Confirming Cruelty

Okay, there would be a resolution to all this:

Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh moved closer to confirmation as the Senate prepared for a key vote Friday, with Republicans arguing that an FBI report on sexual misconduct allegations exonerated the judge.

Fridays are good. Things should be resolved on Fridays. That makes the weekend easier – no worries left over from work – and this may be over:

Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) – two decisive Republican votes – indicated Thursday that the additional FBI probe was adequate, although they both cautioned they would continue to read the closely held report. Flake also told reporters that “we’ve seen no additional corroborating information” to bolster the allegation from Christine Blasey Ford, who in emotional testimony last week said that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.

Satisfying Flake and Collins, as well as a third Republican, Lisa Murkowski, would be enough to confirm Kavanaugh. The senator from Alaska, facing pressure from Native Americans in her state, has not said how she will vote.

These three would be enough to confirm Kavanaugh, but, the night before, no one knew which way they’d vote, and the FBI report has resolved nothing:

The latest background check on Kavanaugh – the seventh of his public-service career – only deepened the bitter, partisan rift over his nomination since July. Democrats and Republicans offered sharply diverging assessments of the report, with Republicans asserting it cleared Kavanaugh and Democrats contending it was too limited in scope.

And that may not be the point at all:

In Boca Raton, Fla., retired Justice John Paul Stevens, a Republican, also raised concerns about Kavanaugh’s temperament, according to the Palm Beach Post.

“I thought [Kavanaugh] had the qualifications for the Supreme Court should he be selected,” Stevens said. “I’ve changed my views for reasons that have no relationship to his intellectual ability. I feel his performance in the hearings ultimately changed my mind.”

Stevens didn’t like that talk about how this was all a conspiracy, set up to take him down, set up by the Clintons, who wanted revenge for the Starr Report he helped write, the report that got Bill Clinton impeached, and this was revenge against Donald Trump for Trump beating Hillary Clinton so decisively in the 2016 election. He mentioned big money donors on the left, who must have been in on this. The Clintons and the Democrats and the left were out to destroy him, and out to destroy everything that was good in America – that vast Clinton-Soros-Obama-Pelosi-Maddow-Bezos left wing conspiracy, and that’s why he should be on the Supreme Court, to stop these enemies of America. He’d get angry. He’d stick it to them.

Stevens, a Republican, saw a mad (and angry) man, so it was time to clean that up:

Kavanaugh addressed the issue in an extraordinary op-ed in the Wall Street Journal published Thursday night, acknowledging that he was “very emotional” during his testimony and “I said a few things I should not have said.”

“Going forward, you can count on me to be the same kind of judge and person I have been for my entire 28-year legal career: hardworking, even-keeled, open-minded, independent and dedicated to the Constitution and the public good,” Kavanaugh wrote.

In short, he had been irrationally angry and lashed out saying really stupid things – he had totally lost it – but he won’t do that again, ever. Sorry about that. And he says he’s all better now. Really, he is.

No. some damage cannot be undone, like this sort of thing:

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) raised the ire of protesters on Thursday after telling a group of mostly women who confronted him in one of the Senate buildings that he would talk to them when they “grow up.”

Video of the incident ricocheted around social media Thursday night, the latest in a string of confrontations reflecting the heated emotions coursing through the Capitol amid the fight over Brett M. Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.

This was a hot mess:

In the video, a group of protesters confronts Hatch, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who has been front and center in the confirmation process, as he gets into an elevator in the Hart building. The video starts mid-confrontation, with the voice of a woman asking Hatch over a wall of staffers why he isn’t “brave enough” to talk to her and her group. Hatch waves his hand in midair.

“Don’t you wave your hand at me,” the woman says.

Hatch looks at her and says, “When you grow up, I’ll be glad to” talk to you. The comment incenses some of the protesters.

“How dare you talk to women that way?” one says.

Hatch waves at the group from the elevator as they continue yelling at him.

That might have been a bad move:

Kathy Beynette, the protester whose voice is the one predominantly heard in the video, said in an interview that she was deeply offended by Hatch’s remarks.

“I was like, ‘How dare you talk to a woman like this?'” she said. “When I grow up? No woman deserves to be talked to like that.”

There was an answer to that:

Matt Whitlock, a spokesman for Hatch, noted that the video began midway through the encounter. He said that no one in the group that confronted them had identified themselves as sexual assault survivors and said that Hatch had told one woman who yelled “You made my life worse” that he apologized.

“In the last two weeks, Senator Hatch has had his private information shared online by a Democrat staffer during a hearing, putting him and his family in danger,” Whitlock said in a statement. “He has been screamed at and harassed by the very same protesters who tried to prevent confirmation hearings from even happening. Republicans have received every kind of death threat imaginable – all for supporting Judge Brett Kavanaugh. But Senator Hatch will not be intimidated!”

