Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Will GOPlins let the truth out about what happened at Georgetown Prep

Silly question. Not when the stakes involve their SCOTUS pick. Instead, they are bashing the accuser once again.

A quote from a playwright runs alongside the family photos on Mark Judge’s page in his high school yearbook: “Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs.”

Avi Selk at the Washington Post writes much more about What the man accused of being part of Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault had to say about women’s sexuality.

One of the interesting themes in reports about Mark Judge’s days at Georgetown Prep (and beyond) is repentance. You already know this background:

Judge’s yearbook entry appears one page before the bio of his classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, federal judge and Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh. Both men graduated in 1983 — a year after they allegedly locked a girl inside a bedroom at a house party, where she says a drunken Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and tried to strip her while a similarly drunken Judge watched and laughed.

Both men have denied the accusation, which Christine Blasey Ford went public with this week in The Washington Post. A lawyer for Judge said in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he has “no memory of this alleged incident.” Judge previously told the New York Times that such behavior would be wildly out of character for the Catholic-raised-and-educated boys who went to Georgetown Prep in the early ’80s.

What Judge has written in his career as a journalist and author is another matter.

For example:

In two memoirs, Judge depicted his high school as a nest of debauchery where students attended “masturbation class,” “lusted after girls” from nearby Catholic schools and drank themselves into stupors at parties. He has since renounced that lifestyle and refashioned himself as a conservative moralist — albeit one who has written about “the wonderful beauty of uncontrollable male passion.”

Well, hmmmm. Maybe Brett Kavanaugh would welcome a defense from someone other than Mark Judge. How about a distinguished long-term U. S. Senator like Orin Hatch? Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowB log) weighs in: Orrin Hatch defends Kavanaugh in the least persuasive way possible.

Hatch, you see, is defending Kavanaugh as one of the Republican voices targeting Kavanaugh’s accuser.

The retiring Utah Republican told Capitol Hill reporters yesterday, for example, in refence to Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations, that Kavanaugh didn’t even attend the party. Since Ford hasn’t gone into any details about the event, it’s difficult to know how the judge, or his GOP ally in the Senate, could say this with any certainty.

Hatch added that Ford must be “mixed up,” evidently because Kavanaugh says so.

… As The New Republic’s Jeet Heer wrote, “So Hatch’s position is: Ford is mistaken because Kavanaugh wasn’t at a party that Ford didn’t really describe but it wouldn’t matter if Ford were telling the truth because Kavanaugh is a good man. The philosopher Jacques Derrida described this type of thinking as ‘kettle logic’: the making of contradictory arguments with no regard for internal coherence.”

It also touches on something we discussed yesterday: the idea that Kavanaugh’s alleged violence toward Ford doesn’t matter because it happened decades ago, and as Hatch put it, what matters is “who the judge is today.”

It’s obviously a debatable point, which could be at the center of a spirited discussion – if that were Kavanaugh’s defense. But it’s not. The conservative jurist isn’t saying he made a horrible mistake as a high-school student, learned from it, and is a better person now; he’s saying his accuser is lying and her corroborating evidence should be ignored.

Orrin Hatch is comfortable with both claims simultaneously – Kavanaugh didn’t attack Ford, and even if he did, Kavanaugh shouldn’t be held accountable for his actions now – but that doesn’t mean everyone else should be so cavalier about the revelations.

OK. Let’s pick another U. S. Senator who we would assume want truth out because of his position on the Judiciary Committee.

Judd Legum at observes:

The announcement from the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee was titled: “Judiciary Committee to Hear from Kavanaugh, Ford in Public Hearing.” The press release said the hearing would provide an opportunity “to give these recent allegations a full airing.”

But on Tuesday, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) admitted that the hearing was scheduled without securing a commitment from Ford to appear. When Ford didn’t immediately respond to emails, Grassley just scheduled it anyway.

Does anyone think that Ford and her allegations will get a fair shake from the Republican senators? Perhaps.

There are several members of the Republican caucus, including Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who have said they want to hear from Ford before moving forward. If those Senators aren’t on board with confirming Kavanaugh without an investigation or testimony from Ford, Republicans don’t have the votes to proceed.

Would she get a faire shake from the President? Nope. “Trump says he won’t reopen the FBI investigation.”

[Instead] Trump also painted Kavanaugh as a victim. “I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this, to be honest with you… This is not a man who deserves this.”

Ford, meanwhile, has been receiving death threats and has been forced into hiding, according to the New York Times.

A video surfaced on Tuesday from a 2015 speech by Kavanaugh that has new resonance in light of Ford’s allegations. “What happens at Georgetown Prep, stays at Georgetown Prep. That’s been a good thing for all of us,” Kavanaugh told an audience at Columbus School of Law.

If you are trying to assess who is lying and who is telling the truth, one thing to pay attention to is who is seeking a full airing of all relevant facts and who is encouraging people to quickly reach summary conclusions.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Kavanaugh, blackout drinking, and the treasurer of the Keg City Club

This is a long post from Judd Legum at titled The education of Bart O’Kavanaugh. It has information on drinking habits of Brett Kavanaugh and his high-school and college classmates - some of this in their own words. It is too long for me to reprint here and I see no fair way to snippetize it. Read the whole thing. Here’s the link.

President can send messages direct to your cell phone - no opt out

If you are not prone to the use of cuss words, you will be after reading this item from 538’s significant digits email.

100 mobile carriers
This week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is set to test a system that will let President Trump send a message directly to your cell phone. More than 100 mobile carriers, including “all the major wireless firms,” are participating — there is no way to opt out. Now, what follows is all subject to approval by my editor and presumably many besuited lawyers at the Disney corporation, but I am contemplating a way to beam all of my articles to a receptor implanted in your occipital lobe at which point their text will be projected directly onto your aqueous humour. Or something. In any case, there will be no way to opt out. [NBC News]

This is the article from NBC News: FEMA to test ‘Presidential Alert’ system next week. Its subtitle is: Experts expressed little concern that the wireless emergency alerts could be used for political purposes. To paraphrase Melania: I don’t believe that. Do you? Read on.

“The EAS [Emergency Alert System] is a national public warning system that provides the President with the communications capability to address the nation during a national emergency,” FEMA said.

The test message will have a header that reads “Presidential Alert,” according to the agency.

Users whose phones are on will twice hear a tone and vibration and then see an English-only (for now) message: "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

The wireless emergency alerts (WEA) system was authorized by Congress in 2015 under a law that states the “system shall not be used to transmit a message that does not relate to a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster or threat to public safety.”

Experts didn’t appear to be too concerned that Trump, known to use his smartphone to blast opponents, berate subordinates and take shots at the news media on Twitter, could abuse WEA.

In what universe are those experts living?

President Trump is already suspect in the breaking of laws so why not one more? How about these?

Hillary is a threat to public safety. Lock her up!

My approval ratings are a man-made disaster. Fake news!

The Mueller investigation is a natural disaster. FEMA, are you there? Protect me, Sessions!

The test is supposed to take place at 2:18 p.m. EDT on Sept. 20. Under the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act of 2006, cellphone users cannot opt out of the presidential alerts.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The facts about Trump's lies - but will the GV news publish them

This last Wednesday, Sep. 12th, the Green Valley News published my open letter to Sen. Jeff Flake. Here it is again, in full. (Read on - there’s an update I’ll get to shortly.)

At the end of Bertolt Brecht’s play, Galileo tells his former student “The practice of science would seem to call for valor.” I add, “The practice of responsible politics would seem to call for valor.”

Shortly you will be asked to cast a vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for the Supreme Court. What you do might well take valor. Everything you detest about President Trump exists as a microcosm that played out in the confirmation hearings. The record shows Kavanaugh being less than honest in previous appearances before the Senate. The record this year shows Kavanaugh being evasive and not answering questions put by the senators. In the past, you have spoken out forcefully on your displeasure with the president. Trump most recently has tried to use the Justice Department against his political opponents. And now Trump’s nomination of Kavanaugh appears to be a ploy to protect himself from his legal entanglements. You need to talk about the connection between Trump and Kavanaugh, but you need to do more. You need to vote against that confirmation. Your integrity and credibility are at stake.

In the Rogue Theatre director’s notes, we are told: “Like the courtiers surrounding Prince Cosimo de Medici who refuse to look through Galileo’s telescope, we refuse to learn the truth because it might upset our ideas about the way things are.” You, sir, are not a courtier and Donald Trump is not a king. You are a United States senator and as such you should demand and get honesty and forthrightness from those who testify before the Senate.

I hope you will behave with valor and vote against this confirmation. I ask this of you in the name of the citizens of the United States of America to whom you owe the truth.

Bill Maki, Green Valley

This morning, the GV News published a response to that letter.

In response to Bill Maki’s missive (“Kavanaugh vote,” Sept. 12), it seems that there is almost a casual claim that our president can’t open his mouth without lying. I would like some specifics please, but perhaps you were referring to when the president said, “You can keep your doctor!” Oh no, that was the previous president. Maybe when he said, “Benghazi was the result of a shaming video!” Oh dear, once again, the previous president. It must have been when he said he “knew absolutely nothing about the IRS targeting conservative groups!”

Well, I suppose if President Trump walked on water, Mr. Maki would be the first to claim the president couldn’t swim.

Jan Etheredge, Green Valley

Also this morning, I submitted a reply .

Jan Etheredge’s September 16th response to my letter complained about my “almost casual” claim about Trump’s record of dishonesty. There is nothing casual about it. Earlier this month Trump set a record of 5,000 lies, and that’s just since he’s been in the White House. That’s an average of 8.3 false or misleading claims each day. It’s getting worse. On a single day, September 7th, “he publicly made 125 false or misleading statements — in a period of time that totaled only about 120 minutes.” That’s one lie each minute. He really, as Ms. Etheredge wrote, “can’t open his mouth without lying.”

Anyone can find the “specifics”. Just do an internet search for “trump lies”. My source:

At this writing, I do not know if the GV News editor, Dan Shearer, will publish it. For the sake of factual evidence, I hope he does.

As for Etheredge’s supposition “if President Trump walked on water,” his supporters really believe something like that. But you know from the fact-checking that would likely be a lie. Trump would then drown under the weight of his mendacity.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Scriber on vacation

Scriber will be on vacation until September 27th. Any posts to this blog will depend on Scriber’s travel schedule. Photos will be posted to Bill Maki’s Facebook page.

Friday, September 14, 2018

In casting votes on Kavanaugh, will Sen. Jeff Flake act with courage or cowardice

According to Sen. Jeff Flake, Congress has a duty to curb Trump’s ‘reckless behavior’ reports Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog). But, as we all should know by now, there is a gap between what Flake does and what he says.

According to the analyses by Nate Silver’s, Flake votes in accord with Trump 83.3% of the time. Now that sounds high, but compared to other Republicans it really is good - that puts Flake as the 5th lowest Republican in the Senate - along with Collins and Murkowski, for example. However, Flake votes with Trump more often than would be expected given the results of the 2016 election in Arizona, + 24.3. He’s the 13th highest on that measure.

That’s what Flake does. Now what does he say? For that we turn to Benen’s report.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) generated a few headlines yesterday, delivering another speech criticizing Donald Trump from the Senate floor. The Associated Press reported:

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona is condemning President Donald Trump’s attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, calling them a “travesty.”

Flake, a vocal Trump critic, said Wednesday from the Senate floor that Trump has been “relentlessly slandering” Sessions. He warned that Trump seems headed for “some future assault” on the justice system, perhaps by firing Sessions or special counsel Robert Mueller. He urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a vote on legislation to protect Mueller’s investigation.

The retiring Republican senator added that Congress has “the responsibility to curb such reckless behavior” from Trump and appealed to lawmakers to speak out.

Of course, speaking out and lawmakers taking steps to curb reckless presidential behavior are not the same thing.

Flake has become quite adept at delivering remarks like these, and for Trump detractors, the Arizonan’s speeches tend to be powerful and eloquent. I was especially impressed with the message he delivered at Harvard Law School in May, when Flake said, “Our presidency has been debased by a figure who has a seemingly bottomless appetite for destruction and division – and only a passing familiarity with how the Constitution works.”

But as compelling as Flake’s criticisms are, there’s still something important missing: follow through.

Circling back to previous coverage from January, after Flake delivered blistering remarks condemning his party’s president, some core truths remain unchanged. The senator, for example, continues to vote with Trump’s agenda the vast majority of the time, despite, to use his words, the “moral vandalism that flows from the White House daily.”

But this isn’t just a matter of voting records. In practical terms, Trump knows (and cares) so little about public policy that lawmakers like Flake have enormous power – especially in a narrowly divided 51–49 Senate. The question is what the Arizonan and his colleagues intend to do with that power.

Flake’s online bio, for example, notes that he serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is a subcommittee chairman. Has he used this perch to pressure the White House? Not in any meaningful way.

Flake also serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee. If he wants a vote on legislation to protect Robert Mueller’s investigation, for example, the GOP lawmaker could make his vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation conditional on a bill to protect the special counsel’s probe.s

That would be only part of what should be done. Kavanaugh’s confirmation would leave at risk matters such as Roe v. Wade.

I like Flake’s speeches, op-eds, and books. I also recognize that it takes some political courage to speak out the way he has. But I keep waiting for the Arizona senator to actually do something – to follow up his welcome words with deeds – instead of preparing the next speech, op-ed, and book.

It’s not that he is powerless to act in accord with his views of Trump and the administration. For example:

NBC News’ Benjy Sarlin noted a few months ago that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) started blocking the White House’s Justice Department nominees until the administration met his demands on matters related to his state. Flake, meanwhile, apparently sees the president as a danger to the republic, but he’s made no comparable moves.

Isaac Chotiner recently had a good piece in Slate along these lines, noting that Flake “seems entirely unwilling to take actions commensurate with either the times – which he correctly recognizes as frighteningly dangerous – or his own words. He seems to believe that anything too radical would be a violation of his conservative principles, when in fact he should be willing to temporarily put aside his commitment to those principles for his commitment to – by his own account – larger ones.”

In a 51–49 Senate, Flake can wield great influence. It’s not too late for him to take better advantage of the opportunity to keep a president that frightens him in check.

If Flake does not do that, he is guilty of being an “enabler” speaking out as did the author of a recent notorious op-ed, but in practice acting to advance Trump’s agenda.

In my recent letter to the (Green Valley News) editor, An open letter to Sen. Jeff Flake, I noted that Flake needs to act with “valor” and vote against the Kavanaugh nomination to SCOTUS. He could announce his opposition to the nomination and voice an intention to vote against the nomination. In that way he would provide political cover for other Senators (like Collins and Murkowski) who might be inclined to vote no.

Here I leave it with two “C” words. Will Flake cast that vote with Courage? Or meekly vote with Cowardice to confirm?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Funding for hurricane relief diverted to ICE's detention program. The bottom of the Trump administration cruel bungling is not yet in sight.

One of the great ironies of the Trump era is the administration’s completely duplicitous claims about Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria and the actual fatality count. Yesterday Trump was on television taking credit for Puerto Rico as an “unsung success”. But what he did not say is that over 2900 Puerto Ricans died because of the bungled response to that disaster. Rachel Maddow reported in her show yesterday on Trump’s claims: Trump praises P.R. response despite nearly 3000 American deaths.

Rachel Maddow notes that the last Category 4 hurricane to hit the United States was Hurricane Maria, which was an unmitigated, tragic disaster that resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans. Despite this, Donald Trump boasted about his administration’s response as an “unsung success.”

But wait! There’s another disaster in the making just around the corner as Hurricane Florence is about to trash the east coast of the United States. Here’s an item from 538’s significant digits email.

$9.8 million
According to MSNBC and documents released by Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, the Department of Homeland Security requested to transfer nearly $10 million out of the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and into that of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to fund the latter’s immigrant detention and deportation programs. Merkley believes the transfer happened this summer. “Just in time for hurricane season,” said Rachel Maddow. [MSNBC]

Maddow reported Trump admin took millions from FEMA for ICE detentions: “Senator Jeff Merkley talks with Rachel Maddow about a document showing that the Trump administration took nearly ten million dollars from FEMA’s budget ahead of the 2018 hurricane season and gave it to ICE to pay for detentions.”

By now you know that just when you think this administration could not get worse, the bottom appears beyond our ability to see it let alone land on it.

Rachel Maddow also reported last night that the administration is sucking lots more money out of the Coast Guard budget to give to ICE: Document shows DHS transferring $29M from Coast Guard to ICE.

Rachel Maddow reports on a DHS document from Senator Merkley that shows nearly $10 million dollars being transferred from FEMA’s budget to fund ICE detentions, and $29 million being taken from the Coast Guard, ahead of the 2018 hurricane season. Moira Whelan, a former DHS official, joins to discuss how FEMA budgets its money.

Why does ICE need more money for detention? Here’s a possible reason. Detention of Migrant Children Has Skyrocketed to Highest Levels Ever reported the New York Times yesterday.

Even though hundreds of children separated from their families after crossing the border have been released under court order, the overall number of detained migrant children has exploded to the highest ever recorded — a significant counternarrative to the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce the number of undocumented families coming to the United States.

Population levels at federally contracted shelters for migrant children have quietly shot up more than fivefold since last summer, according to data obtained by The New York Times, reaching a total of 12,800 this month. There were 2,400 such children in custody in May 2017.

The huge increases, which have placed the federal shelter system near capacity, are due not to an influx of children entering the country, but a reduction in the number being released to live with families and other sponsors, the data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services suggests. Some of those who work in the migrant shelter network say the bottleneck is straining both the children and the system that cares for them.

When Carolinians complain about FEMA, and you know they will, they can take solace from the knowledge that they are paying, via FEMA, for more facilities that keep families separated. And that’s a direct result of the Trump administration policy. Cruel.