6/6-7 Open Thread
Someone brought this article to my attention. Go below to the comments to see some of the interesting parts of it. It’s about Dianne Feinstein.
Someone brought this article to my attention. Go below to the comments to see some of the interesting parts of it. It’s about Dianne Feinstein.
Dianne Feinstein, the Institutionalist
Feinstein is now both the definition of the American political Establishment and the personification of the inroads women have made over the past 50 years. Her career, launched in a moment of optimism about what women leaders could do for this country, offers a study in what the Democratic Party’s has not been able to do. As Feinstein consolidated her power at the top of the Senate, the party’s losses steadily mounted. It has lost control of the Supreme Court; it is likely about to lose control of Congress. Children are being gunned down by the assault weapons Feinstein has fought to ban, while the Senate — a legislative body she reveres — can only stand by idly, ultimately complicit. States around the nation are banning books about racism as Black people are being shot and killed in supermarkets. Having gutted the Voting Rights Act, conservatives are leveraging every form of voter suppression they can, while the Senate cannot pass a bill to protect the franchise. The expected overturning of Roe v. Wade this summer will mark a profound step backward, a signal that other rights won during Feinstein’s adulthood, including marriage equality and full access to contraception, are just as vulnerable.
As the storied career of one of the nation’s longest-serving Democrats approaches its end, it’s easy to wonder how the generation whose entry into politics was enabled by progressive reforms has allowed those victories to be taken away. And how a woman who began her career with the support of conservationist communities in San Francisco, and who staked her political identity on advancing women’s rights, is now best known to young people as the senator who scolded environmental-activist kids in her office in 2019 and embraced Lindsey Graham after the 2020 confirmation hearings of Amy Coney Barrett, a Supreme Court justice who appears to be the fifth and final vote to end the constitutional right to an abortion. As Feinstein told Graham, “This is one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in.”
For many from a younger and more pugilistic left bucking with angry exasperation at the unwillingness of Feinstein’s generation to make room for new tactics and leadership before everything is lost, the senator is more than simply representative of a failed political generation — she is herself the problem. After she expressed her unwillingness to consider filibuster reform last year, noting that “if democracy were in jeopardy, I would want to protect it, but I don’t see it being in jeopardy right now,” The Nation ran a piece headlined “Dianne Feinstein Is an Embarrassment.”
Feinstein, who turns 89 in June, is older than any other sitting member of Congress. Her declining cognitive health has been the subject of recent reporting in both her hometown San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times. It seems clear that Feinstein is mentally compromised, even if she’s not all gone. “It’s definitely happening,” said one person who works in California politics. “And it’s definitely not happening all the time.”
Reached by phone two days after 19 children were murdered in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in late May, Feinstein spoke in halting tones, sometimes trailing off mid-sentence or offering a non sequitur before suddenly alighting upon the right string of words. She would forget a recently posed question, or the date of a certain piece of legislation, but recall with perfect lucidity events from San Francisco in the 1960s. Nothing she said suggested a deterioration beyond what would be normal for a person her age, but neither did it demonstrate any urgent engagement with the various crises facing the nation.
“Oh, we’ll get it done, trust me,” she assured me in reference to meaningful gun reform. Every question I asked — about the radicalization of the GOP, the end of Roe, the failures of Congress — was met with a similar sunny imperviousness, evincing an undiminished belief in institutional power that may in fact explain a lot about where Feinstein and other Democratic leaders have gone wrong. “Some things take longer than others, and you can only do what you can do at a given time,” she said. “That doesn’t mean you can’t do it at another time. And so one of the things that you develop is a certain kind of memory for progress: when you can do something in terms of legislation and have a chance of getting it through, and when the odds are against it, meaning the votes and that kind of thing. So I’m very optimistic about the future of our country.”
It is not a comment on her age to note the sheer amount of history that has determined Dianne Feinstein’s life.
