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Pantsuit Politics

For anyone discouraged by our current political discourse, Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers bring a nuanced and grace-filled perspective to discussions about politics and news.
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Now displaying: March, 2017
Mar 31, 2017
Before we got started, we thanked everyone for their patience as our feed repopulated. The good news is you can now go all the way back to our premiere episode in the feed!
 
We talked about Ivanka's new role as special assistant to the president. We also discussed the Washington Post's profile of Karen Pence and the controversy over several observations about the Vice President's marriage. 
 
 
We praised the Senate Intelligence Committee  for being the adults in the room. 
 
 

We discussed feedback from Brynn on the need to empathize with everyone. "So I’m finding myself constantly caught in this catch 22 where I want to emphasize with Trump supporters who feel betrayed, while at the same time fighting back the urge to just SCREAM “we told you so!”"

 
Allison wrote in and wondered "if Ryan and the Republicans, instead of trying to appease the non-compromising Freedom Caucus, could try to reach out and work with moderate Democrats to draft and pass the bill?"
 
 
Also we shared a NY Times article "A Great New Accidental Renaissance" (link) from Megan and this fantastic quote. "It’s early, but we may be experiencing a great awakening for the humane values that are under siege by a dark-side presidency. People are going inward, to find something bigger than Trump, and outward, to limit the damage he inflicts on the country."
 
 
 
Mar 28, 2017

We're talking about the FISA process, Retired General Michael Flynn, and the failure of the American Health Care Act. 

The Pearls

We comfort ourselves about our miserable election predictions by noting that we predicted that the American Health Care Act would not make it through the House of Representatives. And it didn't. Big winners: the American people for not being subjected to a half-baked, not-really-about-health-care-health-care-bill. Big losers: Paul Ryan, Donald Trump, Republicans generally

Sadly, we have two incidents of violence to acknowledge. A British man, Khalid Masood, rammed his vehicle into a crowd at Westminster Bridge in London after stabbing a police officer. His connections to Saudi Arabia have police still investigating his possible motives. On Sunday morning, a dispute escalated into a shooting in a Cincinnati, Ohio, night club, leaving one person dead and 15 injured. Our prayers are with everyone impacted in London and Cincinnati. 

For our compliments to the other party, Sarah tipped her hat to the Freedom Caucus for standing their ground in opposition to the AHCA. Beth complimented the Democratic lawmakers behind the Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act (the MAR-A-LAGO Act), which would require the White House to publish its visitor logs and mandate the release of visitor logs when the President conducts business...elsewhere. 

The Suit

We start with a mini-primer on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ("FISA"), which was enacted in 1978 to protect Americans’ privacy in the midst of counter-terrorism efforts. A law enforcement training white paper helped us significantly in understanding key provisions of FISA. FISA was enacted to limit the presidents' power and to create a judicially-manageable standard for issuing warrants in national security investigations. 

The key provisions of FISA were: 

  1. Non-criminal electronic surveillance can only occur for the purpose of collecting foreign intelligence and foreign counterintelligence
  2. Foreign powers and agents of foreign powers could be targeted for electronic surveillance (foreign powers and agents of foreign powers are defined in the statute—explicitly says “non US persons” — US persons are citizens, legal permanent residents, US corporations, unincorporated associates with a substantial number of members who are citizens or lawful permanent residents) 
  3. The government needs probable cause to conduct surveillance (and set a probable cause standard)
  4. Established foreign intelligence surveillance courts (FISC) at the district and appellate levels to review applications for warrants under the act
  5. The government can only conduct electronic surveillance in the US for the purpose of collecting foreign intelligence or foreign counterintelligence pursuant to a warrant issued by a FISC or in an emergency with approval from the attorney general provided that a warrant is sought within 24 hours 

In 1995, FISA was expanded to include physical searches (which meant a recognition that the president’s power to order physical searches in the interest of nat security is limited)  In 1998, provisions were added on pen registers and trap and trace - includes phone calls, email, and all electronic forms of communication. These provisions specifically prohibit investigation of US persons for activities protected by the 1st Amendment. 