And this is war!

Maybe this is war:

Beynette said that if she had been able to speak more to the senator, she would have liked to ask him to recuse himself from the proceedings over Kavanaugh’s nomination given his conduct during the Anita Hill hearing more than 20 years ago, when Hatch famously questioned whether Hill’s story had originated in “The Exorcist.”

“I know there’s no chance of him ever voting on Kavanaugh the way we would have him vote, but I would want him to see me and understand in this century that we live in women are entitled to respect. There are no laws regulating your body and I don’t want any laws regulating anybody’s body,” she said. “Instead he just flicks us off like we were dirt on his shoe.”

No vote on anyone will fix this sort of thing, and Hatch was about to get even angrier:

Christine Blasey Ford is on the cover of this week’s issue of Time magazine. But it’s not a photograph of Ford; it’s an illustration of the words and phrases from her testimony arranged into a striking image of her taking an oath.

Last week, Ford detailed her sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh in a televised Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that drew millions of viewers.

San Francisco-based artist John Mavroudis illustrated the cover. He drew each letter and phrase by hand. He told Time the process was like a jigsaw puzzle with an “infinite number of possibilities.”

“The memory quotes would be attached to her forehead area and the quotes about wanting to help I placed on her hand. The hand could be seen as welcoming, but also deflecting,” Mavroudis told Time.

Phrases on her forehead include: “I’m terrified,” “agonized daily” and “seared into my memory.” On her hand, Mavroudis included “traumatic experience,” “personal attacks and invasion of privacy” and “constant harassment and death threats.”

The piece is rather impressive but also rather useless. Trump has decided to mock this woman mercilessly. He has implied that she should just grow up. She is dirt on his shoe, and meanwhile in Florida:

A Winter Haven man was arrested after making threatening Facebook posts relating to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

James Patrick, 53, is being charged with writing a threat to kill or injure. Patrick had made threats to kill Democratic elected officials or “weak Republicans” who refused to confirm Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court…

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Patrick threatened to shoot members of Congress depending on the outcome of the confirmation hearing, as well as any law enforcement officer who showed up at his home. Patrick had firearms and ammunition in his home, deputies said, but not to the extreme he claimed.

“I can tell it seems I will be sacrificing my life for my country,” Patrick posted on Facebook on Sept. 27. “But I am ready and will know who needs to be killed after the vote to put Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.”

How did it come to this? The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer thinks he has the answer. This is all about cruelty:

The Museum of African-American History and Culture is in part a catalog of cruelty. Amid all the stories of perseverance, tragedy, and unlikely triumph are the artifacts of inhumanity and barbarism: the child-size slave shackles, the bright red robes of the wizards of the Ku Klux Klan, the recordings of civil-rights protesters being brutalized by police.

But that’s not what scares him:

The artifacts that persist in my memory, the way a bright flash does when you close your eyes, are the photographs of lynchings. But it’s not the burned, mutilated bodies that stick with me. It’s the faces of the white men in the crowd. There’s the photo of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Indiana in 1930, in which a white man can be seen grinning at the camera as he tenderly holds the hand of his wife or girlfriend. There’s the undated photo from Duluth, Minnesota, in which grinning white men stand next to the mutilated, half-naked bodies of two men lashed to a post in the street—one of the white men is straining to get into the picture, his smile cutting from ear to ear. There’s the photo of a crowd of white men huddled behind the smoldering corpse of a man burned to death; one of them is wearing a smart suit, a fedora hat, and a bright smile.

Their names have mostly been lost to time. But these grinning men were someone’s brother, son, husband, father. They were human beings, people who took immense pleasure in the utter cruelty of torturing others to death – and were so proud of doing so that they posed for photographs with their handiwork, jostling to ensure they caught the eye of the lens, so that the world would know they’d been there. Their cruelty made them feel good, it made them feel proud, it made them feel happy. And it made them feel closer to one another.

And the parallel is obvious:

The Trump era is such a whirlwind of cruelty that it can be hard to keep track. This week alone, the news broke that the Trump administration was seeking to ethnically cleanse more than 193,000 American children of immigrants whose temporary protected status had been revoked by the administration, that the Department of Homeland Security had lied about creating a database of children that would make it possible to unite them with the families the Trump administration had arbitrarily destroyed, that the White House was considering a blanket ban on visas for Chinese students, and that it would deny visas to the same-sex partners of foreign officials. At a rally in Mississippi, a crowd of Trump supporters cheered as the president mocked Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who has said that Brett Kavanaugh, whom Trump has nominated to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, attempted to rape her when she was a teenager. “Lock her up!” they shouted.

Ford testified to the Senate – utilizing her professional expertise to describe the encounter – that one of the parts of the incident she remembered most was Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge laughing at her as Kavanaugh fumbled at her clothing. “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter,” Ford said, referring to the part of the brain that processes emotion and memory, “the uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.”

