Lights Out.

Lights Out.

Lights Out.

Yesterday, Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as America’s 114th Supreme Court Justice. This took place despite all of the following:

  • A confirmation process that appeared rushed by Republicans at every step
  • President Trump declaring 90% of Kavanaugh’s legal writings  to be covered by “executive privilege” and therefore unviewable by the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Five women expressing a willingness to testify under oath that Kavanaugh had behaved in a sexually inappropriate way toward them – including accusations of gang rape
  • Only one of those women, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, testifying to the Senate under oath, despite death threats against her and her family
  • Fox News and President Trump declaring immediately after Ford’s testimony that she was very credible
  • Republicans forcing Ford’s and Kavanaugh’s testimony to be merely a “he said/she said” by refusing to allow a thorough FBI investigation before they testified: such an investigation could have added valuable facts to help corroborate one side or the other
  • Kavanaugh telling the Senate Judiciary Committee numerous lies under oath, according to many who knew him during the era in question, including former roommate James Roche, and former classmates Charles “Chad” LudingtonLynn Brookes and Liz Swisher. Such false statements under oath before the U.S. Senate constitute perjury – a prosecutable federal crime that should absolutely be a disqualifier for a Supreme Court seat. Most notably, Kavanaugh denied ever having had so much to drink that he couldn’t remember his actions, and gave clearly misleading testimony about the meanings of terms that he had used in his high school yearbook around the time of Ford’s assault
  • Kavanaugh’s proclamation that he was a victim of a smear campaign to avenge Hillary Clinton – a highly partisan statement that raises questions about his ability to be an impartial Supreme Court Justice
  • Republicans trying to avoid any FBI investigation into these allegations until they were forced by a reluctant Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to allow one
  • An FBI investigation that:
    • Was limited in subject matter by the White House solely to the Ford assault and allegations by one other woman, Deborah Ramirez – not any of the other women who had come public
    • Was limited in scope by the White House to a handful of pre-specified witnesses: numerous individuals were not allowed to be interviewed, despite having relevant information, and despite the fact that many were making every effort to provide the FBI with their testimonies
    • Did not include FBI interviews with the key individuals, Kavanaugh and Ford: their Senate testimonies had to be considered their interviews
    • Could not look at Kavanaugh’s drinking habits, information about which might have helped corroborate part of Ford’s story and uncover additional evidence, and which would also have likely proven that Kavanaugh had perjured himself before the Senate
    • Was limited by the White House to no more than a week – apparently an unnecessary constraint because, with so few witnesses allowed to be interviewed, the FBI completed their report more than a day early
  • Republicans proclaimed this to a legitimate and sufficient investigation, despite its clear deficiencies and despite protests by Democrats

Senators who voted for Kavanaugh conceded that “something” happened to Dr. Ford, but placated themselves and their constituents with the pathetic and insulting claim that she must have just been confused, because it could not possibly have been Brett Kavanaugh. After all, he sounded genuinely upset during his testimony, and he went to Yale.

Yesterday was a dark, dark day for women, a dark day for justice, a dark day for America, and a dark signal for what the future holds. Kavanaugh’s nomination was a grotesque slap in the face to the legitimacy of our political process and to basic decency and morality. Admittedly this is one of hundreds by the Trump Administration and its Republican enablers, but this one somehow seems much uglier. Perhaps it is compounded by the President’s mocking of Christine Blasey Ford at a recent rally, to the gleeful cheers of his supporters. This is where we are at as a nation.

I’ve concluded – perhaps late in the game – that social media posts, participating in protests, and writing this blog are in large part a waste of time and energy. For those who oppose Trump, these activities are merely comforting self-reinforcement. For those who support Trump, these actions do not convince, but rather provide inspiration and a fresh supply of kindling, reassuring them that they are getting under the skin of the weak and overly sensitive “snowflakes” that they blame for their hardships. And for those who might be swayed, these actions are all little more that annoying background noise.

My political energy therefore will now be spent door knocking, phone banking, and doing other activities to help Democratic candidates for the House and Senate – particularly those who are in tough races – between now and November. I intend to keep my emotions in check, be polite and respectful to all whom I encounter, and disengage quickly and cordially from those who clearly cannot be convinced so that my time is not wasted. I hope to see you out there too. Time to leave the screen.

Lights out.

