Police boost security at Capitol amid tension over Kavanaugh
By MATTHEW DALY
Thursday, October 4
WASHINGTON (AP) — The impassioned fight over whether to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has led to heightened security at the Capitol, with some senators using police escorts to shield them from protesters eager to confront them.
Capitol police have arrested dozens of people in recent days for unlawfully demonstrating in Senate office buildings. Police have stepped up their presence in Capitol hallways, in some cases blocking news reporters and the public from approaching lawmakers.
Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who is a key undecided vote on Kavanaugh, was escorted out of a hearing Wednesday by three police officers. She ignored questions from reporters. Police later threatened to clear a public hallway outside her office in the Dirksen Senate Office Building and physically blocked reporters from approaching Collins as she left the office to return to the Capitol for a vote.
A spokeswoman for Collins declined to comment on her security detail.
The stepped-up police presence comes as senators — especially Republicans — have expressed unease over protesters who have confronted them at their Senate offices, restaurants, airports and even their homes. Personal information about some lawmakers also has been released online.
Capitol police said late Wednesday they had charged a former Senate staffer with posting private, identifying information about one or more senators on the internet.
Jackson Cosko, 27, of Washington, was charged with making public restricted personal information, unauthorized access of a government computer and other crimes. According to Legistorm, a website that tracks lawmakers and Capitol Hill staffers, Cosko worked for Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire from January 2017 to May 2018 as a legislative correspondent/systems administrator.
A spokesman for Hassan declined to comment Wednesday night.
Before the arrest was announced, Republicans discussed security matters behind closed doors earlier this week at a private lunch.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a floor speech Wednesday that senators will not be intimidated out of doing their jobs.
McConnell cited an incident in which Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was forced to leave a restaurant last week and said another senator “reported having protesters physically block his car door. And some have seen organized far-left protesters camp out at their homes” and offices.
“There is no chance in the world they’re going to scare us out of doing our duty,” McConnell said. He said the Senate will be voting this week on Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said there’s “a lot of unprecedented activity taking place” because of the pitched battle over Kavanaugh, who would likely provide the decisive fifth vote for a conservative majority on the nine-member court.
The FBI is investigating several allegations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh, including Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation that he assaulted her in high school. Kavanaugh has denied the accusations.
“People have been acting out in ways that really is inappropriate,” Corker said Wednesday. “The polarity we have right now and the way people are responding to it — let’s face it, the nation is very, very divided. People are resentful and angry.”
Corker, who is retiring in January after two terms in the Senate, said, “This is the worst it’s been since I’ve been here.”
On Wednesday, two women approached Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, outside the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room and tried to give him a statement opposing Kavanaugh. Hatch, who supports Kavanaugh, refused to take the paper and kept walking as the women shouted questions at him and asked why he was ignoring them.
The women declined to give their names to a reporter who witnessed the exchange.
The protests have been more than just an inconvenience for lawmakers. In at least one case, demonstrators appear to have had an effect on the nomination fight.
Last week two women confronted Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona in an elevator in a televised exchange that went viral. The encounter weighed on him, said Flake, who later forced Republicans to delay voting on Kavanaugh while the FBI conducts another background investigation.
Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.
OtherWords — Men: We’ve Heard About Assaults. Speak Up About Them.
Women who report assault deserve to hear that we believe them, and that we can back them up — because we’ve heard the other side.
By Bob Lord | September 28, 2018
The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation imbroglio shined a bright light on a terrible misconception: that the #MeToo movement is somehow about destroying the careers of powerful men.
Again and again, Kavanaugh and his defenders complained that the allegations were “ruining his life” or “his good name.” (Never mind whether he deserves it.)
This sort of entitlement completely erases survivors of assault. #MeToo is about those women, previously silent, speaking out so that America’s shameful tolerance of sexual assault ends.