Often the collection of information under FISA leads to collection of evidence of a domestic crime (not the intention of the surveillance). The FBI is obligated by the statute and executive order to pass that evidence the appropriate law enforcement agency. But, there have been many challenges to evidence collected under FISA in criminal cases because of 4th and 5th Amendment concerns. These challenges led to the establishment of the “primary purpose” test and “the wall” — the intelligence community became very careful about ensuring that applications for FISA warrants demonstrated that the primary purpose of surveillance was foreign intelligence or foreign counterintelligence — not law enforcement. Law enforcement and intel community have struggled a little with the appropriate sharing of information. 

This information-sharing struggle was directly confronted and significantly altered by the October 2001 passage of the Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (the PATRIOT Act).

Under the PATRIOT Act, the intelligence community's burden on a FISA warrant application is to show that collection of foreign intelligence or counterintelligence is a significant purpose rather than the purpose of the activity.  In 2002, the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (part of the DOJ) asked the FISC to remove “the wall” (separating law enforcement and foreign intel collection). The FISC declined and wrote its own minimization standards, trying to maintain a balance between effectuating the PATRIOT Act and limiting the very intrusive methods available under FISA. The DOJ appealed to the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review. The Court of Review said that the FISC was wrong and was trying to end run the PATRIOT Act. It found that the wall did not survive the PATRIOT Act. 

Now, disclosure and use of FISA information: 

  1. Must be for a lawful purpose
  2. Must be accompanied by an admonishment that FISA derived info can only be used in a criminal proceeding with the advanced authorization of the Attorney General 
  3. The government has to give notice to the criminal defendant and the Court if it is going to use FISA derived info in a criminal proceeding (so the defendant has a chance to contest the use of the evidence)
  4. There are no exceptions to the AG having to approve disclosure in advance, and the government never produces a copy of the application to obtain a FISA warrant. 

In 2008, FISA amendments were passed. These amendments included section 702, which allows the government to collect email and other communications of non-US persons. Over 25% of the NSA’s intelligence relies on information obtained under 702. Section 702 expires at the end of 2017 and needs to be reauthorized — that’s what House Republicans were referring to in the Comey/Rogers hearing. This section has been widely criticized but not well understood. Surveillance under Section 702 can only be directed at specific foreign targets outside the US. It doesn’t allow for bulk collections. There are two important aspects of the Section 702 program: PRISM and upstream collection. Section 702, FISC, and intelligence agencies use minimization standards to protect incidental collection of information, including masking

After we discussed the process for collecting intelligence, we discussed the facts surrounding the resignation of Michael Flynn, who had registered with the Justice Department as a "foreign agent" because of a $530,000 contract from August - November 2016 with Inovo BV, which is owned by a Turkish businessman. It has been reported that Flynn's attorneys told the Trump campaign twice that he was going to have register as a foreign agent. 

We also discuss reported from former CIA Director James Woolsey regarding Flynn's presence in a meeting with Turkish officials about the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, a cleric accused by the Turkish government of orchestrating a failed coup attempt. Finally, we discuss reports from the weekend that Flynn might now be cooperating with the FBI to aid in the investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. 

The Heels

We start talking food in the Heels since Beth has been cooking up a storm after her week with the flu. We mention amazing asparagus pizza, blueberry dumplings, and Beth's cobbler creation. Sarah recommended two books she just finished up -- A Piece of the World and The War that Saved My Life. 

Mar 24, 2017

We began by encouraging everyone to share the #trypod hashtag. The idea is to introduce someone who doesn’t listen to podcasts to the medium. Show them how to do it and obviously subscribe them to Pantsuit Politics!

We began by discussing FBI Director James Comey's testimony before Congress confirming that the FBI is investigation whether or not President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election. We also discussed the AP's revelation that Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign manager, was paid millions by a Putin ally.

Karen on Twitter had a great read of the situation: Illegality all around T. He was likely influenced by ppl with specific agendas tailored to appeal to his world view and vanity and so he is influenced. Also think he probably willfully "ignorant" of crimes around him but I bet we will never be able to pin any intentional criminal activity on him.

We then shared Beth's interview with Katherine Gypson, reporter for Voice of America, who was in the room for both Comey's testimony and Representative Devin Nunnes's press conference. 

We discussed Judge Gorsuch's confirmation hearings and growing concerns about his views on torture and statements about women at law firms. We also discussed the Democratic party's plans to filibuster his confirmation. 

We moved on to talk about two abortion laws that recently passed in Texas and several pieces of feedback we've gotten related to abortion. 

