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Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee Has Little in Common With Most Americans

Mother Jones

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One of the main jobs of Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee this week has been to deflect attacks on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch by Democrats, who are trying to paint him as a tool of corporations and a foe of the little guy. To that end, Republicans have tried both to humanize the federal judge and to highlight the parts of his background that might make him more relatable to the average American. They’ve got him talking about the Denver rodeo and mutton bustin’ and quoting David Foster Wallace.

But those humanizing efforts are falling a bit flat. That’s largely because when it comes to demonstrating all that he has in common with the regular folks who might come before the court, Gorsuch is his own worst enemy. A graduate of Georgetown Prep, Columbia University, Harvard Law School, and Oxford, Gorsuch is the son of Ronald Reagan’s Environmental Protection Agency chief and spent most of his formative years inside the Beltway, including a stint as a clerk on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. His nomination to the 10th Circuit Court was championed by the secretive billionaire Phillip Anschutz, his former client, and Gorsuch co-owns a Colorado mountain cabin with two of Anschutz’s top deputies.

On Tuesday night, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) asked Gorsuch about how he “liked to get his hands dirty.” If Flake was hoping to reveal a nominee who subscribes to Family Handyman and loves power tools, he was disappointed. The judge responded by reminding the committee how much he loves to ski. (Gorsuch was on the slopes when he learned about the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat he’s been nominated to fill.) “I always say the family that skis together stays together,” Gorsuch had said earlier in the hearing. Gorsuch told Flake that his daughters were “ferocious double-black-diamond skiers,” and at that very moment, one of them was doing some backcountry skiing near Telluride.

The exchange was unlikely to help most Americans relate to the judge. Today, skiing is largely a sport of the wealthy. A one-day lift ticket at Winter Park, the Colorado resort where Gorsuch said he liked to go, costs $144. A single day of skiing for a family of four could cost nearly $600, not including all the gear and lunch at the lodge. And teaching kids to ski so they can become “ferocious double-black-diamond skiers” is an enormous investment. A single day in the Winter Park ski school will set you back $189 for one child, not including equipment rentals. For most of the country, even with discounts for locals, those costs put skiing largely out of reach.

Earlier in the hearing, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) had asked Gorsuch about his experience in politics. “Are you a lawmaker?” Lee asked. “Have you ever held a position as a state legislator? Have you ever held a position as a member of Congress?” Gorsuch responded with a chuckle, “I’ve served on my kid’s school board.”

The following day, Flake asked Gorsuch about his civic involvement outside of the court, mentioning his school board service. “Boy, that I found taxing, and loved every minute of it,” Gorsuch said. Flake nodded appreciatively, telling Gorsuch, “That typifies the West. People get along. They have to. On a school board there’s no passing the buck there. You’ve gotta make decisions. Local government is like that.”

What Flake seemed to have missed, though, is that Gorsuch never served on a public school board. He was on the board of the Boulder Country Day School, a small private school with tuition that runs from $15,000 to $20,000 a year. That’s a big difference from serving on a public, elected school board just about anywhere in the country.

In fact, Gorsuch is among the most privileged individuals to be nominated to the Supreme Court in recent memory. Justice Clarence Thomas grew up poor in Pinpoint, Georgia, speaking Gullah. His idea of a good time is camping in a Walmart parking lot in his RV en route to a NASCAR race. Sonia Sotomayor hails from a Puerto Rican family and grew up with a single mom in a South Bronx tenement. Samuel Alito is a Jersey boy, the son of Italian immigrant teachers, who graduated from a public high school. At first glance, Gorsuch’s background somewhat resembles that of Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who likewise comes from a tony private-school background—except that Roberts worked summers in a steel mill to pay his way through Harvard.

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Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee Has Little in Common With Most Americans

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This Brilliant Memoir Will Challenge What You Think You Know About Loss and Pregnancy

Mother Jones

For most of her life, Ariel Levy’s disregard for rules and expectations has mostly paid off. As a child, she preferred adventurous make-believe to playing house. As a young adult, she was determined to write at New York magazine when she was a lowly editorial assistant and became an accomplished magazine writer for such publications as the New York Times, Vogue, and the New Yorker. She fell in love and got the girl, even though the girl was in a relationship with someone else when they met. Eventually, they married. She’s boarded airplanes to places like South Africa in search of characters and returned with stories about gender and athleticism and ways that ignorance and stereotypes can cripple.

But life isn’t simple, and as she moved from her 20s into her late 30s, the rules began to feel a little less negotiable—an experience she records in her riveting new memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply.

