I used to know Brett Kavanaugh pretty well. And, when I think of Brett now, in the midst of his hearings for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, all I can think of is the old “Aesop’s Fables” adage: “A man is known by the company he keeps.”
And that’s why I want to tell any senator who cares about our democracy: Vote no.
Twenty years ago, when I was a conservative movement stalwart, I got to know Brett Kavanaugh both professionally and personally.
Brett actually makes a cameo appearance in my memoir of my time in the GOP, “Blinded By The Right.” I describe him at a party full of zealous young conservatives gathered to watch President Bill Clinton’s 1998 State of the Union address — just weeks after the story of his affair with a White House intern had broken. When the TV camera panned to Hillary Clinton, I saw Brett — at the time a key lieutenant of Ken Starr, the independent counsel investigating various Clinton scandals — mouth the word “bitch.”
But there’s a lot more to know about Kavanaugh than just his Pavlovian response to Hillary’s image. Brett and I were part of a close circle of cold, cynical and ambitious hard-right operatives being groomed by GOP elders for much bigger roles in politics, government and media. And it’s those controversial associations that should give members of the Senate and the American public serious pause.
Call it Kavanaugh’s cabal: There was his colleague on the Starr investigation, Alex Azar, now the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Mark Paoletta is now chief counsel to Vice President Mike Pence; House anti-Clinton gumshoe Barbara Comstock is now a Republican member of Congress. Future Fox News personalities Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson were there with Ann Coulter, now a best-selling author, and internet provocateur Matt Drudge.
When, as I came to know, Kavanaugh took on the role of designated leaker to the press of sensitive information from Starr’s operation, we all laughed that Larry had taught him well. (Of course, that sort of political opportunism by a prosecutor is at best unethical, if not illegal.)
Another compatriot was George Conway (now Kellyanne’s husband), who led a secretive group of right-wing lawyers — we called them “the elves” — who worked behind the scenes directing the litigation team of Paula Jones, who had sued Clinton for sexual harassment. I knew then that information was flowing quietly from the Jones team via Conway to Starr’s office — and also that Conway’s go-to man was none other than Brett Kavanaugh.
At one time or another, each of them partied at my Georgetown townhouse amid much booze and a thick air of cigar smoke.
In a rough division of labor, Kavanaugh played the role of lawyer — one of the sharp young minds recruited by the Federalist Society to infiltrate the federal judiciary with true believers. Through that network, Kavanaugh was mentored by D.C. Appeals Court Judge Laurence Silberman, known among his colleagues for planting leaks in the press for partisan advantage.
From Pacific Standard: https://psmag.com/news/science-says-believe-women
Sep 21, 2018
In the week since psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford went public with sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, politicians have demanded to hear the truth. With Ford (who goes by Dr. Blasey professionally) prepared to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee sometime next week, according to the New York Times, senators’ questioning could offer a chance to settle the record. But in the conversation around Ford’s accusation, many people have repeated well-worn myths about sexual assault.
Here’s what the research can tell us about the truth behind these myths.
Despite persistent myths, research shows few rape allegations are false. Moreover, decades of crime data prove the majority of incidents of sexual assault go unreported. President Donald Trump disputed this widely established fact
Donald J. Trump #realDonaldTrump
I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!
In reality, as few as 23 percent of incidents of rape and sexual assault were reported to the police in 2017, according to the the National Crime Victimization Survey—making it the least likely crime to be reported out of every kind tracked, a FiveThirtyEight analysis found. Because of underreporting, studies have found that NCVS data and other federal surveys likely leave out millions of incidents. Many survivors fear retaliation or believe the police can do little to help; research has also confirmed a powerful stigma.
Edward Whelan, the president of the conservative think tank Ethics and Public Policy Center, took a different theory to Twitter this week, suggesting that Ford could have mistaken the identity of her attacker. In response, Ford said there was “zero chance” she would have confused the two men, whom she knew and had socialized with before, the New York Times reports. While victims of sexual assault often experience post-traumatic stress disorder or difficultly recalling details in an interrogation, this is considered a normal response to fear—not evidence of a lie. As Pacific Standard reported in 2016:
Terror kicks the memory encoding region of our brain into hyperdrive, giving victims vivid memories of certain components of their environment when fear sets in—like the smell of their attacker’s cologne, or the song on the radio. But while some of the memories may be vivid, they also might not be linear, and the fragmented and inconsistent memories that traumatized victims have of events can lead officers to question whether or not they are telling the truth.
