Tuesday Reads: Follow the Money

Marguerite Thompson Zoorach, 1887-1968, The Picnic, 1920s

Good Morning!!

Just as I suspected, Trump has financial motives for pushing an unproven drug with dangerous side effects during a global pandemic.

The New York Times reported yesterday:

If hydroxychloroquine becomes an accepted treatment, several pharmaceutical companies stand to profit, including shareholders and senior executives with connections to the president. Mr. Trump himself has a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine….

Some associates of Mr. Trump’s have financial interests in the issue. Sanofi’s largest shareholders include Fisher Asset Management, the investment company run by Ken Fisher, a major donor to Republicans, including Mr. Trump. A spokesman for Mr. Fisher declined to comment.

Claude Monet. Luncheon on the Grass

Another investor in both Sanofi and Mylan, another pharmaceutical firm, is Invesco, the fund previously run by Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary. Mr. Ross said in a statement Monday that he “was not aware that Invesco has any investments in companies producing” the drug, “nor do I have any involvement in the decision to explore this as a treatment.”

As of last year, Mr. Trump reported that his three family trusts each had investments in a Dodge & Cox mutual fund, whose largest holding was in Sanofi.

Ashleigh Koss, a Sanofi spokeswoman, said the company no longer sells or distributes Plaquenil in the United States, although it does sell it internationally.

And of course Jared is involved. I wonder if he stands to gain financial from this drug pushing?

Several generic drugmakers are gearing up to produce hydroxychloroquine pills, including Amneal Pharmaceuticals, whose co-founder Chirag Patel is a member of Trump National Golf Course Bedminster in New Jersey and has golfed with Mr. Trump at least twice since he became president, according to a person who saw them.

Mr. Patel, whose company is based in Bridgewater, N.J., did not respond to a request for comment. Amneal announced last month that it would increase production of the drug and donate millions of pills to New York and other states. Other generic drugmakers are ramping up production, including Mylan and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.

Roberto Mignone, a Teva board member, reached out to the team of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, through Nitin Saigal, who used to work for Mr. Mignone and is a friend of Mr. Kushner’s, according to people informed about the discussions.

Luncheon on the Grass, Pablo Picasso

Mr. Kushner’s team referred him to the White House task force and Mr. Mignone asked for help getting India to ease export restrictions, which have since been relaxed, allowing Teva to bring more pills into the United States. Mr. Mignone, who is also a vice chairman of NYU Langone Health, which is running a clinical study of hydroxychloroquine, confirmed on Monday that he has spoken with the administration about getting more medicine into the country.

Yesterday we also learned that Peter Navarro, Trump’s wacky trade adviser was warning about a pandemic back in January. Axios: Navarro memos warning of mass coronavirus death circulated in January.

In late January, President Trump’s economic adviser Peter Navarro warned his White House colleagues the novel coronavirus could take more than half a million American lives and cost close to $6 trillion, according to memos obtained by Axios.
The state of play: By late February, Navarro was even more alarmed, and he warned his colleagues, in another memo, that up to two million Americans could die of the virus.

Navarro’s grim estimates are set out in two memos — one dated Jan. 29 and addressed to the National Security Council, the other dated Feb. 23 and addressed to the president. The NSC circulated both memos around the White House and multiple agencies.

In the first memo, which the New York Times was first to report on, Navarro makes his case for “an immediate travel ban on China.”

The second lays the groundwork for supplemental requests from Congress, with the warning: “This is NOT a time for penny-pinching or horse trading on the Hill.”

Why it matters: The president quickly restricted travel from China, moved to delay re-entry of American travelers who could be infected, and dispatched his team to work with Congress on stimulus funds.

But Trump was far slower to publicly acknowledge the sort of scenarios Navarro had put in writing.

A couple of interesting psychological analyses of Trump catastrophic performance:

At the New York Times, Jennifer Senior writes: This Is What Happens When a Narcissist Runs a Crisis.

Picnic (1989), Fernando Botero

Since the early days of the Trump administration, an impassioned group of mental health professionals have warned the public about the president’s cramped and disordered mind, a darkened attic of fluttering bats. Their assessments have been controversial. The American Psychiatric Association’s code of ethics expressly forbids its members from diagnosing a public figure from afar.

Enough is enough. As I’ve argued before, an in-person analysis of Donald J. Trump would not reveal any hidden depths — his internal sonar could barely fathom the bottom of a sink — and these are exceptional, urgent times. Back in October, George T. Conway III, the conservative lawyer and husband of Kellyanne, wrote a long, devastating essay for The Atlantic, noting that Trump has all the hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder. That disorder was dangerous enough during times of prosperity, jeopardizing the moral and institutional foundations of our country.

But now we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. The president’s pathology is endangering not just institutions, but lives.

Head over to the NYT to read the rest.

Alternet: Leading psychologists explain how Trump’s self-delusions and narcissism make him uniquely effective at predatory deception.

In practicing the art of lying while retaining a hold on the allegiance of his base, Trump utilizes a propaganda principle—the Big Lie—best explained by Hitler.  Now, please note that we are not equating Trump and Hitler; they are very different people.  However, like Hitler, Trump is involved in the business of selling himself as an angry, righteous savior to the masses, resulting in a growing number of cultic devotees.  So, it may behoove us to consider Hitler’s explanation of why the Big Lie is more successful than mere untruths. Here’s his explanation of the principle in Mein Kampf:

Francisco de Goya’s Picnic En La Ribera Del Manzanares (Picnic on the Banks of the Manzanares), 1776

[I]n the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.