“Every morning I wake up, and for a few seconds I’m disoriented, confused as to why I feel grief seeping into my body, and then I remember what has become of my life,” Levy writes in the preface. “I am thunderstruck by feeling at odd times, and then I find myself gripping the kitchen counter, a subway pole, a friend’s body, so I won’t fall over.” Over the course of only a few months when she was 38 years old, Levy lost her spouse and her house to divorce, and her son to a miscarriage. In 2013, Levy wrote about her miscarriage in a powerful New Yorker personal essay called “Thanksgiving in Mongolia.” It’s impossible to read that essay—and the book—without experiencing some of her anguish, as if you’ve stepped outside of your body and into hers. It’s the sort of writing that is vulnerable and vivid, and makes the reader feel brave and desperate in quick succession. “All of my conjuring had led to ruin and death,” she writes in her memoir. “Now I was a wounded witch, wailing in the forest, undone…The wide-open blue forever had spoken: You control nothing.”

Mother Jones caught up with Levy to talk about writing through grief, the politics of miscarriage, and what it means to be an animal woman.

Mother Jones: Let’s talk about “Thanksgiving in Mongolia.” How did you decide to write about that experience in the first place?

Ariel Levy: It wasn’t really a decision. It just sort of came out of my fingers, you know? There were fewer choices involved than in anything I’ve ever written before—it just kind of happened. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had a piece like that before in my life where there was not a lot of effort; there were not a lot of choices; there was not a lot of moving things around. It just came out of my fingers. I just said what I had to say, basically. It’s not usually like that. Usually it’s a lot of work. Usually it’s a pain in the drain. It just happened.

MJ: So it just felt like something you needed to write about?

AL: Yeah. I guess I needed to, because it wasn’t a conscious choice. The book is a different matter—the book is a conscious choice, and the book was work. It did involve making lots and lots of decisions, and doing lots and lots of revisions. “Thanksgiving in Mongolia” was not like that. I felt like I had said exactly what I meant to say. It’s not usually like that for me. Normally, it’s kind of what I want to say, you know, it’s sort of what I want to say, but it’s never quite everything I hoped. With that piece, I didn’t have any hope. I was like, “Yeah, I mean every word of that.” Unfortunately, it only happened once in 20 years. I’m not going to get too used to it. The book was, in many ways, a pleasurable process. It was a normal writing experience that involved decision-making and revision, and some struggle, like anything. Much, much easier than my first book, which was like a total uphill slog.

MJ: I’m sort of surprised to hear you say that—the writing comes across as such raw emotion.

AL: Well, the fact of the matter is, I was doing that anyway. That process of looking at what has happened and what I had done in various ways was difficult, but writing about it wasn’t painful. Feeling suffering is painful, obviously, but writing about suffering, I did not find unpleasant. Usually I don’t write about myself; I write about other people. When you’re reporting, you’re trying to put together the truth based on what lots of different people tell you. Maybe you’re there for some of it because you’re reporting scenes, but at the end of the day, you’re trying to piece together reality from various sources. It’s not like I know the ultimate truth, but I know what was true to me. I found the exercise of trying to express that as precisely as possible sort of thrilling.

MJ: So how did you decide to write the story of your miscarriage as a book?

AL: I don’t know. If this was someone else’s story, I would have wanted to tell it. I would have thought, “Well first of all, that’s a good story, and second of all, it involves lots of stuff that I’m interested in.” Why is it disqualified just because it’s my story, and I know every single thing about it? That shouldn’t be a mark against it. Maybe that should be a mark for it, is what I ultimately decided. Obviously personal life is complicated, but I decided to do it anyway.

MJ: I’m glad you did.

AL: Thanks, I’m glad I did too.

MJ: So does that mean you’re feeling good about the book coming out?

AL: I feel partly good about it, let’s say.

MJ: How did the people in your life react to the idea of your memoir?

AL: Really generously. My former spouse is the first person who read it before I turned it in. I was like, “Okay, if there’s anything you can’t live with, let me know and I’ll take it out.” She’s more important to me than any book. Characteristically generous, she was like, “You know what? I’m not going to censor you. This is your story—you tell it how you want to tell it.”

Which is incredible, but also not surprising if you know her. She was the only one I was concerned about. My parents, you know, that’s ancient history.

MJ: Miscarriage is sometimes regarded as this personal, private thing. When women come forward and speak about it, it becomes political. Do you see yourself normalizing the spectrum of pregnancy outcomes by writing about your experience?

AL: Certainly hearing from lots and lots of women who had lost babies, lost pregnancies, and also some women who’d lost children, made me feel good about writing about some of these issues. I feel that the dramatic experience of being a human female animal hasn’t really been a major subject for art and literature. Why shouldn’t it be? It affects half the population. Not that every woman is going to get pregnant or have a child or lose a child, but at some point in her life every woman will have some drama around menstruation, pregnancy, childbearing, childbirth, menopause, something to do with that animal fear.

MJ: Do you feel like there’s a stigma of blame around miscarriage?

AL: Well it’s also a biological experience, right? When you lose a pregnancy like that—especially if you are late term, as I was—you’re going through an enormous let down of all these hormones. If things go well, you’ve got a baby to take care of, so that serves as this counterbalance to this enormous physical, hormonal shitshow. If the baby dies, then you’re in a pretty dark place. Sure it’s cultural, but it’s not just cultural. It’s also physical. It’s pretty hard not to blame yourself and feel terrible in 800 ways when you’re going through that physical experience. Your body’s producing milk for a baby who’s not there. I don’t see a way that you’d avoid going to a pretty dark place in that condition.

MJ: The book is, in some ways, a meditation on womanhood and what it means to have the power to reproduce. Can you talk a little bit about what that has meant to you and then how it has evolved since your pregnancy?

AL: Before I had that experience, I wouldn’t have understood what it entailed. I think if someone said to me, “Oh, this person had a late-term miscarriage, this person went into premature labor,” I would’ve had no sense of what that meant. I think sometimes people will assume women will know what this is all about. I don’t even think it’s fair to ask women to know what it’s about if they haven’t experienced that. I certainly didn’t understand the emotional experience of pregnancy and birth. It just wouldn’t have resonated for me.

MJ: What advice would you give someone who is dealing with this kind of loss?

AL: Just to know that eventually, grief moves. It changes shape. If you’re fortunate, it moves from something you live in to something that lives in you. What I mean is, there’s always going to be something. I’m never going to be like, “Oh yeah, that was fine that that happened.” It’s always going to be a really painful reality for me. I’m always going to wish that my son had lived. Now, that’s something that lives in me. I don’t walk around in a tunnel of that experience. It’s just something that lives in my heart.

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This Brilliant Memoir Will Challenge What You Think You Know About Loss and Pregnancy

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These House Republicans say climate change is real and it’s time to fight it

This story was originally published by Newsweek and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Seventeen Republican members of Congress from diverse districts — including representatives from coastal Southeastern states, Nevada, Utah, upstate New York, and Pennsylvania — submitted a resolution in the House Wednesday acknowledging that “human activities” have had an impact on the global climate and resolving to create and support “economically viable” mitigation efforts.

The resolution, sponsored by Reps. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, Elise Stefanik of New York, and Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania, is being submitted in the midst of an unprecedented effort by the most anti-science administration in recent American history to remove climate science studies and data from federal agencies.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that President Donald Trump is about to sign an executive order repealing President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and to order a reconsideration of the government’s use of the “social cost of carbon” metric, which measures potential economic damage related to climate change.

Last week, meanwhile, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency administator, Scott Pruitt, suggested that carbon emissions have nothing to do with climate change.

Curbelo, whose Miami-area district is already experiencing dramatic effects of rising sea levels, has been spearheading the effort to gather pro-science members on his side of the aisle since last year, when he coaxed 10 Republicans to join a bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, which now has 30 members from 13 states, half of whom are Republican.

The resolution being submitted Wednesday states, “That the House of Representatives commits to working constructively, using our tradition of American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism, to create and support economically viable and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates, including mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact.”

During a call with reporters Tuesday, Curbelo said there are “many, many more” Republicans in the House who are interested in the issue and “want to learn more, and who are considering joining this effort officially by putting their name on it.” He said his goal is to “move on to solutions that we can all rally around and that we can work on with our Republican and Democratic colleagues.” This would include, he said, pressing the administration to add projects to mitigate the effects of climate change, such as seawalls, in its expected infrastructure plan.

While prospects for a swell of GOP political support seem dim, given the president’s stated position that climate change might be “a Chinese hoax” and his EPA administrator’s open animosity toward the issue, Curbelo said he sees a possible wedge via members of Trump’s inner circle — presumably including his daughter Ivanka, who has reportedly lobbied her father on the issue.

“We know there are people very close to the president who understand this issue,” Curbelo said, without naming anyone. “These are people who have already been a very good influence on items such as the Paris Agreement, and we are looking forward to engaging those individuals so that we can take this conversation to a good place.”

Curbelo called Pruitt’s comments on carbon “disconcerting” and added, “What he said was akin to saying the Earth is flat in the year 2017. We must insist on evidence-based and science-based policies.” He also chastised Pruitt last week in a statement, saying,“Rising carbon emissions have been a contributing factor to climate change for decades. That is a scientific fact and the reality facing communities like my district. The EPA is tasked with the very responsibility of helping to lower the impact of carbon emissions, and for Mr. Pruitt to assert otherwise without scientific evidence is reckless and unacceptable.”

One of the resolution’s signatories is Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who represents a section of his state known as the Low Country. Sanford, who grew up on a farm in the area, says he has seen firsthand the effects of rising sea levels, in acreage lost to salt water.

