Sunday, September 30, 2018

Trump Love

In September, 2016 Gallup opened a report about a recent survey by remarking

The lead reason U.S. registered voters give for their choice of president in the 2016 election involves not liking something about the opposing candidate.  All told, 28% of voters -- including equal proportions of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump supporters -- cite reasons such as believing the other candidate is dishonest, unqualified or of poor temperament

Readers of the entire article would have eventually found the acknowledgement "Still, the majority of each candidate's voters do offer a positive reason for backing that person."

However, there remains a widespread belief that a huge number of Americans voted for Donald J. Trump primarily because they disliked the opponent. And that's simply not accurate.

Consider an apparently completely unrelated event which occurred last Thursday at Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, NJ, when comedienne Wanda Sykes

opened with a series of jokes about President Donald Trump.

Sykes began her set poking fun at Trump's assertion that world leaders at his recent United Nations address were laughing with him, not at him. (If that was the case, "What was the joke he told?" Sykes quipped).

She also joked that, while other presidents seemed to have aged at a faster-than-typical rate while in office, the general public seemed to be aging more quickly during Trump's administration. Trump hadn't aged a bit, Sykes deadpanned.

A few minutes after the show began, some attendees began heckling the comedian.

"Do some comedy!" one attendee shouted.

"Too political!" another yelled from the crowd.

Sykes, a frequent Trump critic, paused briefly to ask what displeased attendees had expected to see at her show, and continued with her set.

Attendees said they believed one of the hecklers and his party were removed from the theater by staff. A few said they walked out because they thought it was unfair the heckler had been asked to leave.

The walkout erupted in the theater lobby with yelling and heated arguments as attendees turned against staff and against each other.

Some show-goers demanded refunds from staff, others protested being thrown out of the venue, and still others argued with each other over politics and whether Sykes' subject matter was appropriate.

Several said they left because of what they saw as an attack on the president. They said they asked staff in the lobby for a refund but were refused or asked to call the theater during business hours.

Others who remained said they enjoyed the show and had been entertained by the comedy — even the jokes made at Trump's expense.

"She (Sykes) made her point — she's a black lesbian," said Gabby Young of Brick, quoting a comment Sykes made after she was heckled. "You knew what you were gonna get. You should have known that it wasn't going to be pro-Trump."

Theater staff at the venue Thursday said they could not comment on the incident.

Christine Delancey of Old Bridge, NJ, one of the "more than twelve" attendees who walked out, stated 

No, no politics.. I paid for a comedy show...first of all, you don't bash our president. I am not a Trump supporter, and he is my president, and I would never bash my president.

Delancey walked out of a show she had paid for because she believed that criticism from a black lesbian who had previously made anti-Trump remarks on stage.  And she claimed that she does not like the President.

That's hard to believe, made all the harder because Delancey did not maintain "I am not a Trump supporter but he is my president."

  She stated "I am not a Trump supporter and he is my president." And is a strange conjunction for someone claiming "I am not a (Trump) supporter."

Oh, she almost certainly is. And so are a lot of the voters who told Gallup in mid-September 2016 that they really don't like Donald Trump (or Hillary Clinton) but expected to vote for him because of his opponent. 

The claim is bogus. People like Donald Trump; a lot of them. Many are foolish, but they voted for him because they like him and they still do.

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Hell Isn't What It Used To Be

What's the deal with "hell?" 

During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham and Brett Kavanaugh agreed that the nominee was going through hell:

GRAHAM: Would you say you’ve been through hell?

KAVANAUGH: I — I’ve been through hell and then some.

GRAHAM: This is not a job interview.


GRAHAM: This is hell.

It's really bad when both saint and non-saint, the accuser and the accused, are going to hell. Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse remarked

A — a recommendation was made by ranking member or her staff to Dr. Ford — and, by the way, I think Dr. Ford is a victim, and I think she’s been through hell and I’m very sympathetic to her — but, did the ranking member’s staff, did we hear today, make a recommendation to hire a lawyer and she knew all that?

Cory Booker agreed, telling Kavanaugh

Your family has gone through hell. Her family has gone through hell. She sat here, she told her truth. And — and you made the allegation that she was coordinating it. I do not think she was coordinating with her therapist…

There must be a lot of people going there, rivaling the number under the bus, where somebody always is being thrown. 

Graham stated also "This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics. And if you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn’t have done what you’ve done to this guy."

That prompted the tweet

It's even worse when one learns he is going to the worst corner of hell, as in

That is not a pleasant assignment. Still, politicians, applicants for the federal bench, and tweeters might consider that hell- assuming it exists- is hotter than southern Florida, even with the humidity, in July. And there is no adjacent ocean to frolic in, thus  

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[a] will be liable to judgment; whoever insults[b] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell[c] of fire. (Matthew 5:22)

And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell[a] of fire. (Matthew 18:9)

And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,[a] and set on fire by hell.[b](James 3:6)

Or there may be no such thing as "hell"- your mileage may vary. If there is none, the "hell" metaphors are utterly specious and meaningless, signifying rhetorical laziness. Death threats as reportedly received by Brett Kavanaugh, and assuredly received by Dr. Ford, are the evil rantings of cowards and are mere talk, a social media specialty.

