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Still the Evil Kingdom

[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below]

I labelled Saudi Arabia the “evil kingdom” in two posts here and here some five-and-a-half years ago. It had long gone without saying, in North America and Europe at least, that the Baathist regime in Iraq—followed by its cousin in Syria—was the bloodiest, cruelest, and all-around most repressive in the MENA region. I had thought such myself through the 1990s, giving the palmarès for overall awfulness to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. And Saddam was indeed everything one could say about him. But looking into the matter more closely in the last decade, I determined that—when it came to internal repression—Libya’s Muammar Qadhafi was every bit as bad as Saddam—and was a greater destabilizing force regionally to boot. And then looking just a little more closely, it became manifest that Saudi Arabia was hardly a nicer place than Saddam’s Iraq when it came to domestic repression, and was, in fact, far worse outside its borders, with its aggressive promotion of Wahhabism across the planet—wherever Muslims were to be found—the Saudi roots of Al-Qaida, ISIS, et on en passe. So why weren’t the Saudis taken to task on all this. Because they were allies of the US and other Western powers, duh.

But with the rise last year of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a.k.a. MBS, who was touted as a reformer and modernizer by high-profile US pundits, I thought—briefly—that maybe my view of Saudi Arabia needed revising. LOL. Between the criminal, near genocidal, Saudi-led destruction of Yemen, the unhinged campaign against Qatar, the brutal crackdown on domestic dissent, and the now certain murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul—the grisly details of which everyone has read; if not, see the coverage in Middle East Eye—MBS looks to be, as analyst Rula Jebreal put it on Al Jazeera today, a Qadhafi “on steroids.” Far from being a reformer, MBS is establishing a Bonapartist dictatorship far more repressive than its predecessor—though without Napoleon Bonaparte’s brilliance as a military strategist or state modernizer.

If one is going to read just two pieces today on the Jamal Khashoggi affair, I highly recommend these, both by Washington insiders:

Jamal Khashoggi’s long road to the doors of the Saudi consulate,” by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, which I found most informative—and which cites the brilliant political scientist Barnett Rubin, who knows more about Afghanistan than just about anyone.

A fatal abandonment of American leadership: The disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi drives home the consequences of the Trump administration’s refusal to champion democratic values around the globe,” by Ben Rhodes—former deputy national-security adviser to Barack Obama–writing in The Atlantic.

À suivre.

UPDATE:

2nd UPDATE: The gauchiste webzine Jadaliyya has usefully compiled its articles and documents on dissent in Saudi Arabia in one piece (October 17th): “Outrage overdue: Saudi Arabia’s long history of dictatorship and opposition.”

3rd UPDATE: See Rula Jebreal’s posthumous “secret interview” with Jamal Khashoggi in Newsweek (October 19th), “The Saudi journalist’s views of Islam, America and the ‘reformist’ prince implicated in his murder.”

[update below]

Continuing from yesterday’s post, the question is what should Democrats do now, now that the far right-wing Republican Party has a lock on the SCOTUS for years to come, until one of the five majority justices drops dead—and assuming that happens when the Democrats control the White House and Senate (and that Trump hasn’t had the opportunity to add a sixth or even seventh hard-right justice in the meantime). An ultra-conservative SCOTUS majority has been a specter that all Democrats and progressives—myself included—have dreaded, and now it’s reality.

The principal focus has been on Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges, of these being repealed, which would of course be terrible, though perhaps not as calamitous as one may fear, as abortions are already difficult-to-impossible to obtain in many red states but will remain legal in blue states (and maybe some red as well) in the absence of Roe. The real danger is in further gutting the Voting Rights Act, upholding extreme partisan gerrymandering, striking down remaining campaign finance laws, and, above all, turning the clock back to the Lochner era in economic legislation and collective bargaining—thus rendering unconstitutional legislation passed by a future Democratic congress and signed by a Democratic president. The specter of this is truly nightmarish.

But I am not in a state of despair or depressed. Not that I’m serene: Kavanaugh’s confirmation is indeed a dark day in American history, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s not over for the Democrats—provided, of course, that they win elections, beginning next month and continuing in 2020. The Dems do have options. For starters, the Kavanaugh confirmation, so Matthew Yglesias submitted in Vox three days ago, “will delegitimize the Supreme Court — and that’s a good thing,” continuing that “it’s time America woke up to the radical right that’s run the Court for years.” In a similar vein, Paul Starr of The American Prospect wrote:

…Democrats should [certainly not] have ducked this fight. There’s no way to win in politics or in anything else if you give up in advance. And the Kavanaugh battle may bring about one good result, though it’s nothing to cheer about.

Many Americans have an out-of-date view of the Supreme Court as a bulwark of liberalism. In fact, Republican presidents have made 15 out of the last 19 Supreme Court appointments, and the rulings of the most recently appointed justices have increasingly followed partisan lines. The decisions about same-sex marriage and a few other highly publicized cases have even misled many liberals and progressives into thinking the Court is more liberal than it is. Now that Kavanaugh is replacing Anthony Kennedy, they should be disabused of that illusion.