Consider just two of many possible examples of the Big Lie:  Trump’s bizarre claim that the military was out of ammunition when he took office and his equally bizarre claim that the father of Ted Cruz was involved with the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald, adding, “It’s horrible.”  It is the outrageousness of the Big Lie that a listener normally expects would create self-conscious awkwardness in the liar.  In turn, this results in a need for a great liar to hide any nervousness that might give away the fact that he is attempting to deceive his audience.  In poker, the failure to hide completely the lie inherent in a bluff is called a “tell,” the subtle behavior unwittingly exhibited when bluffing.

Click the link to read the rest. It’s a really interesting piece.

Republicans in Wisconsin have been working overtime to undermine democracy, and yesterday the Supreme Court gave them a big assist.

Slate: By a 5–4 Vote, SCOTUS L.ets Wisconsin Throw Out Tens of Thousands of Ballots.

On Monday, by a 5–4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court approved one of the most brazen acts of voter suppression in modern history. The court will nullify the votes of citizens who mailed in their ballots late—not because they forgot, but because they did not receive ballots until after Election Day due to the coronavirus pandemic. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in dissent, the court’s order “will result in massive disenfranchisement.” The conservative majority claimed that its decision would help protect “the integrity of the election process.” In reality, it calls into question the legitimacy of the election itself.

Still Life with Peonies and Seven Lovely Ladies by David Elsea – 2018

Wisconsin has long been scheduled to hold an election on April 7. There are more than 3,800 seats on the ballot, and a crucial state Supreme Court race. But the state’s ability to conduct in-person voting is imperiled by COVID-19. Thousands of poll workers have dropped out for fear of contracting the virus, forcing cities to shutter dozens of polling places. Milwaukee, for example, consolidated its polling locations from 182 to five, while Green Bay consolidated its polling locations from 31 to two. Gov. Tony Evers asked the Republican-controlled legislature to postpone the election, but it refused. So he tried to delay it himself in an executive order on Monday. But the Republican-dominated state Supreme Court reinstated the election, thereby forcing voters to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote.

Because voters are rightfully afraid of COVID-19, Wisconsin has been caught off guard by a surge in requests for absentee ballots. Election officials simply do not have time, resources, or staff to process all those requests. As a result, a large number of voters—at least tens of thousands—won’t get their ballot until after Election Day. And Wisconsin law disqualifies ballots received after that date. In response, last Thursday, a federal district court ordered the state to extend the absentee ballot deadline. It directed officials to count votes mailed after Election Day so long as they were returned by April 13. A conservative appeals court upheld his decision.

Now the Supreme Court has reversed that order. It allowed Wisconsin to throw out ballots postmarked and received after Election Day, even if voters were entirely blameless for the delay. (Thankfully, ballots postmarked by Election Day but received by April 13 still count, because the legislature didn’t challenge that extension.) In an unsigned opinion, the majority cited the Purcell principle, which cautions courts against altering voting laws shortly before an election. It criticized the district court for “fundamentally alter[ing] the nature of the election by permitting voting for six additional days after the election.” And it insisted that the plaintiffs did not actually request that relief—which, as Ginsburg notes in her dissent, is simply false.

Read more:

Vox: The Supreme Court’s disturbing order to effectively disenfranchise thousands of Wisconsin voters.

PoliticusUSA: Brett Kavanaugh Leads Conservative SCOTUS Majority In Blocking Extended Voting In Wisconsin.

According to the Roberts court, voters should have to choose between voting and possibly dying and protecting their health. And of course the Republican primary is meaningless, so only Democrats have to worry about that.

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


Thursday Reads: Women’s Bodies, Women’s Lives

Peonies, by Claude Monet

Good Morning!!

Even as we worry about Trump and Bolton starting a war with Iran and about the Democrats refusing to follow the Impeachment road map provided by Robert Mueller, American women must face the fact that our very personhood is being attacked.

Personally, I have decided that I will not vote for any man for president. The right of women to make decisions about our own bodies is too important.

Here’s the latest on the War on Women:

NBC News: Missouri Senate passes bill to outlaw abortion at 8 weeks.

Missouri’s Senate has passed what its authors call one of the nation’s most stringent anti-abortion bills, which would outlaw nearly all abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy.

The Republican-led Senate passed the bill, dubbed Missouri Stands With The Unborn, by a margin of 24 to 10 early Thursday morning….

Missouri’s move comes hours after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill that would introduce a near-total abortion ban in that state. Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy.

Louisiana is following suit with its own “heartbeat” abortion ban, which was approved unopposed by the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday.

Abortion right activists are mobilizing in Alabama. The Washington Post: Governor signs Alabama abortion ban, which has galvanized support on both sides, setting up a lengthy fight.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — As a crop duster with a banner saying “Abortion is okay” hummed above the capitol, circling back and forth around the governor’s mansion, a group of women below let out a cheer.

Amaryllis by Piet Mondrian (1910)

“Just another day in Alabama,” said Mia Raven, director of People Organizing for Women’s Empowerment and Rights (POWER) House. “We knew this would pass and we got ready.”

Amanda Reyes, who works with an abortion fund, was wearing an “I’m on the pill” T-shirt, complete with instructions printed on the back detailing how to get a medical abortion. She also looked skyward: “Here it comes again! That’s just the coolest thing.”

Hours after the Alabama Senate voted late Tuesday to ban abortions in almost all circumstances — including in cases of rape and incest — women’s rights activists and abortion rights advocates said the decision to approve the nation’s strictest abortion measure has energized them. Knowing that the bill was designed to challenge Roe v. Wade, they are gearing up for the fight.

The Washington Post: Louisiana ‘heartbeat’ abortion ban nearing final passage.

BATON ROUGE, La. — A proposal to ban abortions in Louisiana as early as the sixth week of pregnancy continued to speed through the state legislature Wednesday, the same day Alabama’s governor signed the nation’s most restrictive law against the procedure.

Without objection, the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee backed legislation to prohibit abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected, similar to laws passed in several conservative states that are aimed at challenging the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion. Louisiana’s ban, however, only would take effect if a federal appeals court upholds a similar law in Mississippi.

Louisiana’s so-called fetal “heartbeat bill” is sponsored by state Sen. John Milkovich, one of several measures that lawmakers are advancing to add new restrictions on abortion. Senators already have supported the bill, which will next receive full House consideration, one step from final passage. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has indicated he will sign the measure if it reaches his desk.

The New York Times sums up the current abortion landscape: ‘The Time Is Now’: States Are Rushing to Restrict Abortion, or to Protect It.

Alex Katz, Tulips 4, 2013

States across the country are passing some of the most restrictive abortion legislation in decades, deepening the growing divide between liberal and conservative states and setting up momentous court battles that could profoundly reshape abortion access in America….

The national race to pass new legislation began last fall, after President Trump chose Brett M. Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court, adding what some predicted would be a fifth vote to uphold new limits on abortion. Red states rushed to pass more restrictions and blue states to pass protections.

Now, as state legislative sessions draw to a close in many places, experts count about 30 abortion laws that have passed so far.

That is not necessarily more than in past years, said Elizabeth Nash, a legal expert at the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights.

What’s different is the laws themselves, which have gone further than ever to frontally challenge Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling that established federal protections for abortion.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Interestingly, these extreme laws could be interfering with right wing plans to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Flowers in a Glass Vase by John Constable (c. 1814)

Even Pat Robertson thinks the Alabama law is too “extreme.” The Washington Post: Televangelist Pat Robertson: Alabama’s abortion ban is ‘extreme’ and has ‘gone too far.’

Longtime televangelist Pat Robertson decried Alabama’s new abortion ban as “extreme,” saying on his show on Wednesday that the state legislature has “gone too far.”

Alabama’s law, which has been passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, includes a penalty of up to 99 years in prison for doctors who perform abortions and has no exceptions for rape or incest, Robertson noted on his show.

“They want to challenge Roe vs. Wade, but my humble view is I don’t think that’s the case I’d want to bring to the Supreme Court because I think this one will lose,” Robertson told viewers of CBN’s “The 700 Club” on Wednesday.

David G. Savage at The Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court is not eager to overturn Roe vs. Wade — at least not soon.

The Supreme Court justices will meet behind closed doors Thursday morning and are expected to debate and discuss — for the 14th time — Indiana’s appeal of court rulings that have blocked a law to prohibit certain abortions.

The high court’s action — or so far, nonaction — in Indiana’s case gives one clue as to how the court’s conservative majority will decide the fate of abortion bans recently passed by lawmakers in Alabama and Georgia. Republican Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama signed her state’s ban into law on Wednesday.

Pot of Geraniums, Henri Matisse

Lawmakers in those states have said they approved the bans in an effort to force the high court to reconsider Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The justices have many ways to avoid such a sweeping ruling, however. And Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in his 14 years on the high court, has typically resisted moving quickly to decide major controversies or to announce abrupt, far-reaching changes in the law.

Roberts’ history, along with the court’s handling of abortion cases in recent years, suggests he will not move to overturn the right to abortion soon, or all at once, and is particularly unlikely to do so in the next year or two with a presidential election pending.

At Slate, Dahlia Lithwick makes a similar argument: Alabama’s Extremist Abortion Bill Ruins John Roberts’ Roe Plan.

One could feel sorry for Chief Justice John Roberts. He is, after all, caught in an unsightly squeeze play between anti-abortion zealots in Alabama, and slightly less wild-eyed anti-abortion zealots in Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and Indiana (the court seems unable to make a decision on whether to grant the Indiana petition it has been sitting on for months now). There’s finally a five-justice majority within striking distance of a decades-long dream to overturn Roe v. Wade, and the anti-choice activists are getting ahead of themselves like slurring drunks at a frat party and making everything more transparently nasty than it need be.

Hibiscus by Hiroshige (c. 1845)

There are easy and near invisible ways for the high court to end Roe. That has always been, and remains, the logical trajectory. As Mark Joseph Stern has shown, when Brett Kavanaugh came onto the court, with his dog whistles and signaling around reproductive rights, it became clear that he would guide the court to simply allow states to erect more and more barriers to abortion access (dolphin-skin window coverings on every clinic!). The five justices in the majority would do it all while finding ways to say that such regulations were not an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose. The courts and state legislatures could continue their lilting love songs to the need for the states to protect maternal health and to help confused mommies make good choices, and nobody need dirty their hands by acknowledging that the real goal of three decades’ worth of cumbersome clinic regulations and admitting privileges laws were just pretexts for closing clinics and ending abortion altogether.

Read the rest at Slate.

(Mostly) male legislators are ignoring the realities of actual women’s lives.

When Senator Clyde Chambliss, a Republican, for example, was asked if the law would allow for incest victims to obtain abortions, he responded: “Yes, until she knows she’s pregnant.”

He did not elaborate on how someone would have an abortion before she knows she’s pregnant, outside of claiming, “It takes time for all the chromosomes to come together.”

Flower Garden by Gustav Klimt, 1905

Women’s bodies, lives, and futures are quite literally in the hands of men who seemingly couldn’t pass a high school health class. That’s part of what’s so hard about watching these debates: It’s not just that women’s rights and autonomy are being legislated away, but that it’s being done by complete morons.

This lack of remedial understanding of women’s bodies is not limited to Alabama. Representative John Becker of Ohio, a Republican, for example, sponsored a bill to limit insurance coverage for abortions, but claimed that it would have an exception for ectopic pregnancies, when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus. “That treatment would be removing the embryo from the fallopian tube and reinserting it in the uterus,” he said, explaining a procedure that doesn’t exist and isn’t medically possible.

There is also Texas state Representative Dan Flynn, a Republican, who believes abortion requires cutting into a woman’s uterus, or Vito Barbieri, the Idaho state Representative, a Republican, who thought you could give a woman a remote gynecological exam by having her swallow a tiny camera.

Shannon Dingle at USA Today: I was 12 years old and pregnant. Alabama’s abortion ban bill would punish girls like me.

Roses and Lillies by Henri Fantin-Latour (1888)

I was that 11-year-old pregnant by rape in Ohio, except I had just turned 12 and lived in Florida….She is 11. She has experienced and is experiencing violating trauma. Maybe someday she will tell her story, but today is not that day.

I can tell my story, though. I was newly 12. I lived in a suburb of Tampa. I had gotten my period a couple years before, and it came regularly once it started. I knew to expect it every 32 days.

It was July, the summer between sixth and seventh grade, when days 33, 34, 35 and more passed with no period. I had read in one of my sister’s Seventeen magazines that periods aren’t always regular, so I figured this was my first one of those.

It wasn’t….I never chose to have sex at such a young age, but abusers in my family chose to rape me. I had lost count of the number of times by then. With a dad high ranking in the county sheriff’s office, I didn’t trust going to the police. I had tried to tell teachers and church volunteers, but that never went anywhere, either.

Please go read the rest if you haven’t already.

Women and girls in the U.S. are in real danger. For me this is the number one issue for women in the upcoming presidential election.

As always, this is an open thread.


Lazy Saturday Reads: I Have No Words

Judith Slaying Holofernes, Artemisia Gentileschi

Good Morning!!

I have no words today.

Thanks to Delphyne for this article at The Guardian: More savage than Caravaggio: the woman who took revenge in oil.

Two women are holding a man down on a bed. One presses her fist against his head, so he can’t raise it from the mattress, while her companion pins his torso in place. They are well-built with powerful arms but even so it takes their combined strength to keep their victim immobilised as one of them cuts through his throat with a gleaming sword. Blood spurts from deep red geysers as she saws. She won’t stop until his head is fully severed. Her victim’s eyes are wide open. He knows exactly what is happening to him.

The dying man is Holofernes, an enemy of the Israelites in the Old Testament, and the young woman beheading him is Judith, his divinely appointed assassin. Yet at the same time he is also an Italian painter called Agostino Tassi, while the woman with the sword is Artemisia Gentileschi, who painted this. It is, effectively, a self-portrait.

Susanna and the Elders, artemisia gentileschi

Two big, blood-drenched paintings of Judith and Holofernes by Gentileschi survive, one in the Capodimonte in Naples, the other in the Uffizi in Florence. They are almost identical except for small details – in Naples Judith’s dress is blue, in Florence yellow – as if this image was a nightmare she kept having, the final act to a tragedy endlessly replaying in her head.

“This is the ring you gave me and these are your promises!” yelled Gentileschi as she was tortured in a Rome courtroom in 1612. Ropes were wrapped around her fingers and pulled tight. The judge had advised moderate use of the sibille, as this torture was called, for she was after all 18. Across the court sat the man who had raped her. No one thought of torturing him. Defiantly, Gentileschi told him her thumbscrews were the wedding ring he’d promised. Again and again, she repeated that her testimony about the rape was reliable: “It is true, it is true, it is true, it is true.

Tassi was hired by Gentileschi’s father to give her painting lessons.

Tassi tricked his way into her room and started making unwanted offers of sex, she testified. “He then threw me on to the edge of the bed, pushing me with a hand on my breast, and he put a knee between my thighs to prevent me from closing them. Lifting my clothes, he placed a hand with a handkerchief on my mouth to keep me from screaming.”

She fought back. “I scratched his face,” she told the court, “and pulled his hair and, before he penetrated me again, I grasped his penis so tight that I even removed a piece of flesh.” But she couldn’t stop him. Afterwards, she rushed to a drawer and got out a knife. “I’d like to kill you with this knife because you have dishonoured me,” she shouted. He opened his coat and said: “Here I am.” Gentileschi threw the knife but he shielded himself. “Otherwise,” she said, “I might have killed him.”

1498 self portrait, artemisia gentileschi

Read the rest at The Guardian. It’s a story that still rings true today. Gentileschi’s rapist was found guilty but wasn’t punished, and she was tortured. It’s a story as old as time and as modern as today when a Senate dominated by old, white Republican will elevate an attempted rapist, sexual abuser, and right wing political activist to the highest court in the land.

Centuries after Gentileschi was tortured by the legal system of her day, women are still routinely raped, sexually abused, and even murdered in the name of male supremacy. And when they dare to speak about what was done to them, they are abused again by the “justice” system and betrayed by colluding women like Maine Senator Susan Collins.

What is wrong with these men, beginning with Donald Trump, pretender to the presidency? Because I’m feeling mean, I’m going to post this Twitter thread.

I’m not sure I agree with this analysis, but I have always seen Trump as effeminate. His vanity, his hair, his odd hand gestures, he’s so far from masculine. Is that why he hates and abuses women? Because he feels weak and inadequate? That’s what I suspect.

Here’s piece by Jaco at The St. Louis American: Brett Kavanaugh and Republican white maledom.

Like most 68-year-old white males, I’m disgusted that an ideologue and perjurer accused of sexual assault is about to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

That sentence, of course is a lie. And the lie is in the first seven words. Most 68-year-old white males want Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. The respected Quinnipiac University poll shows 48 percent of Americans polled oppose Kavanaugh, while 42 percent support him. But 59 percent of white men want Kavanaugh, along with 45 percent of white women.

African Americans oppose Kavanaugh by 81 percent, while Hispanics dislike him by a 65 percent margin. In fact, the poll finds Kavanaugh is unpopular among every demographic group except white people over age 50, where the majority support him. Not co-incidentally, white people over age 50 vote in huge numbers and control the big money donations to the GOP.

Self-Portrait as a Lute Player, Artemisia Gentileschi

The entire Kavanaugh process has been one of the most blatant examples of minority rule since apartheid fell. Kavanaugh raged in self-pity during testimony. The White House limited the FBI “investigation” into sexual assault charges. Trump mocked Kavanaugh’s accuser. Majority Leader U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell sniffed that the GOP “won’t be intimidated” by sexual assault survivors. In every case, conservative white men snarled about how they, not Prof. Christine Blasey Ford or the rule of law, were the victims.

Charlie Cook, founder of the often-indispensable Cook Political Report, crunched the numbers and found that conservative Republican white males make up 18 percent of the American population. And yet they make up 100 percent of the GOP on the Senate Judiciary Committee, 100 percent of Republican leadership in the Senate, and 84 percent of the GOP Senate majority.

They’re determined to put a man with the judicial temperament of Bart Simpson on the bench for one simple reason. They want him as the fifth Supreme Court vote to erase every “liberal” decision of the last 60 years that has given expanded rights to blacks, Hispanics, women, gays, consumers, workers, and anyone else not part of conservative white maledom.

Click on the link to read the rest.

More recommended reads:

Yahoo News: Christine Blasey Ford’s Attorneys Reveal Statement From Corroborating Witness.

Yahoo News: Minutes after Sen. Susan Collins announced her support for Brett Kavanaugh, the site to fund her opponent was so overwhelmed that it crashed.

Statement from Debbie Ramirez (PDF)

The New York Times Editorial Board: The High Court Brought Low. Don’t let Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh have the last word about American justice.

Michael Tomasky at The New York Times: The Supreme Court’s Legitimacy Crisis.

Dahlia Lithwick and Susan Matthews: Investigation at Yale Law School.

Yahoo News: Lawsuits point to large trove of unreleased Kavanaugh White House documents.

The New York Times: House Democrat Promises Kavanaugh Investigation if Party Wins Control.

The Intercept: Sen. Susan Collins and Brett Kavanaugh are both in the Bush family inner circle. That helps explain her vote.

The New Yorker: The Tears of Brett Kavanaugh.

That’s all I have for now. Please take care of yourselves this weekend.


Thursday Reads: Everything Trump Touches Turns to Sh*t

Good Morning!!

Honestly, I’m not capable of writing much of anything this morning. The Republicans are now directly attacking Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers, Mitch McConnell is going to steamroller any objections to the fake FBI background check, and it looks like Susan Collins along with endangered Democrats Heidi Heitcamp and Joe Manchin will probably vote yes.

Trump has been “president” for less than two years and he has managed to destroy the presidency, the House and Senate, and now he may destroy any remaining credibility for the Supreme Court for decades to come. And he’s making me sick–physically, mentally, and spiritually. I promise I’m going to fight my way back from my current depressed state, but it’s going to take awhile.

 

 

The Washington Post: Adopting Trumpian strategy, Republicans level personal attacks against Kavanaugh accusers.

Republicans are aggressively challenging the credibility of Brett M. Kavanaugh’s initial accuser, a turnabout from days of treating Christine Blasey Ford gingerly after her emotional testimony alleging sexual assault decades ago.

Spearheaded by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the blistering campaign to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court includes personal attacks on the women who have leveled claims against the judge, including the release Tuesday of a salacious statement that purports to describe the sex life of another accuser, Julie Swetnick.

The effort is shattering Senate norms at a critical moment for Kavanaugh, and it signals that the GOP is embracing the tactics of President Trump, who mocked Ford at a political rally Tuesday night days after calling her credible.

The strategy has drawn condemnation, and it has even raised questions about whether Republicans have violated a provision of the Violence Against Women Act by disclosing Swetnick’s purported sexual preferences.

But party leaders are undaunted, concluding that a scorched-earth strategy is the most effective way to defend Kavanaugh and rally enough support to confirm him to the nation’s highest court.

Greg Sargent at the WaPo seems to be asking if Republican Senators who where shocked shocked! at Trump’s attacks on Christine Blasey Ford will rush ahead to vote for Kavanaugh anyway: Trump’s disgusting attack on Christine Ford cannot be wished away.

When President Trump attacked Ford at a rally on Tuesday night, he did more than merely showcase his typically depraved and hateful nature. What Trump really did was inform the country in no uncertain terms that he will do all he can to ensure that the country does not — and cannot — heal its searing divisions over the Kavanaugh matter, after it is resolved.

Trump ridiculed the gaps in Ford’s memory: “How did you get home? I don’t remember. How did you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember.” Trump contrasted this mockery with an outpouring of sympathy, if he is capable of such a feeling, for Kavanaugh: “A man’s life is in tatters,” he said, adding: “Think of your husbands. Think of your sons.”

In this, Trump broke from the carefully crafted GOP strategy of refraining from questioning that the attack happened while suggesting it might have been carried out by someone else. Instead, Trump ridiculed the claim itself and insisted that the only true victim in this situation is Kavanaugh.

What Trump is really signaling here is that, if Kavanaugh is confirmed, he will continue to rub the faces of millions of women in excrement over it. Trump was doing precisely what that woman accused Flake of doing — telling women that their sexual assault claims “don’t matter” — and he was undertaking this provocation deliberately, using the bully pulpit of the presidency to do so.

Will Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Heidi Heitcamp, and Joe Manchin vote to ratify Trump’s cruel and repulsive attacks? If they do, women must rise up in anger and punish them.

 

 

Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow at The New Yorker: The F.B.I. Probe Ignored Testimonies from Former Classmates of Kavanaugh.

Frustrated potential witnesses who have been unable to speak with the F.B.I agents conducting the investigation into sexual-assault allegations against Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, have been resorting to sending statements, unsolicited, to the Bureau and to senators, in hopes that they would be seen before the inquiry concluded. On Monday, President Trump said that the Bureau should be able to interview “anybody they want within reason,” but the extent of the constraints placed on the investigating agents by the White House remained unclear. Late Wednesday night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the F.B.I. probe was over and cleared the way for an important procedural vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination to take place on Friday. NBC News reported that dozens of people who said that they had information about Kavanaugh had contacted F.B.I. field offices, but agents had not been permitted to talk to many of them. Several people interested in speaking to the F.B.I. expressed exasperation in interviews with The New Yorker at what they perceived to be a lack of interest in their accounts.

Deborah Ramirez, one of two women who have accused Kavanaugh of sexual abuse, said in an interview that she had been hopeful that her story would be investigated when two agents drove from Denver to Boulder, Colorado, last weekend to interview her at her lawyer’s office. But Ramirez said that she was troubled by what she perceived as a lack of willingness on the part of the Bureau to take steps to substantiate her claims. “I am very alarmed, first, that I was denied an F.B.I. investigation for five days, and then, when one was granted, that it was given on a short timeline and that the people who were key to corroborating my story have not been contacted,” Ramirez said. “I feel like I’m being silenced.”

 

 

Mayer and Farrow talked to a former classmate of Ramirez and Kavanaugh who corroborated her story.

Several former Yale students who claim to have information regarding the alleged incident with Ramirez or about Kavanaugh’s behavior at Yale said that they had not been contacted by the F.B.I. Kenneth G. Appold was a suitemate of Kavanaugh’s at the time of the alleged incident. He had previously spoken to The New Yorker about Ramirez on condition of anonymity, but he said that he is now willing to be identified because he believes that the F.B.I. must thoroughly investigate her allegation. Appold, who is the James Hastings Nichols Professor of Reformation History at Princeton Theological Seminary, said that he first heard about the alleged incident involving Kavanaugh and Ramirez either the night it occurred or a day or two later. Appold said that he was “one-hundred-per-cent certain” that he was told that Kavanaugh was the male student who exposed himself to Ramirez. He said that he never discussed the allegation with Ramirez, whom he said he barely knew in college. But he recalled details—which, he said, an eyewitness described to him at the time—that match Ramirez’s memory of what happened. “I can corroborate Debbie’s account,” he said in an interview. “I believe her, because it matches the same story I heard thirty-five years ago, although the two of us have never talked.”

Appold, who won two Fulbright Fellowships, and earned his Ph.D. in religious studies from Yale in 1994, also recalled telling his graduate-school roommate about the incident in 1989 or 1990. That roommate, Michael Wetstone, who is now an architect, confirmed Appold’s account and said, “it stood out in our minds because it was a shocking story of transgression.” Appold said that he initially asked to remain anonymous because he hoped to make contact first with the classmate who, to the best of his recollection, told him about the party and was an eyewitness to the incident. He said that he had not been able to get any response from that person, despite multiple attempts to do so. The New Yorker reached the classmate, but he said that he had no memory of the incident.

Please read the whole thing at the New Yorker.

 

 

The Washington Post: FBI background check of Kavanaugh appears to have been highly curtailed.

Slate: I Was Brett Kavanaugh’s College Roommate. He lied under oath about his drinking and terms in his yearbook, by James Roche.

In 1983, I was one of Brett Kavanaugh’s freshman roommates at Yale University. About two weeks ago I came forward to lend my support to my friend Deborah Ramirez, who says Brett sexually assaulted her at a party in a dorm suite. I did this because I believe Debbie.

