Let's be honest about Dems' Kavanaugh objections
On Tuesday night, the attorney for Christine Blasey Ford, one day after offering to have her client testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, pulled back the offer and made a demand --the FBI must investigate before her client will testify.
The lawyer's letter, bizarrely, stated that "crucial facts and witnesses in the matter" must be assessed "in a non-partisan manner."
I was stunned that the lawyer for Ford, a research psychologist, left open the question as to whether the allegation---that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Ford when they were in high school---is true. That's an odd position for a lawyer with a client to take. Ford is the only person who has offered "crucial facts," so why is her attorney asking for the FBI to assess the reliability of her own client?
I asked retired FBI agent and CNN Contributor James Gagliano how the bureau might tackle an investigation like this. He told me: "She doesn't know what party and she isn't sure about the time period. If she's not sure when and where, and who was there, then it makes it really difficult to determine the veracity of these allegations."
Which means we are left with the stories of three people Ford says were in the room, and two of them say this allegation is false and the event described did not happen. Only one of them---Kavanaugh himself---is willing to testify under oath at this point.
Let's be honest about this FBI request---it has little to do with the truth and everything to do with the Democrats' end game to keep this Supreme Court seat open through the midterm election. Democrats hope to take control of the Senate and hold this seat vacant through 2020, the way the GOP stalled Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016. They want revenge for Merrick Garland, an understandable if misguided emotion.
Democrats couldn't care less about Ford or her story because they are consumed with politics. And the Democratic Party's lionizing of people like Keith Ellison, Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy, all tied to their own scandal, tells us all we need to know about whether they believe in treating victims with respect.
Consider how Democrats have treated Ford compared with how the Republicans have treated her. The ranking Democrat on the committee, Diane Feinstein of California ---for whatever reason you want to believe-- sat on Ford's letter for nearly two months, never raising the allegations with Kavanaugh. Either Feinstein didn't take Ford's letter seriously or was holding it until the 11th hour for political purposes. Despicable.
Then, after Kavanaugh's hearings were concluded, someone leaked the letter. Ford says she wanted to remain anonymous and was forced to come forward once her private allegation was thrust into the public domain. Who had custody of the letter? Senator Feinstein and her staff, along with Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, a Democrat who Ford had originally contacted with her allegations.
Feinstein's hometown newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, savaged California's senior senator, editorializing that she "took the worst possible course," did a "disservice to the Judiciary Committee" and left other senators "in the dark."
One other thing working against Ford is the previous antics of Democrats on the committee. Cory Booker's outrageous "Spartacus moment" theatrics and Kamala Harris's being caught producing deep fake videos of Kavanaugh that misrepresented a statement on contraception have created skepticism on the right that Senate Democrats are operating in good faith.
Ford deserves to be heard if she wants to be, in public or private (whichever she chooses). Republicans---from Donald Trump to Mitch McConnell to Chuck Grassley---are trying to make that possible, while Democrats are simply using her as a political weapon to achieve their objective of delaying and/or defeating Kavanaugh's confirmation.
I hope Ford shows up Monday to testify if she wants to talk. And if she does, I hope she tells us what she thinks of how the Democrats treated her story and her desire to remain anonymous. If she doesn't show, the GOP is well within bounds to favorably report Kavanaugh out of committee and send him to the floor.
This Hispanic Heritage Month feels different
On Monday, President Donald Trump hosted a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration at the White House and declared, "Hispanic Americans are not only living the American dream, but their incredible efforts are unlocking the American dream for citizens across our land." He added that Hispanics "inspire our entire nation."
But under a President who has rarely missed an opportunity to demonize Latinos and immigrants, some Latinos are likely wondering whether Hispanic Heritage Month matters, and whether we really have anything to celebrate. The answer is yes on both counts.
Hispanic Heritage Month is a four-week celebration of the history and culture of America's largest minority group. It began as a week-long event under President Lyndon Johnson in 1968, and Ronald Reagan expanded it to a month in 1988.
