Category Archives: Democrats

Charter Schools Are Promoted Heavily by the Left, Not Just the Right

One of the main criticisms of charter schools is that they are terrible because right wingers are behind them.

Many right wingers are indeed behind charter schools. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a textbook example of right-wing support for charter schools. The billionaire Koch brothers are another example of right-wing support for charter schools. Many others could be cited.

But this does not tell the full story of charter schools and who else strongly supports and promotes them.

In reality, charter schools started out nearly 30 years ago with heavy support from democrats, and were, in fact, initiated and organized specifically by democrats (and so-called “centrists”).

Democrats have also consistently supported charter schools through the widely-rejected No Child Left Behind Act that plagued the nation for many years, and is still injuring the nation through its reincarnation as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (2015).

It is worth recalling as well that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, both so-called democrats, enthusiastically supported charter schools when they were in power. And to this day, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have never firmly opposed the existence and expansion of charter schools.

In addition, democrats in many state legislatures have repeatedly turned out in large numbers to energetically support the existence and expansion of charter schools. There is no shortage of such democrats.

The notion that charter schools are supported mainly by right wingers is inaccurate and misleading. It defines the foes of the public interest in a narrow way, instead of depicting their true scope, breadth, and nature. Charter schools have always been much more than a right wing, republican, or conservative phenomenon.

While some on the left and right do not support charter schools, many on both sides do. This is why so many top-down, antisocial, neoliberal education policies have “bipartisan support.”

The public should reject charter schools no matter who is behind them. There is no justification for their existence, let alone their expansion. Their track record is very unimpressive and rife with fraud, corruption, and racketeering. Arrests and scandals surround so many charter schools. Watching charter schools operate and implode is like watching a blood sport. A toxic, anarchic, and surreal ethos prevails in the charter school sector.

The nonsense that deunionized and deregulated charter schools run by private organizations are needed because public schools are “failing” ignores how and why public schools are actively set-up to fail, and the real political and economic relations behind the rise and expansion of pay-the-rich schemes such as charter schools.

The public should also reject the false left-right divide because the  neoliberal agenda remains strong across this diversionary political divide.

The public interest cannot be served by bypassing grass-roots forces and relying on the rich and their political representatives, whether they are on the so-called “right” or “left.” The issues confronting the broad polity go beyond these false and unprincipled divisions. Capital-centered ideas, policies, and arrangements harm the public interest regardless of who supports or promotes them.

Stanley Kowalski for President?

There’s even something -sub-human -something not quite to the stage of humanity yet! Yes, something – ape-like about him, like one of those pictures I’ve seen in – anthropological studies! Thousands and thousands of years have passed him right by, and there he is – Stanley Kowalski – survivor of the Stone Age!

— Blanche Dubois from Streetcar Named Desire [The author highly recommends reading what the link leads to… to be able to fully appreciate his conclusion.]

President Trump — who folks ought to stop calling president, as it confers too much respect — has chosen to (once again, as he seems to do daily) underscore just how “sub-human” he is, praising a gubernatorial candidate in Montana for body slamming a reporter. This on the heels of “investigations” into the complicity on the part of Saudi Arabia’s leader in the Khashoggi murder and dismemberment.

Greg Gianforte, a truly brutish politician, pleaded guilty in June, 2017, paid a $385 fine, completed 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management training, wrote an apology letter to the Guardian journalist he had injured, and donated $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists, but the Empire’s Commander-in-Chief has chosen to put a positive spin on the whole enchilada.

Where are the Democrats on all this? Not a significant peep from their quarters as far as I can tell. In fact, everyone in my household talks regularly about how they seem to have dropped off the planet in general. Meaning, as disgusting as they are, one would at least expect (and wish) that they would be securing “equal time” in mainstream media circles to balance the incessant coverage of Trump trailblazing across the country at rallies every single day (it seems); my impression is that Trump commands virtually ALL the media focus, his opposition failing to demand an equal playing field. Of course, this is NOT to be rooting for that other party, but — rather — to wonder out loud why no member of the opposition from any quarters is creatively forcing the mainstream media to spotlight their opposition to Trump’s stances on California fires, feminist outrage, or the abuse of journalists, among many other issues. On an ungoing basis.  We know why Democrats (in bed with the Republicans respecting WAR) don’t recoil in horror in front of the cameras over atrocities in Yemen and the like, but it’s hard to figure out what they’re thinking as they allow the ongoing dominance of Trump on the major networks in general.

Perhaps they’re meeting in secret, attempting to find a way to come up with a guy or gal with the goods that are popular today  … for 2020. They’ve got to know already that a Biden or a Warren won’t cut the muster. Maybe they’re pushing one another’s envelopes privately with regard to how best market a Stanley Kowalski of their own.

Their biggest challenge, however, must be how they’re going to pull of renaming their organization The Party of Apes.*

* With apologies to the Kinks

Stanley Kowalski for President?

There’s even something -sub-human -something not quite to the stage of humanity yet! Yes, something – ape-like about him, like one of those pictures I’ve seen in – anthropological studies! Thousands and thousands of years have passed him right by, and there he is – Stanley Kowalski – survivor of the Stone Age!

— Blanche Dubois from Streetcar Named Desire [The author highly recommends reading what the link leads to… to be able to fully appreciate his conclusion.]

President Trump — who folks ought to stop calling president, as it confers too much respect — has chosen to (once again, as he seems to do daily) underscore just how “sub-human” he is, praising a gubernatorial candidate in Montana for body slamming a reporter. This on the heels of “investigations” into the complicity on the part of Saudi Arabia’s leader in the Khashoggi murder and dismemberment.

Greg Gianforte, a truly brutish politician, pleaded guilty in June, 2017, paid a $385 fine, completed 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management training, wrote an apology letter to the Guardian journalist he had injured, and donated $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists, but the Empire’s Commander-in-Chief has chosen to put a positive spin on the whole enchilada.

Where are the Democrats on all this? Not a significant peep from their quarters as far as I can tell. In fact, everyone in my household talks regularly about how they seem to have dropped off the planet in general. Meaning, as disgusting as they are, one would at least expect (and wish) that they would be securing “equal time” in mainstream media circles to balance the incessant coverage of Trump trailblazing across the country at rallies every single day (it seems); my impression is that Trump commands virtually ALL the media focus, his opposition failing to demand an equal playing field. Of course, this is NOT to be rooting for that other party, but — rather — to wonder out loud why no member of the opposition from any quarters is creatively forcing the mainstream media to spotlight their opposition to Trump’s stances on California fires, feminist outrage, or the abuse of journalists, among many other issues. On an ungoing basis.  We know why Democrats (in bed with the Republicans respecting WAR) don’t recoil in horror in front of the cameras over atrocities in Yemen and the like, but it’s hard to figure out what they’re thinking as they allow the ongoing dominance of Trump on the major networks in general.

Perhaps they’re meeting in secret, attempting to find a way to come up with a guy or gal with the goods that are popular today  … for 2020. They’ve got to know already that a Biden or a Warren won’t cut the muster. Maybe they’re pushing one another’s envelopes privately with regard to how best market a Stanley Kowalski of their own.

Their biggest challenge, however, must be how they’re going to pull of renaming their organization The Party of Apes.*

* With apologies to the Kinks

Larry Summers Trips Out

In a recent Financial Times article, Harvard economics professor and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers describes his excellent adventure driving from Chicago to Portland. As Summers writes, it “was a trip different to any I had ever taken,” full of revelations for someone who usually only travels long distances by plane.

Summers and his wife took two weeks to drive on two-lane roads across prairies and mountains, from Dubuque to Cody to Bozeman and beyond, “marveling at how much of this vast country is uninhabited.” They were sometimes far from any gas stations and even farther from phone chargers. Occasionally they had no mobile phone service at all!

