civic duty

This is one of the first things Dr. Christine Basey Ford said on Thursday:

“I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.”

Civic duty. I’m a big believer in civic duty, though it’s pretty much an outmoded concept these days. Civic duty is the notion that citizens owe some fidelity to the government, and in return that government helps and protects its citizens.

The government really asks very little of us. Pay our fair share of taxes. Vote. Obey the law. On rare occasion, serve on a jury to sit in judgment of a legal matter involving our community or a fellow citizen. That’s about it. Some of us accept more civic duty than is required. We serve in the military, we work for the fire department, we help out in natural disasters, we volunteer to feed the homeless and help the poor. We alert the authorities to information they need. Sometimes we oppose the authorities when they overstep their power.

“[I]n early July 2018. I saw press reports stating that Brett Kavanaugh was on the shortlist of a list of very well-qualified Supreme Court nominees. I thought it was my civic duty to relay the information I had about Mr. Kavanaugh’s conduct so that those considering his nomination would know about this assault.”

Civic duty requires an element of sacrifice. That sacrifice is why so many people try to avoid their civic duty. People try to avoid paying taxes, find ways to shirk jury duty, can’t be bothered to vote. They praise the military, but shun actual service because it can be dangerous, and doesn’t pay well, and disrupts their career plans. They blame the poor for their poverty and ignore the homeless. They turn away from the victims of crime or condemn them for being victims.

“My motivation in coming forward was to be helpful and to provide facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life, so that you could take into a serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed.”

Civic duty requires a sort of quiet heroism. It normally doesn’t call attention to itself. It usually doesn’t promote itself. In general, it simply involves the acceptance of the responsibility necessary to be a good citizen, and whatever sacrifice that entails.

But sometimes civic duty requires actual courage, actual sacrifice, actual heroism. Sometimes it demands more than a person wants to pay, more than it’s reasonable to pay. Those are times when we discover how sincere and genuine a person’s dedication to civic duty is.

Dr. Ford did not want to expose herself and her family to what she knew would come if she made her allegation against Judge Kavanaugh public.

“This was an extremely hard thing for me to do, but I felt that I couldn’t not do it. My hope was that providing the information confidentially would be sufficient to allow the Senate to consider Mr. Kavanaugh’s serious misconduct without having to make myself, my family or anyone’s family vulnerable to the personal attacks and invasions of privacy that we have faced since my name became public….

In August 2018, the press reported that Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation was virtually certain. Persons painted him as a champion of women’s rights and empowerment. And I believed that if I came forward, my single voice would be drowned out by a chorus of powerful supporters. By the time of the confirmation hearings, I had resigned myself to remaining quiet and letting the committee and the Senate make their decision without knowing what Mr. Kavanaugh had done to me.”

Here’s the thing about civic duty and civic engagement. You don’t do it for yourself. You do it for others. You don’t do it to improve your social status — most civic duty is pretty low status stuff. You don’t do it for money — civic duty doesn’t pay well at all. You don’t do it for attention — most civic duty is ignored except in times of crisis, and if you get any attention at all, it’s almost always negative attention.

“[M]y greatest fears have been realized and the reality has been far worse than what I expected. My family and I have been the target of constant harassment and death threats, and I have been called the most vile and hateful names imaginable. These messages, while far fewer than the expressions of support, have been terrifying and have rocked me to my core.”

You accept your civic duty because you care about things. You care about your community, your neighborhood, your town, your county, your state, your nation, your entire world. You accept your civic duty because it’s the right thing to do. You engage in civic duty to protect public values, sometimes to make a change, sometimes to prevent a change, but you always do it because it’s your responsibility as a good citizen.

“It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell you the truth.”

Dr. Christine Basey Ford is a good citizen. She’s a hero. She’s told her truth, whether you believe her or not. She’s been willing to accept the sacrifice of her decision. No matter what happens from this point on, she deserves our respect.

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but what if he didn’t do it?

Let’s just acknowledge this right up front: Judge Kavanaugh is screwed. Regardless of whether or not he actually sexually assaulted Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the guy is just flat-out screwed. Whether you support his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court or oppose it, there’s no getting around the reality that Brett Kavanaugh is totally and massively screwed.

