Category Archives: Law/Justice

Butina Your Lip

Former Gret Stet Governor Bobby Jindal with Maria Butina.

I have been accused of constructing posts around a punny title. I plead guilty as charged. There’s a lot of that going around this week. The latest to cop a plea is Maria Butina. I have abandoned my futile attempt to popularize the Russian spelling of her name. She’s Two-I Mariia no more. Life goes on and on and on; much like this introduction.

The facts of the Butina case have become somewhat murky. Initially, I compared her to Elizabeth Jennings of The Americans but it looks as if she was more of an influence peddler than a spy; as much K Street as Kremlin.

The prosecution has even withdrawn some of the more sensational characterizations of her activities:

Yet even as prosecutors secured Ms. Butina’s conviction and cooperation, they faced questions about their initial portrayal of Ms. Butina as something like a character out of “Red Sparrow,” the spy thriller about a Russian femme fatale.

Prosecutors had already been forced to back off the most salacious accusations against Ms. Butina — that she used sex as spycraft — and acknowledged in court filings this week that she genuinely wanted a graduate degree, and was not simply posing as a student to live in the United States. They also dropped accusations of her being in contact with Russian intelligence agencies, and that she was only using Mr. Erickson to gain access to other influential Americans.

Agents come in many forms: from the covert to the overt. Butina appears to have been the latter. She bamboozled American gun nuts in broad daylight, revealing them as gullible fools willing to fall for a pretty face and a ridiculous story: a gun rights group in Putin’s Russia? Yeah, right.

There was even a memorable public exchange with the Insult Comedian:

While I still hope that Butina can damage the NRA, it’s unclear how much she knows and who, other than her boyfriend/whatever Paul Erickson, she can hurt. She certainly played them for fools, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. Those pictures with PBJ, Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, and Wayne LaPierre are priceless.

The minute I heard that she’d agreed to co-operate, I knew that she was not a spy. We usually trade their spies for our spies. I’m puzzled by Butina’s motives in co-operating with prosecutors as she still faces deportation. Failed Russian agents tend not to have a long shelf life when they return home.

Our readers have surely noticed by now that my mind works in weird ways. This time, it has connected Maria Butina and the Rolling Stones. Her American adventure involved making connections with the NRA in the hopes of influencing the Republican party. That, in turn, evokes a song from the 1967 Stones album, Butina the Buttons:

The album’s real name is Between the Buttons and, in the end, the real connection Maria Butina made was with federal prosecutors.

The post title is also Stones inspired. The opening line of Mixed Emotions is “button your lip, baby.” It wasn’t much of a leap to Butina Your Lip.

The Rolling Stones get the last word:

Cohen Family Values

This post title may be ironic but it contains a kernel of truth. Trump’s former fixer spent a good deal of time in his remarks at his sentencing hearing discussing the importance of family and his regrets at having let them down. Bigly.

Cohen’s family values are also the best explanation for his limited co-operation with the Southern District of New York. I spent too much time Wednesday watching MSNBC and listening to pundits and legal experts alike discuss this “mystery.” There’s a simple explanation: both Cohen and his brother married into families with extensive ties to the Ukrainian and Russian mobs. It’s unclear if they’re gangsters or associates, but they’re connected. Flipping on them would not only blow up Cohen’s family, it would be hazardous to his health. There’s no mystery there at all.

Additionally, Cohen’s uncle runs a social club in Brooklyn that’s frequented by wise guys from the former Soviet Union. The Fixer sold his stake in the club after Trump’s fluke election victory. At the very least, Cohen’s uncle is a mob associate. To put it in terms that Sopranos fans will get: he’s the Artie Bucco of the story. Artie was, of course, Tony’s childhood friend whose eatery Vesuvio was a hangout for the fictional Jersey mob. Artie was a hapless schmo and sporadic wise guy wannabe, which is how Cohen is perceived by many in the MSM.

The mistake the MSM has made in covering  the Trump scandals is that they’ve treated it as strictly a political story. It’s really the story of how a career criminal was elected president* by defrauding the voters. It’s a crime story. The victim is the American people.

I think all the wise men and women on cable news should read Josh Marshall. He’s been on top of the Cohen/mob story since the Spring of 2017. In case you’ve missed his coverage, here are links to some of Josh’s Cohen stories:

From February 26, 2017: It’s All So Confusing.

From March 1, 2017: Piecing Together The Michael Cohen Story.

From April 17, 2018: The Closer I Get.

From April 18, 2018: Cohen-ology Pays Off After All.

It’s all there, y’all. It explains why Michael Cohen cannot offer the sort of co-operation demanded by the SDNY. They expect co-operators to discuss *every* crime a witness is familiar with, not just their own malefactions. Cohen would rather spend 3 years in jail than deal with the shitstorm that would ensue if he flipped on his friends and family from Brooklyn and Brighton Beach. Who the hell can blame him?

Having explained why I believe Cohen will never sign a full co-operation deal with the SDNY, working with Team Mueller is an entirely different kettle of fish. Cohen seems willing to spill everything he knows about Donald Trump. Those bridges are burned and the only way Trumpberius can hurt Cohen now is with his mouth and tweets. Cohen doesn’t give a shit about that any more. He’s done covering up for the Insult Comedian’s “dirty deeds.”

The last word (image?) goes to my First Draft colleague Michael F:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Tangled Up In Blue

The Large Blue Horses by Franz Marc.

The weather has been wild and wacky in New Orleans. It was 80 degrees last weekend, then it plummeted to a day time high of 50 a mere two days later. It’s like being an extra in The Pit and The Pendulum. I have no idea what that means but it sounds good.

We had some car trouble this week. We convinced ourselves we might have major electrical issues. It turned out the car needed a new battery. Whew. Dr. A has named the new used car Hildy, after Rosalind Russell’s character in His Girl Friday. Neither Cary Grant nor Ralph Bellamy were consulted.

Am I allowed to brag? I promise not to go all Insult Comedian on your asses. The response to my Neelyisms: Translating Louisiana’s Junior Senator piece has been very favorable indeed. Thanks, y’all. I hope it will further one of my quirkier causes: getting people to stop calling him by his real name instead of my nickname for him. Repeat after me:  In politics, there’s only one John Kennedy, and his middle initial was F, not N. Just call him Neely.

This week’s theme song was written by Bob Dylan for his great 1975 album Blood on the Tracks. Tangled Up In Blue is one of my favorite Dylan tunes. It’s an almost foolproof song, which is why it has been covered so many times.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: Dylan’s original, a 2017 cover by Joan Osborne, and a live version by the Jerry Garcia Band.

Now that we’re all tangled up, let’s jump to the break. I hope I can find my blue ripcord.

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The Fog Of Scandal: Hey Nineteen

I’m one of the Mueller probe’s staunchest supporters and biggest fans. They inadvertently gave me an early Christmas gift: Michael Flynn met nineteen times with Team Mueller. That allowed me to use a Steely Dan song as the title of this post. The late Walter Becker, Donald Fagen, and I would like to thank Bobby Three Sticks. I somehow doubt he’d get the joke. He’s a good man but not known for his sense of humor. He’s closer to a Bodhisattva than a Gaucho. Hey, Bodhisattva is the B-side of Hey Nineteen, so it’s kinda sorta relevant. End of egregious Steely Dan reference.