This year, something feels different -- and that is thanks to the current occupant of the White House.
The President's antipathy toward Latinos is no secret. He literally began his campaign by referring to some Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and "rapists." As a candidate, he disparaged a distinguished federal judge because of his Mexican heritage and threw Univision anchor Jorge Ramos out of a press conference.
As President, he presided over a disastrous response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and then rejected the results of an independent study showing that thousands of people died on the island. Trump regularly conflates Latino immigrants with violent crime.
Given such an ugly political climate, you might think Hispanics would be losing faith in the country that elected a President who is hostile to our communities. Actually, the opposite is true.
According to research from the Pew Hispanic Center, Latinos are significantly more likely than other groups to believe in core parts of the American dream. In 2016, more than three-quarters of Latinos said that people can still get ahead with hard work, a higher share than among the broader US public. So, despite the President's lack of respect for us, Latinos still believe in the promise of this country.
At a time when Latinos have sound reasons to feel under siege by the current administration, Hispanic Heritage Month remains especially relevant. It represents an opportunity for Hispanics to remind their family, friends, and allies of our myriad contributions to this country. Such conversations are important, because you may not be likely to hear them in the media, where Latinos continue to be underrepresented or portrayed as stereotypes.
In fact, Hispanics have plenty to celebrate over the coming month. A 2016 report from the nonpartisan Latino Donor Collaborative found that Latinos will be key to US economic growth in the future, and could power nearly one-fourth of the economy by 2020.
Latinos are making their mark on Wall Street, and Hispanic families and businesses are revitalizing small towns in rural America. As the Latino dropout rate has fallen, Latino college enrollment has hit new highs. Latinos are NASA astronauts and Harvard Law professors. One of the country's newest and brightest political stars is a Latina, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who stunned the political establishment by winning her congressional primary in New York in June.
Still, like other Americans, Latinos have an overall sense that the country is not going in the right direction. A September Quinnipiac poll found that 55% of Hispanics are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country today, with 58% saying that they believe that Trump is unfit to serve as President. More than half of Latinos disapprove of the job Trump is doing (53%), compared with about a third who approve (33%)
The only way Hispanics can achieve our vision of what this country can be is to exercise our rights as Americans and vote. More than ever, Latinos need to take charge of our own destiny, and that means making our voices heard. Registering to vote -- and then showing up at the ballot box in November -- is the best way of honoring both our Hispanic and American heritage.
No matter what this President and his administration says or does, nothing can diminish the pride that Latinos take in our people and our culture. For hundreds of years, Hispanics have endured, persevered, and succeeded in the United States -- and that will always be something to celebrate.
Texas' twisted excuse for removing Helen Keller
On September 14 the Texas State Board of Education made a series of key votes that could transform the way students learn to understand the world around them -- and themselves. Texas wants to remove some content from the social studies curriculum, said board chairperson Donna Bahorich, so that teachers can delve more deeply into certain topics.
Billed as an effort to "streamline" the curriculum, the move spared Baptist pastor Billy Graham, the impeachment trial of former President Clinton and Moses from the chopping block -- while Hilary Clinton, Barry Goldwater, Thomas Hobbes and Helen Keller were eliminated.
Perhaps the most overtly dogmatic cut was the deletion of the phrase, "such as holding public officials to their word" from a fourth-grade unit on how to participate in civic affairs. But the erasure of Helen Keller, an iconic advocate for the deaf and blind whose social activism also included women's suffrage, birth control and pacifism -- who is currently taught as part of a third-grade unit on citizenship -- is an underhanded play with a troubling message: that homogeny is normal and exposure to outside perspectives should be limited.
To remove Keller from the curriculum also means to eliminate the single touchstone for deafness and disability for most mainstream students. Earlier this week, I asked a room of 35 of my own college students if they'd ever met a deaf person who wasn't me. Four or five raised their hands---they worked retail and had seen deaf customers. Many of these students are considering fields like social work, education, criminal justice, occupational and speech therapy and law, where knowledge of deafness and disability will be integral to their work, and still their exposure is extremely limited long past the third grade. This is the norm in a society that constantly tells us to avert our eyes from disabled people, to separate out "normal" and "other."
