard as much and as intelligently as those with wealth and power. Well, society really needs to eliminate differences in social and economic status. But until then, equal respect and dignity will have to suffice. #MeToo will help us get there.
In the meantime, we’ll have Ford vs. Kavanaugh.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Hillary Clinton’s recent attack on fellow presidential hopeful Marco Rubio (R-FL) over abortion (“offensive,” “outrageous” and “troubling,” she said) reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to wonder aloud for some time:
Why doesn’t the Democratic Party call for a federal law legalizing abortion?
Thanks to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, abortion is legal. Given the 5-4 balance of the Supreme Court barely in favor of that 1973 decision, however, federal abortion rights could vanish following the next vacancy on the high bench, especially if it happens under a Republican president. (Abortion would remain legal in liberal states.)
Four decades of legal limbo is enough.
If Hillary, Bernie Sanders and Congressional Democrats really believe in a woman’s right to control her own body — for the record, I think they do — they should jointly endorse a bill legalizing abortion throughout the land.
It is true, of course, that full-throated support for reproductive freedom carries political risks.
With only 50% in support of abortion rights and 35% against, Democrats would risk losing some of the conservatives we used to call Reagan Democrats, or just swing voters, especially Catholics. Incredibly, you’re more likely to poke someone who likes gay marriage than abortion when you shake a stick.
Of even greater concern to Democratic strategists is losing leverage over their progressive wing. Following decades of marginalization and watching their political views overlooked in favor of Clintonite “Third Way” centrists, the left is disgruntled, voting and giving donations in smaller numbers. One thing that still motivates these liberals to turn out for Democrats is the prospect of a Republican-controlled Supreme Court, followed by the overturning of Roe v. Wade — a threat many social-issue liberal Democrats find appalling.
If Congress legalizes abortion, this motivation goes away — and leaves a party that went along with the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, passed welfare reform, and enthusiastically pushed through a spate of free trade agreements viewed by economic populists as corporate giveaways that kill American jobs.
This is almost certainly why Hillary Clinton talks a good game on abortion — and that’s where it ends. She just doesn’t care enough to take a chance.
Despite the downsides, Clinton, Sanders and the party ought to press for a federal bill. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama played to the polls, the latter endorsing gay marriage, saying his views had “evolved” only after surveys told him it was safe. Voters are starving for leadership, for politicians who point the way forward, telling us where we should go before we form a national consensus.
Certainly, such a move would solidify support for the party among women by signaling that it is willing to take risks. The bill could go down to defeat. But legislative defeat could become a moral victory, as in Ellen Pao’s unsuccessful sex discrimination lawsuit.
It would also put Congressional Republicans on the spot, forcing them to go on the record as voting against abortion rights — which most American women support. This tactic, forcing opponents to vote “nay” so you can beat them up with attack ads later, is rarely used by Democrats. I don’t understand why. Is the SCOTUS threat really so powerful that it justifies the real possibility that tens of millions of women and girls in conservative Southern states will lose abortion as an option? Aren’t strategists worried that, at some point, liberal women in particular will get wise, and ask the same question I’m posing here: why don’t Dems even try for a federal abortion-rights bill?
If nothing else, it would be nice to see an end to the 42-year-old ritual of protests outside the Supreme Court in Washington, attended by pro-choice and pro-life factions yelling insults at each other.
It’s time for American political culture to get real and grow up about abortion. It’s silly and weird and unproductive for a major nation to remain so paralyzed so long over such a major issue. Women deserve to be able rely upon more than a flimsy court decision.
There ought to be a law — and Democrats should lead the charge.
(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower, to be published August 25th. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)
COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
The US Supreme Court rules 5-4 against death-row inmates who didn’t want to be executed with a toxin that causes excrutiating pain. The reason given by one justice: they failed to offer a better method of killing them. Which prompts the question: since when are prisoners responsible for figuring out the best way to execute them?
The US Supreme Court has expanded the “corporate personhood” ruling in Citizens United, which expanded individual First Amendment rights to corporations that are established in order to evade personal liability, to allowing them to express their religious beliefs (actually the beliefs of their top executives) via, among other things, what health care benefits they’re willing to provide.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that corporations may be guided by their religious beliefs in determining which types of contraception, if any, women employees may be covered for under their work-provided insurance. They may also decide whether to pay for abortions if and when those forms of contraception fail.
The US Supreme Court has ruled to abolish overall caps on federal campaign contributions, bringing an end to most meaningful limits on the influence of money on Congress. Yeah, there’s going to be even more corruption. But think of the bright side: Congress can ask their sponsors for even more money! If nothing else, it will stimulate the economy.
Privacy is a basic human right. Yet, for 200+ years, Americans have tolerated “morals laws” that told us who we could marry and what sexual positions they were allowed to enjoy.
You couldn’t marry outside your “race” in every state until 1967. Oral and anal sex were illegal until 2003. But morals laws are doomed. Courts are throwing the government out of our bedrooms.
Puritanism is dying hard. Some people still want the police to regulate our sex lives. In his dissent to the 2003 Supreme Court decision striking down anti-sodomy laws in Texas, right-wing Justice Antonin Scalia complained that the SCOTUS had undermined “the ancient proposition that a governing majority’s belief that certain sexual behavior is ‘immoral and unacceptable’ constitutes a rational basis for regulation.”
The ancient stupid proposition.