Mike Flynn is the most interesting person to get caught up the fog of Trump’s scandals. He’s more like a tragic Graham Greene or John LeCarre character than a typical Trump associate. He’s the only Kremlingate figure who is not a lifelong dirtbag. Instead, he’s a highly decorated army intelligence officer who rose to the rank of Lieutenant General: that’s 3 stars for us civilians. He was essentially a good person for the first 50 years of his life. It’s a truism that when people like that go wrong, they go all the way.

Things started to go sideways when Flynn landed a desk job at the Pentagon as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Flynn was a swashbuckling field officer, not an administrator skilled at keeping the paper moving. It was as if Hawkeye Pierce had been put in charge of running all the MASH units in Korea. He was a surgeon, not a bureaucrat.

Flynn was a fish out of water at the DIA who was fired amid allegations of emotionally abusive treatment of his subordinates. He was so embittered that he went from moderate Democrat to an Islamophobic wingnut. His open bitterness toward the president who hired and fired him, Barack Obama, made him easy pickings for Russian intelligence.

Flynn’s post-DIA behavior was disgraceful. His full-blown paranoia about Islamic extremism landed him in the Trump campaign. He traveled extensively with the candidate; more often than not he was seated next to the irascible and unstable Trump. He was considered something of a Trump whisperer.

Like pretty much everyone else in Trump’s orbit, Flynn expected to lose the election. His plan was to cash in as a lobbyist for Turkey, which led to his role in a proposed scheme to kidnap the Turkish dissident, Fetullah Gullen. Team Trump looked into deporting Gullen not long ago. These machinations *could* discussed in the redacted portions of the sentencing memo.

I nearly called this post Sympathy for the Devil. Flynn’s post-DIA conduct has involved, lying, cheating, scheming, and scamming. Flynn’s descent to hell was accelerated by his exposure to Trumpberius. Flynn is the most tragic of Trump’s many dignity wraiths. His life was turned to shit by his time on the campaign and 24 days as National Security Adviser.

Flynn’s sentencing memo details his crimes but discusses the extent of his co-operation with the Special Counsel’s Office. The recommendation for no jail time indicates he sang like Sinatra and may well have expressed contrition and shame over his wicked, wicked ways. FYI, My Wicked Wicked Ways was the title of Errol Flynn’s memoirs. End of obligatory Errol Flynn reference.

I liked how the incoming House Intelligence Committee chairman characterized Flynn’s plea.

Watching the Flynn plea play out will be fascinating. It’s a pity that cameras aren’t allowed in federal courts. I’d love to see for myself if my “Mike Flynn as repentant criminal” theory holds water. The mere fact that his sentencing will take place *before* investigations pertaining to it conclude, is an indication of sincerity, good faith, and contrition.

Donald Trump is clearly afraid of Mike Flynn’s testimony. As of this writing, the disgraced General and Vladimir Putin are among the few who have not been given the Insult Comedian treatment. Trump’s house of cards continues to teeter. It may well lead to my best case scenario Mueller probe outcome: a grand family plea bargain that results in a presidential* resignation. That’s rank speculation but it’s what pundits do.

The last word goes to (who else?) Steely Dan:

The Fog Of Scandal: Individual 1

Image by Michael F

Thursdays are rarely important. But Thursday November 29, 2018 is the day that Donald Trump’s legal house of cards began to collapse. It was no surprise to this blogger: it was jerry-rigged and built on a rickety foundation of lies and greed.

I’ve used my friend and colleague Michael F’s images before but never the next day. The image above and the post title House Of Cads, seem almost premonitive in the wake of Michael Cohen’s latest guilty plea.. Yo, Michael, if you have any lottery number suggestions, I’m all ears.

Individual 1 is, of course, Donald J Trump, accidental president* and sleazy real estate developer. His story about the unconsummated deal for a Trump Tower Moscow was exposed as a lie yesterday. We don’t just have the former Fixer’s word for it: there are digital recordings and documents. Cohen’s bill of information is, well, informative.

Cohen pled guilty to lying to Congress. He lied out of loyalty to Individual 1 who went into full Insult Comedian mode upon learning of the plea. He called his former Fixer “not very smart” and a “very weak person.” There’s that word again.

This morning Trumpberius tweeted about his Russia un-deal:

He forgot to invoke McCarthyism, which is always hilarious given that his mentor Roy Cohn was Tailgunner Joe’s right-hand man.

I’ve had some semi-heated discussions with people about charging Trumpers with lying to Congress. People tend to be dismissive about perjury. It’s a sign of the times: lying is in fashion. Lying under oath is never “very legal & very cool.” A reminder that lying to the Senate Watergate Committee was one of the charges that brought down Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Mitchell. Are you listening, Junior?

The Mueller investigation is unfolding like a long running teevee drama; more like The Sopranos than The Godfather. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg but with each new court filing Team Trump melts a bit more. As Josh Marshall put it: “They all lied. They’re all guilty.”

Life Imitates The Godfather: Paulie, Won’t See Him No More

Clemenza and Paulie Gatto in The Godfather

There’s something about the Manafort-Trump relationship that makes me think of gangster movies. Imagine that. During Manafort’s trial, the Insult Comedian rhapsodized about Al Capone as a stand-up guy, so naturally I wrote a post called Life Imitates The Untouchables: Scarface Paul Manafort?

I’ve tried to avoid Godfather references in order to stand out from the mobster movie analogy crowd. And I realize the Clemenza-Paulie Gatto analogy is imperfect because Paulie G was whacked for betraying his Don whereas Paulie M first betrayed, then stood by Don Donaldo Il Comico Insulto. I should apologize for that long sentence but it would break my momentum. I don’t mess around with either Jim or Big Mo. The Seventies references are really flying today.

Now that I’ve Godfathered the hell out of you, let’s turn our attention to the Manafort at hand. After weeks of quiet, the Manafort case has exploded. Team Mueller pulled out of its plea deal with Manafort because of his incessant lying. Imagine that. Then, it got messier when the Failing New York Times broke the story that Manafort’s lawyer has been briefing Trump’s lawyers about their discussions with Team Mueller. There *was* a co-operation agreement between Teams Manafort and Trump but such deals usually end with a plea bargain. This is sleazier than hell but may not be illegal. It may, however, be actionable by the relevant bar association. Stay tuned.

Making matters even stranger is that mob buster turned wartime consigliere Rudy Giuliani was the source for the bombshell NYT story. We’ve gone from Gatto to Gotti in a heartbeat, a lovebeat. It’s unclear if Rudy did this out of an inability to NOT brag about the contacts or because he’s a stupid twat who thinks this helps his client’s case. It does not. It makes Trump look guilty. But Team Trump agrees with Tricky Dick:

This gambit is classic Manafort. He’s an expert at playing both ends against the middle. It’s why he’s in the jam he’s in today. But at least Trumpy loves him again.

I agree with those who think Manafort is playing for a pardon. He’s also playing the long game. Even for Trump, it’s politically impossible to pardon Manafort before the 2020 election. In his more lucid moments, the artist formerly known as Mayor Combover has admitted that a Manafort pardon would be disastrous politically. Of course, his idiot client is quite capable of impulsively issuing one just to blow shit up. That’s why I call him the Kaiser of Chaos.