While studying Keller in school doesn't guarantee improved interaction between non-disabled and disabled people, things certainly cannot change if students never see even a single example of a deaf or disabled person as an integral member of society. Can we create good non-disabled citizens if they have no frame of reference through which to understand, respect or empathize with their disabled peers, colleagues, charges or supervisors?
Further, is there any hope for deaf or disabled kids, particularly girls, to excel and be the best citizens they can be if they never see themselves as worthy of a place in the historical record? For us, Helen Keller is a role model and a beacon, a reminder of what is possible despite the abuse we may take on the playground or the gaps in the education system that seem designed to lose us.
While the board stressed repeatedly that their decisions were "not political," it's easy to wonder whether Keller's membership in the Socialist party was a factor. And in light of the current federal administration's active attacks on the rights of disabled people, particularly through the attempted gutting of the Americans with Disabilities Act via H.R. 620 and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos's rescinding of 72 guidance documents ensuring the rights of disabled students, marginalizing the disabled is increasingly part of the GOP strategy.
Like the rest of The Texas Board of Education's cuts, Keller's removal was justified as a way to save time; without her, says the Board, third-grade teachers will gain 40 minutes per year. But a note from the work group who chose to remove Keller makes their motive clearer: "Helen Keller does not best represent the concept of citizenship. Military and first responders are best represented."
What is a citizen, and what makes a good one? It's a question at the heart of so many of the controversies we see playing out across the country today.
While first responders and military personnel are often exemplary citizens and exhibit the qualities of bravery, selflessness and patriotism we value, working in these fields is far from the only way to be a good citizen. Further, to suggest that the singular way to teach a third-grader about good citizenship is through the military is to set early limits on the imaginations of our children, and ultimately curb what future generations can and will do for their communities and country.
Keller -- an author and activist who transformed the way people thought about disability and education -- was an engaged member of her community and a catalyst for a cultural shift in understanding our humanity. The first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor's degree, Keller fought not only for deaf and disabled people's access to education, but also for women's rights, worker's rights and peaceful resolutions to international conflict, overcoming numerous obstacles to give voice to the underrepresented. She was a world traveler, visiting 35 countries to discuss the rights of deaf people abroad. She wrote multiple books, was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. If Keller is not a good citizen, who is?
Fortunately, good citizenship is not a limited resource. To say that we value, that we need teachers, artists, inventors, tradespeople, engineers, scientists, volunteers, religious leaders, non-emergency healthcare providers, public officials and people in all kinds of professions in no way undermines the valor of military personnel or of first responders. To give any one mode of employment a monopoly on essentiality or moral goodness is to deny the basic foundation of our union: different kinds of virtuous, engaged citizens are what make up any successful society, especially America.
Happily, the board has a chance to right this decision in a final vote in November. I hope the citizens of Texas will encourage them to reconsider. Perhaps if the voting parties had seen alternative models for good citizenship reinforced more emphatically throughout their own educational experiences, this question wouldn't be on the table at all. I, for one, can't think of a better use of 40 minutes.
The ugly double standard over Kavanaugh's so-called youth
By Shira A. Scheindlin and Kristen Clarke
Make no mistake -- professor Christine Blasey Ford's allegations of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh must be taken very seriously.
The conduct alleged by Ford is nothing less than sexual assault. She feared Kavanaugh might "inadvertently kill" her. Of course, Ford did not go to the police at the time and there was therefore no contemporaneous investigation, much less a prosecution, conviction or sentence. But the conduct -- if proven -- is still assault, although because of statutes of limitations there is no longer any chance of a criminal prosecution. However, is it a disproportionate punishment to deny someone who committed this offense a position as an associate justice of the Supreme Court? The answer should be a resounding no.
