Letter to Senators on Lame Duck Session

Respect Our Vote

Respect Our Vote. The Overpass Light Brigade with a message at Wisconsin’s Capitol, December 3, 2018.

Right now in Wisconsin, Republican leadership has proposed a slew of legislation that would effectively undermine the duly elected Governor and Attorney General, among other things. There are five Republican Senators who have not committed to vote for these bills and if even two of them defect from their party leadership the bills cannot pass. Today I sent the following letter to each of them:

Dear Senator,

When you are elected to a Senate seat you are elected to represent the people in your district, but in a larger sense you are elected to do what is right for all of Wisconsin’s citizens. The people of Wisconsin elected Tony Evers as Governor and Josh Kaul as Attorney General, among other statewide offices won by Democrats. Currently, the Republican leadership is trying to push through multiple bills that take away power from both of those offices, among other last-minute attempts to consolidate power and sneakily slip through other things like a tax break for households that make over $200,000 a year. That is not a break for most Wisconsinites. Likewise, the power grab behind most of this legislation is not what’s right for Wisconsin.

I am sure that you understand that Wisconsin’s citizens are considerably smarter than the Republican leadership believes. Everyone sees through the flimsy reasoning that they are giving for the necessity of these bills and for pushing them through in a special lame duck session with little to no time for citizen input or even for Assembly and Senate representatives to fully read through them. Nobody is being fooled by any of it and voters will remember this come election time.

Wisconsinites have a history of supporting open, clean, honest government. When Victor Berger was elected to Congress as a Socialist in the early 1900s and Congress refused to seat him and called another election, the people of this state elected him again with more votes. There were many citizens who acknowledged that they didn’t like him but voted for him the second time because–whether they liked it or not–the citizens of the state had elected him. The same thing happened with Scott Walker’s recall election. Many voters were quoted as saying they hadn’t voted for Scott Walker in the first place, but voted for him in the recall election because they didn’t believe it was right to recall him just because some people didn’t like his policies. We are an independent and stubborn people and we will remember who did the right thing and who caved in to party leadership.

Please note that along with many Wisconsin residents I am not a Republican or Democrat. I am an independent voter who will vote for the candidate, not the party. In one election several years ago I voted for four different parties. I will happily do what I can to help unseat any legislator who votes for these lame duck bills and will also do what I can to support those who vote with the majority of Wisconsin’s citizens rather than the majority party. I believe that you know that these proposals are not good for Wisconsin and I fervently hope you will consider your conscience and do the right thing. Please do not let us down.

Addendum: For those Wisconsinites who wish to contact one of the Senators who may be convinced to do the right thing, they are: Senators Cowles, Fayen, Olsen, Petrowski, and Testin.

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The Boys at the Top

Shame

Wisconsin Capitol/Shame. (Photo by Callen Harty)

When we were kids in small-town Wisconsin there were always some of the popular kids who could get away with all sorts of things. They were athletes or their parents were rich or held important positions in the town, so they were used to being on top of the world and getting what they wanted most of the time. On those occasions when a game of some sort was played and the popular boys lost, they would suddenly change the rules of the game to change the results. A big score for the underdogs would suddenly turn into a penalty for a loss and no amount of arguing could change the new reality that the rules had changed.

For those kids who could change the rules on a whim, playing games was never about competition, sportsmanship, getting to know other people through the games, or even about valuable life lessons as most coaches would say. It was about winning. The big lesson of the Green Bay Packers’ Vince Lombardi–“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing,”–was drilled into their heads and they took it to heart. Of course, they only heard that one quote and they took him too literally. Lombardi was a moral man who would not tolerate anything but the best effort from his players. He expected them to win with hard work, heart, and playing by the rules. He might take advantage of the rules, but he would not change them after the fact in order for his team to win. That kind of win would be meaningless to him.

But immature boys don’t understand the nuances of someone like Lombardi. Popular boys don’t understand that they won’t always be the winners. Bullies don’t understand that they can’t push others around to get what they want for their entire lives without some kind of comeuppance. They may continue to try the tricks they learned as children, but there will be times when they lose, when things don’t work out exactly as they had planned–even when they are the ones with all the power. It’s the nature of life. Still, they will continue to try–because for them winning is the only thing, at any cost.