– rob rünt

Brett Kavanaugh: Parties and Perjury

Brett Kavanaugh: Parties and Perjury

Brett Kavanaugh: Parties and Perjury

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee spent several hours questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh about a sexual assault that Dr. Ford alleged took place in 1982. Ford’s painful testimony of a “stumbling drunk,” hysterically laughing Brett Kavanaugh pushing her onto a bed, groping her, and putting his hand over her mouth so she couldn’t scream came across as deeply moving and highly credible to any objective observer. Kavanaugh responded fiercely with a pained testimony of his own, portraying himself as a victim of a Democratic smear campaign seeking to avenge Hillary Clinton.

At the last minute on Friday, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) called for what Senate Democrats had been urging throughout the hearing: an FBI investigation into Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh, rather than needlessly forcing the situation to remain merely a “he said/she said.” President Trump, lacking the Senate votes to push Kavanaugh through, relented and called for a brief FBI investigation that would be “limited in scope.” Close to the same time, an alleged witness to the drunken sexual assault – Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge – agreed to be interviewed privately by law enforcement.

Kavanaugh now faces the possibility of multiple criminal charges.

First, there is no statute of limitations for sexual assault in Maryland, meaning that Christine Blasey Ford could potentially bring criminal charges against Kavanaugh if she wishes. Realistically, after 36 years, it would be very difficult to successfully prosecute such a case in a court of law, even after the completed FBI investigation. Those present at the party (other than Kavanaugh, Judge and Ford) likely have no recollection of what for these other party-goers was just another small, run-of-the-mill teenage party of many that happened regularly in the area. And Judge, being a potential accomplice to the crime, and who also has admitted in his book to having engaged in drinking to excess, is unlikely to provide any valuable corroborating testimony beyond “I don’t remember anything.” The same dynamic would likely be the case for any investigations of pubic allegations against Kavanaugh by two other women, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick.

However, far more recently and with millions of television viewers as witnesses, Kavanaugh may well have committed the federal crime of perjury numerous times before Congress in his testimony on Thursday. Beyond the possibility of lying under oath about the assault on Ford, he made several far more easily provable or disprovable statements.

Kavanaugh was asked several times if he ever drank to the point that he couldn’t remember the next day what he had done. He said that he had not. Several people who knew him at the time have disputed that. Among them:

Lynn Brookes:
(Yale classmate of Kavanaugh and college roommate of Deborah Ramirez)
“There is no doubt in my mind that while at Yale, he was a big partier, often drank to excess, and there had to be a number of nights where he does not remember. In fact, I was witness to the night that he got tapped into that fraternity, and he was stumbling drunk, in a ridiculous costume, saying really dumb things, and I can almost guarantee that there’s no way that he remembers that night … drinking to excess was a big thing on Saturday night, so it wasn’t every night…there were a lot of e-mails and a lot of texts flying around about how he was lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
(CNN interview – 9/27/18)

Liz Swisher:
(Yale classmate of Kavanaugh)
“I’ve known Brett since the very beginning of freshman year. He was always one of the beer drinking boys, and I drank beer with him. I liked beer. There’s no problem with drinking beer in college. The problem is lying about it. He drank heavily. He was a partier. He liked to do beer bongs. He played drinking games. He was a sloppy drunk … I don’t think many of his answers were credible … I would have stayed on the sidelines if he had said ‘I drank to excess in high school, I drank to excess in college, I did some stupid things, but I never sexually assaulted anybody.’ That I would have stayed on the sidelines for – I didn’t have any credible evidence to the contrary. But to lie under oath, to lie about that, then what else is true?”
(CNN interview – 9/28/28)

An unnamed Yale classmate of Kavanaugh who spoke with the New Yorker also recalled that Kavanaugh belonged to a social group that often drank to excess, and that while Kavanaugh was normally “relatively shy,” he would become “aggressive and even belligerent” when he was drunk.

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High school era photos: Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey ((Ford)

Then there are the references on Brett Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook page – the relevance of which has been laughed off by Republicans, despite the fact that they give insight into Kavanaugh’s mindset, lifestyle and behavior at the time of the alleged assault on Ford. Kavanaugh was not asked about being part of the “Keg City Club (Treasurer) – 100 Kegs or Bust” (“100 Kegs or Bust” was listed on Mark Judge’s yearbook page as well – an apparent pledge by the high school seniors to drink 100 kegs of beer that year) or Kavanaugh’s unattributed quote: “He that would live in peace and at ease must not speak all he knows, nor JUDGE all he sees,” which one could interpret as an allusion to things that he and Mark Judge may have done together.

