Who sees it? Senators, staff to have access to FBI report
By MARY CLARE JALONICK
Thursday, October 4
WASHINGTON (AP) — All 100 senators, and a handful of Senate staff, will be able to read the FBI’s new report on sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. But it’s unclear if the public will see it.
Background checks are a routine part of any nominee’s vetting process and are generally delivered to the Senate without much fanfare. This background check, requested by a trio of senators who are undecided on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, will be different.
It’s expected that many senators will want to read or be briefed on the supplemental background check.
The report will review allegations from California professor Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both were teenagers, and from Kavanaugh’s Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez, who says he exposed himself to her at a party when both were freshmen. Kavanaugh has denied their accusations.
To accommodate the senators, and to guard the sensitive information, the FBI’s report is expected to be held in a secure room normally reserved only for classified matters. There are several of these rooms in the Capitol complex, but senators usually use one in the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center just off the Senate side. The rooms are called SCIFs, or Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who tweeted early Thursday that he had received the report, is expected to read it first, followed by his colleagues either individually or possibly in groups.
According to a preliminary schedule, Republicans will read the first hour, starting Thursday morning, and Democrats will read the hour after that, according to a person who was briefed on the plan. The person was not authorized to release the information and requested anonymity.
There are nine staff members — both Republicans and Democrats — who have access to the report and can brief members who don’t want to read it in detail.
No copies will be made of the report, as is standard, so senators will have to go to the room to learn what is in it. And because the report is confidential, they will be expected not to repeat what they learn.
“None of that stuff’s public,” Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters on Wednesday. “If you want people to be candid when they talk to the FBI, you ain’t going to make that public.”
The rules for keeping investigations confidential and closely held were laid out in an agreement with the governing background checks dating from the Obama administration. It’s unclear whether there will be a public summary of the information, or whether the White House would be allowed to release portions of the report.
County reports new spike of fatal drug overdoses
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The coroner for the county that includes Ohio’s capital city is again warning of a spike in overdose deaths and encouraging friends and family members of addicts to obtain an overdose antidote.
Dr. Anahi Ortiz of Franklin County on Tuesday reported seven apparent overdose deaths in 24 hours in greater Columbus.
Ortiz notes that the antidote drug naloxone is available from pharmacies without a prescription. The coroner recorded a spike of 18 deaths in a week last month.
A record 4,854 people died last year in Ohio from heroin, fentanyl and painkiller overdoses.
In August, authorities say a mixture of heroin and fentanyl at an Ohio prison led to nearly 30 people being treated for drug exposure or suspected exposure.
Opinion: Kavanaugh News Pushes Korea Into Background
By Donald Kirk
WASHINGTON — Foreign observers may be wondering why the case of a teenage boy molesting a teenage girl 36 years ago should sweep other news off American front pages. Koreans, in particular, might want to know why this transgression reaches the same proportions as did their Candlelight Revolution of two years ago when a million or so turned out nightly to protest a regime seen as corrupt and abusive.
Surely, those reading the American newspapers and watching American TV news must be thinking, this ancient fracas on a bed in a Washington suburb cannot have been all that important. Oh, but it is, and was. Just ask some talking head whom I saw and heard on TV saying the sins of a kid named Brett Kavanaugh back in the 1980s will echo through the American psyche for generations. Yes, it might, but not necessarily for the reasons that yakker suggested. The importance of the case lies not in the sin itself but why it merited such a hullaballoo.
The answer reflects the torment of a political elite divided down the middle by those who hate Donald Trump and those who revere him. Not too many of these sagacious politicos are concerned about right or wrong. The Democrats want to “get” Trump, to embarrass him, to take away the slim majority held by the Republicans in both houses of the U.S. Congress in midterm elections coming up in early November. Then they would like dearly to impeach him or at least render him a total lame duck for the remainder of his four-year term.
At the moment Trump’s foes in Congress and the media think there’s no better way to undermine Trump’s presidency than to dig up whatever whiff of scandal or gossip they can find, going back to Kavanaugh’s years at an elite prep school and then at super-elite Yale University. Never mind his editorship on the Yale Law Journal or his 12 years as a federal judge. In the feverish rush of “breaking” news, that record is largely ignored, forgotten or unknown.
The desire to “get” Kavanaugh, and therefore Trump, has sublimated news of attempts at reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. For a few minutes on TV this week, we did hear and see Trump coming out with such honeyed words for Kim Jong-un as to suggest he’s either fallen completely for his wiles or is trying to fool him into thinking he’s really his best friend.