In the recent mid-term election, Wisconsin ousted Scott Walker, one of the darlings of the Republican right wing, from the governorship, replacing him with Democrat Tony Evers. In addition, Badger citizens elected the first African-American Lieutenant Governor, a new Attorney General, State Treasurer, and returned Tammy Baldwin to the Senate, a sweep by the Democrats of the five statewide races that were held. Republicans held onto the State Senate and Assembly.

After the election, the Republican legislators who have held power in all branches of the Wisconsin government since Walker was elected in 2010 and took power with a “divide and conquer” strategy in 2011, were stunned. For the first time in eight years they suddenly did not hold every branch of government and the Governor-elect was talking about trying to undo some of the harm that they had done to the state.

But the leadership of the state Republicans are boys who were used to eight years of absolute power, eight years of pushing through every bill they wanted against an opposing party that couldn’t stop them because of numbers, eight years of changing the rules to win, to get what they wanted no matter what. They are the boys who pushed through bills in the middle of the night, who cut off public hearings, who passed laws giving the governor more power so that they could get even more of what they wanted. The reality is that it really wasn’t so much about what they wanted, and definitely not about what Wisconsin citizens wanted, but about what the American Legislative Exchange Council–ALEC–wanted. ALEC is a conservative lobbying group for various industries that writes boilerplate laws that toadies like Wisconsin’s leadership push through state legislatures around the country. They own these guys.

These boys, who are so full of themselves and the power they have held for so long–have decided, just like the pre-pubescent children playing games in my youth, that they want to change the rules so that they can keep winning. It is not about what’s best for the state or its citizens, but for the bullies and their overlords who supply them with money for their next campaigns. And they are so confident of their power, their right to win, their destiny, that they don’t even pretend that they are looking out for anyone but themselves.

In recent days, they have called for an election date to be changed, even though county clerks across the state have said that it would be a hardship and cost the state millions of dollars. The leadership publicly announced that they believe it will give a conservative Supreme Court Justice a better chance at winning reelection. He was appointed by Walker, but now has to win his seat. They believe the Democrats may not turn out in as many numbers with the changed date as they will for a Presidential primary, which would have been held the same day. They have suddenly had a surprising epiphany and realized that maybe they gave Scott Walker too much power and they should now take back some of the power that they mistakenly gave to him. They also want to take away power from the Attorney General and give it to themselves. And more. This is a naked grab for power, a move so blatant that nobody in the state is fooled by it at all.

There will be citizens at the hearings already scheduled for Monday (after the hundreds of pages of text of the bills were released on Friday). There will be protesters at the Capitol all day Monday and Tuesday (when the vote on these bills is expected). However, the numbers will likely not rival or even come close to the tens of thousands who showed up in opposition to Scott Walker’s sudden push to strip union workers of their rights back in 2011. And the opposition will likely fail. These boys in power have not listened to protests, citizens, newspaper editorials, Democrats in the legislature, or anyone but their moneyed backers for eight years and they have the numbers to pass whatever they want and the Governor-elect does not have veto power until January. Scott Walker is still the governor and can sign whatever they pass. Though he calls himself a Christian and a moral person, he has not yet shown that he has the conscience to veto such unbridled power grabs.

What bullies like these boys don’t understand, though, is that these kinds of unfair bending and breaking of the rules usually come back to bite one in the ass at some point. The popular kids, the powerful boys, don’t always win. During their eight-year reign of power they passed a bill to change Wisconsin’s recount laws, Walker signed it, and that law prevented him from asking for a recount in the election that he just lost. Somehow, some way, karma makes itself known. Somehow, in some way, the boys in power at this moment in time, will lose their power, their popularity will wane, and they will not be remembered fondly when history writes their story.

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Letter to Attorney General-Elect Josh Kaul

Capitol

Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison. Photo by Callen Harty.

Dear Attorney General-Elect Kaul,

Back on August 21, I sent the e-mail below urging an investigation of clergy abuse in Wisconsin to both the current Attorney General and the Dane County District Attorney. I did not hear back from either of them about this issue. Since Pennsylvania released its report on clergy abuse in the Catholic Church, at least nine other states have decided to launch investigations (Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, and Wyoming). It is past time to do so here in Wisconsin. Our children and adult survivors deserve no less.