Now the FBI is investigating this incident. I am willing to speak with them about my experiences at Yale with both Debbie and Brett. I would tell them this: Brett Kavanaugh stood up under oath and lied about his drinking and about the meaning of words in his yearbook. He did so baldly, without hesitation or reservation. In his words and his behavior, Judge Kavanaugh has shown contempt for the truth, for the process, for the rule of law, and for accountability. His willingness to lie to avoid embarrassment throws doubt on his denials about the larger questions of sexual assault. In contrast, I cannot remember ever having a reason to distrust anything, large or small, that I have heard from Debbie.

I did not want to come forward. When the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow contacted me while researching a story about Debbie and Brett, I told him that I didn’t see the point. There is no way that Brett will face legal consequences after this much time. Either he will be confirmed or another conservative judge will be. There would be a high cost. I was raised in a Republican family. My mother, who has since passed away, was a Republican state representative in Connecticut. My father owns a MAGA hat. I have close friends who are very conservative. In recent years I have had disagreements over politics with some of these friends and family, but I care deeply about them. My involvement has and will come with personal, professional, and reputational damage.

Read Roche’s story at Slate.

 

 

More reads, links only:

Think Progress: White House confirms FBI’s Kavanaugh investigation only looked at what Republican senators wanted.

Electric Privacy Information Center (EPIC): National Archives Confirms Existence of Numerous Kavanaugh Records on Surveillance Programs

Buzzfeed: The Kavanaugh Situation Has Opened Up A Portal Into Everyone’s Memory.

Jonathan Chait: Republicans Have Decided to Ignore All of Brett Kavanaugh’s Lies.

Just Security: Here Are the 30 People the FBI Needs to Interview in its Kavanaugh Investigation.

 

 

That’s all I’ve got. What stories are you following?


Tuesday Reads: Will Whiny White Men Win?

Good Morning!!

Julie Swetnick, Christine Blasey Ford, and Deborah Ramirez

I’m confused. It’s not clear to me what written instructions the White House has given to the FBI for their supposed expanded background investigation of Brett Kavanaugh and the sexual assault accusations against him. So far agents have not interviewed either Kavanaugh or Christine Blasey Ford. It would seem that those interviews would provide a baseline for interviews with other witnesses. Until we see the written instructions, I don’t see how we can trust the Trump administration to do the right thing.

The New York Times is reporting that the investigation has been expanded from the original order to interview only four witnesses–Kavanaugh friends Mark Judge, P. J. Smyth, and Blasey Ford friend Leland Keyser; but they don’t seem to have any specifics about the required written instructions. Senator Diane Feinstein has sent a letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn asking for a copy of the directive he sent to the FBI, but so far she doesn’t seem to have received it.

The New York Times: White House Tells F.B.I. to Interview Anyone Necessary for Kavanaugh Inquiry.

The White House authorized the F.B.I. to expand its abbreviated investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh by interviewing anyone it deems necessary as long as the review is finished by the end of the week, according to two people briefed on the matter.

At an event on Monday celebrating a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico, President Trump said he instructed his White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, over the weekend to instruct the F.B.I. to carry out an open investigation, but the president included the caveat that the inquiry should accommodate the desires of Senate Republicans.

Don McGahn

The new directive came after a backlash from Democrats, who criticized the White House for limiting the scope of the bureau’s investigation into Judge Kavanaugh, Mr. Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court. The F.B.I. has already interviewed the four witnesses it was originally asked to question, and on Monday it reached out to others.

The broadening inquiry produced an unusual spectacle as friends and classmates from Judge Kavanaugh’s past provided dueling portraits of the nominee in his younger days — either a good-natured student incapable of the alleged behavior or a stumbling drunk who could easily have blacked out and forgotten inappropriate behavior at alcohol-soaked parties.

How far the F.B.I. will now delve into these questions beyond the original high school-era sexual assault allegation lodged by Christine Blasey Ford remained unclear. Senate Democrats sent the bureau a list of two dozen witnesses they insisted must be interviewed for an inquiry to be credible. Another accuser, Deborah Ramirez, has given the bureau the names of more than 20 people she said witnessed Judge Kavanaugh exposing himself to her during a college party or heard about it at the time or later, according to someone involved in the investigation.

It’s a long article, so check it out if you’re interested in more details.

Meanwhile, the media is moving much faster than the FBI on the Kavanaugh story. Two big reveals from yesterday–that Kavanaugh himself tried to short-circuit the New Yorker story about Deborah Ramirez and that he was involved in a violent drunken bar fight as a Yale student.

NBC News: Text messages suggest Kavanaugh wanted to refute accuser’s claim before it became public.

In the days leading up to a public allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself to a college classmate, the judge and his team were communicating behind the scenes with friends to refute the claim, according to text messages obtained by NBC News.

Kerry Berchem, who was at Yale with both Kavanaugh and his accuser, Deborah Ramirez, has tried to get those messages to the FBI for its newly reopened investigation into the matter but says she has yet to be contacted by the bureau.

The texts between Berchem and Karen Yarasavage, both friends of Kavanaugh, suggest that the nominee was personally talking with former classmates about Ramirez’s story in advance of the New Yorker article that made her allegation public. In one message, Yarasavage said Kavanaugh asked her to go on the record in his defense. Two other messages show communication between Kavanaugh’s team and former classmates in advance of the story.

In now-public transcripts from an interview with Republican Judiciary Committee staff on September 25, two days after the Ramirez allegations were reported in the New Yorker, Kavanaugh claimed that it was Ramirez who was “calling around to classmates trying to see if they remembered it,” adding that it “strikes me as, you know, what is going on here? When someone is calling around to try to refresh other people? Is that what’s going on? What’s going on with that? That doesn’t sound — that doesn’t sound — good to me. It doesn’t sound fair. It doesn’t sound proper. It sounds like an orchestrated hit to take me out.”