It's important to emphasize the way many have characterized the alleged behavior as a so-called youthful indiscretion. Others, even if they are not using Kavanaugh's youth as an excuse, ask questions or make claims suggesting that something he allegedly did as a minor should not disqualify him from serving on the court.
Contrast that characterization with how black and brown teenagers -- Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, the "Central Park Five" -- have been described in more adult (and thereby more threatening) terms.
At the same time, thousands of young men (disproportionately people of color) have been convicted of sexual assault for conduct similar to or lesser than what is alleged against Kavanaugh -- conduct that in some cases also occurred when they were teenagers. Nonetheless, they were arrested, prosecuted, convicted and jailed with sentences in double digits of years, not months. Prosecutors did not decline these cases because the perpetrators were teenagers at the time.
And these perpetrators might have been the lucky ones. In the unhappy history of extrajudicial punishment in our country, we must remember that the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till was a response to an African-American boy's alleged wolf whistle at a white woman. And then there is the infamous case of the "Scottsboro Boys," who nearly suffered a similar fate for the alleged rape of a white woman --- which it turned out they did not commit.
These allegations call for a thorough criminal investigation, given the high stakes and a potential lifetime appointment for Kavanaugh. That Ford's attorneys have called for one before she testifies in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee is entirely right.
It's been done before. President George H.W. Bush called on the FBI to investigate the allegations made by Anita Hill against then-nominee Clarence Thomas. Despite that precedent, Senate Republicans and the Trump administration are thus far refusing to allow the FBI to review or investigate Ford's accusations. A full investigation and a fair hearing of these issues are no longer choices -- they are necessities.
Ford has taken a lie detector test -- perhaps Kavanaugh and his high school classmate Mark Judge should do the same. Judge has said he will not testify publicly and maintains he has no memory of this incident or the party where it occurred -- despite authoring a book describing his high school as "swimming in alcohol" and referencing a friend called "Bart O'Kavanaugh." If the FBI were to investigate, Judge would at the very least be subjected to an interview.
Congress has subpoena power and routinely uses it to compel testimony, and it should not hesitate to do so here. Under subpoena, Judge could be compelled to confirm whether he is referencing Kavanaugh and describe the conduct that unfolded at parties they attended together. The Judiciary Committee should hold a hearing with all available witnesses only after the completion of a thorough FBI investigation. Only then can a finder of fact make an appropriate determination of credibility -- which is how "he said, she said" cases are resolved.
Some US senators are already doubtful of Kavanaugh's truthfulness. In his first confirmation hearing in 2006 for his position as a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Kavanaugh was asked about his involvement with the Bush administration's policies after 9/11. He testified he did not know of a memorandum defining torture or of the National Security Agency's use of warrantless electronic surveillance.
However, after the hearing it was reported that Kavanaugh had been aware of these issues; Sen. Richard Durbin accused Kavanaugh in 2007 of giving contradictory testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Patrick Leahy, in an op-ed in The Washington Post, also accused Kavanaugh of misleading the Senate.
Looming over the current controversy is the fact that the Trump administration loosely invoked executive privilege to deny the Senate Judiciary Committee access to a huge number of documents and the committee refused to issue subpoenas to access those materials.
Given this history, there is a real question of whether Kavanaugh is a credible witness and whether the Senate has enough information to evaluate his character and fitness to serve as a Supreme Court justice. The Senate will fail in its duties if it does not provide the opportunity for a full and fair hearing, informed by an FBI investigation.
At the end of the day, as Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, once said, the Supreme Court can do just fine with eight justices until a full and fair confirmation proceeding results in the confirmation of a ninth justice. Under the circumstances, a confirmation of Kavanaugh without such a full hearing will forever taint his appointment and the administration that condoned and supported a sham proceeding.
Begala: Hypocrisy, thy name is GOP
Washington Republicans - the people who made Judge Merrick Garland wait for a year without so much as a hearing on his nomination to the Supreme Court - are now concerned about having a speedy vote for a court vacancy.
Led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Republicans blocked President Barack Obama's nominee for no good reason. Judge Garland was not accused of sexual assault. No Senator said he lied under oath. Even Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh described Judge Garland as "supremely qualified."
