Lazy Caturday Reads: Senate Dotards Determined to Put Attempted Rapist on Supreme Court

Reading a book, watched by a cat, by David Brooke

Good Morning!!

Everything is so surreal in the U.S. today that I feel as if I’m living in a Salvador Dali painting. I don’t even know how to begin to write about what’s happening right now. If you watched Rachel last night, you know that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s attorney responded to 85-year-old dotard Chuck Grassley’s nasty message threatening to hold a vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination until Ford agreed to testify before his committee on Wednesday–a day before she said it was possible to do so.

Slate: Christine Blasey Ford’s Lawyer Issues Scathing Letter in Response to Judiciary Committee’s Deadlines.

The Senate Judiciary Committee tried to initiate a Friday night game of chicken with attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. The committee had issued a 10 p.m. ultimatum for Ford to agree to testify by Wednesday, stating that the vote to confirm Kavanaugh would proceed on Monday without her agreement. Ford’s lawyers did not bite.

Ford’s attorney Debra S. Katz responded to the ultimatum with a strongly-worded letter decrying the “aggressive and artificial deadlines” as an attempt “to bully Dr. Ford.” Katz explains that Ford had “traveled to meet with the FBI for several hours about the death threats she had been receiving,” and that her legal team requested time “to be able to provide you with a well-considered response.”

“Your cavalier treatment of a sexual assault survivor,” Katz writes, “is completely inappropriate.”

Read the entire letter and read about Grassley’s threats at the link. Hours later Grassley sent a tweet that read as if it were intended to be an email or text message:

Followed by this one:

Historian Michael Cohen posted this in response to the first one:

Followed by this from Frank Rich:

Seriously, why is an 85-year-old man still in the Senate? We need age limits.

I think this piece at Deadspin provides a very good explanation for the behavior of all the right wing white men who are having tantrums over Kavanaugh when they could easily withdraw his name and have Trump appoint someone who didn’t try to rape a 15 year-old-girl when he was in high school–maybe someone who didn’t work in the Bush White House on torture and who wasn’t involved in stealing Democratic emails, and who hasn’t lied repeatedly to Congress.

Brett Kavanaugh is a Man the Right Can Get Behind, by Albert Burneko

By Rita Cavallari

Shit’s real weird now.

A thing it took, like, the New York Times and Washington Post and CNN and so forth maybe a little too long to figure out, back during the 2016 campaigns, a lapse that has launched innumerable blinkered Cletus Safaris in search of some other, less chillingly sociopathic answer in the aftermath of that hell-moment, is this: What the American right wants, what it’s after, isn’t some abstract pluralist success, like the smooth functioning of government and/or the material improvement of American life. It wants, only and entirely, to defeat its opponents. Those aren’t quite the same thing. The Republican party would not choose the former if it could be accomplished without the latter.

An example: Any number of grub-like Yale jurist-ghouls with diamond-edged ‘80s-dad hair and uniformly right-wing ideas about constitutional law could get confirmed to fill the Supreme Court’s vacant ninth seat, and once in that seat could be counted upon to plagiarize Anton Chigurh dialog into incumbent legal precedence for the next three decades. The earth contains no shortage of these. And so, in the aftermath of the discovery that Brett Kavanaugh, the one Donald Trump happened to nominate for the gig, quite likely attempted to rape a 15-year-old girl in the summer of 1982 (and, perhaps less important though no less relevant, almost certainly lied to the Senate about the use of stolen materials to aid George W. Bush’s judicial nominees) and has been living comfortably with this fact about himself for the ensuing 36 years, it should be easy enough to withdraw his nomination and move along to the next crypto-Nazi cottage cheese sculpture in the pipeline. He’d breeze through confirmation, whoever he was: You could pretty much count on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s terminally third-brained centrist Democrats lining up to play themselves. And that would be a success, theoretically: A new, arch-conservative Supreme Court justice, possibly even one not tainted by a credible accusation that he once tried to rape a child.

by Sonya Grassmann

But that would not be enough. It has to be this guy. It has to be this guy now more than ever. It has to be this guy, now, because he has been accused, credibly, of attempting to rape a 15-year-old girl in 1982—moreover because people believe this should be considered a disqualifying blight on his record. The thing that must happen is that those people must be defeated. That is the whole point. What must be shown to the whole world is that this, even this, cannot stop him. The bigger the outrage that can be brushed aside, the more thorough the defeat for the people who thought something, anything, might take precedence over this white man being the pick of another white man.