If Brett Kavanaugh's life is being destroyed by being vetted for a lifetime cushy job on the Supreme Court, sign me up. And if these guys believe there is an equivalence between hell and what Kavanaugh is going through, they should check their values at the door. Being examined by the US Senate for a chance to be called "Associate Justice" forever bears little similarity to eternal torment.

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Saturday, September 29, 2018

Man Up

On Thursday, the crude and misogynistic Donald Trump made what Digby recognizes as "cynical comments" about  Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, including "she was a very credible witness. She was good in many respects."Therefore, following the deal brokered by Senators Flake and Coons for a delay in a vote on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Digby argued

Either the fix is in for Kavanaugh to get confirmed or he's cutting Kavanaugh loose so he can nominate another right wing lunatic... just one who can hold his liquor better. If there's a third possibility, I can't think of one.

I can.  Donald Trump, often thought of as unhinged, is nothing of the sort, understands grand strategy very well, and has explicitly or implicitly synchronized his strategy on the nomination with the rest of his Party.

After the nominee's fiery, belligerent performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, pundits speculated (probably accurately) that the President was disappointed in Kavanaugh's low-key approach in his interview earlier in the week on Fox News and wanted him to fire on all cylinders.  There is no other way to explain the farcical

This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election. Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons. and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.

The disingenuous and ultimately patronizing remarks  by the President and cited by Digby are mirrored in those made by other Republicans. CNN's Chris Cillizza believes "if Kavanaugh winds up on the Supreme Court, he's got Lindsey Graham to thank for it- maybe more than anyone else."

Cillizza was impressed with Graham's rant, which included 

Boy, you all want power. God, I hope you never get it. I hope the American people can see through this sham. That you knew about it and you held it. You had no intention of protecting Dr. Ford; none.

In his statement opening the hearing Thursday, chairperson Grassley stated "Both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh have been through a terrible couple weeks."

Senator Flake said "I am sorry for what's happened to you and your family, and I'm sorry for what has happened to her." Senator Cornyn told Kavanaugh "I appreciate what you said about Dr. Ford, that perhaps she has had an incident at some point in her life, and you are sympathetic to that." Graham contended "she's as much a victim as you are" and Senator Kennedy maintained "I'm sorry for what Dr. Ford and her family have been through." 

Echoing Graham, Ted Cruz laid bare the GOP strategy when he remarked "and let me also say that Dr. Ford and her family have been treated incredibly poorly by Senate Democrats and the media. You have both seen your good names dragged through the mud."

One tweeter summed it up well:

This is not a case of misidentification. According toone expert,  “We’re usually talking about a stranger situation, cross-racial situations, situations where the person couldn’t have full visibility.”

There is a villain in this play, and it's not the boogeymen of Republican imagination, be it Democrats generally, Dianne Feinstein, Hillary Clinton, or the product of the fevered paranoiac mind, "the Clintons." Although very likely Judge Kavanaugh, it could be Dr. Ford, a possibility roughly on the level of the Denver Broncos winning the next Super Bowl.

It's an effective con being sold by a Party which idolizes the master con man in the White House. Someone is lying, but the Republicans want us to think that they believe that no one is lying. In the current atmosphere, it's difficult to argue that a woman alleging that someone tried to rape her is making it up.

Yet, were a man to make such an extremely serious accusation Republicans believe ridiculous, they would accuse him of lying. A woman is confused, forgetful, someone to be pitied.... for falsely accusing someone of attempted rape. A woman simply is not capable, they would have us believe. Perhaps the more things change, the less they really do.

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Friday, September 28, 2018

World-Class Liar

Several years ago, before he became a US Senator and later drummed out of office, Al Franken wrote "Lies and the Lying Liars Who TellThem: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right."

I may be taking it too far to suggest that Franken could write a second edition, adding a chapter on Brett Kavanaugh.

During testimony Thursday to the Senate Judiciary Committee, California's Kamala Harris asked Judge Kavanaugh whether he had watched Dr. Ford's testimony delivered earlier that day. He responded "I did not. I planned to, but I did not, I was preparing mine.

Thanks to the Wall Street Journal, we now know he had watched it. However, that was inconsequential, or relatively so.

One of the entries on the teenage calendar Kavanaugh  was quizzed on was "devil's triangle."  The nominee claimed it referred to a “drinking game” played with “three glasses in a triangle.” And so at 9:18 p.m. on Thursday, an anonymous source traced to a congressional IP address edited the "devil's triangle entry to "a popular drinking game enjoyed by friends of Judge Brett Kavanaugh."

The Urban Dictionary defines the term as ”a threesome with 1 woman and 2 men" and the false Wikipedia reference later was removed. "I do not believe 'Devil's Triangle' is a drinking game," Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who had raised the topic with Kavanaugh on Thursday, noted on Friday morning as he explained the vote he was casting against Kavanaugh. 

But that proves little other than that Kavanaugh was never the choirboy he first pictured himself as, and that his claim of virginity when he went off to college is open to question.

However, Martin Cizmar at Raw Story suggests that the Judge's sexual misbehavior may not be as limited as even his critics have charged. Cizmar notes that Republican John Kennedy of Louisiana Thursday

asked Kavanaugh about accusations that he had sexually assaulted a Yale classmate during his freshman year, by forcing her hand onto his exposed penis during a drinking game.