Her father, Leon Goldman, was born in 1904 to Jewish immigrants. Feinstein’s grandfather had fled pogroms in Russian-occupied Poland and had become a shopkeeper in San Francisco, where the family’s lives were upended by the fire that raged after the 1906 earthquake. The family relocated to Southern California, and Feinstein’s grandfather invested in oil wells. Leon would go on to medical school, becoming the first Jewish chair of surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, hospital and a member of San Francisco’s rarefied social circles.
Feinstein’s mother, Betty Rosenburg, fled the Bolshevik Revolution with her czarist Russian Orthodox father, traveling across Siberia by hay cart. She grew up to be a model, and after marrying Goldman and bearing three daughters, she became alcoholic, abusive, and suicidal. She raged and threatened to kill Dianne and her sisters, calling them “kikes” and “little Jews,” and once tried to drown her youngest daughter in a bathtub.
This instability remained a secret in the upscale circles in which Feinstein’s parents moved. Her father was a workhorse, adored by his patients and his eldest daughter; many think she modeled her workaholic habits and insatiable ambitions on his. “Dianne is really Leon Goldman in the garb of a beautiful woman,” one family friend told Roberts.
Raised Jewish, Dianne was nonetheless enrolled as a teen at the exclusive Convent of the Sacred Heart High School in tony Pacific Heights, where she became quite taken with the aesthetics of Catholic ritual and hierarchy. The school was full of processions and teas and ceremonies. Students were required to wear starched uniforms and white gloves. In his book Season of the Witch, San Francisco writer David Talbot reported that young Dianne would occasionally try on a nun’s habit.
Dianne attended Stanford, where she won the highest political position available to female students at the time: the vice-presidency. She got a fellowship the year after her graduation, in 1955, during which she worked on a report about criminal justice in San Francisco. She eloped with the man who would become her first husband and got pregnant, giving birth to her daughter, Katherine, in 1957. Within two years, she would be divorced and a single mother at 26, albeit a very privileged one. In her mid-20s, she briefly entertained the idea of becoming a stage actress, took up sailing, and volunteered for John F. Kennedy’s 1960 campaign. When, in 1961, a San Francisco real-estate developer refused to show a home to a rising-star Black lawyer, Willie Brown, Dianne brought her daughter to a demonstration for Brown and bumped her stroller into Terry Francois, who was the head of the local NAACP. Both Francois and Brown would become close associates.
That same year, California governor Pat Brown, a patient of Dianne’s father’s, offered her a paid job on the California women’s-parole-and-sentencing board. For six years, she had the power to determine sentence length for women who had been convicted of everything from public drunkenness to violent crimes. She took a reformist approach to criminal justice, calling for rehabilitation rather than long sentences in narcotics cases. Francois, who had become the first African American to serve on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, assigned her to an advisory committee on local jails; she reported on the terrible state of the facilities, the inedible food, the overcrowding, the rampant vermin.
As part of her work with the board, she found herself determining sentences for abortion providers. Although she would later strongly support abortion access and often told a story about how, back at Stanford, classmates had passed a plate to pay for a student to travel to Tijuana to end a pregnancy, in the early ’60s the procedure was still illegal in California, and, as she would explain to Roberts, the cases in front of her were “all illegal back-alley abortionists. Many times, the women that they performed an abortion on suffered greatly. I really came to believe that the law is the law.”
Feinstein spoke in halting tones, sometimes trailing off mid-sentence or offering a non sequitur.
Feinstein’s memories of this period remain sharp. “Under the indeterminate-sentence law, most sentences carried a low of maybe six months and a high of ten years,” she told me by phone. “There was one case, her name was Anita Venza. And over and over, she committed abortions on women. I said when we were sentencing her, ‘Anita, why do you continue doing this?’ And she said, ‘I feel so sorry for women in this situation.’ ”
I asked Feinstein whether she had continued to sentence Venza despite this explanation. “Yes.”
But did Feinstein feel for her? “Oh, yes,” she replied. “But she was a dedicated … She was going to continue to do it. There’s no question. She had been in state prison and been paroled and was brought back.”