Even worse, some Republicans appear willing to accept Kavanaugh even if the allegations brought by Christine Blasey Ford and others are true. To them, it’s unfair that something Kavanaugh did as a 17 year-old boy should impact his career 36 years later.
This is nothing less than open tolerance of sexual assault. To me, that’s unacceptable.
I suspect millions of men share my view. And we need to speak up — especially those of us who got a glimpse inside the world Brett Kavanaugh grew up in.
I grew up only a few miles from Kavanaugh. Although he was after my time, I knew lots of young men like him. As a college student, on more than one occasion I heard guys boast about their exploits forcing themselves on women, or recounting how multiple guys had taken advantage of a woman too drunk or too drugged to resist.
They didn’t see it as a crime they got away with. They saw it as a badge of honor. And they laughed, as Blasey Ford chillingly recalled of Brett Kavanaugh and his friend.
I’m ashamed to say I never confronted them. Deep down, I lacked the courage to do so. I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t let myself consciously recognize the violence associated with it.
That has to change.
Millions of men have heard, and continue to hear — in dorm rooms, frat houses, and bars — the drunken boasting of men who forced themselves on unwilling women. The men who’ve heard these tales must speak up, even if it’s years after the fact, even if they can’t, or won’t, identify the assailant.
Millions of women have spoken out about surviving these assaults. They deserve to hear that we believe them, and that we can back them up.
If man after man after man says not only that they’ve heard the tales of men who victimized women, but that those men displayed pride rather than remorse, we can help confront a culture that’s protected predators for too long.
Men who commit sexual assault need to know that other men don’t think it’s cool — and won’t tolerate it any more than women will.
Consider this in the context of the Kavanaugh confirmation allegations.
How different would things be if men who attended Georgetown Prep or Yale at the time Kavanaugh did stepped up and bore witness to the events cited by Blasey Ford in her testimony, or Julie Swetnick in her affidavit? And, if in a position to do so, identified Kavanaugh as an enthusiastic participant?
Those men wouldn’t have even had to be there when the events occurred. The reality is that in the days that followed each drunken event at which women were victimized, the event was the subject of endless conversations — conversations that involved lots of laughter, but never remorse.
There were decent Georgetown Prep students who heard those conversations. They should speak up, and so should any man who’s heard anything like it elsewhere.
Bob Lord is a Phoenix-based tax attorney and an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
OtherWords: I’m a Lawyer. I’ve Been to Trial. And I Believe Christine Blasey Ford.
When you look at the surrounding circumstances, it’s clear: Brett Kavanaugh has everything to gain by lying. Christine Blasey Ford has nothing.
By Mitchell Zimmerman | September 28, 2018
I’ve been an attorney for nearly 40 years. Good lawyers identify with their clients, but they also have be able to step back and say: How would my client’s claims look to an ordinary person without an ax to grind — say a juror?
As a progressive, I want to believe Christine Blasey Ford’s charge that Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when they were high school students. But as a lawyer, I still bring my critical faculties to bear. They tell me that her charges are more likely than not true.
We can leave aside who “sounded” more believable. Jurors — and judges and attorneys and cops and psychiatrists, studies tell us — are all equally bad at distinguishing truth tellers from liars. I was moved by Ford’s tears and by the way she told her account. And I’m sure conservatives were equally moved by Kavanaugh’s seeming sincerity in his own outraged defense.
When testimony conflicts, what’s more useful is considering the surrounding circumstances. In this case, the circumstances all favor Ford’s account.
Kavanaugh has a powerful motive for lying: achieving the summit of legal ambition, power, and prestige — a Supreme Court seat. But there’s nothing in it for Ford to lie.
First, the evidence is strong that she was in fact assaulted: Her account is supported by a lie detector test. And she mentioned to a number of people (including her therapist), well before Judge Kavanaugh was a potential Supreme Court nominee, that she’d been assaulted by a man who’s now a federal judge.