Agonizing about an imminent “massive disruption of the current social order,” Scalia predicted ten years ago that, after the government relinquishes its power to govern personal sexual behavior and accepts that what happens between consenting adults in Americans’ bedrooms is their own damned business, “every single…law” against “bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity” would fall in the wake of Lawrence v. Texas.
“This effectively decrees the end of all morals legislation,” Scalia said.
It looks like Scalia was right about that. Bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication and obscenity will likely be legalized in the near future. (But not bestiality. Animals can’t consent, so hands off Fido and Mittens.)
Lawrence has been repeatedly cited by judges ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.
Next to go: Laws against polygamy and bigamy.
Citing Lawrence, a federal judge recently declared parts of Utah’s anti-polygamy statutes unconstitutional. The U.S. Constitution, Judge Clark Waddoups ruled, protects Americans from “unwarranted government intrusions into a dwelling or other private places” and allows “an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression and certain intimate conduct.” Which includes butt sex. And having multiple spouses. Assuming you can handle them.
Legal experts say though the politics are different than they are for gay marriage — there isn’t a big, well-funded polygamist-rights movement — it’s only a matter of time before anti-polygamy laws get thrown out. Right-wingers, reeling from the fact that gay marriage has been made legal in 14 states, are freaking out about polygamy.
“Same-sex marriage advocates have told us that people ought to be able to ‘marry who they love’ but have also always downplayed the idea that this would lead to legalized polygamy, a practice that very often victimizes women and children,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a Christianist group, said in a statement. “But if love and mutual consent become the definition of what the boundaries of marriage are, can we as a society any longer even define marriage coherently?”
Heaven forbid that “love and mutual consent” become the defining requirements for marriage!
Nothing lasts forever — not in a nation with a 50% divorce rate — but it’s clear that same-sex marriage will eventually be the law of the land.
Polygamy logically follows. “Liberals and libertarians tend to believe private sexual conduct between consenting adults ought to be beyond the reach of the law,” as Conor Friedersdorf writes in The Atlantic. “Applying that principle consistently would seem to carve out a decriminalized sphere for polygamous families.” Also, one assumes, for those organized around polyandry (one wife, multiple husbands).
It is estimated that there are 30,000 to 50,000 polygamous families living in the United States.
When gays and lesbians began agitating for the right to be married, I didn’t understand why they’d want to. Obviously, the legal protections, tax benefits and healthcare advantages are nice. But wasn’t one of the best parts about being gay that you couldn’t get married?
After mulling it over, same-sex marriage passed my one-question test for proposed changes: What harm might result? I couldn’t think of any. The best argument against same-gender that it “violates the sanctity of marriage.” Which is a set of words strung into a meaningless phrase. What sanctity? How does gay marriage hurt straight marriage? It can’t. It doesn’t. The same is true of polygamy and Scalia’s other bugaboos.
Same-sex marriage has been a rapid, and radical, change. Yet now, most Americans agree with me that it’s a good idea.
Let freedom march on. Including the freedom to jerk off.
As Justice Scalia said, there is no longer a constitutional basis for laws against masturbation. In Connecticut, where prisoners are banned from self-pleasure, it is time to let inmates touch their nutmegs. In Alabama, where you can yank it with your bare hands but not with the aid of a device, let a thousand Fleshlights sing.
Let us join the civilized world by decriminalizing the 50% to 70% of married Americans who have sex with people who are not their spouse. “In nearly the entire rest of the industrialized world, adultery is not covered by the criminal code,” The New York Times reported in 2012. In the U.S., on the other hand, cheating is a crime in 23 states, and, for members of the military, grounds for court-martial.
In Minnesota, single women who have sex at all are subject to one year in prison plus a $3000 fine.
Prosecutions for adultery are rare but not unheard of. “Just a year after the Lawrence decision, John R. Bushey Jr., then 66, the town attorney for Luray, Va., was prosecuted for adultery and agreed to a plea bargain of community service. A year later, Lucius James Penn, then 29, was charged with adultery in Fargo, N.D. In 2007, a Michigan appellate court ruled that adultery can still support a life sentence in that state,” reported USA Today.
Many arguments in support of moralizing legislation focus on the effect of targeted behavior on the vulnerable, including women and children. Moralizers miss that their proscriptions increase abuse by driving victims underground. For example, polygamous religious cults use their illegal status to isolate children, forcing some to marry against their will. Because they’re in secret compounds, they can’t call the police. Prostitution is most dangerous in states and countries where the oldest profession is illegal.
As gays and lesbians marry, there is zero sign of Scalia’s “massive disruption of the current social order.” To the contrary: morals laws are the disruptive force. Laws against victimless crimes subvert the primary purpose of law: to promote the common good. Laws that ban behavior that is widespread (such as adultery and masturbation) effectively criminalize the majority of citizens, which undermines respect for government.
Society can and will debate morality. It should not enforce moral judgments about personal behavior through the courts.
Moral laws are immoral.
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COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL
I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).
This week: The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to take up the issue of gay marriage in California as soon as Friday morning. The moment has prompted nervous debate within the gay-rights movement about the best path to achieve gay marriage. If the justices opt not to hear the Proposition 8 case, then a federal appeals court ruling that found the 2008 state ballot measure banning same-sex marriage unconstitutional would stand, clearing the way for marriages to begin. If the justices take up the case, a ruling would not come until next year and gay marriage would remain on hold until then, or longer depending on how the court rules.