Personally, I believe Dr. Ford. I’ve already written about that, so I won’t bother to repeat myself. I’m also opposed to Judge Kavanaugh’s elevation to the highest court in the land. I was opposed even before the allegations of sexual assault, and I remain opposed even if he’s entirely innocent of the alleged assault. I firmly believe his judicial decisions would be — and have been — moved as much (or more) by his political and ideological views than by the law.

That said, I have to acknowledge that the guy is screwed. No matter what happens now, Kavanaugh is absolutely and completely screwed. If he gets confirmed, he’s always going to be the SCOTUS Justice with an asterisk attached to his name. He’ll always be ‘Mr. Justice Accused Rapist’. If his nomination is rejected, he’ll always be ‘Judge Denied SCOTUS Because Rapist’. Even if he withdraws his nomination, he’ll always be ‘Judge Suspected Rapist’.

There is NO getting around that. Unless Kavanaugh can provide definitive, categorical, absolutely conclusive proof beyond any doubt whatsoever that Dr. Ford concocted her allegation out of thin air with the express intent to derail his nomination, there is literally nothing he can do to restore his reputation. Nothing at all.

If he’s innocent — IF he actually did NOT attempt to rape Dr. Ford when he was 17 and she was 15 years old — then what is happening to Judge Kavanaugh is terribly unjust and tragic.

I’m mostly okay with that. Not entirely okay with it…but mostly.

That’s a horrible thing to say. How can that be? How is it possible to be mostly okay with an innocent person being falsely accused of something horrible?

I’m mostly okay with it for these reasons. The unfair destruction of the reputation of one privileged rich white guy is small beans compared to the unfair destruction of the reputations of millions of women who’ve been sexually assaulted, then blamed for their own assault. The long-lasting shame and emotional pain Kavanaugh must feel IF he’s falsely accused of sexual assault is small beans compared to the long-lasting shame and emotional damage experienced by millions of women who’ve actually been sexually assaulted. IF he’s not guilty, the frustration and disappointment Kavanaugh will feel if his appointment is scuttled or tainted by this allegation is small beans compared to the millions of women whose lives and ambitions and dreams have been derailed because they were sexually assaulted.

IF Kavanaugh is factually innocent, then I have great compassion for him and for his family. Because he is utterly and comprehensively screwed, and there isn’t anything at all he can do about it. But if Kavanaugh is innocent, I’d argue he’s just another victim of a rape culture that’s been created, maintained, and perpetuated by him and people like him. If he’s innocent, it simply means rape culture has turned the table on him; it means he’s being victimized simply because he’s a privileged white man and his options are severely limited. Some would consider that poetic justice.

At the heel of the hunt, it comes down to this: if you think Judge Brett Kavanaugh is innocent, if you think he’s being treated unfairly, if you believe he’s being punished for something he has no control over, then the answer to the problem is pretty clear. The problem isn’t Kavanaugh. The problem isn’t Dr. Ford. The problem is rape culture. The answer is to work to destroy rape culture.

let’s be reasonable about this

It’s terribly, terribly important for Dr Christine Blasey Ford to be able to tell her alleged version of the alleged “incident” that allegedly took place in the alleged 1980s, but let’s be reasonable. She’s had three decades to prepare for this, so really, there’s no reason she can’t testify on Monday.

We can arrange for her to testify in the morning or the afternoon, whichever she prefers. We want to accommodate her. She can testify in private or in public, sitting or standing, it’s up to her. She can sit in front of us, she can sit behind us, she can sit off to one side, she can testify looking in a mirror if she likes. She can testify sitting behind a table, or standing behind a podium, or relaxing on a beach chair, or reclining on a bearskin rug, or swinging from a trapeze, if that’s what she wants. But let’s be reasonable, we have a schedule here, so it has to be on Monday.

She can testify wearing a sun hat, or behind a veil, or wearing a tiara, or maybe the Mask of Zorro if that makes her feel more at ease. We can turn the temperature of the hearing room up, we can turn it down, we can change the humidity, we can provide her with a folding Japanese kawahori-ōgi if that will make her more comfortable. But we must be reasonable and have her testify on Monday. Not Tuesday, not Wednesday, and Thursday is just impossible.