A bit more:

It’s a bit late for anyone not to have figured this out yet, but the skeleton key to understanding American conservatism is this: At bottom, it lacks absolutely any moral or ideological underpinning beyond the reactionary protection of moneyed white men—of their station, their wealth and power, and their egos. Its supposed ideas and abstractions are just a framework for spasmodic lashing-out against anything that can be interpreted as a threat to rich white dudes. It likes supply-side economics because the supply side is made of rich white dudes. It likes tax cuts because the taxes are mostly cut for rich white dudes. It likes cops and soldiers because cops and soldiers uphold a social order with rich white dudes at the top. It likes “traditional family values” because social, economic, and sexual dominion over women are the most traditional family values of all. It likes “Make America Great Again” because rich white dudes used to roll through society and over everyone else with even greater impunity than they do now. All of these things are just proxies for reiterating, over and over and over, forever, the power and security and primacy of rich white dudes.

There’s much more at the link. I hope you read all of it.

The Girl with the Book. Otar Imerlishvili (Georgia, 1970-)

As we all know, there actually was a witness to the rape attempt, Kavanaugh’s high school buddy Mark Judge; but the Judiciary Committee dotards are determined that he will not testify. And here’s why:

The Washington Post: ‘100 Kegs or Bust’: Kavanaugh friend, Mark Judge, has spent years writing about high school debauchery.

A review of books, articles and blog posts by Judge — a freelance writer who has shifted among jobs at a record store, substitute teaching, housesitting and most recently at a liquor store — describes an ’80s private-school party scene in which heavy drinking and sexual encounters were standard fare.

Judge wrote about the pledge he and his friends at the all-male school on Rockville Pike in North Bethesda, Md., made to drink 100 kegs of beer before graduation. On their way to that goal, there was a “disastrous” party “at my house where the place was trashed,” Judge wrote in his book “God and Man at Georgetown Prep.” Kavanaugh listed himself in the class yearbook as treasurer of the “100 Kegs or Bust” club.

“I’ll be the first one to defend guys being guys,” Judge wrote in a 2015 article on the website Acculturated. He described a party culture of “drinking and smoking and hooking up.” During senior year, Judge said he and his pals hired a stripper and bought a keg for a bachelor party they threw to honor their school’s music teacher.

“I drank too much and did stupid things,” he said in his memoir.

By Wlad Safronov

“Most of the time everyone, including the girls, was drunk,” Judge wrote in “Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk,” a memoir of his alcoholism and recovery. “If you could breathe and walk at the same time, you could hook up with someone. This did not mean going all the way . . . but after a year spent in school without girls, heavy petting was basically an orgy.”

While many of his classmates moved on to careers in law, politics, business and education, Judge seemed to some friends to stay fixed in the experiences of his adolescence. Over time, his politics shifted from left to right, and his writing often focused on his view of masculinity (“the wonderful beauty of uncontrollable male passion”) and his concern that gay culture was corroding traditional values.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Another take from The Intercept’s Peter Maas: Mark Judge’s Memoir about Kavanaugh’s High School Portrays a Culture of Aggression and Excessive Drinking. I won’t quote from it, but there are lots of excerpts from the book that are relevant to why Grassley wants to keep Judge very far away from his Committee hearing.

And then there’s another of Kavanaugh’s close friends, Ed Whelan–the man behind the swiftboating of John Kerry–and his doppleganger theory.

Politico: PR firm helped Whelan stoke half-baked Kavanaugh alibi.

It turns out that the Keystone Cops detective work by conservative legal activist Ed Whelan — which set Washington abuzz with the promise of exonerating Brett Kavanaugh, only to be met by mockery and then partially retracted — was not his handiwork alone.

Woman with a Cat – Tatyana Gorshunova

CRC Public Relations, the prominent Alexandria, Virginia-based P.R. firm, guided Whelan through his roller-coaster week of Twitter pronouncements that ended in embarrassment and a potential setback for Kavanaugh’s hopes of landing on the high court, according to three sources familiar with their dealings.

After suggesting on Twitter on Tuesday that he had obtained information that would exculpate Kavanaugh from the sexual assault allegation made by Christine Blasey Ford, Whelan worked over the next 48 hours with CRC and its president, Greg Mueller, to stoke the anticipation. A longtime friend of Kavanaugh’s, Whelan teased his reveal — even as he refused to discuss it with other colleagues and close friends, a half dozen of them said. At the same time, he told them he was absolutely confident the information he had obtained would exculpate the judge.