As a survivor and an activist in the survivor community I have heard too many stories of childhoods destroyed by molesters. It is far more damaging when the perpetrators are trusted adults such as priests, teachers, scout leaders, and others. I would be happy to speak further with you about this or any survivor issues you may wish to discuss. Thank you for your attention. Below is the e-mail I sent back in August:

Good afternoon,

With the recent release of the Grand Jury report in Pennsylvania implicating more than 300 priests of abusing more than 1,000 children (and likely far more), it seems that it is time to open a similar investigation here in Wisconsin. The Diocese of Milwaukee has already been in the news for the abuse of dozens of young people, but the same lens has not been applied to the Diocese of Madison. What the Pennsylvania Grand Jury (and others in New York and elsewhere) have shown is that there has been a culture of church superiors accepting and covering up crimes and improper behavior by priests under their authority. In every jurisdiction in which there has been an investigation or Grand Jury, evidence has shown crimes committed and covered up.

Throughout the world there have been cases of child molestation in Catholic and other churches for decades. This is bad enough, but in most of these cases the crimes have been covered up and priests moved to other parishes and allowed to continue preying on innocent children. There have been at least 11 cases of Madison diocesan priests being publicly accused of sexual abuse. In the most recent case, that of Father William Nolan, the church was less than forward about what it may have known about and when. It is time to make sure that any crimes that have been committed that are still within the statute of limitations are prosecuted to the full extent, including the crime of withholding information and covering up the crimes of others.

I don’t know what the process is for convening a Grand Jury, but am assuming that it must start with a District Attorney or the Attorney General of Wisconsin. I am copying both the Wisconsin Attorney General and the Dane County District Attorney on this e-mail and am pleading with one or both of you to embark upon this path of justice for any victims that are out there and still holding onto their secrets. The more time that passes the likelier that perpetrators will not be brought to justice due to statutes of limitation.

I am an adult survivor of child sex abuse (not by a priest) and know the pain and scars that can result from this. I recently read about a Cardinal in New York holding children culpable by stating that by the age of seven they know right from wrong. I also saw and responded to a letter written by Madison’s Bishop Morlino that laid the blame for all child abuse in the church at the feet of Wisconsin’s gay population instead of looking inward and cleaning house. It is time to make sure that house is clean.

My understanding is also that Grand Juries are secret, so I understand there may already be something in place or you may not be able to share with me if you do convene one. I simply ask that you consider doing so if it hasn’t already been considered.

Thank you for your consideration.

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Heart Beat

 

It has now been ten years since I was put in the back of an ambulance and rushed to the University of Wisconsin Hospital with what proved to be a 100% blockage of my left coronary. It happened in the middle of an opening night performance at Broom Street Theater, and I finished that scene and my last scene and the story made all the local newspapers. Between the theater and the hospital I was given three hits of nitroglycerin to open the blood vessels more. When I got there a social worker stopped by to ask about end-of-life issues and whether I wanted to donate body parts. I told them they probably didn’t want my liver from previous abuse, it was likely they no longer wanted my heart, that my vision and hearing were going, but that if there was anything left they could have it. They didn’t laugh.

Somehow I knew I was going to be okay that night, but it was still scary. My father died of a massive heart attack at the age of 41. I had already outlived him by ten years at that point, and twenty now, but my heart was severely damaged. The doctors told me that I had survived a life-threatening event. They put four stents in to help the blood flow better and when it was all done I was told that going forward I would be living on 60% of my heart’s capacity.

In that first year or so afterward I was a perfect patient. I joined a fitness club, lost fifty pounds, stayed on my regimen of drugs, and did everything I was told I should do. My cardiologist even noted on one visit that I was a “poster child for heart attack recovery.”

But it’s been ten years and I didn’t remain a perfect patient. I couldn’t afford to keep up the club membership, the Mediterranean diet sort of slipped through the cracks, I gained pretty much all of the weight back (although I’ve dropped twenty pounds back off again), and at some point I went off the drug regimen. I don’t have a good excuse for it. There was a moment when I needed to refill prescriptions and didn’t have the money for it. Then I justified it because of all the commercials on television that enumerate the horrendous side effects of so many drugs (including some heart medications that caused the pharmaceutical companies to be sued). And being the good Catholic boy, I was embarrassed and ashamed to contact the doctor to get going on the drugs again.

