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Monday, October 15, 2018

UPDATED: Did Trump just confirm Khashoggi's murder?

I don't know if he even knows that he has done that, but that's my opinion. You are certainly entitled to your own. What he said this morning, according to the Washington Post, is:
“I just spoke with the King of Saudi Arabia, and he denies any knowledge of what took place with regards to, as he said, to Saudi Arabia’s citizen,” Trump said while talking to reporters Monday morning. “He firmly denies that.”

“We are going to leave nothing uncovered,” Trump said later about the investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance. “With that being said, the king firmly denies any knowledge of it. He didn’t really know, maybe, I don’t want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me like maybe it could have been rogue killers, who knows? We’re going to try get to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial.” [emphasis added]
So the Donald has talked to the King and now he is blabbing about it. We don't know how many times the King denied having any knowledge about Khashoggi's disappearance on the phone to Trump, but we do know that Trump has repeated that denial three times in this short statement that was also at pains to point out that while Khashoggi may have been a Washington Post reporter and a legal United States resident, he was also a subject of the King. Trump said he didn't "want to get into [the King's] mind," but! "it sounded to me like maybe it could have been rogue killers." Why would he say that if the King denied having any knowledge of his "disappearance?" It sounds to me like after his talk with the King,Trump was left with no doubt that Khashoggi had been murdered, and now he has already moved on to shifting the blame away from the Kingdom.

I hope that at the next WHPC some reporter will ask just what the King said that made Trump think that Khashoggi had been murdered.

That's my take. What say you?

UPDATE 1:04PM PT: CNN's Clarissa Ward is reporting the Kingdom is preparing to admit that Khashoggi was killed in an interrogation gone bad. Was their hand forced by Trump's blabbing about "rogue killers," or has he been a part of this operation against Khashoggi from the beginning?

UPDATED 16 Oct. 7:00 PM PT: When I started writing this post yesterday, it was to make a different point, and it had a different title. I tabled that draft when I realized that the really important point to be made about Trump's "rogue killers" statement was that it was the first time either a US or Saudi official talked like he knew Khashoggi had been murdered. That was the breaking news yesterday.

Today, it seems appropriate to return to that original theme in light of a new statement from Trump. Yesterday, the first draft of this post began:

What do "rogue killers" have to do with Kavanaugh?

Does anyone else see a curious congruence between the way Trump & Company handled Dr. Christie Ford's allegations of attempted rape by Brett Kavanaugh, and the way they are handling the way they are handling the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi?

Turkey has alleged that Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi Arabian embassy. They say they have convincing evidence, although no corpse has been found, or is likely to be found in the Turkish allegations are true.

In both cases they use a mis-applied presumption of innocence, combined with what they consider a lack of convincing evidence, to allow them to act like the crime never even happened.

The most curious thing about the way that they handled Dr. Ford's allegation that she was 100% sure that it was Kavanaugh that tried to rape her, was to say "We believe Dr. Ford." meaning they believe "somebody" tried to rape her, but she was just wrong about it being Kavanaugh.

With Trump's response this morning to a reporters question about the Khashoggi disappearance, it sounds like he wants to have it both ways again: "maybe it could have been rogue killers, who knows?"  Meaning, he now believes Khashoggi was murdered, just not by the Kingdom.

Yesterday I abandoned that draft. Today the New York Post is reporting:
Trump compares Khashoggi ‘murder’ to Kavanaugh accusations

By Tamar Lapin
16 October 2018
President Trump criticized those pointing fingers at Saudi Arabia in the case of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi — comparing the situation to the sexual assault allegations leveled against US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned,” Trump said Tuesday.

Trump warned of a rush to judgement in the case.

“I think we have to find out what happened first,” he said. More...
So, like I said. Its not at all surprising that Trump sees this obscene and curious congruence, since he is the author of it.

UPDATE: Wednesday Thoughts: I suspect Trump so strongly denies the murder of Khashoggi by MBS because there are some US reporters that he would like to murder himself. If he is empowered by a GOP victory in November, journalists everywhere had better watch their backs.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh and the Resistance Color Code

There are a thousand and one ways in which our misogynistic and racist culture is passed on and fortified. This is a story about one of them.