The hype ping-ponged from Republicans on Capitol Hill to Kavanaugh’s team in the White House, evidence of an extraordinarily successful public relations campaign that ultimately backfired when Whelan’s theory — complete with architectural drawings and an alleged Kavanaugh doppelgänger — landed with a thud on Twitter Thursday evening.

Read the tick tock at the link. Politico claims the White House wasn’t involved in this insanity, but I don’t believe that for one minute. Kavanaugh has spent days at the White House figuring out how to deal with this scandal, and I have no doubt Kavanaugh was the source of the theory that someone else did it. He even told Oren Hatch that it could be a case of mistaken identity.

One more from Politico: Ed Whelan’s Troubles Might Be Just Beginning. He’s playing a dangerous game with the law, by John Culhane.

Ed Whelan may have just crossed a line he can’t jump back over.

Woman with cat, by Yana Movchan

Yesterday, Whelan, the president of the Ethics and & Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank, and an assertive supporter of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, took to Twitter to lay out a Hardy Boys-inspired scenario, suggesting that Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Kavanaugh of attempted rape in high school, might have been mistaken about the identity of her alleged sexual assaulter. Using a mash-up of yearbook photos, Zillow information, Google Maps and Facebook, Whelan laid out a “case” that another man, a former classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Georgetown Prep—whom he named and provided a current photograph of—might have been the person Ford has in mind. After his wild theory received widespread criticism, Whelan deleted the tweets, and tried to walk back the accusation this morning.

The common law of defamation isn’t that complicated. To be liable, the defendant must make an intentionally or negligently false statement about the plaintiff that tends to cause reputational harm, and harm must actually ensue.

The man Whelan accused has already been harassed by the media. Read more about libel law at Politico.

I’m out of space, and I haven’t even written about the New York Times’s irresponsible article about Rod Rosenstein. Links to Emptywheel’s takes on that:

NYT GIVES TRUMP HIS EXCUSE TO FIRE ROD ROSENSTEIN.

THE NYT “SCOOP” APPEARS TO BE AN EFFORT TO SPIN OPENING AN INVESTIGATION INTO TRUMP AS AN ERRATIC ACT.

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?


Thursday Reads: Women’s Righteous Rage

Good Morning!!

Two new books explore the power of women’s rage. One is already available and the other will be released on October 2. The first is Rage Becomes Her, by Soraya Chemaly. The second is Good and Mad, by Rebecca Traister. There couldn’t be a more appropriate time for these books and for women to embrace their righteous rage.

Just a short time ago, we saw Serena Williams viciously attacked for defending herself against an unfair tennis umpire in milder ways then men have been getting away with for decades. And now we have the spectacle of old white Republican men bullying a survivor of sexual abuse because she dared to speak out publicly about the man they desperately want to install on the Supreme Court.

Women are sick and tired of being pushed around–at least millions of us are. We are sick of being treated like property and being told we shouldn’t be able to make choices about our own bodies and our own futures. After hundreds of years of struggle, women are finally “allowed” to hold positions previously forbidden to us–doctors, lawyers, professors, Senators. But we still earn less money than men and we are still expected to accept being sexually harassed on the job, sexually assaulted, and beaten by our husbands and boyfriends. When we dare to speak out about male violence, we are expected to deal with death threats, rape threats and having our personal information posted on the internet.

On Tuesday I wrote about being triggered by the Brett Kavanaugh attempted rape controversy and the ugly reaction by the old white men of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Yesterday, my rage at this situation became so all-consuming that I felt as if I were having an out-of-body experience. Today, I’m a little calmer, but still angry as hell. I know I should try to detach from this controversy, but I can’t. It feels too important.

That’s all I can write for today. I’m going to list some important articles I’ve read yesterday and this morning. I just don’t have the strength to do excerpts, sorry.

Please don’t miss this one by Elizabeth Bruenig at The Washington Post: Twelve years ago, Amber Wyatt reported her rape. Few believed her.  Her hometown turned against her. The authorities failed her.

Isaac Chotiner at Slate: An Interview With the Psychiatrist Who Says White House Officials Called Her With Concerns About Trump.

The New York Times: From the Anonymity of Academia to the Center of a Supreme Court Confirmation.

