Archive for September, 2018

[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.

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[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.”

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