Okay, so not exactly a Jack Kerouac odyssey, but well outside the Summers Comfort Zones of Cambridge, the Vineyard, Georgetown, Manhattan, et al.

Braving flyover country, separated from his usual tribe of “business leaders and cosmopolitan elites who are more worried about the concerns of their conference mates in Davos than those of their fellow citizens,” Summers marveled that local people in bars and restaurants where he stopped did not seem concerned with the ongoing saga of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation process.

And Summers noted with some puzzlement that “People in most of the places we visited have tended to vote Republican in recent decades.”

By far the most surprising revelation of the Summers travelogue was how surprised he seemed to be by what he was seeing.

Because, Larry, Larry, Larry, you’re the reason! Those were your economic policies during the Clinton years that shaped the country many of us have long known, but where you’re just now arriving. You were a senior Treasury official during that entire era and top dog, Secretary of the Treasury, from 1999 to 2001.

You advocated repealing key provisions of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act that regulated banks for more than sixty years. And you helped frustrate efforts to regulate the derivatives that many analysts blame for the 2008 financial crisis. Foreshadowing Trumpian environmentalism, you argued that the U.S. should not honor the Kyoto Protocol or take the lead in greenhouse gas reductions.

You signed off on NAFTA! Even Ross Perot knew that was a bad idea, sending millions of jobs overseas and creating many of those “romantic ghost towns” and “abandoned cafes, gas stations and hotels” across the nation you are now so astonished to behold. From such ruins an opioid epidemic has arisen, with its suicidal rituals of despair. Did you happen to catch any whiff of that?

How complicit were you? Did you also advise Bill to end “welfare as we know it,” destroying the safety net for millions of our poorest citizens? Did you sign off on Bill’s “three-strikes” crime laws that mandated life sentences for repeat offenders, even non-violent offenders, creating the mass incarceration for which the USA is justly infamous?

You and Clinton were nominal Democrats, but you bent over backwards to placate Newt Gingrich so Bill could get re-elected (only to be impeached). What’s the point of voting for Democrats like you? Of course, we didn’t vote for you.

You returned to government in the Obama years to direct the National Economic Council response to the 2008 economic meltdown that you had helped to create. You bailed out the big banks but not their client victims. That may have pleased your friends in Davos and the Hamptons, Larry, but it didn’t help many people in Dubuque or Bozeman. You’re probably lucky that no one on your journey knew who the hell you were or they might have spoiled your lunch.

Do you really wonder why so many denizens of devastated communities voted Republican in recent decades?

Of course, political choice for the 99 percent consists of Tweedledumb or Tweedledumber. Why would anyone outside the Bos-Wash corridor bother with Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process? The fix was in for his Supreme Court appointment from the git go, regardless of what evidence anyone, especially any offended female, might produce to undermine his fitness for the job.

Government of the people, by the people, for the people is a catchy, empty phrase for most of those who live between the coasts or on them, outside the privileged enclaves you frequent, Larry. The incessant media chatter is so much white (and token black) noise. Blah blah. Nothing to do with day-to-day reality.

And those Depression-era public works you admired – the libraries and courthouses, the bridges and national parks – are stately reminders that federal government largesse in communities big and small has vanished in recent decades. “Infrastructure” is just another content-free political buzzword. Like “public schools.” Our permanent war economy leaves less and less for the common good. We are really waging war on ourselves.

So, well, anyway, Larry, despite some of your dubious conclusions about your amazing journey into America’s dark heartland, it’s probably good that you finally caught a glimpse of reality on the ground, where many of your actions have had devastating consequences and most of your fellow citizens actually live.

But Larry, Larry, Larry, what took you so long?

Please Remember Not to Vote!

So, it’s three weeks before the US midterm elections, and it looks like we have got ourselves a horse race! That’s right, folks, once again, it’s time to start playing with those forecast maps on Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight, and obsessively following the fluctuating poll numbers of congressional candidates you have never heard of competing in districts you couldn’t locate if someone held a gun to your head. You need to start doing this immediately, if not sooner, as the stakes in these midterms could not be higher. Nothing less than the continued existence of “American democracy” hangs in the balance, so the ruling classes need every last one of us to get out there and vote for somebody!

The fact that it only marginally matters who that somebody that you vote for is should not dissuade you from voting for somebody. Voting for somebody is your civic duty, and is no less important than rooting for a sports team, or maintaining a personal favorite color, or celebrity, or brand of hemorrhoid creme. Remember, if you don’t vote for somebody, somebody else is going to win, and we can’t afford to let that happen!

Now, your choices this year are particularly exciting, despite the fact that they are exactly the same as in every other US election since approximately the 1970s. Yes, that’s right, once again, it’s the Transgender Panethnic Communists of Color versus the Old White Cisnormal Capitalist Nazis, and what a spectacle it promises to be! The Old White Cisnormal Capitalist Nazis (hereinafter the “OWCCN”) currently control … well, pretty much everything (i.e., the House, the Senate, and executive branch), and so the Transgender Panethnic Communists of Color (hereinafter the “TPCoC”) are hungry, and are looking for some serious payback after getting their butts kicked in 2016. Rumor has it, the TPCoC are preparing to unleash a “Blue Tsunami” on vulnerable OWCCN incumbents, take control of the House of Representatives, and then not impeach the ass clown President they’ve been telling everyone for the last two years is both a traitorous Russian intelligence asset and the resurrection of Adolf Hitler.

And, if that isn’t exciting enough for you already, they’ve got all kinds of other life-and-death issues to emotionally pressure you into picking a team to fanatically root for on social media, and then getting out and voting for somebody. How blatantly to humiliate illegal immigrants, how affluent you have to be to obtain an abortion, how much interest banks can charge when you pay for your chemo with an Amazon card, and which pronouns law enforcement officers are required to use to refer to people whose homes they barge into and unintentionally murder, are just a few of the many “hot-button” questions requiring your democratic input.

Other questions, like whether to invade or just strategically bomb Iran or Syria, or some other non-ball-playing Middle East country, or pour billions more in military aid into Israel, or sell billions in weapons to Saudi Arabia, or foment a coup in Venezuela, or maintain almost eight hundred military outposts in over seventy foreign countries all around the world, are questions that do not require your input. The global capitalist ruling classes, the corporations they own and operate, their friends in the government and the intelligence agencies, and the corporate media will take care of all that. Same goes for those Wall Street banks, and the next looming global financial crisis, and those mass extinctions, and this wacky weather. The grown-ups with the fancy suits and haircuts are handling all that complicated stuff. You just worry about all those other issues, and get out there and vote for somebody!

Seriously, though, for those unfamiliar with the ins and outs of U.S. politics, our election cycle, and these midterm elections, and thus do not have the slightest idea what I’m even referring to, here’s what’s going on in a nutshell …

On November 6, 2018, Americans will be returning to the polls to exercise their inalienable right to choose between two corporate-financed, ruling class-vetted political stooges competing for the chance to pretend to represent them in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and in various gubernatorial, municipal, and somewhat lesser distinguished chambers. A selection of non-ruling-class-vetted candidates will also appear on a handful of ballots. Americans will be free to vote for such candidates, as long as they realize they are just wasting their time, and possibly damaging the “serious” candidates, which the corporate media will remind them they are doing at every available opportunity.

See, unlike in backward European countries, where some semblance of a parliament still exists, and there are actual campaign finance restrictions and limits on televised campaign advertising, in the United States, where everyone is free, voting for non-ruling-class-vetted candidates, in a midterm or any other election, is about as effective as voting for a sandwich … or for, you know, some narcissistic billionaire ass clown who swears he is going to “drain the swamp,” and build “a beautiful wall,” or whatever. The system is designed to guarantee that no matter which ruling class stooge you vote for, and even if you vote for a character like Trump just to stick it to the establishment for once, it makes no difference … or, OK, very little difference.