When responding to the question, Kavanaugh began by nodding yes. He then proceeded to deny the allegation.

Body language experts say that nodding yes when answering a question which you answer as “no” is a sign that you are lying. The reaction is hard-wired into the human limbic system.

But is that really true- or is it just speculation by a blogger somewhere?

Scott Rouse, who bills himself  "Your Body Language Mentor," lists "five deception cues you can rely on."  Included are

#4: Not Using Contractions When Answering The Question
This is one of my favorites.  When a person uses contractions they will say “Won’t” instead of “Will not”.  They will say “Didn’t” instead of “Did not”.

If you ask the person in question “Did you take the money out of my purse?” and they answer with “No, I did not”, they aren’t using a contraction.  If you ask the person in question “Do you remember seeing the earrings sitting on my desk?” and they answer with “No, I do not”, again they aren’t using a contraction.

What’s the problem with that?  It sounds weird.  If you asked me if I wanted to go to Arby’s and I said “No, I do not”, that would be weird.  If you asked me if I was the one looking at Mitch’s car earlier today and I said “No, that was not me”, then you’d think for sure I was weird.  Because nobody talks that way.  Robots probably do, but not normal humans.

I would say “No thanks, I ate Arby’s yesterday” and “No, that wasn’t me.  Did it look like me?”.  My answers don’t sound like I’ve been practicing them in my head without saying them out loud.

#5 Reverse Yes And No Head Shake
I talked about this not long ago and showed Lance Armstrong in one of his depositions shaking his head “No” as he was lying while saying “Yes”.  He did the opposite of that as well when he shook his head “Yes” while lying and saying “No” at the same time.

This is one you’ve really got to pay attention to.  Because most of the time it isn’t the person who is vigorously shaking their head “Yes” while saying “No”, it’s the person who is being still and saying “Yes” while their head, just ever so slightly, shakes “No”.  It’s almost imperceivable sometimes.  So you really have to be watching for it.

Asked "are Ms. Ramirez's allegations true," Brett Kavanaugh revealingly nodded yes while responding "no, they are not." Criteria #4 and #5 for deception were clearly met.

This guy is a bad apple- a very bad, rotten apple. He was then, he is now. There being a Republican Party, that may not stop him from getting a lifetime gig on the United States Supreme Court. But it's not as if we weren't warned.

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Crying Performance

It's a tell.

Promptly after completion of Thursday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing pertaining to the charge of attempted rape leveled at Brett Kavanaugh, Jonathan Chait recognized

The charges are credible, and his accusers are willing to put themselves at risk, with no apparent gain to bring them to the public. Kavanaugh has said too many things that strain credulity for all them to be plausibly true. He almost certainly lied about having had access to files stolen by Senate Republicans back when he was handling judicial nominations in the Bush administration. His explanation that the “Renate Alumni” was not a sexual reference is difficult to square with a fellow Renate Alumnus’s poem ( “You need a date / and it’s getting late / so don’t hesitate / to call Renate”) portraying her as a cheap date. His insistence “boof” and “devil’s triangle” from his yearbook were references to flatulence and a drinking game drew incredulous responses from people his age who have heard these terms. His claim that the “Beach Week Ralph Club” was a reference to a weak stomach seems highly unlikely.

Additionally, Kavanaugh still won't support a proposal for an FBI investigation, even after Senator Durbin took him apart on the matter. But there is an additional, subjective reason to believe that Kavanaugh is lying about an interaction with Christine Blasey. It is  captured by a tweet from Tim O'Brien and a response to it, below.
Amazing, it is; also, as phony as a three dollar bill. There are two reasons to find Kavanaugh's reversal in mood incredible, one of which is that President Trump, promptly after completion of the hearing, praised the nominee's performance:
And yet, as a New York Daily News reporter reminded us between Kavanaugh's opening statement and his testimony

 "I don’t believe in crying," Trump told his biographer, Tim O’Brien, in the 2005 “TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald. "It's just not my thing. I have nothing against it when someone cries, but when I see a man cry I view it as a weakness. I don't like seeing men cry. I’ll give you an example. I never met John Gotti, I know nothing about John Gotti, but he went through years of trials. He sat with a stone face. He said, ‘F--k you.’”

In January 2016, during an overly friendly late show appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” Trump said he hasn’t cried since he was a baby.

"Yes, when I was 1, I cried,” he said when Fallon asked about his emotions.

Trump has also slapped Sen. Chuck Schumer with the nicknames “Cryin’ Chuck” and “Fake Tears Chuck Schumer” after the Senate Minority Leader teared up during a speech about the travel ban.

"I'm going to ask him: Who is his acting coach?" the President said during a meeting with small business leaders in Jan. 2017. "I know him very well. I don't see him as a crier. If he is, he is a different man."

On Twitter, Trump has also used “crying” as an insult to Glenn Beck several times, as well as Omarosa and Joe Biden.

“Wacky @glennbeck who always seems to be crying (worse than Boehner) speaks badly of me only because I refuse to do his show--a real nut job!” he tweeted in October 2015.

Trump doesn't like it when a man cries. Yet, he evidently approved of it in Kavanaugh's case.

