Kavanaugh Is The Wrong Nominee For Our Times

Demonstrators protest outside of Supreme Court after Judge Brett Kavanaugh was chosen by President Trump as his nominee for the high court. From FOX 45 DC twitter.

The Kavanaugh confirmation process has been a missed opportunity for the United States to face up to many urgent issues on which the bi-partisans in Washington, DC are united and wrong.

Kavanaugh’s career as a Republican legal operative and judge supporting the power of corporations, the security state and abusive foreign policy should have been put on trial. The hearings could have provided an opportunity to confront the security state, use of torture, mass spying and the domination of money in politics and oligarchy as he has had an important role in each of these.

Kavanaugh’s behavior as a teenager who likely drank too much and was inappropriately aggressive and abusive with women, perhaps even attempting rape, must also be confronted. In an era where patriarchy and mistreatment of women are being challenged, Kavanaugh is the wrong nominee for this important time. However, sexual assault should not be a distraction that keeps the the public’s focus off other issues raised by his career as a conservative political activist.

A demonstration against the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh outside the Capitol this month. Credit Erin Schaff for The New York Times

The Security State, Mass Spying and Torture

A central issue of our era is the US security state — mass spying on emails, Internet activity, texts and phone calls. Judge Kavanaugh enabled invasive spying on everyone in the United States.  He described mass surveillance as “entirely consistent” with the US Constitution. This is a manipulation of the law as the Constitution plainly requires probable cause and a search warrant for the government to search an individual.

Kavanaugh explained in a decision, “In my view, that critical national security need outweighs the impact on privacy occasioned by this [NSA] program.” This low regard for protecting individual privacy should have been enough for a majority of the Senate to say this nominee is inappropriate for the court.

Kavanaugh ruled multiple times that police have the power to search people, emphasizing “reasonableness” as the standard for searching people. He ruled broadly for the police in searches conducted on the street without a warrant. He ruled in favor of broader use of drug testing of federal employees. Kavanaugh applauded Justice Rehnquist’s views on the Fourth Amendment, which favored police searches by defining probable cause in a flexible way and creating a broad exception for when the government has “special needs” to search without a warrant of probable cause. In this era of police abuse through stop and frisk, jump out squads and searches when driving (or walking or running) while black, Kavanaugh is the wrong nominee and should be disqualified.

Kavanaugh also played a role in the Bush torture policy. Torture is against US and international law, certainly facilitating torture should be disqualifying not only as a justice but should result in disbarment as a lawyer. Kavanaugh was appointed by President Trump, who once vowed he would “bring back waterboarding and … a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” Minimizing torture is demonstrated in his rulings; e.g., not protecting prisoners at risk of torture and not allowing people to sue the government on allegations of torture.

Torture is a landmine in the Senate, so Kavanaugh misled the Senate, likely committing perjury on torture.  In his 2006 confirmation, he said he was “not involved” in “questions about the rules governing detention of combatants.” Tens of thousands of documents have been kept secret by the White House about Kavanaugh from the Bush era. Even so, during these confirmation hearings documents related to the nomination of a lawyer involved in the torture program showed Kavanaugh’s role in torture policies leading Senator Dick Durbin to write:

It is clear now that not only did Judge Kavanaugh mislead me when it came to his involvement in the Bush Administration’s detention and interrogation policies, but also regarding his role in the controversial Haynes nomination.

Durbin spoke more broadly about perjury writing:

This is a theme that we see emerge with Judge Kavanaugh time and time again – he says one thing under oath, and then the documents tell a different story.  It is no wonder the White House and Senate Republicans are rushing through this nomination and hiding much of Judge Kavanaugh’s record—the questions about this nominee’s credibility are growing every day.

Perjury allegations should be investigated and if proven should result in him not being confirmed.

This should have been enough to stop the process until documents were released to reveal Kavanaugh’s role as Associate White House Counsel under George Bush from 2001 to 2003 and as his White House Staff Secretary from 2003 to 2006. Unfortunately, Democrats have been complicit in allowing torture as well; e.g., the Obama administration never prosecuted anyone accused of torture and advanced the careers of people involved in torture.

Shouldn’t  the risk of having a torture facilitator on the Supreme Court be enough to stop this nomination?

Protesters show there are a lot of reasons to reject Kavanaugh (Photo from NARAL Twitter)

Corporate Power vs Protecting People and the Planet

In this era of corporate power, Kavanaugh sides with the corporations. Ralph Nader describes him as a corporation masquerading as a judge.  He narrowly limited the powers of federal agencies to curtail corporate power and to protect the interests of the people and planet.

This is evident in cases where Kavanaugh has favored reducing restrictions on polluting corporations. He dissented in cases where the majority ruled in favor of environmental protection but has never dissented where the majority ruled against an environmental interest. He ruled against agencies seeking to protect clean air and water. If Kavanaugh is on the court, it will be much harder to hold corporations responsible for the damage they have done to the climate, the environment or health.

Kavanaugh takes the side of businesses over their workers with a long history of anti-union and anti-labor rulings. A few examples of many, he ruled in favor of the Trump Organization throwing out the results of a union election, sided with the management of Sheldon Adelson’s Venetian Casino Resort upholding the casino’s First Amendment right to summon police against workers engaged in a peaceful demonstration — for which they had a permit, affirmed the Department of Defense’s discretion to negate the collective bargaining rights of employees, and overturned an NLRB ruling that allowed Verizon workers to display pro-union signs on company property despite having given up the right to picket in their collective bargaining agreement. In this time of labor unrest and mistreatment of workers, Kavanaugh will be a detriment to workers rights.

Kavanough opposed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling in favor of net neutrality, which forbids telecom companies from discrimination on the Internet. He argued net neutrality violated the First Amendment rights of Internet Service Providers (ISP) and was beyond the power granted to the FCC. He put the rights of big corporations ahead of the people having a free and open Internet. The idea that an ISP has a right to control what it allows on the Internet could give corporations great control over what people see on the Internet. It is a very dangerous line of reasoning in this era of corporations curtailing news that challenges the mainstream narrative.

In 2016, Kavanaugh was asked if he believed that money spent during campaigns represents speech, and is protected by the First Amendment and answered: “Absolutely.”  Kavanaugh joined in decisions and wrote opinions consistent with efforts to oppose any attempt by Congress or the Federal Elections Commission to restrict campaign contributions or expenditures. His view that free speech allows unrestricted money in elections will add to the avalanche of big money politics. Wealthy elites and big corporations will have even greater influence with Kavanaugh on the court.

Kavanaugh will be friendly to powerful business and the interests of the wealthy on the Supreme Court, and will tend to stand in the way of efforts by administrative agencies to regulate them and by people seeking greater rights.

Kavanaugh protesters call for his rejection over sexual assault call to Believe Survivors (Photo by Carol Kaster Associated Press)

Women’s Rights, Abortion and Sexual Assault

Judge Kavanaugh has not ruled on Roe v. Wade and whether the constitution protects a woman’s right to have an abortion. In 2017, Kavanaugh gave a Constitution Day lecture to the conservative American Enterprise Institute where he praised Justice Rehnquist and one of the cases he focused on was his dissent in Roe. Rehnquist opposed making abortion constitutionally protected, writing, it was not “rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people.”  Shortly after that speech, Kavanaugh wrote a dissent that argued an immigrant minor in government detention did not have a right to obtain an abortion.

On the third day of his confirmation hearings, Judge Brett Kavanaugh seemed to refer to the use of contraception as “abortion-inducing drugs.” It was a discussion of a case where Kavanaugh dissented from the majority involving the Priests for Life’s challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Kavanaugh opposed the requirement that all health plans cover birth control, claiming that IUDs and emergency contraception were an infringement of their free exercise of religion.

Multiple accusers have come forward to allege Kavanaugh’s involvement in sexual assault and abuse. While Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is viewed as credible — she was the only witness allowed to testify — it is not clear these allegations will be thoroughly reviewed. After being approved by the committee, the Republican leadership and President Trump agreed on a limited FBI investigation. It is unclear whether the FBI will be allowed to follow all the evidence and question all the witnesses. As we write this newsletter, the outcome has yet to unfold. If there is corroborating evidence for the accusers, Kavanaugh should not be approved.

A Republican Political Operative As A Justice?

