September 2018 Archives

Dear America,

As the world knows, a new allegation about, let's call it inappropriate sexual behavior has arisen against Brett Kavanaugh.  This time, allegedly, he just pressed his exposed penis against the cheek of a young woman at Yale during a drunken dorm party at Yale.  He didn't attempt to disrobe anyone...supposedly.  The woman involved, then in her late teens as a freshman at Yale, is now in her fifties, like the good judge, and she isn't quite confident in her memory of the event, though, it must be added, there don't seem to be first-hand witnesses who could share or refute her recollection.  Some classmates have come forward claiming that if the event had occurred, they would have heard about it--a dubious and presumptuous claim of social prominence that invites incredulity.  That's especially so in light of the existence of some sort of email chain among other classmates regarding the purported event and what are called "prior consistent statements" that have evidentiary weight when a witness is impeached regarding her account of an event.  To sum it all up, this is not hard evidence of misconduct, but it is significantly more than nothing at all as the Republicans would characterize it.

What is just as persuasive to me is information about Kavanaugh from his old friend, Mark Judge, himself an admitted reprobate, who has referred to Kavanaugh as what might be called a fellow traveler.  Judge says that Kavanaugh was in a group who pledged to consume a hundred kegs of beer while at Georgetown Prep, a school attended by both in the early eighties when neither had been of legal age to drink for long, if at all.  Judge has written auto-biographical publications that name Kavanaugh in the context of questionable personal values shared by the two, which doesn't mean in and of itself that Kavanaugh was the reprobate that his friend Judge was, but it certainly doesn't redound to Kavanaugh's credit that he was drawn to such a character as Judge confesses to have been.  And while none of this constitutes an air-tight case against Kavanaugh, the issue isn't whether he is guilty of anything.  The issue is whether he is of the kind of character we want seated on the U.S. Supreme Court, which gets me to my point.

When Clarence Thomas was being confirmed by The Senate in 1991, notably by the slimmest margin ever at that time, 52-48, much was made of the testimony of Anita Hill regarding Thomas's unseemly conduct while head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  My reaction to it all was that Thomas was an awkward guy who didn't know how to approach women, and he made some choices that may not have risen to the level of odious, but they were certainly inappropriate.  That wasn't disqualifying in my mind, though frankly, I didn't much like his politics.  What was disqualifying to me was that he lied during his testimony, not just about the events recounted by Anita Hill, but about other things he didn't want to talk about.  For example, he was a student at Yale--an interesting coincidence--when Roe vs. Wade was being discussed everywhere in legal circles.  But when he was asked about his opinion on the matter, he said he had none, and that he had never been involved in discussions about the case.  I don't see how he could have been at one of the two most prestigious law schools in the world without even inadvertently getting drawn into a conversation about a case that still gets discussed by every class that graduates from every law school in the United States to this day, if not in classes, at least informally.  What bothered me to the extent of disqualifying him for the Supreme Court in my mind was not that he was an awkward nerd.  It was that he was a liar, and presumably still is.

So now you know why I oppose the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.  He seems to have been an aspiring wild child, though if only these two incidents occurred in his youth, he didn't aspire too hard; Brett the nerd prevailed over his Dorian Gray side.  They certainly discredit him, but whether they should keep him off the Supreme Court is at least open to debate.  However, the fact that he is lying about it means that he is dishonest.  And if he has convinced himself that he is being wronged because these things have come out, which is what his denials suggest, he is intellectually dishonest as well, and that isn't a quality we want in a person we call Mr. Justice.   

Your friend,

Mike

Dear America,

Don't mistake what I am about to say for a judgment in favor of either side.  If the accusations of Christine Ford--I have excluded the presumably maiden/professional name Blasey as a redundant affectation like citing his middle name, Michael, when referring to Brett Kavanaugh--had been timely made to the police, Kavanaugh would have been entitled to the presumption of innocence just as Ford would have been entitled to file the charge.  But, like everyone else who is interested in this particular current event, I have formed an opinion...call it a credence predilection.   It's not so much a preference for one of the people involved or even a presumption of credibility.  We have a college professor and published scholar in a relatively obscure field accusing a federal circuit court judge who has been vetted several times as he has risen through the ranks of the federal judicial system.  A presumption of honesty and integrity seems natural with regard to each of them.  If none of this had happened...the publication of the accusation of sexual abuse, I mean...I would probably have bought a used car from either one of them, though Kavanaugh's "type" is less than appealing to me.

Kavanaugh is the son of a judge and a lawyer who represented a perfume industry advocacy group, which sounds an awful lot like a lobbyist.  In other words, Kavanaugh's father was an alligator in what Donald Trump refers to as "the swamp."  Of course, that wouldn't impede Trump's decision to nominate Kavanaugh as he has, rather than draining the swamp as he promised to do, restocked it with man-eating 'gators of his own ilk.  I don't know much about Ford at all, but she went to the same prep-school that Kavanaugh did, so her family probably traveled in the same kind of circles as Kavanaugh's did.  Neither seems like the salt of the earth, but neither seems like the progeny of patricians either.  I suppose I'm saying that I probably wouldn't be particularly interested in having either of them over for dinner.  Still, there is something about the Republicans' blind, subtle preference for Kavanaugh that I find disingenuous...something casuistic, and it's this.