Second, since she states that she’d met Kavanaugh on several occasions before he attacked her, it’s not plausible that she’s mistaken about who tried to rape her.
Third, her statements include indicia of reliability, including naming a third-party witness. If she were simply inventing the story, she wouldn’t name another party who could — but in this case has not — simply deny her account.
Fourth, there’s no evidence for why she would fabricate a story. Republicans have provided no evidence that she’s an anti-Republican political fanatic, nor that she’s the sort of deranged person who would air such charges to get attention. She holds responsible positions at important institutions such as Stanford University Medical School, and the GOP offers no evidence in support of attacks on her character.
Finally, some Republicans, including the president, have contended that Dr. Ford’s story should be regarded with skepticism because she didn’t go to the police at the time. But the testimony of so many women who have survived sexual assault, but were unable to speak out, has given the lie to assertions that anyone who suffered a sexual assault would promptly report it.
Ironically, President Trump himself — in his statements in the Access Hollywood tape about grabbing women by their genitals — has confirmed this. Even if we believed that his statement was just “locker room talk,” Trump nonetheless recognizes that a man could sexually assault women with impunity. As he put it, “you can get away with anything” if you’re powerful.
What does Kavanaugh offer in support of his account? Only the statements of some people who know him. This doesn’t say much about whether he attempted a rape when he was in high school.
As a lawyer, then, I see many factors tending to validate Christine Blasey Ford’s account, and little to support Kavanaugh’s. Would this have been enough to convict Kavanaugh, beyond a reasonable doubt, of attempted rape? That’s not entirely clear yet. But it presents a strong enough likelihood that he was an attempted rapist — and is now a liar and perjurer — that Brett Kavanaugh should not be confirmed to a seat on the high court.
Mitchell Zimmerman is an attorney who devotes much of his practice to pro bono work. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
FROM CARSWELL TO KAVANAUGH
By Robert C. Koehler
These words did in G. Harrold Carswell nearly five decades ago:
“I am Southern by ancestry, birth, training, inclination, belief and practice. And I believe that segregation of the races is proper and the only practical and correct way of life in our states. I have always so believed and I shall always so act.
“I shall be the last to submit to any attempt on the part of anyone to break down and to weaken this firmly established policy of our people.
“If my own brother were to advocate such a program, I would be compelled to take issue with him and to oppose him to the limit of my ability.
“I yield to no man, as a fellow candidate or as a fellow citizen, in the firm, vigorous belief in the principles of white supremacy, and I shall always be so governed.”
Wow, white supremacy once had “principles,” but that was in 1948. Carswell, then a young man, delivered these words to an American Legion chapter in a small town in Georgia when he was running for a seat in the state legislature. Twenty-two years later, when Richard Nixon nominated him for the Supreme Court, these words from a different era were unearthed and Carswell immediately apologized: “I renounce and reject the words themselves and the thoughts that they represent. They’re obnoxious and abhorrent to my personal philosophy.”
Thirteen Republicans abandoned ship and voted against the nomination, leading to his defeat in the Senate. It was Nixon’s second straight Supreme Court nominee not to make it. Six months earlier, Clement Haynsworth’s nomination had also been rejected, at least partly because of pro-segregation court decisions he’d made.
Something bigger than politics was going on in this moment. The national consciousness had shifted, thanks to the civil rights movement, and suddenly the monstrous ugliness of white supremacy — no matter that it had quietly festered at the nation’s psychological foundation for two centuries, fomenting laws and wars and national policy — was unavoidably, politically apparent. It could no longer be defended. An apology couldn’t remove its stain. White supremacy had officially been shoved to the political margins, at least for the moment.
Welcome to 2018. Is something similar happening today in the uproar over Brett Kavanaugh? If so, what?
As I write, his nomination remains a possibility, but what seems unavoidably apparent is that Kavanaugh and his defenders have been caught, unexpectedly, in another profound shift in national consciousness. What’s different is that the shift is occurring right now. Kavanaugh is the movement, or rather, its trigger. He’s the bus driver, telling Rosa Parks to move to the back of the bus, even though he adamantly denies having done so.
