Madonna vs. Whore

Sorry for the delay, all.  It’s hard to blog about reality television when all I can think about is the inauguration and the corresponding march, but I do think it’s important to take care of yourself, and Mondays have become therapeutic.  A nice little escapism so I can disconnect my brain.  That being said….

We’re in the first few weeks of Bachelorland, which means we see more of the women than we see of Nick.  That will change, but we’re already being treated to a very sex-heavy season.  As I already discussed, Nick has a history in this department.  His prior stints on the Bachelorette have centered around sex, whether it is him spilling the beans on the after show with Andi, or sleeping with the Kaitlyn weeks before the Fantasy Suites.

This season seems to be no different.  First, we have Liz.

liz-limo

Guys, I don’t know if you know this, but Liz and Nick had sex.  That’s right, sex.  They met at Jade and Tanner’s wedding, and it was a one-night stand.  Nick asked for her number, she declined to give it to him, and they went their separate ways.  Liz did not try and contact Nick at all until she showed up on his show.

She mentions this more than once, although I have a sneaking suspicion that this was due to editing.

liz-bathing-suit

In a twist of producer-driven fate, Liz decides to tell Christen, the resident virgin, that she had a one-night stand with Nick.

liz-christen

Christen spills the beans to Nick.  Apparently editing may have also played a role in how we saw that conversation go down:

Nick feels the need to fess up to the women, who I think handled this all pretty well.   I think it would have been a bigger issue if Nick had kept Liz around.  Then their relationship may have been a threat to the other girls in the house.  But by the time they were privvy to the skivvy, Liz was long gone.  Everyone knows that Nick has had sex before.  So despite ample promos on this issue, it fell a little flat.

However, the sex-talk with Liz just sets the context for our resident villain, Corinne.

Corinne is only 24 years old and it shows.  And that’s not to slam the younger women on the show.  Some of them, like 23-year-old Taylor, are surprisingly mature.  But Corinne appears to view progress in a relationship as solely physical progress.

Case in point:

bride

Corinne was feeling self-confident in her bikini until another contestant showed up topless (note – this is usually not an enviable costume on this franchise:

brittany

Which leads to pity party #1:

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The girls started to notice when Corinne then proceeded to go into the pull, take her top off, and have Nick hold her breasts in front of everyone.  She then got the extra time with Nick, and then received the group date rose.

Which led smart young women to say things like this:

lacy

NOOOOO.  This is NOT what I want to see from this season of The Bachelor!  You do NOT need your top off to get a rose, but unfortunately Nick did the producers’ work for them by giving Corinne the group rose.  He had to know it would cause a stir with the ladies.

Unfortunately, it has now become the Corinne show, with the rest of the house turned against her.  Corinne hasn’t been helping her case.  She flaunts her sexuality every chance she gets:

coat

wc

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The one time Corinne has felt uncomfortable in this process is when she was on the Backstreet Boys date.  She clearly did not like the dancing portion:

dancing

And as such, had a mini-meltdown:

pretty

Pretty is SO MUCH MORE than being scantily clad and acting sexually.  I think Corinne has a lot of growing to do in her understanding of what makes a successful partnership.

That being said, I caution how we treat Corinne.  This conversation is inches away from the Madonna v. Whore dichotomy that women have struggled with for far too long.  You don’t have to be one thing to be pretty or attractive or find a life partner.  Flaunting your sexuality is not a crime, especially when it’s done with agency and ownership.

Take Vanessa, who seems to be loved by all (myself included).  She wore a tiny body-con dress to her dinner with Nick.

vanessa

Get it girl!  She also spent the date talking about substantive topics like work and family, and appears to have the best connection to Nick by far.  Please note that she also vomited, multiple times, on their date and Nick still dug her!

bag

It’s not about whether you are smart or sexy or funny or kind.  Women can be all of the above in so many different ways.  I hope we can move away from this trope that taking your clothes off first means you get the guy, but with the promos this week I’m not sure we’re in luck.

As always, my top ladies:

  1. Vanessa.  Girl rocked it this week, and it’s the only real connection I’ve seen this far.  I really appreciate her joyfulness, her maturity, and how she interacts with the other women.  She’s my pick for the final rose.
  2. Rachel.  YESSS we finally got to see Rachel.  Vanessa may be my pick for Nick, but Rachel is my pick for friend.  She killed it on the group date and I was happy to see her relationship with Nick had not skipped a beat, despite not getting a date last week.

Ok, that’s really it for me right now.  I just don’t see a connection with the other ladies yet.  But here are some additional thoughts:

  • Danielle L. seems like she is Nick’s type to a “t,” and she also got extra time with him this week.  However, I find her to be very guarded.  Her interviews are all platitudes, and I haven’t seen her say anything interesting about herself.  I can’t even tell if she’s into Nick.  I don’t think she’s going anywhere, but I don’t see her as top 3.
  • Danielle M.  I freaking love Danielle M. and want her entire wardrobe and want to be her friend.  But I don’t think she is Nick’s type physically (he seems to have a thing for brunettes), and she is very understated, while Nick seems to go for the more overtly strong personality.
  • Raven.  I think Raven is our dark horse.  She’s been getting substantive screen time that shows her back story, and I am digging her honesty and laid back approach.  She’s Nick’s type and fits the criteria for women who do well on the show (except for the part about being from a tiny town in Arkansas).  Keeping my eye on her.

Final thought:

  • Keep Alexis on for as long as possible please.  I do not see a connection between her and Nick, but she gives us gems like this many times over:

move

 

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White Privilege

Day 2 folks, time to do the work.  I’m jumping in with a big one.  Yesterday was amazing and I loved being part of it.  I saw many women who had never protested before putting themselves out there and taking their first activist steps, which was beautiful.  But it’s important to remember that this is just a first step.

There’s an image that has been making the rounds on the internet.

white-women

This is a great photo that encapsulates a very important point that allowed white women to vote for a man who has espoused sexist, racist, and ignorant views.  A huge part of the ability to make that choice comes from the privilege that white women have in society.

White privilege is an uncomfortable concept because it’s difficult to accept that it applies regardless of how you feel on the inside.  Privilege doesn’t care if you’re not racist.  Privilege doesn’t even care if you’re an activist or an ally.  Privilege is based on the way you look and the way society treats you based on those looks.

I first learned of the concept of privilege when I was a freshman in college.  It abhorred me.  I didn’t ask to be born as a white woman.  I wanted to give it away, get rid of the privilege.  But you can’t do that.  And really, saying that you want to is disingenuous.  Privilege makes life easier.  That’s the entire point.

There are a few pieces of literature I read during that time period that literally blew my mind.  One is “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack,” by Peggy McIntosh.  Please read it, and sit with it.  If it makes you uncomfortable or defensive, sit with that too.  If you don’t believe that privilege exists, here are the ways that I see and experience privilege in my own life.

I’ll start with male privilege.