And then at Tuesday’s rally, the president made his supporters laugh at her.

In short, get used to being laughed at, you fool, you slut, you nothing. He was flicking off the dirt on his shoe, so this is obvious:

Anyone afraid of coming forward, afraid that she would not be believed, can now look to the president to see her fears realized. Once malice is embraced as a virtue, it is impossible to contain.

But there’s more than this that Serwer notes:

The cruelty of the Trump administration’s policies and the ritual rhetorical flaying of his targets before his supporters are intimately connected. As Lili Loofbourow wrote of the Kavanaugh incident in Slate, adolescent male cruelty toward women is a bonding mechanism, a vehicle for intimacy through contempt. The white men in the lynching photos are smiling not merely because of what they have done, but because they have done it together.

And there’s a lot of that going around:

We can hear the spectacle of cruel laughter throughout the Trump era.

There were the border-patrol agents cracking up at the crying immigrant children separated from their families, and the Trump adviser who delighted white supremacists when he mocked a child with Down syndrome who was separated from her mother.

There were the police who laughed uproariously when the president encouraged them to abuse suspects, and the Fox News hosts mocking a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub massacre (and in the process inundating him with threats), and mocked the survivors of sexual assault protesting to Senator Jeff Flake, the women who said the president had sexually assaulted them, and the teen survivors of the Parkland school shooting.

There was the president mocking Puerto Rican accents shortly after thousands were killed and tens of thousands displaced by Hurricane Maria, the black athletes protesting unjustified killings by the police, the women of the #MeToo movement who have come forward with stories of sexual abuse, and the disabled reporter whose crime was reporting on Trump truthfully.

And all that is in this context:

It is not just that the perpetrators of this cruelty enjoy it; it is that they enjoy it with one another. Their shared laughter at the suffering of others is an adhesive that binds them to one another, and to Trump.

And that works:

Taking joy in that suffering is more human than most would like to admit. Somewhere on the wide spectrum between adolescent teasing and the smiling white men in the lynching photographs are the Trump supporters whose community is built by rejoicing in the anguish of those they see as unlike them, who have found in their shared cruelty an answer to the loneliness and atomization of modern life…

This isn’t incoherent. It reflects a clear principle: Only the president and his allies, his supporters, and their anointed are entitled to the rights and protections of the law, and if necessary, immunity from it. The rest of us are entitled only to cruelty, by their whim. This is how the powerful have ever kept the powerless divided and in their place, and enriched themselves in the process.

That last sentence may overstate things here, but the closing paragraphs might not overstate anything:

Trump’s only true skill is the con. His only fundamental belief is that the United States is the birthright of straight, white, Christian men, and his only real, authentic pleasure is in cruelty. It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright.

The president’s ability to execute that cruelty through word and deed makes them euphoric. It makes them feel good. It makes them feel proud. It makes them feel happy. It makes them feel united. And as long as he makes them feel that way, they will let him get away with anything, no matter what it costs them.

They will put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, no matter what it costs them – the vote of every woman in America, except for those straight white evangelical women in the Ozarks and a few others here and there, who know that they’re as silly and worthless, and perhaps as dangerous, as both Orrin Hatch and Donald Trump say.

Nancy LeTourneau adds this:

While Serwer has captured something incredibly important, it is shocking to me.

Perhaps the shock is more about a sense of whiplash. That’s because Barack Obama, who happened to be this country’s first African-American president, was also incredibly optimistic about the people of this country. Only days after he was elected in 2008, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote, “What Obama Means King’s Legacy,” talking about the kind of courage it takes to not just believe in yourself, but also in others.

Coates wrote this:

Here is where Barack Obama and the civil rights leaders of old are joined – in a shocking, almost certifiable faith in humanity, something that subsequent generations lost. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. may have led African Americans out of segregation, and he may have cured incalculable numbers of white racists, but more than all that, he believed that the lion’s share of the population of this country would not support the rights of thugs to pummel people who just wanted to cross a bridge. King believed in white people, and when I was a younger, more callow man, that belief made me suck my teeth. I saw it as weakness and cowardice, a lack of faith in his own people. But it was the opposite. King’s belief in white people was the ultimate show of strength: He was willing to give his life on a bet that they were no different from the people who lived next door.

And this:

Those of us who rolled our eyes when Obama declared his candidacy did not think him weak or cowardly. But we essentially doubted the humanity of the people Obama needed to convince in order to win.

Obama didn’t doubt that. He didn’t doubt the humanity of anyone, even women – but he’s gone. Now it’s practicing self-reinforcing and self-congratulatory cruelty on those who cannot fight back, and at the moment it seems to be the confirmation of cruelty to the Supreme Court. That will be our world now. Once malice is embraced as a virtue…

There’s no good way to end that sentence.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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