He’s suddenly the poster boy of disrespect for women’s rights — for their safety, for their humanity — at a moment when the wrong of it is suddenly apparent. “It’s a man’s world” is suddenly not the way things are anymore, just as “the principles” of good, old-fashioned white supremacy had collapsed into non-existence by the time Carswell was nominated for the Supreme Court in 1970.
As the fight to stop Kavanaugh’s nomination struggles forward, I think it’s crucial to nurture this moment and see it for what it is, regardless what happens next. This moment transcends politics. It transcends a man’s past behavior. It transcends legal procedure and the possibility that Kavanaugh lied under oath.
Kavanaugh doesn’t belong on the nation’s highest court because what he stands for is too small, too arrogant, too buried in prejudice and the devaluation of many lives. The sexual assault accusations aren’t his only disqualifying actions. Like Carswell and Haynsworth, his political and judicial record indicate obeisance to beliefs that should not control the nation’s future.
During his tenure in the George W. Bush administration, as both associate White House counsel and, later, White House staff secretary, Kavanaugh was involved in the administration’s controversial decisions on the rights of detainees, including the use of “enhanced interrogation” techniques, i.e., torture. When he became part of the U.S. Court of Appeals, he continued to function as a force to let the Bush administration torture and indefinitely detain its prisoners, maintaining in his decisions that the United States was not obligated to obey the norms of international law, such as the Geneva Conventions, which ban torture.
“Kavanaugh’s radical views have momentous implications,” Jamie Mayerfeld writes at Just Security. “A core purpose of international law is to shield individuals from the worst abuses of state power. If Kavanaugh is elevated to the Supreme Court, his insistence on marginalizing international law will severely undermine human rights.”
We’re at another moment of change. People are crying out to build a better world, one that does not devalue anyone. As Mayerfeld notes, Donald Trump once said, during his campaign, “I would bring back waterboarding, and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”
The past and the future are colliding once again.
Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is available. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
The Conversation: Academic rigor, journalistic flair
Sexism, racism drive black women to run for office in both Brazil and US
October 4, 2018
Kia Lilly Caldwell
Professor, African, African American, and Diaspora Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Kia Lilly Caldwell does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Motivated in part by President Donald Trump’s disparaging remarks about women and the numerous claims that he committed sexual assault, American women are running for state and national office in historic numbers. At least 255 women are on the ballot as major party congressional candidates in the November general election.
The surge includes a record number of women of color, many of whom say their candidacies reflect a personal concern about America’s increasingly hostile, even violent, racial dynamics. In addition to the 59 black female congressional candidates, Georgia’s Stacey Abrams hopes to become her state’s first black governor.
The U.S. is not the only place where the advance of racism and misogyny in politics has has spurred black women to run for office at unprecedented levels.
In Brazil, a record 1,237 black women will be on the ballot this Sunday in the country’s Oct. 7 general election.
Brazilian women rise up
I’m a scholar of black feminism in the Americas, so I have been closely watching Brazil’s 2018 campaign season – which has been marked by controversy around race and gender – for parallels with the United States.
Last weekend, hundreds of thousands of Brazilian women marched nationwide against the far-right presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro, under the banner of #EleNao – #NotHim.
Bolsonaro, a pro-gun, anti-abortion congressman with strong evangelical backing, once told a fellow congressional representative that she “didn’t deserve to be raped” because she was “terrible and ugly.”
Bolsonaro has seen a boost in the polls since he was stabbed at a campaign rally on Sept. 8 in a politically motivated attack.
Brazil has shifted rightward since 2016, when the left-leaning female president Dilma Rousseff was ousted in a partisan impeachment process that many progressives regard as a political coup.