He did so because like Trump himself, it was insincere, a performance and con. We know it also because of Renee Richards' observation. When one erupts in righteous (or not-so-righteous) anger, as I have periodically done, the mood is of, well, anger. It is not sadness, and it is not followed by tears.  When the nominee switched from anger to weeping to anger, it was a tell.

Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes, Brett Kavanaugh inferred. Presumably, we'll find out the answer within the next few days in the U.S. Senate.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

No Excuses

The consistently thoughtful, sane and sober William Saletan on Tuesday argued that given a documented

pattern of inebriation, could Kavanaugh have blacked out? Could he have done bad things and forgotten them? Again, evidence suggests he could. In an autobiographical novel about their high school years, Judge depicts a character named Bart O’Kavanaugh who “passed out on his way back from a party.” And according to Roche, during the year after the alleged assault on Ford, Kavanaugh—who was “normally reserved” when sober—became “aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk.”

He believes

The alcohol theory is arguably the most plausible explanation of what happened. It’s less crazy than Ford inventing a story and putting herself through hell so Trump can nominate a different conservative judge to the Supreme Court. It’s less crazy than two different women developing false memories about the same man. It’s less crazy than Kavanaugh being a total fraud who has conned friends and colleagues into thinking he’s a decent guy. And even if you prefer one of the other theories, this one is sufficiently plausible and well supported to merit scrutiny.

For the most part, Nate Silver agrees:
Uh, no. Brett Kavanaugh is lying.  As recently as Monday evening, the Supreme Court nominee declared on Fox News "What I know is the truth, and the truth is I've never sexually assaulted anyone."  He added "I never did any such thing. The other people alleged to be there don't recall any such thing. If such a thing had happened, it would have been the talk of campus."

This is not "maybe," "to the best of my recollection," or "I drank heavily, like a lot of other young guys, at that stage in my life, and although I don't remember everything, I'm confident I didn't commit such a heinous act."

It is instead: no, not ever, no chance.  He has thereby forfeited any right to walk back a denial which has been assertive, thorough, and definitive, stated more than once. 

Further, Brett Kavanaugh has a record of deception.  He has lied about his receipt of emails, draft letters, and memoranda stolen from the computer files of SenateDemocratic staff, his involvement in the nomination of Judge Charles Pickering to the 5th Circuit Court in the Bush 43 presidency, his knowledge of that Administration's detention of enemy combatants, and about Trump's search for a nominee for the current Supreme Court vacancy.  If the Pinocchio tale were true, Kavanaugh's nose would be second in length only to that of Trump.

Honed by years of hoodwinking individuals about his drinking and words spoken and actions taken therefrom, Brett Kavanaugh's skill at deception understandably fools many people.  To their credit, Saletan and Silver merely believe it's likely that the nominee does not remember accurately, and acknowledge that much of what he says is false.  Regrettably, there are many others who actually believe him.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Widely Misunderstood

It's not only George Stephanopoulos who believes this widely-held myth. Superficially, it makes sense, but it is very, very wrong.

Deborah Ramirez, who attended Yale University with Brett Kavanaugh during the 1983-84 academic year, has claimed that Kavanaugh thrust an exposed penis at her during a party of heavy drinking at Yale University.during the 1983-84 academic year.

Kavanaugh's roommate in that fall semester, James Roche, was not at the party but often talked to Kavanaugh when the latter returned at night after being out with friends.  He argues "it is from this experience that I concluded that although Brett was normally reserved, he was a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time, and that he became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk." He concludes "I cannot imagine (Ramirez) making this up."

Except in the case of federal judges and (perhaps) other high-ranking federal officials, this is what is commonly referred to as an "angry drunk." On ABC's Good Morning America (video below) Monday, Ronan Farrow, one of the two investigative journalists who broke the Ramirez story, stated

And I think the fact that she took several days to consider and really carefully consider that she had an evidentiary basis for this and that other people were backing her account who had heard a the time and been told, speaks well of her level of caution. This is not the behavior of someone who is fabricating.

A legitimately skeptical Stephanopoulos, reflecting a common misunderstanding, responded

Let me press you on that because that sentence really did jump out at me when I read the article. You say at first she wasn't sure this was Kavanaugh when you first came to her last week and then you
 write "after six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting her attorney, she did become confident that it was him. You know a lot of people would say...

Explaining a plain truth about cases of sexual assault and attempted sexual assault (and other offenses), Ronan stated

And because I would say that it's extremely typical of those stories when you're dealing with trauma, alcohol, many years in between. I think that the more cautious witnesses I've dealt with in cases like this very frequently say "I want to take time to decide, I want to talk to other people involved, I want to search myself, I want to make sure that I affirmatively stand by these claims" in the face of what she knew would be a crucible of partisan push back, which is what she's receiving now.

As Farrow noted, this is especially common in cases involving trauma. It is even more so in matters involving sexual misbehavior because in most societies, ours included, women are virtually trained to believe they're at least partially at fault.

I want to search myself. In real time, a victim often believes that he or she should not speak up, maybe make a fuss, because it might greatly inconvenience himself or cause unneeded harm to the perpetrator. The victim may not want to cause distress to the guilty party because the incident might not have been very serious, or he may just want to get on with his life.