The texts also demonstrate that Kavanaugh and Ramirez were more socially connected than previously understood and that Ramirez was uncomfortable around Kavanaugh when they saw each other at a wedding 10 years after they graduated. Berchem’s efforts also show that some potential witnesses have been unable to get important information to the FBI.

The New York Times: Kavanaugh Was Questioned by Police After Bar Fight in 1985.

As an undergraduate student at Yale, Brett M. Kavanaugh was involved in an altercation at a local bar during which he was accused of throwing ice on another patron, according to a police report.

The incident, which occurred in September 1985 during Mr. Kavanaugh’s junior year, resulted in Mr. Kavanaugh and four other men being questioned by the New Haven Police Department. Mr. Kavanaugh was not arrested, but the police report stated that a 21-year-old man accused Mr. Kavanaugh of throwing ice on him “for some unknown reason.”

A witness to the fight said that Chris Dudley, a Yale basketball player who is friends with Mr. Kavanaugh, then threw a glass that hit the man in the ear, according to the police report, which was obtained by The New York Times.

The report said that the victim, Dom Cozzolino, “was bleeding from the right ear” and was treated at a hospital. A detective was notified of the incident at 1:20 a.m.

The police report, which described the incident as an “assault,” is reproduced in the article.

Susan Collins is calling for the FBI to investigate the claims of Julie Swetnick, the third woman to come forward against Kavanugh. Portland Press Herald: Sen. Collins calls for FBI to investigate 3rd woman’s accusation in broader Kavanaugh probe.

Sen. Susan Collins wants the FBI to investigate the allegations brought by Julie Swetnick as part of the agency’s probe of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Collins and Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska “advocated for the additional background investigation because she believed that it could help the senators evaluate the claims that have been brought to the Judiciary Committee,” Collins’ spokeswoman Annie Clark said in a statement to the Press Herald on Monday. “That would include the allegations that were brought by Julie Swetnick.”

Clark said FBI investigators “can determine whom they need to speak with and should follow appropriate leads. Senator Collins was encouraged by the President’s statements that he would give the FBI agents the latitude they need to do their work. It makes sense to start with the four named witnesses from the hearing and then the FBI can follow any leads that it believes need to be pursued, as Senators Flake, Murkowski, and Collins indicated at the time this agreement was made.”

There’s also breaking news this morning about the Stormy Daniels case. It’s behind the paywall at the Wall Street Journal, but here’s a report from Talking Points Memo: Trump Directed Son Eric To Oversee Restraining Order Against Stormy.

President Donald Trump was personally involved in efforts to enforce a hush agreement with porn actress Stormy Daniels and directed that his son, Eric Trump, be involved in the legal response, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

According to people familiar with the matter who spoke to the WSJ, Trump asked his then-lawyer Michael Cohen to get a restraining order against Daniels to keep her from discussing the details of her alleged affair with Trump, after he had learned that she planned to outline the alleged sexual encounter in a media interview. Trump asked Cohen to work with Eric Trump and another lawyer, who had previously worked with the President, to handle the legal work. Eric Trump then directed a Trump Organization lawyer to authorize the paperwork.

From Philip Bump at The Washington Post, a timeline of Trump’s attempted coverups of the Stormy story: The coverup uncovered: How Team Trump tried to bury or confuse the Stormy Daniels story.

One of the ironies at the heart of President Trump’s effort to hide an alleged sexual encounter in 2006 with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels is that, had the story emerged shortly before Election Day 2016, it’s not clear it would have done much damage. We say that in part because a hint of the story did come out before the election, and Trump won. We say it in part, too, because the emergence of the story after his inauguration nestled neatly into the well-worn grooves of public opinion in the Trump era: His supporters mostly wave it off while his opponents splutter with irritation.

But Trump, his campaign team, his administration and his private business all contributed to trying to bury the Daniels story. We keep learning new ways in which this coverup was constructed, with the addition Tuesday morning of a report in the Wall Street Journal indicating that Trump personally pushed earlier this year for a restraining order to be issued against Daniels.

That report runs contrary to comments from both the president and the Trump Organization, a conflict that, by now, is par for the course in the Daniels situation. But it’s still important to highlight, specifically because it reinforces the extent to which Trump and those around him tried to cover up and lie about something that, had another path been taken, might not have been a big deal at all.

Check out the cover up timeline at the WaPo.

More stories of possible interest, links only:

Politico: GOP operative who sued Trump says FBI referred hacking of her email to Mueller.

The Washington Post: Dear dads: Your daughters told me about their assaults. This is why they never told you.

The Harvard Crimson: Kavanaugh Will Not Return to Teach at Harvard Law School.

Buzzfeed: Brett Kavanaugh’s Comments In That Hearing Raise Ethics Questions That Will Likely Follow Him Whether Or Not He’s Confirmed.

Forbes: How Trump Is Trying—And Failing—To Get Rich Off His Presidency.

Politico: Manafort meets with Mueller prosecutors.

Paul Krugman at The New York Times: The Angry White Male Caucus. Trumpism is all about the fear of losing traditional privilege.

The Washington Post: ‘The trauma for a man’: Male fury and fear rises in GOP in defense of Kavanaugh.

CBS News: Americans to receive cell phone alert from Trump in first national test.

So . . . what stories are you following today?