At a political rally, Trump said he and Kim “fell in love” — words commonly used to describe a romantic relationship, not a friendship with the leader of the country that invaded South Korea in June 1950. Trump in his protestation of “love” was referring not only to his summit with Kim in Singapore nearly four months ago but also to what he said were “beautiful letters … great letters” that Kim has written him.
The Trumpster did not reveal the contents of these letters, but some analysts believe that Trump, by engaging in flattery, thinks he can tear down the barriers between the United States and North Korea. Conversely, it’s safe to assume the Kimster is equally convinced of his skills at playing on Trump’s gargantuan ego. So which of these two crazed leaders is likely to come out ahead in their campaign of mutual flattery?
Trump has said he will meet again with Kim in the near future but has given no sign of going beyond the concession already made, cancellation of U.S.-South Korea military exercises. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to visit Pyongyang, laying the groundwork for a second Trump-Kim summit. On his fourth trip to the North Korean capital, he hopes to see Kim, who snubbed him during his third trip.
For the benefit of foreign readers who think these events are portentous, let us intrude with a reality check. For more than a few minutes now and then on cable TV, nobody here was paying all that much attention. It was the travail of Brett Kavanaugh that counted, from front-page headlines to analyses, to columns and editorials. Did he or didn’t he? One Yale classmate said she could “nearly guarantee” that he wouldn’t remember a thing about drinking himself into a stupor at an initiation party.
“Nearly guarantee”? Should the senators be asking him what he remembered and who were the witnesses? Oh why not? They were asking about everything else. Besides, the line-ups of yakkers on CNN, Fox and MSNBC were much more fun than boring stories about nukes and bang-bangs in countries that most people would never find on a map.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Donald Kirk has been a columnist for Korea Times, South China Morning Post many other newspaper and magazines. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
OtherWords: Under Cover of Kavanaugh, Republicans Passed Huge Tax Cuts for the Wealthy
While Americans watched the Senate, House Republicans passed an extra $3 trillion tax cut for rich people and corporations.
By Frank Clemente | October 1, 2018
While Americans were transfixed by Senate hearings over Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assaults, House Republicans quietly passed another enormous tax handout for the wealthiest Americans.
Round one of this giveaway cost $2 trillion. Round two is even bigger — it would explode the deficit by more than $3 trillion. And once again, it’s largely a giveaway to the wealthiest Americans — and could mean devastating service cuts for ordinary people.
President Trump claimed the first tax plan would be “rocket fuel” for the economy, but there’s no evidence it’s done anything to improve the economic wellbeing of working families.
The centerpiece of the first plan was a massive tax cut for corporations. The corporate tax rate was reduced by 40 percent, plus a $400 billion tax break for multinational corporations on their trillions in accumulated offshore profits.
So it’s not surprising corporate profits leaped by over 16 percent in the second quarter of this year compared to the same three months last year — the best showing in six years. Meanwhile corporate tax payments are on schedule to come in $120 billion lower than in 2017.
But corporations aren’t sharing their winnings.
Trump guaranteed working families a $4,000 raise if corporate taxes were cut. Yet average real wages have been stagnant for the past year. Only 4 percent of American workers have gotten any kind of payout related to the corporate tax cuts, and most of those have been one-time bonuses, not permanent raises.
There’s no sign tax cuts have spurred hiring. Job growth under President Trump is merely a continuation of six years of job growth under President Obama — and Obama created more jobs in his last 19 months than Trump has in his first 19 months.
Cutting business taxes was supposed to cause an explosion of investment. Yet business investment has increased at a slower rate this year than at several periods during the Obama recovery.
Instead of investing in workers or equipment, companies are mostly buying back their own stock, a maneuver that artificially inflates the share price and rewards CEOs and wealthy investors. Corporations have announced $733 billion worth of stock buybacks since the Trump-GOP tax law was enacted — 103 times more than the $7 billion workers have gotten in bonuses and raises.
For the money McDonald’s spent on stock buybacks, it could’ve given every one of its 2 million employees that $4,000 raise President Trump promised them. But they didn’t.
The economic miracle envisaged by the tax plan’s backers hasn’t materialized. But the dire consequences predicted by the plan’s opponents certainly have. To cover the deficits created by their own tax cuts, Republicans want to cut trillions of dollars from essential public services.