There are many Manafortian theories out there. Former US Attorney, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, and MSNBC legal eagle, Harry Litman, has written a must read op-ed analyzing them. Unlike Litman, I believe that Manafort has a legitimate fear of being whacked by Russian spooks or wise guys in jail. It’s why he’s in solitary. It’s a plot line straight out of  The Americans.

The other Manafort news involves a story in the Guardian describing three meetings between him and albino devil Julian Assange. Many have discounted the story because of its sourcing. It *is* possible that the Guardian got played but the suspicion of the story strikes me as rank provincialism. The Guardian is one of the world’s great newspapers so its stories should be accorded the same respect as those in the NYT or WaPo. Besides, its sourcing is quite similar to many Woodstein Watergate stories. I also think the Steele Dossier implicitly supports the story. Stay tuned.

I’m used to making Watergate or Iran-Contra references about the DC scandal of the day. I am, however, unused to comparing our politics to gangster movies. What can I tell ya? I call them as I see them.

The last word goes to Corleone Caporegime Peter Clemenza:

Sorry for the last word fib, but I would be remiss in my duties as a mob movie maven if I didn’t post Clemenza’s lines after Paulie G met his maker:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Afterglow

San Giorgio Maggiore At Dusk by Claude Monet

The weird weather continues in New Orleans. We seem to have skipped fall and gone straight to winter. One day we ran the AC, the next the heater. As you saw yesterday, the cats are happy. They love blankets and space heaters. I could do without either. I hate the cold; a stance befitting someone who has lived most of their life in California and Louisiana.

The other down side of cold weather NOLA-style is that public places crank up the heat. I strolled to the grocery store the other day dressed for the great outdoors, I returned a sweaty mess since I had to walk fast to avoid the Valence Street rooster. I’m not a fan of chickens and this one is on the aggressive side.  I’d rather eat them than dodge them.

This week’s theme song was written by Tony Banks in 1976 for Genesis’ last pure prog album, Wind & Wuthering. Afterglow is a drop dead gorgeous song that closes the album as well as an era. It’s the last Genesis album featuring lead guitar player Steve Hackett who was missed almost as much by the band’s fans as Peter Gabriel.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the Genesis original followed by the Classic Rock String Quartet.

Now that we’re afterglowing, let’s jump to the break. I promise a soft landing.

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The Fog Of Scandal: More Trouble Every Day

Donald Trump insists on being the center of attention even when it’s not in his best interest. His post-election presser was a tangle of pathology. I’ve never seen a party leader trash losing candidates by name. Their sin was a refusal to imbibe this:

Image by Michael F.

Candidates who swilled the nasty shit down also lost House races. Trump’s raw naked emotion yesterday was yet another failure of leadership. It also drew attention to the GOP’s poor performance in House races. The election may not have been the repudiation of Trumpism we hoped for BUT it was a stinging rebuke.

The Insult Comedian once again proved that he’s a fake tough guy by refusing to announce Jeff Bo’s “resignation” at the presser. It would have interfered with yelling at reporters. A genuine tough guy wouldn have faced the media shitstorm head on. The irony is that Jeff Bo was shitcanned for doing the ONLY decent thing he did as Attorney General: recuse himself from overseeing the Kremlingate probe. As to Trumpberius: he’s a pussy, he should grab himself.

The much feared slow motion Saturday Night Massacre began yesterday with the appointment of Iowa cornholer Matt Whitaker as acting Attorney General. I saw him misdescribed as a loyalist and a crony. Whitaker is lackey who was appointed solely to attack the Mueller probe.

Whitaker’s Trumpworld sponsor is Sam Clovis who also brought Carter Page and George Papadopolous to that deranged corner of the political universe. Clovis is a  minor witness in the  Kremlingate probe. That, in and of itself, should force Whitaker to make like Jeff Bo and recuse himself, but his writings and tevee appearances *should* make recusal mandatory:

“It is time for Rosenstein, who is the acting attorney general for the purposes of this investigation, to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing him special counsel,” he wrote then. “If he doesn’t, then Mueller’s investigation will eventually start to look like a political fishing expedition.”

He subsequently argued that the DOJ should starve the Mueller probe of funding and turn down any requests involving Trump’s finances. He was planted at DOJ to wreak havoc on the investigation. He’s a tumor that has metastasized into full-blown cancer.

It’s unclear what would happen if the DOJ’s ethics office informs Whitaker that he must recuse himself. Indications are that he will refuse to recuse, which could eventually result in disbarment. I hope that such a refusal  leads to targeted resignations and/or a work strike by DOJ lawyers. They’ve sworn an oath to protect and defend the constitution, not a criminal president*.

Does this mean the Kremlingate probe will end? Hell no. Bobby Three Sticks strikes me as someone who has a backup plan for his backup plan.

What we’re seeing here is obstruction of justice in broad daylight. It’s a blatant and premeditated attempt by Team Trump to hijack the constitution. Yes, I said premeditated; usually, the Insult Comedian just wings it. This time is different: it was timed to happen *before* Democrats assume control of the House. The incoming Chairman of the Judiciary Committee is demanding answers:

Anyone who tells you that they know where Demented Donald’s Wild Toady Ride will end up is kidding themselves. The situation is volatile and fluid. Only one thing is certain: these are the actions of a guilty man out to save his worthless ass.

The last word on this chaotic Thursday goes to Frank Zappa and the Mothers:

Cruel Crazy Beautiful World

The mind reels over how much has been going on in the news. Election run-ups are usually action packed but 2018 has been frenetic.

The word of the day is nativism. I know, that’s always the word of the day at the Trump White House, but they’ve gotten loud even for them. They’re not only letting their xenophobic freak flag fly, they’re waving it wildly.

I had Johnny Clegg’s song Cruel Crazy Beautiful World in my head all day yesterday. It lends itself to the rush of events:

You have to wash with the crocodile in the river
You have to swim with the sharks in the sea
You have to live with the crooked politician

Clegg came to worldwide attention as a political/cultural dissident in apartheid era South Africa. His crime was to be a white man who made music with black musicians. It was a Cruel Crazy Beautiful World then and it still is. If anything, the Current Occupant has made it crueller and crazier. The beauty is supplied by the resistance.

We begin with the Cruel. Trump famously floated the notion of banning birthright citizenship by executive order in an interview with Axios, which is best described as Politico Lite. That was not shocking, what was shocking was the gullible response by many people: they bought it and freaked out. I assumed it was clear to most people that this was Trump throwing shit against the wall to see what would stick. He’s been trying to change the subject to Trumper friendly ground ever since the MAGA Bomber story broke.

While there are apparently a handful of wingnut lawyers who believe that birthright citizenship can be abolished by executive order, they’re full of shit. The right is enshrined in the 14th amendment and was affirmed by the Supreme Court in the Wong Kim Ark case. It’s a 120 year old precedent that the current Court is unlikely to overrule but that’s what must be done, either in court or via the amendment process. Even the conservative Weekly Standard agrees.