However, Kavanaugh was asked under oath about several other references on his yearbook page, to which he gave misleading answers:

Renate Alumnius:
This was listed on a number of yearbook pages of boys at Kavanaugh’s high school, Georgetown Prep. Kavanaugh admits that this is a reference to a girl at a neighboring Catholic girl’s high school. High school classmates of Kavanaugh told the New York Times that it was a disrespectful, boasting reference to (unsubstantiated) sexual conquests of some of the football players. Kavanaugh asserted under oath that it was meant to be a sign of respect to communicate that she was “one of us.” He said that he regrets that a “media circus” has portrayed it as anything else. The woman in question, when informed of the yearbook references, described them as “hurtful.”

Ralphing:
Kavanaugh mentioned in his yearbook that he was part of the “Beach Week Ralph Club – Biggest Contributor.” According to the Chicago Tribune, Mark Judge describes Beach Week as “an annual drunken vacation of private school pals convened as soon as school ended, a week earlier than public schools.” The week-long party involved male and female students. Urban Dictionary describes ralphing as throwing up, so it is reasonable to interpret Kavanaugh’s yearbook entry to mean that his degree of alcohol consumption resulted in him throwing up more than anyone else at Beach Week. Kavanaugh told the Senate under oath that this was not due to excessive drinking, but rather due to his sensitive stomach.

Devil’s Triangle:
The Urban Dictionary describes a “Devil’s Triangle” as a threesome with two males and one female – the exact scenario that Christine Blasey Ford describes Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge having tried to force her into against her will. Kavanaugh stated under oath that it was a reference to a drinking game, like “quarters.” It should be noted that, immediately after Kavanaugh’s testimony, this “drinking game” definition also began appearing on Urban Dictionary, which accepts public input to stay current. This definition had not been there before that.

Boofing:
Kavanaugh wrote on his high school yearbook page “Judge – Have You Boofed Yet?” Mark Judge similarly wrote on his yearbook page “Bart, have you boofed yet?” (Bart appears to have been a nickname that Kavanaugh was referred to due to a teacher’s mispronunciation of his name.) When I was in high school in the 1980s, around the same time as Kavanaugh, “boofing” referred to anal sex. This is also one of the definitions provided by Urban Dictionary, although it can also apparently refer to putting illicit substances in one’s anus. It should be noted that Kavanaugh is a Catholic, and many Catholics believe that one can have anal sex and still consider themselves a “virgin.” Kavanaugh stated under oath that “boofing” was another word for farting – a definition that I had never heard until his testimony.

Whether or not the horrific act against Christine Blasey Ford or any of the other women can be proven, all of these other minor but important inconsistencies in Kavanaugh’s testimony are likely to be revealed in the course of the FBI’s investigation this week. As Kavanaugh’s Yale classmate Liz Swisher said, “there’s no problem with drinking beer in college: the problem is lying about it.” Lying under oath to Congress is a federal crime, and numerous parts of Kavanaugh’s testimony to Congress appear to have been deliberately misleading, regardless of his guilt or innocence in the alleged sexual assaults. Kavanaugh may or may not be prosecuted, but at the very least, he should not be rewarded for perjury by being appointed to the Supreme Court.

– rob rünt

Why Donald Trump Will Be Impeached and May Go To Prison

Why Donald Trump Will Be Impeached and May Go To Prison

Why Donald Trump Will Be Impeached and May Go To Prison

The appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel is the first glimmer of hope in many months that our system of government may still be able to function. Vice President Mike Pence and the Republican US House and Senate, faced with months of overwhelming daily evidence that our President is unfit for office, have merely looked at their shoes and whistled nervously, rather than taking the action that the Constitution provides under such circumstances. They have put craven partisanship and their own political agendas ahead of the well-being of the nation in a deeply reckless way.

Robert Mueller is a virtual guarantee that Donald Trump will be impeached. While there are many reasons why the President might or should be impeached – some already public knowledge and some yet to be revealed – there is one reason that impeachment is an absolute certainty: the President lies – regularly, clumsily, impulsively, uncontrollably, “bigly,” and without consideration of the consequences.

During Mueller’s investigation, Donald Trump will almost certainly be questioned by the FBI. After the first question is asked, Trump’s lips will begin to move. And then he will be asked another question, and his lips will move again …

Lying to the FBI is a felony.

Before or after the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation, there will also likely come a point when intensifying public pressure results in the President being called to testify before Congress. If he does so, he will be put under oath. He will be asked a question. And his lips will begin to move. And then he will be asked another question, and his lips will move again …

Lying to Congress is a felony.

The End.