The Republicans' blockade of Garland was without precedents and without conscience. They did it because they could. And now the same folks who delayed Garland forever are rushing to a vote on Kavanaugh for the same reason: pure power politics.
While Garland's only sin was to be nominated by President Obama, Kavanaugh has been accused by Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) of misleading the Senate while under oath. And, of course, even more troubling, he has been accused by Christine Blasey Ford, a research psychologist, of sexual assault. And yet the Republicans refuse to ask the FBI to investigate her allegations.
The GOP would rather get the confirmation right away than get it right. The folks who said the Senate shouldn't even hold a hearing for Judge Garland during an election year are pushing a vote just weeks before an election.
Hypocrisy, thy name is Mitch.
I certainly don't know the truth of what happened at that long-ago high school party at which Ford says Kavanaugh attacked her; neither do the senators. And I am not qualified to investigate potential sex crimes; neither is the Senate. But the FBI is.
Despite President Trump's repeated attacks, the FBI is the premier investigative and law enforcement agency on earth. It is their obligation to investigate the background of Supreme Court nominees. But President Trump and the Republicans refuse to call them in.
Perhaps they can't handle the truth. More likely, they just don't care. Kavanaugh is an all-but-certain bet to overturn Roe v. Wade, and he could have a profound effect on voting rights, gay rights and other Constitutional rulings cherished by tens of millions of Americans.
Kavanaugh could shoot a man on Fifth Avenue and the Republicans would vote to confirm him.
The fundamental choice is whether this process will be professionalized or politicized. The FBI works quietly (well, when the FBI director is not publicly undermining Hillary Clinton they do). They work privately. They investigate thoroughly. None of those things can be said about a Senate hearing. And so, rather than a professional investigation, we will get a political circus.
But the Republicans don't care. They don't care about your rights. They certainly don't care about Ford and her rights. They don't even really care about Brett Kavanaugh.
Without a thorough FBI investigation, this stain will remain on Kavanaugh. Even if he goes on to serve on the court for decades, the first paragraph of his obituary will include the fact that he was accused of sexual assault. Just ask Clarence Thomas. That is the price of rushing to judgment.
How the US helped create Trump's 'violent animals'
Few groups have incited the ire of President Donald Trump more than MS-13 for the gang's recent vicious attacks and gruesome killings on US soil.
Charging that dangerous gangsters and criminals from Central America have been entering the United States through Mexico, the Trump administration in April launched a "zero tolerance" policy that has led to the prosecution and deportation of any adult caught illegally crossing the border.
There is no question the MS-13 gang must be stopped. It is a vile organization of hoodlums with no regard for life. But to entirely turn our backs on those who are trying to escape from being terrorized by the gang ignores the role that our government played in its monstrous evolution.
On the ground
Within an hour of landing in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, in 2005, where I was reporting on MS-13 for the National Geographic Channel, I was informed that a member of the notorious street gang had just been assassinated in the middle of the city. With my luggage in tow, I headed straight to the homicide location, where I saw a young man face down in a pool of blood, his body riddled with bullet holes.
I had reported on a number of different gangs in cities across America, but here I was in a country that was being terrorized and overtaken by street gangs, the largest of which was MS-13. What was astounding to me at the time was that 15 years prior to my visit, El Salvador had virtually no street gang presence.
MS-13 consists mostly of Salvadorans, but there are many Hondurans and Guatemalans who claim allegiance to the gang as well. To understand how MS-13 grew to become one of the deadliest gangs in the world, you have to understand the role the US played over the past four decades in the Central American countries from which most of these gang members come.
Money for fuel
Beginning in the 1980s, the United States government funneled billions of dollars to corrupt, human-rights abusing officials throughout the region to prevent it from falling into the hands of leftists who had been staging uprisings throughout those countries in Central America, known as the Northern Triangle.
A gruesome civil war between the government and Marxist guerrillas in El Salvador from 1980-1992 claimed 75,000 lives. The United Nations Truth Commission found that Salvadoran government forces, which included military officers trained by the US, paramilitaries and death squads, were responsible for more than 85 percent of the killings and torture.
One of the most brutal conflicts in Latin American history was that of Guatemala's 36-year war in which, according to a truth commission, more than 200,000 mostly indigenous people were killed after being accused of being sympathetic to leftist guerrillas. The US supported the government, despite knowing of its egregious human-rights abuses.
Honduras did not have a civil war but became a staging ground for the various conflicts in neighboring Central American countries, including for US-backed groups.
A gang is born
Years of brutal armed conflict have left the region utterly destabilized and led hundreds of thousands of people to seek refuge in the United States. Many Salvadorans began to settle in the barrios of Los Angeles in the early 1980s. In order to protect themselves from already established neighborhood gangs, a group of them formed their own gang called Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13.
It initially consisted of a bunch of heavy metal enthusiasts who chose devil horns as their insignia, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. They would grow to become one of the deadliest gangs in L.A. and throughout the country.
In the early 1990s, ICE's precursor, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, began rounding up thousands of alleged criminal gang members and deporting them back to their countries of origin --- even though many had left their homelands when they were small children fleeing war and had never been back since.
These new, criminalized arrivals began to wreak havoc on the streets of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras --- countries that were still reeling from years of conflict and destabilization. It was a deadly combination. The gang problem exploded. As I witnessed in El Salvador in 2005, the country was paralyzed with fear of gangs like MS-13. By 2015, it had become the most murderous country in the world.
Give me shelter
In 2014, a massive wave of unaccompanied minors began showing up on the US-Mexico border, mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Most had been sent for by family members who had previously settled in the US in an attempt to create better and safer lives for themselves and their children.
Not long after, brutal killings began being reported in the US, mostly in cities on the East Coast where large communities of Central Americans reside.
As I experienced when reporting on the latest wave of MS-13 killings in Maryland for the premiere episode of CNN's "This Is Life With Lisa Ling" Season 5, newly arrived unaccompanied minors are continuing to come to the US and are being preyed on by an emboldened MS-13. They and their families, both in the US and back in their home countries, are threatened with death if they don't ally with the gang. Law enforcement officials in Fairfax County, Virginia, told me that violence is ordered from El Salvador.
So when the White House deems MS-13 members "violent animals," let's also acknowledge that US policies helped create this devastating situation. And when the innocent ask our government for shelter from the terror aided by our decisions, perhaps we shouldn't be so hasty to turn them away.
Kavanaugh case: Why the world is watching
One of the most telling comments about the perils facing Judge Brett Kavanaugh came from someone described as "a lawyer close to the White House," who told Politico that if Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination is defeated by an allegation of sexual assault, which the judge denies, "then you, me, every man certainly should be worried." The statement shows why the success of the #MeToo movement, despite being infinitely too late, is also an astonishing achievement.
Even more amazing is how the movement, though facing enormous obstacles, is making gains in all corners of the world, from China to Colombia, from France to Bangladesh.
That's why the events surrounding the Kavanaugh nomination are a subject of intense interest for men and women across the globe.
The emergence of #MeToo, a demand that sexual harassers, abusers and assaulters no longer be tolerated, has bulldozed across three massive obstacles. It required women to overcome the embarrassment and possible repercussions of revealing they have been sexually victimized. It tackled the most powerful attackers -- including film and media tycoons. And it challenged norms about how much control men should have over women's bodies, careers and lives.
But how difficult is it to break through sexual taboos and take on powerful people and mighty institutions? Just ask the victims of sexual assault by Catholic priests, whose muffled cries went unheard for so many decades.
The prologue to #MeToo was the tape of then-candidate Donald Trump boasting of assaulting women (though he denies ever acting on his words). That the admission was followed by Trump's victory made women bristle not only with indignation but, more importantly, with determination to bring change. When Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein's crimes became public, the floodgates opened.
At the time, I wrote that the moment was a turning point. The history of women (and decent men) working to stop abuse was as old as time. But the difference in the Sisyphean struggle is that this time we could see it was not a one-off story -- and it knew no partisan, racial or ethnic lines.
And yet, there was the inevitable backlash. In France, 100 prominent women, including the actress Catherine Deneuve, wrote an open letter attacking #MeToo, and its French version "#BalanceTonPorc"("squeal on your pig"), calling it a puritanical witch hunt threatening sexual freedom.
The tolerant attitudes toward abuse of women remain a daunting obstacle. In December, a French humorist who had hosted a TV show for 17 years lost his job after joking, "Guys, what do you tell a woman who has two black eyes? Nothing! You've already told her twice." Hilarious.
The joke calls to mind the yearbook entry by Mark Judge, Kavanaugh's friend present during the alleged assault -- his quoting from a Noel Coward play, "Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs." A joke, presumably. (Judge's lawyer has said he has "no memory of the alleged incident.")
During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, female reporters endured constant harassment. They told their story. Some of the men who thought grabbing women on live television was all in good fun later apologized.
Attitudes are tough to change. Traveling in Asia late last year, I asked women about #MeToo. Many had not heard about it and sounded pessimistic about the prospects that change would reach their lands.
But it has. In China, the country's most powerful Buddhist monk, the Venerable Xuecheng, head of the Communist Party-run Buddhist Association of China, stands accused of sexual advances against Buddhist nuns, along with financial misconduct. (The most egregious sexual offenses and violence against women very often occur alongside other crimes.) The authorities have stripped him of his titles and position. The monk has denied the allegations, and his backers say he was punished too harshly.
In India, where women have fought their own horrifying epidemic of rape, murder and all manner of sexual assaults, change is also in the air. Bollywood actresses are speaking out about the demands they have faced and the punishments for refusing to give in to powerful men. And in the southern state of Kerala, Catholic nuns are also saying #MeToo, protesting against sexual abuse by a bishop, and the failure of the church and the police to respond. The bishop has stepped down temporarily, but he denies the accusations.
And the backlash against #MeToo in France has faded; Deneuve's complaints have now been largely swept aside. Not long after the open letter, the French government announced fines against street harassment, and revealed stunning figures on the epidemic of rape and attempted rape faced by French women, saying 62,000 women were victims of rape or attempted rape in France in 2016, and one woman there dies every three days from domestic violence.
A number of French women have recently come forward accusing actor Gerard Depardieu and director Luc Besson of sexual assault. They deny the accusations.
Throughout Europe, #MeToo is reshaping society. In the Netherlands, thousands of women have spoken out. The hashtag there is #ZegHet ("tell it"). In Italy's macho culture, there's stubborn resistance to change. The hashtag #QuellaVoltaChe, roughly, "that time when," has also triggered a backlash.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure to fire his US ambassador for reportedly failing to pass on information he had received regarding Netanyahu's spokesman, David Keyes, who allegedly had a history of sexually harassing women. Keyes has taken a leave from his job, but denies the allegations. Ambassador Ron Dermer, who was warned of Keyes inappropriate behavior by a New York Times columnist, remains in place. Dermer has confirmed he received this warning but did not consider the allegations criminal and therefore did not report them.
The magnitude of the challenge is hard to overstate. These are all high-profile cases against powerful people, with influential defenders, accused of behavior that large parts of the population still consider acceptable. Accusers are often demonized and humiliated, while the accused are defended or treated as martyrs.
Times are changing. But there are many people who feel they have far too much to lose. They think every man should be worried. However, it's only the ones who have crossed the line who should fret.
Opinion: Why I'm staging 17 minutes of silent protest for Eritrea
Special to CNN
It was one week after 9/11, and the world's attention was on New York City. The recent terrorist attack had changed the world forever, but in a small country in the Horn of Africa, things were about to alter even more drastically.
In the early hours of September 18th, 2001, a radio message announced the shutdown of the press in Eritrea.
Following the announcement, a group of journalists and politicians who had been advocating for democratic reforms were imprisoned without a trial.
The country was due to hold its first-ever elections, but they were canceled, and several democratic institutions were shut down.
September 18 represented a significant turning point in Eritrean history, but the government's actions went mostly unnoticed to the outside world.
I grew up hearing about this date because my uncle, Seyoum Tsehaye, was one of the journalists imprisoned in 2001. Being born in Sweden, thousands of miles away from the rest of my family in Eritrea, my mom raised me with stories about home.
When I was 16 years old, I started advocating for Seyoum's release but realized quickly that his imprisonment was much more than a personal tragedy. There were so many more people affected.
Eritrea has been a country marked by war. It has been locked in perpetual conflict with neighboring Ethiopia. But in 2001, citizens were feeling generally optimistic about the future.
They had lived through a long independence struggle and the guerrilla group, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF), had been instrumental in liberating the country from Ethiopia.
Almost by default, the EPLF guerrilla leader, Isaias Afwerki, became Eritrea's first president in 1993. The war of independence was fought on the premise of democracy, justice, and equality, so the unelected president assured the people that he would hold elections.
However, there have not been national elections in Eritrea since independence.
In 1998, a dispute centered on the new border with Ethiopia resulted in a war lasting two years. The Eritrean government has used this border war with Ethiopia as a justification for turning the country into a dictatorship.
A government has the right to suspend certain individual rights if there is a threat to national security, but the actions that have been committed as a response to the "no peace, no war" situation have been disproportionate to the actual threats.
The fact that there has been a standoff at the border cannot justify enlisting all capable Eritreans in national military service indefinitely and denying them autonomy over their own lives.
Neither does it justify the horrible rape, torture, and crimes committed with impunity there. The UN commission on human rights in Eritrea has described the country's national service as a "crime against humanity," and likened it to slavery.
It cannot justify the fact that the only university in the country has been shut down or that Eritreans between the ages of six and 65 are not allowed to leave the country unless granted an exit visa, one that is almost impossible to obtain.
The fact that Ethiopia has refused to demarcate the border cannot justify the fact that Eritrea is the only country without any independent press in Africa.
It cannot possibly justify the fact that the parliament has not convened since 2002. The government has refused to implement the country's first constitution, and tens of thousands of people have been imprisoned, without a trial, for merely expressing their opinions, practicing their religion or attempting to leave the country.
For the past five years, I have been advocating for human rights in Eritrea through the organization One Day Seyoum that I started in the name of my uncle. Despite the Eritrean government's insistence on using the border dispute as an excuse for the oppression in the country, I have never taken this justification seriously.
Not only have the crimes perpetrated by the Eritrean government been disproportionate to the threats posed by the conflict, but more than two months after signing a peace agreement with Ethiopia, President Afwerki has not addressed the domestic situation in the country, let alone made any promises to bring about change.
Despite this, this peace deal was blindly celebrated, and Afwerki congratulated by politicians from all over the world. With the prospects of change seeming as distant as before the peace agreement, we started the campaign #QuestionsForIsaias demanding answers about Eritrea's future.
With our leader not listening to the cry of his people, Eritreans from all over the world were forced to turn to social media.
We are launching a new campaign on the 17th anniversary of the creation of the Eritrean dictatorship to increase pressure on the Eritrean government.
We aim to continue to actively and publicly ask questions to Afwerki but also to share content explaining our questions to raise awareness about what is going on in Eritrea, to increase worldwide pressure for change.
We ask questions because 17 years on, Eritreans, home and abroad have tried everything and do not know what else to do.
We ask questions because my cousins deserve to see their father. We ask questions because my cousins are far from the only ones.
We ask questions because enough is enough. The indefinite national service program is robbing Eritrean youth of their future.
They face the stark choices of a life without a future in Eritrea or being killed or severely traumatized as they try to flee the country.
We ask questions because we refuse to stay silent when our people are suffering.
We ask questions because the Eritrean people deserve better.