Plus ça change … Anita Hill edition

With all the noise lately about Federalist Society protege Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, let’s reminisce about the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas fiasco. (This was originally published December 6, 2017.)


Anita Hill, a professor at Brandeis University, grew up in Lone Tree, Oklahoma, a speck on the map, about a hundred miles east of Oklahoma City, and thirty-some miles west of Muskogee. She graduated as valedictorian from her local high school and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree with honors from Oklahoma State University. She earned her law degree with honors from Yale Law School in 1980. In 1989, she became the first tenured black professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

Anita Hill – 2015

Three years later, after a nationwide fundraising campaign initiated by a feminist group, and matching state funds, the Anita F. Hill professorship was endowed at the University of Oklahoma Law School. Oklahoma legislators promptly demanded Ms. Hill’s resignation and introduced a bill to prohibit the university from accepting out-of-state donations and even attempted to close the law school. School officials attempted to revoke her tenure. After five years of this, Hill resigned. The law school defunded the professorship in 1999, the position having never been filled.

Clarence “Long Dong” Thomas

What could a person have done to provoke such reaction in her home state? Anita Hill had the temerity to testify before the 1991 Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Joseph Biden, considering Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, for whom she had worked when Thomas was in charge of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The FBI had previously questioned Hill. When that interview was leaked, the Senate committee called her to testify. She told the committee that Thomas had asked her out several times and she had always refused. His work conversations regularly addressed such topics as women having sex with animals, pornographic movies about group sex and rape, and “his own sexual prowess,” referring to himself as “Long Dong Silver,” an homage to a contemporary porn star. She also famously related his examining a can of soda on his desk and asking, “Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?”

The invective directed at her came quickly and forcefully. Thomas, of course denied it and went further, saying it was “high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves.” Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said , “Hill was working in tandem with ‘slick lawyers’ and interest groups bent on destroying Thomas’ chances to join the court.” Contemporaneous opinion polls showed most people believed Thomas.

Ms. Hill took and passed, a polygraph test; Thomas refused to take a test. Four other women were waiting to testify but the committee chose not to hear them. Thomas, with all of one year’s experience as a federal judge, was confirmed. He has since distinguished himself as the least-inquisitive justice, often going months without asking a question or making a comment, and its most predictably conservative voter, including his dissent against affirmative action, something from which he benefited during his education.

A documentary film, “Anita,” about her experiences was released in 2014. HBO presented a dramatic film, “Confirmation,” starring Kerry Washington, in 2016.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. (The more things change, the more they stay the same.)

“17 years since September 11th!”

Given the scope of the tragedy from last week, I am glad to reassure the people of New York … that their air is safe to breathe and the water is safe to drink.

– Christine Todd Whitman, E.P.A. Administrator

The air quality is safe and acceptable.

– Rudy Giuliani, New York City Mayor

Since the E.P.A. head and the soon-to-be-declared “America’s Mayor” made these comments the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund has nearly exhausted the money allotted to compensate first responders, cleanup workers and close-by residents. Thousands of claims are still coming in from victims who developed respiratory ailments and cancer. All of the 400 tons of asbestos used in constructing the World Trade Center twin towers was released into the air during the 9/11 attacks.

Almost 90,000 have registered with the World Trade Center Health Program. About 10,000 of them have cancer. To date, an estimated 2,100 have died. By the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, more people will have died from related illness than died in the attack.

Fun Giuliani fact: Against all advice, the Mayor sited the city’s emergency communication center close to the World Trade Center, which suffered a bombing in 1993. The center, an easy walk from City Hall, also served as a convenient trysting sanctuary.

Giuliani’s office had a humidor for cigars and mementos from City Hall, including a fire horn, police hats and fire hats, as well as monogrammed towels in his bathroom. His suite was bulletproofed and he visited it often, even on weekends, bringing his girlfriend Judi Nathan there long before the relationship surfaced. He had his own elevator.

Hmong Appreciation

Even if you weren’t around at the time, you probably know about the Vietnam War, or think you do. The secret war in Laos is remembered not so much. To counter North Vietnamese soldiers who had slipped across the border, the C.I.A. oversaw a fifteen-year covert war in Laos. (“Covert” meaning to keep news of it away from Americans who were already fed up with the Vietnam War.) U.S. aircraft dropped more bombs on Laos than they did on Japan in WWII.

The C.I.A. recruited thousands of Hmongs to fight on the ground against the communist forces so Americans wouldn’t have to. The Hmong ethnic group had a historically contentious relationship with the Laotian rulers. An estimated 100,000 Hmongs died – compared to 58,000 U.S. deaths in Vietnam. The C.I.A.’s official version makes only a single incidental mention of ethnic-Hmong participation. The U.S. left Laos and Vietnam in 1975, the communists took control and 250,000 Hmong refugees fled to Thailand. You would expect a grateful U.S. to welcome them into our country. Of course you would be wrong.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul area is home to a Hmong population of 40,000; nearly 25,000 reside in the Fresno area of California’s Central Valley. The current administration in Washington D.C. thinks that’s too many. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (U.S.C.I.S.) has begun efforts to denaturalize and deport naturalized citizens. The Laos government still holds a fifty-year grudge. Deporting a Hmong person to Laos puts that person into mortal danger. That would include the children and relatives of Hmong guerrillas who were recruited by the C.I.A. and fought on the U.S. side. As translators and interpreters in Iraq and the Middle East are learning, loyalty to the U.S. is a one-way path.

Columbia River Crossing

IKEA opened a big, shiny new store in Portland a couple years ago. It anchors the Cascade Station shopping center that also includes Target, Nordstrom Rack and Home Goods among its retail businesses. Cascade Station sits near Portland International Airport, strategically positioned at the south end of the I-205 Glenn Jackson Bridge that connects east Portland with Vancouver, Washington. The shopping destination’s parking lot is filled with autos displaying Washington license plates. The location is strategic because shoppers pay a 8.4% sales tax in Vancouver compared to the Oregon sales tax rate… oh, there is no Oregon sales tax.

Property taxes in Clark County (Vancouver) Washington are lower than Multnomah County (Portland) Oregon. The good-paying jobs, however, are on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, in Portland. Every workday Vancouver commuters clog I-5 and I-205 and their respective bridges across the Columbia. The city of Portland is infested with Washington drivers and their endearing motoring habits.

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Building a New Presidential Library

As we all know, the current occupant of the White House does not read. Aides and lackeys make sure that any written material is brief – only a few bullet points – because of his notoriously short attention span. He will not accept anything that is not admiring of him.

Regardless of when or under what circumstances he exits the White House, the current president will no doubt want a monument to himself, with his name in giant gold letters – all capitals – on the outside façade of the building, bigger and more gaudy than the libraries of his predecessors. The problem is how does one fill up a library with written documents no longer than 140 characters?

Continue reading Building a New Presidential Library