Despite promising never to touch Medicare or Medicaid, President Trump is seeking $1.3 trillion in cuts to those programs and to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The House GOP wants to cut a total of $5 trillion, including $2 trillion from health care. Trump and House Republicans would also slash funding for students in school and college, among many other service cuts.
Round two of the Trump-GOP tax cuts would only repeat the same destructive pattern: huge handouts to the rich, huge deficits, and huge service cuts for working families. The big difference is that the budget hole created would be much deeper this time, making the resulting cuts to services that much more severe.
No wonder they did it while Americans were distracted.
Frank Clemente is the executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
OtherWords: The Mean Drunk and the Mendacity
I fear the Senate will conclude that boys will be boys — and sometimes sexual predators — but they can still grow up to be Supreme Court justices.
By Martha Burk | October 2, 2018
If you’d never seen a mean drunk and you were anywhere near a TV on September 27, you’ve seen one now.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh displayed all the characteristics: belligerence, bullying, shouting, and boo-hooing in out-of-control anger. He said he hadn’t watched the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford detailing his sexual assault on her because he was busy writing his own testimony. His performance makes one wonder if he was nipping while he wrote.
And what a spectacular performance it was. He swiftly transformed himself into the victim instead of the perpetrator. Sort of a #MeToo for powerful, privileged white males accused of doing terrible things. You know the type — we see it every day in Donald J. Trump, who loved the show, characterizing Kavanaugh as “powerful, honest, and riveting.”
But theatrics aside, what we know now that we didn’t before Kavanaugh’s meltdown is this: At the very least — he’s temperamentally unsuited for the nation’s highest court. Well, he does deserve an Academy Award for mendacity at least.
There are more acts to come.
Senator Jeff Flake, retiring Republican Senator from Arizona, who has a record of disdaining Trump until he doesn’t, was backed into an elevator by furious women and forced to call for a one week postponement of the final confirmation vote, until there’s an FBI investigation of Ford’s charges and those of two other women.
The question is what difference will it make?
All the elements of a sham inquiry are in place. The president is rumored to have already curtailed the investigation, though he denies it. Besides, the FBI is merely conducting a background check, not a criminal inquiry. Any of the people they want to interview are free to just say no.
Even if possible corroborators agree to talk, indications are they will take the timeworn perjury-avoiding out — “I don’t recall.” That keeps them from legal jeopardy by not outright lying to federal agents, and just incidentally lets Kavanaugh off the hook in the process.
As for Flake, he conveniently gets to have it both ways in case he decides to run against Trump in 2020. He can tell the moderates he called for an inquiry, but in the end — alas, he’ll say — there was nothing there. So in “fairness” he had to vote to elevate the nominee, keeping the rabid right in the fold.
Of course there is still a slim possibility that Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the two Republican women who hold the deciding votes (assuming the Democrats stick together), could scuttle the nomination. Don’t bet on it.
I hope I’m wrong, but all the signs are that the final verdict will be “boys will be boys (and sometimes habitual drunks and sexual predators)” but they can still grow up to be Supreme Court justices. Is this a great country or what?
They must think women voters won’t remember.
Martha Burk is the director of the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) and the author of the book Your Voice, Your Vote. Follow Martha on Twitter @MarthaBurk. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
OtherWords: We Need to Talk About Masculinity
If we taught men better ways of “being a man,” we wouldn’t have to teach women to cover their drinks.
By Jill Richardson | October 3, 2018
When we discuss sexual assault, we often talk about women. What should women do to stay safe?
When I was in school, girls were even trained in women’s self-defense. I don’t know what the boys did during those time periods. Study hall?
Ask any woman what she does to prevent sexual assault and she’ll have an answer. She uses the buddy system when walking at night, or she carries pepper spray, or she doesn’t leave her drink unattended when she’s out, and so on.
We look out for one another. In college I had a friend with an alcohol problem. We’d babysit her or take her home to keep her safe if she drank too much, to keep her from getting assaulted.
Ask a man what he does to keep himself from getting assaulted. At most, you’ll get a “don’t drop the soap” joke.
I think we need to change the discussion. Let’s talk about masculinity. Actually, gender scholars talk about masculinities, plural.
Men express their gender identities in a variety of ways. Some believe that “being a man” requires honesty, courage, hard work, and competence. Others express masculinity through physical prowess, toughness, and daring.
And some think it means sexual prowess with women.
Many gender scholars say that gender is something you do, not something you are. Your gender expression is something you achieve.
When men or boys express emotions other than anger, show vulnerability, or do anything that can be remotely construed as “feminine,” they’re linguistically kicked out of manhood, told to “man up” or “grow a pair.”
I saw my father socializing my brother into his future role as a man from a very young age. If my brother cried or expressed any weakness, my father told him to “be a tough hombre.” My brother suffered from severe anxiety and probably PTSD. He didn’t need to be told to man up. He needed hugs, empathy, love, and therapy.
For straight men who emphasize the performance of sexual prowess, sex with women is necessary to achieving masculinity — and women saying no puts a roadblock in their path to being a man. For these men, it’s inconvenient that they don’t have carte blanche access to our bodies.
It doesn’t help that vulnerability is “unmanly,” or that we socialize men to repress their emotions instead of feeling them, because those are necessary ingredients in a healthy intimate relationship.
Obviously, this doesn’t characterize all men. However, the pressure on men to achieve masculinity through sexual prowess, devoid of any emotional vulnerability or empathy, serves to create a toxic culture in which some men believe they have a right to women’s bodies.
So when women deny them access to their bodies, some men take it by force.
In fact, a Five Thirty Eight review of recent studies suggested that this kind of toxic masculinity, more so than alcohol, is what leads to sexual assault.
Maybe if we raised men to feel their full range of emotions, to feel confident in their manhood without violating women, and to respect the boundaries of others, we wouldn’t have to teach women to use the buddy system and watch their drinks.
OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is pursuing a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives in San Diego. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
OtherWords: Don’t Arm This President With These Nukes
As President Trump gave a belligerent address at the UN, lawmakers rolled out legislation to ban “low-yield” nukes that raise the risk of conflict.
By Olivia Alperstein | October 2, 2018
On September 26, the global community celebrated International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, a day designated by the United Nations (UN) to draw attention to one of its oldest goals: achieving global nuclear disarmament.
By unhappy coincidence, September 26 was also the day President Donald Trump addressed the UN Security Council, and total nuclear disarmament wasn’t exactly high on his agenda. As expected, he wants North Korea to fully abandon its arsenal (and Iran, though it doesn’t have one) — without the United States reducing its own in return.
Trump’s aggressive, bullying rhetoric was on full display throughout his remarks when he addressed the UN General Assembly the previous day. (He did dial it back a bit from last year’s UN address, when he said the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea and referred to Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man,” but maybe that’s a low bar.)
Trump has made it abundantly clear that he’s not committed to nuclear disarmament. Like other presidents before him, he has the power to unilaterally order a first nuclear strike. Rather unlike others, he’s previously asked, if we have nuclear weapons, why can’t we use them?
But Congress has the power to act to avert a nuclear catastrophe. In fact, a few champions in Congress have recently taken critical steps to prevent the outbreak of nuclear war.
On September 18, Representatives Ted Lieu, Adam Smith, John Garamendi, Earl Blumenauer, and Senator Ed Markey introduced a bill called the “Hold the LYNE Act,” which stands for Low-Yield Nuclear Explosive. It would “prohibit the research, development, production, and deployment of low-yield nuclear warheads for submarine-launched ballistic missiles.”
So-called “low-yield” nuclear weapons actually lower the threshold for nuclear war and increase the risk that they may actually be used.
“There’s no such thing as a low-yield nuclear war,” said Lieu in the joint press release announcing the bill. “Use of any nuclear weapon, regardless of its killing power, could be catastrophically destabilizing. It opens the door for severe miscalculation and could drag the U.S. and our allies into a devastating nuclear conflict.”
We’ve come very close to nuclear war in the past. On September 26, 1983, Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov made a split-second decision and deemed a supposed missile attack from the United States to be an error, refusing to carry out an order to counterattack and thus averting a nuclear war.
If Petrov hadn’t made that judgment, we might not even be here to advocate for a world free of nuclear weapons.
Let’s take the lessons we’ve learned from the past and use them to create a healthier, safer future for young people and future generations, so they won’t have to worry about the looming threat of nuclear war.
The president of the United States may not have marked the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. The rest of us still can.
Olivia Alperstein is the Media Relations Manager for Physicians for Social Responsibility (www.psr.org). Distributed by OtherWords.org.