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Autopsy on Democrats: One Year Later

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Advance excerpts published today by The Nation unveil a new assessment of the Democratic Party’s progress during the year since release of a scathing Autopsy titled “The Democratic Party in Crisis.”

Produced by the same task force of researchers, the new report — “Democratic Autopsy: One Year Later” — “evaluates how well the Democratic Party has done in charting a new course since the autumn of 2017.” The document rates developments in each of the seven categories that the original Autopsy assessed — corporate power, race, young people, voter participation, social movements, war and party democracy.

The new report says that “the upsurge of progressive activism and electoral victories during the last year has created momentum that could lead to historic breakthroughs in the midterm elections and far beyond.” But the report concludes that the party is still major steps away from becoming a political force capable of ending Republican rule and implementing vital progressive reforms.

The Nation has posted advance excerpts of the new report here.

Today, RootsAction.org emailed information about the new report to the group’s 1.2 million active supporters online in the U.S. The new report and the original Autopsy were supported by Action for a Progressive Future, which sponsors RootsAction.

The following co-authors of “Democratic Autopsy: One Year Later” are available for interviews:

JEFF COHEN, jcohen at ithaca.edu
Cohen is founder of the media watch group FAIR and co-founder of RootsAction.org.

DONNA SMITH, donna at pdamerica.org
Smith is former executive director and current national advisory board chair of Progressive Democrats of America.

The Saudi Lobby Juggernaut

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Sen. Rand Paul states: “The Saudis will keep killing civilians and journalists as long as we keep arming and assisting them. The President should immediately halt arms sales and military support to Saudi Arabia.” See video of Paul’s comments regarding the Saudi bombing of Yemen and missing Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The Hill reports: “Senators demand answers on Trump administration backing of Saudi coalition in Yemen.”

BEN FREEMAN, ben@ciponline.org
Freeman is the director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy. He just wrote the piece for TomDispatch: “The Saudi Lobby Juggernaut,” which states: “The growth of Saudi lobbying operations [has been] extraordinary. In 2016, according to FARA records, they reported spending just under $10 million on lobbying firms; in 2017, that number had nearly tripled to $27.3 million. And that’s just a baseline figure for a far larger operation to buy influence in Washington, since it doesn’t include considerable sums given to elite universities or think tanks like the Arab Gulf States Institute, the Middle East Institute, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (to mention just a few of them).

“This meteoric rise in spending allowed the Saudis to dramatically increase the number of lobbyists representing their interests on both sides of the aisle. Before President Trump even took office, the Saudi government signed a deal with the McKeon Group, a lobbying firm headed by Howard ‘Buck’ McKeon, the recently retired Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. His firm also represents Lockheed Martin, one of the top providers of military equipment to the Kingdom. On the Democratic side, the Saudis inked a $140,000-per-month deal with the Podesta Group, headed by Tony Podesta, whose brother John, a long-time Democratic Party operative, was the former chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Tony Podesta later dissolved his firm and has allegedly been investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for serving as an unregistered foreign agent. …

“Such activity reveals a clear pattern: Saudi foreign agents are working tirelessly to shape perceptions of that country, its royals, its policies, and especially its grim war in Yemen, while simultaneously working to keep U.S. weapons and military support flowing into the Kingdom.”

Trump’s “New Lies” on Medicare-for-All

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ROBERT WEISSMAN, Mike Stankiewicz, mstankiewicz@citizen.org, Angela Bradbery, abradbery@citizen.org@Public_Citizen
President of Public Citizen, Weissman just released a statement, “Fact Check: Trump is Dead Wrong on Medicare-for-All“:”Lies and deceptions from Trump are nothing new. Lies and deceptions from Trump about Medicare-for All are new, so it’s worth correcting his USA Todaycolumn [“Democrats ‘Medicare for All’ plan will demolish promises to seniors.”] attacking such a system.

“One reason his attacks on Medicare-for-All are new is that he probably has supported it in the past. But whatever, there’s no reason to think Trump particularly believed what he said then, or what he says now. On to the major lies and deceits:

“Medicare-for-All would not ‘end Medicare as we know it and take away benefits that seniors have paid for all their lives.’ The reason it’s called Medicare-for-All is because it would take the existing program and expand it to everyone. Seniors’ benefits would not be taken away — in fact, they would be improved, but everyone else would gain the benefits of Medicare, too.

“Medicare-for-All is not going to cost an ‘astonishing $32.6 trillion’ over 10 years, because it will introduce major savings not adequately accounted for in the study Trump cites. Significant savings would come from eliminating vast amounts of paperwork and bureaucracy imposed by the current dysfunctional system, and steeply dropping costs for brand-name pharmaceuticals. But even if Medicare-for-All cost as much as Trump alleges, that amount would be LESS than projections for our current system, which also leaves tens of millions of Americans without coverage.” See related Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “Even Koch-Backed Think Tank Finds Medicare for All Would Cut Health Care Spending” featuring Drs. David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler, distinguished professors of health policy at the City University of New York at Hunter College and lecturers in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

See full Public Citizen statement here.

Protesting Saudi Crimes

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NBC News reports: “Friends of the missing Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi described him as being deeply afraid of his country’s rulers and of being targeted by the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the months before his disappearance.”

See from the British Independent: “Jamal Khashoggi joins growing list of Saudi dissidents who have mysteriously disappeared in recent years.” The New Arab report from Monday: “Lebanon lawmaker Paula Yacoubian confirms Riyadh detained PM Hariri amid journalist disappearance mystery.”

MEDEA BENJAMIN, medea at codepink.org, @medeabenjamin
    Benjamin is co-founder of the activist group CodePink, which is organizing protests on Wednesday at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C. at noon and at the Saudi consulate in New York City at 5 p.m.

    CodePink said in a statement: “The last anyone has heard from prominent Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was October 2, when he walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to get some papers needed for his marriage. Turkish investigators have leaked what they believe happened: A 15-person hit team was sent from Saudi Arabia to Turkey to murder Khashoggi, who had been a critic of the Saudi government.”

    Benjamin is author of Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection. On Monday, she appeared on “Democracy Now!“: “I think it has to be put in the context that the Saudi crown prince, MBS [Mohammed bin Salman], is out of control — what he is doing in Yemen, the bombing of schoolchildren, the kidnapping of Hariri in Lebanon, the throwing in prison of women activists, of scholars, and creating an economic war with Qatar.”

The New York Times reported in August: “U.N. Says Saudi-led Airstrike Killed at Least 22 Yemeni Children.”

Roots of Kavanaugh’s Agenda

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LYNN STUART PARRAMORE, lynn@lynnparramore.com, @lynnparramore
Lynn Stuart Parramore is a cultural historian and freelance writer who covers gender issues and the economy. She said today: “It is my view that on the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh will work to thwart the will of the American people, especially women.

“Hand-picked by the Federalist Society and backed by the Koch network, Kavanaugh is an emblem of the right-wing takeover of America outlined by historian Nancy MacLean in her 2017 book, Democracy in Chains. He is part of a movement, never stronger in America, to reorient the legal system away from the influence of ordinary citizens and towards the interests of corporations and the wealthy — a movement dedicated to lowering taxes for the rich and transferring critical public functions to the private market. [See her review of MacLean’s book: “Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent’s Stealth Takeover of America.”]

“On the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh can be expected to be a staunch defender of efforts to deregulate business, eliminate civil rights protections, and gut regulations for health and the environment. He is philosophically oriented to support the privatizing of government institutions like public schools and prisons and to attempt to do away with programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

“For women, Kavanaugh’s role on the Supreme Court has particularly devastating potential. His hostility to Roe v. Wade and reproductive freedom; his hostility to workers making discrimination and harassment claims; and his opposition to the social safety net upon women disproportionately depend make him a threat to women’s health, dignity, and economic security. He is poised to be a foe of the public sector, a vital source of women’s employment, as well as critical services like publicly subsidized daycare. Kavanaugh poses a serious threat to women in their dual roles as wage earners and caregivers.”

Is Brazil Slipping Back into Fascism?

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The Washington Post reports that Jair Bolsonaro, a “far-right former military man won nearly half the votes in Brazil’s presidential election on Sunday, raising the strong prospect that he could take the helm of Latin America’s largest nation in a runoff later this month.”

MARIA LUISA MENDONÇA, marialuisam222atgmail.com
Maria Luísa Mendonça, director of the Network for Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil said today: “The election results in Brazil show the risk of a discourse based on fear and manipulation, which benefited a candidate who is openly misogynistic, racist, homophobic, who defends torture and the return of the military dictatorship. Brazilian women have organized against him in the social media campaign #EleNão (#NotHim) that has attracted more than 4 million participants. Progressive forces will continue to organize to defend democracy in Brazil, and to send a strong message to the world against fascism.”

ALEXANDER MAIN, mainatcepr.net
Director of international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Main said today: “How did we end up with these terrifying election results in Brazil, a country that not long ago was seen as a beacon of progress within the developing world? Attacks on Brazil’s democracy have played a major role, in particular the unconstitutional removal of president Dilma Rousseff and the unjustified imprisonment of former president Lula da Silva, who had been widely expected to win the election before being barred from running. The rightwing ‘coup’ against Dilma and Lula, promoted by elite sectors eager to implement neoliberal ‘shock therapy’ measures, had the unintended effect of creating a political opening for fascism.”

For more, see “How a homophobic, misogynist, racist ‘thing’ could be Brazil’s next president” in The Guardian by the Brazilian journalist Eliane Brum.

Why the Rush on Kavanaugh? Why the “Presumption of Confirmation”?

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MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal at gmail.com, @marjoriecohn
Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and just wrote the piece “Five Reasons Why the GOP Is Rushing to Confirm Kavanaugh” for Truthout, which goes through the upcoming Supreme Court docket. She said today: “Responding to pressure from Sen. Jeff Flake, a swing vote on Kavanaugh, the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee ordered a perfunctory FBI ‘investigation,’ which failed to interview several critical witnesses. Now Flake and Sen. Susan Collins, another swing vote, say the FBI report contains no corroboration of Dr. Blasey Ford’s claim. They are setting up political cover to vote for confirmation of Kavanaugh.”

Cohn said today that contrary to much rhetoric, including from Flake, “presumption of innocence only applies in criminal cases, not in a judicial confirmation proceeding.” See also CNN piece “What Exactly is Jeff Flake Looking for?” by Page Pate, which notes that “There is no such thing as a ‘presumption of confirmation.'”

Cohn’s past pieces include “Brett Kavanaugh is a Threat to Racial Justice and Voting Rights” and “Aggressive Kavanaugh Portrays Himself as Victim,” which states: “Kavanaugh’s outrage at being accused of sexual misconduct is hypocritical. And his contempt for Bill Clinton goes back at least two decades. During the 1998 investigation of Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky affair, Kavanaugh worked for independent counsel Kenneth Starr. At the time, Kavanaugh advocated asking Clinton explicit and detailed questions about oral sex, masturbation, vaginal stimulation and phone sex.”

She also wrote “Kavanaugh Scorns International Law and Loves Executive Power,” which states: “During the Bush administration [which Kavanugh worked for], the Supreme Court checked and balanced the executive branch in several war on terror cases. … If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh will almost certainly defer to the president’s wartime decisions during the perpetual war on terror. He will likely extend that deference to Donald Trump’s immigration policies under the guise of ‘national security.’ And Kavanaugh’s frightening theory will encourage the president to disobey any law he deems unconstitutional, including customary and treaty-based international law.”

Kavanaugh Showcases “Persecution Complex”

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On Tuesday, Trump mocked Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against his Supreme Court nominee, Brent Kavanagh: “What neighborhood was it in? I don’t know. Where’s the house? I don’t know. Upstairs, downstairs — where was it? I don’t know — but I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember.”

Also on Tuesday, the Washington Post reported: “In an unprecedented move, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday released an explicit statement that purports to describe the sexual preferences of a woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of misconduct.”

JENNIFER L. POZNER, jenniferleepozneratgmail.com, @jennpozner
Pozner is a media critic, media literacy educator and media activist. She is the author of Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV and founder of Women In Media & News.

She just wrote the piece “Kavanaugh Hearings Showcase GOP’s White Male Persecution Complex” for Truthout, in which she writes: “Kavanaugh emerged from the hearing looking guiltier than ever, and his apparent history of sexual violence seemed to make the GOP Judiciary members embrace him more fervently. The motives underneath this empathy for Kavanaugh are frightening. In the days since the allegations first leaked, GOP men fell all over themselves to make male sexual violence in high school seem universal and normative. ‘If this is the new standard, no one will ever want or be able to serve in government or on the judiciary,’ said Ed Rollins, a Trump PAC co-chair, while a lawyer close to the White House told Politico, ‘If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried.’ …

“Why would they do this with the contentious midterm elections hanging in the balance? It’s not just that they’re obsessed with controlling the Supreme Court, or that they want the seat to go to a guy who would legally prevent prosecution of the president: They simply don’t seem to believe this strategy is a risk.”

Also see from Shamus Khan, the chair of the sociology department at Columbia University in the Washington Post: “Kavanaugh is lying. His upbringing explains why,” which states: “Brett Kavanaugh is not telling the whole truth. When President George W. Bush nominated him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2006, he told senators that he’d had nothing to do with the war on terror’s detention policies; that was not true. Kavanaugh also claimed under oath, that year and again this month, that he didn’t know that Democratic Party memos a GOP staffer showed him in 2003 were illegally obtained; his emails from that period reveal that these statements were probably false. And it cannot be possible that the Supreme Court nominee was both a well-behaved virgin who never lost control as a young man, as he told Fox News and the Senate Judiciary Committee this past week, and an often-drunk member of the ‘Keg City Club’ and a ‘Renate Alumnius,’ as he seems to have bragged to many people and written into his high school yearbook. Then there are the sexual misconduct allegations against him, which he denies.”

Kavanaugh Coverups

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Sen. Dick Durbin and other senators repeatedly asked Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday whether he would ask for an impartial FBI investigation into the allegations against him. He repeatedly declined to do so. See video.

The Intercept in, “Republicans Stop Having Prosecutor Ask Questions After She Presses Kavanaugh on July 1, 1982 Calendar Note,” reports: “Republican senators have reclaimed their time from Rachel Mitchell, the sex crimes prosecutor they brought in to conduct questioning on their behalf.

“The change in tactics came just after Mitchell zeroed in on Kavanaugh’s entry on his calendar for the night of Thursday, July 1, 1982.

“The entry recorded Kavanaugh’s plan to ‘Go to Timmy’s for Skis, w/ Judge, Tom, PJ, Bernie, Squi.’ [The Washington Post now identifies Timmy as Tim Gaudette, see “Kavanaugh is pressed on the key July 1 entry in his calendar. But only to a point.”]

“The slang word ‘brewskis’ was a common term for ‘brews’ or beers in the 1980s, so this appears to be about a planned drinking session on the Thursday before the Fourth of July weekend.

“In her prepared testimony, Christine Blasey Ford said that she was assaulted in the summer of 1982 at a house party attended by her friend Leland Ingham, as well as ‘Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, P. J. Smyth and one other boy whose name I cannot recall.'”As the Washington Post article summarized: “During her testimony, Ford made clear that the event at which she says she was assaulted was a casual get-together before the others (who were older than her and had a later curfew) went to other, bigger parties. Kavanaugh says that the gathering at Timmy’s on July 1 was essentially that.

“We noted Thursday, too, that the time frame of this July 1 party fits with Ford’s testimony. She says that six to eight weeks after the alleged assault, she saw Judge working at a store in the area. Judge’s book indicates that he was working at that store for several weeks in early to mid-August.”

BOB SCHIFF, robertfschiff@gmail.com
LISA GRAVES, lisa@documentedinvestigations.org
JEFF BERMAN, jeffberman@gmail.com

Schiff served as chief counsel for Senator Russ Feingold; Graves served as chief counsel for nominations for Sen. Leahy; Berman served as chief counsel for Senator Charles Schumer. They recently wrote the piece “Brett Kavanaugh Can’t Be Trusted. We Know Because We Worked as Counsel to Senators When He Was in the Bush White House” for Time magazine.