I was reminded of this one by the recent testimony about the serial sexual abuse of young girls by the youthful Brett Kavanaugh. It comes from my own education in technology. That began with an early interest in electricity and electronics. One of my earliest accomplishments in the field was earning a Merit Badge for Electricity from the Boy Scouts of America. It must have been about the same time I was first learning about resistors, and the color code used to mark them.

Resistors are electrical components used very frequently in electrical or electronic circuits. They are used to provide resistance to the flow of electricity. That resistance is measured in Ohms[Ω]. An Ohm is a measure of, well, electrical resistance. The unit was named after Georg Ohm, a 19th century German Physicist who gave us Ohm's Law, among other things. 1Ω really isn't much resistance at all, so in electronics, more often we talk in terms of kiloohms or megaohms. Resistors come in a wide range of resistances, and since most are very small, simply printing the resistance on them, something like 470KΩ, just isn't workable. I wouldn't have been able to read them even when my eyes were young. Instead they are marked by a series of colored bands. Each color stands for a number, or a power of ten. The colors are Black = 0 or 100, Brown = 1 or 101, Red = 2 or 102, Orange = 3 or 103, Yellow = 4 or 104, Green = 5 or 105, Blue = 6 or 106, Violet = 7 or 107, Gray = 8 or 108, White = 9 or 109.

Typical Resistor Color Code Chart
Now you know how to read resistors, so long as you can remember the colors used, and their proper order. Mnemonics can be very helpful in remembering sequences like these, and that is where the connection to the Kavanaugh saga comes to mind, because the most widely used mnemonic for teaching the resistance color code has been this:
Bad Boys Rape Our Young Girls But Violet Gives Willingly
As you can see, the first letter of each word in this memorable little phrase corresponds to the first letter of the color that occupies that position in the resistance color code. As such, it has historically been an easy way to teach this essential piece of knowledge for anyone working with electrical or electronic hardware. I was probably first taught it, with a snicker, about the same time I was earning that Merit Badge in the Boy Scouts.

Now, it is easy to see that this racy mnemonic also taught something else to the overwhelmingly male technology students it was aimed at. It made the violent crime of rape out to be something frivolous, while at the same time it divided women between "good" and "bad" depending on if force was necessary to have sex with them. It also was, all by itself, another barrier women had to overcome to pursue careers in a number of well-paying, male dominated, fields.

Years later, I found there was an even worst version of this mnemonic. Perhaps I was shielded from it because it combined racism with the misogyny. This is from a European electronics manual:

Here is an industry-standard mnemonic e-mailed by Bill Woods for recalling the order and value of colour-markings on resistors. Although a politically/socially dubious phrase, it has nevertheless served to teach budding electronics engineers the code successfully for many years.

"Black Boys Rape Our Young Girls, But Violet Gives Willingly."
I wasn't shielded from discrimination as I developed my technology career. In this version, "our" applied both to the men who needed to remember this bit of technological trivia, and the "young girls," and it went without saying that both were understood to be "white." This racist version may indeed be more popular in Europe. The Daily Mail had this report about a teacher using it lately:
Teacher who taught pupil racist 'rape' rhyme so he
could remember lesson is guilty of misconduct

25 February 2011
Teacher James Hersey of Hove, East Sussex, holding a circuit
board: He claims the rhyme he was taught in the 1950s
helps to remember a colour coding system for resistors
A supply teacher who taught a racist rhyme to a pupil - which included the vile phrase 'Black Boys Rape Our Young Girls' - has been found guilty of professional misconduct.

James Hersey, 68, taught the shocking mnemonic to a 16-year-old boy who was revising a wiring colour coding system for electronic resistors.

He taught the boy the ditty: 'Black Boys Rape Our Young Girls, But Virgins Go Without.' Each word represents the first letter of the colours in the code which are; black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, grey and white. More...
Hersey's version of this little ditty packs quite a few "collateral" social lessons into this memory exercise. In addition to the trivialization of rape contained in all versions, and the racist element added to some versions, his version promotes the view that women or girls who are raped, are raped because they want it, after all, "virgins go without."