 

– rob rünt

Questions Raised by the Jeff Sessions Controversy

Questions Raised by the Jeff Sessions Controversy

 


Questions Raised by the Jeff Sessions Controversy

On January 10, 2017, US Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) answered questions from Congress to determine whether he should be confirmed as US Attorney General. During that confirmation hearing, US Senator Al Franken (D-MN) asked Sessions the following question:

“CNN just published a story alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the President-Elect last week that included information that quote ‘Russian operatives claimed to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.’ These documents also allegedly say quote ‘there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government’ – again, I’m telling you this as it’s coming out so – you know, but if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious, and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump Campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”

Sessions’ response was given under oath:

“Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”

As a result of that confirmation hearing, Jeff Sessions became the United States Attorney General. It was later determined that, while serving as the Trump Campaign’s top national security adviser, Sessions had actually met twice with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, considered by the US intelligence community to be a Russian spy and recruiter of spies, according to CNN. One of these meetings between Sessions and Kislyak was at the Republican National Convention where Trump was nominated as the Republican Party’s candidate for President.

The most benign, charitable interpretation of Sessions’ response to Franken was that he did not fully understand the question. A less kind interpretation is that he was intentionally lying, and there are multiple possibilities in between.

As Attorney General, Sessions should theoretically be in charge of the investigation into the Trump Campaign’s ties to Russia. Thankfully, Sessions was aware of the conflict that he had created with his nondisclosure and recused himself (removed himself) from being in charge of the investigation. Yet questions remain.

  1. Was this an honest misunderstanding of Senator Franken’s question, or did Senator Sessions knowingly lie under oath to Congress, which would be perjury – a felony?
  2. If this was truly an honest mistake, Sessions’ memory would surely have been jogged during the following weeks when President Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn made headlines as he resigned for not disclosing his own meetings with the same Russian diplomat. Why, during those subsequent weeks, did Sessions not correct the record? Why did he wait for Department of Justice officials to disclose their knowledge of the Sessions-Kislyak conversations?
  3. During his hearing to become US Attorney General (the US government’s chief law enforcement officer) if Sessions did knowingly lie to Congress, or knowingly continued to conceal the truth once he realized his omission, should he nonetheless continue on as Attorney General, or does his unethical and potentially criminal conduct warrant his resignation?
  4. What did Sessions and Kislyak discuss in their conversations? During the Republican National Convention, the Trump Campaign’s only contribution to the Republican Party Platform was a softening of US policy toward Russia over Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Did the Kislyak-Sessions discussion at the Convention touch on that topic at all? In what way? If they discussed that, or the Trump Campaign, or policy ideas for a Trump Presidency, that is worrisome and unethical at best and requires intense scrutiny. If they discussed anything related to Hillary Clinton’s e-mails or Russia’s desire/efforts to sabotage her Campaign, that could potentially call into question the legitimacy of the entire Trump Presidency, because it could possibly show coordination between Russia’s actions and the Trump Campaign. It would also warrant even closer scrutiny of contacts that others in Trump’s orbit had with Russians, and could lead to criminal charges.
  5. What safeguards will the Department of Justice have in place to ensure that the Trump Administration is not tipped off about what evidence has been compiled in the investigation into connections between the Trump Campaign and Russia or between the Trump Administration and Russia?

Sessions is scheduled to return to the Senate to testify further on Monday 3/6 in order to clarify his earlier answers. Hopefully questions similar to those above will be asked to shed more light on the situation.

– rob rünt


February 27 – March 5, 2017

February 27 – March 5, 2017

 


Articles & Editorials:


Main Stories


Russia and Wilbur Ross, US Secretary of Commerce

New Commerce Secretary at Nexus of Lucrative Trump Russia Deal (21:44)
This is a must-watch. If you check out nothing else on this site this week, this story is huge.
(MSNBC – 2/27/17)

Two Trump Companies Discovered in Cyprus, EU’s Russian Off-Shore Banking Haven
(Huffington Post – 12/19/16, Updated 3/2/17)

Here’s Another Trump Cabinet Pick With Close Financial Ties to Russians
(Mother Jones – 12/19/16)


Russia and the Trump Campaign

Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking
(New York Times – 3/1/17)


Russia and Jeff Sessions, US Attorney General

Sessions Met With Russian Envoy Twice Last Year, Encounters He Later Did Not Disclose
(Washington Post – 3/1/17)

Jeff Sessions Denials of Contact With Russians are Falling Apart Quickly
(Washington Post – 3/2/17)

Six Times Sessions Talked About Perjury, Access, and Special Prosecutors – When It Involved the Clintons
(Washington Post – 3/2/17)

“Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, is considered by US intelligence to be one of Russia’s top spies and spy-recruiters in Washington, according to current and former senior US government officials.”

CNN, regarding the Russian individual who met with recently resigned National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions
(CNN – 3/2/17)

 

Jeff Sessions Recuses Himself from Russia Inquiry
(New York Times – 3/2/17)

Meet the Russian Diplomat at the Center of the Sessions Controversy
(The Hill – 3/3/17)

Why Would Jeff Sessions Hide His Talks With Sergey Kislyak?
(New Yorker – 3/3/17)


Yemen Raid

Trump Passes Blame for Yemen Raid to His General: “They Lost Ryan”
(Washington Post – 2/28/17)

Yemen SEAL Raid Has Yielded No Significant Intelligence: Officials
(NBC News – 2/28/17)

Slain SEAL’s Dad Wants Answers: “Don’t Hide Behind My Son’s Death”
(Miami Herald – 2/26/17)


Other Stories That You Should Know About:


Healthcare

Trump: “Nobody Knew Healthcare Could Be So Complicated”
(The Guardian – 2/27/17)


Trump’s Mental health

Trump Says Obama is Helping to Organize Protests Against His Presidency
(Washington Post – 2/28/17)

Trump Accuses Obama of ‘Nixon/Watergate’ Wiretap – But Offers No Evidence
(Washington Post – 3/4/17)

Posted on Twitter around 6am Saturday, 3/4/17:

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Lawmakers Stunned by Trump’s Wiretap Allegations
(Politico – 3/5/17)

White House Says It Will No Longer Comment on Trump’s Wiretapping Claims
(Huffington Post – 3/5/17)

Director of National Intelligence (2010-2017) James Clapper on Trump’s Allegations of Wiretapping by Obama Administration
(Meet the Press, MSNBC – 3/5/17):

 


Freedom of the Press

“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. We need an independent media to hold people like me to account. Power can be very addictive. And it can be corrosive. And it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”

Former President George W. Bush
Interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today Show – 2/27/17
(Full Article : NPR)

Trump Moves to Become Master of His Own Messages
(New York Times – 3/2/17)


Hate Crimes

He Yelled ‘Get Out of My Country,’ Witnesses Say, and Then Shot Two Men from India, Killing One
(Washington Post – 2/24/17)

A Sikh Man Was Shot On His Driveway And Allegedly Told, “Go Back To Your Own Country”
(Buzzfeed – 3/4/17)

In Day of Pro-Trump Rallies, California March Turns Violent
(Reuters – 3/4/17)
Editor’s Note: Much of the violence in the rally was committed and/or incited by people who came to protest Trump. When the anti-Trump people behave like this, it serves to discredit the anti-Trump movement, and increases the likelihood that future Trump protests may experience retaliatory violence from Trump supporters.


Keeping Track of the Basics:


Editorials


Trump’s Emotional Moment With a Navy SEAL’s Wife Could Define Him – For Good But Also For Bad
(Aaron Blake, Washington Post – 3/1//17)

Remembering a City Where Smog Could Kill
(Jim Dwyer, New York Times – 2/28/17)

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Alternative Facts from an Alternative Universe

Self-selecting our news sources, a reluctance to hear opposing ideas, and the choice by many of us to surround ourselves only with like-minded individuals has resulted in many Americans becoming oblivious to the beliefs of those with whom they disagree. This bubble helped create the world of “alternative facts” in which Donald Trump could become President.

To counter this, each week I will present a little of what Trump’s supporters are thinking. Their reality may be very different from yours. Please listen/read to the end, and consider what respectful questions you could ask to better understand and have a conversation, rather than seeking to prove them wrong as quickly as possible and shut them down. We can’t change minds if we can’t talk to each other.


I’m a Silicon Valley Liberal, and I Traveled Across the Country to interview 100 Trump Supporters – Here’s What I Learned
(Sam Altman, Business Insider, 2/23/17)


Cartoons, Images & Videos


Photo by Agence France Presse:

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Artwork by Illustrator Kieron Dwyer:

week-0009-170305-018


Posted by ImgFlip.com:

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Artwork posted on Facebook by Rob Brezsny:

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Published by Vox, Graphic by Javier Zarracina:

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Events & Actions

Two major nationwide protests coming up:

  • Wednesday, March 8, 2017: “A Day Without a Woman”
    Women nationwide will not be participating in work – at their jobs or in the home – to bring attention to the importance of women to the functioning of America. Learn more  here!
  • Saturday, April 15, 2017: “Trump Tax Day March”
    Americans across the country will be marching to let President Trump know that it’s not just reporters who care about his undisclosed tax returns – find your nearest rally here!

Resources & Organizations