The Washington Post: ‘These are the stories of our lives’: Prep school alumni hear echoes in assault claim.

Vanity Fair: The Toxic Politics of the GOP’s Plan to Save Brett Kavanaugh.

Sandra Newman at The Washington Post: Want to help prevent rape? Withdraw Kavanaugh’s nomination.

HuffPost: Brett Kavanaugh Liked Female Clerks Who Looked A ‘Certain Way,’ Yale Student Was Told.

Thiru Vignarajah at The Washington Post: Kavanaugh’s accuser deserves a fair criminal investigation.

Washington Post Fact Checker: Brett Kavanaugh’s unlikely story about Democrats’ stolen documents.

The Boston Globe: Elizabeth Warren for president? New survey shows Mass. voters don’t love that idea.

Lili Loofbourow at Slate: Men Are More Afraid Than Ever. Why Kavanaugh advocates would rather defend malfeasance than deny it.

HuffPost: Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong.

Business Insider: ‘We’re in the fourth quarter’: James Comey says Mueller may be about to finish his investigation into Trump.

This is an open thread. Have a nice day and embrace your anger!


Tuesday Reads

Garden at Sainte Adresse, Claude Monet

Good Morning!!

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but the whole Kavanaugh thing has really triggered my PSTD. I haven’t been able to sleep much at night, I wake up early, and then I fall asleep in the afternoon. I feel disgusted and depressed by the entire ugly episode. It was bad enough that Republicans were determined to confirm a political operative whose main goal in life seems to be to curtail the rights of women and hand corporations the power to rip off and poison Americans, but now we may get a reprise of the Anita Hill hearings.

I’m glad that Christine Blasey Ford has come forward with her story of being nearly raped by Trump’s SCOTUS pick, but at the same time I wish the whole horrible thing would just go away.

Actually, I’m convinced that there won’t be a hearing next Monday. I think Kavanaugh will be forced to withdraw. It seems that Trump isn’t really all that enthused about him, and he can always nominate another evil right wing nut. In fact, he could solve the whole sexual abuse/assault issue by appointing a conservative woman, Amy Coney Barrett. She probably didn’t try to rape anyone when she was in high school, and she would likely vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Here’s the latest tick tock from the WaPo White house reporters: With Trump muted, White House leans on Kavanaugh to defend himself.

White House aides said they persuaded the president to refrain from tweeting a defense of Kavanaugh in the accusation’s immediate aftermath and deliberately worked to keep him from meeting personally with the nominee, even though the two men spent most of the day in proximity.

Don McGahn watches Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate testimony

Kavanaugh was hunkered down in the West Wing office of White House Counsel Donald McGahn, strategizing to save his nomination and calling senators to deny the claim against him….

One senior White House official said Trump thinks Kavanaugh can survive and told top advisers he thought the judge’s denial of wrongdoing was forceful. “The president’s thinking is, don’t get out there and defend him if he’s not defending himself,” this official said. “But he liked that he defended himself.”

But two Trump confidants Monday also underscored the president’s history of self-interested calculations amid political tumult. “He’s going to do what’s best for Trump,” said one of them, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment. “The president thinks it’s rough for Kavanaugh, and he’d decry the process as disgusting if he withdraws, but he’d nominate a carbon copy of Kavanaugh in a second if he goes down.”

Another reason why Kavanaugh might be thrown overboard, again from the WaPo: Republicans fear reversals in November due to accusation against Supreme Court nominee.

Republicans are bracing for political aftershocks from the sexual assault accusation against Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, with some expressing fear that the coming investigation will refocus the nation’s attention on an issue that could drive up the Democratic vote in the midterm elections.

The initial hope that the conservative Kavanaugh’s appointment would encourage turnout by grateful GOP voters this fall has been tempered by new fears that more voters, especially independent women, might head to the polls with fresh anger about Republican handling of sexual impropriety after a new round of public hearings.

Anita Hill testifying in 1991

“It’s not just about Kavanaugh but more about the midterms,” Rick Hohlt, a Republican lobbyist and veteran strategist, said of the party’s concerns. “With more women running for public office than ever before and the majority of them being Democrats, we could have a 1992 situation.”

That’s a reference to the elections in 1992, dubbed the “Year of the Woman” after the number of women elected to the House nearly doubled, to 47, and the number of women elected to the Senate tripled, to six. The election came one year after Justice Clarence Thomas was confirmed to the Supreme Court despite allegations that he had sexually harassed a subordinate, Anita Hill, in the workplace.

Even before the accusation against Kavanaugh surfaced, polls showed women preferred Democrats more than men did and were more likely to disapprove of President Trump, who faced accusations of sexual misconduct by 19 women before his 2016 election. A Washington Post-ABC News poll in late August found 58 percent of female registered voters intended to cast a ballot for a Democrat for Congress, compared with 45 percent of men.

Remember Mitch McConnell never wanted Trump to appoint Kavanaugh. It’s a long time until next Monday’s scheduled hearing. A lot can happen in that time. My guess is the Republicans will cut Kavanaugh loose. Certainly, if another woman comes forward, he will be dead in the water.

Meanwhile, FEMA’s threatened presidential emergency alert system rollout has been postponed because of all the protests. NBC News:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the wireless emergency alert (WEA) system, announced that the test that had been scheduled for Thursday will be pushed back to Oct. 3, citing the “ongoing response efforts to Hurricane Florence.”

Postponed, thank goodness!

The initial announcement was met with concerns from social media users who stated that a direct message from President Donald Trump to the nation could be used for political purposes, similar to how he uses his official Twitter page.

Many also went on to raise the issue of the alert being mandatory, with no way to opt of it. One user even messaged Verizon Wireless, one of the 100 wireless service companies that have agreed to provide the alert to their network, asking how she can avoid receiving it.

Some users even threatened to cancel their cellphone service, while others said they would protest the test by turning their phones off, creating the hashtag #GoDark920 in response to the original test date.

Stephen Cobb, a security researcher at ESET, a technology security company, tweeted via his verified account that the blowback against the test indicated the broader frustration with the president.

“This POTUS is so bad that folks are prepared to forgo the potential benefits of a national alert system – which already exists on radio and TV – because it is hard to believe Trump will not abuse it.”

As long as we’re talking about the sexual predator in the White House, I might as well include this creepy info from The Guardian on Stormy Daniels’s tell-all book:

Trump’s bodyguard invites Daniels to dinner, which turns out to be an invitation to Trump’s penthouse, she writes, in a description of alleged events that Daniels has disclosed previously but which in the book are rendered with new and lurid detail. She describes Trump’s penis as “smaller than average” but “not freakishly small.”

“He knows he has an unusual penis,” Daniels writes. “It has a huge mushroom head. Like a toadstool…

“I lay there, annoyed that I was getting fucked by a guy with Yeti pubes and a dick like the mushroom character in Mario Kart…

“It may have been the least impressive sex I’d ever had, but clearly, he didn’t share that opinion.”

Ugh. Still, I’d love to be a fly on the wall when someone reads this to Trump.

Finally, if you haven’t already done so, you should read Hillary Clinton’s new essay at The Atlantic: American Democracy Is in Crisis.

It’s been nearly two years since Donald Trump won enough Electoral College votes to become president of the United States. On the day after, in my concession speech, I said, “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” I hoped that my fears for our future were overblown.

They were not.

Hillary Clinton photographed by Annie Leibovitz

In the roughly 21 months since he took the oath of office, Trump has sunk far below the already-low bar he set for himself in his ugly campaign. Exhibit A is the unspeakable cruelty that his administration has inflicted on undocumented families arriving at the border, including separating children, some as young as eight months, from their parents. According to The New York Times, the administration continues to detain 12,800 children right now, despite all the outcry and court orders. Then there’s the president’s monstrous neglect of Puerto Rico: After Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, his administration barely responded. Some 3,000 Americans died. Now Trump flatly denies those deaths were caused by the storm. And, of course, despite the recent indictments of several Russian military intelligence officers for hacking the Democratic National Committee in 2016, he continues to dismiss a serious attack on our country by a foreign power as a “hoax.”

Trump and his cronies do so many despicable things that it can be hard to keep track. I think that may be the point—to confound us, so it’s harder to keep our eye on the ball. The ball, of course, is protecting American democracy. As citizens, that’s our most important charge. And right now, our democracy is in crisis.

I don’t use the word crisis lightly. There are no tanks in the streets. The administration’s malevolence may be constrained on some fronts—for now—by its incompetence. But our democratic institutions and traditions are under siege. We need to do everything we can to fight back. There’s not a moment to lose.

Read the rest at the Atlantic link.