One more thing. Trump claimed that the US is the only country with birthright citizenship. Wrong again, you lying asshole. There are at least 30; many of which are in Latin America. Beware of the brown peril: they’re rushing our borders as I write this. #sarcasm

Trump may think he’s a dictator but he’s not one as long as there’s a free press and an independent judiciary. The phantom executive order is a moral abomination. It’s also unclear if this intervention is helpful in electoral terms. Many of the toss-up House seats are in suburban districts where voters find this sort of nativist raw meat politicking indigestible. One Pennsylvania GOPer even called it “political malpractice.”

There are signs that the ties that bind establishment Republicans to Trumpberius are beginning to fray. The administration was unable to find any congressional leaders to go to Pittsburgh with him. I think they were afraid that he’d go into Insult Comedian mode and get all squirrely on Squirrel Hill.

Let’s move on to the Crazy. For days there were twitter rumors that some anti-Mueller shit was going to hit the fan and splatter all over the Special Counsel. The ringleaders were a right-wing lobbyist/conspiracy theorist and a pipsqueak twitter personality/blogger named Jacob Wohl. They figured they’d capitalize on the #MeToo moment and claim that the straight-laced Bobby Three Sticks was a rapey motherfucker. Everyone would believe their story, right? Wrong again, you lying assholes. Team Mueller has referred this matter to the FBI for investigation. The wingnuts are crawfishing like, well, Crazy. Natasha Bertrand broke the story, so get thee to the Atlantic.com. 

White Nationalist Congressman Steve King has always been cruel and crazy. Who among us will ever forget the “calves like cantaloupes” remark? Yesterday, there was some Beautiful news involving the Hawkeye Horror: he’s in political trouble.

House GOP campaign honcho Steve Stivers denounced the King of Bigots:

It’s a sign that the nativist campaign is not working as well as the Kaiser of Chaos thinks it is.

Additionally, Land O’ Lakes support for King has melted.  No more butter for the Hawkeye Horror. Apparently, pandering to European neo-Nazis isn’t all it’s cut out to be.

One final Beautiful note. King is in a statistical tie with his Democratic challenger JD Sholten.  He won re-election by 23% in the Trumptastic year of 2016. Even if he prevails, the mere fact that he’s in trouble indicates that the House GOP majority is in deep shit and sinking fast.

The last word goes to Johnny Clegg with a double dose of Cruel Crazy Beautiful World:

It’s a cruel crazy beautiful world
Every time you wake up I hope it’s under a blue sky
It’s a cruel crazy beautiful world
One day when you wake up I will have to say goodbye
Goodbye — it’s your world so live in it!


6 days until the midterms. Tick tock, motherfuckers.

Kristallnacht In Broad Daylight

Writing for First Draft is one of my passions. It’s often my therapy. This has been one of those times. The MAGA Bomber’s failed attempt at mass assassination shook me to the core. Then, the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh left many of us questioning what it means to be an American in the Trump era.

I am proud to be an American, but I am ashamed of our current leadership’s inability to respond with an ounce of human decency or a scintilla of empathy. As far as the president* is concerned, it’s an inconvenient interruption of rally mania. As far as I’m concerned, Trump and his allies have blood on their hands, if not literally, then symbolically.

I’m not the only one questioning what it means to be an American in 2018. Veteran political journalist Howard Fineman grew up in Pittsburgh as a member of the Tree of Life community. His op-ed in Sunday’s New York Time was deeply moving:

I was taught in Squirrel Hill that we were in the one country that was an exception to the history of the human race in general and the Jews in particular. Founded on Enlightenment principles of individuality, freedom, tolerance and justice, the United States was the only place besides Israel where Jews could live at one with their nation, unburdened by fear or confusion about identity.

Now I must wonder: If Pittsburgh isn’t safe for Jews, if Squirrel Hill isn’t safe, if the Tree of Life isn’t safe, what place is? Without diminishing anyone else’s suffering and death, it’s a sad fact that the Jews often are the canaries in the coal mine of social and political collapse. So, what does the bloodshed in the Tree of Life mean?

It is a sign that hatred of The Other is poisoning our public life. It’s always been a vivid strain in America, stimulated by the stress of immigrant waves, but one we have overcome time and again. Although we often honor it in the breach, our founding idea remains: that each person here is precious and born with unalienable rights. Now, political enemies in America deny each other’s humanity.

It is a sign that communications can foster something less than understanding. Social media allows us to be connected but also caricatured as propaganda in campaigns of dehumanizing division.

It is a sign that President Trump’s remorselessly cynical, jungle-style vision of how to conduct business and politics is ripping apart a society already under the stress of generational, demographic, technological, economic and social change.

Once again, Donald Trump read a prepared statement in a flat, emotionless voice to signal the more mindless members of his personality cult that he didn’t really mean it. Then it was back to throwing raw meat at crowds of ravenous MAGA Maggots. He had the chutzpah to lecture the grief-stricken people at the Tree of Life Synagogue that armed guards could have prevented the slaughter. Wrong: Three police officers were wounded by the anti-Semitic gun man whose name I refuse to say. This recitation of the NRA line in the wake of a massacre sickened me.

I felt even sicker when the list of victims was published on Sunday morning:

  • Daniel Stein, 71
  • Joyce Fienberg, 75
  • Richard Gottfried, 65
  • Rose Mallinger, 97
  • Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
  • Cecil Rosenthal, 59
  • David Rosenthal, 54
  • Bernice Simon, 84
  • Sylvan Simon, 86
  • Melvin Wax, 88
  • Irving Younger, 69

Who kills octogenarians and a 97 year-old woman? Only a monster. A monster whose worst impulses were exacerbated by a national dialogue in which George Soros is the stand-in for Jewish demons conjured up in the fever dreams of the far-right. Donald Trump uses their vile rhetoric laced with anti-Semitic code words and names: Soros, globalists. Rinse, repeat, and wash.

Defenses that Trump cannot be anti-Semitic are out there already. His son-in-law is a Jew, his daughter a convert, and his grandchildren are Jewish. All true but there’s a difference between personal and political bigotry. His kinfolks are the good ones, a credit to their faith. Soros is a bad hombre who is flooding the country with brown Central Americans. Ergo Trump cannot be anti-Semitic according to his defenders. This is, of course, nonsense. Demagogues do not need to believe in their rhetoric to inflict damage. Is it better that Hitler believed in his rhetoric as opposed to Trump’s cynical exploitation of ancient hatreds? I think not.

What happened Saturday morning at Squirrel Hill was an American Kristallnacht in broad daylight. It inspired the students at a nearby high school-Howard Fineman’s alma mater-to hold a candlelight vigil at which the chant was for not for vengeance, but for people to vote.

These are terrible times for our country but it’s time to fight back in the way that Americans traditionally have: by voting the rascals out. There has never been a midterm election as important as this one. Vote like your life depends on it. The future of the Republic certainly does: 8 days until the midterms. Tick tock, motherfuckers.

The events of last week have not only broken the social contract, they have smashed it to smithereens. I never, ever thought I’d compare something that happened in the United States of America to Kristallnacht but it’s inescapable in 2018. Godwin’s law is dead, long live Godwin’s law.

These ugly times call for some beauty. That’s why the last word goes to Paul Simon. The final stanza of American Tune gets me every time:

We come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
and sing an American tune
But it’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest

Of Dictator Coddling

The MSM is fond of calling everything about the Trump administration* unprecedented. In many cases, they’re right: to use the most obvious example, past presidents did not publicly trash the FBI. JFK and LBJ loathed J Edgar Hoover but the latter reappointed him based on the pragmatic Johnsonian notion that he’d “rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in.” Besides, like his hero FDR, Lyndon enjoyed the gossip J Edgar Hee-Haw shared with him.

The notion that Trumpian Saudi coddling is unprecedented is, to use the Insult Comedian’s favorite phrase, fake news. In dealing with the medieval Saudi family dictatorship, oil has always been the decisive factor, not human rights. When he wasn’t coddling the Shah of Iran as president, Jimmy Carter was coddling the Saudis. Despite his sincere commitment to human rights, Carter sold arms to the Saudi family dictatorship. Repeat after me:

The presidents Bush were noted Saudi coddlers as well. Who among us can forget the image of W and holding hands with then crown prince, later King Abdullah?

One might even call that image Abdullah and the dullard. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Back to the whole unprecedented thing. While American dictator coddling goes way back, Trump has taken it to heights unseen since the Cold War. Ronald Reagan’s UN Ambassador, Jeane Kirkpatrick, drew a distinction between authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. According to Jeane and Ron, the former rocked and the latter sucked. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a distinction without a difference, but it was classic Cold Warrior doctrine.

The tragedy of Saudi dissident/WaPo columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, illustrates how far gone the Trump regime is in its “human rights don’t matter” policy. Trump has been dancing around the issue for day, he has even passed on a theory from Saudi King Salman that “rogue killers” are behind the Khashoggi murder instead of Jared’s pal, Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, hereinafter MBS.

In part, the Khashoggi affair has captured the world’s attention because of its whodunit aspect. The possibility that his iWatch captured what happened has excited geeks everywhere, but the real importance of this tragedy is that the president’s* “the media is the enemy of the people” rhetoric has given a green light to dictators to kill their journalistic enemies. Heckuva job, Trumpy.

The only upside of the Khashoggi affair is that it has ended MBS’ reign as the IT dictator. There’s always one: even Bashar al-Assad had a brief stint as a Westernized IT dictator before he became the chemical weapons-using Butcher of Damascus.

The best thing I’ve read about MBS as the fallen Prince Charming is by Jim Rutenberg in the Failing New York Times:

The embrace between the American establishment and the leader known as M.B.S. was set to continue in Riyadh later this month at a business conference hosted by Crown Prince Mohammed. The sponsors, partners and participants of the conference — known informally as “Davos In The Desert” — included a number of media companies: CNBC, The New York Times, Bloomberg, The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times, The Economist, CNN and Fox Business Network.

With the exception of Fox, which is reviewing its participation, all of those organizations pulled out as the Khashoggi story climbed most-viewed article lists and drew cable coverage. The story’s popularity was helped along by its thriller-like qualities, which included the allegation that the journalist’s body was dismembered with the aid of a bone saw before it was removed from the consulate.

And suddenly the “M.B.S.” moniker took on a grim new meaning among the plugged-in set of Washington: Mister Bone Saw.

That sounds like a nickname that could have been used on The Sopranos. I doubt, however, that slain dissident’s corpse will be cut up at the Istanbul equivalent of Satriale’s Pork Store. Life continues to imitate The Sopranos even in the Muslim world.

There’s another worrisome aspect of this story: MBS’ close relationship with the Trumper Princeling, Jared Kushner. There are rumors of bribes in the form of Saudi loans to Slumlord Jared’s teetering real estate empire. Barrels of Saudi oil money can definitely grease the wheels in the most corrupt administration in American history.

These are tough times for those of us who believe in the Wilson/FDR/Carter emphasis on human rights around the world. Those three leaders did not always practice what they preached, but the Current Occupant could care less about human rights. John Bolton’s hobby as National Insecurity Adviser has been bashing and abandoning the UN Human Rights Council, after all.

All of the Insult Comedian’s comments about Saudi Arabia have been tinged with envy. He recently “joked” about America’s having a president for life some day. The idea of a hereditary Trump family dictatorship excites him even more than conning the suckers at his next campaign rally. He’s like a toddler with a new toy. One could say that we’ve gone from dictator coddlers to dictator-envying toddlers. Repeat after me: from coddlers to toddlers.

I eagerly await the next twist in the Khashoggi murder story. I dread the next twist in the Trump dictator coddling story.

Let’s close this post on a lighter note. The last word goes to The Beatles:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

UPDATE: The Saudis have their cover story. It looks as if they’re going to claim that Khasshogi’s died in an unauthorized interrogation gone wrong. Since Team Trump is applying the Russia Rules to the Saudis, the White House will buy whatever they’re selling even if the story is ridiculous.

The Kavanaugh Mess: The Curious Case Of The Last-Minute Op-Ed Article

I did not plan to write about the Kavanaugh Mess again tonight. The last piece was written on the fly. It was quite literally instant analysis: I wrote it in 30 minutes. Not bad for a rush job if I say so myself, and I do.

That blog post was written and posted before I heard about the latest weird twist in this dizzy drama: Kavanaugh’s Wall Street Journal op-ed article. This is yet another unprecedented development: Supreme Court nominees do NOT write articles defending their demeanor and judgment:

“I was very emotional last Thursday, more so than I have ever been. I might have been too emotional at times. I know that my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said. I hope everyone can understand that I was there as a son, husband and dad. I testified with five people foremost in my mind: my mom, my dad, my wife, and most of all my daughters.

“Going forward, you can count on me to be the same kind of judge and person I have been for my entire 28-year legal career: hardworking, even-keeled, open-minded, independent and dedicated to the Constitution and the public good. As a judge, I have always treated colleagues and litigants with the utmost respect. I have been known for my courtesy on and off the bench. I have not changed. I will continue to be the same kind of judge I have been for the last 12 years. “

The piece feels like a bad rush job. It weaves together elements from Kavanaugh’s opening statement at the pre-sexual assault allegation hearing with new material. It seems to have been assembled this afternoon as protesters swarmed about Capitol Hill.

The op-ed feebly attempts to address many of the questions that Judge Bro’s ranty testimony gave rise to. There’s not a judge in the country who would tolerate such behavior in their courtroom, including Brett Kavanaugh. Who among us can forget this exchange with Senator Amy Klobuchar:

The only reason for the last-minute op-ed is that someone needs help getting to yes. I’m done trying to read the minds of conservative Republican Senators, but Kav’s handlers wouldn’t have pulled this stunt if they had the votes. They might have them by the time of the cloture vote but they didn’t have them as of 7:30 EST tonight. I’m not getting my hopes up but the situation remains fluid. A friend of mine described fluid as my F-word.

This whole thing gets curiouser and curiouser each day. That’s why I call it the Kavanaugh Mess.

That concludes this episode of Instant Analysis Theatre.

The Kavanaugh Mess: W Is For Whitewash

Jeff Flake got what he wanted: political cover to vote aye on the Kavanaugh nomination. I hope Susan Collins writes him a nice thank you note: if she votes aye, it will reduce the odds of a primary challenger in 2020. Collins lives to get re-elected: she doesn’t do anything with the power she has as a Senator, after all. Collins has described the FBI probe as “a thorough investigation,” which means the country is thoroughly screwed.

The investigation was cursory at best, a cover-up at worst. Instead of summoning our “better angels,” the Kavanaugh Mess has shown American politics at its worst. As far as I’m concerned, Trumpism and sadism are synonymous. Adam Serwer makes the same point in an Atlantic article: The Cruellty is the Point.

It should matter that retired Justice John Paul Stevens has come out against the nomination. Former Supremes do not do such things. Unfortunately, it does not matter: all that matters is that Mitch McConnell has the hammer and he’s using it to damage the customs and traditions of the Senate. He’s every bit as radical as the president* he pretends to disdain, but serves oh so well.

It should matter that a Yale classmate of Debbie Ramirez is willing to corroborate her story on the record. It does not matter: the White House is the FBI’s client and they’re doing as they’re told. So much for the Deep State. W is for Whitewash.

I hope I’m wrong about tomorrow’s cloture vote but they appear to have the votes. Jeff Flake is Hamletting and Joe Manchin is hoping not to cast the decisive vote. As to Collins and Murkowski, the sham investigation has given them political cover. Change one word in cover and you have cower. That’s what these supposedly decent people are doing: cowering in the face of Trumpism.

The last word goes to the junior Senator from North Dakota, a woman who  knows the meaning of political courage:

Donald Trump Is A Criminal

I doubt if anyone is surprised that I think Donald Trump is a criminal. I suspect most of you reading this would concur. The post title is still totally beautiful as either a teenybopper or the Current Occupant would say.

The White House has dismissed the epic New York Times story as “boring.” A Trump mouthpiece has threatened them with a defamation law suit. Never gonna happen, my friend. You know the Times’ lawyers went over the story carefully since they proclaimed that Trump had committed fraud to get where he is today. The NYT has better lawyers than Trump; probably because they pay their bills.

We already knew that everything about Donald Trump is phony. The Times story verifies that his origin story as a semi-self made man is a big fat lie. Many of us never believed it but the proof is in the pudding. One might even call this a sticky pudding…

The work done by reporters David Barstow, Susanne Craig, and Russ Buettner is likely to win a Pulitzer Prize. Congratulations in advance, y’all.

The story is based on Fred Trump’s tax returns, which proves conclusively that tax forms matter;  as David Corn has put it for the last few years:

A tweet  from former Poppy Bush speechwriter and Commentary Magazine scion, John Podhoretz caught my eye yesterday:

That’s because he was, Poddy. He was a film noir villain who repeatedly bailed his dumbshit son out of trouble.

It’s unclear where this will lead BUT the game is afoot. The New York state authorities seem to be interested in following the money. Happy hunting.

Repeat after me: Donald Trump is a criminal.

The last word goes to David Bowie:

The Kavanaugh Mess: Red Red Whine & Prolific Pukers

The Kavanaugh Mess is hurtling towards a messy and unsatisfying conclusion regardless of which way the vote goes. There are contradictory reports as to how thorough the FBI’s background check reboot will be. There seem to be gaps in the investigation that make rumors of an early wrap-up unnerving. It is also possible that Kavanaugh and CBF will be the last people interviewed, which is how these things usually work. We shall see.

On the positive side, Vanity Fair’s Chris Smith reports that the FBI is determined to conduct a genuine investigation and that Director Chris Wray is just as likely to ask for an extension as to finish things up hastily. The attitude in the Bureau is reflected in the article’s title: The FBI Is Not Going To Be Donald Trump’s Patsy. Let’s hope so.

Charlie Pierce has an excellent piece about Kavanaugh’s background as a Republican ratfucker, Charlie’s conclusion lines up with my own: once a ratfucker, always a ratfucker.

 

That’s RF for Rat Fink but who among us can resist a well-executed cartoon?

I remain fascinated by how Republican men think that shouting = truth-telling. Brett Kavanaugh did a lot of the former and precious little of the latter last Thursday. The best analysis I’ve seen of his mendaciously shouty testimony is by Nathan J. Robinson at Current Affairs. He proves that, try as he might, Kav cannot hide his Lyin’ Eyes:

I know my affection for the Eagles is controversial in some circles but that’s a brilliant song, y’all. I may just raise my voice, Judge Bro style, if you disagree.

Speaking of music, I missed the UB40 money quote in the NYT piece about Kav’s college friend Chad Ludlington:

He said that the altercation happened after a UB40 concert on Sept. 25, when he and a group of people went to Demery’s and were drinking pints. At one point, they were sitting near a man who, they thought, resembled Ali Campbell, the lead singer of UB40.

“We’re trying to figure out if it’s him,” he said.

When the man noticed Mr. Ludington, Mr. Kavanaugh and the others looking at him, he objected and told them to stop it, adding an expletive, Mr. Ludington said.

Mr. Kavanaugh cursed, he said, and then “threw his beer at the guy.”

“The guy swung at Brett,” Mr. Ludington continued. At that point, Mr. Dudley “took his beer and smashed it into the head of the guy, who by now had Brett in an embrace. I then tried to pull Chris back, and a bunch of other guys tried to pull the other guy back. I don’t know what Brett was doing in the melee, but there was blood, there was glass, there was beer and there was some shouting, and the police showed up.”

This has led to much Red Red Whining about the unfairness of Kav’s barroom pugilism being the subject of public debate in 2018. The point is not that Judge Bro was a heavy drinker then, it’s that he’s lied about it under oath now. My hunch is that Kav thinks that if he confirms his boozy, boozy ways, more people will believe CBF’s story. That’s the problem with taking the categorical denial route.

FYI: UB40 has been engaged in an epic fight between the Campbell brothers over the band’s name. They might be willing to stage a re-enactment of this fight with Robin Campbell playing the part of Judge Bro. This song would clearly be involved:

Hmm, I wonder if Kav went after the man he thought was Ali Campbell because rumor has it that he likes beer, not wine?

Along the same lines, here’s a video the people at the Late Show with Stephen Colbert put together:

Back to Kavanaugh’s diminishing credibility. NBC News has reported that Kav knew about the New Yorker’s Debbie Ramirez story before it went public, and tried to organize a text message defense to the story. He told the committee that he didn’t know about the story until it was published. Once a ratfucker, always a ratfucker.

Remember Kav’s equivocation as to whether the character Bart O’Kavanaugh in Mark Judge’s book is based on him? The Failing New York Times has published a story that includes a 1983 letter that Judge Bro wrote and signed Bart. This Bro Epistle contains this memorable passage:

In a neatly written postscript, he added: Whoever arrived first at the condo should “warn the neighbors that we’re loud, obnoxious drunks with prolific pukers among us. Advise them to go about 30 miles…”

That’s a pistol of an epistle, y’all.

Finally, after several weeks of startling self-control by his standards, the Insult Comedian engaged in a bit of victim mocking last night in Elvis country:

This is disgusting even for this president*. It’s also harming, not helping, Kav’s kause as the undecided Senators have denounced these comments.

As if in a race to the bottom, Trump also implied that Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy has a drinking problem. Here’s hoping that Trump’s loose lips sink Kav’s ship.

There will surely be more developments over the course of the day. Stay tuned.

Repeat after me: Once a ratfucker, always a ratfucker.

The Kavanaugh Mess: Monday Roundup

I vowed to take a break from the Kavanaugh mess until mid-week but like Michael Corleone in Godfather III:

I would never, however, wear a brown cardigan. Brown is not my color and who the hell wears a sweater in New Orleans?

The Kavanaugh nomination remains in limbo. It looks as if irony is not dead: the White House appears to be “rigging” the FBI investigation. Don McGahn *is* Kav’s friend so we shouldn’t be surprised. The only surprise is that Kavanaugh speaks to a non-Ivy League lawyer. It’s tolerant of him.

This weekend, I had several discussions on social media about what Kavanaugh’s small lies mean. While a stack of small lies do not necessarily add up to a perjury charge, they do damage Kav’s credibility, which *should* be important to a Supreme Court Justice.

Having said that, I agree that Kavanaugh’s wide array of lies under oath should be part of the investigation. There’s even an article in Politico about that very thing. Small lies often lead to big lies. I’m more concerned with stopping the nomination than prosecution since several of the undecided Senators have said lying under oath would be disqualifying. Whether or not they mean it remains to be seen.

Speaking of Tiger Beat on the Potomac, they have an  interesting piece about GOP strategy. Kavanaugh is getting conflicting advice as to whether he should go on the attack or lay low. I think he would be wise to dial it back since the fix may well be in. A certain rumpled Fascist fuck is quoted as saying:

“There’s no walking this thing back,” Steve Bannon, the former chief White House strategist, said in an interview Sunday night. “You get Kavanaugh, you’re going to get turnout. You get turnout, you’re going to get victory. This is march or die.”

Everything Bannon says sounds like it’s out of a World War II movie such as Operation Burma or The Sands of Iwo Jima.. Brett Kavanaugh is a far cry from Errol Flynn or John Wayne. Now that I think of it, he carried on like Flynn and drank like the Duke. Party on, Brett.

Speaking of drinking, regular reader Carroll tweeted an article at me about Kavanaugh’s boozy, boozy ways.

In addition to the cool story, I can add Nando to my acronym collection. It sounds a bit like NANU NANU. I wonder what Mork would make of the cosmic clusterfuck that is the Kavanaugh confirmation process? It’s a real suspender snapper.

In other Kavanaughpalooza news, the Guardian takes a closer took at Kavanaugh’s relationship with the notorious Porn Judge, Alex Kozinski. Kozinski used to serve as a feeder judge to his mentor Anthony Kennedy until the Porn Judge deservedly fell prey to the #MeToo movement. Kavanaugh has denied any knowledge of Kozinski’s lewd and lascivious ways, which many, including Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, find hard to believe. Dahlia clerked on the 9th Circuit and was well-aware of what the Porn Judge was up to even though she did not work for him.

It’s time to bring this closer to home. My Bayou Brief publisher Lamar White Jr. wrote about the reaction of Gret Stet Senators Bill Cassidy and John Neely Kennedy to the Kavanaugh mess. Cue Groucho and the You Bet Your Life duck for the GOP’s magic word:

As far as I’m concerned, both solons are overcompensating for their Democratic pasts by being strident Kavanaugh supporters. My magic word is malakatude.

Finally, a tweet that popped up after the Ford-Kavanaugh hearing. Some dude noticed that Kav makes possum faces.

In Mark Judge’s book there was a character based on his prep school pal, so we’ve gone from Bart O’Kavanaugh to Brett Opossum.

It’s time for me to stop playing possum and give the last word to the greatest opossum in American history, Pogo:

The Kavanaugh Mess: It’s Over (Not Quite)

The mess itself is not over but the possibility of defeating the nomination died this morning when, predictably, the Senator from Arizona flaked out. There are a few holding out hope that Collins and Murkowski remain undecided but I am no longer among them. Absent a miracle, the confirmation fight is over.

There were several reports last night that a “gang of four” including the aforementioned GOPers and Joe Manchin plan to vote as a bloc. The first time I saw that I knew that Judge Bro would be promoted to Justice Bro. I feel sorry for the three women justices and even sorrier for the country.

Nothing that Judiciary Committee Democrats did or said yesterday mattered. The Senate has been fundamentally changed by Mitch McConnell, what the minority thinks no longer matters.

The fact that the American Bar Association wants an investigation does not matter either. Angry white men want one of their own on SCOTUS and they will get their wish.

The fact that Republicans applied criminal law standards of corroboration and reasonable doubt to what is really a job interview shows that they followed the Thomas-Hill playbook. The only difference was that Senators did not yell at Christine Blasey Ford. They let Brett Kavanaugh and Lindsey Graham do the yelling instead.

I’m feeling alternately angry and numb this morning. I put a lot into covering this story. I made the mistake of thinking that Senate Republicans would act like rational politicians looking at the next election. Instead, they put all their chips on promoting Judge Bro to the Supreme Court. The voters need to make them pay for their short-sighted thinking.

Even though yesterday’s hearing was as much Kabuki theatre as Kangaroo court, Michael F provided me with an alternate image. I hate to waste such generosity. Here’s the earless version:

Image by Michael F

The last word goes to Roy Orbison. We could all use some beauty in our lives right now even if it comes from a sad song.

UPDATE: As of 1:45 CST, Senators Flake and Murkowski are withholding an aye vote on the nomination unless there’s a one-week long FBI investigation. That’s my current understanding but the situation is FLUID and CONFUSING. It’s up to the White House to re-open the background check.

The Kavanaugh Mess: Act Two Instant Analysis

My earlier post illustrates the perils of instant analysis. Christine Blasey Ford (CBF) was such an outstanding witness that I let my guard down and became overly optimistic as to the fate of the Kavanaugh nomination. The situation remains fluid but committee GOPers regained their equilibrium after the second act.

It’s not that Kavanaugh was a good witness: he was not. He yelled and spent his testimony defending his resume, not his character. Initially, I thought his lack of judicial decorum meant that he expected to lose. It turned out that he was playing to an audience of one: a man with even less class than Kavanaugh exhibited today. Despite crying and refusing to blow his nose, Judge Bro seems to have held on to the president’s* support.

I’ve never seen a judicial nominee be rude to senators and act like an Insult Comedian Junior. Kavanaugh even insulted the personification of Minnesota nice; Senator Amy Klobuchar. Judge Bro realized he’d gone too far and apologized to her. Wise choice: she’s one of the best liked members of Senate on both sides of the aisle. I suspect Don McGahn pointed out that Klobuchar is fairly tight with Collins and Murkowski. The Alaska senator remains a possible no vote but I’m putting away my crystal ball. She will not be the only Republican to vote no, which only gets us to 50-50 with Pence holding the tiebreaker.

It was easy to see the belligerent drunk described by CBF and many others as Kavanaugh shouted his way through his testy tetchy testimony. Hardcore Trumpers loved his act and Republican solons seemed re-invigorated by all the nastiness. It’s hard to doze off when a red-faced bro is shouting at you, after all.

Other high points were watching Chuck Grassley lose his shit and Lindsey Graham pitch an epic hissy fit: Bless his heart. Since Republicans clearly regard women as dispensable, they dispensed with the services of prosecutor Rachel Mitchell during the second act without so much as a thank you.