Kavanaugh has been a legal operative for the Republican Party involved in many high profile partisan legal battles. He spent three years working for Ken Starr on the impeachment of Bill Clinton where he pressed Starr to ask Clinton sexually graphic details about his relationship with Monica Lewinisky. He tried to expand the Starr investigation into the death of Vince Foster, whose death had been ruled a suicide. He was a lead author of the infamous Starr Report—widely criticized as “strain[ing] credulity” and being based on “shaky allegations.”

Kavanaugh was one of George W. Bush’s lawyers in the litigation after the election in 2000, which sought to block a recount of ballots in Florida, resulting in a decision that handed the presidential election to Bush. In the Bush administration, he was involved in pushing for conservative judges as well as controversial policies like torture.

During his confirmation process, in response to the accusations of assault, he claimed they were “a calculated and orchestrated political hit” and “revenge on behalf of the Clinton’s.” He demonstrated partisan anger and displayed a lack of judicial temperament, making him unfit to serve on the Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh exposes the true partisan nature of the highest court, which is not a neutral arbiter but another battleground for partisan politics. The lack of debate on issues of spying, torture and more shows both parties support a court that protects the security state and corporate interests over people and planet. Accusations of sexual assault must be confronted, but there are many reasons Kavanaugh should not be on the court. The confirmation process undermines the court’s legitimacy and highlights bi-partisan corruption.

International Court of Justice: forum for Palestine’s dispute with the United States

On 28 September 2018, the State of Palestine filed a complaint against the United States before the International Court of Justice (the ICJ, the UN's Court). The State of Palestine is denouncing the US embassy's recent relocation to Jerusalem. The brief filed by the State of Palestine is based on UNGA Res 181 on The Partition of Palestine, adopted in 1947 . This partition plan provides that the city of Jerusalem, given its broadest definition, does not form part of the two Independent (...)

UN: Syria calls for immediate withdrawal of US, French and Turkish forces

Addressing the UN General Assembly at its 73rd Session, the Syrian Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Walid Al-Moallem, has called for the immediate withdrawal of US, Turkish and French forces whose boots have illegally set foot on Syrian ground . This declaration of the Syrian Arab Republic follows the joint British-French-Israeli attack on the Syrian region of Latkia and the destruction of the Russian reconnaissance plane, triggered by the Israeli Air Force during this (...)

Iran Warns It Will Respond to Future Israeli Strikes Targeting Syria and Its Allies

undefined

Concerns that the conflict in Syria could soon escalate have now grown exponentially following comments from Iran’s top security official that Israel will face retaliatory actions if the country continues to launch unilateral strikes against Syrian military installations.

Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, told the Iranian Fars news agency that Israel “will face reactions that would cause sorrow and penitence” if it continues to launch new airstrikes targeting Syria in support of “terrorist groups” that are fighting to overthrow the country’s government.

Shamkhani, who made the statements during a meeting with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev, added:
The Zionist regime [in Israel] is seeking to create a crisis in Syria and has taken measures in direct support of terrorist groups by hitting the Syrian Army and the forces [in Syria] fighting against terrorism.”
The Iranian official’s warning comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted on Tuesday that his government would continue to launch strikes against Syria “to prevent the Iranian military buildup in Syria” and that “we will do what is necessary to defend Israel’s security.”

Netanyahu vowed to continue the strikes in defiance of Russia’s recent decision to deliver the S-300 missile-defense system to Syria following the downing of a Russian military plane in the country earlier this month. The Russian military has blamed Israel – which was bombing the Syrian city of Latakia at the time the plane went down – for the plane’s destruction and the death of its crew. However, Israel has denied responsibility for the incident.

As recent comments by Netanyahu make clear, Israel has long justified its hundreds of airstrikes in Syria by asserting that it was bombing Iranian military installations. Israel claims the installations are part of an Iranian effort to establish a military foothold in Syria with the aim of placing pressure on Israel’s northern border.

Iranian and Syrian government officials have repeatedly denied this claim, as Iran’s military presence in the country has long been confined to a handful of military advisors who work with the Syrian Arab Army at the behest of the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad.

Israel’s risk-benefit analysis

However, Israel’s long-standing goal of overthrowing the Syrian government, and Tel Aviv’s covert funding and arming of Syrian “rebels,” suggest that Israel’s motivation for launching the strikes goes far beyond alleged concerns over Iran’s military presence and is instead aimed at increasing Israel’s power in the region and its claim to the Golan Heights — Syrian territory that Israel illegally annexed in 1981.

Netanyahu’s recent assurance that Israeli airstrikes would continue has also provoked warnings from Syria’s government, with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad stating on Tuesday that Israel should think twice before launching new attacks in Syria once the S-300 systems are in place and that Syria would use the systems in self-defense to target Israeli planes violating its airspace.

Now, with Iranian officials also warning of retaliatory measures following the next Israeli strike on Syria, the ball is in Israel’s court, as the Israeli government now has the power to push Syria’s conflict towards a dramatic escalation whenever it chooses.

With US support for Israel ensured if such an escalation does take place, Israel seems willing to take the risk of sparking a larger war in Syria. Though such a war would bring nothing but chaos to the region, leaked State Department emails have shown that chaos in Syria benefits Israel, suggesting a strategic motive on Israel’s part for the taking of such a risk.

Reprinted with permission from MintPressNews.

How an American Anthropologist Tied to US Regime-Change Proxies Became the MSM’s Man in Nicaragua

undefined

The Guardian, The Washington Post, the BBC and NPR have assigned an American anthropologist with no previous journalistic experience to cover the crisis in Nicaragua. The novice reporter, named Carl David Goette-Luciak, has published pieces littered with falsehoods that reinforce the opposition’s narrative promoting regime change while relying almost entirely on anti-Sandinista sources.

An investigation for MintPress reveals that Goette-Luciak has forged intimate ties to the opposition, and has essentially functioned as its publicist under journalistic cover. Having claimed to work in the past as an anthropologist and “human rights defender,” Goette-Luciak operated side-by-side with activists from a  US-backed opposition party known as the Sandinista Renovation Movement, or MRS. As we will see in this investigation,  US government-funded organizations have supplied the MRS with millions of dollars worth of election assistance, and continue to fund its activists by funding their NGO’s and social media training.

Goette-Luciak now lists himself as “director of investigations” for an obscure outlet called Radio Ciudadana that was founded a month before the chaos erupted last April. That outlet’s founder, Azucena “Chena” Castillo, is an outspoken member of the MRS party who has devoted herself to the government’s overthrow. Goette-Luciak’s social-media profile reveals intimate ties to numerous MRS leaders and, in a recently deleted podcast interview, he has described his own work to encourage indigenous opposition to the Sandinista front.

Media outlets like the Guardian, NPR and The Washington Post feign objectivity before their readers, presenting themselves as arbiters of truth in an era of fake news. However, in countries where Washington is pushing regime change, these same outlets have dispatched a corps of writers to embed with US-backed opposition elements, provide them with publicity, and sell their goals back to the American public.

Goette-Luciak is one of clearest embodiments of the disturbing trend.

Western media versus the Sandinistas

Goette-Luciak vaulted suddenly into the world of journalism after student-led protests erupted last April 18 in Nicaragua. President Daniel Ortega had announced a set of tax increases to keep the public pension system solvent, triggering mass protests that quickly transformed into a full-scale attempt at regime change.

Within days, violent elements had taken over university campuses and were setting up roadblocks around the country to paralyze its economy.

While American officials condemned killings and abuses by the Nicaraguan government, scores of Sandinista members and national police officers were murdered by opposition gunmen; hundreds more were kidnapped, tortured and abused; and institutions affiliated with the government were destroyed.

Almost as soon as the Sandinista-led government defeated the coup attempt in July, it became the target of a sustained campaign of attacks in Western media. A raft of articles portrayed Ortega, the former guerrilla leader, as a reincarnation of the bloodthirsty, US-backed dictator he had deposed, Anastasio Somoza. The opposition, meanwhile, was painted as a collection of peaceful protesters gunned down for supposedly demanding democracy.

The death and suffering experienced by average Sandinista members was whitewashed across the board, and the role the US played in laying the groundwork for the coup was dismissed as “fake news.” In Washington, the media campaign propelled a push in Congress for crushing sanctions targeting Nicaragua’s previously productive economy.

