Originally Published: 9/22/2018
Brett Kavanaugh: Well, she came out, the writer of that letter. (TWW, Brett Kavanaugh, 9/15/18) She’s Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University in California. She decided that if this story was going to come out, she would be the one to tell it. She relayed the story and you can read it at the Washington Post. People who attended Kavanaugh and Ford’s prep schools have stepped up to say that the type of behavior alleged in Ford’s story was pretty typical. (Washington Post) And the turmoil stirred up by her story has re-introduced the issue of Kavanaugh’s stealing of documents (TWW, Kavanaugh’s History, 9/8/18). (Washington Post) By the end of the week public opinion was pretty negative. A USA Today/Ipsos poll found “an unprecedented level of disapproval” for Kavanaugh. 40% of respondents said the Senate shouldn’t approve him; 31% were okay with approval. This is “the first time a plurality of Americans have opposed a Supreme Court nominee since polling on the issue began.”
Christine Blasey Ford: Rightwingers wasted no time in their “blaming the victim” crusade against Ford. NY Times published the 5 most prominent accusations against her, finding 3 completely false, one misleading, and one “mostly false.”
Kavanaugh Friends: If you can judge people by the company they keep then Ford’s story rings true. Besides Kavanaugh’s longtime friendship with Mark Judge (below), a truly repulsive person, he once clerked for Alex Kozinski, a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals. Kozinski resigned last December “after multiple former clerks and junior staffers came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against him.” Kavanaugh “reached out” to Kozinski in his disgrace, saying he was concerned about his mental health. (CNN) He obviously wasn’t concerned about Kozinski’s actions, or the “mental health” of his victims, of which he had to be aware as his clerk. Last July Cyrus Sanai, an attorney representing “multiple” federal judiciary employees, sent a letter to Senators Chuck Grassley (R, IA), chair of the Judiciary Committee, and Dianne Feinstein (D, CA), ranking Democrat on the committee, stating that these people “would be willing to speak to investigators” regarding Chief Judge Alex Kozinsky and Brett Kavanaugh. (The Intercept) It seems that Kavanaugh probably wasn’t just tolerant of Kozinsky’s behavior. Amy Chua, a Yale Law School professor “who strongly endorsed” Kavanaugh as a “mentor to women,” privately told a group of law students preparing for interviews with Kavanaugh that it was “not an accident” that Kavanaugh’s female law clerks all “looked like models” and would “provide advice to students about their physical appearance if they wanted to work for him.” (Guardian)
Mark Judge: This is the guy who was with Kavanaugh during the assault on Ford (above). He is a journalist and an author. “In 2 memoirs, Judge depicted his high school as a nest of debauchery.” (You can read the details for yourself.) He admits to alcoholism. He wrote a memoir in 1997 and references a “Bart O’Kavanaugh” character who passes out drunk and throws up in a car.” (Washington Post) He wrote a piece for Acculturated.com which is a diatribe on how women should be treated. It ain’t pretty. He’s also a self-admitted peeping Tom “who demeans women and minimizes sexual misconduct.” (Media Matters) So, what does it mean when this guy vouches for Kavanaugh?
The Hearing: The Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled a hearing for Monday. (Roll Call) Ford said she’d testify if asked (Roll Call) but not until the FBI has investigated. (NY Times) Trump said that the FBI doesn’t have time to investigate (Politico) which is blatantly false. The FBI has the authority, especially if there’s evidence he lied to them. They can put him in jail for that. (Which is probably why they don’t want him talking to the FBI.) Nevertheless, committee chair Grassley said he will not delay the hearing (Guardian) and Mike Davis, the committee’s chief of staff, even tweeted that they were “unfazed and determined. We will confirm Judge Kavanaugh.” (Roll Call) Debra Katz, Ford’s attorney, requested a meeting with top committee members requesting a meeting to “discuss the conditions” under which Ford would testify. She suggested Thursday as a hearing date and wants assurances of Dr. Ford’s security. (NY Times) Grassley finally decided to give Ford one more day to respond to his offer for her to testify on Wednesday. (Guardian)
Déjà Vu: I watched the grilling Anita Hill got during the hearings to confirm Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court (Wikipedia) and I certainly hope that things have improved in the 25+ years since. However, it should be noted that 5 senators had been around back in 1991 and 4 of them supported Thomas. Senators Chuck Grassley (R, IA), Orrin Hatch (R, Ut), and Patrick Leahy (D, VT) participated in the Thomas hearings. (In fact, they were in the Senate in 1982 at the time of the alleged attack.) There were 2 votes: The first was from the committee to forward the nomination to the full Senate with a recommendation of support. The second was to send the nomination to the floor without a recommendation. Grassley and Hatch supported both votes. Leahy supported only the second. When the vote to confirm went before the full Senate, Grassley and Hatch were joined in confirmation by Richard Shelby (R, AL) and Mitch McConnell (R, KY). (Washington Post)
Rod Rosenstein: The deputy attorney general suggested in the spring of 2017 “that he secretly record” Trump “to expose the chaos consuming the administration, and he discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.” He was concerned that “the president divulged classified intelligence to Russians in the Oval Office.” (TWW, Easing Pressure, 5/20/17) (NY Times) Shortly after the Times came out with this, the Washington Post reported more information. It was a memo written by then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe (TWW, Security Clearances, 7/28/18; Violation of Recusal, 3/31/18; Andrew McCabe, 3/17/18; 2/3/18; FBI, 1/27/18; The Firing, 5/13/17) that disclosed Rosenstein’s concern over Trump’s firing of James Comey. (TWW, Comey Firing, 5/20/17; The Firing, 5/13/17) This will probably give Trump the reason he’s been looking for to fire Rosenstein.
Releasing Investigative Material: Trump ordered the Justice Department (DOJ) to declassify material from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, “threatening to spur a showdown with federal law enforcement officials resistant to publicizing information from an ongoing probe.” He also instructed them to “publicly release the unredacted text messages of several former high-level Justice Department and FBI officials, including former FBI director James B. Comey and deputy director Andrew McCabe.” Republicans have been calling for this information thinking it might discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. (Washington Post) According to Roll Call, most of the material refers to the FBI’s application for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to spy on Carter Pate, “as well as various FBI reports of interviews related to that matter including ones conducted with DOJ official Bruce Ohr.” Ohr, whose wife works for Fusion GPS (TWW, Trump Unhinged, 4/28/18), apparently had multiple conversations with Christopher Steele, employed by Fusion to compile the dossier on Trump. (TWW, Christopher Steele, 8/25/18; Nunes Must Go, 3/3/18; What’s in the Memo, 2/3/18; Fusion GPS, 1/13/18; Fusion GPS, 1/6/18; Opposition Research, 10/28/17; Emin Agalarov, 7/15/17; Trump Dossier, 3/4/17; Getting Ignored, 2/4/17; Trump Ties to Russia, 1/14/17) Response from the FBI and CIA was swift. Important assets and methods would be exposed. After bad press all week, Trump finally retreated. (Roll Call)
Russian Investigation: Have you been following all the stuff coming out about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election? And all the other connections between Trump and Russia? Yeah, me too. And it’s very confusing. But the NY Times put out a great timeline and it includes “parallel threads.” The piece points out that Russian president Vladimir Putin believed that Hillary Clinton was out to “undermine” his presidency. It also points out that as Trump locked up the Republican nomination he brought on new campaign aides “tied to Russia.” Guccifer is explained and the use of imaginary friends on Facebook “reached nearly as many Americans as would vote in the election.” There’s plenty more.
HUD: Trump’s penchant for rewarding loyalty over expertise has been picked up by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson. He appointed 5 people with no housing policy experience who had all worked on Trump’s or Carson’s presidential campaigns. “3 of them did not list bachelor’s degrees on their résumés.” Carson hired 24 lackeys but these 5 received huge salary increases within months of being hired. (Washington Post)
Britain: The rightwing Cato Institute has devised a blueprint for a free trade deal with the U.S. in light of Brexit. One thing that caught my eye is it is calling for opening up Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) to “foreign competition.” They are also calling for “foreign competition” in Britain’s education and legal services. And, of course, they’re calling for any such trade deal to require dispensing with consumer and environmental regulations. Cato prepared this for the Initiative for Free Trade (IFT), another think tank founded by Daniel Hannan, one of the proponents of Brexit. “The policy initiative was shaped in consultation with a group of other conservative libertarian think tanks on both sides of the Atlantic. . . These include UK organizations whose funding is opaque, such as the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) and the Adam Smith Institute among others in the UK, and others in the U.S. including the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.” (Guardian)
China: Trump is imposing additional tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods. The tariffs will apply to more than 1,000 products, “including smartphones, televisions, toys, and a range of other products.” (Washington Post) The tariff will be set at 10%, escalating to 25% on January 1st, and Trump said he is prepared to place tariffs on another $267 billion worth of imports “if China takes retaliatory action against our farmers or other industries.” (NY Times) China retaliated by announcing tax increases on $60 billion worth of U.S. imports, including coffee, honey, and industrial chemicals. (AP)
Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel removed Hans-Georg Maassen, head of domestic intelligence, after a public rift “raised questions about whether Germany’s security apparatus was too sympathetic to the far right to monitor its links to neo-Nazi groups effectively.” (NY Times)
Pakistan: Its supreme court ordered CEOs of major mineral water companies - Nestlé, Coca-Cola, and Gourmet - to appear before it “in a case regarding the alleged exploitation of water resources in the country.” One thing they’ll be looking at is whether mineral water has any minerals in it. “A lawyer for the federal government informed the court that the mineral water companies pay the government 25 paise per liter of water, while selling it for Rs 50 per liter.” The chief justice “observed that the companies making money from water get ahead while common people get left behind, adding that steps need to be taken to improve the lives of the common man.” (Times of India)
Yemen: More air strikes have killed dozens of people around Yemen’s Red Sea city of Hodeidah. The raids were conducted by Saudi Arabia “and its allies,” of whom the U.S. is the major one. “Nearly 10,000 people have been killed and the country now stands on the brink of famine.” (Middle East Eye)
Spending Bill: The Senate passed a continuing resolution to keep the government open through December 7th. But it was attached to a “massive budget package” that has funding for the Pentagon next year as well as for Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services departments. (Washington Post)
Earmarks: We banned them years ago but Congress couldn’t stand it, especially when it comes to the Pentagon, their favorite recipient of earmarks. So, they created a special fund and have been funding it ever since. Buried “deep inside the $674.4 billion” Defense Department (DoD) bill above, there is a line showing a $250 million appropriation for the Defense Rapid Innovation Fund (DRIF), a program that “quietly disburses scores of contracts every year.” This fund is the substitution for earmarking. DRIF, launched in 2011, will, with this year’s appropriation, have received a total of about $2.3 billion - money DoD never asked for. Most of the recipients of this money are programs that received earmarks. And, while the new system introduced competition into the process since people had to bid for it, “lawmakers, their staffs, and lobbyists have steered the outcomes toward politically connected companies to favor initiatives that were not considered important enough to be part of the Pentagon’s budget request.” (Roll Call)
Political Donations: The Supremes denied a stay, and lifted a temporary stay by Chief Justice Roberts, in a case brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) against Crossroad GPS, founded by Karl Rove, (TWW, Campaign Finance Reform, 1/11/14; Non-Profit Political Ads, 7/28/12; Citizens United, 10/23/10) and the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Effective immediately “anyone making more than $250 in express advocacy ads - ads that tell viewers who to vote for or against - must now disclose the identities of all contributors who gave more than $200 in a year. They must also identify who among those contributors earmarked their contributions for express ads. Because of this decision, the contributors for a major category of dark money spending this fall will have to be disclosed to the public.”
Refugees: Trump is going to cap the number of refugees that can be admitted to the U.S. next year at 30,000. This is the lowest number since 1980 when, at its creation, the cap was set at 45,000. Anti-immigrant Trump aide Stephen Miller wanted it set at 25,000. The Pentagon wanted it maintained at the current 45,000. (NY Times)
Coal Ash: Duke Energy, the largest utility company in North Carolina, wasn’t concerned about all the ponds of coal ash that could be flooded by Hurricane Florence. But then one of those ponds at the Sutton Plant gave way, releasing about 2,000 cubic yards of ash. This is enough to fill “roughly 180 dump trucks.” The Sutton coal-fired plant was retired in 2013. (NBC) In 2015 Duke Energy was sentenced to pay a $102 million fine after pleading guilty to 9 violations of the Clean Water Act for a record-breaking coal ash spill. (Justice Department) Coal Ash contains mercury, arsenic, and other toxic substances. (NY Times) Yesterday Duke shut down a plant near Wilmington “after a dam breach between 100 and 200 feet wide, at the south end of Sutton Lake, allowed floodwaters to swamp 2 basins containing huge stockpiles of arsenic-laced ash.” (NY Times)
Pig Waste: Lagoons filled with pig waste overflowed after Hurricane Florence hit. “Because of the storm, at least 110 lagoons in the state have either released pig waste into the environment or are at imminent risk of doing so.” North Carolina has 9.7 million pigs that produce 10 billion gallons of manure annually. (NY Times) That’s a lot of sh*t.
Toxic Sites: In addition to the coal ash and pig waste sites (above), other toxic sites in the Carolinas include more than 70 high-priority Superfund hazardous waste sites and more than 1,000 sites where toxic chemicals are used or stored. (NY Times)
Air Pollution & the Fetus: A UK study has found that air pollution passes from pregnant women’s lungs to the placenta. Researchers detected tiny particles of carbon, “typically created by burning fossil fuels,” after “5 nonsmoking mothers living in London underwent planned caesarean section births.” (Independent)
Healthcare Mergers: Cigna, one of our largest health insurers, has been given the okay by DOJ Antitrust Division to merge with Express Scripts, a major pharmacy benefit manager. The $52 billion deal was just one of 2 proposed such mergers. Last December Aetna announced its plans to merge with CVS in a $69 billion deal. (TWW, CVS, 12/9/17) DOJ is still reviewing that one. (NY Times)