People, men and women, lie. They lie especially when the incident occurs because they're bitter, have an ax to grind, or want to gain advantage by making an accusation. By contrast, if the victim speaks out months or years later, emotions usually have faded and there rarely is an advantage to the individual who is aggrieved, nor to the offender.

When women such as Dr. Ford and Ms. Ramirez reveal months afterward that they have been victimized by incidents of a sexual nature, they are performing a service little noticed or understood by the public, including most journalists, Stephanopoulos in this incident.  "When you're dealing with trauma," Farrow understands, but it's typical even in cases where trauma is not experienced.

As more women speak out, the voices of those who take time, talk to other people involved, and search themselves will not be summarily dismissed. Theirs may be the voice of conscience or of perspective, or of the wisdom that "hindsight is 20/20."

Monday, September 24, 2018

Not Doing Their Jobs

It's perilous to assess motives, and I was unsure when I argued that Republicans were largely avoiding blaming Christine Blasey Ford for her accusation against Brett Kavanaugh. Instead, they attacked Democrats generally and Dianne Feinstein especially because

congressional Republicans lack a spine.  They could accuse Ford of deception. They could have conceded that Brett might have attempted to rape Christine but that it was long ago, both were juveniles, and details have been horribly distorted, They might have contended that Kavanaugh's record of accomplishment and integrity in both his personal and professional life over the past few decades more than compensate for one horrid mistake.

They are following in the footsteps of their leader, President Trump, who has slammed Attorney General Jeff Sessions for not recusing himself in the Russia election meddling investigation, failing torelease classified government documents, presiding over an office which has charged two GOP US Representatives with corruption, and for being a "dumb southerner."  But he will not fire him, just as he refuses to fire Chief of Staff John Kelly, with whom he has been feuding for months.

Now, a second alleged victim of the President's Supreme Court nominee has come to light. But the Senate Judiciary Committee majority already had reportedly decided that a female lawyer, rather than the actual GOP members of the committee, would question Kavanaugh and Ford, evidently because they figured the optics of the eleven male and zero (0) female Senators interrogating a possible victim of attempted rape would  be unsettling.  Appearing on MSNBC Saturday, ex-Assistant US Attorney Mimi Rocah stated

David, if I can say one other thing that I failed to mention in the list of demands that now the Republicans are making, this idea they are going to have female staffers questioning Dr. Ford, I mean, look, to me that is just shameful on top of shameful.

If they are going to try and question her credibility, attack her, smear her in the way they have been, they should have the guts to do it themselves and not put a front up of a woman staffer. It's not her fault that there are no female Republican senators now. They should have the guts to stand up and do this themselves.

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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Timing Rosenstein Story Just Right

Adam Goldman and Michael Schmidt in The New York Times:

Mr. Rosenstein was just two weeks into his job. He had begun overseeing the Russia investigation and played a key role in the president’s dismissal of Mr. Comey by writing a memo critical of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But Mr. Rosenstein was caught off guard when Mr. Trump cited the memo in the firing, and he began telling people that he feared he had been used.

Mr. Rosenstein made the remarks about secretly recording Mr. Trump and about the 25th Amendment in meetings and conversations with other Justice Department and F.B.I. officials. Several people described the episodes in interviews over the past several months, insisting on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The people were briefed either on the events themselves or on memos written by F.B.I. officials, including Andrew G. McCabe, then the acting bureau director, that documented Mr. Rosenstein’s actions and comments.

The Times being played like a fiddle, Charlie Pierce remarks

If you were a mendacious, criminal president* with a lot to cover up and the walls closing in from all sides, isn't this exactly the story you'd want out there as an excuse to fire Rod Rosenstein and then appoint someone who would fire Robert Mueller? Isn't this exactly the kind of story that you would want out there in order to superheat the boilers of paranoia that drive your base, especially on the same day that you walked back your promise to feed the base declassified parchments from the Illuminati who run The Deep State? Isn't this exactly the kind of story you would want out there on the day the news breaks that your old personal lawyer is talking to Mueller's people about your campaign, and Russia, and god alone knows what else?

And you would want it to come out soon after because

On Thursday, conservative legal analyst Ed Whelan unleashed a disastrous Twitter thread seemingly designed to exonerate Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of charges that he committed sexual assault as a teenager. Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, laid out a theory of mistaken identity using Google Maps and Zillow floor plans. The linchpin of Whelan’s thread: a notion that Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s accuser, confused the nominee with a classmate who looked somewhat similar. It was this man, Whelan asserted, not Kavanaugh, who may have attempted to rape Ford about 35 years ago. Ford responded with a statement saying that she knew both men in high school, socialized with the man whom Whelan named, and had not mistaken the two.

It was bad enough for the pro-Kavanaugh crowd when it became obvious that Whelan had proposed a harebrained theory. However, it got worse when The Washington Post reported  Friday evening that

On Sunday, Ford noticed that — even before her name became public — Whelan appeared to be seeking information about her.

That morning, Ford alerted an associate via email that Whelan had looked at her LinkedIn page, according to the email, which was reviewed by The Post. LinkedIn allows some subscribers to see who views their pages. Ford sent the email about 90 minutes after The Post shared her name with a White House spokesman and hours before her identity was revealed in a story posted on its website.

Will Bunch notices

Not asking for much, Bunch concludes "the bottom line is clear: Only a real investigation by the FBI can get to the bottom of this circumstantial evidence and determine what really happened. Already, though, it stinks to high heaven."