Where do we stand now? Unfortunately, I think we find ourselves where we started the day despite the compelling testimony of CBF. Kavanaugh is damaged goods, but he *might* have the votes. Then, again he might not. I am no longer certain of the outcome. It depends on how Kavanaugh’s ranty testimony went over with the undecided Republican Senators. The ball is in their court:  one of them, Ben Sasse, sounded like an aye vote during the hearing. I already covered Murkowski: she needs Republican company. As to Jeff Flake, his fine words rarely translates into action but anything can happen in this political environment.

I still think the political damage to Republican candidates caused by the hearing will be severe. In any other time and place, the Kavanaugh nomination would have been pulled. But we’re in the Trump era where the shameless run the show and the majority of GOP solons simply do not care about allegations of sexual assault. You cannot shame the shameless.

While it may be an insult to kangaroos to call this hearing a kangaroo court, I asked my friend and colleague Michael F to “help a brother out” with an image:

kanga_roo_doll_1

Image by Michael F

The Kavanaugh Mess: Act One Instant Analysis

Christine Brasley Ford (hereinafter CBF) is a superb witness. She’s smart, emotional, wise, and absolutely credible. As a scientist, she is able to explain the science behind her own PTSD. As the husband of a med school professor, I am not surprised: they need to know how to present and explain things in terms that people can understand. Btw, I hate to fly but will do so if need be so I get what CBF said on that subject.

As to the GOP’s gambit to have Rachel Mitchell do the questioning, it’s a flop. The choppy format makes it impossible for her to get a rhythm going. She’s actually *helped* CBF’s credbility. That was not their intention.

Chairman Grassely is a blowhard and raging, gaping asshole. His incessant talk of procedure is off-putting and self-defeating Plus, he’s lost his shit more than once. The first time was with Minnesota Senator and former District Attorney, Amy Klobuchar. It’s bound to happen with Kamala Harris as well. I cannot wait.

I remain astonished that Republicans went ahead with this hearing. Even Fox News’ Chris Wallace is calling it a disaster for Republicans. As to the Insult Comedian:

I did not think they had the votes to confirm Kavanaugh before CBF’s testimony. Unless Kavanaugh gives the best performance of his life, nothing has happened to nudge undecided Senators to vote aye.

I’ve heard many people talk about the GOP’s willingness to commit political suicide over a Supreme Court seat. Nonsense. They’re politicians. Politicians always look at the next election. There is no way that the Turtle and GOP committee chairs are willing to cede power so Brett Fucking Kavanaugh can sit on the Supreme Court. Right-wing judges are a dime a dozen.

I can hear the knives sharpening at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.  Someone is going to knife Kavanaugh later in the day.

Stay tuned.

The Kavanaugh Mess: Like A Virgin

In the immortal words of Graham Parker, “I thought I was right, I was wrong” about a McConnell knifing leading to a Kavanaugh withdrawal to spend more time with his calendars. It remains unclear if they have the votes to confirm: Susan Collins seems to be snowed by this jerk but Lisa Murkowski appears to be genuinely undecided. In addition to concerns about Kavanaugh’s views on Native issues, there’s a huge #MeToo brouhaha back home in Alaska.

The post title is, of course, based on comments made by the skeezy nominee to Martha McCallum of Fox New who actually asked some tough questions:

We’re talking about an allegation of sexual assault. I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone. I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter. And the girls from the schools I went to and I were friends —

It was McCallum who dropped the V word:

MS. MacCALLUM: So you’re saying that through all these years that are in question, you were a virgin?

JUDGE KAVANAUGH: That’s correct.

MS. MacCALLUM: Never had sexual intercourse with anyone in high school?

JUDGE KAVANAUGH: Correct.

MS. MacCALLUM: And through what years in college since we’re probing into your personal life here?

JUDGE KAVANAUGH: Many years after. I’ll leave it at that.

There’s a logical fallacy in the Like A Virgin defense. It does not preclude sexual assault. It’s not uncommon for sexual predators to be “virgins” when it comes to consensual sex.

The other problem with the Like A Virgin defense is that Kavanaugh pledged Deek (DKE) and I suspect that virgins are barred by that rowdy fraternity. In a NYT story about the charges that Kavanaugh flashed and humiliated Debbie Ramirez, a schoolmate described the Supremes wannabe as follows:

One woman remembers Judge Kavanaugh’s wearing a leather football helmet while drinking and approaching her on campus the night he was tapped for DKE. She described his grabbing his crotch, hopping on one leg and chanting: “I’m a geek, I’m a geek, I’m a power tool. When I sing this song, I look like a fool.”

That’s a far cry from Boola Boola or The Whiffenpoof Song.

A fellow Yalie disputed the Like A Virgin defense on the tweeter tube:

Brett Kavanaugh lie? Never, he said in a voice dripping with sarcasm. Mendacity and sexual assault are two things he has in common with the sexist horndog who nominated him.

Speaking of the Insult Comedian, he went after Debbie Ramirez after being laughed at by the UN General Assembly:

“And [Ramirez] said, ‘well it might not be him’ and there were gaps and she said she was totally inebriated and she was all messed up. And she doesn’t know it was him, but it might’ve been him. ‘Oh gee, let’s not make him a Supreme Court judge because of that.’ This is a con game being played by the Democrats.”

The First Flim-Flam Man certainly knows about con games. His presidency* is an ongoing one, after all.

Ms. Ramirez is Puerto Rican. The fact that Trump attacked her is not exactly a surprise. Perhaps he totally confused her with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz. “Them people” all look alike to bigots like Donald Trump. Totally.

Another appalling Kavanaugh story popped up in the Failing NYT, the “Renate alumni” story. It involves high school yearbook comments by Kavanaugh and his krewe of drunken, rapey jocks. Here’s what an old pal and fellow original NOLA blogger had to say about this chilling episode:

A few more things about the Kavanaugh interview. First, it’s a sign of how worried GOPers are. Supreme Court nominees do NOT give teevee interviews. Second, Kavanaugh’s defense came off as robotic. It involved spewing out sound bites likely cooked up by former Roger Ailes enabler, Hannity pal, and current Trump lackey Bill Shine. Here’s one of them:

That’s right, Kavanaugh went from Like A Virgin to Like A Robot in one fell swoop, or in his case, one drunken stupor.

There’s one more aspect of tomorrow’s hearing that’s so squirrelly that they should give Judiciary Committee GOPers an acorn. They’ve hired outside counsel so Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, John Neely Kennedy, and their ilk have fewer opportunities to make Cavemanic comments.

The outside counsel, Rachel Mitchell, is an experienced sex crimes prosecutor in Maricopa County, Arizona. But here’s how Chinless Mitch described her:

A female assistant? What is she: a waitress? Does the Turtle plan to tip her? She’s an experienced lawyer for fuck’s sake. Can’t you lot even show some respect for a woman on your side?

Precious little is known about Ms. Mitchell. Josh Marshall unearthed an interview she did with a far right “fundamental Baptist” publication. Also, why a lawyer who prosecutes sex crimes against children? The hearing is not a trial, it’s a job interview. The only children involved are GOP solons.

I have a hunch that they were unable to find a woman lawyer in DC who was willing to do Senate Republicans’ dirty work. It’s time to recycle one of my favorite recent lines:

The last word goes to Madonna with a song that Brett Kavanaugh surely drank to during his Yale salad days:

INSTANT UPDATE: While I was writing this post, Michael Avenatti revealed the identity of his client and demanded an FBI investigation: