Politics roundup: Kavanaugh letter could be nothing or everything


Senator Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to the FBI about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Is this a big deal or another distraction?

Democrats send in Kavanaugh concerns

In the midst of hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Cavanaugh, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent in a letter. It was not just any letter, however, though the contents of said document are still vague. All Sen. Feinstein would say was that “I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court… I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities.”

Of course, speculation on what is within Feinstein’s letter and her motivations for forwarding it is rampant. Kavanaugh has earned the suspicion of pro-choice activists for his anti-abortion leanings (or, at least, his refusal to baldly state his support for Roe v Wade).

An anonymous source — as all sources seem to be nowadays — said that the letter concerned an incident with a 17-year-old Kavanaugh and possible sexual assault (or the threat thereof) against a fellow minor.

Another source also claims that the letter concerns misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh. Yet, the anonymity of the sources, coupled with the apparent fact that very few people have seen the actual letter, makes all accounts suspect. So far, it’s all little more than a rumor.

Currently, it appears that the letter, now in the hands of the FBI, will form part of Kavanaugh’s background file. There does not seem to be any new investigation concerning Kavanaugh as a result of the document. As it stands, that means the letter and anything else concerning the hopeful Justice’s background will stand before the judgment of the White House.

So, is this an obstructionist move by Democrats? Kavanaugh seems to have passed numerous checks and investigations for other positions. Yet, with the current political and social climate, it’s hard to say that something, no matter how shocking or groundbreaking, couldn’t happen. As it stands, everything remains to be seen.

Presidential denial of Puerto Rico deaths

With Hurricane Florence bearing down on the eastern United States, it hardly seems like an opportune time to debate the metrics of previous natural disasters. Yet, that seems to be on the agenda for the current President, who took a few minutes from the standard pre-hurricane official business to quibble with the past.

Well, that’s only if the matter of 3,000 lives can properly be deemed a “quibble”. Last year, a reported 3,000 Puerto Rican people died after Hurricane Irma devastated the U.S. Territory and its infrastructure. The President, apparently upset that some people critiqued his handling of the 2017 hurricane, responded on Thursday by saying that those 3,000 deaths were manufactured by his political enemies.

This off-the-cuff rejection of an otherwise widely accepted number angered many. While the president called his administration’s handling of Hurricane Irma an “incredible unsung success”, others pointed to slow-moving relief efforts and months without supplies like gasoline and food. Full power was restored to the island only last month, nearly a year after the hurricane made landfall.

Election interference could now earn sanctions

Foreigners who face accusations of election interference could now face sanctions. That’s according to reports of a new executive order, which is said to premiere soon.

The move comes as something of a surprise boon or a late coming band-aid, depending on your personal interpretation. The current White House administration has routinely faced accusations that it has not done enough to deter foreign interference in U.S. elections, despite mounting evidence that this is hardly a new situation.

However, this move could also be used as a tool to bring consequences for foreign agents interfering in American elections. Even then, officials have downplayed expectations for this executive order. Russia, the presumed target of this order, has already faced multiple sanctions for election interference, amongst other charges.

Separated families could now seek asylum

The federal government is giving as many as 1,000 adults a second chance to seek asylum within the United States.

This comes about as a result of three different lawsuits filed against the government as a result of the highly controversial family separation policy that split adults from their children after they crossed the Mexico-U.S. border. As part of an agreement intended to settle these lawsuits, the Department of Justice is now walking back some of the harshest aspects of its policy.

Previously, parents seeking asylum were required to go through a “credible fear” interview, a step made even tougher by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. To reject more applicants, Sessions and the Department of Homeland Security directed immigration officers to deny people who were seeking asylum from non-governmental actors (i.e., gangs) and domestic violence. Furthermore, asylum seekers arguably have more to prove to immigration officers.

If someone passed the credible fear screening, they then went to an immigration judge to make their asylum claim. If they failed the screening, they could then appeal the decision, but with markedly less success than if they had passed. For parents who were not only legally underrepresented but working under the stress and grief of losing their child, it was all the more likely that they fail their screening.

Some of these families’ children, newly classified as “unaccompanied alien children”, have separate cases and a chance to actually gain asylum. But what if their parents have already failed their interview or are even ordered to leave the country?

Under this new case system, parents who failed their credible fear interview will be given a second chance of sorts. Those who have been ordered deported will be given a full second review. If they fail their screenings, but their child passes (or vice versa), parents will still be allowed to apply for asylum. Parents who have already been deported will not automatically get another chance but can present evidence to the government in an attempt to return.

And, finally, your palate cleanser

Louisa May Alcott, author of the classic 1868-1869 novel Little Women, is often remembered fondly and with a certain kind of coziness retained for childhood literature. Alcott herself is granted some of that coziness by many of her readers, as if she were a distant but loving aunt — never mind the fact that she died in 1888.

Alcott herself would probably bristle at the squeaky-clean image created for her. In truth, though she worked hard on Little Women and its sequels, these books were money-makers. Uplifting and morally conscious tales were good sellers in post-Civil War America, after all.

Ultimately, the charming, heart-warming adventures of Jo March and her sisters shouldn’t eclipse Alcott’s very real roles as an outspoken abolitionist and feminist. Plus, Alcott wrote some very interesting and dramatic gothic fiction, which she termed her “blood-and-thunder” works.

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It’s also worth noting that, while readers happily read her books without deeper interpretation for many decades, Alcott herself tired of her wholesome characters. At the end of Jo’s Boys, where Jo runs a school named Plumfield, Alcott writes: “It is a strong temptation to the weary historian to close the present tale with an earthquake which should engulf Plumfield and its environs so deeply in the bowels of the earth that no youthful [historian] could ever find a vestige of it.” She quickly walks back her statement, but it remains a striking authorial insertion.