Christine Blasey Ford's heartfelt testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court showed the lifelong damage that can be caused by teenage acts of sexual violence that are encouraged and trivialized by teaching methods such as this one. I'm not sure if this mnemonic is still used anywhere else in the past seven years. I certainly hope not. Clearly, it's time has passed.

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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Garrett Ventry "resignation" shows GOP Senate Judiciary Committee hypocrisy

NBC News broke this story today:
Spokesman for GOP on Kavanaugh nomination resigns;
has been accused of harassment in the past

An adviser for the Senate Judiciary Committee has resigned amid questions from NBC News about a previous sexual harassment complaint.

by Heidi Przybyla
22 September 2018
WASHINGTON — A press adviser helping lead the Senate Judiciary Committee’s response to a sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has stepped down amid evidence he was fired from a previous political job in part because of a sexual harassment allegation against him.

Garrett Ventry, 29, who served as a communications aide to the committee chaired by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, had been helping coordinate the majority party's messaging in the wake of Christine Blasey Ford’s claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 36 years ago at a high school party. In a response to NBC News, Ventry denied any past "allegations of misconduct." More...

Garrett Ventry was a current staff member, or employee, which would seem to give him more standing to keep his position than a job applicant, or an employee asking for a promotion, which is the position of Brett Kavanaugh, and yet there was no talk about the right to due process, or the presumption of innocent that has so animated the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in defense of Brett Kavanaugh. Ventry, was given no hearing, and no right to appeal. The reason he was asked to resign was simple:
Republicans familiar with the situation had been concerned that Ventry, because of his history, could not lead an effective communications response.
Meanwhile, on Fox News, Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), the GOP congressman who joked that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been groped by Abraham Lincoln, complained that his favorite job applicant, Brett Kavanaugh wasn't being treated fairly, saying "Where else can you write a letter and convict someone?"

I'll bet the majority of old white men in congress have law degrees, and yet they seem confused over this simple fact: Kavanaugh is not on trial for his freedom, he is applying for a job.

It may not be "fair," but when there are many qualified candidates for a position, it doesn't take much to take any one candidate off the short-list. The real possibility that someone applying for the lifetime position of Supreme Court Justice may be lying about a crime of sexual assault, even one that happened long ago, should be enough. Sorry Charlie, but the job of the Senate is to be fair to the country.

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UPDATED: Where were Brett Kavanaugh's loving parents when he was drinking illegally?

United States President Donald Trump recently attacked Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who is accusing Judge Brett Kavanaugh of attempted rape 36 years ago, by asking why she didn't go to her "loving parents," and the police:
We know there are many reasons #whyididntreport, check the hashtag for thousands of details. There is another question the president, and all of us, should be asking, and it is almost certainly the most socially actionable one: Where were Brett Kavanaugh's loving parents when he was illegally drinking because he was underage?

There certainly has been enough testimony and evidence of parties at which underage drinking took place in the ruling class high school environment that Christine Blasey Ford, Brett Kavanaugh, and his accomplice, Mark Judge grew up in. No doubt, they, along with many mutual friends, attended numerous such parties.

So where were the loving parents that allowed this?

Trump knows that one big reason the 15 year old Christine would not have reported the sexual assault was that she would have had to admit to illegal drinking at an illegal party to do so.

Did the 17 year old Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge understand the leverage they would have in sexually assaulting young girls who had already been lured into the illegal activity of underage drinking? Did these maturing legal minds understand the advantage that compromise gave them? Did they understand that even if the sex was consensual, it would still be illegal? Or did they expect the alcohol to buy them some cheap immunity?

There is also the question of who provided the alcohol? Was it the younger girls, or the older boys? Or the parents? My money is on the older boys, although some parents may have turned a blind eye to "their young men" raiding the liquor cabinet for a house party, "At least they're drinking at home," might be their excuse. No matter.