The reason for this is not a big mystery. When a seat in the Senate goes for ten million dollars and a seat in the House for over a million, and there are no real restrictions on campaign financing, and the corporate-owned media decide in advance which candidates will be given airtime, and considered “serious” by the mainstream pundits who work for the handful of corporations that own the vast majority of newspapers, television and radio stations, and internet platforms that control the flow of information to the American public … well, it would kind of be a little odd, wouldn’t it, if authentic anti-ruling-class candidates were allowed to enter and compete in that system?

Most Americans understand this, which is why nearly half of them do not vote. It’s humiliating enough to be forced to live, and attempt to support a family, and so on, in a savage, neoliberal marketplace with virtually no social cohesion whatsoever, and in which the only real operative value is money, without also having to debase themselves by participating in the simulation of democracy that the capitalist ruling classes need to maintain in order to pretend that they are not just social parasites with a lot of goons and guns.

Which brings me to the point of this essay. See, normally, I try like hell to avoid telling people what to do in my columns, but, after my last one, a number of readers wrote in asking for advice, so I’m going to make an exception, just this once.

Here’s my advice. You’re not going to like it.

Do not vote. For anyone. At all. Tell all your friends not to vote for anyone. Join the hundreds of millions of Americans who refuse to participate in the simulation of democracy. Take time off from work to vote, and then do not vote. Go see a movie, or have lunch with someone you haven’t seen in a while, or take a nice, long walk in the woods or something. Whatever you do, do not vote. Seriously. Please stop voting for these people. They’re not your friends. They mean you ill. They will shake your hand, kiss your baby, then sell you to the first pharmaceutical lobbyist, or military industrial lobbyist, or Israeli or Saudi Arabian lobbyist, that waltzes into their office with a check, or that threatens to turn their voters against them.

You probably think I’m kidding. I’m not. Do not vote in these midterm elections. Or in any other American elections. Not while the system remains as it is. If you really want to vote, move to Europe, where at least there are still parliamentary structures, and a decent variety of political parties, and some restrictions on campaign financing and advertising. All you’re doing when you vote in America is reifying a simulation of democracy, and so perpetuating the system as it is.

Oh, and while you’re at it, if you happen to work for any of those pharmaceutical companies, or any of those weapons manufacturers, or their suppliers, or for an investment bank, or a hedge fund, or private equity firm, or any other company, corporation, firm, consultancy, or department of government that is central to keeping the American political and economic system going as it is, quit your job and do something else. Seriously, go into the office today (or get up from your desk right now) and quit, and go find something else to do with the gift of your sentient life on this planet. I realize that might be a scary proposition, but that’s what it’s going to take to change things, a lot of people deciding they have had it and are not going to play the game anymore.

That’s pretty much all the advice I’ve got. Sorry … I told you you weren’t going to like it.

The Contradictions of Being Pro-Capitalist and Anti-War

In his lesser known novel, A Small Town in Germany, John Le Carré skewers the diplomatic class in the old West German capital of Bonn. An investigator sent to the drizzly town on the banks of the Rhine discovers a fog of misdirection as he tries to track down a fled spy. At one point, comfortably resigned to his frustration, a glib diplomat tells the investigator, himself at wit’s end, unable to capitalize on an array of clues, “There’s always something; there’s never enough.” This is largely the story of the socialist “opportunists” that the Russian Bolsheviks themselves skewered in the revolutionary and blood-scented atmosphere of World War One Europe. As Vladimir Lenin argues in Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, the socialist opportunists argue for something: a few tepid reforms that may provide a transitory respite in the plight of the poor. But they never go far enough: challenging a system of predatory appropriation for which minor reforms are nothing but an extended sentence. They offered a map to nowhere on a path whose starting and end points are the same.

It is likewise the story of today’s bourgeois liberal class, a hollow parody of progressivism allied with the ruling class establishment. Not only are today’s Democrats purveyors of media misdirection with Russiagate, but their policies are likewise the stuff of fake news and forgotten promises. The liberal class, including its current champion, Bernie Sanders, has yet to face the incompatibility of corporate capitalism, particularly in its monopoly stage, and military imperialism. They are flip sides of the same fascist coin. The early Soviets knew this all too well.

In his memorable screed on onetime socialist Karl Kautsky’s slide into opportunism, Lenin lays out the contradiction between being anti-imperialism and pro-capitalism. After all, if imperialism, as Lenin argues, is the highest stage of capitalism itself, how could one deplore the former and approve the latter? You can’t, not without falling into a set of contradictions that render one’s entire position farcical. Lenin shows, with meticulous documentation, how capital tends to concentrate, creating monopolies and generating demand for new markets and new revenue streams.

An Iron Law of Capitalism

Through a meticulous review of European and North American data, Lenin writes that the “transformation of competition into monopoly is one of the most important–if not most important –phenomena of modern capitalist economy.” He notes how entire supply chains, or verticals, tend to combine for more fluid and efficient production. He notes, “…for example, the smelting of iron ore into pig-iron, the conversion of pig-iron into steel, and then, perhaps, the manufacture of steel…” and quotes one of the leading economists in the Weimar Republic, Rudolf Hilferding, writing, “Combination levels out the fluctuations of trade and therefore assures to the combine enterprises a more stable rate of profit.” It isn’t hard to recognize the empirical proofs of this claim, living as we do in an era of mergers and acquisitions, in which a mind-numbing $2.5 trillion in M&A were launched in just the first half of 2018.

Just consider the mediascape, in which a handful of elephantine conglomerates control some 90 percent of American media. They continue to gobble up smaller local media venues, guaranteeing the phenomenon cleverly spelled out in an 2011 infographic, which notes that 223 executives controlled the “information diet” of some 227 million Americans. While the mergers may indeed happen for reasons of capital, an epiphenomenon is the consolidation of opinion in a few ideologically sanguine hands. Example after example, cover the 1860s through the early 1900s, bring Lenin to the conclusion that “…the rise of monopolies, as the result of the concentration of production, is a general fundamental law of the present stage of the development of capitalism.” It is all done, of course, to stimulate super-profits. Not surprisingly, “the social means of production remain the private property of a few.”

When monopolies don’t get what they want, they take aggressive action against intransigent market entities. Lenin notes several tactics, including shutting down supplies of raw materials, foreclosing avenues of labor supply, quitting deliveries, blocking trade outlets, forming exclusive trade agreements, price cutting, and other vicious economic attacks.  Likewise, the control of capital itself, in the forms of credits and interest rates, is another signal feature of monopolist aggression. (Think of the Volcker Shock.) The monopolists are “…throttling those who do not submit to them…” It is interesting that these tactics are particularly evident in American foreign policy. Washington itself acts like a cartel enforcer for elite capital. These tactics, often in the form of sanctions, have been variously applied to China, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and other nations that refuse to adopt the yoke of American economic imperialism.

But where does all this economic infighting lead? First to monopoly, then to imperialism. Not only must access to cheap raw materials be fitted into the verticalized supply chain, owned and operated by the monopolist subsidiaries, but new markets must forever be annexed in order to stem a falling rate of profit. Lenin’s argument suggests that World War One was a bloody dividing of the world into separate camps, for the redistribution of colonial possessions, and so on. Another consistent feature of capitalist imperialism we’ve seen in recent years in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya, all of which had underlying economic conflicts that drove military conflict.

The Buried Narrative

Lenin adds that monopolists leverage propaganda through media in the form of “false rumours” and “anonymous warnings” in the papers. Sound familiar? The media propaganda foisted on the public is a critical chapter of this story. The story that Lenin lays out, on the growth of competitive capitalism into monopoly and monopoly into imperialism, is a seminal link in the chain that yokes capitalism to war. And yet it has been largely scrubbed from the western record. And the absence of that knowledge is what permits imperialists like the Democratic Party to masquerade as paladins of peace and prosperity through capitalism, all cloaked beneath a feel-your-pain rhetoric aimed squarely at the working class.

Lenin opens a pivotal chapter in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, “Critique of Imperialism” with a comment that defines the corporate media and the professional class from which it comes, “’General’ enthusiasm over the prospects of imperialism, furious defence of it and painting it in the brightest colours—such are the signs of the times.” As he says, “’Social-Democratic’ Party of Germany are justly called “social-imperialists”, that is, socialists in words and imperialists in deeds.” Bourgeois scholars and publicists usually come out in defence of imperialism in a somewhat veiled form…do their very best to distract attention from essentials by means of absolutely ridiculous schemes for “reform”, such as police supervision of the trusts or banks, etc.”

He notes that most bourgeois arguments from nations seeking to shrug off the colonial shackles fail to recognize that imperialism is “inseparably bound up with capitalism,” and that requests to remove imperialism without removing capitalism are stillborn petitions, “strangled in the crib”, as Churchill might say, by their internal contradictions. Lenin points to the “anti-imperialists” in America that opposed the American trampling of the Philippines fell into the same trap of foreclosed imagination. While they railed against the “jingo treachery” of American false promises, Lenin said their criticisms would amount to little if they failed to recognize “the inseverable bond between imperialism and the trusts, and, therefore between imperialism and the foundations of capitalism…” His perspective on the Philippines protest almost, step for step, mirrors the reality of today’s “#resistance”, a farcical amalgam of costume parades and tweet storms that seeks to unseat anyone that uses politically incorrect language or wants displays their sexist or racist chevrons in public.

Discrediting sexism and racism is obviously good, if it is legitimately done. But Lenin lamented the “socialists in words and imperialists in deeds” that hounded the socialist landscape of his day. Today’s Democratic Party is progressive in words and neoliberal in deeds. The corporate liberal class has finally reached the stage where it can run a minority to do its dirty deeds. The population numbers foreseen in the Sixties have finally arrived. Barack Obama preached inclusivity from the political pulpit, but promoted exclusivity from the policy bench. It is no surprise: he is a member of a very exclusive club—an adoptee of the one percent.

Lenin attacks Kautsky and other bourgeois pundits, who argue for leveraging the engines of capitalism to increase “’the consuming capacity’” of the populace. Lenin points out that “it is in their interest to pretend to be so naïve and to talk “seriously” about peace under imperialism.” Another familiar tactic. Anyone familiar with the modern Democrats would recognize it. Like Obama, who won a Nobel Peace Prize from a demented clan of flour-haired Scandinavians. In one of the books he penned before he was elected, Obama confirmed that he was “a free market guy”. No one in the mainstream liberal press was willing to recognize or capable of recognizing that in confirming his capitalist bona fides, he was simultaneously signaling his allegiance to empire.

Lenin’s contemporaries like Kautsky believed that the imperial monopolies of capitalism could be disbanded and returned to a state of free competition in which the oracular market would appease the warring instincts of states, and a market-led peace would ensue. Kautsky called it “ultra-imperialism”. Lenin called it a “reformist swindle”. He notes that monopolies arose out of competition, and that to uncouple the monopolies would only return the relevant entities to a state of fierce competition, in which inequities would arise, leading to new monopolies. It was akin to dialing back determinism and expecting a new outcome. Lenin notes how any pacific alliances between competing imperialists would be at best temporary as the balance of power would inevitably shift in one direction or the other, instigating new confrontations, conflagrations, and war.

Lenin also noted the great value of imperial conquest to capital. Ever in search of new avenues of investment, ever threatened by the scourge of overproduction, new colonies could be forced open to accept “commodity dumping” from developed nations that would undercut local industry. Usurious loans to these colonial dependents would provide the funds with which to buy the first-world commodities. He even points to a German loan to Romania that facilitated the purchase of German railway materials. How could anyone fail to recognize in this dynamic the European Union’s behavior toward its fragile periphery of Portugal, Ireland, and Greece, particularly the latter? Were not German loans made to Greece to purchase German goods, inflating the latter’s monopoly profits while inflating the former’s debt peonage? Lenin calls this “skinning the ox twice”. After all, the bank makes compound interest off the loan; then the loan is used to buy products from the bank’s clients. Then, once the debtor nation flounders under debt deflation, having less and less to fund its economy since so much of its income was redirected to interest payments on exorbitant loans, it will be forced, like Greece, to begin selling off its national assets at bargain prices to the lender nation, as the vultures gather round the carrion.

History’s Rerun

Lenin concludes that peace in capitalist geographies is merely a respite between conflicts. Little more than “the banal philistine fantasies of English parsons”. In effect, Kautsky and the “opportunist” elements of the middle class were doing little more than attempting to unhitch capitalism from imperialism in order to save the system of their own enrichment. A failed project, to be sure, as passage after passage of Lenin’s polemic reads like a lucid profile of the Democratic Party. The Bolshevik leader concludes that, “imperialism is the epoch of finance capital and of monopolies, which introduce everywhere the striving for domination, not for freedom.” Later he adds that, “…capital can maintain its domination only by continually increasing its military force.” Could there be a better description of our modern dilemma of financial exploitation and military conquest? The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is tens of billions larger than last year’s and supports nearly 900 military installations around the world.

Finally, Lenin remarks that there’s no hope for unity with “the opportunists in the epoch of imperialism.” He points to the bourgeois denunciations of imperial annexations by various powers. Immediately the theatrical denunciations of Russia in Crimea and Syria in its own territory come to mind. Lenin sensibly argues that the author of such condemnations can be, “sincere and politically honest only if he fights against the annexation[s]” his own country makes. Naturally, the beltway liberals are silent on our de facto annexation of parts of Syria, our clandestine coup d’état in Ukraine, our savage use of Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, not to mention a dozen other base camps we’ve established like a necklace of crimes across the planet. As a nation, what we condemn in others, often falsely, we do ourselves. And on a slightly smaller scale, what the Democrats condemn across the aisle, they often do themselves behind a patina of progressive rhetoric. Sophistry and sops from the banquet table of the rich; this is today’s Democratic Party writ large.

Brett Kavanaugh Is Long Past His Sell-by Date as a Credible Human

I have been speaking with a number of people on the other side. We’ve had conversations ongoing for a while with regard to making sure that we do due diligence here….

— Senator Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, September 28, 2018

When Jeff Flake says he’s been talking with people on the other side about doing due diligence regarding the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination, that’s the sound of hypocrisy talking. Flake’s party destroyed due diligence the moment it decided to keep most of the records of Kavanaugh’s government service secret. Think about that. It doesn’t seem the Democrats thought much about it. They made some token complaints before rolling over and saying, in effect, that’s OK, this guy worked for the executive branch on polarizing, partisan issues for years, but we don’t really need to know what he did even though taxpayers were paying him to do it. Seriously, whatever his involvement with Vince Foster’s suicide or the Starr investigation into Monica Lewinsky or shutting down the vote count in the 2000 election or building a bogus case for an illegal war in Iraq or developing justifications for torture and other war crimes, we don’t need to know about any of that. And so we don’t.

A bipartisan conspiracy of silence was treated as a reasonable approach to vetting a chronic liar whose known views would take this country in the opposite direction from where a majority of the people appear to want it to go. With that corrupt two-party bargain in place, the risk of an actual, factual record for the candidate was too great a risk to take. And then Dr. Christine Blasey Ford finally emerged with a credible tale of Kavanaugh and Mark Judge, both drunk and laughing hysterically, trying to rape her in an eerie enactment of a “devil’s triangle” (which Kavanaugh, with presumably unintended irony, would later testify falsely was a “drinking game” – a game for the drinkers, perhaps, but not so much the victim). This was one of the lesser dark areas of Kavanaugh’s case that persuaded Jeff Flake to play both sides of the aisle to no clear purpose (continuing his September 28 statement):

And I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to, but not more than, one week in order to let the FBI continue—to do an investigation, limited in time and scope, to the current allegations that are there, and limit in time to no more than one week….

Acting as if he were proposing something brave, Flake suggested postponing the floor vote, not the committee vote, a gesture that is so antithetical to itself as to be a moral cypher. If there is reason to postpone the floor vote, then there is at least as much reason to postpone the committee. The committee vote by definition pre-judges the floor vote. The committee vote maintains the nomination’s momentum, even as Flake pretends to pause for reflection while the FBI investigates.

But his proposal isn’t a good faith postponement. Flake does not seek a serious, credible FBI investigation that follows the facts wherever they might lead. Acting in patent bad faith, he calls for an investigation of limited time and scope, conditions that increase the likelihood of an inadequate investigation. And Flake calls for an investigation limited “to the current allegations,” which is tantamount to calling for a cover-up of any future allegations, or any further allegations developing out of current allegations. Having called for a process that could appear as fairness without significant risk of actual fairness, Flake concluded his statement:

And I will vote to advance the bill to the floor with that understanding.

Flake’s fellow Republicans professed to be shocked – shocked! – by his resort to subterfuge while moving the Kavanaugh nomination forward. Then they promptly went along with it. As did the president, with a still secret order implementing it. Flake may have imagined himself as the subject of a profile in courage, even though his action accomplished nothing. It was a profile in cowardice cloaked in hypocrisy. Little wonder this plan has been unraveling almost since it was put in place. Actual courage would have led Flake to vote against sending the nomination to the floor of the Senate until all Kavanaugh’s dishonesties, anger issues, and judicial temperament questions had been satisfactorily answered. A relatively simple example, when Kavanaugh says in his opening statement under oath:

Dr. Ford’s allegation is not merely uncorroborated, it is refuted by the very people she says were there, including by a longtime friend of hers. Refuted.

This is false. None of Dr. Ford’s allegations were refuted by anyone. Dr. Ford’s allegations have not been effectively rebutted by anyone. Kavanaugh has denied them. His supporters have said, in effect, I can’t imagine he’d do such a thing. But there is NO evidence that counters Dr. Ford’s allegations. And Kavanaugh knows that: right before claiming “refutation” Kavanaugh himself acknowledged that “the very people she says were there” have all said they don’t remember anything. Kavanaugh doesn’t mention that the “longtime friend” has said she believes Dr. Ford.

Why does this matter?

Any decent judge should know the difference between “refute” and “rebut,” and should take care not to assert refutation where none exists. If Kavanaugh is deliberately lying here, that should be disqualifying for service on the Supreme Court, or any court. If Kavanaugh is not lying, the dishonesty with which he presents and evaluates evidence should be disqualifying for his holding any judgeship.

Kavanaugh made a point of saying he wrote his own opening statement, with help from no one. He says he showed it to one former law clerk (who apparently had nothing to say about the misuse of “refute”). Kavanaugh insisted that it was all his own work, as was this passage:

This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.

That’s a pretty remarkable charge for a sitting judge to make without offering any supporting evidence. The record suggests it’s not entirely true (at best), since Dr. Ford tried to come forward in July, when Kavanaugh first appeared on the short list of possible nominees. The fact that Dr. Ford’s name was not public until September 17 was not her doing, and nothing in the record supports the notion that these events were “a calculated and orchestrated political hit.” Kavanaugh’s statement here smacks of raw, right-wing partisanship based not on fact but bias.

We do not want any more judges acting on bias rather than facts. We should have the FBI investigate Kavanaugh’s fervent claims. We should begin by believing him. We should provide a public hearing in which he may put forward any factual basis for his claim that he is the victim of an attempted political rape by unnamed attackers.

“One thing today, another tomorrow”: the Julia Salazar Story

In Part 2, I build upon what I talked about in Part 1, when I analyzed the candidacy of Julia Salazar, called Salazar in this article, what a “socialist” running on the “Democrat line” meant. In this article I focus on her life, not by telling it in minute detail but briefly looking at her background and pointing out inconsistencies. As Josh Varlin of the Trotskyist WSWS (World Socialist WebSite) even remarked very recently, “Salazar’s misrepresentation of her past is, however, politically significant” because “Salazar’s political evolution is far from run-of-the-mill” since she was “extremely active in right-wing politics until just before her entry into pseudo-left politics.”

On April 18, Salazar began her campaign for the New York State Senate, specifically for District 18 in North Brooklyn, announcing it at Bushwick’s Maria Hernandez Park, and recently winning the Democratic primary by a large margin, beating Martin Dilan, who was funded to the hilt by the real estate body. With this, she is virtually guaranteed a win in November because there is no Republican or Independent running against her. She defines herself on one of her twitter handles as a member of the New York City Democratic “Socialists” of America (DSA) chapter and UAW (their National Writers Union), with some supporters calling her a “community organizer.” Since then, some have raised questions about her identity and her “personal narrative,” as she has presented it in her campaign even though she has strongly declared she was not campaigning on identity.1 She is like other millennials who fibbed parts of her past as Eve Fairbanks wrote in a recent BuzzFeed article.

The questions about Salazar begin with her origins. It is clear that she was born in Miami in December 1990, evidenced by the fact that her parents had paid for a second mortgage three years earlier. It is also clear that she grew up in a family which was politically conservative, with a Colombian-born father, Luis, a cargo pilot, and her New Jersey-born mother of Italian descent, Christine, a flight attendant. However, she could not get her story straight about her family: sometimes she called them secular, while other times she called them Catholic or partially Jewish. Nonetheless, it seems evident that at least part of her family was Catholic as she had admitted to a DSA podcast that she was baptized Catholic, growing up in South Florida.

The first part of her origin story is that she was a “proud” Columbia immigrant, as her campaign website and her Our Revolution bio once described her. This part of her story quickly ended, as she fell back to the claim that she was a “proud daughter of an immigrant father” or “a Colombian-American from an immigrant family.”2 But this is definitely stretching the reality, as her father was a U$ citizen before she was born, putting into question that she immigrated to the U$ with her family “when she was very little,” and that her family moved to the U$ when she was a baby.

She already had admitted to the New York Times the deception behind calling herself an immigrant, saying: “I’m not an immigrant myself. Rather, I have always felt a deep connection to my father’s immigrant experience because of the time I spent without family in Colombia at such a young age. We were back and forth, literally, constantly. My earliest memories are of Colombia.” Salazar’s mother, born in 1957, does recall varied visits to Colombia, even stating that “the Colombian culture was a huge part of our family” while her slightly older brother, Alex, who is currently a mango farmer in Florida, confirmed “a pair of trips to Colombia” during “their childhood for short visits,” but said that “we weren’t an immigrant family. It was never something even considered.” With her father being Colombian-born, this would mean that she would be effectively half-Colombian, but considering that her mother was White, this proves false her assertion in 2017, before she became a candidate, that “my own immediate family are people of color who immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia, and most of my family still lives there.”

This is even the case as she has said that she looks “practically identical” to her father and less like her white mother, but is sometimes “white-passing or perceived of as white by some.” While she may be right that “immigrant stories are rarely straightforward or unidirectional” and that she has “family in both countries, and I feel a part of both,” while she may be “referring to going there more than we went anywhere else” and she “embraced the Colombian culture,” according to her mother, this doesn’t account for her inconsistencies and distortions.  As such, her claims that she “never misrepresented my history, and attempts to construct a narrative where I was dishonest about my birthplace to reporters…are malicious and false” are faulty. This is not totally unprecedented: those who are second-generation (children of an immigrant or immigrants), see themselves as attached to the culture of their parent or parents’ birthplace, even if they aren’t born there.

Connected to her claimed immigrant identity was her claim that she was working-class. She had said that her mother “really struggled to support me and my brother financially as a single mother” and that  both of her parents “came from a working class background.” It is clear that she was largely raised by her mother, supporting her contention on that count. However, her brother, Alex, has said that their family was “middle class, or upper middle class” when living in Jupiter, a “small beach town” north of West Palm Beach, which Salazar has countered by saying that Alex’s memory on this subject was faulty. In contrast, Salazar’s mother said that while she and her children lived in a nice house, she sometimes financially struggled, especially after divorcing with her husband (when Salazar was six years old in 1996), with Luis, saying:

If I could make it look easy for my kids, I did. I thought that economic hardship was not a burden that kids that were going through a divorce needed to experience.

Beyond this, it is clear that Christine raised both Salazar and Alex, getting only a portion of her husband’s money “through alimony and child support,” growing up in a large house but at times “had to push hard to make ends meet.” Without even using the story in the Daily Mail, a horrid right-wing tabloid, which also seems to raise questions about her claims of a working-class background but just depends on her brother as a source, there are some indications that she is fibbing her story.

She admits that at times her parents collectively earned $100,000 in a year, although she has said this wasn’t always the case, with her brother saying, rightly, that you would have to “have a pretty wide definition of working class,” saying that they lived “a comfortable life.” Even if we accepted that she grew up working class,  her mother did not have a college degree for only two years after divorcing her husband, graduating with a degree in psychology from Florida Atlantic University. Furthermore, let’s say we accept the contention of Salazar’s mother that Salazar is from the “you work your ass off class,” and that “she really wants to help others. The people of Brooklyn…if she gets elected, she will be their advocate,” it seems evident that she was more likely middle-class than working-class, especially since her mother was working-class but her father was solidly middle-class.

Additionally, she had a trust of $600,000, which some like Zionist Yair Rosenberg, have taken to indicate that Salazar was a trust-fund kid, because, when her father died in 2009 he left a “house and considerable retirement savings.” While she and her campaign have said that a relative manages the account and she has received nothing from the trust fund, it is hard to believe she has not been given at least something.

Apart from her claimed immigrant and working-class identity was her claim of Jewish ancestry. She has said that “my father was of Sephardic Jewish heritage,” that she had “some Jewish family,” and “a Sephardi surname.” But, even her mother, who is supportive of her daughter’s campaign, has said that neither her family nor her divorced husband’s family were Jewish, claimed to say that the latter family had a “Sephardic background” which Salazar had been curious about, adding that this is “where her interest stems from.” This interest reportedly began in 2009, when she was age 18, after graduating high school, when her father died of prostate cancer, with a funeral in a Catholic church in Ormond Beach, Florida, when she claims she began “exploring her Jewishness,” telling the New York Times that she was spurred to “search for meaning in my father’s death,” saying that “a lot of mysteries I wanted to solve,” focusing on her family history (on her father’s side), with claimed roots in the Sephardic (also Sephardi or Sephardim) “community expelled from medieval Spain” which converted to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition, with most of them settling in the Ottoman Empire and others immigrating to parts of Europe and the Americas. But her claim to Jewish ancestry is questionable.

A Colombian genealogist, Maria Emilia Naranjo Ramos, looked into the family history of Salazar, determining that her ancestors included a central banker, business people, and civic leaders, while being recognized throughout the “generations by their commitment and generosity towards their community,” serving as Catholic elites, which Salazar called “pretty cool.”3 Furthermore, they have been “Catholic in their tradition and for many generations,” with no evidence, as of yet that they are “possibly Sephardic.”

As the Spectator, which is very critical of Salazar, has said, Salazar’s family “may well have descended from conversos, Sephardic Jews who retained some connection or awareness of their origins after forced conversion.” Salazar threw this all away by stating that “this genealogy does not make me Jewish,” putting into question if she was exploring “her Jewishness” or her “Jewish roots” after her father’s death or not. As such, her claim to Jewish ancestry is still a tall tale, as the only person who could have told her about it was her father, with her mother saying that: “she’s the one who sought out her family history…I believe that was a discussion that Julia had with him about the family history in Iberia. But he would always say that he was born and raised in Colombia but his family was Iberian.”

This connects to another part of her identity: her claim to the Jewish faith. She has told her fellow activists of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) that she was “a Jew of color…a Colombian American and…Jewish.”4

With this, her Jewish beliefs would fall within the category of the JFREJ’s description of “mixed-race Jews whose ancestors include many kinds of non-European peoples, and both white people and People of Color who have chosen (or whose parents, grandparents or ancestors have chosen) to become Jews through conversion,” with her declaring to be within the latter group. Some have focused on her tattoos with disdain, declaring she is “not” Jewish, stating that Leviticus 19:28 (with varied translations) says you cannot make gashes in your flesh “for the dead” or any “marks” on yourself. However, as Rabbi Evan Moffic wrote in HuffPost, in Judaism “there is no blanket prohibition on tattoos” and as a Jewish Reform website plainly states, “after the Holocaust, many in the Jewish community became even more opposed to tattoos…[but] in recent years, tattoos have become more common in the Jewish community…the Jewish community might still be divided over tattoos…we don’t exclude people in our communities from that care simply because of markings on the skin.”

As such, having a tattoo does not automatically exclude you from being Jewish. Whether she read a lot, reading the bible and apologetics and Torah, she had admitted that she didn’t have a “bat mitzvah, or a confirmation, or any of that sort of thing.” It would not be until 2012 or 2013 when she claimed to undergo a conversion to Judaism, with some saying she was a conservative Christian before then even though she talked about events at Hillel. Not only is the length of her Reform beit dein conversion  in question, with some courses saying it was two months and others saying five months, but she has no record of it and the person named Daniel Crane was not “an ordained rabbi, and therefore could not yet lead conversions while Salazar was a student,” putting her conversion into question.

In the end, as one recent article in New York magazine noted, she chose to “identify and live as a Jew in 21st-century New York City amid a rising population of adults with fractional Jewish ancestry,” finding a Jewish community in college, which is true despite the fact it is an open question, despite what her classmates said in the Forward, whether she converted at all! Benjamin “Ben” Norton, Salazar’s friend, may be right that “whether or not she converted late in life is irrelevant” and that “the people challenging her blood purity and tracking her family history are bigots.” Even so, this does not include well-intentioned criticism, which this article falls into or the genealogist who looked at her family history, at minimum.

Fast forward to August 2009. She began attending Columbia University, after she had reportedly worked in the service industry for years, specifically at a grocery store, as a housecleaner, and as a barista, drinking “very hot coffee” on her short breaks.” She was also a registered Republican with conservative views, graduating Jupiter High School at the top of her class, but did not vote in the presidential election in 2008. Moving to New York City, Salazar would attend an Ivy League school, “an institution with an immense amount of wealth” as she would later describe it, where she would study history, psychology, and have a concentration in Jewish studies. Reportedly while in college she would work as “a nanny and house cleaner,” supporting herself through school, working for “30 hours a week…on the Upper West Side, using the income to pay rent and other expenses not covered by her scholarship” and financial aid, giving her “class consciousness.”

Her “political evolution” would be slow. During her campaign she would claim she was a “community organizer” in New York City for “nearly a decade” or have a “decade of experience as a local community organizer has brought her from the streets of Bushwick to the halls of Albany.”5

This raises a red flag of concern since it would mean, at most, she would have to be politically active since 2007 or 2008. If it was not exactly a decade, this would still be a problem as her right-wing phase of her life lasted until 2015 at least, evidenced by the fact that in 2010 she registered with the Independence Party of New York, supposedly mistakenly thinking she was an unaffiliated voter even though it is possible this wasn’t a mistake considering that the party is center-right and “populist, and began going to Hillel the same year, even going to Jewish services with friends. The following year, when she began to reside continuously in New York, she would be arrested on “allegations of fraudulently attempting to access the bank account of Kai Hernandez, a family friend and then-wife of baseball star Keith Hernandez,” a bizarre case which would drag on for four years, ending in 2017 with a settlement in Salazar’s favor, settling for $20,000 since the person she was suing was dying of cancer. More importantly, in 2011, she would begin to dip her toe into politics by starting a “Columbia United for Israel” chapter at Columbia that year which never became an official group because she wasn’t deeply invested in it and Columbia didn’t allow it, never moving beyond a relatively inactive Facebook group.

The following year, in 2012, she would become the President of a group fighting against reproductive rights on Columbia’s campus: Columbia Right to Life (CRL), possibly beginning to be sent emails from them in 2011. Specifically the group would fight to ensure that “a fund for abortion services would not be paid for by Columbia students,” and she would lead the Support for Pregnant Students Initiative, serving as the “public voice” of the group on campus, and be angry at the Columbia Spectator for “manipulating” the words of CRL members, showing their “bias.”  She would even, later that year, write in the Spectator an op-ed where she declared that “it is unacceptable for the University to provide support for students to have abortions while simultaneously failing to provide resources to accommodate those who keep their baby…With Columbia’s influence, we have the opportunity to help pregnant women, and thus live up to the progressive values of social justice, autonomy, and women’s health that we proclaim.”

There was understandable backlash, as her fellow students told her about abortion, changing her views after “honest conversation[s],” regretting the views she took then. Even so, despite her claim that the group didn’t have a significant impact, the fact is that she was positively described by Public Discourse the following year, when she ended her involvement, and the group seemed to somewhat achieve its goals.

In 2012, she was part of a Christian Zionist organization: Christians United for Israel (CUFI). She appeared on Glenn Beck’s show, The Blaze, and was in San Antonio for a summit of CUFI. Before she spoke, she smiled in disbelief at reported “anti-Israel” lyrics by a Palestinian rap group (singing in Arabic) and shook her head, shaking her head again in a similar manner when the other guest talked about Palestinian “hate speech” being an issue for Christians. About 4 minutes into the video, the segment in which Beck interviews her begins. She goes on a pro-Zionist screed, stating that “anti-Israeli” professors were in the “Middle Eastern, Asian Languages and Culture…using the classroom as their podium to spread lies about the state of Israel, to de-legitimize the state of Israel, and to spread propaganda to Columbia students” and declaring that CUFI’s goals were to “educate the community about the truth about Israel…Palestinian Authority….Hamas…[and] Ahmadinejad.”

She would later add on a DSA podcast that the “Glenn Beck appearance was concurrent with me first learning about what CUFI was,” and saying the interview was in January 2012 when “CUFI sponsored me to go to San Antonio for their conference,” with her being told an hour beforehand and she spoke on the show. In August of the same year, she met with IDF soldiers “patrolling the Israel-Lebanon border,” in a trip organized by CUFI, which reportedly did not establish a chapter at Columbia. On this trip her views of the murderous Zionist apartheid state, often called “Israel,” were reportedly changed, when she visited the West Bank and met with Palestinians there, even reportedly keeping in touch with a Palestinian in the U$ who had “grown up in West Bank and lived through the second intifada.” It is also worth noting that sometime during her time on campus she was part of a humanitarian imperialist organization: Amnesty International, claiming it did not mesh with “very hawkish views on foreign policy, social issues or on poverty,” which has some truth to it, but ignores the long-standing connection of Amnesty with the murderous empire.

It was the year following, in January, that she reportedly engaged in a rent strike. As she tells the story, after “shivering through a winter without heat,” she organized a rent strike among fellow tenants at her apartment building (reportedly in Harlem), run by a “notoriously abusive landlord” who neglected tenants, calling for the landlord to “make repairs and turn on the heat in the winter” and they won some concessions in a housing court, as a result. As such, the management company raised rents through the roof, leading Salazar to be displaced and say she began to think about systemically changing such problem. There have been some questions of whether the strike happened again which is complicated because the address where she lived may not be publicly available.

We do know that the same year, she would make a brief visit to Florida, and from then to 2017, considerable “documentary evidence, including tax and payroll records…reflect earnings in New York and are directed to her at residential addresses in New York, and including her residential leases, bank and health insurance records, rent and mover’s bills, and travel records.” Her testimony in the Dilan v. Salazar case was corroborated by a roommate who had lived with her “in various apartments in New York since September 2013 and that Salazar was never away for more than one or two weeks.” This is complicated by the fact that she told her friend Katie Helper in Teen Vogue that she organized the strike in early 2014 even though Gothamist clearly indicates it happened in 2013. Which is an open question whether the strike happened at all!

In the spring and fall semesters of 2013, her Zionist views would be reinforced. In the spring semester, she would help found the J Street U chapter at Columbia, clearly supporting the two-state solution and organizing meetings for the group, including opposing the idea of “Apartheid Week” regarding the Zionist state.6

In that same semester, she would also be fine with inviting liberal Zionists to campus, seemed to favor those from Peace Now and Haaretz and asked in one message: “is anyone else a little disturbed by the similarity between Palestinians referring to this as “Nakba” and its mockery (intentional or not) of the Jewish use of the word “Shoah” (both literally meaning “catastrophe”)? I find it to be a little too close for comfort.” By the fall semester, she would be the co-president of the chapter and a WZO (World Zionist Organization) campus fellow, who was, politically, a liberal Zionist who seemed to want a coordinated response to address SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) actions.

Near the end of that semester, she would meet David Keyes, now Netanyahu’s spokesperson to foreign media, then a “human rights activist,” a second time at a coffee shop, and, by her recollection, be physically assaulted by him in his apartment. Years later, in 2016, she would have a Facebook post about the incident, deleting it after the Times of Israel picked up on the story.  Regardless of Salazar’s other inconsistencies and distortions, it is wrong to think that she is lying on this topic either by engaging in victim-blaming or other efforts as a prominent Wall Street Journal reporter, Shayndi Rice, shared a similar story, and ten more women have come forward with similar stories.

The following year, in February 2014, she would write her second-op-ed in the Columbia Spectator, which described her as “a Columbia College senior majoring in Middle Eastern history and Jewish studies. She is a co-chair of J Street CU and a member of Columbia/Barnard Hillel.” This goes against what she told a DSA podcast: that she led the chapter “until the very beginning of 2014, January of 2014, which was when I disengaged for the group essentially over the question of BDS and support for BDS,” raising the question of when she left the group. In her op-ed, she would lend her support to the corrupted two-state solution, saying that “there is a growing constituency of us who refuse to tolerate the injustice of the status quo…Advocating for pragmatic solutions to these issues is imperative because they are an essential part of any two-state agreement. Through practicality, we can turn our frustration into strategic activism. We can lead our community to promote a just solution to the conflict, before peace escapes us.” This shows that she hadn’t abandoned her Zionism by then, and as the Gotham Gazette put it, she would join “the Israel/Palestine activism scene as a member of J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace.”

Around the same time she also became involved with IfNotNow, a group that “wants American-Jewish institutions to become more aware of Israel’s occupation of territory Palestinians consider their homeland, while protesting the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict,” which she would criticize herself the following year. She also would write her first article for Mondoweiss, about being denied entry into the Zionist state and saying she “was raised with the delusion that Israel was a safe haven for me, perhaps even the only safe place for Jews” which Vox says implies she was raised as a Jewish child although she was not. By April 2014, she would be part of a debate on Columbia University about the “academic boycott of Israel.”

In May 2014, Salazar would leave Columbia University but would not graduate. This has led to some controversy because she said under oath in the Dilan v. Salazar that she graduated and her website seemed to imply this was the case, even seeming to imply graduation when she donated to the university in later years and on her academia.edu account, which shows her interests, with the same being the case for her Scribd or Quora accounts. As such, Citizens Union and the Brooklyn Young Democrats withdrew their endorsement of her as a candidate. As she tells the story, after college she went to Jacobin reading groups, with the first meeting about the Global South, and began reading Karl Marx, even though she has also said that she began reading Marx while in college. So, this is disputed.

The same goes for her identification as a socialist, telling a DSA podcast at one point that she was a socialist in 2013 and at another time that in 2014 she first identified as socialist. The following year, she would write another article for Mondoweiss, noting her presence in If Not Now, a group of U$ Jews organizing in Brooklyn and “seeking to protest Jewish communal organizations’ complicity in the violence” in Gaza by Zionist armies and opposing the “brutal” occupation of Palestine,” but also had strong criticism of the organization and of J Street, later partying with those like Max Blumenthal, Anya Parampil, Rania Khalek, Michael “Mike” Prysner, Nathaniel Wallace, and Jan Ritch-Frel and Michael Prysner, where they all watched the Democratic presidential debate. The latter basically rather shows her left-leaning views at the time, with the same applying to her friendship with Ben Norton, who is not as radical as one might think at the time.

By 2016, the year she would attend the Big Eddy Film Festival in Narrowsburg, New York, she would be in Nashua, New Hampshire “with her union, the United Automobile Workers,” which she is said to have organized for “during a contract dispute at Barnard College, on Election Day.” She said that it was also a get-out-the-vote campaign, adding that “collectively, we all felt certain that Hillary Clinton would win. When the results came in, it was really, really devastating…My heart hasn’t stopped racing since that moment, basically.” She later told the Gazette that “the Trump Administration has motivated more people, myself included, to shift our focus to trying to effect change as much as we possibly can at the city and state level, where we have more control, where we can effect change in a practical sense and also do harm reduction in response to federal policies across the board.”

The same year she began working with the JFREJ “on anti-police brutality initiatives,” after seeing them at Black Lives Matter protests.7 She would also write her third article for Mondoweiss, talking about a Black Lives Matter platform which called the Zionist state an apartheid entity oppressing Palestinians and the response by Jewish organizations to it, and would become “rank-and-file DSA member” in the summer.

The year after that, 2017, she would serve as the senior editor of a blog called Unruly: A Jews of Color, Sephardi & Mizrahi Caucus Blog and would be a full-time staff organizer in the JFREJ, while being a member of the National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981) and an active DSA member. In January of the same year, she attended the Women’s March in NYC, leading a “contingent of progressive Jewish marchers,” seeing the march as “as an opportunity to build our community’s unified resistance against Trump’s oppressive policy proposals” and saying that despite clumsy messaging, it was “a good-faith effort to do something here that will mark an historic defiance against the hate and discrimination that Trump represents.” She would not cancel, as revealed in the Dilan v. Salazar case, her Florida voting registration until July 2017, and then become a registered voter in New York.

Then, in 2018, this year, she would write an article in Jacobin about the NYPD’s police brutality, then started supporting and volunteering for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign. She would be convinced by some of her friends in the NYC-DSA, like Michael “Mike” Kinnucan (her deputy campaign manager), Nick Rizzo, and Bianca Cunningham, and maybe that assistant editor of Jacobin, Alex Press, who moved into the area in 2017. She would finalize her decision by March and begin running in April, with a kickoff the following month. Of these individuals, Rizzo was a major factor, described in April 2016 by Bedford & Bowery as a politician who “shares some concerns with the Brooklyn hipster constituency…and like many liberal-minded people of our generation, he also cares a great deal about issues of equality…and is frustrated with…the establishment.” He would call himself a “Bernie supporter” who barely saw “any possibility of Trump winning,” adding, worryingly, that: “…it’s actually better for all of us to have a functioning two-party system…Competition is essential for a democracy” and that he would vote for Hillary Clinton if she was the Democratic nominee and saying he was in favor of tipping. Since then, his views on Twitter, such as thinking that “Millennials” and Generation Z will bring “the change”, being dedicated Democrat and nationalist who seems to like assessments by Trotsky, shows that what he said in 2016 still matters.

Whether we believe Salazar or not, support or oppose her, her personal narrative, which was muddled by her inconsistencies and distortions, matters as she is a figure in the public eye, not only putting doubt on her ability to carry through for Brooklynites (as a “new hope”) in Albany but in the DSA itself. It is hard to see if she will be “an advocate for the underdog,” as her mother describes her. In the end, while thinking people should be critical of progressive icons like Salazar, any tendency to ally with reactionaries or promote their narratives to engage in such criticism undercuts any efforts to create a better world.

• Read Part 1 here

  1. If you would like the links to the tweets I am referring to, please email me.
  2. She explained this change to Stephen Miller of Fox News by saying that she does not “personally manage” her campaign website, blaming a staffer and lack of coordination on her “first-time team,” admitting to being “unknowingly unclear on this,” adding that her busy campaign was also to blame. How can you expect a well-organized and coordinated campaign if you are blaming your staff?
  3. This is where New York magazine gets into weird territory: they declare that because Salazar’s ancestors were elites in Colombia who had a role in public life, that this “legacy of financial well-being and achievement carried over from Colombia to Salazar’s early family life in Florida, where she was born” because…Salazar’s brother said so! This is pretty weak, since it is no guarantee that just because your ancestors are wealthy you will also be wealthy.
  4. The quote “lower my expectations” which is used in this article comes from this video. I did my best to transcribe the video:

    I hope I am not alienating anyone but I am also not into vartora [?]. I’m not equipped to do that either. But, I am a Jew of color. Many people aren’t familiar with this term but I’m a Colombian-American and I’m also Jewish. And Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and the movement that many of us are in has empowered me to say that proudly. Growing up I was told to lower my expectations by society. I immigrated to this country with my family when I was very little. In Colombia, my mom raised me as a single mother, she didn’t have a college degree. We really struggled. I started working in a grocery store when I was 14, I worked in the service industry from high school, and as a domestic worker in college. And it was that experience that while early on, you know [cuts off].”

  5. The full quote from her page is: “as a member of the Bushwick community, she has been a tireless advocate for her neighbors and fellow tenants. Julia’s decade of experience as a local community organizer has brought her from the streets of Bushwick to the halls of Albany. She has protested, picketed, lobbied, and organized to achieve a more just New York. From working with her neighbors to fight for their legal right to safe housing to demanding criminal justice reforms at the city and state levels, Julia has been at the forefront of campaigns for social justice in New York.”
  6. WZO, which was founded in 1897, wants to “serve as the umbrella organization for the Zionist movement” and be a “symbol and a founding institution of Zionist political thought and action.” It also pumps millions into new illegal settlements in the West Bank. In an article she co-wrote with Max Blumenthal, she would describe J Street, talking about “liberal pro-Israel students” in the organization, adding that “J Street U [is] the campus arm of the liberal pro-Israel organization, J Street.” J Street has directly attacked BDS and it also “rejects the return of Palestinians to lands and homes.”
  7. For the discussion of whether JFREJ is a Zionist organization, please email me. She may have also worked with CodePink as there is a page for a “Julia Carmel.”

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.

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).