Her successor, then-Vice President Michel Temer, quickly passed an austerity budget that reversed many progressive policies enacted under Rousseff and her predecessor, Workers Party founder Luís Inácio “Lula” da Silva.
The move decimated funding for agencies and laws that protect women, people of color and the very poor.
Racism in Brazil
In Brazil, these three categories – women, people of color and the very poor – tend to overlap.
Brazil, which has more people of African descent than most African nations, was the largest slaveholding society in the Americas. Over 4 million enslaved Africans were forcibly taken to the country between 1530 and 1888.
Brazil’s political, social and economic dynamics still reflect this history.
Though Brazil has long considered itself colorblind, black and indigenous Brazilians are poorer than their white compatriots. Black women also experience sexual violence at much higher rates than white women – a centuries-old abuse of power that dates back to slavery.
Afro-Brazilians – who make up just over half of Brazil’s 200 million people, according to the 2010 census – are also underrepresented in Brazilian politics, though sources disagree on exactly how few black Brazilians hold public office.
Three Afro-Brazilians serve in the Senate, including one woman. In the 513-member lower Chamber of Deputies, about 20 percent identify as black or brown. Women of color hold around 1 percent of seats in the Chamber of Deputies.
Black women step into the fray
That could change on Sunday.
This year, 9,204 of the 27,208 people running for office across Brazil are women, which reflects a law requiring political parties to nominate at least 30 percent women. About 13 percent of female candidates in 2018 are Afro-Brazilian.
In most Brazilian states, that’s a marked increase over Brazil’s last general election, in 2014, according to the online publication Congresso em Foco.
In São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state, 105 black women ran for office in 2014. This year, 166 are. In Bahia state, there are 106 black female candidates for political office, versus 59 in 2014. The number has likewise doubled in Minas Gerais, from 51 in 2014 to 105 this year.
As in the United States, Brazil’s black wave may be a direct response to alarming social trends, including sharp rises in gang violence and police brutality, both of which disproportionately affect black communities.
But many female candidates in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second largest city, say one specific event inspired them to run.
In March, Marielle Franco, an Afro-Brazilian human rights activist and Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman, was assassinated – the 11th Brazilian activist to be murdered since November 2017.
Franco’s murder remains unsolved, but she was an outspoken critic of the military occupation of Rio’s poor, mostly black favela neighborhoods. The ongoing police investigation has implicated government agents in the shooting, which also killed her driver.
Her death unleashed an avalanche of activism among black women in Rio de Janeiro, with new groups offering fundraising and political training for female candidates of color.
On Sunday, 231 black women from Rio de Janeiro state will stand for election in local, state and federal races – more than any other state in Brazil and more than double the number who ran in 2014.
Black representation from Rio to Atlanta
Black women may have been historically excluded from Brazil’s formal political arena, but they have been a driving force for social and political change since the country’s transition from dictatorship to democracy in 1985.
Decades before #MeToo, Brazilian women of color were on the front lines of activism around issues like gender-based violence, sexual harassment and abortion.
The March 2018 assassination of Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman, Marielle Franco, spurred a wave of black women running for local and federal office in Brazil. Reuters/Ricardo Moraes
Brazil has hundreds of black women’s groups. Some, including Geledes, a center for public policy, are mainstays of the Brazilian human rights movement. The founder of the Rio de Janeiro anti-racism group Criola, Jurema Werneck, is now the director of Amnesty International in Brazil.
The fact that thousands of black women, both veteran activists and political newcomers, will appear on the ballot on Sunday is testament to their efforts.
As in the United States, black Brazilian women’s demand for political representation is deeply personal. They have watched as their mostly male and conservative-dominated congresses chipped away at hard-won protections for women and people of color in recent years, exposing the fragility of previous decades’ progress on race and gender.
Black women in Brazil and the U.S. know that full democracy hinges on full participation. By entering into politics, they hope to foster more inclusive and equitable societies for all.