We talked about the proposed Reins Act and whether or not the Congress really needs approval over so much regulation. We wrapped up with feedback from Shannon on the difference between how we discuss terrorism when the terrorist is white. 

Mar 20, 2017

In the Pearls, we discussed President Trump's proposed budget. The big winners under this budget were the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, as well as Veteran's Affairs. The biggest loser was the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as nineteen other agencies that Trump proposed elimination. Beth argued that this budget shows diplomacy is not a priority for President Trump as it also includes cuts to the State Department and reductions in foreign aid. 

Inexplicably, healthcare companies such as drug makers and device makers will pay more than twice as much in 2018 to have their medical products reviewed for approval by the Food and Drug Administration under the proposed budget. The proposal budgets over $2 billion in fees to be collected from industry, twice as much in 2017. This doesn't seem to fit the increasingly loud narrative of reducing health care costs. 

We then moved on to compliment the other side. Sarah had big praise two Texas Congressmen who hit the road for a bipartisan road trip. Beth praised Representative Rodney Moore for his eloquent advocacy for charter schools.

In the Suit, we discussed the fiery response on social media to Sarah's photo of a local church bulletin board featuring the viral photo of Omran Daqneesh, a 5-year-old Syrian child. The caption seems to imply all the little boy needs is Christianity in his life and this position left many of you angry and seemed to reflect a growing disenchantment with religion itself. 

We discussed our own frustrations and history with organized religion and what those ideas can (and cannot) mean when it comes to politics. Do Americans suffer from an empathy deficit? What does it mean to be empathetic?

Sarah had high praise for Krista Tippet's expanded audio edition of Becoming Wise, which addresses the interplay between spirituality, religion, and politics incredibly well. 

Beth discussed a wonderful Washington Post article that illustrated the difference in approach between empathy and entitlement in immigrants versus natural-born citizens. She also shared Anne Lamott's recent Facebook reflection.

As well as one of her favorite lines from The Invitation by Oriah Mountain dreamer which states simply, "I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it." 

We ended the show in The Heels by lightening things up a bit with talk of real estate and Designated Survivor.

Mar 17, 2017

This week, Americans are squarely confronting the rights and responsibilities of our government, our citizens, and our fellow humans. With the travel ban, news from the intelligence community, and the AHCA, we’re asking what we exactly we do and do not owe to someone else’s babies. 

The Travel Ban

A federal district judge in Hawaii enjoined enforcement of President Trump's revised executive order on immigration. We recap the decision

The plaintiffs were seeking a nationwide temporary restraining order. They had to establish

  1. Standing (similar to state of Washington in 9th Circuit decision + tourism; the Court also held that an individual plaintiff had standing to challenge the order)
  2. Strong likelihood of success on the merits of the Establishment Clause claims

The Court extensively quoted statements from then-candidate Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and Stephen Miller regarding the intention of the executive order. "The Government has established a disfavored religion." The Court also found that the executive order does not achieve its stated national security objectives because citizenship, according to the DHS, is an "unlikely indicator" of terrorism threats. 

Under the Lemon test, the Court held that the government could not show that the order has a primarily secular purpose. The Court also rejected the Government's claim that the executive order does not discriminate against Muslims because it does not apply to all countries with majority-Muslim populations, saying, “The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed. The court declines to relegate its Establishment Clause analysis to a purely mathematical exercise."

The Court held that the plaintiffs would likely suffer irreparable harm without a temporary restraining order. Sarah fully agrees with the Court's analysis. Beth, while taking serious issue with the executive order, thinks the Court's analysis, particularly on standing, is very thin and problematic. 

Other News

We discuss the Justice Department's indictment of two Russian spies and two criminal hackers in connection with the breach of 500 million Yahoo accounts in 2014, and we wonder how the administration will respond. 

Senators Richard Burr and Mark Warner announced this week that there is no indication that the government surveilled Trump Tower before the election. Sean Spicer then told the press that a British intelligence agency, GCHQ, actually did the spying. GCHQ responded by saying that Spicer's allegations are "utterly ridiculous." 

We applaud the Netherlands for Geert Wilders' defeat, and we lament remarks from Congressman Steve King

Friday Feedback

We briefly discuss the CBO report on the American Health Care Act and consider feedback from listeners Lauren and Susan. 

From Lauren: speaking as someone who has had fibromyalgia for nine years those ads have actually brought a new awareness to the disease. 9 years ago when I was 15 and diagnosed and would people I that I had been diagnosed they would say "wait what is that I don't know what that is." Or even "well that sounds fake you must just want special treatment and the attention."  But now they say "oh yeah the one with the drug ad on TV" and it gives them a point of reference to understand what the disease is better than they did before. 

I would like to know who is actually thinking about the young and sick because there are a lot of us? I feel like I and people like me have been completely forgotten in this discussion and it is one that will greatly affect my life in far more ways than it will affect my peers as they are young and healthy. 

From Susan: As a physician I have been regularly confronted with all the ways the current insurance structure (with or without the ACA) fails patients (and makes their doctors crazy talking to insurance companies to get coverage for standard of care items).  I have always been anti-single-payer but have started to feel like maybe it's the only way to get the people who need help, well, helped.  And then I listened to today's podcast!

I think that so often the idea of single payer can be seen as the ONLY way we actually help those in need, while those who promote a market based strategy are seen as elitist or not wanting to help those in poverty.  Your approach of "absolutely, we are have to help people, but let's do it in a way that keeps as much control as possible in their own hands" was so refreshing, and a voice I think is sorely missing from the more public conversation.  I am so with you on separating insurance from employers... I would be really interested to hear if you have amy thoughts on how to make that opinion heard - many of my colleagues (and most medical associations who make statements on policy) are pro-single-payer, so that avenue of advocacy as not as useful as it can be at times.

Mar 14, 2017

Republicans have been saying "repeal and replace" for seven years. Today, we're talking about their proposal, the American Health Care Act, to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. 

The Pearls (our quick discussions at important  stories of the week) 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions requested the resignation of 46 United States Attorneys this week. Though it is not unprecedented for new administrations to transition personnel in the Department of Justice, the Trump administration's approach seemed unnecessarily graceless. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, was especially taken aback by the Trump administration's move, refused to resign, and was ultimately fired.

We also discussed two thought-provoking pieces on how we take in information. A recent study concluded that Breitbart dominated right-wing media during the 2016 election, creating an ecosystem of thought that altered the broader media agenda. We discuss our thoughts on Breitbart as a nationalist and populist outlet, rather than a conservative one, and on what we see as asymmetric polarization. In connection with exiting the echo chamber, Sarah recommended PolitEcho and Escape Your Bubble

The second piece is a fascinating experiment in gender roles. An NYU professor recreated parts of the debates between Trump and Clinton using a woman actor to play Trump and a male actor to play Clinton. Aside from the gender swap, the language, gestures, and tones of voice exactly mimicked Trump and Clinton during the debates. The results surprised the NYU audiences, and we were surprised by our reactions.

As always, we took a moment to compliment the other party. Beth complimented Congresswoman Debbie Dingell for her measured comments on health care reform. Sarah complimented Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner for his willingness to hold town halls and address constituent concerns. 

The Suit (our closer look at a single topic): 

Following the November 2016 elections, Beth said that Republicans would have to step up and actually govern now because having an undivided government means there are no excuses. The American Health Care Act is Republicans' first real shot at actually governing, and we're not impressed. 

First, we discuss the strategy of beginning the legislative agenda with health care when immigration or tax reform seem like more logical choices that would set the stage for health care reform. We also discuss the rushed, secretive process to create the bill and the hypocrisy in pushing the bill through the committee process without a CBO score. Republicans are also failing to build bipartisan consensus and instead trying to push the bill through with a simple majority in the Senate through the budget reconciliation process. As a result, House Speaker Paul Ryan says the bill is the first of three phases, and the bill can deal only with matters related to the budget under the Byrd Rule. 

The ACHA replaces the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act with a 30% penalty for failing to maintain continuous coverage. We think the effectiveness of this provision is dubious at best. 

Additionally, the ACHA creates a tax credit system based on age for purchasing insurance, and it takes dramatic steps to change the Medicaid system.  We think the bill largely helps the upper middle class and the wealthy through expanding the use of health savings accounts and repealing a number of taxes, such as the net investment tax, that the ACA imposed. 