That all changed several weeks ago when I went into Urgent Care because of an ear ache and severe dizziness. It ultimately turned out that was from a couple infections, but because of the symptoms I described one of the doctors ordered an EKG and they found an irregular heartbeat and once again I was put into the back of an ambulance and raced to UW Hospital and Clinics. They kept me overnight and did blood tests, more EKGs, a stress test, and more. They indicated that things seemed okay when they released me and told me I passed the stress test, and scheduled a follow-up with my cardiologist.

What they didn’t tell me and I didn’t find out until I met with my cardiologist a couple weeks ago was that I “passed” the stress test, but that the results were not normal. He explained that I had ischemic cardiomyopathy, which essentially means that my heart is not pumping out as much blood as it should. After my heart attack it was pumping at about 41 percent (normal is about 50), but the stress test showed me averaging about 31 percent with a low at one point of 26 percent. To determine the severity of it, the doctor ordered an echocardiogram, which gives a more accurate picture. The echocardiogram is scheduled for next week. Treatment can range from a drug regimen and lifestyle change to stents to pacemakers or bypass surgery, depending on severity. Because he didn’t schedule the echocardiogram until three weeks out and our next appointment together is three months out, I figured that he’s not overly concerned about it, but it’s still a bit scary. He did get me back on the drugs to start.

The thing is I’m not a young buck anymore. I’ve outlived my father by twenty years now, but I still have those genes. The heart attack should have been warning enough about caring for my body and yes, I am feeling guilt about not continuing with my self-care the way I started. I also understand that I cannot change those choices from the past, except to be better in the future. I still have so much to do in my life and there is no guarantee no matter what I do that I will live any longer than today. There is no guarantee for any of us about life expectancy. But watching my diet, following doctor’s orders, and doing what I can to live as healthy as I can certainly improves my odds that when it is time to go I will have done what I need to do in this life, lived it as fully as I can, and leave with no regrets. So today, on this tenth anniversary, I rededicate myself to myself and to a long and healthy future.

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Yes, This Is Who We Are

Ripples

Ripples. Photo by Callen Harty.

 

Aside from the ubiquitous thoughts and prayers, the refusal to consider any kind of gun control at all because it’s always too soon to talk about it, and the flags once again lowered to half-staff, there is another thing that comes up every time there is a mass shooting–the refrain, uttered with no sense of irony, that “This is not who we are.”

Thoughts and prayers do not bring back the dead.

We still need common sense gun laws.

The American flag should simply remain at half-staff in shame.

And, yes, absolutely yes, this is who we are.

Not everyone, of course, but who we are as a nation, as a people so splintered it seems almost impossible to build any kind of bridge to find common ground.

Despite what we are taught, we are not a melting pot where all the ingredients are mixed in nicely. We are a gun-crazed, violence-filled cesspool of people who hate other people. We are angry, greedy, jealous, narcissistic jerks who always have to be right and who lack compassion or empathy. We are white people who hate and mistrust people of color and we are people of color who hate and mistrust white people. We are Christians who hate Jews who hate Muslims who hate Christians. We are straights who hate gays and gays who hate straights, men who hate women and women who hate men, cisgender folks who hate trans folks and trans folks who hate cisgender folks. We are a nation of immigrants who hate the Native people who were here first. We are a nation of immigrants who also hate the immigrants who are still coming for a supposed better life. We are a sad, pathetic nation of sorry losers who despite all indications to the contrary think that we are the greatest nation on earth.

This is who we are.

We are not the greatest nation on earth. We were never the greatest nation on earth. We committed genocide on the indigenous peoples of this land, we captured and enslaved people from another continent, we have been at war pretty much endlessly with one enemy after another since the founding of the republic. We are killing the earth that nurtures us and we are killing each other. We idolize profits more than prophets.

This is who we are.

When in one week a right-wing fanatic sends bombs to more than a dozen people with whom he disagrees, a white supremacist shoots two African-American people in a grocery store while stating that “whites don’t shoot whites,” and an anti-Semite kills eleven worshippers in a synagogue–including a 97 year-old woman who survived the Holocaust–we cannot say, “This is not who we are.”

It is who we are.

We are a nation of covert wars, assassinations, random killings. We are a nation of cities that count their murders every year in the dozens and hundreds. We are Las Vegas, Pulse Orlando, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Stoneman Douglas, Columbine, Fort Hood, Aurora, Oak Creek, and more. We are also now, ironically, The Tree of Life.

This is who we are.