While the Republicans insist that they want to be fair, their proposed elucidation of the issues favors Kavanaugh blatantly.  They have flatly refused to bring the FBI back into the process despite the fact that such an investigation as they might execute could produce sufficient evidence to make one or the other of them liable for perjury if he or she pressed on.  And notably, Ford wants such an investigation whereas Kavanaugh and his camp are intransigent in their objection to such a thorough inquiry.  Actually, I haven't heard anything in the way of a position taken by Kavanaugh himself, but sometimes silence is very informative.  In fact, in the face of an accusation the law permits an inference of admission.  Kavanaugh's silence on the issue of an investigation isn't quite the same as silence, but it leans that way in my thinking.

Ford, on the other hand, persists in advocating for an investigation, which suggests to me that she feels she has nothing to hide, and there is evidence that such is her true inclination, and it really is dispositive in my mind.  Ford could conceivably have a grievance against Kavanaugh to which she now wants to give vent.  Maybe she wanted him to invite her to the prom, or perhaps he just never looked at her with any sign of the admiration that her vanity demanded.  Maybe she just didn't like his "young Republican" veneer and his membership in the same fraternity that the Bushes were in put a cap on it for her that she finally has the opportunity to manifest in action.  But even if all that were the case, there is still this to consider.  If she is making this all up, why didn't she just say it happened when she and Kavanaugh were alone rather than naming a witness to the story, and not just a witness but a participant who would certainly do whatever he could to refute the allegation as it is against him too?  Why would she enlist an ally for Kavanaugh in the controversy rather than just make the claim and let the chips fall where they may?

Set aside my tendency to believe that women don't make things like this up as a general rule.  I'm not saying it never happens; there have been some famous cases of fabrication that wound up involving prominent people like that of Tawana Brawley and the intersession of Al Sharpton on her behalf.  Generally however,  all of the evidence demonstrates that women eschew these imbroglios; they don't volunteer to be dragged into them any more than they volunteer to be dragged into a dark room and assaulted.  So, I would say this to the Republicans: you are on thin ice.  Maybe you want to start heading back to shore.  After all, there's an election coming up.  

Your friend,

Mike

Dear America,

I want to be clear about this.  I have always known that Donald Trump was a reprobate and that he was in general morally bankrupt.  As I have said before, I am from New York and I am within months of the same age as Trump, so I have seen him prancing around New York City like the Sheik of Manhattan since he got hold of his father's money and business about forty years ago.  He has always been a narcissistic self-promoter, a braggart, a bully and the overall supercilious and conceited panjandrum of his own little fiefdom.  I have no doubt that there was fraud in much of what he did, especially in Atlantic City with the casinos that bore his name, and I wouldn't be surprised if that was just the tip of his criminality, but recent events have changed my mind.  He is not as harmless as the snake oil salesman that he has always projected himself to be.

Start with the anonymous op-ed piece in the New York Times that stated point blank that but for some adults in the White House, Donald Trump would have not just run amok, but ruined the nation with his petulance, willful ignorance and inadequate intellect.  Because it was anonymous, Trump and his sycophants could dismiss it with impunity regardless of the cogency with which it was written.  But just hours after that piece appeared, Bob Woodward's book--Bob Woodward of "All the President's Men"--was published and said exactly what the Times piece said, but in more detail and with attributions to various high ranking members of Trump's administration, including cabinet members.  Of course Trump's cadre immediately tried to tar Woodward and his reportage, but to what effect it is hard to say.  Woodward appeared on PBS and was interviewed by Judy Woodward, who actually pulled no punches when she confronted him with the Trump repudiations of his work.  But Woodward fared well.  None-the-less, Woodward's book, "Fear", disappeared from the news as quickly as it came, as did the anonymous exposition of Trump's imbecility in The Times.  As we have been seeing for about two years now, Trump is the teflon Donald when it comes to his base, and he is a master of slight of hand when it comes to the news media, who keep publishing his preposterous tweets even when they are patently false.

But just as all that was dieing down, Trump insisted that the work of the federal government in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria last year was an unheralded success story despite the fact that electricity wasn't restored to much of the population until nine months after the storm and thousands of homes with nothing but FEMA-issued blue tarps for roofs still hadn't been repaired.  And when a day later a report created by experts at George Washington University for the government of Puerto Rico revealed that almost 3,000 people had died of storm related causes--lack of medicine because of the electricity outages that interfered with refrigeration and the unavailability of proper hospital and other medical care for the same reason--Trump labeled it a ploy created by the Democratic Party to diminish him.  Like his tweets, the news media covered Trump's absurd claim that the report was a conspiracy against him, and while he should have been diminished by his attempts to cavil his way out of the criticism leveled at him and his administration, only time will tell.

But all that is just more of the same from our illustrious Don.  None of it should surprise anyone; I know it doesn't surprise me.  But what it does do is scare me, and I think a lot of people...even Trump supporters...are becoming uneasy with Trump's detachment from reality and worse, the impunity he thinks he has to redefine it.  That isn't just moral bankruptcy or even amorality.  That is quite possibly psychosis.

God help us, America.  This guy could be the worst thing that ever happened to our country, not because he is such a dolt, but because he is not sane. 

Your friend,

Mike

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