John Judis drove the point home in a spot-on column today in TPM, “What needs to be done in the wake of Kavanaugh’s confirmation,” which begins:

In the wake of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and confirmation as a Supreme Court justice, several liberals have argued that if the Democrats win a majority again in the White House and Congress, they should consider packing the court and even limiting the tenure of court justices. I agree with these proposals by Paul Starr in The American Prospect and Barry Friedman in The New York Times. But the court’s role as a reactionary institution – one that desperately needs reform – began before Kavanaugh’s nomination.

The court became a reactionary institution – one that has subverted rather than protected American democracy – when it began in 1976 its series of campaign finance rulings. These rulings – from Buckley v. Valeo in 1976 through Citizens United v. FEC in 2010 – have removed any restraint first on candidate spending in campaigns and then on individual and corporate donations to candidates and parties. The result has been that the underlying premise of political democracy – that political equality would trump (sorry to use that word) economic inequality — no longer prevails. Instead, economic inequality subverts political equality by giving the wealthy and economically powerful a greater say in our elections.

And further down, Judis concludes:

There are two conclusions I’d draw from this. First, the problems with the court didn’t start with Kavanaugh this week or even Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. They started in 1976. Secondly, if liberals have any dreams of moving American beyond the New Deal toward a genuine social democracy, they need to find a way to overturn the spate of campaign finance rulings from the court and reinstitute a genuinely democratic reading of the first amendment in their place. If it takes packing (or threatening to pack the court, as Franklin Roosevelt did), that’s fine. It’s within the bounds of the Constitution.

Packing the Court. The idea is in vogue among Dems, as it needs to be. When they’re back in the saddle in 2021 inshallah, they should add two new SCOTUS justices—just do it—and then propose a deal with the Republicans, that they will not add any more if the Repubs agree to a constitutional amendment—though a simple law on this may constitutionally suffice—mandating fixed terms for SCOTUS and all other federal judges. A single 18-year term is being bandied about by most who’ve expressed a view on the question, though I would go for a 12-year renewable. On the matter of SCOTUS term limits, I wrote about this myself some seven years ago. It was not de l’actualité back then but sure is now. Its time has come.

Failing court packing, a Democratic president and Congress could simply decide to go nuclear and ignore SCOTUS rulings—just tell the Court to f*** off and proceed to implement legislation Kavanaugh & Co had ruled unconstitutional—as Slate’s excellent reporter on courts and the law, Mark Joseph Stern, has spelled out. The Democrats would be provoking a major constitutional crisis but with the Court acting as a brazen partisan body and thus illegitimate in the eyes of at least half the American population, what choice would the Dems have short of packing? Charles M. Blow’s NYT column yesterday was aptly entitled, “Liberals, this is war.” Indeed. It is a war launched by the Republicans. On this, there can be no dispute or doubt. And if war is what they want, then war is what they’ll get.

À suivre.

UPDATE: On lifetime terms for SCOTUS and federal judges, author/writer Lawrence Goldstone says in TNR (October 9th) that “The text of the Constitution says no such thing.” A simple law passed by Congress would suffice to set fixed terms.

The Kavanaugh confirmation

[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below] [4th update below]

It’s been a foregone conclusion for days. I had some hope when Jeff Flake pulled his Friday the 28th delaying act that the FBI investigation would turn up something to give him and Susan Collins cover to vote no on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. How naïve of me. Given the white-hot rage of the Republican Party base—which hardly needs Trump to channel that rage—there was not a snowball’s chance in hell that Kavanaugh would be rejected, even if the FBI investigation had not been the farce that it was.

On Kavanaugh’s unfitness for the SCOTUS, James Fallows summed it up well:

previously argued that, entirely apart from the allegations of sexual  misbehavior, Kavanaugh had proved himself the wrong person, in three ways:

  • His explosive, angry, non-judicious temperament;
  • His openly embraced partisan outlook;
  • His record of demonstrable equivocations, evasions, and outright lies under oath. (Again, beyond discussions of Deborah Ramirez or Christine Blasey Ford.)

That I, personally, think this doesn’t matter. But it is significant that:

  • 2,400 law professors do;
  • As does a former dean of Kavanaugh’s oft-mentioned alma mater, the Yale Law School (“For as long as Kavanaugh sits on the court, he will remain a symbol of partisan anger, a haunting reminder that behind the smiling face of judicial benevolence lies the force of an urgent will to power”);
  • As does a former Republican-appointed Supreme Court justice, John Paul Stevens;
  • As does The Washington Post’s editorial page, which had supported every Supreme Court nominee since Robert Bork, including Clarence Thomas;
  • As does Ben Wittes, a close friend of Kavanaugh’s, who had supported him before the hearings;
  • As, implicitly, does Kavanaugh’s champion, current White House counsel Don McGahn, who according to The New York Times said that an extended investigation of Kavanaugh could be “potentially disastrous” for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
  • And as do many people who have known him through his life.

A sample from the Post’s editorial:

Finally, Mr. Kavanaugh raised questions about his candor that, while each on its own is not disqualifying, are worrying in the context of his demand that Ms. Ford and his other accusers be dismissed and disbelieved. These include his role in the nomination of controversial judge Charles Pickering while working for Mr. Bush, his knowledge of the origin of materials stolen from Democratic Senate staff between 2001 and 2003, and his lawyerly obfuscations about his high school and college years….

And what of Mr. Kavanaugh’s political philosophy?… We would not have opposed Mr. Kavanaugh on that basis, just as we did not think GOP senators should have voted against Sonia Sotomayor because they did not like her views. Rather, the reason not to vote for Mr. Kavanaugh is that senators have not been given sufficient information to consider him — and that he has given them ample evidence to believe he is unsuited for the job. The country deserves better.

And from the Politico essay by Robert Post, former dean of Yale Law School:

Each and every Republican who votes for Kavanaugh, therefore, effectively announces that they care more about controlling the Supreme Court than they do about the legitimacy of the court itself. There will be hell to pay …

Judge Kavanaugh cannot have it both ways. He cannot gain confirmation by unleashing partisan fury while simultaneously claiming that he possesses a judicial and impartial temperament.

I watched today on YouTube the complete September 27th questioning, sans interruptions, of Christine Blasey Ford by prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, whose skirt the GOP senators on the Judiciary Committee hid behind. I found Dr. Blasey Ford to be composed and entirely convincing in her replies to Mitchell’s questions, as I did with her testimony on the 27th. The woman is highly intelligent, professionally accomplished, happily married and with a normal life—until proof to the contrary—and sans histoires; she has no reason whatever to be making things up. But the conservative pundit Michael Brendan Dougherty—whom I have found interesting and worth reading in the past—thought the uninterrupted video to be “pretty devastating”—toward Dr. Blasey Ford—as he submitted on Twitter, where he has asserted that he doesn’t believe her testimony, though without explaining why. This is crazy to me, as I simply cannot comprehend how one could think her befuddled, delusional, or an outright liar. But then, a conservative-leaning Never Trumper friend—and who happened to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination—nonetheless told me the other day that not only was she not convinced by Blasey Ford’s testimony but opined that the good doctor may be “mentally ill”… Huh? WTF? Ça va pas, non?

Maybe there is something to the hypothesis that conservative and liberal brains may be wired differently

Timothy Don, an art editor at Lapham’s Quarterly, writes in The Nation (October 5th) that “I went to Georgetown Prep and knew Mark Judge—and I believe Christine Blasey Ford: There’s no question in my mind that she’s telling the truth.”

If one missed it, psychiatrist Richard A. Friedman—who is also a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College—had an NYT op-ed on September 19th on “Why sexual assault memories stick.” The lede: “Christine Blasey Ford says she has a vivid memory of an attack that took place when she was 15. That makes sense.”

To this, one may add the piece (October 5th) by The Cut’s senior health writer Katie Heaney, “Almost no one is falsely accused of rape.”

One perhaps salutary effect of the Senate vote was to definitively put paid to lingering Democratic illusions about Susan Collins, whose bad faith speech in support of Kavanaugh was, so Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern writes (October 5th), “an insult to Americans’ intelligence.”

To Collins’s action, one may contrast North Dakota Democratic senator Heidi Heitkamp’s ‘no’ vote, which was an admirable act of political courage in view of her tough reelection fight in that deep red state. Also worth reading is the statement by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

One thing is for sure, though, which is that the “Democrats could’ve exposed Kavanaugh’s dodges and deceptions” when he appeared before the Judiciary Committee, but “they blew it,” as Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley and Mark Joseph Stern explained at the time. The next time around, the Senate Dems will be well advised not to recidivate.

I have more to say on the subject. À demain.

UPDATE: Following up on Christine Blasey Ford having no reason to recount falsehoods or delusions to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Newsweek reports (October 8th) that she and her family cannot return to their home in California

due to the “unending” death threats she is receiving, according to her lawyer Debra Katz. Ford and her family are getting a continuous stream of death threats, and it may be “quite some time” before they are able to return home, said Katz.

Brett Kavanaugh said during his lachrymose Senate testimony that he had likewise received death threats, but there have been no reports that he and his family have had to relocate and cannot return to their home in Chevy Chase, or wherever they live.

There are death threats, and then there are death threats.

Seriously, anyone who thinks that Dr. Blasey Ford, given what she and her family are going through, is making shit up and seeking to deceive the nation, needs to have his or her head examined.

2nd UPDATE: The very smart and insightful Jamie Mayerfeld, who teaches political science at the University of Washington, posted this comment on Facebook (October 8th), which is well worth the read:

What can memory research tell us about Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh? Below I post two articles that address this question. (1) Benedict Carey and Jan Hoffman, “They Say Sexual Assault, Kavanaugh Says It Never Happened: Sifting Truth From Memory,” New York Times, September 25, 2018. (2) Avi Selk, “The junk science Republicans used to undermine Ford and help save Kavanaugh,” Washington Post, October 7, 2018

A few points made in the articles: Research indicates that during traumatic experiences such as assault the brain releases chemicals (including norepinephrine) that accurately sear certain details into the memory. Research also shows that in other contexts human memory is malleable, and people can form false memories. (Which bears emphasis, because our memories insist on their own truth!) Memories about traumatic events are less reliable if they are formed years later, and sometimes people, especially children, can be coached into forming false memories by relatives, professionals, and others. Therapy sessions sometimes induce false memories. The Innocence Project has charted the ways in which witnesses, including rape victims, can be led by police and prosecutors to misidentify perpetrators who are not previously known to them. See this webpage, including the powerful video. Elizabeth Loftus’s book “Eyewitness Testimony” (which I have not read) is a much-cited source. During the “sex panics” of the 1980s and early 1990s, when recovered memories were in vogue, Loftus and others argued that recovered memories were often false. I agree with this. There were some terrible cases of people being convicted on the basis of recovered memories that proved not to be true.

Having spent some time thinking about Ford’s allegations (I watched her Senate testimony twice), I am convinced that they are true. It’s clear that Ford’s memories of having been assaulted by Kavanaugh were present from the start, not formed later. The key moments are remembered vividly, as scientific research on trauma and memory would lead us to expect. Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge were not strangers to Ford, but people she knew. What we know of their behavior at the time lends credibility to Ford’s charges. Kavanaugh lied under oath to create a less incriminating picture of his youthful behavior, and he resisted a genuine investigation into Ford’s allegations. I think it is outrageous for Susan Collins to say that she believes Ford was assaulted but that Ford has misidentified her attacker. The evidence simply doesn’t support this view.

3rd UPDATE: Patti Davis—daughter of Ronald and Nancy Reagan—has an open letter (October 8th) in The Washington Post, “Dear Christine Blasey Ford: What a difference you made.”

4th UPDATE: Lara Bazelon and Jennifer Thompson, writing in Slate (October 17th), put paid to the contention that Christine Blasely Ford erred in fingering Brett Kavanaugh as her aggressor on that summer day in 1982: “Christine Blasey Ford’s memory of her assault isn’t a case of mistaken identity.” The lede: “It’s a convenient theory that allows us to believe both the accused and the accuser, but it undermines everything we know about mistaken identity in cases of sexual assault.” This is an important piece. Do read it.

Charles Aznavour, R.I.P.

His death is, not surprisingly, dominating the news here today. As I didn’t grow up in France, I was not overly familiar with his music until I started living here permanently in the early 1990s. I’ve been a big fan since, needless to say. If there is a Frenchman or woman who is not a fan of Charles Aznavour, I would like to know his or her name. I’ve had Aznavour’s greatest hits double CD, 40 chansons d’or, since it came out and which I’ve listened to countless times. I will state categorically that Charles Aznavour is France’s greatest singer (chanteur) of our era, i.e. of my lifetime—and my wife, who knows French music better than I, entirely agrees (the greatest chanteuse is, of course, Edith Piaf). If I have to choose my three favorite Aznavour songs, they would be Emmenez-moi—depending on my mood, this one can almost bring tears to my eyes; je suis un sentimental, qu’est-ce que vous voulez—Désormais, and La Bohème.

Aznavour did not retire. His last concert was in January, at age 93. Watch him here at Paris-Bercy last November. His last television interview—25 minutes—was three days ago. And he had a concert tour coming up. At age 94. Amazing.

Letter to Christine Blasey Ford

[update below] [2nd update below]

I was riveted this afternoon (CEST), along with several tens of millions of Americans—probably more—to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her opening statement was, to put it mildly, powerful. Many millions—principally women but not only—were in tears. Several people I follow on Twitter had read the statement beforehand—as it was released yesterday and published on various websites—but said that hearing her deliver it was something else altogether—as with any public speech or debate, which should be listened to and viewed, not read in transcript. Dr. Blasey Ford was, needless to say, utterly convincing. There is no reason whatever not to believe her account of the encounter with Brett Kavanaugh.

On the subject, my friend Adria Zeldin—a retired attorney in the Washington DC area, whom I’ve known for some 42 years—has sent me a letter she wrote to Dr. Blasey Ford, dated September 24th, recounting her own experience with sexual assault. As Adria invited me to post it on AWAV, le voici:

Dear Dr. Blasey Ford,

I believe you and completely understand why you chose not to report the sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh. When I was in college, I was raped, in 1974, when I was 19 years old. A man raped me, a townie, who knew he could wander onto campus in a small town in Ohio, find his victim, and be fairly sure that nothing would ever happen to him.  I reported the assault to the police but got no justice. The rapist was never caught. There was no arrest and no trial. I was accused of lying by insensitive medical personnel at the hospital. The school administration did nothing to support or help me. So what good did it do for me to report the crime? I was basically left to deal with the trauma on my own as a 19-year-old. I completely understand why a woman would not report such a crime. Sadly, our society was and still is not set up to support or believe women who come forward.

The culture of women’s politics in the 1970s, when I was in college, was such that we did a lot of consciousness raising among ourselves and at the women’s center on campus, but had very little support or understanding from the college administration. This was before the passage of Title IX and the existence of Title IX or sexual harassment training on campuses. I was young and politically idealistic and felt I had my whole life ahead of me. I tried to forget about the trauma and go on with my life.

Over the many years, I experienced symptoms of PTSD whenever the subject of rape came up whether in conversation, in news stories, or with depictions of rape in movies and books. However, in 2016, I truly felt retraumatized and revictimized. First it was the stories of so many women who accused Bill Cosby of rape.  Then the trial of Brock Turner in California and Judge Persky’s shamefully lenient sentence. The moving statement of the rape survivor in that case, read to the courtroom and circulated online, brought so many tears to my eyes. I read her powerful statement over and over and cried so hard. Certainly, this would help me heal and be cathartic. But then the 2016 presidential campaign took an ugly turn with statements about women and their bodies, about women being abused and ridiculed by a male candidate. The revelation of his statements bragging about sexual assault made me angry but also traumatized me once again.

On November 9, 2016, I woke up to learn that this man, who bragged to the nation about sexual assault, was going to be our president, I cried on and off for days. How could this happen? I felt like I was in a nightmare and that I would soon wake up and it would all have been a bad dream.

I am an attorney and live in the Washington DC area. Like your attorneys, Ms. Katz and Ms. Banks, I practiced employment and labor law for many years.  I worked at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC, for 18 years and was there during the time Clarence Thomas was the Chair and in 1991 when he was nominated to the Supreme Court. The hearings and testimony of Anita Hill divided the staff at the EEOC.  I and other staff attorneys at the EEOC put together a petition to support Anita Hill. In response, other women went to the Hill to testify in support of Thomas. I saw how Anita Hill was treated during her testimony by the all-male members of the Judiciary Committee. What a shameful display of misogyny that was! She was treated with hostility, was belittled, and was not believed. Today, in 2018, with the #MeToo movement, I certainly hope we will not see a repeat of that behavior with respect to your treatment during your testimony and the treatment of anyone else who comes forward with allegations of sexual harassment, abuse, or assault by Kavanaugh. You deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. I certainly hope that the members of the Judiciary Committee know that their political futures will be in question if they exhibit a repeat performance of the treatment of Anita Hill during her testimony in 1991.

I would be downtown with all the women demonstrating their support for you, however, my chronic migraines make it very hard for me to even leave the house some days. At 63, I am now retired and try to spend my time practicing yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi. I try to engage in other activities that are good for my soul; being in nature and birding, as much as I can. And I go on living because I must for all the survivors and for those who have not survived as victims of sexual assault. I go on living for all the young women in college and older women who have survived. I go on living.

I want you to know that in 1991, I believed Anita Hill and I still believe her! I believe you and I applaud your strength in coming forward to testify! Thank you for your courage. You are an inspiration to all women!

In solidarity,

Adria S. Zeldin

After an hour of Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony, I was convinced that Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination was dead in the water, that he was toast. But in watching his riposte en différé, with his righteous indignation and choking up and all, I’m now less sure. The Republicans are determined to put him on the Supreme Court hell or high water, and he is utterly determined not to be deprived of it. And the GOP/Trump base will naturally swallow his larmoyant mise en scène hook, line, and sinker—which it surely already has as I write.

The decision in this grotesque farce of a confirmation process will all come down to three GOP senators: Collins, Flake, and Murkowski. I’m not confident, as the pressure on them will be intense (an understatement), with the specter of social ostracism, physical assault in the public square, death threats, and you name it if they defect. Whatever their personal convictions, I doubt they’ll do it.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, the legitimacy of the SCOTUS will be fatally undermined, ça va de soi, leaving the Democrats with no choice, once they regain the White House and Senate, of adding at least two Supreme Court justices, a.k.a. packing the court. On n’en est pas là, mais on y sera tôt ou tard.

À suivre.

UPDATE: Jamie Mayerfeld, who teaches political theory at the University of Washington, has posted the following on his Facebook page, which he says is by a Facebook friend of his—manifestly well-informed—who does not wish to be identified. It is well worth reading:

Christine Blasey Ford told the truth about Donald’s Trump’s Supreme Court judge nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Everything was credible about her testimony. Everyone believed everything about her testimony, except the discredited notion that she ID’d the wrong guy. Which has been discredited if you keep reading.