Many Western reporters have embarked on short regime-change fishing expeditions guided by opposition activists from one anti-Sandinista source to the next. But Goette-Luciak had been in the country all along, and he stayed after the violence subsided. This provided him with special value to publications like the Guardian, which were apparently hungry for more on-the-ground reporting painting the Sandinistas as uniquely evil and unqualified to govern.

Misinformation in the service of the opposition

On September 7, Goette-Luciak published an article in the Guardian claiming that the country had been brought to a virtual halt by a general strike by the anti-government Civic Alliance umbrella group. His co-author was Caroline Houck, a staff correspondent for the website Defense One, which leverages ad revenue from the arms industry to “provide news, analysis and ideas for national security leaders and stakeholders.”

The Nicaraguan-born activist Camilo Mejia highlighted several pieces of misinformation contained in the article. Contrary to the claim that the Civic Alliance interrupted the country’s economy with its general strike, Managuan marketplaces were bustling that day and commerce proceeded as usual. As Mejia noted, the opposition had only managed to close the high-end businesses that supported its regime-change agenda.

Goette-Luciak and Houck published extensive quotes from Ana Margarita Vijil, falsely describing her as “national director of the outlawed Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS).” In fact, the marginal MRS had not been “outlawed;” its candidates had garnered a pitiful 1.3 percent of the popular vote in the last election, which is below the legal threshold to qualify to run as a political party.

The authors then quoted Vijil claiming that, “[w]ith 200 political prisoners and [new] murders every day, this strike is just one more sign that nothing is normal here in Nicaragua.” What Goette-Luciak and his co-author failed to mention was that those recent murders have consisted largely of Sandinista supporters. The recent murder victims include Lenin Mendiola, an FSLN militant and son of two revered Sandinista historical figures, Benigna Mendiola and Bernardino Díaz Ochoa.

But the most striking omission by Goette-Luciak was of his relationship with his source and her party, which has enjoyed direct support from the  US government. Here, the two can be seen together at a conference in an image that highlights their mutual affinity.

Vijil is the former president of the MRS, or the Sandinista Renewal Movement. She has served as a fellow of the Central American Leadership Initiative at the Aspen Institute, a hub of neoliberal thought funded by the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund, among others.

Just before the coup erupted in April, Vijil was in Washington for a “high level executive meeting,” according to Yaser Morazan, an MRS activist whose “Agente de Cambio” initiative and social-media training have been sponsored by USAID — an arm of the  US State Department — and the  US-funded Instituto de Estudios Estratégicos y Políticas Públicas (IEEPP). Three weeks before the coup, Morazan posted a selfie outside IEEPP’s office promising a series of “surprises” and pledging his secrecy about them.

For his part, Goette-Luciak has been connected with the MRS most directly through Azucena Castillo, a prominent party activist whom he lists as his employer at Radio Ciudadana.

Goette-Luciak did not respond to an emailed request for an interview.

The best ex-Sandinistas the  US could buy

Goette-Luciak appears to have inherited his affinity for the MRS party from his father, Ilja Luciak, an academic who focused his research on Central America and served for several years as the chair of political science at Virginia Tech.

In an interview with an obscure travel website called the Edge of Adventure, Goette-Luciak credited his father with inspiring his interest in Nicaragua. He described him as a “Marxist” who was inspired by the Sandinista revolution that unfolded during the 1980’s. But according to his academic CV, Luciak’s work on Nicaragua has been backed by European foundations, the European Commission, and USAID.

In his book After the Revolution: Gender and Democracy in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, Luciak wrote sympathetically about the female former Sandinistas who helped lead the MRS party’s crusade against Ortega.

His son, Goette-Luciak, channeled the purist sensibility of the MRS in his interview with Edge of Adventure:
As a leftist, I was intrigued by where the Sandinista revolution — which to me was a very utopian idealistic revolution and a great example of potential social change for Latin America — where it had gone awry.
The MRS was established to expose and exacerbate the supposed failings of the Sandinista front. Founded in 1994 by ex-Vice President Sergio Ramirez and a collection of ex-FSLN militants — most of them from more affluent, educated backgrounds than common Sandinistas — the party’s disruptive agenda made it a natural candidate for assistance from Washington.

In 2006, the MRS and the  US government plotted to prevent Ortega’s election. A September 6, 2006 US embassy cable — revealingly entitled, “MRS: We Want To Bring Ortega Down” — laid out some of those plans. Authored by  US Ambassador Paul Trivelli, the cable described a meeting between the ambassador and Israel Lewites, the nephew of MRS presidential candidate Herty Lewites, who had just died from a heart attack.

Trivelli confirmed direct US government support for the MRS election campaign, noting that 30 percent of its election observers had been trained by the International Republican Institute, a US-funded, Republican Party-run soft-power organization overseen by then-Sen. John McCain.

“The MRS intends to have at least two people per voting table […] on election day, but they need funds to feed and transport the fiscales and other helpers,” Trivelli stated.

In all, the  US government contributed a whopping $12 million in 2006 towards “election technical assistance, outreach, and observation” in Nicaragua’s 2006 election. In other words, it spent two dollars for every Nicaraguan citizen to defeat Ortega.

A separate leaked diplomatic cable detailed a meeting during that election campaign between MRS co-founder Dora Maria Tellez and the ambassador, Trivelli. Foreshadowing the coup that unfolded this year, Tellez told  US embassy officials that “the MRS will warn the FSLN that if it steals the election, the MRS will ‘take to the streets,’ opining that this is the ‘only kind of message Ortega understands.'”

The MRS ultimately failed to prevent Ortega’s victory and wound up reaching out to the US again as its domestic support base collapsed. In 2016, the MRS’s Vijil joined a delegation to lobby in Washington for the Nica Act, a bill proposing crushing sanctions on her country.

On Capitol Hill, Vigil posed alongside a cast of  US-backed activists and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a neoconservative Cuban-American Republican who was the main author of the sanctions bill.

Two years later, MRS activists were at the forefront of the coup attempt that sought Ortega’s removal. Several participants in the protests this April who later turned against the opposition described witnessing MRS leaders providing truck loads of supplies for opposition forces occupying university campuses.

While the MRS performed its historic role as the knife in the FSLN’s back, it supplied Western media with a cast of English-speaking voices demanding regime change in the name of supposedly progressive values. Its most prominent voice was Gioconda Belli, an affluent  US-based poet and professional former Sandinista, who took to mainstream  US outlets to paint Ortega as a murderous dictator, as she has done for years. (Belli’s brother, Humberto, is a Catholic priest affiliated with the far-right Opus Dei cult and a client of the militantly anti-abortion American tycoon Tom Monaghan).

Then there was Goette-Luciak (seen here  with Belli), who functioned on the ground as the MRS party’s publicist in photo-journalistic attire.

A “dual use” anthropologist

Prior to the unrest that swept across Nicaragua last April, there was little record of Goette-Luciak’s presence as a writer or journalist. He had written one piece for NPR on how Nicaraguans were not as happy as the World Happiness Report said they were.

His co-author, Carlos Salinas Maldonado, was a writer for the opposition magazine Confidencial, which is funded by the US government’s regime-change arm, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Open Society Foundation.

In his byline, Goette-Luciak described himself as “an anthropologist in Managua.” He was listed in conference papers as a graduate student at the University of Virginia around that time, focusing his work on the Rama-Kriol and Miskito populations of Nicaragua’s eastern coast.

These indigenous groups have been at loggerheads with the Sandinista movement since the civil war in the 1980’s, when the CIA cultivated them as US allies. Ronald Reagan made the relationship a centerpiece of his administration’s Cold War crusade when he declared in a 1985 speech, “I am … a Miskito Indian. I too, am a potential victim of totalitarianism.”

The indigenous North Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua remains a key target for US influence, as Washington seeks to exploit the simmering conflict between its local population and the leftist government in Managua. Leaked diplomatic cables demonstrate efforts by the  US embassy to cultivate anti-Sandinista sentiment in the area by working to facilitate human-rights complaints by former CIA-backed Contra fighters against FSLN leadership.

In 2013, the Ortega government announced plans by a Chinese magnate to construct a canal through his country, presenting a direct threat to US control over shipping lines in the western hemisphere and prompting an outcry from the US embassy. Soon, an anti-canal movement emerged in the countryside as one of the main drivers of anti-Sandinista sentiment. The campaign against the canal poured fuel on the fire of the coastal indigenous population’s long-simmering conflict with the government.

Though Goette-Luciak described himself in his bio as an “anthropologist in Managua,” he later revealed that he was working among the Miskito population and with the Rama-Kriol communal government to stimulate opposition to the Sandinistas.

“I worked on informing the indigenous community of their rights at a time of crisis, when the government was attempting to depict to the international audience consent among the indigenous population for the sale of their land,” Goette-Luciak said in an interview this year with The Edge of Adventure.

It might seem cavalier for an academically credentialed anthropologist to assert political influence on the population he is supposed to be studying; however, Goette-Luciak’s activities fit within a long tradition. As author David Price illustrated in several book-length studies on what he called “dual use anthropology,” many American anthropologists were supported during the Cold War by private foundations and even the CIA to conduct activities on behalf of their government. More recently, the Pentagon weaponized the field of study through programs like its Human Terrain System, which lured newly graduated anthropologists with lucrative salaries to assist  US military counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is no evidence that Goette-Luciak is an asset of the CIA or any other US agency. However, his advancement of Washington’s divisive political objectives during the course of his ethnographic fieldwork represented a fairly clear example of dual-use anthropology.

Selective stories from the front lines

In his interview with Edge of Adventure, Goette-Luciak cited the killing of Angel Gahona — a reporter he described as his “neighbor” in the city of Bluefields in southeastern Nicaragua — as his inspiration for moving into the field of journalism.

Gahona was killed while delivering a Facebook live report during an anti-government protest. He was shot while filming a bank that had been looted, and unidentified men could be seen in the shadows of the bank moments before Gahona was hit. This prompted some observers to allege that he was killed by professional criminals for filming them while they took advantage of the chaos to rob a bank.

Though the government arrested two suspects in the killing, Gahona’s family blamed the national police for deliberately targeting him in retaliation for his coverage of alleged police abuse. Goette-Luciak presented these allegations and accusing the government of a cover-up in his first article for the Guardian on May 29.

Goette-Luciak also described to the Edge of Adventure having witnessed the so-called Mother’s Day Massacre, where several demonstrators commemorating those who had already died in the unrest were killed on May 30.

The bloodshed that took place that day remains a source of heated contention. Violence had erupted across the country, with the opposition opening fire on a Sandinista caravan in the city of Esteli, killing one and wounding dozens. Opposition vandals burned the leftist Radio Ya station for the third time as well as parts of Managua’s Metrocentro complex. Videos show opposition gunmen opening fire that day on the streets of Managua and toting weapons near the Mother’s Day march. The opposition and Western media placed the blame squarely on Sandinista-affiliated elements for sniping into the crowd of marchers, but have yet to produce clear evidence proving their case.

Speaking to the Edge of Adventure, Goette-Luciak conceded that he had left the march and was several blocks away drinking a beer when the shooting began. He said he returned after he heard shooting and described the deaths as the result of targeting killings by Sandinista paramilitaries.

“I witnessed two deaths…” he told Edge of Adventure. “A young man standing a few yards from me was hit by a bullet in the head, and standing behind him, what I saw was the back of his head explode like a watermelon that got dropped.”

Hours after the violence, a ferociously anti-government network known as “100% Noticias” published a grisly photo of a man supposedly killed by government forces whose brain was spilling out of his skull. The image was soon exposed as a fake and has since been deleted. In fact, it depicted a death from a separate conflict and had been taken years before.

Though Goette-Luciak said he had taken photos of the march, he has yet to publish any of the killings he said he witnessed.

In a separate incident this June, Goette-Luciak appeared momentarily in a highly disturbing video filmed by 100% Noticias. He could be seen taking photos of a mob of opposition thugs in the act of kidnapping and beating an aging Sandinista member they had found squatting on a local oligarch’s abandoned property. Oddly, Goette-Luciak published no photos of the incident and did not report on it.

The Radio La Ciudadana outlet where Goette-Luciak is listed as “director of investigations” contains sparse evidence of journalistic production: a section on the site marked as “investigations” is empty; the photos section contains 15 images Goette-Luciak captured on Mother’s Day, where he claimed to have witnessed two murders: a grand total of three news stories are featured on the site. Radio La Ciudadana was founded by Azucena “Chena” Castillo, an MRS party activist who has also worked as director of the USAID-funded outlet Radio Universidad.

The only other record of Goette-Luciak’s photojournalism existed at the Edge of Adventure website, which had published about 20 images he captured — one of which depicted him posing with an opposition gunman. The Edge of Adventure is a little-known media site founded by Adam Asher Wattenbarger, a self-styled travel journalist who is listed as an executive at the right-wing, Christian-oriented Salem Media Group.

This month, Goette-Luciak fell under sustained criticism from Sandinista supporters on Facebook for his one-sided coverage of the country’s political crisis. Many accused him of operating as a  US intelligence asset. The Edge of Adventure promptly deleted its podcast interview with him and scrubbed most of his photos from the site.

Goette-Luciak then began cleaning up his own Facebook page, deleting his selfies with MRS party leaders.

Objective journalistic promoters of the “resistance”

Earlier this summer, Goette-Luciak was in the thick of the most intense fighting between opposition gunmen and Sandinista-aligned forces. It was in Masaya, a city where the opposition had seized and cordoned off entire neighborhoods in an attempt to declare a junta.

As I found when I visited Masaya a month later, the opposition had waged a campaign of terror against Sandinista supporters, burning their homes, kidnapping,beating, torturing and even killing them, while laying siege to the local police station. In one of the most gruesome incidents, an unarmed community police officer named Gabriel Vado was kidnapped by opposition gunmen, dragged to death from the back of a truck, and torched on camera while slumped before a roadblock.

There was virtually no mention of the opposition’s ongoing campaign of terror in Goette-Luciak’s June 23 report for The Washington Post, which he co-authored with Houck of the arms industry-funded Defense One. Instead, Goette-Luciak painted the gunmen as valiant resistance fighters and promoted their call for the US to send them heavy weapons: “Several asked a reporter whether President Trump would send support to the resistance,” he wrote.

To be sure, Goette-Luciak was far from the only Western media figure to embed with the armed opposition in Masaya and trumpet its gallantry. Some of the most overtly pro-opposition messaging arrived courtesy of a reporter named Tim Rogers. An American who spent years publishing news of interest to the local emigre and tourist population, Rogers emerged this year as a ferocious promoter of the armed opposition.

In Masaya, Rogers seemed to throb with admiration for the masked gunmen manning the barricades.

While characterizing the opposition as “an unarmed population,” Rogers glorified the lethal weaponry they deployed from behind the roadblocks. Goette-Luciak’s now-deleted photo gallery at the Edge of Adventure demonstrated that the gunmen not only toted homemade mortars, but assault weapons and handguns as well.

Like Goette-Luciak, Rogers’ cheerleading for the armed opposition was rewarded with bylines in mainstream publications from Public Radio International and The Atlantic, where he claimed Nicaragua was a “failed state” that was undergoing “democratic renewal” thanks to the push for regime change. He was ultimately hired as the Latin American editor of Fusion, a website owned by the Israel-American oligarch and Democratic Party mega-donor Haim Saban. There, Rogers produced a viral propaganda video likening the Sandinista movement to ISIS.

The out-of-the-blue emergence of figures like Goette-Luciak and Rogers as correspondents for legacy Western publications can not be viewed as an aberration or mistake. In Nicaragua, as in so many other countries targeted with regime-change operations, outlets like the Guardian, New York Times and Washington Post seem to demand on-the-ground coverage that reinforces the regime-change agenda.

And so they credentialed opposition publicists as journalists, instilling in them the illusion of their own professionalism. “I think I’ve come to realize the value of objective and impartial journalism,” Goette-Luciak said in his Edge of Adventure interview, “and I no longer consider myself as an activist for or against any particular cause.”

Max Blumenthal is the founder and editor of GrayzoneProject.com, the co-host of the podcast Moderate Rebels, the author of several books and producer of full-length documentaries including the recently released Killing Gaza. Follow him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.

Reprinted with permission from MintPressNews.

From Deconstruction To Demolition

If anarchism and post-modernism are synonymous, then, the primary reason the post-modern age has not fully come to pass as of yet is because post-modernism has been divorced from its motor force, anarchism. Therefore, post-modernism has been sabotaged; it has been detached from its locomotive centrifuge, deep within its theoretical apparatus and critical techniques, namely, anarchism. Consequently, post-modernism has remained bourgeois; i.e., mildly critical of the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, while simultaneously championing maximum plurality, equality and heterogeneity via its practices. Post-modernism has fallen under the mystifying spell of bourgeois-capitalism. As a result, it has not pushed on. Post-modernism no longer pushes forward its inherent programme for the total deconstruction of all meta-narratives, including the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism. Today, post-modernism lies in maudlin stagnation due to the fact it is inescapably bourgeois. Having jettisoned its engine; i.e., anarchism, post-modernism has fallen into ineffective reformism. And, reformism is the system. Therefore, if post-modernism seeks to re-animate its radical critique and its revolutionary programme, and raise itself out of the sloppy stagnation it has fallen into, then post-modernism needs to get re-acquainted with its core centrifuge, anarchism.

In effect, post-modernism has remained bourgeois by remaining trapped in the bourgeois-philosophy of mild deconstruction, that is, bourgeois-deconstruction, bourgeois-deconstruction being the careful and gradual dismantling of an apparatus or building, while, deliberately preserving certain valuable elements for reuse and refurbishing. To quote, Jacques Derrida, deconstruction means “1. To disassemble the parts of a whole. To deconstruct a machine to transport elsewhere.”1 Subsequently, bourgeois-deconstruction is a gradual meticulous process, which softly and mildly, dismantles segments of a text or apparatus, while, ultimately, keeping the overall structure of a text, or structural-apparatus, intact. Derridean deconstruction dismantles a text or apparatus, but, dismantles them only to reconstruct a text or apparatus, all over again, ultimately leaving the text or apparatus unscathed and the same as before.

Bourgeois-deconstruction makes textual structures, both conceptual and material, wobble without them falling over or crumbling. However, according to the architect of deconstruction, Jacques Derrida, deconstruction “is neither an analysis nor a critique.[Moreover, it] is not a method and cannot be transformed into one. Deconstruction is not even an act or an operation etc.”2. It is an empty nullity. In brief, this is a retreat on Derrida’s part. It is a rejection by Derrida of the revolutionary potential of deconstruction.  Nevertheless, despite this retreat, by Derrida, deconstruction is most certainly all of those empowering things; i.e., it is a method, an analysis, a critique and a decisive act. Even, if Derrida plays coy and states otherwise, deconstruction embodies a certain set of rules, capable of application in a most more radical manner.

First and foremost, Derrida says “deconstruction is a word”3, and words have definitions and practical implications. Words are useful. As Ludwig Wittgenstein states, words are like “tools in a tool-box…the functions of words…serve to modify something”.4 They have uses and this is exactly what deconstruction does. It modifies a text or structure through an analytical deconstruction process.  Secondly, according to Derrida, deconstruction embodies specific instructions, instructions that stipulate that all “structures [are] to be undone, decomposed, de-sedimented…(all types of structures, linguistic, logo-centric etc.)”.5  Consequently, despite Derrida’s objections that “deconstruction [does not] correspond to some clear and univocal signification”6, deconstruction does, nonetheless, function and operate as a philosophy and a method of analysis. It may be, as Derrida states, “an anti-structuralist gesture”7 at its basic datum, but, deconstruction is a philosophy and a method, nonetheless, even if this philosophy is a radical form of anti-philosophy and a sort of anti-method, method.

Understanding the radical implications of deconstruction, Derrida distances himself from the concept. For instance, when asked  “what is deconstruction? [Derrida responds] “Nothing, of course!”.3  And, by distancing himself from the revolutionary implications of deconstruction, Derrida abandons the post-modern project of a world without grand narratives and/or large-scale oppressive discourses. By denying the revolutionary force that is deconstruction, and divorcing himself from the engine of post-modernism, anarchism, Derrida inadvertently sabotages the post-modern project and the full maturation of post-modernism. That is, Derrida sabotages the post-modern programme which demands the levelling-down of all meta-narratives in the name of maximum plurality, equality and heterogeneity; i.e., the end of large-scale oppression.

In effect, Derrida turns deconstruction into a bourgeois past-time. He de-fangs the revolutionary force inherent in deconstruction, anarchism, and domesticates deconstruction, making it tame and palpable for moderate bourgeois liberals. He turns deconstruction into a lame form of bourgeois-deconstruction. Indeed, under Derrida, deconstruction becomes a means to integrate marginal narratives and marginalized people into the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism. Bourgeois-deconstruction becomes a manner by which to turn everything and everyone into bourgeois acolytes, susceptible to capitalist exploitation and capitalist domination. In short, Derrida reduces deconstruction to a form of mild, apologetic post-modernism, easily absorbed into the profit-making mechanisms of bourgeois-capitalism. Under Derrida, the concept of deconstruction becomes the concept of bourgeois-deconstruction, mild criticism and an apology for the capitalist-system.

In actuality, despite profiting from the core principles of post-modernism and anarchism, namely, radical plurality, radical equality and a radical antipathy towards all meta-narratives, Derrida sabotages these core, anarchist, post-modernist principles by denying their factual presence within deconstruction. Derrida reduces the revolutionary implications inherent in post-modernism, anarchism and deconstruction into a mild shaking or wobbling of the dominant linguistic structures, while, in the end, always keeping them the same and intact. For example, as Derrida states, within Grammatology:

The movements of deconstruction do not destroy structures. [They inhabit]….them in a certain way…operating necessarily from the inside, borrowing all the strategic and economic resources of subversion from the old structure, borrowing them structurally, [and making them wobble a little.]…[This] is…the enterprise of deconstruction.8

In this regard, Derrida’s mild form of deconstruction reasserts, in opposition to post-modernism and anarchism, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, by facilitating the integration of marginal groups and marginal narratives into the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism.

The point of post-modernism and it motor force, anarchism, if one wishes to stay true to their core principles, is nothing less than the complete overthrow of all meta-narratives, especially, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism. Therefore, Derridean deconstruction is nothing more than liberal bourgeois reform. It is bourgeois in the sense that, ultimately, bourgeois-deconstruction is a mild form of domesticated deconstruction in service of the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism. The result is that Derridean deconstruction fails to uphold the core tenets of post-modernism and anarchism, including deconstruction, itself. Derrida fails to follow the full-implications inherent in deconstruction to its logical conclusion; i.e., the complete overthrow of all meta-narratives. Indeed, describing the anti-method of deconstruction at work, Gayatri Spivak, in her introduction to Grammatology, outlines the methodology of bourgeois-deconstruction as:

locating the promising marginal text [inside the dominant text], [finding] the undecidable moment, [so as] to pry it loose …[and] reverse the resident hierarchy, only to displace it; to dismantle [it] in order to reconstitute [it]…[Taking] away the assurance of the text’s authority…by inaugurating the open-ended indefiniteness of textuality.9

Meaning, the point of bourgeois-deconstruction is not the demolition of meta-narratives and oppressive structures. The point is to make these wobble, while, ultimately keeping them intact in hope that these oppressive structures and meta-narratives will open themselves to the inclusion of marginal groups and narratives.

In the final analysis, the point of Derridean bourgeois-deconstruction is merely to cast doubt on a text or apparatus, whether, this text or apparatus is conceptual or material. The hope is to cast doubt on these ruling conceptual and material structures in order to permit the integration of marginal groups and perspectives into the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism. Consequently, Derridean deconstruction is a form of reformism, already a mechanism of the bourgeois system, designed to defuse any revolutionary fervor against the bourgeois system via integration.

In fact, Derrida never mentions the revolutionary implications of deconstruction, specifically, the implication that if there is a complete lack of foundation, or solid ground, underlying any meta-authority, since, “there is [no] pure signified”10, then, there is no such thing as ultimate truth, or being. There is, in essence, no timeless meta-authority by which to judge, equitably and impartially any text or apparatus. Meaning, there is no legitimate or justifiable ground for the governing power of any meta-authority, whatsoever. This is the unstated radical implications of deconstruction.

Moreover, following the logic of deconstruction to its logical conclusion, this means there is legitimate reason or justifiable evidence to eliminate all meta-authorities from the face of the earth, on grounds that they are unjustifiable, unfounded, arbitrary authority figures. Following the logic of deconstruction to its logical conclusion, the only justifiable and legitimate authority possible, which can reflect a certain level of legitimacy, is a decentralized patchwork of micro-narratives and individuals, namely, a plurality of micro-narratives and individuals sharing decision-making-authority, equally, between themselves unopposed by any overarching, authoritarian meta-narrative. The revolutionary implications of deconstruction is that the only possible socio-economic formation capable of real legitimacy is some form of socio-economic heterogeneity and radical equality for all.

Therefore, Derridean deconstruction is inescapably bourgeois, because, it buttresses the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, it does not deconstruct any meta-authority beyond the point of no return, hence, the reason it is bourgeois. Derridean bourgeois-deconstruction is still around because it is useful to bourgeois-capitalism in that it expands its dominion and its control over the micro-recesses of everyday life and the general-population, by encouraging the integration of marginalized narratives, moments of everyday life, and segments of the general-population within the bourgeois totalitarian framework.

The only solution to Derrida’s mild form of docile, obedient deconstruction is that it must be completely abandoned.  The revolutionary implications of deconstruction must be extracted, radicalized and turned into a form of conceptual and material demolitionism, while the Derridean practice of mild deconstruction must be jettisoned to the dust-bin of history and replaced by demolitionism. Demolitionism is the logic of deconstruction pushed to its ultimate conclusion, demolition. Demolitionism is a radical form of deconstruction bent on the total demolition of all meta-narratives, especially, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism.

So, demolitionism is both a radical critique of Derridean bourgeois-deconstruction and a radical outgrowth of Derridean deconstruction. It is a pragmatic methodology and praxis, both conceptual and material, which fully embodies the core principles of post-modernism and anarchism. Demolitionism uncompromisingly demands the complete tear-down or demolition of all meta-narratives, including the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, in all shapes and forms. Demolitionism does not stop at the mild shaking or questioning of the dominant conceptual and material structures of bourgeois-capitalism, as Derrida does. Instead, demolitionism is a process and radical critique, designed for the total destruction of the dominant conceptual and material structures of bourgeois-capitalism in service of radical post-modernism and radical anarchism. It is demolition in the name of equality, diversity and heterogeneity.

In league with Bakunin, demolitionism “requires an extensive and widespread destruction, a fecund and renovating destruction, since in this way and only this way are new worlds born”.11 Demolitionism is the “elemental force [of anarchist post-modernism designed to] sweep… away all [despotic] obstacles”.12 Demolitionism is, in essence, a pragmatic radical form of deconstruction, both material and conceptual, programmed to detonate all meta-narratives sky-high. The objective is to clear the way for radical plurality, radical equality, and multi-varied anarchist post-modernity, wherefore, decision-making-authority is shared between all micro-narratives, in relative equal measure. The objective of demolitionism is to establish a clearing for the full-development of post-modernism, that is, for the full-development of post-modern anarchism.

In sum, demolitionism is the anti-method of radical plurality, radical equality, namely, the radical tear-down of all meta-narratives. The point of demolitionism is to permit a plethora of micro-narratives to flourish and thrive in the bosom of a fully-developed post-modern age. That is, a post-modern anarchist society, without  the presence of any ruling meta-authority determining relations and narrative organizations. As a result, at its core, demolitionism is “the vengeance of the oppressed”13; it is an instrument of radical equality, affirming, on legitimate grounds, that “by all means, let us destroy! [And,] let us demolish!”14, here and now, meta-narratives.

  1. Jacques Derrida, “Letter to a Japanese Friend”, A Derrida Reader (Between The Blinds), ed. Peggy Kamuf, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991) p. 271.
  2. Ibid, p. 273.
  3. Ibid, p. 275.
  4. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Trans. G.E.M. Ancombre, (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1958) pp. 6-7.
  5. Jacques Derrida, “Letter to a Japanese Friend”, A Derrida Reader (Between The Blinds), ed. Peggy Kamuf, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991) p. 272.
  6. Ibid, p. 270.
  7. Ibid, p. 272.
  8. Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, Trans. Gayatri Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016) p. 25.
  9. Ibid, pp. c-ci.
  10. Ibid, p. 174.
  11. Mikhail Bakunin, Bakunin On Anarchy, ed. Sam Dolgoff, (New York: Vintage Books, 1972) p. 334.
  12. Ibid, p. 325.
  13. Errico Malatesta, Errico Malatesta: His Life and Ideas, ed. Vernon Richards, (London: Freedom Press, 1984) p. 477.
  14. Ibid, p. 475.

Brett Kavanaugh’s Wayward Penis: A New Twist

In the latest episode of the lurid reality TV series/peep show that passes for politics in this country, the news-channel chyrons and 24/7 talking-head panel are buzzing with yet another belated allegation of sexual harassment/assault against would-be Justice of the Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh. This new one harks back to his freshman year at Yale—so it’s been moldering for a mere 35 years, not the ancient 36 years of the first accusation. In this latest revelation, first reported in The New Yorker, he is alleged to have dangled his unsheathed manhood in the face of a woman at a fraternity party at which everyone was admittedly quite hammered, including Kavanaugh and his accuser.

But this one even further blurs the increasingly fuzzy boundary between legitimate grievance and partisan trolling; the latest complainant, Deborah Ramirez, at first wasn’t sure of her own memories of the party. According to The New Yorker story, coauthored by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow, the Inspector Javert of the neoliberal metoo journalistic establishment:

She was at first hesitant to speak publicly, partly because her memories contained gaps because she had been drinking at the time of the alleged incident. In her initial conversations with The New Yorker, she was reluctant to characterize Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged incident with certainty.

But . . . now get this:

After six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney [emphasis added], Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections to say that she remembers Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away. Ramirez is now calling for the F.B.I. to investigate Kavanaugh’s role in the incident. ‘I would think an F.B.I. investigation would be warranted,’ she said.

If there is a classic case study in getting lawyered up, this is it: someone has no firm or recollections of an incident until she spends six days with her lawyer, after which, as if struck by lightning, she careens from utter confusion to photographic recall.

Carefully scrutinize the rest of the article: there is not one person who recalls being present at the party who verifies Ramirez’s version of events—in other words, no independent eyewitnesses. Hence yet another uncorroborated allegation. Given this difficulty, the dogged Farrow and Mayer, do not hesitate, in the manner of an overcaffienated hair salon manicurist, to retail every tattered thread of hearsay and innuendo they can scrape together to foster a semblance of “journalism” about something other than a politically motivated woman with a foggy, drunken memory suddenly sprouting into a marvel of near-supercognitive recall. Here’s one such morsel:

Another classmate, Richard Oh, an emergency-room doctor in California, recalled overhearing, soon after the party, a female student tearfully recounting to another student an incident at a party involving a gag with a fake penis, followed by a male student exposing himself. Oh is not certain of the identity of the female student. . . .

In brief, someone who was not there, who was not even certain of the identity of the accused or the accuser, is deemed worthy of quotation as a legitimate journalistic source, presumably because he went to Yale and is a doctor; given The New Yorker’s weakness for the elite-college demographic, most likely the janitor at that same doctor’s office would have been deemed a less quote-worthy gossip on a subject of which he too claimed to have no direct knowledge. (Some of the other hearsay cited is more specific, but none of it is eyewitness evidence.) One can scarcely believe that this parody of the game of rumor found its way into the pages of The New Yorker.

As for the people who were at the party, all dispute Ramirez’s account. I’m going to quote this section at length:

In a statement, two of those male classmates who Ramirez alleged were involved in the incident, the wife of a third male student she said was involved, and three other classmates, Dino Ewing, Louisa Garry, and Dan Murphy, disputed Ramirez’s account of events: “We were the people closest to Brett Kavanaugh during his first year at Yale. He was a roommate to some of us, and we spent a great deal of time with him, including in the dorm where this incident allegedly took place. Some of us were also friends with Debbie Ramirez during and after her time at Yale. We can say with confidence that if the incident Debbie alleges ever occurred, we would have seen or heard about it—and we did not. The behavior she describes would be completely out of character for Brett. In addition, some of us knew Debbie long after Yale, and she never described this incident until Brett’s Supreme Court nomination was pending. Editors from The New Yorker contacted some of us because we are the people who would know the truth, and we told them that we never saw or heard about this.

The former friend who was married to the male classmate alleged to be involved, and who signed the statement, said of Ramirez, “This is a woman I was best friends with. We shared intimate details of our lives. And I was never told this story by her, or by anyone else. It never came up. I didn’t see it; I never heard of it happening.” She said she hadn’t spoken with Ramirez for about ten years, but that the two women had been close all through college, and Kavanaugh had remained part of what she called their “larger social circle.” In an initial conversation with The New Yorker, she suggested that Ramirez may have been politically motivated. Later, she said that she did not know if this was the case.

The New York Times had also looked into Ramirez’s allegations and declined to publish the story for lack of first-hand corroboration. In a September 23 story, Times reporters Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Nicholas Fandos write:

The Times had interviewed several dozen people over the past week in an attempt to corroborate her story, and could find no one with firsthand knowledge. Ms. Ramirez herself contacted former Yale classmates asking if they recalled the incident and told some of them that she could not be certain Mr. Kavanaugh was the one who exposed himself.

Even the normally DNC-friendly stalwarts of CBS This Morning could not restrain their doubts about this flimsy reporting when interviewing Mayer on the air. Yet none of these red flags deterred Farrow and Mayer from plunging ahead with what emerges as a nonstory by standards of responsibly sourced journalism.

Let’s be honest: irrespective your political outlook or views about Kavanaugh’s politics, which I find repugnant, and about his personal character, which no doubt harbors the same blotches of darkness as any other right-wing asshole, as any other nominee to the Supreme Court whom Trump will nominate if Kavanaugh’s name is withdrawn: If it were your career and reputation and livelihood that were on the line, would you want your fate decided on the basis of a series of unvetted, uncorroborated accusations about events at a drunken party that took place nearly four decades ago? Are you ready to vouch for the probity and impeccable good taste of everything you ever did at a high school or college party? Do you think the decades-old frat-party gossip of the kind retailed in this story ought to determine the outcome of any decision on the governance of the country, or should we rely rather on principled argument?

Of course, serious criminal charges of rape, pedophilia, or work- or academic-related sexual harassment by superiors should be prosecuted vigorously. But it is unlikely that any court of law, guided by the rules of evidence and due process, would find criminality in either of these alleged incidents. And there is no doubt, that if left unchecked, the spray of unvetted innuendo and allegation over more venial or noncriminal sexual crudities will one day be turned against the left—the real left, not just the establishment Franken types—with even more dire consequences than are now being felt by the Republicans in their partisan food fights with their fellow corporate servants in the neoliberal establishment and its pseudo-progressive followers.

The political and journalistic elites of this country, notwithstanding their orchestrated soap operas of partisan feuds and personal acrimony, together preside over a babel of lies and cheesy gossip and crackpot xenophobic conspiracy theories—this is the entirety of our public discourse nowadays, a mad cacophony that drowns out even the barest mention of the grave economic and environmental/climate emergencies besetting our planet and our species. It’s as though the entire country has yet to graduate from high school. I guess that’s why it finds tales of that milieu so compelling while taking so little interest in more serious matters.

And what are the consequences of marauding Supreme Court nominees over distant, unprovable drunken sexual trespasses from high school or college as opposed to pressing them on critical political issues? If Kavanaugh had turned out to be a spotless model of chivalry and erotic decorum, would the neoliberal blowhards among the Senate Democrats then have given him a pass on posing a grave threat to abortion rights, the environment and climate, and labor unions? Given their shameful record in such matters, this would be precisely the case: Democrats have provided the margin of victory needed for nearly every right-wing Republican appointee who now sits on the Supreme Court, even when they had the votes to mount a blocking filibuster. 1

Breast-beating about issues of identity politics provides the ideal cover for a Democratic elite that colludes with the Republicans on nearly every issue of corporate dominance of the polity (both major parties oppose public financing of elections), coddling of the corrupt financial elites, job-draining investor-rights (“trade”) pacts like WTO/NAFTA, the omnivorous national security state, the bloated military, and disastrous imperialist aggressions abroad. Frantically wave the distracting handkerchief of concern over a high school party in 1983, and then hope that the electorate won’t notice your treachery on every other issue that affects their economic and ecological well-being.

Pseudo-progressive apologists for the Democrats in the MSM and social media might be reveling in this roar of distraction as long as it targets their partisan foes and fosters a nice salacious narrative to whip up the base for the midterm elections, but eventually this chronic din of inanity and mendacity will drown out the last hoarse cry of truth, with grim consequences for us all.

  1. Samuel Alito: Cloture vote: 74–25 (19 Democrats voting for cloture; i.e., allowing a final vote on Alito and thus stopping a filibuster [60 votes are needed to impose cloture]). Confirmed: 58–42 on January 31, 2006. (The cloture vote was the pivotal vote since the final vote was a foregone conclusion; once the Democrats conspired with the Republicans to invoke cloture, any subsequent Democratic “nay” votes on confirmation were purely symbolic and meaningless.)

    John Roberts: No roll call vote on cloture so voice vote or unanimous consent. Confirmed: 78–22 on September 29, 2005 (22 of 44 Democrats voted to confirm).

    Clarence Thomas: No roll call vote on cloture so voice vote or unanimous consent. Confirmed 52–48 on October 15, 1991(11 of 57 Democrats voted to confirm—but again—there were more than enough Democratic votes to sustain a filibuster, but none was attempted).

    Antonin Scalia: No roll call vote on cloture so voice vote or unanimous consent. Confirmed: 98–0 on September 17, 1986 (All 47 Democrats voted for Scalia—the 2 “not present” votes were Republicans).

Who is Canada’s NDP Dialoguing with in Israel

Who exactly is the NDP making friends with in Israel?

In refusing to heed a call from 200 well-known musicians, academics, trade unionists and NDP members to withdraw from the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group (CIIG) the party leadership cites the need for “dialogue”. But, when Jagmeet Singh, Hélène Laverdière, Murray Rankin and others call for “dialogue” they don’t specify who they are talking to.

A quick Google search of CIIG’s Israeli partner — the Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group — shows that all 13 of its members have expressed views or proposed laws that most NDP members would consider odious. Below is a snapshot of the Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group members — none of whom are from parties that represents Palestinian citizens of Israel — that Canadian MPs are creating relationships with:

Robert Ilatov proposed a bill in May to stop “harassment by left-wing operatives of Israeli soldiers” by criminalizing those who film Israeli troops repressing Palestinians. The bill states: “Anyone who filmed, photographed, and/or recorded soldiers in the course of their duties, with the intention of undermining the spirit of IDF soldiers and residents of Israel, shall be liable to five years imprisonment.” Born and raised in the former Soviet Union, Ilatov also sponsored a bill to strictly limit the call to prayer from mosques and, in another attack against the 20-25% of Muslim and Christian Israelis, said it should be mandatory for judges  to sing Israel’s national anthem and adhere to “the idea of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.”

Yisrael Eichler called the assimilation of US Jews a “quiet Holocaust” and labelled criticism of men who refuse to sit next to women on El Al flights “anti-Semitic” and a form of “terrorism”. In 2009 Eichler demanded a “stop to this wave that is turning Israel into a refuge for Russian and African non-Jews as well as criminals who flee from their native countries.” In an anti-Jewish outburst, Eichler called a fellow Knesset member “a Jewboy who tattles on his fellow Jews.”

Yoav Ben Tzur told the Knesset in 2017: “It is time to stop being afraid. It is time to apply the law to Judea and Samaria [illegally occupied Palestinian West Bank] as an inseparable part of the state of Israel.” In a stunt that required a major military mobilization and led to a Palestinian being killed, Tzur was part of a mass prayer at Joseph’s Tomb near the occupied Palestinian city of Nablus.

Yitzchak Vaknin told the Centre for Israel and Jewish affairs in 2013: “I do not support negotiations on Jerusalem at all. Jerusalem is our capital and of course we are forbidden to speak on Jerusalem because if we speak about Jerusalem then we can discuss any other city in Israel.” In 2011 Vaknin co-sponsored  a bill to annex the illegal Jewish settlements of Beitar Illit, Ma’ale Adumim, Giv’at Ze’ev, Gush Etzion and Efrat to the municipality of Jerusalem. Vaknin also co-sponsored two bills to forbid gay pride parades and in 2014 Vaknin called South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein “erev rav”, a derogatory term translated as “mixed multitude” or “mixed mob” of non-Jews who followed the Biblical Hebrews from Egypt and made their lives miserable.

Elazar Stern told Belgian newspaper L’Echo in January that “all embassies should be” in Jerusalem and that Europe should “stop supporting Palestinian terrorism.” Stern co-sponsored a recent bill calling on Israel to withhold some Palestinian customs duties it gathers as the occupying power.

Nachman Shai repeatedly justified the killing of Palestinians during his time as the Israeli military’s chief spokesman between 1988 and 1991. In 2015 he ran to chair the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund/Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and called the term leftist “a stain.”

Tali Ploskov proposed a bill to deter Israeli human rights groups that give tours detailing the mistreatment of Palestinians by increasing the penalty on unlicensed tour guides. She also co-sponsored a bill designed to fight the “legal intifada” by raising the fees for Palestinians to petition Israel’s top court and another law empowering the Minister of the Interior to revoke the residency status of Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem for “Breach of Allegiance”.

Mickey Levy, then commander of the Jerusalem police, ordered the 2002 execution of a Palestinian who had been captured and disarmed before he could detonate a suicide vest. Levy said Israel should stop returning the bodies of Palestinians they kill in acts of resistance and that their families should be expelled to Gaza “if they have relatives there.” When Arab Knesset member Hanin Zoabi called Israeli soldiers “murderers” in 2016, reports the Jerusalem Post, Levy “rushed at Zoabi, nearly reaching her before he was stopped by Knesset ushers, shouting ‘You are filth!’ several times.”

Oded Forer initiated the April impeachment of Haneen Zoabi from the Knesset and legislation to disqualify Arab Knesset candidates for “calling Israel racist and calling upon countries to boycott and sanction it.” Saying “the [Arab] Joint List continues to prove that its MKs do not belong in the Knesset,” Forer claimed “the Knesset  has become a place for terrorists and their supporters to sit in without fear.” Forer also submitted a bill — largely targeting tenured professors — that could impose up to 10 years in prison for those who incite violence against the state. Forer said: “the expansion of incitement to public events has become a real danger. Calls for incitement and for harm to be caused to the State of Israel should not be heard among the masses and certainly not in events and places financed with the money of Israeli taxpayers.”

Meirav Ben-Ari said the government should “help” Jews living in a Tel Aviv neighbourhood with many Africans. “You go to the south of Tel Aviv, it’s a different state,” Ben-Ari said. “It’s like Sudan mixed with Eritrea mixed with Darfur.” Ben-Ari added that she doesn’t go there because it’s too dangerous. In 2015 she called for the prosecution of an Arab member of the Knesset. “A member  of Knesset who acts against the Knesset and the State of Israel, his immunity should be reconsidered.”

Sharren Haskel wrote recently about “Palestinians’ desire to obliterate the Jewish future in the Middle East” and told CBC she “would love to see Canada move its embassy” to Jerusalem. In July Haskel initiated a government program “to prevent miscegenation” (romantic relationships between Jews and non-Jews). Using a Hebrew word that literally translates as “assimilation,” but is commonly used as a euphemism for miscegenation, she told Israel Hayom paper: “Young [Jewish]  men and women from all over the world will arrive and form relationships with local young men and women, in order to prevent assimilation and strengthen the connection to Judaism.”

In this article I detail some of the views of the two chairs of the Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group. The more openly racist and anti-Palestinian of the two, Anat Berko just put forward a bill to jail individuals who display Palestinian flags at demonstrations and expressed support for a former soldier who shot and killed a wounded Palestinian in Hebron in 2016.

Which is the best way for the NDP to promote justice and peace? To accept and normalize such views and policies by making friends with these politicians? Or to withdraw from the CIIG to send a message that the State of Israel is currently on a path that is unacceptable to the NDP and its members?

Please ask ac.cg.lrapnull@nosirraG.lladnaR, ac.cg.lrapnull@niknar.yarrum ac.cg.lrapnull@eltsacdrah.lyrehc, ac.cg.lrapnull@snhoj.drog and ac.cg.lrapnull@nailuj.retep to withdraw from the Canada–Israel Interparliamentary Group.

Tortured Solutions: Ecuador, the UK and Julian Assange’s Fate

The pulse of negotiations, a flurry of communications, and the person central to this is one who threatens to go nowhere – for the moment.  But go somewhere these parties would wish Julian Assange to do.  For six years, cramped within a space in London a stone’s throw away from Harrods, one he has made his tenuous home, a citadel of sporadic publishing and exposes; for six years, an unruly, disobedient tenant whose celebrity shine has lost its gloss for certain followers and those who did, at one point, tolerate him.

The landlords have lost patience, and Lenín Moreno is willing to call in the arrears.  He has made it clear that, whilst Assange has been subjected to an unacceptable state of affairs (“Being five or six years in an embassy already violates his human rights”), he should also be moved on in some form with the British authorities.  How that moving takes place is producing a host of large, ballooning questions.

Ultimately, the current Ecuadorean leadership finds little to merit Assange’s effort.  He intrudes into the political affairs of other countries with audacity; he disturbs and interrupts the order of things with relish and, for those reasons, ought to be regarded with suspicion.  “I don’t agree with what he does,” Moreno is on record as saying.  “It is somewhat disgusting to see someone violating people’s right to communicate privately.”

Moreno, despite being classed as a protégé of his predecessor Rafael Correa, has done his level best to spruce up the country’s image for the United States whose Vice President, Mike Pence, duly acknowledged on a visit in June this year. He has moved on former figures within the previous administration, including Correa, claiming instances of corruption and crime.  Previous contracts made with Chinese companies are also being scrutinised for their value.

Moreno is prudish and inaccurate on the issue of private communications and the WikiLeaks experiment. What he ignores is the driving rationale for the spicy vigilantism of the publishing outfit, an attempt to subvert a certain order of power that was crying out for a revision. This revision, applied through the lens of transparency, would arm the weak and powerless with knowledge while defending their privacy.  The powerful and brutish, on the other hand, must be kept exposed, under a form of public surveillance and permanent review.  Transparency for the powerful; privacy for the powerless.

The asymmetrical order of information, however, lauds the reverse of this. States are patriarchs beyond scrutiny; they dispense, with occasional bad grace, the odd favour that entitles the public to see its activities.  Freedom of information statutes and regulations give the impression that the public are, somehow, entitled to see material that is supposedly their resource. (How condescending to tell citizens that they have a resource that can only be accessed carefully, via suspicious gatekeepers obsessed with national security.)

In return, these gorged bureaucracies conduct surveillance upon their citizens with a sneering conviction, and ensure that a fictional public interest is deployed against those who would dare air the cupboard of skeletons.

The current state of negotiations are blurry.  On Wednesday, Moreno claimed that Ecuadorean and British officials were nattering over permitting Assange to leave the embassy “in the medium term”.  His lawyers have been notified of the process, but nothing else is forthcoming.

What tends to be written about Assange is itself a product of the dissimulation that he has attempted to banish from political conservation.  His variant of the Midas touch is less turning things to gold than simulacrums of truth.  A piece on the Australian SBS site notes how, “Previous sexual assault charges filed against him in Sweden have been dropped.”  The stopper here is that he was never charged, being merely a subject of interest who needed to be questioned.  The rest is an awkward, concocted silence.

Assange, more significantly for the geopolitical boffins, took a dump in the imperium’s gold water closet, and now faces the consequences.  It has come in drips and drabs: cutting off internet access on March 27; restricting visitors and the access of journalists.  Moreno himself has suggested that Assange stop what he does best: express unsavoury opinions.  Should Assange promise “to stop emitting opinions on the politics of friendly nations like Spain or the United States then we have no problem with him going online.”  Turning Assange into a eunuch of public affairs is a top priority.

Moreno’s predecessors have shaken their heads in disbelief at the treatment being dished out to the Australian publisher.  To ban visitors, argued Correa, was “a clear violation of his rights.  Once we give asylum to someone, we are responsible for his safety, for ensuring humane living conditions.” (It should be noted that Correa himself authorised a temporary suspension of internet access to Assange in 2016, a brief measure taken to stem the publisher’s zeal in attacking Hillary Clinton during the US presidential elections.)

This will be a slow torture, a cruel process of breaking down resistance.  The issue in such cases is to avoid going potty and losing all sense of bearing.  Should Assange even maintain a sense of psychic composure after this relentless attempt to dissolve his will, history should record it as one of those infrequent secular miracles that the human spirit can provide.

Remarks by Walid Al-Moualem to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, by Walid Al-Moualem

Madam President of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, I would like to congratulate you and your country Ecuador on your election as president of the current session of the General Assembly and I wish you all success. I would also like to thank your predecessor for presiding over the Assembly during the previous session. Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, Every year we arrive at this important international forum, hoping that every corner of this world has (...)