It does more than "stink(s) to high heaven."  Before the Post's piece, Kavanaugh's people knew that Christine Blasey Ford would go public with an accusation of attempted rape. There can be only two ways that happens.

The White House and/or the Senate GOP may have suspected that Dr. Ford would reveal that Brett Kavanaugh and a member of his posse attempted to rape her while they all were high school students. A letter of support promptly written was stunningly vague, omitting mention of either Ford or any allegation of misbehavior. (Asked on Fox News whether she believed Ford, even the woman who initiated the letter responded "I'm not certain.")

Alternatively, it was at the time common knowledge around Georgetown Prep that Kavanaugh and Mark Judge had assaulted Christine Blasey.

The Rosenstein story, accurate at least in part, knocked this suspicious chain of events from the news. A diversion, it may not have been planted by someone inside the Administration intent on getting Brett Kavanaugh approved for the United States Supreme Court. But it's hard to believe otherwise.

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Friday, September 21, 2018

Not On His Own

Most Republicans, especially in the mainstream, are eager to suggest that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford really was not the victim of an attempted rape by Brett Kavanaugh (and his friend).  But they won't argue that she's lying- that would be politically incorrect and the poor dears are very sensitive to criticism. Instead, she must have been mistaken.

And so we have Ed Whalen, who first laid out his theory in a series of tweets Thursday afternoon, including one naming a "Chris Garrett" and another posting the fellow's picture next to one of Kavanaugh suggesting they currently look alike.

In an "omigod, I can be sued" moment, Whalen then tweeted

“I made an appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment in posting the tweet thread in a way that identified Kavanaugh's Georgetown Prep classmate. I take full responsibility for that mistake, and I deeply apologize for it. I realize that does not undo the mistake.”

Ellen Nakashima, no backbencher but the national security reporter for The Washington Post, then herself made a serious mistake by attaching to a copy of Whelan's remark "Ed Whelan apologizes."

Similarly, attached to a Daily Beast article arguing that Whalen can be charged with defamation was an "Editor's Note" including "Ed Whalen issued an apology on Twitter."

No and no. Ed Whalen did not apologize.  He stated "I made an appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgement in posting the tweet thread in a way that identified Kavanaugh's Georgetown Prep classmate." As the Daily Beast reporter (Jay Michaelson) understands, that leaves the accuser vulnerable to a successful libel suit.

Similarly understanding is Will Bunch, who a few minutes after Whalen's initial series of tweets, maintained (emphasis, significantly, his)

The right is so desperate to confirm Kavanaugh that they're out there smearing a completely different guy -- BY NAME -- and accusing him of sexual assault in order to clear K through "mistaken identity," I hope this guy sues his accusers.

Of course, Ed Whalen is not the issue.  Neither is the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee, which has denied- very likely honestly- having any advance knowledge of the accusation. 

That leaves three other possibilities: a) Whelan acted on his own, without any consultation or advice; b) the Senate Judiciary Committee was in on it; or c) Brett Kavanaugh or a critical GOP ally was involved. That classic beachfront property in Arizona awaits you if you believe (a). Vox reports

On Tuesday, we learned that Kavanaugh had met privately with Hatch, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, and told him the accusations could be a case of mistaken identity. Whelan amplified this defense on his Twitter feed.

On Wednesday, Hatch’s spokesperson, Matt Whitlock, retweeted another Whelan tweet promoting a mistaken identity theory, telling people to “keep an eye on Ed’s tweets the next few days.” (After Whelan’s thread came out, Whitlock deleted the tweet and denied having any foreknowledge of what Whelan was planning.)

But don't write off the possibility of the involvement by the nominee himself, as WaPo reporter Seung Min Kim notes

Kavanaugh and his allies have been privately discussing a defense that would not question whether an incident happened to Ford, but instead would raise doubts that the attacker was Kavanaugh.

Of course they have. It's possible, albeit unlikely, that Ford is making this up. People, even women, have been known to be dishonest. But that would require a backbone, so Republicans prefer the "silly little woman" charge (which, conveniently, is what Kavanaugh buddy Hatch recently implied). Clearly, though

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Maya Angelou's Buddy

Fifty-five years ago, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously declared "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

If a little short of revolutionary, those words spoken were bold at the time and had Martin Luther King Jr. survived, he probably would have been an activist for affordable housing, affirmative action, police and criminal justice reform, and other measures meant to tear down the walls of racial (and economic) disparity.

Nonetheless, he slammed the notion of judging individuals "by the color of their skin." Departing from that principle is, at a minimum, risky.

The late Maya Angelou is accurately celebrated as having been a great poet.  Were she not that, she probably could not in August, 1991 have written

We need to haunt the halls of history and listen anew to the ancestors' wisdom. We must ask questions and find answers that will help us to avoid falling into the merciless maw of history. How were our forebears able to support their weakest when they themselves were at their weakest? How were they able to surround the errant leader and prevent him from being co-opted by forces that would destroy him and them? How were they, lonely, bought separately, sold apart, able to conceive of the deep, ponderous wisdom found in "walk together, children . . . don't you get weary."