Judge Kavanaugh lied and lied. Not only should he be defeated for the Supreme Court nomination, but he should be impeached from the bench. I have counted at least 30 lies. Her? Zero lies. Unlike her, almost everything he says strains credulity.

The American Bar Association, which strongly endorsed Kavanaugh, tonight called for a delay in the proceedings and a full investigation, effectively suspending its endorsement.

Here are some of the major lies that Kavanaugh has told:

1. He lied about Devil’s Triangle. A Devil’s Triangle is two different kinds of sexual acts, involving either a threesome, or three types of sexual intercourse with one woman in one night. It is not a drinking game. He lied about this several times and his classmates have called him out.

2. He lied about “bouf,” which refers to anal intercourse, and not flatulence. He doubled down on this lie several times during testimony.

3. He lied about “Renata Alumnius.” That referred to him going on a date with the purported class “slut.” It was not about being her friend (and she recently said she was horrified by his yearbook references.) His testimony directly contradicts a poem about Renata written by one of his close friends found in the same yearbook he refers to himself as a Renata Alumnius, portraying Renata as a cheap and sleazy date.

4. He lied that the “Beach Week Ralph Club,” which refers to vomiting from drinking at a traditional beach week (which all the schools around here have–we all know the expression). He lied and said it referred to his weak stomach.

5. He lied under oath about not watching Ford’s testimony. Today. Witnesses saw him watching it. The Wall Street Journal reported he was watching it with others in the Senate’s Dirksen Office Building. There are many press stories on this.

6. He lied about not knowing about stolen emails from the Democratic members of the judicial committee. He knew the emails were stolen and confirmed it in the emails the Judicial Committee republicans tried to suppress. The Washington Post gave him three pinocchios for this lie.

7. He lied that he did not work on Bush judicial nominations. The email record proves he did.

8. He lied that he did not work on controversial Bush policies, such as torture. His emails prove he did.

9. He lied about witnesses supporting his claims. They did not support his claims as he characterized their testimony. They generally supplied brief statements through lawyers about not remembering the party. This was no testimony. This was no independent investigation.

10. More specifically, Ford and Kavanaugh’s mutual friend Leland Kaiser says while she does not remember that party, but she believes everything her friend Ford said about it. She has stated this to the press and it came up in testimony today.

11. He lied again and again that his friends signed statements “under penalty of felony.” As a judge, he knows that “penalty of felony” does not exist as a legal concept. Perjury does, but he purposefully didn’t use the word many times because he knows that that is the true legal concept and standard and didn’t want to use a word to describe what they were actually doing, potentially perjuring themselves.

12. Kavanugh lied about his drinking. He drank a lot in the last year of high school and college (and several witnesses say he drank a lot for years afterwards). Several friends of mine who specialize in alcoholism said he exhibited signs of having drunk before this hearing. He was referred to by his college roommate as a sloppy and belligerent drunk. We saw glimpses of that belligerence today. Dozens of his contemporaries have confirmed how aggressive he becomes with drinking.

13. He lied that never drunk on weekdays in the summer of 1982. In his own calendar, he referred to “skis,” which he admitted refer to “brewskis,” with Mark and PJ on Thursday July 1 in a calendar entry that matches closely Ford’s account. Most of the people in that list were the same mentioned by Ford in her testimony. He drank. On that Thursday night. After working out.

14. He lied about Judge not remembering what happened. Six weeks after the incident, probably mid-August 1982, Ford reported seeing Judge at the Potomac Safeway in River Road near where we live. Local newspapers have confirmed that Judge worked there at the time Ford said. No one has refuted her testimony that Judge was “nervous” and had “turned white.” The committee is still refusing to interview or depose or subpoena Judge.

15. He lied that he and Ford did not “run in the same social circles.” They did, and many of their friends were mutual, including the person that introduce Kavanaugh’s best friend Judge to Ford.

16. He lied that “100 kegs or bust” did not indicate a lot of drinking in 1982-3. He was part of a group endeavoring to drink 100 kegs that year, and his best friend became a serious alcoholic and admitted to sexual assault resembling this assault during that period to his girlfriend. His girlfriend was also not deposed by the committee.

17. He lied about Trump in the first line of his first press conference as nominee. He lied about Trump doing more vetting than for any other Supreme Court nominee in modern history. In fact, Trump vetted much much less than other modern President’s, admittedly working from short lists provided by two conservative think tanks, which he announced in advance he would limit his choice to. Several books have confirmed that Trump spent little time on the vetting.