But it is not who we have to be, because we are also first responders, volunteers, life savers, pacifists, rabbis, ministers, priests, doctors, nurses, peacemakers, and countless people who give of themselves every day to make their communities, this country, and the world a better place for all. We are also those who donate blood when mass shootings happen, those who raise money to care for others, those who take care of others before themselves.

This is who we can be.

As a society we need to learn to put ourselves in the shoes of others. We need to understand what it must be like to be in such dire circumstances in the country of one’s birth to choose to leave it and go to an unknown promised land for the hope of a better life. My ancestors did that. Along with about a million others they left Ireland and its potato famine behind to avoid being among the million who died of starvation and disease during the famine. Others leave their places of origin for political reasons in countries where they might face imprisonment or death because of who they are or what they believe. The Hondurans walking through Mexico will walk more than a thousand miles to get to the U. S. border. Who would do this unless they felt they had no choice? We must try to see the world through the eyes of others.

It is who we must become if we are to survive as a nation, if we are to be more than just a footnote of history. We will become the greatest nation on earth when we learn to love one another, when we become empathetic, when we have compassion for the least of our brethren and live that compassion in our daily lives. We will become great when we come to terms with our privilege, when we offer food and shelter to the poor, when we find forgiveness for those who have hurt us, when we seek forgiveness from those we’ve hurt, when our conscience is our guide and when love is the beacon that leads us into a better tomorrow. We will become great when our moral compass points at our own souls and we see that we are heading in the right direction–homeward–to that place of love that resides within each of us.

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Profiles in Cowardice

Supreme Court

Supreme Court building, Washington, DC. Photo by Callen Harty.

On Friday, the remaining holdouts on the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation announced their intentions in the vote that is scheduled for Saturday. For those who are survivors of sexual assault, the likely vote of 51 to 49 to confirm–unless something major changes overnight–brings up all sorts of horrible recollections. Not believing Dr. Christine Blasey Ford feels like none of us are believed. It feels like those who may have believed it did not care, and that is even worse than not believing it. To question why Dr. Ford would wait so long to open up about her abuse is to question why any survivor would wait that long–and there are myriad reasons, including threats of violence, fear, shame, self-hatred, self-blame, and on an on. I was molested repeatedly between the ages of ten and about seventeen and a half. It wasn’t until after I had a heart attack at the age of 51 that I was able to openly confront the horrid details of that abuse. The road to healing is a life-long, ever-winding road upon which the destination is always somehow past the horizon.

There are many reasons not to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. He clearly lied under oath and that should have denied him this confirmation even if there had never been an assault. He revealed in the hearing–and in his record on the bench–that he is too partisan to be an impartial jurist. He showed a temperament in his opening statement and his petulant responses to legitimate questions that he is the antithesis of a steady and thoughtful justice.

But it is the accusation of Dr. Ford and the responses to it that are the most resonant right now. While both the Democrats and Republicans politicized this appointment from the first day, Dr. Ford’s story should have been beyond politics. While the Democrats used her to try to stop Kavanaugh for their own political reasons, very few of them showed they really cared about her and how the sexual assault impacted her entire life. The story of the extra door in her house rang so true it shook me. For years, I would only take seats in public places where I could see a way to be able to leave (or escape) if necessary, without even realizing that it was a reaction to the abuse I suffered as a child.

Many in the Senate are to blame if Kavanaugh is confirmed, on both sides of the aisle. While a handful of Republicans may have believed from the start that Kavanaugh was a good, legitimate choice for Justice, most of them clearly saw that he would advance their agenda and they decided early on that nothing would stand in the way of that. Their myopia caused them to see every objection to him by the Democrats as some kind of plan to ensure that he wouldn’t be seated (and the Democrats had stated from the beginning that they would do everything they could to prevent him being seated). Because of this, when the Ford story broke, the Republicans immediately perceived it as a Democratic move to derail the nomination instead of understanding it as a woman coming to terms with the horror she experienced as a girl. It caused them to justify standing their ground and to lose sight of any empathy that they may have had.

The Democrats shifted the focus from Dr. Ford to questions of heavy drinking in the judge’s youth, in a country where virtually everyone drinks to excess and does drugs in their youth. They became insistent on a further FBI inquiry while allowing the Republican leadership to set the terms for that investigation. As a result, the supposed investigation turned into a sham. Even those not in law enforcement could see that it was a shoddy attempt.