She can wear a mask during her testimony if she wants.

We can burn aromatic candles, or play chamber music in the background, or let her sit in a warm bath if it’ll help her relax while she testifies about her alleged sexual assault. We can give her a stress ball to squeeze, we can have a therapist massage pressure points on her feet, we can bring in a therapy koala to sit on her lap if that’s what she requires to be comfortable. But let’s be reasonable about this; she has to testify on Monday.

We will provide her with a fan, if that will make her comfortable.

We can hear her testimony in the Senate chambers, we can hear it the Gloria in Excelsis Tower of the National Cathedral, we can hear it on the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building (where Tom Hanks finally hooks up with Meg Ryan), we can hear it on the Orient Express on the way to Istanbul, we can hear it in the Jungle Room at Graceland, we can hear her testimony anyplace Dr. Blasey Ford will feel safe in recounting the intimate details of her alleged sexual assault. So long as it’s on Monday.

We will, of course, do everything we possibly can to oblige Dr. Blasey Ford. We want to be supportive. She deserves to be heard. On Monday. We’re on a tight schedule, you know, so let’s be reasonable about this.

But if she declines….

But if she declines our invitation to testify on Monday — if, despite all the concessions we’re willing to make, regardless of the many compromises we’ve kindly suggested, notwithstanding the various allowances we’ve offered — if Dr. Blasey Ford fails to appear at the hearing on Monday, we’ll be forced, regretfully, to consider her to be just another lying slut trying to destroy the reputation of a decent man. We’ve made every effort to be reasonable about this.

i trust my inner private investigator

Let me begin by establishing my creds. I spent seven years as a private investigator specializing in criminal defense. I had a contract with a public defender program and I helped defend people accused of serious felonies. Murder, armed robbery, rape, just about any criminal horror one person can inflict on another.

I have no idea how many rape cases I’ve worked. A lot. I have no idea how many rape victims I’ve interviewed. But I know this. In seven years there was never a single case in which I thought an adult woman making an accusation of any form of sexual assault was lying about it. Sometimes they got details confused, sometimes their accounts were jumbled, but I never ever had the sense that they were making it up. And remember, I was employed by the lawyer defending the accused rapist.

Seven years of criminal defense work has made me too cynical to accept the notion that women and girls never lie about sexual assault. People are capable of lying about everything. Earlier I specifically referred to adult women making accusations because I worked a case in which a girl who’d just turned 13 did, in fact, demonstrably lie about being sexually assaulted in order to get an adult in trouble. I also worked a case in which I suspected a teen-aged girl might have been lying.

So, just to be clear, in seven years of investigating I had one case in which I know an alleged teen-aged victim was lying and one case in which the victim might have been lying. I accept that it’s always possible that somebody claiming to have been sexually assaulted could be lying about it. But my experience suggests it’s incredibly rare, and I’ve never seen it from an adult.

Christine Blakely Ford has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her back in the early 1980s. He categorically denies it. My training makes it impossible for me to simply accept either account. One of them is probably lying. (I say ‘probably’ because sometimes the world is just flat out weird as fuck and almost anything is possible.)

I can think of no logical reason for Ford to lie about this. I can think of no logical reason she would have first told it as a lie six years ago in couples therapy, long before anybody considered Kavanaugh might become a Justice on the Supreme Court. I can think of no logical benefit or advantage Ms. Ford might obtain by lying about this.

On the other hand, it’s easy to think of dozens of reasons for Brett Kavanaugh to lie about it. It’s easy to think of dozens of ways Kavanaugh would benefit from lying about this. It’s very easy indeed to believe that the existence of a letter signed by 65 women saying they knew Kavanaugh during his prep school years and that he was a complete gentleman toward women — a letter obviously prepared prior to Ms. Ford’s public accusation — is evidence that Kavanaugh was seeding the field to bolster a lie.

Does that mean Kavanaugh MUST be lying and Ford MUST be telling the truth? No. It simply means there’s ample reason to believe her and almost no reason to believe him.

I keep hearing folks say Always believe the women. I can’t. I’d like to, but I can’t. Everything in my experience — everything in my experience — tells me that if a woman says she’s been sexually harassed or assaulted, she’s almost certainly telling the truth. Every day our culture reinforces that ugly truth. But despite all that, when I hear an accusation of sexual assault, my inner PI forces me to weigh the accuser against the accused.

I’ve done that in this case. And at this point my inner PI has arrived at this conclusion with a high degree of confidence: Brett Kavanaugh is a lying sack of shit.

o manafort, manafort! wherefore art thou?

Well, there you go. Mueller got Manafort. Major victory for the Russia investigation. The fifth and most important member of the Trump presidential campaign to plead guilty to criminal activity. This has GOT to be making heads explode in FreeRepublicLand, right? I mean, c’mon — Trump’s campaign manager? Surely FreeRepublic will be discussing Manafort’s decision to cooperate with the Special Counsel. Right?

So, first page of ‘Latest Articles’ and what’ve we got? There’s a post about Comrade Trump holding an event in Las Vegas — okay, so what. One about women getting tattoos of Ruth Bader Ginsburg — that’s cool. Two posts about something Trump tweeted about Obama saying he’d visited 57 states — sure, that clearly needs discussing. Something about the Dallas Cowboys having low ratings — probably because of Kaepernick. A post called ‘Hot Mic Catches Tender Moment Between Trump and Melania’ — I don’t even want to know what constitutes a ‘tender moment’ for Trump. But no Manafort. Maybe on the next page.

A tender moment.

Okay, page two. Something about Pakistan banning foreign cheese — who knew radical conservatives were fromage fanciers? A post about Ronald Reagan’s letter to his dying father-in-law — probably something inspirational; I hate inspirational shit. One about Trump ‘pushing back’ against his divorce lawyer, who is apparently writing a book about being Trump’s divorce lawyer — and Trump responds: “I’ve had nothing but victories, so it’s sad that somebody you can’t take to Washington for obvious reasons wants to write a book.” Not sure what counts as a ‘victory’ in divorce settlements, but okay. A couple of posts on the opponents to the Kavanaugh nomination — it appears they were loud and disruptive and not at all respectful. Maybe they should have just taken a knee? Still nothing on Manafort.

Imran Saleh and a 22 pound havarti in his artisanal cheese shop in Lahore.

Page three. Post about the Texas Board of Education removing Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller from history books — apparently a good thing because Keller was “a raving left-wing, flagburning Socialist”. Something about Trump adding still more tariffs on Chinese goods — yay America. An angry post about the Women’s National Basketball Association champions not being interested in an invitation to the White House — this is evidence that “leftists ruin everything: politics, sports, journalism, academia, the workplace, sex.” One about a guy in Little Rock who waved a ‘blue line’ flag outside a Nike shop — the ‘blue line’ flag is a ‘pro-police’ flag which I guess is a response to Kaepernick, because all politics are now about a quarterback who hasn’t played a game since New Year’s Day 2017. There’s a post about looting after the hurricane, and another declaring Kamala Harris will never be president, and still nothing about Manafort.

Some guy in Arkansas waving a blue line flag in front of a Nike shop for America.

Nothing on page four, nothing on page five, nothing on page six. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. It’s beginning to look like nobody named Paul Manafort actually exists in FreeRepublicLand.

Paul Manafort, Trump Campaign Manager & Felon

Until, at long last, on page seven of ‘Latest Articles’ we see this:

Manafort Implicates Tony Podesta — the Clinton-Connected Super Lobbyist

And this:

Now that Manafort has pleaded guilty, Mueller HAS to indict the Podesta Brothers

So nailing Manafort is only important because it possibly maybe inculpates the brother of the former chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign whose email account was hacked by the Russians?

Reading the comments in both posts, it’s clear that in the eyes of FreeRepublic the Podesta brothers, evil though they are, aren’t the real criminals. The REAL criminals who colluded with Russia are two noted communists, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

It’s been suggested Hillary and Barack also colluded with Sauron. And slept with orcs. Pre-teen orcs. In the cellar of a lembas pizza parlor in Rivendell. I mean, isn’t it obvious? But the Fake News will never report this.