This was a portion of a piece which then appeared in The Baltimore Sun, which also included

The black youngsters of today must ask black leaders: If you can't make an effort to reach, reconstruct and save a black man who has graduated from Yale, how can you reach down here in this drug-filled, hate-filled cesspool where I live and save us?

I am supporting Clarence Thomas' nomination, and I am neither naive enough nor hopeful enough to imagine that in publicly supporting him I will give the younger generation a pretty picture of unity, but rather I can show them that I and they come from a people who had the courage to be when being was dangerous, who had the courage to dare when daring was dangerous -- and most important, had the courage to hope.

"I am supporting Clarence Thomas' nomination," she writes in rhythmic prose nevertheless unable to obscure the reality that she was taking a position because of Judge Thomas' race.

The damage- arguably especially to blacks- done by Thomas on the Supreme Court has been broad and deep. He was one of the five votes to emasculate the Voting Rights Act, whose central provision, the Brennan Center has explained, is

Section 4 – commonly referred to as the coverage formula. The coverage formula determined which jurisdictions had to “preclear” changes to their election rules with the federal government before implementing them, based on their history of race-based voter discrimination. Preclearance was massively successful at improving voting access in covered jurisdictions.

In 2013, however, the Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula in a case called Shelby County v. Holder. In a 5-4 decision, the Court reasoned that the coverage formula was out of date – despite Congress’s determination that it was still needed. The ruling rendered the Section 5 preclearance system effectively inoperable.

The decision in Shelby County opened the floodgates to laws restricting voting throughout the United States. The effects were immediate. Within 24 hours of the ruling, Texas announced that it would implement a strict photo ID law. Two other states, Mississippi and Alabama, also began to enforce photo ID laws that had previously been barred because of federal preclearance.

The Atlantic's C. Vann Newkirk II has cited two cases which advanced the cause of voter suppression encouraged by Shelby. In Husted v. A.Phillip Randolph Institute, "the Court essentially gave its seal of approval to Ohio’s system of voter purges, in which the state uses a failure to vote as a trigger to begin the multistep process of taking people off voter rolls." A few weeks later, Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion in which a Texas racial gerrymandering scheme was upheld in logic reminiscent of Shelby.

Aside from reasoning and impact, these three decisions had two things in common: they were all decided by one vote- and Justice Thomas voted in the majority.

On a positive note, Maya Angelous at least lived long enough to see great power give to the  man whom she wrote "has been nearly suffocated by the acrid odor of racial discrimination." Not altogether unpredictably, once he was given that power he proceeded to lend his support to continued racial discrimination. Content of his character be damned, she wanted an African-American on the court, and her wish was fulfilled. He will be there every day until he dies, helping to fulfill the wishes of bigots comfortable with decisions made on the basis of race.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Party Of Cowardly Lions

Joe Scarborough, Charlie Sykes, George Will, and other never-Trump conservatives bemoan the failure of GOP members of Congress to criticize their puppet master, Donald J. Trump.

But a cowardly Congress is a perfect compliment to a cowardly President.

Donald Trump built his mighty reputation as a tough negotiator, willing to take on anyone and everyone on behalf of the USA, upon his spectacular acting gig on "The Apprentice."  As President, he won't take on democrats such as settlement-expanding Benjamin Netanyahu or tyrants such as Kim Jong-un ("I have very good personal relations with Chairman Kim") or employees he loathes, such as John Kelly or Jeff Sessions ("I don't have an Attorney General. It's verysad.").

 Several days after the revelation that Christine Blasey Ford maintains that Brett Kavanaugh and a friend attempted to rape her at a party a few dacades ago, the Los Angeles Times reports

Jim Gensheimer, who has been friends with Ford and her family for several years, said she confided to him and another friend over lunch on July 11, telling them she was communicating with the Post and was deeply concerned her name would eventually become public.

Gensheimer, a freelance photographer who previously worked for the San Jose Mercury News, said he explained to her how journalistic ethics forbid identifying confidential sources without approval.

Ford, he said, was torn. She felt it her “civic duty” to come forward but worried that it would have no effect on the confirmation process, Gensheimer said. At the same time, he said, she was worried about ruining Kavanaugh’s career and was open to the idea that people can change.

Ford then confided in her US Representative, Democrat Anna Eshoo, who gave a letter from the aggrieved to ranking Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat Dianne Feinstein.  Having moved on  and wishing to retain a private life, Ford did not want the traumatic incident she alleged to become public. However, existence of the letter leaked.

We don't know what, if anything, occurred that night 36 years ago between a 17-year-old Brett Kavanaugh and a 15-year old Christine Blasey. But we do know that Ford did not want to become the focus of controversy and Senator Feinstein conscientiously and respectfully honored her request. Republicans being Republicans, that was dangerous as right on cue

Republican leaders argue that it’s the Democrats who created this situation. They blame Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, for holding on to a letter from Ford that she’s had since July. The missive details the allegation that Kavanaugh “physically and sexually assaulted” her during high school but asks Feinstein to keep the matter confidential until the two are able to speak.

McConnell suggested Feinstein “decided to spring it right at the end” for political purposes. “It’s pretty obvious this is all about delaying the process, but the accuser certainly does deserve a right to be heard, and we’re looking forward to hearing what she has to say on Monday.”

Steve M argues that Republicans decided to make Democrats, rather than the accuser, the Antichrist "because it's always easy to demonize Democrats in the eyes of heartland white voters, and besides, that's what congressional Republicans need as a base motivator with midterms coming up. "

That, but more. Like their boss, Donald J. Trump, congressional Republicans lack a spine.  They could accuse Ford of deception. They could have conceded that Brett might have attempted to rape Christine but that it was long ago, both were juveniles, and details have been horribly distorted, They might have contended that Kavanaugh's record of accomplishment and integrity in both his personal and professional life over the past few decades more than compensate for one horrid mistake.

They won't, however. They won't because demonizing Democrats riles up their base... and because like Dear Leader, they have no spine.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Don't Worry Be Happy

It's a tale of two Ari's.... or of two Aris.

Media Matters has found former Bush 43 press secretary Ari Fleischer contending on Trump TV

There’s a bigger ethical issue I want to get to here, too. And I want to say this with a lot of sensitivity because these are sensitive issues. But high school behavior -- how much in society should any of us be held liable today when we lived a good life, an upstanding life by all accounts, and then something that maybe is an arguable issue took place in high school? Should that deny us chances later in life? Even for Supreme Court job, a presidency of the United States, or you name it. How accountable are we for high school actions, when this is clearly a disputable high school action? That’s a tough issue.

When a guy starts out "I want to say this with a lot of sensitivity," he should know to move his foot away from the open mouth it's about to enter, as when someone begins "I may be considered a racist for saying this but..."

One sharp tweeter noticed "when Brett Kavanaugh attempted to deny a 17-year-old immigrant an abortion, he believed that the decisions that you make as a minor ought to have lifelong consequences." Pondering whether committing sexual assault in high school should "deny us chances later in life," Will Bunch asks Bush's press secretary "how about attending the wrong wedding party during a U.S. drone strike?"

Fleischer maintained also

And if the right feels that Judge Kavanaugh is being a victim of something that's unfair and not provable, then it will probably fire up the right. If on the other hand if she comes across as eminently credible and he doesn't, then it's going to put a lot of pause into the right because you're going to think we just can't win. No matter what happens, it doesn't work.

In the Trump era, most Republicans would rather complain and whine (redundancy duly noted) than gloat. But gloat they may. Not only can the GOP win, it works the system to make sure as much as possible that it will.

Approximately nine months ago- for an article in its January/February 2017 issue- Mother Jones ran an article entitled "Rigged:How Voter Suppression Threw Wisconsin to Trump," Ari Berman evaluated the impact of Wisconsin's voter ID law, which required the registered voter to present a current driver's license, passport, or state or military ID. Enacted in 2011, it did not go into effect until the 2016 election because of court challenges. Berman writes

Neil Albrecht, Milwaukee’s election director, believes that the voter ID law and other changes passed by the Republican Legislature contributed significantly to lower turnout. Albrecht is 55 but seems younger, with bookish tortoise-frame glasses and salt-and-pepper stubble. (“I looked 12 until I became an election administrator,” he joked.) At his office in City Hall with views of the Milwaukee River, Albrecht showed me a color-coded map of the city’s districts, pointing out the ones where turnout had declined the most, including Anthony’s. Next to his desk was a poster that listed “Acceptable Forms of Photo ID.”

“I would estimate that 25 to 35 percent of the 41,000 decrease in voters, or somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 voters, likely did not vote due to the photo ID requirement,” he said later. “It is very probable that between the photo ID law and the changes to voter registration, enough people were prevented from voting to have changed the outcome of the presidential election in Wisconsin.”

According to a comprehensive study by MIT political scientist Charles Stewart, an estimated 16 million people—12 percent of all voters—encountered at least one problem voting in 2016. There were more than 1 million lost votes, Stewart estimates, because people ran into things like ID laws, long lines at the polls, and difficulty registering. Trump won the election by a total of 78,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

A post-election study by Priorities USA, a Democratic super-PAC that supported Clinton, found that in 2016, turnout decreased by 1.7 percent in the three states that adopted stricter voter ID laws but increased by 1.3 percent in states where ID laws did not change. Wisconsin’s turnout dropped 3.3 percent. If Wisconsin had seen the same turnout increase as states whose laws stayed the same, “we estimate that over 200,000 more voters would have voted in Wisconsin in 2016,” the study said. These “lost voters”—those who voted in 2012 and 2014 but not 2016—”skewed more African American and more Democrat” than the overall voting population. Some academics criticized the study’s methodology, but its conclusions were consistent with a report from the Government Accountability Office, which found that strict voter ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee had decreased turnout by roughly 2 to 3 percent, with the largest drops among black, young, and new voters.

Sure, conservatives will be mad if Kavanaugh is defeated (highly unlikely) or has to drop out (much more likely). It's what they are. And maybe it will reinforce the paranoia of "we just can't win. No matter what happens, it doesn't work."  But the GOP has known for a few years now that they have two pathways to victory: a) win the votes of more minorities, especially hispanics; or b) get hispanics and young people not to vote. (B) won for them in 2016, and an honest Ari Fleisher would tell Trump TV viewers "Don't worry. We got this."

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This  is a reasonable question. If going to a predominantly Jewish neighborhood to harass and intimidate Jewish people at a synagogue is no...