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.”