Fundamentally, the ACHA does not tackle the hardest questions about health insurance -- namely, how to lower the cost of health care, how to provide coverage for working adults who cannot afford health insurance, and how to provide affordable care to the sickest Americans. Beth feels strongly that employer-sponsored health care contributes to these problems and that Republicans should work to transition health care away from employer-sponsored plans to make lasting and sustainable progress. She references the work of Avik Roy on health care. Sarah also favors getting employers out of health care because of her views on reproductive rights. We discuss competition, market-driven options, and a single payer system as alternatives. Because the ACHA fundamentally doesn't address the hardest questions to promote lasting change in health care, we give it a C-/D, which mirrors comments from David Brooks and John Kasich

The Heels (what we're thinking about outside of politics) 

Sarah is stoked about Paducah's new float center -- Revive Paducah. Beth can't stop thinking about her visit to Glenn O. Swing Elementary School in Covington, Kentucky, which is using innovation in teaching and supporting students to shatter the myth that poor kids can't learn.

Mar 11, 2017

In preparation for Tuesday's podcast on the Republican health care proposal, Beth gives a quick overview of Medicaid and the American Health Care Act. 

Mar 10, 2017
We discuss Noah Dyer - candidate for governor in Arizona - who posted a VERY transparent statement on his sex life on his website.
 
Is total transparency something we want? Wikileaks certainly does. We discuss the trove of documents allegedly showing the CIA's cyber hacking capacity and technologies. We also discuss Assange's belief that total transparency is the goal
 
We follow up on some feedback from our Book Club discussion with Brynn who shared: I have tried SO.  HARD.  since the election to "reach across the aisle" and talk to people like this.  But now, 120 days later, I am done.  Do I condone physical or verbal aggression towards these people?  Of course not.  But if they are not willing to see that their views are truly HATEFUL then I don't know what else I can do.  At this point I say we just press on without them if they aren't willing to abandon Radical Christian Extremism, embrace public education and accept facts as truth.  Because there HAS to be some kind of line in the sand.  We cannot keep making excuses for them or analyzing them like we're anthropologists forever.  WE (all rational people of any political leaning) have to take a collective stand and tell them NO.  
 
 
We also discussed our listener Chiara's argument that maybe we do want the President to fail. Chiara wrote us, " I was thinking about how, on the latest episode, you said that you aren't rooting for Trump to fail because you have respect for the office of the president. That's actually something I've been thinking about a lot too...but for me, I'm starting to think that I AM rooting for him to fail...but for the same reason: because I respect the office of the presidency. The truth is, if Trump succeeds, it will inevitably send the message that it is entirely okay for the American people to elect a president who is racist, sexist, bigoted, possibly engaged in illegal activities, and not at all knowledgeable about government or world affairs. If Trump succeeds, people will see that if such a person is elected, everything will be fine. And I don't think that's okay. So I don't want that message to be sent, lest he get re-elected (or we end up with a similar president in the future). It's the same as with President Obama, at least if we're going entirely on identity. Even though I didn't agree with all of his policies, his successful presidency demonstrated that a black, feminist community organizer/constitutional lawyer could do the job relatively well. And I believe that is a great thing, and fundamental to his legacy."
 
We also shared Amanda's thoughts on educated v. expert. "I wonder whether, when we're talking about the value of ideas, we shouldn't put a premium on expertise rather than education alone. They very often come hand in hand, but this leaves the door open for more people, allows more of us into the conversation. It allows both the economics professor and the lifelong welfare recipient to be heard because in different ways, they're both experts. When it comes to crafting policy, things get more complicated (this way of looking at expertise won't be of much use when it come, to dealing with global warming, for example), but I think it provides an okay framework for dealing with certain types of emotional arguments. 
 
 Of course, this doesn't shed much light on the discussions a lot of us are having right now, where it seems like individuals really want their feelings to have the same value as facts. Balancing knowledge and emotion is difficult for most of us as individuals, let alone as a nation."
 
Our Tuesday show will be discussing the Republican's Obamacare Replacement Plan so don't miss it!
Mar 7, 2017

We start the episode with a mini-Russian primer then attempt to work our way through the connections between Russia and the Trump campaign and administration.

Mar 3, 2017

Sarah chats with Megan Hart, the founder of our Pantsuit Politics Book Club, to talk about the February book club pick, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild. They discuss Hochschild's trip deep into Tea Party country and what she learned about their "deep story".

 

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