 

life just be that way, i guess

Every so often, on a regular goddamn basis, I am reminded that The Wire wasn’t just the best cop show ever made, but a modern oracle for understanding These United States. The opening scene of the very first episode is the most concise, most hard-boiled, most accurate summation of how the world works in this nation.

Here is a True Thing, a thing The Wire gets right: Snot Boogie is always going to steal the money. Always, every time. But here is another True Thing, something that reminds you that The Wire is fiction: in real life, Snot Boogie often gets away with the money. Not every time, but often enough that snatching the pot and running is considered a business practice.

Maybe you should watch this before we go any further. Little over two-and-a-half minutes. It’s all there.

Delaware North. A privately owned global food service and hospitality company, owned by the Jacobs family, named for the location of its headquarters building on the corner of Delaware Avenue and North Street in Buffalo. Over fifty thousand employees, annual revenues of over three billion dollars. Three billion dollars. That’s serious coin.

In 1993, Delaware North won the contract to provide concession services for Yosemite National Park. We’re talking food, beverage, souvenirs — a sweet deal. But they lost that sweet deal to another company in 2015. That’s how the game of craps works, right? You make your point, you keep the dice; you don’t, the dice get passed to the next player. Delaware North is out, Aramark has the dice.

Well, that’s how it works in a fair game, even in a Baltimore back alley. Now imagine if Delaware North passed the dice, but said that in order to keep playing you had to pay them if you used the words ‘dice’ or ‘craps’ or ‘roll’ or any numeral from two to twelve. If somebody pulled that shit in Baltimore, his ass would get whupped.

But that’s basically what Delaware North did with Yosemite National Park. During the twenty-two years they had the concession contract, they began to trademark the names and images of the iconic landmarks inside Yosemite. They trademarked the name of ‘Curry Village’ and ‘Ahwahnee Hotel’ and even ‘Yosemite National Park.’ Hell, they trademarked the likeness of Half Dome. These greedy motherfuckers trademarked the phrase ‘Go climb a rock.’

Sorry, dude, can’t say that no more.

And when they lost the contract, Delaware North sued the National Park Service for trademark infringement, demanding US$50 million in compensation. That suit is still unresolved, but in the meantime the park decided to rename the hotel, the village, and some other sites. You can’t stay in the Ahwahnee Hotel anymore. Now you have to stay in the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. I mean, it’s just a name…but damn.

But wait…it gets worse. Of course it does. Everything gets worse in the Comrade Trump administration. About a year ago, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke created (and I am NOT making this up) the ‘Made in America’ Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee “to tackle some of our biggest public lands infrastructure and access challenges.” That’s ZinkeSpeak for ‘How to make rich motherfuckers even richer by letting them fuck with public lands.’

“Life just be that way, I guess.”

Guess who’s on that advisory committee? If you guessed Jerry Jacobs, the billionaire CEO of Delaware North, you’d be right. Only in the Trump administration would you find a greedhead like Jacobs, who is suing an agency of the Department of the Interior, formally named an advisor to that department.

Why is Jacobs on the committee? According to Zinke, he offers “unique insight that is often lost in the federal government.” That’s ZinkeSpeak for “Life just be that way, I guess.” Jerry Jacobs is what you get if you let Snot Boogie keep stealing the pot. So why do we even let him in the game?

“Got to. This America, man.”

in the box

They’re still burying John McCain today. They’ve been burying him all week. I don’t know when he’ll actually get put in the ground. For that matter, I don’t know that putting him in the ground is part of the plan; he may be cremated, for all I know. But the thing is, he’s been dead for a week — for seven full days — and people are still gathering to pay their final respects (or, in the case of politicians like Pence, McConnell, and Ryan, to fake their final respects) to the man.

Comrade Trump, of course, isn’t there. He’s off somewhere else, tweeting angrily about what a great president he is, and how unfair it is that he’s being investigated, and how nobody can be trusted or believed except him.

But knowing that Trump is alive and tweeting while McCain is being buried, an obvious questions comes to mind. Some day it’ll be Comrade Trump’s day in the box. Who’ll come to his funeral? Who’ll give speeches praising him? Who’ll be his pall-bearers? Who’ll weep uncontrollably?

How many ordinary citizens will wait in line for hours to look at his casket?