  • Males do not have to fear for their safety when they walk alone.  They can spend time thinking about whatever they want, while I think about how I will escape a potential attack.
  • Men can wake up and get out the door in 15 minutes.  I cannot.  I will be penalized at work, subconsciously or consciously, if I do not do my hair and wear makeup.
  • Men can wear comfortable clothing to work.  I need to wear heels to appear taller.
  • Men are not looked at as someone who might get pregnant at any moment.  Their bodies are not ogled, their beverage choices are not monitored, and their co-workers do not worry they might be unable to complete an assignment due to pregnancy.
  • If a male becomes a father, he does not need to stay home to feed the baby for the first few months of its life.  He is not criticized for working when the baby is young.  He does not have to interrupt his career to have a baby.
  • Men do not have to worry about being groped, manhandled, or cat-called in public spaces.  They don’t need to watch their drinks in a bar.  They don’t even have to think about these things.  Men can spend that time thinking about whatever they want, while I worry about my safety.
  • Men do not need to police their tone and speech in the same way women do.  They can be forceful and they will never be called a bitch.  They can ask for opportunities – in fact, they are more likely to be given these opportunities – and they will not be viewed as bossy or aggressive.

Any of that ring true to you?  That’s what privilege is.  Men didn’t ask for the privileges but they get them anyway.  They cannot give them to you even if they wanted to.  Now let’s talk about race.

As a white woman:

  • When I need to find a band-aid, it’s easy to find one in my own skin color.  In fact, they’re all in my skin color.
  • When I get pulled over by the police, I get the benefit of the doubt.  It is unlikely the police will harm me.  I can look at police and believe that they exist to protect me, not to protect others from me.
  • Signs around me are in my native language.
  • I can work with people who look like me, and spend my days with people who look like me.  I am comfortable at work and do not feel like I am looked at differently.
  • My opinion is generally my own.  I do not speak for all white people, and I do not have to live with the responsibility that my words might be taken to apply to others.
  • I can walk into any hair salon and someone will know what to do with my hair.
  • I will not be denied housing, shown a different property, or given different rates based on how I look.  Brokers and real estate agents have no reason to distrust me.
  • I can feel secure in my accomplishments because no one looks at me and thinks I am there as the product of affirmative action.  No one thinks I took someone else’s place, either at school or at work.

You cannot underestimate the impact of privilege.  These lists are not exhaustive, and were just things that come to mind easily.

It does not matter if you did not ask for these privileges.  You cannot change the fact that they exist, just as people who are not in positions of power cannot change what they look like.  Everyone has different privileges, and the different things we bring to the table lead to our intersectionality.

White women have let our black and brown sisters down time and time again.  We pushed them out of the suffrage movement.  We sacrificed their civil rights for our own advancement.  We ask them to show up and fight for us, but we have not shown up or fought for them.  They showed up.  Only 4% of black women voted for Trump.  A staggering 53% of white women voted for Trump.  Where were we a few months ago?  Complacent?  Disillusioned because of leaked emails?  Were we lazy?

It does not matter if you were there.  Our demographic was not there.  The fact that you voted for Hillary did not mean that our demographic voted for Hillary, and we did not win the election.  We have an obligation to show up for our sisters who have been showing up for us for decades.

Let’s quote Spiderman.  With power comes great responsibility.  Privilege is power, and we have a responsibility to use that privilege.  I stand with my sisters and am working on being an ally every day.  If you are interested in being an ally, start doing the work.  Sit with the concept of privilege and let it make you uncomfortable.  Start getting active, even if it’s not the cause that affects you directly.  If you want to learn more about being an ally, ask your friends who are already doing the work.  Do not burden your black and brown sisters or make them explain things to you.  They have enough on their plates, and it’s our responsibility to show up for them.  We’re all in this together, and it’s time we start taking responsibility and acting like it.  I don’t have all the answers and I’m working through it every day, but I’m happy to work through it with you.

One more thing.  It’s not enough to sit back and let things happen around us anymore.  We cannot be complacent.  Complacency got us here, and we won’t stand for it anymore.  The millions of women who took to the streets yesterday made that very clear.  Be an active ally, not a passive bystander.  We all lose when we let injustice happen on our watch.

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Damn straight.

Why I March

Today I had the privilege in participating in the Women’s March in Chicago.  To the protesters of Chicago, it was an honor to march with you.

It’s hard to put into words what it felt like to be part of the 250,000+ in Chicago, and the 1,000,000+ in the world who showed up today to speak out, but I’ll try.

It was peaceful.  It was filled with families spanning generations.  Daughters, mothers, and grandmothers marched together, hand in hand with their brothers and partners.  We moved for the strollers, we gave balloons to the kids, and we kept the chants clean.  I did not see one person push or shove, not one piece of property destroyed, not even one person littering.  This protest was built on respect and unity.

It was smart, inventive, and heartfelt.  I was so impressed with the effort people put into their signs and outfits.  Little girls were dressed as superheroes, women were dressed as Rosie the Riveter, and we even had our own Lady Liberty.

 

It was fun!  We danced, we sang, and made new friends.  We took pictures of slogans that were particularly thoughtful or moving and shared those pictures with our friends.  We talked about what we do next and how to keep this momentum.

It was very pink, and very diverse.  I looked across the crowd during the inauguration yesterday and I saw a sea of white.  Today we had a sea of color and gender, and it was beautiful.

Tomorrow we continue this fight, but today I remember Why I March:

  • I march to speak my truth.
  • I march to protect and promote access to reproductive health care for people in Illinois and neighboring states.
  • I march to protect our children from negative policies built on hate and distrust.
  • I march to stand with my sisters and brothers of color.
  • I march to stand with my indigenous sisters and brothers.
  • I march to stand with my Latina sisters and brothers.
  • I march to stand with immigrants, who now feel unsafe in their own homes.
  • I march to support the LGBTQ community and to make it clear that they are welcome wherever I am.
  • I march to support the women who felt they did not need to march today.  I march for you too.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, the arc of justice is long, but it bends towards justice.  We cannot take the progress we have made thus far for granted, and we are the change that creates the movement.

I stand with you, as you have stood with me.  I’m not going anywhere.

Resist the Beginnings. Consider the End.

I have been told that it is counterproductive to liken our current situation to Nazi Germany.  I have been told that it weakens my arguments and statements, that it makes me seem emotional, irrational.  I’ve even said those words to others before.  In an argument, when someone brought up Nazi Germany, it seemed like a fallacy, a stretch.  It’s actually called Godwin’s Law – as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches – that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler.  How can you compare our world a world that allowed the slaughter of millions?  Not here, not now.

The problem is, it’s impossible to see the end when you’re at the beginning.  We have no idea how this story ends.  People in Germany in the 1930s didn’t know either.  But we do have one benefit on our side.  We have the benefit of history, and we can speak now, speak often, speak loudly.

Soon after the election, I read an excerpt from a book called They Thought They Were Free.  This book was first published in 1955.  The book is a collection of interviews with ten German individuals who lived in Germany during WWII and participated in the Nazi movement.

Here’s part of that excerpt, from a chapter titled “But Then It Was Too Late:”

“The dictatorship, and the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting. It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway… Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we were decent people—and kept us so busy with continuous changes and ‘crises’ and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the ‘national enemies,’ without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us. Unconsciously, I suppose, we were grateful. Who wants to think?

“Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.

“How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice—‘Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’ But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings. One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men? Things might have. And everyone counts on that might.

“You see, one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

“In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, ‘It’s not so bad’ or ‘You’re seeing things’ or ‘You’re an alarmist.’  And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have.

“But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.

“Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university when, if one had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood. A small matter, a matter of hiring this man or that, and you hired this one rather than that. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.”

This is a punch to the gut.  This one hits close to home.  This is the reason I wanted to start blogging about politics.

Do you know what I see right now?  I see our President-elect revoking the press credentials of the Washington Post during the election, calling the publication “inaccurate” and “dishonest.”  I see our President-elect conflating “fake news” with anything he dislikes in an effort to decrease the credibility of publications that criticize him:

I see our President refusing to answer questions from CNN because now, CNN is fake news:

I see our President-elect shutting the media out from its traditional watchdog status.   Priebus, Trump’s Chief of Staff, just told Variety that they the administration is considering ending the daily press briefings, which have been a tradition since Eisenhower’s administration.  Yesterday, Trump held his first press conference since July 27, 2016 (wherein he asked Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails via hacking).

The press conference was a long time in the making.  Trump had previously canceled a press conference in which he promised to share his plan to remove all conflicts of interest.  This was not the first time Trump had promised to share something and then reneged on that promise.  Mother Jones has an excellent collection here.
During that press conference, in the face of heavy questioning, Trump finally acknowledged that Russia hacked U.S. intelligence.  However, he lauded what the Russians found, stating:

“But remember this: We talk about the hacking and hacking’s bad and it shouldn’t be done. But look at the things that were hacked, look at what was learned from that hacking.

That Hillary Clinton got the questions to the debate and didn’t report it? That’s a horrible thing. That’s a horrible thing.”  Read the full transcript of the press conference here.

I see our President-elect slamming comedians who portray him negatively.

Just a sample of what our President-elect has in store for us.

Are you scared?  I am.  Who knows what the end here is.  I don’t, and I am not saying that it will end in internment or genocide, like Nazi Germany.  I have no idea how this will play out, but I will not let uncertainty or timidity stop me from speaking.  Speak loudly, speak often, and stay informed.  Be the canary in the coal mine.  I pray that I really am an alarmist.  I pray that this is all for naught, but nothing our President-elect has done so far has proven otherwise.  I am taking him at his word and pledging to stand up to it, even if it starts small.  Resist the beginnings.  Consider the end.

Our “Controversial” Bachelor

According to Chris Harrison, Nick is the “most controversial bachelor ever.”  We all know Chris can veer towards hyperbole, but Nick is definitely different than previous leads.  We’re going to take a little trip down memory lane and look at Nick’s numerous experiences with this franchise.

Before I start, can I just say that I am so pumped for this season?  I found myself liking most of the women, even Shark girl!  She was a breath of fresh air and totally made me laugh.  There are a lot of women I don’t think will be right for Nick, but I was really impressed with how they respected each other (mostly) and how mature they seemed, even with some of the younger contestants.  Taylor, for example, is tied for the youngest contestant at 23, and I thought her commentary was really funny.  Not what I was expecting from Forever 21 girl!

So who is this man that these awesome women will all be falling in love with?

Nick Viall!  Nick is 36 and up until he became a reality-star, was based in the Midwest.  He originally hailed from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and worked as a software salesman at Salesforce in Chicago.  As most of you probably know, I live in Chicago and was on the active lookout for Nick when he was first on Andi’s season.  Never saw him around town.  He’s my white whale.

Little did I know that he had picked up and moved to L.A. to become a model?  I think?  He used to give us pictures like this:

And now he gives us pictures like this:

So it’s fair to say he’s had a bit of a career shift since his journey started.

It all began with Andi.

Nick was a contestant on Andi’s season of the Bachelorette.  Andi, one of my favorite bachelorettes, was a smart, beautiful lawyer from Atlanta.  She gave Nick the first impression rose:

Which put a target on Nick’s back and was the impetus of Nick’s persona as “controversial” or “cocky.”  When a contestant asked Nick if he thought he was a frontrunner, Nick said “Eh, probably.”  Nick was criticized as being strategic because he’s watched prior seasons and knows when the lead will be making big cuts to the contestants.  He also snuck out to visit Andi, solidifying Nick’s role as the villain.  Villain-lite, because he really wasn’t that bad, but Andi’s season was lacking in any other villain so Nick had a role to fill.

Nick made it to the final two, but Andi broke up with him before he got a chance to propose.  Nick did not take his lying down.  In perhaps his most obvious “villain” move, he called Andi out for having sex with him in the Fantasy Suite during the After the Final Rose taping:

Rough.  I’m actually a pretty big Nick fan, but this was incredibly uncomfortable to watch.  I agree with Andi, a little below the belt (wink, wink).

So Nick leaves in disgrace.  He spends some time licking his wounds and getting acquainted with other Bachelor/Bachelorette contestants, including the lovable Kaitlyn Bristowe, who got the boot from Farmer Chris!  Apparently the two struck up an online flirtation that never came to fruition, and Nick was too intrigued to just let this lady go.

He showed up to Kaitlyn’s season at Episode 5.  That is late.  Really late.  The men had already started traveling, and Kaitlyn had already sent half the guys home!  I don’t blame the guys for getting a little ruffled by Nick’s appearance, but they seemed to keep their cool, generally speaking.

Until Nick made another sex faux pas and slept with the lead weeks before the Fantasy Suites.

Making waves yet again.  Unfortunately, it didn’t lead to a ring this time either, and Nick was sent home just as he was about to propose.

At this point, things did not look good for Nick.  He had lost on the Bachelorette, twice, and hadn’t made too many friends in the process.  So he took to Paradise, the place where broken reality contestants go to shine up their images for those Instagram endorsements.

nick-bip

Nick did well in Paradise.  He got to face down resident alpha male Josh (Andi’s ex-fiance), which was a good look for him because Josh portrayed the emotional range of a caveman during his stint on the show.  Not only did Nick escape unscathed, but he managed to build up a fair amount of goodwill.  He was friends with most of the women, and pursued Jen, who was gorgeous, intelligent, and friends with most, if not all, the other contestants.

jen-nick-viall-bachelor-in-paradise-rose-ceremony

Something that all the Bachelor intros seem to gloss over is that Nick dumped Jen in Paradise.  This was not another story where Nick was the runner-up, the always-bridesmaid never bride.  I don’t blame him for it – they live on separate coasts and had only known each other a few weeks – but let’s not feel too sorry for Nick.  In an unexpected twist of fate, he got the best gig of all – BACHELOR.

To say the casting was a surprise is an understatement.  In the past, spin-off shows like Bachelor in Paradise were considered “below” the standards of leads.  That’s why you haven’t seen a lead go on the show, even though the leads are certainly friends with most of the contestants (and the majority are, in fact, single at this point).  Even having Josh, who was the “winner” of Andi’s season, on Paradise seemed like a huge boon for ABC.

And here we are, with the “most controversial” Bachelor of all time.  For what it’s worth, I think it’s great that we have someone like Nick as the Bachelor.  He’s been through this before and he knows how to play the game, but he also is analytic, independent, and kind.  I think he’ll do a great job.  Query if he is there for the right reasons (I will mistrust anyone who starts a modeling career in LA in their mid-30s) but I do think he’ll give us a good season.

He’s already made some excellent choices with his first impression rose.  Rachel is my girl, and I’m so glad Nick agrees!  My favorite part of their interaction was when Nick was asking Rachel about her job as a criminal. defense. attorney. and asked whether she was good at it.  She owned it (in a graceful way) and replied that she thinks she’s pretty great at it!  It was so refreshing to see a contestant on this show proudly announce her accomplishments.

rachel

Yes you did, girl!  Matches your dress 🙂

I have high hopes for the rest of the season!  My women haven’t changed much from last week, but I’m adding one in:

  1. Rachel.  Already noted.  Top of my list.
  2. Vanessa.  I really liked her intro video and the interactions the two had during the night.  She also seemed to take everything in stride, especially when she did not get the First Impression Rose (unlike Corinne, another story).
  3. Danielle M.  It was so clear how much Danielle loves her job, which I think might be really attractive to Nick.  I loved Danielle’s style.  I’m a little concerned she is too soft-spoken for Nick, but I still think she’ll go far.
  4. Danielle L.  This girl is smoking!  It was clear she and Nick hit it off and had some chemistry.  Danielle also seems to have her wits about her and kept her cool throughout the night.  Also, she had the coveted spot of being shown as first out of the limo, which is a producer note that she’s someone worth watching.

Here Come the Women!

A spark of light in these dark times!  ABC has released the contestants and it looks like we’re in for an entertaining season, as always.  Let’s see what’s in store for us.  In alphabetical order, as always:

Alexis

alexis

Alex is 23 and she has the honor of being the first woman of many to affiliate herself with dolphins.  Something’s in the water this season (get it?) and Alexis is an “aspiring dolphin trainer.”  The rest of her questionnaire is pretty boring and is a continuation on the water theme.  Her favorite animal is a dolphin.  Her favorite movie is Titanic.  She would be the Little Mermaid if she could.  Nothing against Alexis, but I don’t see her going anywhere.  Except for SEA WORLD!

Angela

angela

Angela is a 26-year-old model from South Carolina who also likes dolphins.  She seems really into her family, and good for her.  Under my rubric of who generally wins these shows (check it out here), she’s not doing too great.  She’s not too young – it’s all relative on this show – but she’s not from one of the popular cities for winners, and model doesn’t tend to get you too far, unless you’re Courtney Robinson.

Astrid

astrid

Third brunette in a row!  Yes, this is a theme this season, and I’m already predicting a brunette winner.  Digging the alternative name, at least it’s not Ashleigh.  It ends there.  She too likes dolphins and wants to be The Little Mermaid.  I can’t with these women.  Astrid is 26 and works as a plastic surgery office manager and her worst fears are dying alone and getting old and wrinkly.  Something makes me think she’ll be taking advantage of her employee discount.

Briana

briana

Now we’re talking!  Briana is a 28-year-old surgical nurse who is 5’4.  Check, check, check.  She’s from Salt Lake City, which would be a bit of an anomaly but could go over just fine.  Unfortunately, she also likes dolphins and wants to be The Little Mermaid.  Sorry Briana, there can be only one Ariel in the house.  Who shall survive?

Brittany

brittany

I like Brittany.  I like her necklace, I like the color of her shirt and that she went with racer-back instead of low-cut.  Brittany is a 26-year-old travel nurse (I do not know what that is but it sounds cool), from Santa Monica, and she’s 5’2.  She also says nothing about dolphins or mermaids on her questionnaire, so HUGE POINTS TO BRITTANY.  My only concern is that her hair is too short (oh my god I can’t believe I’m typing this as if it’s a real concern but such is life).  Winners have long hair.  Like a mermaid.

Christen

christen

Christen has some crazy eyes.  She’s a 25-year-old wedding videographer based out of Tulsa, OK.  She really got into the questionnaire and I’m tired from just reading her answers.  If she could break the law, she would hide in a closet in the White House for MONTHS just to see what goes on behind the scenes.  She wants to be a “wild mustang” so she can run free.  My eyes are on her for some interesting conversations and hopefully DRAMA.

Corinne

corinne

Corinne is our first blonde and I cannot believe we had to get to the Cs before we got one.  Look at that mermaid hair!  Corinne is tiny and young.  She’s only 5’1 and she’s only 24 and she’s a business owner from Miami.  I actually like Corinne but I think 24 is too young for Nick, who is 36, and I think Nick likes brunettes.

Danielle L.

danielle-l

Keeping Danielle L. at the top of my list for at least an interesting contestant.  She has perfect Bachelor hair.  She’s 27, owns her own business, and lives in L.A.  She likes Chrissy Teigen and so do I.  My one strike against her is that she puts Love Languages as her favorite book.  I don’t want to hear more about words of affirmation, I got my fill with JoJo thank you very much.

Danielle M.

danielle-m

Guys, I already love Danielle M. and I’m so worried that this is the wrong place for her.  She’s 31, so she’s actually age-appropriate for our Bachelor.  She’s a neonatal nurse who moved to Nashville after her fiance passed away.  She is too tall and cool and pretty to be on this show and I do not want the producers to co-opt her tragedy into a short-lived story line.  Fingers crossed for you Danielle M.

Dominique

dominique

Dominique is our first black contestant and she’s so pretty!  She’s also pretty young at 25, and is a server in L.A.  I know it’s not fair to judge someone on a stupid questionnaire, but that is literally the purpose of this post, and I’m just not seeing too much substance in her answers.  She wants to have a meal with her grandfather, Jesus, and … Leonardo DiCaprio.  And they’d be eating Chipotle, which she makes sure to mention more than once.  She looks pretty and fun and I hope she sticks around and makes best friends, but I don’t see her winning the Bachelor’s heart.

Elizabeth (“Liz”)

liz

Oh I like Liz too.  She’s a 29-year-old doula based in Las Vegas, and her answers are interesting.  She seems a little granola.  One of the things she can’t live without is coconut oil.  Is that still a thing?  What do you use it for?  Her guilty pleasure is pretty gross.  She can’t stop picking her nose when she’s in her car.  She seems a little whackadoo and I’m all in.

Elizabeth

elizabeth

Elizabeth is just fine.  She’s a little young at 24.  She’s a marketing manager in Dallas, which is a hotspot for winners/runner-ups.  She’s got long hair.  I think I need to see her move around and speak before I can get a handle on her.  Maybe.

Hailey

hailey

Hailey seems really interesting as a person, but she’s a no for me on this season.  She’s only 23 and she has short hair.  But she’s from Vancouver, B.C., which is a super cool spot and does well on this show, and she’s a photographer.  She seems really independent.  I kind of want to follow her on Instagram just to see what she’s up to.

Ida Marie

ida-marie

Poor Ida Marie.  She really got in over her head with this questionnaire.  She was unable to name a single book or author that she liked.  Not one.  Her favorite snack is Cheetos with a pickle.  I’m not even sure what that’s about.  She’s super cute and super young (23) and I see her getting along famously with the twins in Paradise.

Jaimi

jaimi

Jaimi seems like such a bad ass.  She’s a 28-year-old chef from New Orleans, and everyone knows New Orleans has the best food. She’s got some good substance in her answers, and she says she might be able to bench press her date!  I hope she doesn’t do that with Nick.  I don’t think it will go over well in such a hyper-gendered setting.  Jaimi might be too cool for all of this.

Jasmine B.

jasmine-b

There are two black Jasmines this season.  Like seriously ABC?  Do we need to aim for name diversity next?  Jasmine B. is super cute and she’s a flight attendant, which is a famously “sexy” job that shows she is very adventurous, I’m sure.  She’s only 25 and she’s from Tacoma, WA.  Not sure why she didn’t just say Seattle, but whatever.  I’m a little concerned about this comment: “Do you prefer a man who wants to be pursued or a man who pursues you and why? A man who pursues me. I don’t usually chase men.”  That’s not how this works, Jasmine B.

Jasmine G.

jasmine-g

Jasmine #2!  Very different than Jasmine #1.  This Jasmine is a pro-basketball dancer who is 29 and from San Francisco.  I actually like everything about her profile except for her love for Guy Fieri, who is just the worst.  I like Triple D as much as the next person but I do not like Guy.  Anyway, if I had to pick between the two Jasmines I think I’d go with flight-attendant Jasmine because that job is a more palatable than dancer.

Josephine

josephine

There’s a lot going on with Josephine.  The bare-shoulder top with lace, the choker, the dramatic hair, the makeup.  She’s a 24-year-old unemployed nurse, which doesn’t scream “CATCH” but maybe she’ll surprise us.  Doubt it.

Kristina

kristina

Kristina is young, 24, and is from Lexington, KY.  She’s a dental hygienist, which is a good profession for this show, and is also only 5’2, which I think is a positive for Nick.  Plus she’s brunette and has the long hair going for her.  Her answers to her quiz are somewhat unique (she’d like to be Fiona from Shrek, so at least it’s a different fairytale).  She seems a little boring and a little young, and I’m worried about the location.  I’m thinking middle of the pack.

Lacey

lacey

Lacy is a 25-year-old digital marketing manager from Manhattan.  She seems sweet.  Women from NYC never do so well on this show.  Nick might be the bachelor to prove us wrong on this, and I’d love to be proven wrong, but I’m not feeling it for Lacey.  She seems like she’ll be good friends with the rest of the girls but not hit it off romantically with Nick.

Lauren

lauren

I’m into Lauren.  She’s 30, she’s a law school graduate (although I wonder what that means, hopefully she just graduated and is not just unemployed), and she’s super cute.  She’s from Naples, FL, which is not a huge source of winners but we’ve had a few in the past (Vienna?).  Ugh she also likes dolphins, which is just annoying, but I like Lauren and I think she could be good this season.

Michelle

michelle

Michelle is super cute, and super young.  She’s 24 and a food truck owner in LA.  She seems really adventurous and fun, and I think she’ll be living up the international travel if she gets that far.  I think she IS there to make friends, and not so much there to meet a husband.  Which is fine, because she is 24.

Olivia

olivia

Olivia is interesting.  She’s 25 and from Anchorage, AK, which is maybe a first for this franchise?  She was the kicker for her high school’s male football team, which is pretty badass, but she likes Nicholas Sparks, is afraid of spiders and not finding love, and broke down in tears to the point of not being able to finish a speech when she was the maid of honor.  I think we’ll be seeing the waterworks from Olivia this season.

Rachel

rachel

Oh Rachel, this is a woman after my heart.  She’s the person I want Nick to pick.  She’s a lawyer in Dallas and she’s 31.  She’s the right age for Nick, she has a career, and Dallas has been a good source for winners/leads for this show.  She’s the right height at 5’4, and she’s beautiful!  Her questionnaire answers are spot-on.  I want Rachel to go far, I want her to win.  She would be the first black contestant to break the top 4.  Fingers crossed we get there.

Raven

raven

It’s hard to imagine Raven and Rachel in the same room, let alone dating the same man.  Raven is 25, from Hoxie, Arkansas (not sure where that is), and is a fashion boutique owner.  She seems like a ball of fun.  Here’s a verbatim quote from her: Do you have a fear of aging, and are you doing anything to prevent it? No! Oh, I’m sure I’ll use cosmetic procedures to my advantage, but tastefully done.  Hey, at least she’s honest!  I can see her sticking around as an interesting character, but I do not see Nick ending up with her.

Sarah

sarah

Sarah seems like a sweetheart.  She’s 26, lives in Newport Beach, CA, and is a grade school teacher. She seems like a romantic, too.  She loves quite flowers and a Walk to Remember.  Is she too sweet?  I see Nick with someone who has more of an edge.  I bet Sarah will make lots of friends though, and maybe even get herself a ticket to Paradise.

Susannah

susannah

Susannah is really cute and has great hair.  Susannah says her greatest achievement so far in her 26 years on this planet is flying to Europe on a whim.  Oh, and she also loves The Little Mermaid.  Did they plan this?  They must have.

Taylortaylor

Taylor is so young!  She’s only 23.  She’s from Seattle, which makes sense because I grew up in Seattle and everyone was named Taylor.  Girls and boys.  Two of them dated for awhile in high school.  That was cute.  Her favorite “clothing designer” is Forever 21.  Forever 21 is not a clothing designer, but it almost seems unfair to ask a 23-year-old this question because she has been in the workforce for what, two years max?  She probably just started getting a paycheck last year.  I just can’t see Nick with someone this young.  That’s a 13-year difference, and it’s a pretty big one.

Vanessa

vanessa

Vanessa kind of looks like Andi, no?  And she’s from Canada, so like Kaitlyn!  Maybe she’s the perfect combination!  In addition to being very pretty, Vanessa is 29 and a special education teacher.  She’s under 5’4 and has perfect Bachelor hair.  I can’t tell too much about her from her profile, other than family being important to her.  I like her.

Whitney

whitney

Whitney looks like a model but she’s actually a pilates instructor.  I think she’s secretly a model, or wants to be, because she’d choose to be Gisele for the day.  She’s scared of horses, which could lead to some interesting dates.  Maybe it’s because I’m at the end of the women, but I’m not feeling Whitney.  Maybe for Paradise.

Conclusions

This is the most diverse group of women I’ve ever seen for the Bachelor, and I think that is awesome.  I also think Nick has the potential to be a bit of a wild card bachelor.  I can’t tell how he’s going to go.  From past experiences of his on the show, he has gravitated towards smart, funny, and strong women, even during his time in Paradise.  That makes me hopeful that he’ll weed out the 20-somethings who love dolphins and focus on a few of the women who will likely be a better long-term fit for this 36-year-old.  I’m not going to rank the top four yet, but here are the women I hope Nick gives these women a chance:

  1. Rachel.  She’s got it going on, and I have a feeling Nick will be ok with a strong, professional woman.
  2. Danielle M.  This woman is gorgeous, accomplished, and hopefully is in a place to find love.
  3. Vanessa.  I’m a fan.  She seems sweet, genuine, and grounded.  Hopefully she also has a sense o humor and we’re golden!

Let the games begin!

Trump’s Squad II

Time for the second installment of Trump’s Squad.  Check out the first installment here.  Trump has been naming people to his cabinet for weeks now, but some of his recent nominations have really stirred things up.  We’re going to cover a couple of those today.

Secretary of State – Rex Tillerson

rex-tillerson

Rex Tillerson is Trump’s choice for Secretary of State.  This is another big position.  The Secretary of State is in charge of the Department of State and United States Foreign Service, and is the outward-facing cabinet member for foreign policy.  As Secretary of State, Tillerson will be the primary negotiator with other countries.  Like I said, big position.

Tillerson is currently the chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil.  As an initial matter, Tillerson has never held public office.  He has worked for Exxon since 1975 in various capacities, and has been CEO since 2006.  Since Tillerson has never held public office, it’s difficult to get a sense of where is politics lie.  He has been a longtime supporter of the Republican party, has expressed his impatience with government regulation, has stated that he does not support sanctions, and although he has acknowledged that climate change is happening, has stated that it is not yet clear “to what extent and therefore what you can do it about it.”

The most we know about Tillerson is his connection to Putin.  Apparently the two are pretty close.  Tillerson has known Putin since 1999, when he began representing Exxon’s interests in Russia.  There’s a quote that’s making the rounds from John Hamre, the President and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  Tillerson is on the board of that organization.  Hamre has said that Tillerson “has had more interactive time with Vladimir Putin than probably any other American, with the exception of Dr. Henry Kissinger.”

As a representative of Exxon, Tillerson has worked closely with Putin.  In 2011, he struck a deal with Russia which gave Exxon access to Arctic resources.  In 2013, the Kremlin presented Tillerson with the country’s Order of Friendship.  The Order of the Friendship rewards foreign nationals whose work, deeds, and efforts were aimed at bettering the relations between foreign nations and Russia.  If you want a refresher on why connections with Putin might be bad, check out my previous post on this topic.

Russia might be a big issue for Tillerson during the committee and Senate hearings.  Tillerson will have to be approved by a majority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and then a majority of the Senate.

The Foreign Relations Committee includes:

  • Bob Corker (R-TN)
  • Ben Cardin (D-MD)
  • James Risch (R-ID)
  • Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
  • Marco Rubio (R-FL)
  • Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
  • Ron Johnson (R-WI)
  • Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
  • Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
  • Christopher Coons (D-DE)
  • Cory Gardner (R-CO)
  • Tom Udall (D-NM)
  • David Perdue (R-GA)
  • Chris Murphy (D-CT)
  • Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
  • Tim Kaine (D-VA)
  • Rand Paul (R-KY)
  • Edward Markey (D-MA)
  • John Barrasso (R-WY)

If you’ve been counting, that is 10 Republicans to nine Democrats.  Rubio has already come out saying he has serious concerns about Tillerson as Secretary of State.  If Tillerson’s not for you, start making your calls!  It only takes one Republican to cross the line.  As always, you can contact your senators for the main vote.

Labor Secretary – Andrew Puzder

andy_puzder-jpeg

Trump  has nominated Andrew Puzder for Labor Secretary.  Labor Secretary is in charge of protecting the nation’s workers, determine how to distribute benefits to unemployed Americans, and is runs unemployment and jobs reports.  Puzder also has never held a political office, and is currently the CEO of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.

Puzder has criticized the Affordable Care Act, argued against raising the federal minimum wage beyond $9 an hour, and worked for years as an anti-abortion lawyer in Missouri.  Under Puzder’s leadership, Carl’s Jr. has led an aggressively disgusting campaign of scantily clad women eating burgers.  He stands by that decision – he just “like[s] beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis.”

I’m personally disgusted by this guy, and I’m nervous about what he means for workers across the country.  If you feel the same, way, here’s what you can do.  Puzder first needs to receive a majority vote from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and then a majority vote in the Senate.

The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee includes:

  • Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
  • Patty Murray (D-WA)
  • Michael Enzi (R-WY)
  • Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
  • Richard Burr (R-NC)
  • Bernie Sanders (D-VT)
  • Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
  • Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA)
  • Rand Paul (R-KY)
  • Al Franken (D-MN)
  • Susan Collins (R-ME)
  • Michael Bennet (D-CO)
  • Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
  • Mark Kirk (R-IL)
  • Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
  • Tim Scott (R-SC)
  • Christopher Murphy (D-CT)
  • Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
  • Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
  • Pat Roberts (R-KS)
  • Bill Cassidy (R-IA)

You’ll probably notice that some of the listed senators will no longer hold their position in next iteration of the Senate.  Once the new senators begin in early January, the Senate will reallocate some positions.  I will update as that becomes available.  In the mean time, feel free to start calling!  There are 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats on the committee, but we have some heavy hitters (Murry, Sanders, Warren).  For Republicans that may be easier to convince, I would reach out to Rand Paul, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski, but feel free to contact whomever you want.

As always, you can contact your senators for the main vote, in which Puzder will need a majority as well.

Treasury Secretary – Steven Mnuchin

steven

If you’re keeping track, this is our second Steve and our eighth white male!  Mnuchin is tapped for Treasury Secretary, the position in charge of establishing economic policy, tax policy, financial policy, and any financial sanctions against foreign nations.  Mnuchin, like all others listed today, has never held political office.  He was the national finance chairman of Trump’s campaign, and worked in the banking world, including Goldman Sachs, prior to joining Trump’s campaign.  He was active in the residential lending market and bought several failed banks from 2008-2009.  In a bizarre aside, Mnuchin also has worked in Hollywood.  His production company has produced The Devil Wears Prada, Avatar, Gravity, The Lego Movie, and Magic Mike XXL.

Mnuchin has actually supported both Democrats and Republicans in the past, but has been a staunch Trump supporter since spring of 2016.  Since Trump announced Mnuchin as his pick for Labor Secretary, Mnuchin has faced some public criticism, mostly relating to his background in the finance industry.  He has been criticized for profiting off of the financial crisis and for his role on finance in the midst of anti-Wall Street sentiments.

Not your guy?  Mnuchin has to be confirmed by the Senate Committee on Finance by a majority vote before he goes to the entire Senate for a vote.

The Senate Committee on Finance includes:

  • Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
  • Ron Wyden (D-OR)
  • Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
  • Charles Schumer (D-NY)
  • Mike Crapo (R-ID)
  • Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
  • Pat Roberts (R-KS)
  • Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
  • Michael Enzi (R-WY)
  • Bill Nelson (D-FL)
  • John Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
  • John Thune (R-SD)
  • Thomas Carper (D-DE)
  • Richard Burr (R-NC)
  • Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)
  • Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
  • Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
  • Rob Portman (R-OH)
  • Michael Bennet (D-CO)
  • Patrick Toomey (R-PA)
  • Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA)
  • Dan Coats (R-IN)
  • Mark Warner (D-VA)
  • Dean Heller (R-NV)
  • Tim Scott (R-SC)

If you’re counting, that’s 14 Republicans and 12 Democrats.  This might be a tough one – there are valid issues with Mnuchin but so far he wouldn’t be the one I’d target primarily, and the Republicans on this committee are pretty solidly conservative.  But please do reach out if this guy is not for you, and as always please contact your senators!

Spotlight on the States

I’ve been focusing on national (and international) politics because the news cycle has been so crazy, but today we’re going to look at what a few of the states have been up to.

Ohio

ohio

Ohio has been making some moves to restrict abortion further.  On December 6, the Ohio Senate and House approved a ban on abortions once a heartbeat is detected, which generally occurs around six weeks.  The language was added to an unrelated bill concerning child welfare, and the language does not provide exceptions for rape or incest.  Two days later, the Ohio Senate and House approved a bill which bans abortions at or after 20 weeks.  Again, that bill has no exceptions for rape or incest.

On December 13, Governor John Kasich vetoed the 6-week ban but signed into law the 20 week ban.  The ban goes into effect in 90 days, barring any court fight’s over the law’s constitutionality.

Roe v. Wade legalized abortion up to the point of “viability,” which is defined as when a fetus is capable of prolonged life outside the mother’s womb.  Although some have lauded Governor Kasich’s veto of the six-week ban, almost all familiar with pro-choice precedent understand that a six-week ban would directly violate Roe v. Wade.  Viability is generally understood as occurring during the third trimester – some point between the 24th and 28th week of the pregnancy.  A 20-week ban on abortion has been ruled unconstitutional at the state and federal levels in Arizona and Idaho because fetuses are not viable at 20 weeks.  There are still dozens of other states that have similar legislation that has not yet been challenged.

Ohio knows this.  Governor Kasich knows this.  The pro-life group Ohio Right to Life has stated that it hopes the 20-week ban can be used to reopen Roe v. Wade, and that “[t]he time has come for this archaic line which is viability and Roe to end.  As science continues to develop and as public opinion continues to change we’re going to continue to chip away at Roe.”

They are hoping that the make up of the Supreme Court will change before the case gets challenged, and that if it is challenged, the Supreme Court will finally overrule Roe v. Wade, or, at a minimum, find that viability is no longer the appropriate standard, opening states up to additional restrictions to abortions.

North Carolina

nc-state

North Carolina has had some issues since the election.  Republican incumbent Governor Pat McCrory ran for re-election in a very tight race against Roy Cooper, the Democratic nominee.  Even though Cooper won by almost 5,000 votes, McCrory refused to concede until almost a month after the election.

It does not appear that the North Carolina Republicans are going down without a fight.  After convening a special session of the legislature to address hurricane relief, Republicans called for a second special session, in which they have introduced bills to limit incoming Governor Cooper’s power.  For example, they have moved to make Cabinet appointees subject to state senate approval, remove the governor’s power to appoint trustees to the University of North Carolina system and the state board of education, and reduce the number of employees the governor could hire by 1,200.  Additionally, Republicans have introduced a bill that would overhaul the state’s election boards, which many view as the latest attempt to restrict voting in the state.

The special session is ongoing, and so far we are still waiting  to hear how the voting goes.  Governor-elect Cooper currently serves as the Attorney General of North Carolina, and has threatened to sue the state of North Carolina if the legislature passes anything unconstitutional.  I’ll post updates as they arise.

Trump’s Squad

Trump has been making moves on appointing cabinet members.  Let’s break them down.

A minority of the positions do not require Senate confirmation, making them difficult to oppose.  Those include:

Chief of Staff – Reince Priebus       reince-priebus-reforms-r

Reince Priebus is the former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and has spoken out against certain statements made by Trump in the past, such as Trump’s proposal to temporarily suspend Muslim immigration, and Trump’s criticisms of the Khan family.  Priebus is generally well-liked in the Republican party and to some, signals Trump’s ability to work within the system.

Chief Strategist – Steve Bannon       steve-bannon

Steve Bannon is worrisome to many.  He has had many positions in corporate America, but most recently was the executive chair of Breitbart News.  Breitbart is an alt-right (or white supremacist) news site that’s pretty gross.  There have been valid criticisms that Bannon is anti-Semitic, racist, misogynistic, and homophobic.  (Incidentally, if you want to put pressure on companies advertising on Breitbart, check out Sleeping Giants on Twitter.)  There’s a MoveOn petition to stop the appointment Steve Bannon, but because the Senate does not need to confirm Bannon, the actions to stop him are indirect, and involve threatening other action in the Senate.

White House Counsel – Don McGahn II        donaldmcgahn

Don McGahn is a partner at Jones Day, who served as commissioner and chairman of the Federal Election Committee.  He served as Trump’s campaign counsel for the presidential campaign.  McGahn has pushed to deregulate campaign finance laws, and is known for being combative.

 

National Security Adviser – Michael Flynn          220px-michael_t_flynn

This guy is kind of a disaster.  He is the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and was reportedly forced out in 2014 after clashing with superiors.  During his time as director, it was said he was “abusive with staff, didn’t listen, worked against policy, bad management, etc.”  Additionally, the New York Times has reported that Flynn exhibited a loose relationship with facts, which his subordinates began referring to as “Flynn facts.”  Flynn’s tenuous relationship with facts transfers over to social media, where he has pushed conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton.  He has since deleted his tweet, which linked to an article on True Pundit accusing Clinton of being connected to sex crimes with children, among other things.  Fortunately, news sources reported on the tweet, including its language:

U decide – NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary Emails: Money Laundering, Sex Crimes w Children, etc…MUST READ! https://t.co/O0bVJT3QDr

— General Flynn (@GenFlynn) November 3, 2016

And there’s more.  The Washington Post just broke a story today on how General Flynn shared classified information with foreign military officials in Afghanistan during a 2010 U.S. military investigation.


That’s just the four appointees who do not need to be confirmed by the Senate.  Trump has made public 16 of the remaining 21 positions of his cabinet.  Instead of going through them one by one, we will be doing an “Cabinet Member of the Day” post to address each of them.  Today is…..

Attorney General – Jeff Sessions

sessions

This one is a biggie.  The United States Attorney General is the nation’s top law enforcement official and the head of the United States Department of Justice.  Sessions will oversee all arms of the Department of Justice, and will be supervising the types of enforcement the DOJ chooses to pursue.  It’s a big deal.

Sessions is currently the junior U.S. Senator for Alabama.  Prior to his time as senator, he worked as an Assistant U.S. States Attorney and was nominated by Ronald Reagan to be a district judge in the Southern District of Alabama.  Sessions was not confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee.  During the confirmation process, four DOJ lawyers who had worked with Sessions testified that he had made racially insensitive remarks, such as calling the NAACP and ACLU “un-American” and “Communist-inspired,” that he thought the KKK was “OK until I found out they smoked pot,” and that Sessions had admonished a black Assistant U.S. Attorney to “be careful what you say to white folks.”

Alright, alright.  That was 30 years ago.  What has Sessions been up to since then?  Last year he authored the Immigration Handbook For the New Republican Majority, which calls for a slowdown of legal immigration and blames immigration for “welfare dependency” in the United States.  Sessions also appeared on a Breitbart Radio show last December, where he stated that we’re seeing “more and more persons enter [the United States] and a lot of them have done terrorist acts.”  Sessions also stated that “[t]heir faith commands them to do these things,” and that a Muslim registry was “appropriate” to discuss at this time.  He also thinks stop-and-frisk laws, which have been ruled unconstitutional because it targets minority men, are just fine.

FYI, Jeff Sessions is on the ACLU’s radar.  He’s also on the radar of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which is a coalition of more than 200 human rights groups.  Before he is confirmed as Attorney General, Sessions must get through the Senate Judiciary Committee.  This is a two-day process scheduled for January 10-11, 2017.  If Sessions is confirmed by a majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee, it goes to the full Senate, and will also require a majority vote.  By the way.  Sessions is ON the Senate Judiciary Committee, but he will not be able to vote for himself.

If this doesn’t sound good to you, here’s what you can do.

You can contact the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which include:

  • Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
  • Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
  • Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
  • Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
  • Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
  • Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
  • Dick Durbin (D-IL)
  • John Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
  • Michael Lee (R-UT)
  • Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
  • Ted Cruz (R-TX)
  • Al Franken (D-MN)
  • Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
  • Chris Coons (D-DE)
  • David Vitter (R-LA)
  • Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
  • David Perdue (R-GA)
  • Thom Tillis (R-NC)

If you are a constituent, call the office of your senator and tell them you oppose the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, especially if one of your senators is Republican.  There are 10 Republican votes and nine Democrat votes if no one switches party lines.

Also contact your senators, even if they’re not on the Senate Judiciary Committee.  They will have to vote on any confirmation, and if a majority do not confirm Sessions, it’s a no go.  The Republicans will have a majority come January, with 52 seats as opposed to 48 seats for Democrats, but that doesn’t mean individuals can’t be swayed.

Why Russia Matters

Things are developing on a daily basis with PEOTUS.  On Friday, the Washington Post published an article about how a CIA assessment made clear that Russia not only interfered with the election, but did so to help Trump win.  On Sunday, Trump was interviewed by Fox News, and during that interview he denied the CIA’s findings.

Of course, he’s supplemented that interview with the following tweets:

In a statement released on Friday Trump’s transition team also had this to say:

“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.'”

CIA’s Assessment

This is not entirely new news.  On October 31, 2016, the New York Times published an article about the FBI investigation into interference with Russia.  That article stated that FBI investigators “have become increasingly confident, based on the evidence they have uncovered, that Russia’s direct goal is not to support the election of Mr. Trump, as many Democrats have asserted, but rather to disrupt the integrity of the political system and undermine America’s standing in the world more broadly.”

The CIA assessment goes further, and states that they have identified individuals who are closely connected to the Russian government, and these individuals provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from Democrats, including from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta (remember him from #Pizzagate?).  The CIA has reported that it is now “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal.

President Obama has ordered a full review and report on the issue, and wants the report before he transitions out of office on January 20, 2017.

What Does this Mean?

The CIA report is classified and has not been made public.  It’s hard to understand the extent to which hacking impacted the election.  I have not seen any reputable news source stating that Russia was able to actually infiltrate any voting machines.  Instead, credible news sources state that individuals connected to the Russian government hacked into the Democratic National Committee’s emails with the intent to support Trump in the election.  Notably, the New York Times states that Russian hackers also hacked the Republican National Committee’s emails but did not release any of those documents.

This means that there is a foreign government directly interfering with our elections and backing a leader it believes will be most beneficial.  This type of interference is unprecedented in our democracy.

Why Does it Matter?

You might be asking yourself why it matters that Russia cares about U.S. politics, and you might even be asking why Russia is so bad.  It’s not just because its leader likes to run around looking like this:

putin-on-a-horse

Vladimir Putin is the President of Russia.  He was a member of the KGB, Russia’s intelligence agency, before getting involved in politics in the 1990s.  His policies on international intervention are broad and militaristic.  In the past few years, he has ordered Russian troops to seize Crimea from the Ukraine, has authorized Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War, and is actively working to increase its nuclear weapons capabilities.  Let’s also not forget that Russia intervened in Chechnya’s war several years ago, and in the process committed dozens of war crimes against Chechens.

Putin has enacted many restrictive human rights policies during his time as president.  For example, to name a few: (1) Russia is ranked 148 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom index, which ranks countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists; (2) there have been multiple allegations of torture and abuse, despite the fact that the Constitution of Russia forbids it; (3) the rise of xenophobia, racism, and nationalism; (4) the June 2013 ban of “propaganda” relating to LGBT relationships; (5) the June 2013 law banning adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples; and (6) the rise in human trafficking out of Russia.

UPDATE: I missed a very important part of why it matters that Russia is meddling in our democratic system.  This is not the first time Russia has interfered with elections in foreign countries.  Many believe that Russian presence on social media impacted Brexit.  The Foreign Policy Initiative held a conference call on this very subject this summer, during which it provided evidence that Russia has provided support for Marine Le Pen, the president of the National Front, a conservative political party in France.  Russia has also been accused of influencing elections in Estonia and the Ukraine.

Russia wants to influence elections for a lot of reasons.  An in depth report on this, referenced by Politico, states that Russia does this for the following reasons:

  • To undermine citizen confidence in democratic governance;
  • To foment and exacerbate divisive political fractures;
  • To erode trust between citizens and elected officials and democratic institutions;
  • To popularize Russian policy agendas within foreign populations; and
  • To create general distrust or confusion over information sources by blurring the lines between fact and fiction.

Russia does this to weaken their opponents.  They’re bragging about it:

Aleksandr Dugin is an advisor to Putin, and is a lead theorist of the underpinnings of Putinism.  He has been likened to Trump’s adviser, Steve Bannon, in terms of his influence and role.  Russia is celebrating, and we’re the losers.

What are People Doing About it?

I previously posted about the legal efforts underway to stop Trump from taking office in January.  Those efforts are growing, in part in response to the CIA’s assessment.  There is a movement to brief the electors of the Electoral College on the CIA’s findings before they cast their votes on December 19, 2016.  Ten electors have explicitly asked for a briefing on the issue, and there is support from Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  Russia’s involvement in the election may weigh in as a factor when the electors make their decisions.

UPDATE:  The number has now grown to 40 electors who would like to receive a briefing on Russian involvement before the Electoral College votes.  Additionally, there is now support for pushing back the date of the Electoral College vote to accommodate such a briefing:

There is also a new movement in support of directly invalidating the election.  Again, I’m not a constitutional lawyer, but the legal basis for this course of action seems tenuous, and invalidating an election, without evidence of actual hacking of voting machines, would be a huge blow to democracy.  At this point, it seems that unless some of the electors of the Electoral College vote against Trump, it is still unlikely that a legal movement will stop Trump from taking office.

LAST WORDS:

It seems insane to be talking about Russian interference in this day and age, but this is real.  This is not a conspiracy theory, and has been verified by individuals in the highest levels of their respective agencies.  We may never know the extent of the interference, at least until the CIA report becomes unclassified.  However, we should be very concerned that our president-elect sees no problem with this, especially in the face of bi-partisan support for investigating the issue.  Our democracy is only as strong as the people who protect it, and interference from foreign governments into our electoral process is about as big a hit to democracy as there is.