“The Low Country makes Miami Beach look like high ground,” Sanford said. “I just think there is inherent danger in the three-monkey routine — see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil — related to climate change. To deny its existence is to deny what our country was founded on. The Founding Fathers designed a reason-based political system, and without reason the system doesn’t work.”

Curbelo’s climate caucus co-chairman, Florida Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch, released a statement Wednesday morning welcoming the GOP effort. “Americans don’t see climate change as a partisan issue, and neither should Congress,” he said. “As the Democratic co-chair of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, I applaud my Republican colleagues for introducing this important resolution on climate change. We’re going to need lawmakers from both sides of the aisle working together, engaging in robust debate, following the science and finding bipartisan legislative responses to the growing threats of climate change.”

Polls have shown that a majority of Americans are concerned about climate change, and those fears among constituents, plus the fact that Republicans now control all branches of government and are thus a last line of defense, might be prompting more Republicans to reject the administration’s anti-science position. “The polling is very clear,” Curbelo said. “A clear majority understand this is a challenge we are facing, and among younger voters the numbers are staggering. Over 80 percent of millennials consider this a major issue. The House is the most representative institution in our government. This issue was regrettably politicized 20 years or so ago, and we are trying to take some of the politics out and reducing the noise.”

Others who signed the resolution are Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), John Faso (R-N.Y.), John Katko (R-N.Y.), Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Mia Love (R-Utah), Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), Brian Mast (R-Fla.), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla).

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These House Republicans say climate change is real and it’s time to fight it

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Fiscal Conservatives Should Love National Health Care

Mother Jones

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David Frum is a conservative, but he grew up in Canada and lacks an American conservative’s instinctive revulsion toward national health care. Today he writes that maybe American conservatives should put aside their revulsion too. After all, the debacle over the Republican health care plan suggests that the public is unwilling to see health coverage withdrawn from millions of people. Democrats seem to have finally won the battle over ensuring health coverage for all, and that means Republicans can’t control costs by simply denying health care to anyone who can’t afford it. They have to figure out other ways to bring down costs:

Republicans have had too many competing goals in health-care reform. They have wanted to lower costs (to free fiscal room for tax cuts and military spending), but also to avoid tangling with entrenched health-care interests….What that money has bought is a huge and costly health sector….“Patient-centered medicine” sought to transform the user of health-care services as the system’s decisive cost-controller. Confronted with the full cost of medicine, the patient would consume care more prudently—or forgo it altogether.

That hope is listing badly. When and if it finally sinks, Republicans may notice something else. The other advanced countries with universal coverage manage to buy significantly better outcomes at the expense of 11 or 12 percent of GDP instead of America’s 16 percent. That extra increment of GDP could pay for a lot of military spending and a lot of tax cuts. Once politics has eliminated coverage reduction as a means of forcing economy, other possibilities open before a center-right party—and indeed have opened for center-right parties across the rest of the English-speaking world. Perversely, the effort to keep government out of health care has empowered health care to consume more and more government dollars. Where government has been deployed more effectively than in the United States, health care has consumed less.

I dissent in part and agree in part. For starters, it’s true that the United States has by far the biggest health care bill of any country in the world:

However, our costs are high because we pay more for everything: doctors, nurses, pharmaceuticals, hospital stays, etc. Politically, it’s impossible to adopt a system that would suddenly cut everyone’s pay by a third. If America were to adopt national health care, our per capita costs would almost certainly start out right where they are now: far higher than any other country in the world.

In the long run, however, Frum is right. It’s ironic, but it turns out that central governments are a lot better at keeping a lid on health care costs than the private sector. The reason is taxes. National health care is paid for out of tax revenue, and the public pressure to keep taxes low is so strong that it universally translates into strong government pressure to keep health care costs low. By contrast, the private sector is so splintered that no corporation has the leverage to demand significantly lower costs. Besides, if health care costs go up, corporations can make up for it by keeping cash salaries low. This is part of the reason that median incomes have grown so slowly over the past 15 years. Corporations simply don’t care enough about high health care costs to really do anything about it.

Over the course of a few decades, then, our costs would probably converge on the rest of the world if we adopted universal health care. Contra Frum, this wouldn’t open any headroom for lower taxes or higher military spending—government spending would still go up even if overall health care spending slowed down—but it would make the country a better, safer, more efficient place. What’s not to like?

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Fiscal Conservatives Should Love National Health Care

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JK Rowling Just Trolled Piers Morgan So Good

Mother Jones

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Valentine’s Day: A Play in 3 Acts.

Act 1:

Act 2:

Act 3:

(curtain)

(via Jamie Ross)

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JK Rowling Just Trolled Piers Morgan So Good

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