Aside from these generalizations, though, there were certain Senators whose cowardice about the issue of sexual assault should earn them the scorn of every woman and every sex abuse survivor in the country. Of course, just as there are people of color, LGBT persons, and others who vote against their own self-interest, there are women out there who support the nomination and refuse to believe Dr. Ford’s story. They will vote for rich old white men who do not care about them even when it doesn’t seem logical because other things are more important to them. Hopefully, though, there are enough people who are so upset with this that a good number of the Senators who move this nomination along will be unseated as soon as possible.

Among the guilty in this process there are a handful who stand out as particularly culpable.

Chuck Grassley chaired the hearing in which Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh testified. He has repeatedly accused the Democrats and left-wingers of doing everything they could to stall or stop the nomination. He was clearly in the room during Dr. Ford’s testimony but also clearly didn’t allow himself to go past the idea that she was some kind of plant put there by the Democrats.

Lindsey Graham, who once despised Donald Trump, has now become his lap dog. In the middle of the hearing he lashed out like an angry old queen secretly in love with the frat boy who is out of reach. He focused on the timing of the release of information about Dr. Ford, without caring about her request for anonymity or about what may have happened to her as a 15 year-old girl. His compassion was all for Kavanaugh and how the accusations must have hurt him.

As the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell used everything in his power to push Kavanaugh’s nomination through at lightning speed. This is the same man who held up the previous President’s nomination of a Justice for a year, but who insisted that this nomination needed to be voted upon immediately. It was for purely political reasons. He has seen the polling that shows that under Donald Trump’s leadership the Republicans are in danger of losing the House, Senate, or both in just five weeks. His only concern was for cementing a right-wing conservative majority on the Supreme Court so that the Republican agenda is protected. He clearly didn’t care about anyone or anything else that might get in the way of that goal. He is one of the Senators who does not deserve any respect.

Susan Collins and Jeff Flake both acted as if they wanted all the facts to be presented, but did not push for a full investigation when they had the power to do so. Like the Democrats they allowed the Republican leadership to set the terms of that investigation and then both used it as political cover in stating they would vote for Kavanaugh. They know that it was not a complete investigation. They know that Christine Blasey Ford was sexually assaulted in high school and you can read in their body language that they believe her story and believe that Kavanaugh did it, but are hiding behind the cover of the FBI report as it did not corroborate her story. In a legal sense it did not. It could not, because the FBI didn’t speak to numerous witnesses who wanted to corroborate her story.

As a woman, Collins should be ashamed of betraying other women and sexual assault survivors. She must be lucky to be one of the women in this country not abused by men when one in every three or four have been (and those numbers are probably higher because many women–like Dr. Ford–never report their rapes, attempted rapes, assaults, harassment, etc.). If she had been assaulted at some point in her life she could not possibly vote yes for Kavanaugh in good conscience.

Jeff Flake had an opportunity to be like the various Senators in John F. Kennedy’s book, Profiles in Courage, a book which recounts politicians who had to buck their party or their country, even at the expense of their political careers, to do the right thing. In Flake’s case, he is leaving the Senate so he doesn’t even have a seat to lose. He does, however, have some Presidential ambitions, so that may be what he is trying to protect by voting yes. You could see in his face at the hearing with Dr. Ford that he believed her wholeheartedly. Yet, he has said he will vote yes on Kavanaugh. He could be the lead chapter in Profiles in Cowardice.

West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin put his political life before his conscience by announcing that he will vote for Judge Kavanaugh. He is in a state that was won handily by Donald Trump and standing against Trump, even as a Democrat, would be politically risky, even if morally sound.

All of these Senators and more (like Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Orrin Hatch of Utah, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who blamed false memories for Dr. Ford’s story), deserve to be removed from office. If they don’t have the compassion for a woman who was sexually assaulted, then they don’t have the compassion to do what is right for anyone in the country. To dismiss the assault allegations, which is what each of them who votes yes on this confirmation are doing, is an insult to anyone who has suffered from sexual assault. These are not people who care about issues like rape. They’re not people who care about the poor or elderly, average citizens in the country, or the people who elected them and who have pointedly let them know that confirming Kavanaugh is wrong. They deserve to lose their careers and give up their seats to people who have hearts and souls that have not been corrupted by politics, power, and the money behind it all.

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Letter to My Senators on the Brett Kavanaugh Confirmation

Supreme Court

Supreme Court building, Washington, DC. Photo by Callen Harty.