When I pushed further, asking Feinstein what it felt like now to be on the verge of a future in which providers like Venza could once again be sentenced to prison, and in which the law will once again be the law, she declined to fully acknowledge the chilling implications of the rollback on the near horizon, retreating instead behind impenetrable platitudes. “Well, one thing I have seen in my lifetime is that this country goes through different phases,” she said. “The institutions handling some of these issues have changed for the better. They’ve become more progressive, and I think that’s important.”
Multiple reports of her failing memory have been rumbling through Washington, D.C. In 2021, Chuck Schumer removed her from that ranking role on the Judiciary Committee. The Chronicle reported that “the senator is guided by staff members much more than her colleagues are,” a remarkable change for someone who once said, “You can’t let staff run you.” I had let Feinstein’s staff know in advance that I would be asking her about her record on gun reform, and early in our conversation it was clear that Feinstein had come prepared with notes. “The overwhelming statistic is that we have had 200-plus mass shootings so far in 2022, 230 people have been killed, and 840 injured. These are things that we wanted you to hear,” she said, before adding, “So I have this on a card, but I think those are key features.” The acknowledgment of the card felt like a point of pride: She wanted me to know she was sharp enough to know I was sharp enough to know.
That Feinstein may be wrestling with dementia is in fact among the most sympathetic things about her. Getting very old can be hard, lonely; her third husband died of cancer this spring. It is pretty awful now to watch her tell CNN’s Dana Bash, in 2017, that she will stay in office because “it’s what I’m meant to do, as long as the old bean holds up” — and put her finger to her head.
Why didn’t she decline yet another six-year term in 2018 or earlier, when it was perhaps clear that the old bean was not really holding up as she had hoped? Her defenders will lay out all the reasons that retiring in 2017 didn’t make sense, including simply that she won. “Is a diminished Senator Feinstein better than a junior California senator?” asked one of her former staffers. “I would argue, emphatically, yes.” Feinstein’s office released a statement that read in part, “If the question is whether I’m an effective senator for 40 million Californians, the record shows that I am.”
It is also true that she works among plenty of colleagues who are dumb as a box of hammers and have been so since their youth. “I’ve worked in politics my whole life,” said Jones, “and met a lot of politicians who are little more than cardboard cutouts propped up by staff. It’s important to understand that she was never that person.”
But the fact that many of her colleagues, on their best days, are less acute than Feinstein on her worst is exactly the kind of dismal, institutionally warped logic that has left us governed by eldercrats who will not live long enough to have to deal with the consequences of their failures. Feinstein’s defenders argue that there is something gendered about focusing on her overextended tenure, especially when the history of the Senate includes Strom Thurmond, who retired at 100 and was basically not sentient by the end. Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy and Mitch McConnell are all in their 80s. Joe Biden first got to the Senate in 1973, and he’s the president of the United States. But being no worse than Strom Thurmond was not the standard to which we were supposed to aspire at this juncture. And while it may indeed be feminist heresy to expect more from women, in fairness, some of those women told us to expect more from them. They were the ones who cast their own elections as the dawn of a new era. They were the ones who argued that every generation does better than the one before.
Indeed, what may be producing the anger at this generation of Democrats is not just ageism, sexism, or the correct apprehension that America’s governing structures incentivize officials to hold on to power sometimes until they literally die. It is also the smug assuredness with which Democratic leaders, in whatever state of infirmity, can still confidently, in the summer of 2022, tell us to trust them and see themselves as a bulwark against the ruin that is so evidently our present and near future.
Perhaps the progress made over several decades in the middle of the 20th century gave Feinstein and her peers an idealized sense of the nation’s institutions as pliable and always improving. She could urge patience and civility because so many structural exclusions had begun to give way. “Women have really grown to the position where their capability is enormous,” she told me. “I see this with great pride: when women come in who are major officers in our military, in uniform, talking about a given problem, and they are articulate, they’re committed, and they make change. And so this is a day that we should not be disappointed in. It’s a day where, if you look back 50 years, it was very different. But progress has been made, and progress will continue to be made. I’m absolutely convinced of that.”
But those articulate women in the uniforms Feinstein fetishizes got there in part because of the social and political upheavals Feinstein has strained so hard to quell. The gains made by women and people of color and gays and lesbians and trans people and immigrants were extracted by force from a system that had been built to exclude them. To be on the side of the system in the wake of victories wrenched from that system was not to be at the center. It wasn’t moderate. It wasn’t neutral.
Feinstein doesn’t subscribe to this reading of American democracy. She believes those at the top of institutions can help those at the bottom get what they want. But American government has become less democratic in the same years that she and her peers have risen to lead it. A majority of Americans want gun control, but the Senate, whose arcane rules Feinstein still submits to, will not allow it. They want abortion rights, but the Court, which was stolen by Feinstein’s Republican friends, is poised to ensure that those rights are erased.
There is a great story in Roberts’s biography about how when Feinstein was on the Board of Supervisors, she got word that the headmistress of her old school, Sacred Heart, had been arrested protesting on behalf of farmworkers with Cesar Chavez. That headmistress, Sister Mary Mardel, told Roberts about how her former pupil had called the jail to speak to her. “Sister, what are you doing in jail?” Feinstein had asked her in alarm. “What about all the white gloves?”
As La58 would say, the floor is yours. Open thread.
T and R, Ms. Benny!! The high tech is down at the casa. We can only access via cellphone, and I’m on an old one. Should be back to normal by tomorrow night. At least my cell works unlike Feinstein’s brain. 🤮
wow. Sad that Feinstein’s career and life would end this way. My mom lived to 94 and her response for her last few years when asked how she felt was always, “we didn’t come here to stay.” Sounds like Feinstein is hoping to go on forever.
I think she does, but I’m hoping (ever so slightly) someone does an intervention, such as her doctor(s).
Good on her! I wish Jessica the best of luck!
It is time to see reality. This is the Democratic path. We would rather lose an election rather than to see an actual progressive attain any semblance of power. There are no shortages of examples obviously Nina is a prime example! Of course this has the full backing of the Democratic establishment. ( Manchin serves a useful purpose). This is the main reason my participation has been lacking. VBNMH HAH!
It’s the reason I didn’t vote for Biden or Hillary.
It’s the reason they’ll lose control in the upcoming elections.
It’s the reason the fascists are taking over the country.
It’s the reason I took my 13 yo granddaughters to a 2 day gun safety workshop for youth last weekend where they also learned to shoot and won the final competition hitting the target 28 out of 30 shots.
It’s the reason I’m so pessimistic and depressed.
A take off the gun nut quote “the dem moderates will secede power when progressives pry it from our cold dead corprate owned hands”.
LOL. DOV and her minions at DK noticed that tweet and began a rant against Bernie and AOC, sharing this tweet with approval. Shontel is a progressive leader. Not really a corporate tool 🤪🤪🤪
We can’t let despair defeat us. Bernie and many others long before him have said and lived it. The craporate fascists outlined in the Powell Memo blueprint count on it. Period! Look, I have no kids to answer to, yet I’m on my 4th campaign as a volunteer. You all know where I live. 💩💩ville. In fact, I spent the weekend @a dear pal’s house so I could attend a social party hosted by a retired broadcaster who is AA and progressive to her core. She is also a mom and grandma. She’s not giving up and she’s surrounded by stupid FRightwing yahoos!☮️👍
Keep voting for progressives small amounts of progress is being made.
Oh yeah, they twist and spin over there, just like Republicans. It all comes down to color preferences… Oligarch Red, or Oligarch Blue. And the country has been so dumbed down that’s about all most people can handle. It’s time to teach our granddaughters how to shoot. They’ll need to defend themselves from what’s coming somehow.
All most can understand these day is the same Olé game; Vote for the “Oligarch Red” as it “Oligarchs Blue’s” fault for all your problems in life. Vote for Oligarch Blue as its Oligarchs red’s fault for all your problems in life. At this point most voters dont realize that the Oligarchs look down and laugh at the stupidity of these voters all the way to the bank and kill the environment for future generations –if any?
Exactly. Classic distraction from what’s really going on. What the oligarchs want is a royalty class, and a slavery class. That’s the end product of capitalism, right there.
Will his pen run out of ink?
Look at all the anonymous and unnamed concern…
Fetterman’s health, return to campaign trail a mystery as some Democrats grow ‘very nervous’ about Pa. Senate race
Bunch of cowards too scared to.put their name to a stance and then wonder why their candidates lose.
Who are they gonna vote for? Oz the Repuke joke who isn’t even a Pennsylvanian? Plus he’s backed by tRump and is some so-called celeb doctor who comes off as a half baked quack? Sick Rott knew he could steal elections down here in 💩sville. PA is a little different. Demings will give Rubio fits. And don’t get me started on DeSh1tface. Folks are pissed, and there’s a lot of young folks who are REAL pissed. There are the usual idiots who are too politically stupid to wipe their butts plus the deluded religious fruits. There are a lot more of us than them. Going to be some surprises in November.
🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞 Orl about Nov. But the R’s are gonna hammer home oil prices for the mid terms
See what I mean? Now, watch Oz when the Repuke fascists start bloviating about him. 😂
What a putz, wages are still depressed after factoring in the recent price gouging by craprate America. Brilliant– lets supress wages even more absolutly brilliant. Inflation doesnt bother the rich as they can afford the basic living expenses inflation will cause
Basically if you had the smallpox vaccine your 85% protected.
Lake Mead isnt the only problem out west;
As the Great Salt Lake Dries Up, Utah Faces ‘An Environmental Nuclear Bomb’
SALT LAKE CITY — If the Great Salt Lake, which has already shrunk by two-thirds, continues to dry up, here’s what’s in store:
The lake’s flies and brine shrimp would die off — scientists warn it could start as soon as this summer — threatening the 10 million migratory birds that stop at the lake annually to feed on the tiny creatures. Ski conditions at the resorts above Salt Lake City, a vital source of revenue, would deteriorate. The lucrative extraction of magnesium and other minerals from the lake could stop.
Most alarming, the air surrounding Salt Lake City would occasionally turn poisonous. The lake bed contains high levels of arsenic and as more of it becomes exposed, windstorms carry that arsenic into the lungs of nearby residents, who make up three-quarters of Utah’s population.
“We have this potential environmental nuclear bomb that’s going to go off if we don’t take some pretty dramatic action,” said Joel Ferry, a Republican state lawmaker and rancher who lives on the north side of the lake.
As climate change continues to cause record-breaking drought, there are no easy solutions. Saving the Great Salt Lake would require letting more snowmelt from the mountains flow to the lake, which means less water for residents and farmers. That would threaten the region’s breakneck population growth and high-value agriculture — something state leaders seem reluctant to do.
Utah’s dilemma raises a core question as the country heats up: How quickly are Americans willing to adapt to the effects of climate change, even as those effects become urgent, obvious, and potentially catastrophic?
The stakes are alarmingly high, according to Timothy D. Hawkes, a Republican lawmaker who wants more aggressive action. Otherwise, he said, the Great Salt Lake risks the same fate as California’s Owens Lake, which went dry decades ago, producing the worst levels of dust pollution in the United States and helping to turn the nearby community into a veritable ghost town.
“It’s not just fearmongering,” he said of the lake vanishing. “It can actually happen.”
A Modern Oasis, Under Threat
Say you climbed into a car at the edge of the Pacific and started driving east, tracing a line across the middle of the United States. After crossing the Klamath and Cascade mountains in Northern California, green and lush, you would reach the Great Basin Desert of Nevada and western Utah. In one of the driest parts of America, the landscape is a brown so pale, it’s almost gray.
But keep going east, and just shy of Wyoming you would find a modern oasis: a narrow strip of green, stretching some 100 miles from north to south, home to an uninterrupted metropolis beneath snow-capped mountains, sheltered under maple and pear trees. At the edge of that oasis, between the city and the desert, is the Great Salt Lake.
Utahns call that metropolis the Wasatch Front, after the 12,000-foot Wasatch Range above it. Extending roughly from Provo in the south to Brigham City in the north, with Salt Lake City at its center, it is one of the fastest-growing urban areas in America — home to 2.5 million people, drawn by the natural beauty and relatively modest cost of living.
That megacity is possible because of a minor hydrological miracle. Snow that falls in the mountains just east of Salt Lake City feeds three rivers — the Jordan, Weber, and Bear — which provide water for the cities and towns of the Wasatch Front, as well as the rich cropland nearby, before flowing into the Great Salt Lake.
Until recently, that hydrological system existed in a delicate balance. In summer, evaporation would cause the lake to drop about 2 feet; in spring, as the snowpack melted, the rivers would replenish it.
Now two changes are throwing that system out of balance. One is explosive population growth, diverting more water from those rivers before they reach the lake.
The other shift is climate change, according to Robert Gillies, a professor at Utah State University and Utah’s state climatologist. Higher temperatures cause more snowpack to transform to water vapor, which then escapes into the atmosphere, rather than turning to liquid and running into rivers. More heat also means greater demand for water for lawns or crops, further reducing the amount that reaches the lake.
And a shrinking lake means less snow. As storms pass over the Great Salt Lake, they absorb some of its moisture, which then falls as snow in the mountains. A vanishing lake endangers that pattern.
“If you don’t have water,” Gillies said, “you don’t have industry, you don’t have agriculture, you don’t have life.”
‘At the Precipice’
Last summer, the water level in the Great Salt Lake reached its lowest point on record, and it’s likely to fall further this year. The lake’s surface area, which covered about 3,300 square miles in the late 1980s, has since shrunk to less than 1,000, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The salt content in the part of the lake closest to Salt Lake City used to fluctuate between 9-12%, according to Bonnie Baxter, a biology professor at Westminster College. But as the water in the lake drops, its salt content has increased. If it reaches 17% — something Baxter says will happen this summer — the algae in the water will struggle, threatening the brine shrimp that consume it.
While the ecosystem hasn’t collapsed yet, Baxter said, “we’re at the precipice. It’s terrifying.”
The long term risks are even worse. One morning in March, Kevin Perry, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah, walked out onto land that used to be underwater. He picked at the earth, the color of dried mud, like a beach whose tide went out and never came back.
The soil contains arsenic, antimony, copper, zirconium and other dangerous heavy metals, much of it residue from mining activity in the region. Most of the exposed soil is still protected by a hard crust. But as wind erodes the crust over time, those contaminants become airborne.
Clouds of dust also make it difficult for people to breathe, particularly those with asthma or other respiratory ailments. Perry pointed to shards of crust that had come apart, lying on the sand like broken china.
“This is a disaster,” Perry said. “And the consequences for the ecosystem are absolutely, insanely bad.”
Running Out Of Water, But Growing Fast
In theory, the fix is simple: Let more water from melting snowpack reach the lake, by sending less toward homes, businesses and farms.
But metropolitan Salt Lake City has barely enough water to support its current population. And it is expected to grow almost 50% by 2060.
Laura Briefer, director of Salt Lake City’s public utilities department, said the city can increase its water supply in three ways: Divert more water from rivers and streams, recycle more wastewater, or draw more groundwater from wells. Each of those strategies reduces the amount of water that reaches the lake. But without those steps, demand for water in Salt Lake City would exceed supply around 2040, Briefer said.
More at https://www.yahoo.com/news/great-salt-lake-dries-utah-185303576.html
The looming ecological disaster will stop population growth. It’s been coming on for a long time.