Continue reading at: https://psmag.com/news/science-says-believe-women
By Kate Manne
(Ms. Manne is the author of “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny.”)
Sept. 26, 2018
Brett Kavanaugh is a “great gentleman,” President Trump said at a White House news conference last week. “I feel so badly for him. This is not a man who deserves this.” At no point on that occasion did Mr. Trump say the name of the woman, Christine Blasey Ford, who had accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexual assault. After further allegations about Judge Kavanaugh’s behavior were reported on Sunday night, Mr. Trump doubled down: What was going on was “most unfair” to Judge Kavanaugh, who is “an outstanding person.”
When it comes to the moral deficiencies exhibited by Mr. Trump and other supporters of the judge, many critics speak about lack of empathy as the problem. It isn’t. Mr. Trump, as he has shown clearly in the Kavanaugh confirmation process, seems to have no difficulty taking another person’s perspective, and then feeling and expressing a sympathetic or congruent moral emotion.
The real problem is that the people Mr. Trump feels with and for are most frequently powerful men who have been credibly accused of serious crimes and wrongdoing. He felt sorry for Michael Flynn, referring to him as a “good guy.” More recently, he felt bad for Paul Manafort. And, in the case of Judge Kavanaugh, Mr. Trump feels sorry for a man accused of sexual assault while erasing and dismissing the perspective of his female accusers.
Mr. Trump is manifesting what I call “himpathy” — the inappropriate and disproportionate sympathy powerful men often enjoy in cases of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, homicide and other misogynistic behavior.
There is a plethora of recent cases, from the Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to the Maryland school gunman Austin Rollins, fitting this general pattern: discussion focuses excessively on the perpetrator’s perspective, on the potential pain driving him or on the loss of his bright future. And the higher a man rises in the social hierarchy, the more himpathy he tends to attract. Thus, the bulk of our collective care, consideration, respect and nurturing attention is allotted to the most privileged in our society.
Once you learn to spot himpathy, it becomes difficult not to see it everywhere: in men such as the former editor of The New York Review of Books Ian Buruma, who published a self-indulgent essay by a former Canadian talk-show host accused of sexual assault and harassment by more than 20 women; in women like the five Republicans whom CNN convened recently to voice support for Judge Kavanaugh (“Tell me, what boy hasn’t done this in high school?” asked one, shrugging himpathetically). But we’re in a moment during which himpathy is so thoroughly on display, in such a public way, that the time is ripe to push for a mass moral reckoning.
What the Kavanaugh case has revealed this week is that himpathy can, at its most extreme, become full-blown gendered sociopathy: a pathological moral tendency to feel sorry exclusively for the alleged male perpetrator — it was too long ago; he was just a boy; it was a case of mistaken identity — while relentlessly casting suspicion upon the female accusers. It also reveals the far-ranging repercussions of this worldview: It’s no coincidence that many of those who himpathize with Judge Kavanaugh to the exclusion of Dr. Blasey are also avid abortion opponents, a position that requires a refusal to empathize with girls and women facing an unwanted pregnancy.
What makes himpathy so difficult to counter is that the mechanisms underlying it are partly moral in nature: Sympathy and empathy are pro-social moral emotions, which makes it especially hard to convince people that when they skew toward the powerful and against the vulnerable, they become a source of systemic injustice. So, for those for whom himpathy is a mental habit prompted by biased social forces, and not an entrenched moral outlook, the first step to solving the problem is simply learning to recognize when it’s at work, and to be wary of its biasing influence.
Continue reading at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/26/opinion/brett-kavanaugh-hearing-himpathy.html
Karen L. Blair Ph.D.
Sep 24, 2018
New research has attempted to better understand the circumstances under which individuals feel threatened by gender nonconforming behavior. In general, we know that people tend to respond negatively to individuals who do not adhere to the gender binary—that is, the notion that there are two sexes, male and female, and that whichever sex you are should clearly dictate your gender and gender role behaviors as either a man or a woman. If a person is biologically male but behaves in stereotypically feminine ways, we can call this gender nonconformity within a cisgender individual (i.e., someone whose biological sex is the same as their gender identity). Similarly, a transgender individual (i.e., someone whose sex identified at birth does not align with their gender identity) can be seen as gender nonconforming simply by being transgender.
Researchers at St. Louis University sought to determine which of these two types of gender nonconformity would be viewed as more unsettling to those who value the gender binary. While it is possible for anyone to stray from the gender binary in small or large ways, often transgender individuals seem to be perceived as a greater threat to binary views of gender than gender nonconforming cisgender people.
Kristin Broussard and Dr. Ruth Warner proposed that one reason for this might be that transgender individuals can be perceived as simultaneously transgressing the gender norms of BOTH binary genders. For example, a trans woman (i.e., someone assigned male at birth who now identifies as a woman) is transgressing male norms by identifying as a woman, but also may be seen as transgressing the norms of being a woman by not appearing feminine enough. Indeed, other research has found that transgender women are particularly at risk for prejudice and violence due to society’s general tendency to police femininity and to punish transgressions of misplaced femininity.
In their manuscript, Broussard and Warner attempted to identify how gender binarism, or the “belief that there are only two genders, corresponding with biological sex,” may be associated with transprejudice.
The researchers predicted that for individuals high in gender binarism, trans individuals would be perceived as particularly psychologically threatening because they stand in the face of something these participants strongly believe to be an essential, immutable, human trait: gender and, by extension, the connection between sex and gender.
The researchers focused on a notion referred to as “distinctiveness threat.” According to Social Identity Theory our social identities, or the groups to which we belong, help us to define our personal identities. To the extent that the boundaries around the groups that are important to our identities become blurred, we may experience distinctiveness threat. In short, the uniqueness of who we are as an individual comes under threat when the boundaries around group definitions that we use to define ourselves shift or become malleable.
For example, imagine that you are a police officer and that being a police officer is central to your identity. Then imagine that the category of a police officer was replaced with “Security Professional,” and that this new category would include police officers, security guards, and installers of home security systems. This experience would trigger high levels of distinctiveness threat in police officers whose identities were highly enmeshed with being a police officer.
by Harry Cheadle
Sep 21 2018
For decades, Brett Kavanaugh has traveled through the ranks of the conservative movement as smoothly as food slides down the gullet of a force-fed foie gras duck. An elite private high school, Yale, Yale Law School, a series of clerkships for conservative judges, a spot on Ken Starr’s team during his investigation of Bill Clinton, a gig as a lawyer in George W. Bush’s White House, and, thanks to Bush, a federal judgeship. When Donald Trump—or really, the right-wing Federalist Society—nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court this summer, a fleet of shiny legal establishment types gushed over the pick, declaring him a fine legal mind and an upstanding citizen. One of Kavanaugh’s old professors, a self-described Hillary Clinton supporter named Akhil Reed Amar, called him a “superb nominee” in a New York Times op-ed.
Those people all look pretty bad right now. The accusation from Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh tried to rape her when they were both teenagers in the early 80s may not derail his ascension to the highest court in the country, pending a Senate hearing that may or may not include her testimony. But in the days since news of that accusation broke, reporting on the milieu from which Kavanaugh emerged has painted an ugly portrait of elite American society as both bacchanalian and banal, a nepotacracy where connections matter far more than any semblance or strain of morality.
A contemporary of Kavanaugh’s at Georgetown Prep told HuffPost the scene there included “14-, 15-, 16-year-olds, 17-year-old kids doing whatever the fuck they wanted to do, with no repercussions. Drugs everywhere. Partying everywhere. Drinking—just whatever we wanted to do. It was unbelievable, off the rails.” At Yale, Kavanaugh belonged to a “secret society” that was basically a bunch of guys getting drunk together. To some extent, that’s normal college nonsense, but after law school, Kavanaugh clerked for Alex Kozinski a federal judge later pushed out in disgrace after being accused of sexually harassing women he supervised, and showing pornography to his subordinates. (Kavanaugh has said he was unaware of this behavior, though Kozinski’s nature doesn’t seem to have been much of a secret; the judge ran an email list where he shared dirty jokes and stories.) When Kavanaugh was a judge himself, Amy Chua, the Yale professor most famous for writing Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, reportedly told her students it was “no accident” his female clerks “looked like models.” (According to the Guardian, a student “reacted with surprise, and quickly pointed out that Chua’s own daughter was due to clerk for Kavanaugh. A source said that Chua quickly responded, saying that her own daughter would not put up with any inappropriate behavior.”)
None of this necessarily indicts Kavanaugh as an individual. Lots of people drink too much as teenagers and party hard in college; Chua’s alleged comments may have reflected an inaccurate perception of his hiring practices. Still, it gives us an impression of what the world of political and legal elites is like: Bad behavior is quickly forgotten or forgiven, young women are pressured to look attractive, and powerful men can harass their subordinates for years without consequences.
The professional side of Kavanaugh’s world doesn’t look much more virtuous. By all indications, he was a right-wing hack who worked with Starr’s team and other conservatives to take down Clinton’s presidency in the 90s, then he was a right-wing hack who worked on the 2000 presidential recount in Florida, then he was a right-wing hack in the Bush administration. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin called him “the Zelig or Forrest Gump of Republican politics” during Kavanaugh’s extremely contentious confirmation hearings for a federal judgeship in 2004. He was eventually confirmed in 2006, after Republicans and Democrats made a broader deal about judicial appointments. Since then, “He’s been what I thought he would be,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told the Washington Post in July. “I bet you that he’s been what they thought he would be.”
By Chase Strangio, Staff Attorney, ACLU LGBT & HIV Project
August 21, 2018
In recent years, the number of transgender and nonbinary people murdered has hit record highs. This year, the alarming trend is expected to continue.
According to one survey, one in four transgender people have been assaulted because they are trans. The majority of deadly attacks against transgender people are against women of color. In Jacksonville, Florida, four Black transgender women have been shot in the last six months alone. Three of them were killed.
The pattern has alarmed activists locally and nationally. Civil rights groups have asked the Department of Justice to investigate the Jacksonville attacks and provide training on responding to this kind of violence for local law enforcement.
A recent investigative report by ProPublica on the murders in Jacksonville found that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) consistently misidentified the victims by referring to them as men and by the names given to them at birth. Invalidating the identity of a trans person by invoking an abandoned birth-designated name is known as “deadnaming.” This practice negates the truth of transgender victims’ lives and prevents accurate investigations into their deaths.
The report found that nationally, across 65 law enforcement agencies investigating trans murders since January 2015, “in 74 of 85 cases, victims were identified by names or genders they had abandoned in their daily lives.” If a woman who is transgender is killed and reported as male, then her community may not be accurately informed of her death and witnesses may not know to come forward.
Erasing the truth of trans lives, even in death, is also a demoralizing blow to the trans community. Activist and actress Laverne Cox responded to the ProPublica report on Instagram, recalling a time she contemplated suicide and feared the truth of her life being erased in death:
Being misgendered and deadnamed in my death felt like it would be the ultimate insult to the psychological and emotional injuries I was experiencing daily as a black trans woman in New York City, the injuries that made me want to take my own life.
The trauma of being denied a claim to one’s own truth is reason enough to stop the practice of deadnaming and misgendering transgender people. But practically speaking, deadly violence against transgender people, including by suicide, is fueled by this kind of government action that legitimizes anti-trans bias by perpetuating the idea that a trans person’s name and gender aren’t “real.”
Deadnaming isn’t the only government practice contributing to pervasive bias. In many states, it is difficult to impossible for transgender people to update the gender marker listed on their driver’s license or birth certificate. Even where such changes are permissible, many transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, live in poverty and cannot afford to see a doctor to obtain the required documentation to make the change or pay the fees to the agencies that issue identification. Without identification matching their gender, transgender people can be “outed” as transgender in routine interactions at bars, movie theatres, hospitals, or with police. Such interactions can lead to harassment and violence.