This is the letter I sent to both of my Senators this evening regarding the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation:

I am a constituent from Monona, Wisconsin. It appears this evening that the FBI may have wrapped up its additional investigation of Brett Kavanaugh. I am disappointed in how that investigation was limited, but I understand that political maneuvering can sometimes leave us all unsatisfied. My understanding is that Mitch McConnell is moving to schedule a vote in the Senate within the next few days. I am writing to strongly encourage you to vote no on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court justice.

There are numerous reasons to vote no against this judicial candidate. He has absolutely no experience trying a case in any court. After graduating law school, he served as a clerk and then worked for Ken Starr, where he was instrumental in the impeachment of Bill Clinton concerning sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. I do not approve of what Bill Clinton did at that time. Legally, at the very least it was sexual harassment due to the power differential between he and his intern. Morally, it was reprehensible. Brett Kavanaugh was key in bringing impeachment proceedings against President Clinton for lying under oath, so I believe that he needs to be held to the same standards that he espoused at that time.

In 2000, Kavanaugh worked for the Bush campaign in the Florida recount. After that he was awarded a job working for the White House, vetting judicial candidates. In 2003, in what appeared to be political payback for his service to the White House, he was nominated to a circuit judgeship by President Bush. The nomination took three years and a series of negotiations to be confirmed, primarily due to Kavanaugh’s clear partisanship, something that should not be reflected in any judge, let alone a Justice of the Supreme Court.

Judge Kavanaugh’s partisanship is still alive and well (or perhaps I should say unwell). It was made clear at the hearing in which both he and Christine Blasey Ford testified under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It is simply not acceptable to seat him when his views are so clearly aligned with one major political party and against the other major party. Judges are supposed to be impartial and leave their own political persuasions aside. His prepared testimony last week makes it clear that he is still not able to do that. One might have thought that he would have learned a lesson from the three years his previous nomination languished because of it. I believe he struck a strident partisan tone in his recent remarks precisely because our current political climate is so partisan and projecting that image to those on his side of the political spectrum may work to his benefit. It did not play so well for those of us who believe in judicial impartiality.

In addition, Judge Kavanaugh’s hostile demeanor in that same hearing does not reflect well upon his ability to be steady and thoughtful when deciding important and historic cases.

Far worse than his demeanor, numerous news sources and websites have clearly delineated a couple dozen or so lies that Judge Kavanaugh told under oath. Many of his responses in the most recent hearing were evasive or completely failed to answer the questions asked of him. This kind of equivocation does not reflect well upon him. As a judge, I am confident that he would not tolerate a witness before him who refused to answer so many questions or redirected the questions back upon those who were trying to get answers. The evasion was bad enough, but his outright lies were so obvious that even an untrained listener could name at least half a dozen of them. Many were simple, such as his made-up definitions of the words in his high school yearbook and his weak attempts at denying that he was a heavy and out-of-control drinker in his youth. If he can lie about these things, then it becomes far likelier that he could be lying about anything, including the sexual assault allegations against him. Whether he committed that crime or not, it is unacceptable to reward a man who strays so far from the truth by giving him a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. It is simply unacceptable to even think that a man who would so brashly lie under oath should be given any position in a court of law.

I believe Dr. Ford and found her testimony to be forthright and as truthful as it could be given the time that has passed and the trauma she so clearly suffered. As a child sex abuse survivor and someone who has spoken publicly and trained others on sexual assault, I can tell you that specific memories, such as the laughter Dr. Ford described, can stay with a victim forever, but other details that are not critical to what happened, such as the exact time of day or precise location, may be lost in a haze. Not remembering every detail does not mean that the whole story is fabricated. From my experience I absolutely believe that Dr. Ford was honest and one hundred percent correct in the details she recalled.

Finally, polling across the country shows that the majority of the citizens of this country, including those of us in Wisconsin, do not want Brett Kavanaugh to be appointed to the Supreme Court.

Please understand that I am not a Democrat or Republican. I have been an independent voter my entire life. In one election several years ago I voted for four different parties on the first four offices on the ballot. Please know that I, for one, will not vote for any politician from any party, in the Senate, House, White House, or in positions back home in Wisconsin, who continues to support Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination in any way. I emphatically urge you to vote no on his confirmation and I thank you for your consideration.

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