They give examples of Kavanaugh lying under oath, including: “At his first confirmation hearing in April 2004, Kavanaugh said he had never received material stolen from Democrats. He repeated that testimony in May 2006 under questioning by both Democratic Senators and Chairman Hatch. But emails released earlier this month, after originally being deemed ‘committee confidential,’ show that Kavanaugh was in frequent contact with [Manuel] Miranda and received material that had been stolen from the Senate Judiciary Committee server. These emails contradict his testimony under oath. …”

Similarly, former Senator Russ Feingold recently wrote the piece “We Know Brett Kavanaugh Has Lied Already” for the Huffington Post.

In “‘Boofed,’ ‘Devil’s Triangle,’ ‘FFFFFFourth of July’: How Brett Kavanaugh explained his yearbook jokes,” CBS News now indicates Kavanaugh falsified under oath on Thursday when asked about the meaning of several sexual terms he used in his high school yearbook profile. For example, Devil’s Triangle: “This term on the yearbook page is also known as a sexual slang term for a threesome involving two men and one woman. … But Kavanaugh told the Senate Judiciary Committee that this was a reference to a ‘drinking game’ with three cups arranged in a triangle. … ‘Boofed’ is also sometimes used as a vulgar slang term, usually referring to some mix of anal sex and drugs. The New Yorker said it ‘refers to the practice of anally ingesting alcohol or drugs.’ But Kavanaugh said it was simply a teenage joke between him and Judge about ‘flatulence.'”

See New York Times piece: “Brett Kavanaugh Urged Graphic Questions in Clinton Inquiry.”

Is Kavanaugh a War Criminal?

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Amnesty International USA just issued a “Rare Call for a Halt on Kavanaugh Nomination.”

The group states: “Amnesty International believes that the vetting of Brett Kavanaugh’s record on human rights has been insufficient and calls for the vote on his nomination for Supreme Court of the United States to be further postponed unless and until any information relevant to Kavanaugh’s possible involvement in human rights violations — including in relation to the U.S. government’s use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, such as during the CIA detention program — is declassified and made public.”

Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA said: “Amnesty International takes no position on the appointment of particular individuals to government positions, unless they are reasonably suspected of crimes under international law and could use their appointment to the position in question to either prevent accountability for these crimes or to continue perpetration.”

See report from earlier this month on “Confidential Emails Reveal Kavanaugh Wanted to Make Author of Bush-era Torture Memo a Judge” about just some of Kavanaugh’s documents highlighted by Sen. Cory Booker.

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He was an elected member of the Board of Directors of Amnesty International USA from 1988 to 1992.

He said today: “Contrary to the mantra that the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have it in for Kavanaugh, they’ve largely let him off the hook on a number of critical issues, instead favoring theatrics.

“While there’s substantial attention being paid to the serious charges of sexual assault by Kavanaugh, there’s been very little note that he is a putative war criminal. Specifically, recently released documents show that while Kavanaugh worked for the George W. Bush administration, one of the people he attempted to put on the judiciary was John Yoo, who authored many of the justifications for torture that came out of the Bush administration.

“I’ve had very serious problems with others placed on the Supreme Court, but I’ve never thought of them as putative war criminals. And while other parts of Kavanaugh’s professional record are unseemly, including his lying under oath, his work for Ken Starr and for Bush’s election during the Florida standoff in 2000, this stands out even in such a record.

“And while some of the current members of the Supreme Court have been members of the Federalist Society, none have been of this ilk of members like John Yoo and Bush Attorney General/White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez — as Kavanaugh, who worked for Gonzalez at the White House. The U.S. Senate must not place a putative war criminal on the U.S. Supreme Court.” See Boyle’s analysis in The Guardian

The following exchange is from a debate between Yoo and Doug Cassel, director of Notre Dame Law School’s Center for Civil and Human Rights held on Dec. 1, 2005:

Cassel: “If the president deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?”
Yoo: “No treaty.”
Cassel: “Also no law by Congress — that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo.”
Yoo: “I think it depends on why the president thinks he needs to do that.”

Listen to audio here.

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