As the ProPublica report documented, being known as transgender also leads to pervasive job discrimination. Without laws explicitly protecting them from discrimination, many transgender people — particularly trans people of color who also experience systemic racism — face housing and food insecurity, homelessness, and criminalization.
Without safe access to public spaces — whether shelters, libraries, stores, hospitals, or the workplace — transgender people are perilously situated and face heightened risks of violence. If you are being followed but can’t duck into a restaurant without fearing rejection, humiliation, and discrimination, your risk of violence escalates. If you are homeless and can’t safely access shelter because you are transgender, your risk of violence escalates as you navigate street-based homelessness. If you cannot find stable work and you need to participate in criminalized economies like the drug or sex trades to survive, your risk of violence escalates.
The insistence on ignoring the truth of a transgender person’s name and gender in the midst of the systemic factors that contribute to violence, truly is, as Cox noted, adding insult to grievous injury.
If we are to stop the staggering rise of violence against trans women of color in Jacksonville and across the country, we must take meaningful steps to recognize the basic humanity of trans people in life and in death.
From The Guardian UK: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/24/rape-sexual-assault-ban-frats
Wed 24 Sep 2014 Last modified on Thu 27 Sep 2018
When I was at Tulane University, girls were warned about the “bad” fraternities: the ones that spiked the punch at parties with Everclear and maybe drugs, the kind of frats where girls got hurt. During my first week of class 18 years ago, rumours circulated about a girl on my floor who had been sexually assaulted by multiple men at a frat party. These issues were always discussed with a certain nonchalance – as if having at least one rapist around was an inevitable part of fraternity life.
Not much has changed.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee police are currently investigating a fraternity after several women were found labeled with red and black X’s on their hands after they had to be hospitalized with memory lapses from intoxication at a fraternity party. Last year, three sexual assaults were reported at one Texas fraternity – within just one month. At Georgia Tech, a frat brother sent around an email guide called “Luring your rapebait”. Wesleyan had a frat that was nicknamed the “Rape Factory”. In 2010, fraternity brothers at Yale University marched through campus yelling, “No means yes, yes means anal.” (Kavanaugh’s Frat)
These are not anomalies or bad apples: numerous studies have found that men who join fraternities are three times more likely to rape, that women in sororities are 74% more likely to experience rape than other college women, and that one in five women will be sexually assaulted in four years away at school. So it seems only natural to ask: With all of the current efforts, from the White House to college towns, to curb campus sexual assault – using “yes means yes” as a standard for consent, holding administrators accountable, touting bystander intervention – why haven’t we addressed perhaps the most obvious solution?
It’s time to talk about banning fraternities.
When sociology professors Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton conducted an intensive, landmark five-year study on college students – by living amongst, following around and interviewing students in one dorm at an anonymous Midwestern public university – they reported that two women living on their floor were sexually assaulted at fraternity parties within the first few weeks of the semester.
Armstrong, who turned the results of the study into a well-received bestseller about college inequality and a paper on sexual assault, tells me that while anti-sexual violence programs are doing all the right things, they may not be doing enough.
“I was just at University of Massachusetts and at Wesleyan, and they were talking about bystander intervention programs and that’s great – people should try to engage,” she said. “But what it leaves off the table are the organizations that put people at risk on campus.”
Armstrong reminded me of what I hear on campus visits myself – that fraternities are hotbeds for all sorts of risk beyond sexual assault: there’s also alcoholism, alcohol poisoning, people falling out of windows and dangerous hazing incidents. She insists that frats “vary tremendously” in terms of how sexually dangerous they are – traditionally African American frats, gender-inclusive frats and multicultural frats are not as threatening as those populated by mostly-white, economically-entitled students, for example – but when you look at the overall risk fraternities create for students on campus, “reforming or preserving these organizations doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Armstrong said.
Continue reading at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/24/rape-sexual-assault-ban-frats