Do the Kavanaugh Accusations Warrant an FBI Investigation?

Republicans and Democrats are battling over how to handle the accusations of sexual assault levied at Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The GOP has shown itself amenable to hearing testimony on the issue from both Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, but they do not want to delay the confirmation for an FBI investigation. Democrats are demanding a full and impartial FBI investigation, but the stakes are high. With midterms less than seven weeks away, a delay could make Kavanaugh’s path to the Supreme Court even more fraught than before. More at CBS.

Victims can often recall vivid details about an assault but forget other things — especially because they are riven with guilt, shame, and embarrassment, and don’t want to talk about it with anyone, as was apparently the case with Ford. But Kavanaugh insists that he was not even at the party that Ford is talking about. An FBI investigation might well help to pin down some of these details and get past “he said, she said.” This would be as much in Kavanaugh’s interest as hers, which is why it is surprising that Republicans are resisting her request for an FBI inquiry.

Because she called their bluff, the G.O.P. has been forced into an untenable position. Lawmakers can’t ignore her without looking like heartless rape apologists, a perilous image in the middle of a midterm election that will be largely determined by women. Nor can they bow to her demands without running into serious political landmines, and potentially jeopardizing their best shot at securing a Supreme Court seat. Limiting their investigation to a simple case of “he said, she said” will, they hope, narrow the window of their inquiry. But while Ford’s lawyers await Grassley’s official response to their request for an F.B.I. probe, Republicans’ maneuvering is increasingly transparent.

Select a neutral investigative body with experience in sexual misconduct cases that will investigate the incident in question and present its findings to the committee. Outcomes in such investigations are more reliable and less likely to be perceived as tainted by partisanship… Do not rush these hearings. Doing so would not only signal that sexual assault accusations are not important — hastily appraising this situation would very likely lead to facts being overlooked that are necessary for the Senate and the public to evaluate. That the committee plans to hold a hearing this coming Monday is discouraging. Simply put, a week’s preparation is not enough time for meaningful inquiry into very serious charges.

What to Expect from the UN General Assembly

Diplomats and heads of state from all around the world are gathering in New York for the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). UNGA, the UN’s main deliberative body, will be discussing the most pressing issues facing the world community today such as Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims, and Trump’s peace plan. Here’s what to expect:

In a more frivolous moment, Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for former Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, said of the UNGA: “It’s the World Cup of diplomacy, it’s the Oscars of diplomacy. It’s also an interesting fashion week.” [.] The UNGA is where presidents and prime ministers address the world with speeches that can be a rallying cry to action … or a fast-acting sleeping pill. Hundreds of resolutions are introduced, most never to be heard of again.

The American president’s presence at the UNGA carries extra weight this year as the U.S. currently holds the monthly-rotating chair of the Security Council. The most intriguing event may be President Trump’s chairing of a Council meeting — his first time wielding the U.N. gavel. “Like it or not, unless the Pope or Kim Jong Un show up, all eyes are on Trump,” one Security Council diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous, told CBS News. But his seat at the helm and all the global attention aside, the odds of Mr. Trump winning approval for any meaningful Security Council resolutions are low, given that rivals Russia and China have veto power as fellow permanent members.

The General Assembly President outlined seven priorities – identified in consultation with Member States – that would shape the year-long session. They are: promoting gender equality; promoting and implementing the new global compacts on migration and refugees; advocating for decent work; protecting the environment; focusing on rights of persons with disabilities; supporting the UN reform process; and facilitating dialogue. “I am also prepared to facilitate quick and effective responses of the General Assembly to emergency situations as they arise,” she added, noting that “unfortunately, they will arise.”

Will Russia Interfere with Israel’s Actions in Syria?

A Russian plane was downed by Syrian anti-aircraft fire during a military strike from Israel, leading to the deaths of fifteen Russian crew members. Assad has pointed the finger of blame squarely at Israel, while Israel has tried to smooth relations by cooperating with Russia’s investigation of the incident. Putin has welcomed Netanyahu’s condolences and support but has also issued Israel a strong warning about conducting such operations in Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has all but absolved Israel of responsibility for the downing, saying it was a “tragic chain of circumstances.” He added that Russia will take extra steps to secure its troops and military installations in Syria… While Israel will very likely continue to strike targets deemed an “intolerable risk” to the Jewish state, Israeli pilots will have to remember the warning Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Liberman: “Such actions will not be left unanswered.”

Nevertheless, regardless of Russia’s response, this incident should serve as a reminder of the fact that Syria isn’t a firing range. According to foreign reports, Israeli airstrikes in Syria began in January 2012, less than a year after Syria’s civil war broke out. Two weeks ago, Israel itself boasted that it had conducted more than 200 airstrikes in Syria since 2017 in an effort to block Iran’s military consolidation in that country. Israel must never forget that military strikes in Syria, like any other belligerent action, are not risk-free.

Ultimately, Putin is a realist. He’s not happy about what has just happened, but he knows that he has no real option other than to accept it and move on. Barring his taking action against Iran and company – which may be coming – the Russian leader’s only alternative is a military showdown with Israel. And in the local theater of operations, at least, that is not a showdown Putin can win.

Why Is Ari Fuld Being Blamed for his Own Death?

Ari Fuld, an American-born Israeli citizen and father of four living in a West Bank settlement, was fatally stabbed by a Palestinian teenager on Sunday. Fuld, an outspoken defender of Israel and the settlements, attempted to pursue his fleeing attacker before he succumbed to his wounds. As often happens after the death of a settler in a terror attack, certain voices on social media were eager to blame Fuld for his own death because he was in the settlements. But for Fuld, a well-connected and well-loved dual citizen of the United States and Israel, the backlash to such accusations has been swift.

Not only Palestinians who consider all violence against Jews justified acts of “resistance” hold this attitude. Across the world and even among many Jews, “settler” is an epithet more than a description. Since the Oslo Accords were signed 25 years ago, settlements and settlers have become the all-purpose scapegoat for the lack of peace and [are often considered] undeserving of sympathy even when settlers are slain by terrorists. . . .

When you side with a 17-year-old brainwashed teen who has an institutionalized support system across the spectrum; when you side with the schools of scorn, the academies of hate, the roads of rancor and the politicians that amplify the calls to murder a Jew in Judea, then you are on the wrong side of history. Don’t lecture me about occupation. Don’t lecture me about rights. Because in this argument of right and wrong, you are wrong.

Jewish history is replete with persecutions and genocides. But despite growing anti-Semitism, double standards imposed on Israel, and leftist ideologues in the United States and Europe embracing ideals that smack of anti-Semitism, the Jewish people are done running away. Today, no longer defenseless, we confront. We’re a paradox: armed and dangerous, with an abiding preference for dialogue. It wasn’t so long ago that Jews all over the world lived in constant fear, under endless threat and oppression. And while threats against Jews remain unabated, at least in the U.S and Israel we call out and stand up to those who wish us harm.

Do the Disgraced Men of #MeToo Deserve a Platform?

An essay by former Canadian broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi, published in the New York Review of Books, drew major criticism for its focus on male victimhood caused by the #MeToo movement. Ghomeshi’s essay pleads his innocence to the sexual abuse charges that ended his career. In an interview with Slate, NYRB editor Ian Buruma added fuel to the fire by defending both the article and Ghomeshi himself. In the aftermath, Buruma has stepped down from his post. Taken together with the controversy caused by a similar essay from disgraced radio host John Hockenberry, people are wondering if it’s ok to speak out after you’ve been taken down – and further if it’s ok to give the disgraced men of #MeToo a platform.

The Ghomeshi essay was published not long after Harper’s magazine published an essay by former radio host John Hockenberry, who retired in December after he was accused of sexual harassment by multiple women…A Taken together, the two essays seem to form a bizarre new genre: the “I’m sorry you’re offended” apologetic, the “regrettably, mistakes were made” expression of non-guilt. As pieces of writing, they are less interesting for the fact of their existence than they are for the fact that they were granted prestigious platforms in literary institutions like Harper’s and the New York Review of Books.

In the words of the late, great Freddie Mercury of Queen, another one bites the dust… Now, more than halfway through the year and well into #MeToo, what must happen is that the enablers — those who provide the forums for the disagreeable voices or in any way support those who provide the forums — must be offed as well. That’s how Buruma was caught up in this. And he not only published the Ghomeshi piece, the poor deluded SOB also publicly defended having done so.

The phrase “finding your life ruined” is remarkably telling. For Buruma and Ghomeshi and Hockenberry, and for many others, the abuse of women is not the problem—naming it, and giving it consequences, is the problem. Hockenberry asks, as if he is writing from a guillotine, “Is my life a reasonable price exacted in the pursuit of justice, or is my situation an injustice born of a deeper dysfunction in the matters of gender and a fear of confronting anything beyond revenges, purges, and humiliation?” Women’s careers and psyches have been torpedoed by male exploitation for centuries, but it is a shame, apparently, for the men who exploited them to have to answer for what they’ve done.

Are Bert and Ernie a Gay Couple?

Are Bert and Ernie gay? It’s long been suspected, and some people are demanding that Sesame Street confirm the rumors already. In an interview with Queerty, Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman revealed that he had always imagined Bert and Ernie as a couple. In response, Sesame Street issued a statement maintaining that Bert and Ernie are puppets and therefore don’t have a sexual orientation – leading to an uproar on Twitter. After all, if Kermit and Miss Piggy can be in a relationship, why does Sesame Street keep Bert and Ernie in the closet?

This debate hardly matters to 4-year-olds, who are simply excited to hear that today’s show was brought to you by the letter P. Still, it speaks to the madness of this political moment that so many adults, in thrall to identity politics, want to ventriloquize the Muppets by reading adult themes into a bunch of fuzzy gloves. Elmo’s mom, Mae, has orange fur, while his dad, Louie, has red fur. Is this a depiction of an interracial relationship? What’s the didactic message of showing a frog in love with a pig—or, for that matter, Gonzo’s infatuation with a chicken named Camilla? Does Big Bird suffer from untreated gigantism, perhaps caused by a hormonal imbalance?

In the course of researching this article, I’ve learned not only that Oscar the Grouch has a girlfriend named Grundgetta, but also that The Count’s apparently numerous female paramours have made appearances in his counting segments, and that Elmo’s heteronormative family tree is well-documented on his spin-off show, Elmo’s World. Frankly, the less said about frequent Sesame Street guest star Kermit and his dysfunctional relationship with Miss Piggy, the better. So what the hell was Sesame Workshop talking about? Plenty of Muppets are in romantic relationships, so who cares if a couple of obviously gay puppets are gay? Why issue a statement throwing a veteran writer under the bus just to keep two puppets who have been living together for the better part of a century in the closet? It’s 2018!

We deserve more than subtext. Relegating narratives that differ from the mainstream to the undercurrent, or worse, to a previously unspoken history, reaffirms that these lives are not as important and should be kept secret. Many hide behind the idea that talking about sexual orientation is equivalent to talking about sex, which is a bad faith argument that’s proven surprisingly resilient. Acknowledging sexual orientation as a fact is what happens at straight weddings, the birth of children, the sale of bizarre kid’s clothes that say things like “Little Ladies Man”, and the gendering of things like Mr. and Mrs. Potatohead (who still have eyes for each other after all these years of monogamous, heteronormative, root vegetable love).

Today’s Hot Issues

Do the Kavanaugh Accusations Warrant an FBI Investigation? What to Expect from the UN General Assembly Will Russia Interfere with Israel’s Actions in Syria? Why Is Ari Fuld Being Blamed for his Own Death? Do the Disgraced Men of #MeToo Deserve a Platform? Are Bert and Ernie a Gay Couple?