18. He lied that he is “open to any investigation.” He is not and is actively participating in blocking the testimony of eye witness Mark Judge, his girlfiend, and other participants. Judge is hiding out in a beach house on the eastern shore and Judge being interviewed by the FBI. Kavanaugh is actively involved in strategizing about evidence suppression, at all day strategy meetings with Trump’s lawyers.

19. He lied about the nature of Mark’s book. He said that both it was part of his therapy and coming clean as an alcoholic and drug addict, and called the book “fictional.” It can’t be both a testimonial of a recovering alcoholic and fictional at the same time.

20. He refuses to answer the question again and again about whether or not there should be an investigation and whether or not his friend Mark Judge should be questioned, further belying that he is “open to investigation.”

21. He is lying about whether he was the “Bart O’Kavanaugh” in Mark Judge’s book. He knows the drunken and vomiting “O’Kavanaugh” is him.

22. He is lying about never having forgot anything about the night after a night of drinking. There are several testimonials from classmates to this effect.

23. He is lying that there is a conspiracy against him and that Ford’s charges are trumped up and part of that conspiracy. The best evidence of no conspiracy is how his high school classmate Gorsuch–they were one year about apart at Georgetown Prep–was subject to no such conspiracy, in confirmation hearings just months ago. Gorsuch is honorable. Kavanaugh is lying.

24. Kavanaugh supporter Whelan helped concoct the story of other men taking credit for assaulting Ford. Whelan has deleted all of his tweets after being challenged on the completely bogus stories he was advancing by his colleagues. The dissembling tweets are gone.

Senator Blumenthal quoted the legal principle “Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which is a legal principle that dictates jurors can rule a witness to be false in everything if he says one thing that is not true.”

If you believe any of the above is correct, you have to come to the conclusion that Kavanaugh is lying and should not be confirmed.

This is not “he said, she said.” This is “she said, he shouted and dissembled and prevented his friend from testifying.” Such testimony is the norm in American politics. Until now.

Kavanaugh has disqualified himself as a seeker of truth who honors the law and acts honorably. He should not be on the Supreme Court, judging the veracity of others. He should not be a judge. Maybe a partisan lawyer, as he has been in past administrations, but not a Supreme Court Justice.

I have posted numerous analyses and commentaries on Twitter of the affair, which may be seen on the sidebar.

2nd UPDATE: A very clever person has put together a brilliant one-minute mashup of Brett Kavanaugh and Samuel L. Jackson’s character in the movie Pulp Fiction. Watch it here.

House of Trump, House of Putin

[update below] [2nd update below]

Subtitle: “The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia.” This is the latest book by journalist and writer Craig Unger, whose previous ones include the 2004 House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World’s Two Most Powerful Dynasties. I’ve been following the Trump-Putin/Russia link like everyone, though haven’t been as riveted to the story as have others. Reading the recent enquêtes by Jonathan Chait, Julia Ioffe, and Blake Hounshell was more than enough to convince me that Trump’s engagement with the Russians is deep and long-standing, and that Vladimir Putin does indeed have the goods on him.

Unger seems to push the story to a whole new level, though. Now I have admittedly not yet seen the book, though did read the article (August 28th) in The Times of Israel, by founding editor David Horovitz, and which is followed by an interview with Unger, “Bestselling US author: ‘Russian asset’ Trump doesn’t truly care for Israel, Jews.” The lede: “Craig Unger, author of ‘House of Trump, House of Putin,’ urges Israel to be wary of dangerous, unprincipled US president, and even more so of Russian leader who helped install him.” It’s an amazing piece, an absolute must-read. Unger details the deep relationship of Trump with the Russian Mafia, whose oligarchs have laundered billions of dollars in Trump’s real estate empire—the American real estate industry being “virtually unregulated,” in Unger’s words. There is, in addition, an important Israel link. Quoting Horovitz:

Unger’s revelations directly impact Israel as well. About half of those 59 named “Russia Connections” are Jewish, and about a dozen of the 59 are Israeli citizens and/or have deep connections to Israel. (Several of those he names, such as Lev Leviev, Alexander Mashkevich and Mikhail Chernoy, are very wealthy and prominent businessmen with direct access to the highest levels of Israel’s elected leadership.)

Those numbers necessarily raise questions about whether Israel too is being compromised by Putin’s Russia — about whether unsavory characters are exploiting Israel’s Law of Return to gain Israeli citizenship and by extension access to the West; about whether Israel, with its own lax financial regulations and inadequate law enforcement, is serving as a conduit for money laundering by Moscow-linked individuals and companies; and about whether Moscow is building strategic relationships with Israeli politicians — as Unger charges it has done to such phenomenal effect with the president of the United States — in order to influence and if necessary subvert Israeli policies in its interest.

Israel is not the focus of the book and Unger says he doesn’t have all the answers, but it’s pretty clear that Bibi Netanyahu is knee-deep—if not higher—in the muck and that Israel is a pretty corrupt place. As is the United States—except that in the US, corruption, a.k.a. K Street, is mainly legal. Also, Vladimir Putin is indeed a danger, and particularly to Europe. Just read the piece, right now.

UPDATE: Specifically on the “House of Trump,” lots of people have been (rhetorically) asking over the past three years if the S.O.B. is a fascist. The real thing. The most recent are journalists Talia Lavin—presently a researcher of far-right extremism and the alt-right at Media Matters—and Andrew Stuttaford—a contributing editor at the National Review—who debated the question, “Is it right to call Trump a fascist?,” in the September issue of Prospect magazine, with Lavin saying ‘yes’, the branleur is indeed one (small f), and Stuttaford ‘no’, that El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago may be a lot of things but he’s not that. I agree wholeheartedly with Lavin, ça va de soi, as would, I am sure, my favorite “neocon” intellectual Robert Kagan, whose column from May 2016, “This is how fascism comes to America,” may be reread with profit.

2nd UPDATE: NYT contributor Thomas B. Edsall has a must-read column (Sep. 6th), “Trump and the Koch brothers are working in concert.” The lede: “They disagree about trade, tariffs and immigration, but don’t be fooled. Neither side can get what it really wants without help from the other.”

My post last week was on the beginning of Trump’s end, and of the Republican Party too إن شاء الله. As for the Democrats—the other side of the equation—it really does look like a new beginning, one dares to hope at least, with the unbroken series of special election successes—of victories or a sharply increased Democratic vote in otherwise deep red districts—since Trump’s inauguration and the flood of new, young candidates running for office at every level—from statewide to school board—and particularly women. Also the surge of young people registering to vote. As I tend not to follow gubernatorial primary races, I hadn’t heard of Andrew Gillum before late Tuesday night—as the polls had him finishing a distant fourth in a five candidate field. What an exhilarating victory, as he is not only a compelling, progressive candidate—as one may read in this New Yorker profile, posted before Tuesday’s vote—but may also help pull Democrats to victory in other races in Florida—most importantly, that of centrist incumbent Senator Bill Nelson—by energizing voters from Obama’s coalition. Seriously, after watching Gillum here, how can one not like him?

Florida does look to be the toughest purple state for the Dems in November, as it’s the one presidential election battleground state where Trump has not lost ground since 2016, with well-to-do retirees moving in—a demographic that, il faut le dire, constitutes a far more important part of Trump’s base than Obama-to-Trump white working class voters in the Rust Belt. The Florida gubernatorial race will be epic, needless to say, pitting a progressive, Bernie-endorsed Democrat of color against a Trump acolyte. As for the latter ilk, it is quite striking to compare the bigoted crackpots and outright fascists the Republicans have nominated across the country—and who perfectly reflect the Zeitgeist of their party’s base—with the attractive, sympathique candidates of the Democrats, e.g. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—who has been unfairly maligned in the media—and Beto O’Rourke, who looks to have a shot at knocking off the unspeakable Ted Cruz—and turning the Sun Belt blue (or starting to, at least).

On the Democratic Party base—not the DNC or party establishment—Bill McKibben, the well-known environmental activist and author, has a nice post in the NYR Daily, dated August 14th, “Seeing Red? Think Blue,” that is well worth the read, and particularly by Democratic Party voters who are disaffected with the national leadership (and there are excellent reasons to be). Entre autres, he insists on “why it’s important to distinguish between ‘the DNC’ or ‘the Democrats,’ on the one hand, and whoever is running for office in your local district, on the other.” There is no alternative to working within the Democratic Party, he correctly says, as “the Republicans are worse by an order of magnitude… are a crazy-eyed threat to the constitutional order [and whose] leader is a corrupt racist who clearly seems willing to bring down our democracy.” But, McKibben continues, while

that’s the main reason for voting Democratic, it’s not the only one. The Republicans in their current form are detestable, while the Democrats—though compromised at the top, chummy with corporations, frustratingly split on crucial issues, and notoriously unwilling to stand their ground—are, in certain ways, sort of great.

He doesn’t “say this as some party lackey,” having organized protests outside the White House during Obama’s presidency, but his sense, after working on Bernie Sanders’ platform-writing team in 2016

was that the Democratic Party at its best operated as a kind of support network for the decent people who get pushed around in America—people of color, working people, disabled people, gay people, people who have to breathe the fumes from refineries… [T]here was something very moving about sitting there [in the platform meetings] day after day in those hotel ballrooms and hearing from voices like Rev. William Barber’s, and from civil rights icon Bob Moses. Or, even more, the women of color who are clearly the party’s backbone. At its most compromised, the Democratic Party nonetheless remains a bulwark of America’s minimal efforts to support the vulnerable, efforts that would otherwise disappear. If you don’t depend on food stamps or Medicaid or Head Start or free school lunches, it’s easy to forget how important this is.

I like that. And it gives me optimism.

There is obviously much more to be said about all this. À suivre.

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