What needs to be said is that the alcohol-fueled party culture that was allowed to fester at Georgetown Prep created an environment in which the type of attack alleged by Christine Blasey Ford was encouraged and protected. I have little doubt that she is speaking the truth about what Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge did to her at such a party 36 years ago. I have no doubt that her participation in such a party, at 15, played a big role in her going along with Brett and Mark in covering up the attack even as rumors swirled all around the schools.

None of us should doubt that the type of sexual violence that Dr. Ford alleges Kavanaugh subjected her to, has happened to a great many teenage girls, even especially at the best schools, where illegal drinking is an accepted part of a privileged upbringing, and the young men of the ruling class are invited to join in the corruption from a very early age by their Georgetown Preparation.

UPDATE 24 Sept. 2018:

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Idlib: The Syrian Revolution still Lives in September 2018

Greetings to the Protests of No Alternative to the Fall of the Regime in Idlib

Once again, as soon as the Russians stop raining down bombs for a minute, the Syrian people hit the streets to protest the regime. What a shame they don't get more support from the so-called progressives in the US.

Remember these pictures. A month from now, many of them may be dead if we continue to do nothing. Al Jazeera reported on Friday:
Thousands rally against looming offensive on northwest Syria

Rebel-controlled Idlib province witnesses massive protests, as Turkey announces new meeting between Erdogan and Putin.
by Mariya Petkova
14 September 2018

Thousands attended protests in the Syrian city of Maarat al-Nouman against a looming assault on Idlib province, on September 14, 2018 [Mohammed al-Daher]

Istanbul, Turkey - Thousands of people have taken to the streets across Syria's last remaining stronghold to protest against a potential full-fledged offensive by government forces and their allies.

Activists told Al Jazeera that Friday's demonstrations took place in more than two dozen towns and villages in Idlib, a northwestern province that is home to more than three million people.

In recent weeks, the Syrian government, supported by Russia and pro-Iranian militias, has been amassing forces close to areas controlled by rebels in Idlib and northern Hama provinces, threatening a large-scale ground offensive that may result in a "bloodbath", according to the United Nations.

In early September, the forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched an intense campaign of shelling, air raids and barrel-bombing of opposition-held territories. The Russian-backed bombardment has receded over the past few days.

One of the biggest demonstrations was held in the city of Maarat al-Nouman in central Idlib province, where an estimated 25,000 people, including civilians from neighbouring villages and towns, gathered after Friday prayers, according to local sources.

"We want to send a message to the rest of the world that we are just an oppressed people who want freedom," said Mahmoud Harkawi, 36, who works in a printing house in Maarat al-Nouman. More...
Friday's protests in Idlib once again reveal that at the core of the Syrian Revolution, once you clear away the wood, is the people's demand for democracy and an end to the regime that the world seems intent on forcing on them.

Here is few of the videos that were posted to YouTube on Friday:

Idlib city protest now | 14 September 2018

Live from Syria | Protest In IDLIB | Syria's War | 14 September 2018

Protests in Idlib city demanding the departure of Assad | 14 September 2018

Demonstrations in Idlib | 14 September 2018

The Daily Beast is reporting:
The ‘Final Offensive’ In Syria by Putin and Assad Suddenly Looks Like It’s On Hold

Bombing has stopped, some Syrian army units have redeployed—and anti-Assad demonstrations are erupting. But the rebels may turn on each other.
By Roy Gutman
14 September 2018
ISTANBUL – Just a week after Syria’s northern Idlib province seemed on the brink of a massive military assault by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad backed by Russian air power, tens of thousands of defiant residents took to the streets of Idlib province and beyond on Friday in demonstrations calling for the overthrow of the Assad regime. More...

"In fact, opposition leaders say that one third of the first group of 100 brought in from Dara’a had defected shortly after being brought near the front."

Here are some of the tweets:

As the three million people under seige in Idlib, come under the cross hairs of Russian bombers and ground troops, Amy Goodman and Democracy Now are reporting all week from the Climate Summit in San Francisco, with no time for a show segment on Syria, just as they are all about #NoDAPL as Aleppo was being bombed into the stone age. Others are screaming that everyone in Idlib is Al Qaeda and deserves to die. And so it goes on the white-Left.

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Meanwhile, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard becomes the voice of Assad in the US Congress: