Three Things: Kavanaughhh

It’s absolutely ridiculous Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court. It’s only more clear over time that he shouldn’t have been. Were Congress not under #MoscowMitch McConnell’s stranglehold as senate majority leader, Kavanaugh would be impeached — his lies alone are adequate reason.

~ ~ ~

We’re revisiting this dreadful wretch because The New York Times published an article this weekend about him.

[Screenshot: The New York Times]


The piece, written by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, contains new reported content validating Deborah Ramirez’s claim that the now-seated Supreme Court jurist Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while she was a student at Yale.

Of course the NYT can’t publish this to the front page where it belongs; it filed it under ‘News Analysis’ as you can see in the screenshot above, in their Opinion section of the Sunday Review.

A report of sexual assault on a woman, validated by multiple witnesses, is just an opinion. Entertaining reading on a Sunday morning over coffee in bed.

What utter goddamn bullshit.

Of course the NYT can’t leave that insult on its own. They must further buff this turd by turning this reported piece about a man who has serially assaulted women and lied repeatedly into a diversity piece, making the focus about Ramirez fitting into an Ivy League school.

Ramirez fit in just fine. Yale, however, should answer why it allowed abusive liars like Kavanaugh roam its halls, undermining the scholarship of women around him. The headline on this story should have reflected this problem which is comparable to MIT’s Epstein problem.

Why have highly-ranked universities allowed predators anywhere near students for decades?

And then the pièce de résistance: the tweet promoting this “opinion” piece.

Whoever drafted this now-deleted tweet needs to be interviewed by NYT’s management. They should be worried about an employee who so easily characterizes a form of sexual assault as “harmless fun.” A tweeted apology will only gloss over a deeper problem.

That it made it onto Twitter and wasn’t removed until there was an outcry may explain why NYT has done such a crappy job covering Kavanaugh up to this piece. The paper could have done the legwork Pogrebin and Kelly did to validate Ramirez’s and other accusers’ claims but they didn’t. But NYT didn’t because it’s the kind of news organization which only sees a drunken frat boy’s sexual assaults as “harmless fun.”

~ ~ ~

And then the storm troopers came out to defend their poor little Kavanaugh now that the public has been reminded he’s serially assaulted women and lied repeatedly, meriting impeachment.

Last evening The Federalist’s Sean Davis attacked a witness who validated Ramirez’s claim.

Los Angeles Times’ Jackie Calmes rebutted this morning:

Following Davis, The Federalist’s MZHemingway came out to play character assassination:

Note the time — that’s 11:58 p.m. EDT *. What’s so important that The Federalist’s editors are tweeting on a Saturday evening after the NYT published an Opinion piece in the Sunday Review section?

One might wonder if this wrecking crew had a head’s up this piece might be published over the weekend; they published an article last week attacking Kavanaugh’s accuser Christine Blasey Ford.

Although a piece on/related to Kavanaugh in The Federalist isn’t much of a surprise; they’ve published 371 articles mentioning him or about him to date.

null

If they were paid by the piece they made some bank on Kavanaugh.

But The Federalist still does not publish information about its funding. The public can’t determine if there is a conflict of interest in whatever this conservative outlet produces on Kavanaugh and the jurist himself.

~ ~ ~

While partisan volleys over the NYT’s piece, witness bashing, and victim blaming continues, we still don’t know who paid off Kavanaugh’s massive credit card debt.

We have no idea if any case in front of this current Supreme Court has been decided to the benefit of whoever bought Kavanaugh.

We can’t trust Kavanaugh’s filings about his personal finances because he hasn’t the receipts and he’s lied repeatedly.

Kavanaugh needs to go for these reasons alone. But there is one more extremely important reason he needs to be removed from the SCOTUS.

He’s the single biggest reason current House Democrats cannot rely on bringing any of the unsatisfied subpoenas before the SCOTUS.

The unanimous Supreme Court decision in United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974), by which Richard Nixon was forced comply with a Congressional subpoena to give up damning audio tapes, was the most critical point of the impeachment process against Nixon. The court said there was no “absolute, unqualified Presidential privilege of immunity from judicial process under all circumstances.”

In essence, the president is not above the law. They cannot withhold materials responsive to a subpoena because of a general interest in confidentiality.

Kavanaugh has said he believes United States v. Nixon was wrongly decided, however, in spite of a unanimous decision.

If he believes the SCOTUS can’t weigh in on a dispute between two co-equal branches, he’s allowing the president to run unchecked — above the law.

We can’t trust the logic of a serial liar, ostensibly owned by some unknown party, with a habit of ignoring a lack of consent.

~ ~ ~

Treat this as an open thread.

(* I’m not sharing a link because I’m not driving traffic to any of The Federalist’s team. Attention = money and I’m not giving them any more than I have to.)

Commuting Blago’s Wildly Excessive Sentence Would Be Right For Trump To Do

Another poster at the Emptywheel blog, okay, it may be Emptywheel herself, has today posted a very interesting take, and I think a good one, on the intersection of Jim Comey, Pat Fitzgerald and Rod Blagojevich.

If Trump were to commute Blago’s sentence…..it would be one of the few pardon power actions he has taken that would be justified.

The other was, obviously, the woman Kim Kardashian talked him into commuting.

Don’t get me started about governance by reality show/sex tape idiots like Kimye, but still that was good.

Here is the thing though. Hate on Rod Blagojevich all you want. Laugh at him all you want. Sure, all that is good and proper.

What was not, however, was his sentence. Judge James Zagel got a bug up his ass and sentenced Blago to twice as much time as was possibly appropriate for his purported offenses. There is a long history of Illinois Governors, criminal charges, and prison. But no sentence remotely like Zagel gave Blago.

Then there was Bob McDonnell of Virginia, who ended up not ever serving a day on things that were, mostly, more obvious pay to play corruption than Blago. Also, there was Don Siegelman, who arguably met potential charging elements, even if they were mostly innocuous acts, and who was only ever charged because of a Rove/Cheney effort to insure the same. Siegelman got just over six years.

Don’t get me started about Bob Menendez. The point being, even if Blago was corrupt, needed to be found guilty, and needed to be sentenced…..The sentence of 14 years Zagel gave Mr. Blagojevich was insane and ludicrous.

As big of a narcissistic and useless asshole as Trump is, he would be right to commute the insanely over sentenced punishment Zagel gave to Rod Blagojevich.

People, especially the more liberal than not among us, constantly scream for criminal justice reform. Abolish cash bail (a good thought, but one with far different and deeper implications than you think as Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice has noted), less incarceration, shorter sentences, better programs for those incarcerated. End the death penalty. Less solitary confinement. Etc. All good things.

But part and parcel of all of it is recognizing crazy stupid sentences too. Blago is pretty much a joke of a historical character. Fine. He was never Public Enemy Number One either. His sentence from Zagel was outrageous. If Trump is willing to commute it, he should, and that should be cheered.

But, because of pushback from the very same people that usually scream and squawk, and rightfully so, about criminal justice reform when it is not one of their pet pariahs, i.e. people on the left and, here, Blago, Trump will certainly chicken out from doing the right thing. Because Trump doesn’t know the facts, and he is a pussy that is too easily grabbed by Republicans and, in this case, bullshit liberals too.

Free Blago. It needs to be done.

Clear The Shelters Day Is August 17

Yes, I know I do not write enough lately. I may return to the absolutely faux impeachment shenanigans Nadler is perpetrating soon, we shall see. Those caveats aside, there are some important real life things going on this weekend

The Clear The Shelters day is coming this weekend on August 17. It is an awesome and worthy effort. Please give it consideration and a try. You will get a new family member and enjoy unconditional love, even if there is the traditional pet rambunctiousness.

Marcy has been fantastic, forever, in adoption doggies. I will fully admit to being bad in this regard because many decades ago (no I will not say how many, because it is a lot), a college roommate in Boulder brought home a Samoyed puppy. I fell in love with and, upon return to Arizona, I got a Sammy. The third in succession, Kiki, is still alive and kicking, though quite old. I stubbornly stuck with kind of a rare dog that you don’t find at the shelter. Our dogs have been fantastic. But dogs are almost always fantastic, and saving them is truly a wonderful and admirable act.

So, I have not done so well at adopting and rescuing dogs. Yet. But, hopefully, that will change with the next critter.

But you can.

Saturday August 17, 2019, is Clear The Shelters Day. You feel low about all the outrageous bunk going on in America, much less the world lately? A pup will help you deal with it. Pups are universal, and they will love you as much as you love them, if not more.

Go get a pup, and Clear The Shelters.

On a parting note, I’d like to commend and support the effort that Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda are doing in Brazil to not only rescue dogs, but homeless people as well. It is a fantastic thing. And, done correctly, maybe something that could, and should, be done here in the United States.

OPEN THREAD: Everything Else Not about Robert Mueller

[Please check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Though today will probably be nutzo with Mueller hearing content, we need a place to capture everything else going on.

Let me repeat: this is everything else NOT about Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel’s Office (SCO) investigation and resulting report which will be addressed in a House Judiciary Committee hearing today.

I’ll kick this off with a few things I’ve had on my desktop. Caution: may contain speculation.

~ ~ ~

This is tangential to the Special Counsel’s investigation, but not a direct part of it.

Former Trump campaign adviser George Nader, who testified before the SCO, may also be prosecuted in New York as well as by the feds in Virginia:

I don’t recommend reading the government’s motion opposing Nader’s release on bond linked in her thread unless you have a strong constitution. I couldn’t stomach it. Judge Leonie Brinkema denied his release, thank goodness.

Nader was indicted last Friday when charges filed in April 2018 related to transporting a minor in 2000 for the purposes of sex and for possession of child pornography were unsealed. The charges had remained sealed while Nader cooperated with the SCO investigation.

He had been arrested in early June at JFK International airport in New York when he returned after complications from heart surgery.

I assume whatever was found at JFK voided any immunity agreement, as well it should.

At some point we need a society-wide discussion about the confluence of men whose proclivities deny consent to those with less power. It’s this issue I want us to address — it’s entwined with the anti-democratic movement.

~ ~ ~

I really hate to think about Alan Dershowitz at all let alone about his sex life. But didn’t anybody notice the weird caveat last week when he spoke about his love life last week Thursday?

“I have had sex with one woman since the day I met Jeffrey Epstein. I challenge David Boies to say under oath that he’s only had sex with one woman during that same period of time. He has an abnormal amount of chutzpah to attack me and challenge my perfect, perfect sex life during the relevant period of time …”

This guy can play all kinds of word games, right? He parses like crazy. So why didn’t he say I’ve only had sex with my wife/life partner [insert her name because she’s a human being]?

And yet we know he’s admitted to receiving therapeutic massage at pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s place. Was he prevaricating about the meaning of the word ‘sex’ as Bill Clinton once did?

Not kink shaming sex between consenting adults, but that’s my point — were any these ‘massages’ or not-sex-sex with some other person actually with a non-consenting human? Like a minor?

Really wonder if it would be beneficial to go through the body of Dershowitz’ work with an eye to his opinions with regard to consent by individuals with less power in a given situation.

~ ~ ~

Deutsche Bank (DB) is in a world of hurt. It’s trying to downsize and reorganize in a big fat hurry, expecting to shed as many as 18,000 jobs over the next 2-3 years.

It’s also clients and deposits, hemorrhaging nearly a billion dollars a day after the bank announced it was exiting prime brokerage.

Now DB is trying to shed a problematic client, Jeffrey Epstein, whose accounts are like a mythic hydra. Lop off the known accounts and a bunch more unknown pop up.

DB has submitted Suspicious Activity Reports a number of times on Epstein’s accounts’ transactions; while not all activity triggering a SAR may be illicit, this is Epstein we’re talking about.

Timing is also rather interesting — check this excerpt from the NYT:

In 2015 and 2016, anti-money laundering compliance officers in Deutsche Bank’s offices in New York and Jacksonville, Fla., raised a variety of concerns about the work the bank was doing with Mr. Epstein. The employees were concerned that the bank’s reputation could be harmed if it became public that Mr. Epstein was a client, according to the three people familiar with the relationship.

Huh. What an interesting overlap with the U.S. 2016 campaign season. This, too, was interesting:

In addition, the compliance officers on at least one occasion noticed potentially illegal activity in one of Mr. Epstein’s accounts, including transactions in which money was moving outside the United States, two of the people said. The compliance officers produced a so-called suspicious activity report, but it is unclear whether the report was ever filed with the Treasury Department’s financial-crimes division.

Despite the compliance officers’ misgivings, the bank continued to do extensive business with Mr. Epstein.

What’s the bottleneck? Did corruption inside DB prevent Epstein from being discovered earlier than last fall’s investigative reporting by the Miami Herald’s Julie K. Brown? Did any of these banking transactions mirror human trafficking transactions?

Will we ever know or will this all quietly go away?

~ ~ ~

There will be a separate post for the Mueller hearing today. Please take all Mueller hearing related content to that thread, thanks. This is an open thread.

A Feud for Fun and Profit

[NB: Note the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

I was doing my usual day’s end wrap up routine — shutting off the lights, checking the windows, reading the headlines to make sure the planet hadn’t blown up before I shut off my computer.

And this bullshit came up at Google News, just below the Epstein-Acosta coverage:

I’ve seen in my Twitter feed all day the hullabaloo about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ chief of staff’s remarks and the subsequent flurry of feedback between different factions among the House Democrats. Some of it is hotly reactionary, some of it is measured, and a lot of it swings wildly in between.

But that snapshot of my Google News front page is EXACTLY what the real problem is: the internecine conflict is a fulcrum on which the right-wing and foreign agents can act to divide the party at a time when it can least afford it.

And the right-wing media like Fox News is using that same point for its own amusement and profit.

Even neutral-to-left media is using the tensions to gin up clicks and increase readership.

They have zero interest in the manifold crises on which the entire spectrum of Democrats — from stick-in-the-mud conservadems to hot-under-the-collar progressives — must work together. The media is only in this for fun and profit.

Meanwhile there’s a wholly corrupt, malignant narcissist intent on undermining everything on which our country was founded. House Democrats need to quit their circular firing squad and get their heads together. They need to focus on that wretch and the debris field he’s making of our nation instead of allowing themselves to be used as a profit center by the media.

Focus on the fact only 86 House Dems have committed to supporting an impeachment inquiry. ~132 more votes are needed to pass a resolution kicking off the process.

We are now nearly 191 days into the 116th Congressional term. Trump continues to lock up children in cages and take babies from their parents at the border, leaving them in concentration camp conditions which wouldn’t be tolerated for dogs. He continues to trash the Constitution from threatening war to ignoring Supreme Court decisions. That an impeachment inquiry hasn’t already been launched reflects badly on the entirety of House Democrats, from Speaker Pelosi to the 2018 Blue Wave freshmen.

~ ~ ~

This weekend I have a couple of voters staying with me who identify as independents. They tend to vote for Democrats but they won’t commit to being Democrats. They’re 25 years old, college-educated, and they actually watched the Democratic presidential candidates debates a couple weeks ago, rushed home from work to make sure they caught both nights in full.

These young people are fed up. They’re worried, angry, disgusted. They want real and rational leadership, especially because they’re deeply concerned about the pace of climate change.

They are NOT impressed by the inability of House Democrats to pull themselves into a cohesive cohort to stop Trump.

The more senior House Dems need to understand social media presence and follower count may not convert to votes on the House floor now, but these convert to votes in primaries next year. They convert to many small donations online between now and November 2020 as well as shoe leather when canvassing and GOTV matter. These two independents visiting me are exactly the people who’ll be persuaded by what they read in their Twitter feed and watch at YouTube; they have the disposable income to make regular donations. They’re not impressed by representatives who suck up to corporations over individuals especially when there’s campaign donations involved. They’re impressed by accessible representatives who do their homework and then do their best to ensure government oversight.

They want House Democrats to get their act together and stop Trump.

None of the tweeted and reported bullshit I saw being slung between House Democrats gets them any closer to doing what the 2018 Blue Wave told Democrats needed to be done. I don’t have a good explanation for these young voters as to when House Dems will pull out of their navel-gazing spiral. I can only hope it’s soon.

This is an open thread.

OPEN THREAD: FIFA Women’s World Cup Final — U.S. vs. Netherlands

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

FIFA Women’s World Cup Final will be played today, Sunday at 11:00 a.m. ET/5:00 p.m. CET at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon, France.

U.S. meets the Netherlands which won playoff match 50 against Sweden this past Wednesday in extra time, 1-0.

Megan Rapinoe is expected to start; she was unable to play in match 49 against England due to a minor hamstring injury.

This is Netherlands’ second World Cup competition; the final pits them against three-time World Cup champions.

I’ll add links here to scoring and any alternative live feeds I can find as soon as FIFA updates information on the match so that sports news outlets can access it. The match will be streamed on Fox Sports and Telemundo.

CBS Sports shared a link to FuboTV which will stream the final live. You can watch it on FuboTV if you sign up for a free trial. Kind of funny that CBS is promoting a streaming partner since it doesn’t have the license for FIFA WWC itself.

There are two men’s finals scheduled for exactly the same time slot, by the way, one attributed to a “clerical error.” This is total bullshit, yet another typical patriarchal erasure of women.

In anticipation of the match you might check out these articles:

Netherlands beat Sweden, will face U.S. in final

The USWNT will play the Netherlands in the World Cup final. Here’s what you need to know

Opinion: Messages matter, and teams in World Cup final send good one with female coaches by Nancy Armour, USAToday

So the President F*cking Hates My Girlfriend by Sue Bird

I helped spark the Rapinoe-Trump war. Trust me, put your money on the soccer star by David Hirshey, LAT

Opinion: USWNT’s Megan Rapinoe is living her patriotism at World Cup. What’s your excuse? by Nancy Armour, USAToday

UPDATE — 11:34 a.m. —

The Guardian has a live coverage page for the match.

Here’s the Twitter Moments page for the match.

In Order to Form a More Perfect Union

Last year when I wrote a post for the Fourth of July holiday I shared the full text of the Declaration of Independence.

Since that post our country slid increasingly backwards toward an autocratic monarchy, losing sight of the reasons why this nation’s founders threw off a long train of abuses and usurpations, dissolving the American colonies’ relationship with Britain.

Today in our streets fought for and paved by the American people, a belligerent, petty and abusive tyrant who obtained and holds his office by questionable means will have the military parade he has envied other autocrats.

Across town his minions in the so-called Department of Justice will continue to chip away at the Constitution in search of some means to deny to persons within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws in the execution of the 2020 U.S. Census.

And persons of color who’ve fled to the U.S. seeking asylum from violence will continue to suffer inhumane treatment at the hands of federal employees who swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution including the same equal protection spelled out in the Fourteenth Amendment.

(Do take note there have been no raids by ICE ejecting white birth tourists like the Russians in Florida. No Congressional caucuses will find these birth parents in American concentration camps.)

Noting the grim slide we should recall this holiday has always been aspirational. It may mark the day when the republic’s birth began but this nation has always been in a state of becoming.

We have yet to form a perfect union; we can only work toward perfecting it.

To this end it’s worth revisiting this year a historic address by Frederick Douglass delivered on July 5, 1852 — nine years before the Civil War began, when the country was 76 years old. He did not stint when reminding his audience the holiday observed meant little to slaves:

… What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival. …

Our shouts of patriotic fervor ring hollow today when one thinks of the undenounced tyrant occupying our White House making a mockery of this nation of laws through his numerous frauds and manifold obstructions while willfully, shamelessly persecuting helpless children and their families, and ignoring the thousands of American deaths he has caused through his bad faith execution of office. Revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, indeed.

As grim as things are today, it cannot be more so than it was for Douglass who could not know as he spoke that it would be another thirteen years before slaves would be emancipated, or that it would be another 113 years before the Voting Rights Act would pass Congress, to secure the right to vote for persons of color.

Or that we would still be fighting voter suppression of minority voters 167 years later even this week as the Supreme Court failed to protect minority voters’ rights and the same petty tyrant rejects his oath to protect and defend the Constitution including its Census of all persons.

Somehow Douglass, an escaped slave himself, remained optimistic:

… Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. …

What lies ahead is not as dark and unknown as that which lay before Douglass in July 1852. We have seen better if not perfect. It can be had again and improved upon with a re-dedication to the principles the founders laid out in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution.

We must recall our nation’s identity began with a shared belief that we are all created equal, that we are endowed with certain unalienable Rights including Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Seeking to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, we instituted a government to secure our inalienable rights and these common interests.

We can and will check this government of and by the people when it fails us just as we checked a monarch in 1776, just as we’ve checked executives and other elected office holders who have failed their oaths. We have continually refreshed our representatives and justices to the same end.

As we have for 243 years we still have work to do. Ted Kennedy spoke of the ongoing nature of this nation’s mission when he said, “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

Recommitting to the American dream, I leave off with hope that we can and will continue to pursue a more perfect union.

Wishing you and yours a safe Fourth of July. Consider this an open thread.

OPEN THREAD: FIFA Women’s World Cup — England vs United States

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

I am putting up an open thread because 1) I need a break from all the heavy, and 2) Megan Rapinoe and the U.S. team are goddesses, and 3) a certain Brit needs to eat a shit sandwich.

This guy, specifically:

 

What a massive wanker. This misogynistic prat has no problem when men take pride in their sports:

 

 

Megan Rapinoe didn’t start today; the score is now US 2, England 1.

And the score off the field:

 

Ridiculous. Pay the women.

Have at it.

 

UPDATE — 11:45 p.m. 02-JUL-2019 —

Do you smell something burning?

Livestream Tonight: The Investigation — Mueller Report in 10 Acts [UPDATE]

[NB: As always, check the byline. Thanks! /~Rayne]

Tonight only at 9:00 p.m. EDT (sorry, Rachel Maddow) the (nonprofit-?) organization Law Works will stream a live play based on the Mueller Report.

Read about the program at Variety, which calls this a “star-studded” “live reading” of the report.

This is one way to educate a portion of the public who can’t or won’t read the Special Counsel’s report. One might wonder if members of Congress might give this a shot or if they will continue to avoid the truth about the Trump campaign and administration.

If you happen to stream this Law Works’ production, share your thoughts here.

This is an open thread.

UPDATE — 9:15 p.m. EDT —

Running into 500-502 errors at Law Works’ site. Streams a little jerky through their Twitter account.

Ishmael, the All-American Boy

Well, it’s Summertime, and I’ve been on the road, and as usual, it seems like more fun to write about something completely different. Recently I saw a production of the opera Moby Dick, composed by Jake Heggie, libretto by Gene Scheer, which inspired me to re-read the book. I say re-read, although it’s been so long that I barely remember it

About ten years ago I started re-reading books that meant a lot to me as a young person, including Kidnapped by Robert Lewis Stevenson, Men of Iron by Howard Pyle, One, Two, Three … Infinity by George Gamow, The Myth of Sisyphus and other books by Albert Camus, and a whole bunch of science fiction, my first serious love, to name a few. I have vivid memories of these books, and was not often disappointed; they held the same intensity that I remembered. I also reread several books every two or three years, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Possession by A.S. Byatt, and chapters of Philosophy and Social Hope by Richard Rorty,

There is a lot to be said for re-reading. For one thing, I read more carefully when I’m not desperate to find out how it all comes out. For another, as I grow older I see different things in old favorites. In the case of Pride and Prejudice, for example, my earliest readings were focused on the courtship of Elizabeth and Darcy. In later readings, I began to appreciate the way Austen contrasts existing family relationships and those formed throughout the novel. I also began to see the ways other characters saw these relationships, especially the sharp-witted Charlotte. In Capital In The Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty talks about the basis of Darcy’s wealth, which I had not understood. Then my colleague Rayne pointed out that each of the women in the novel negotiates their economic situation differently, and how much Elizabeth risked by turning down Mr. Collins, something I hadn’t noticed on multiple readings over decades. She also posted insightful comments on the book in response to this post.

I’m about 2/3 of the way through Moby Dick. I’ve learned a lot about whales and something about the work of the crew on whalers, and read several fascinating stories about other ships and crews. Two larger themes have emerged for me: religious and civic tolerance.

Religion enters in the first sentence: “Call me Ishmael.” Ishmael is identified in the Bible as the son of Abraham by Hagar. Sarah suggested that Abraham sleep with her slave to conceive a child when it becomes clear that Sarah is too old to bear children. When Sarah produces a son in accordance with the promise of the Almighty, Sarah insists that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away. in the desert as she weeps in desolation, an angel appears and tells her that Ishmael is a son of Abraham, and therefore the Almighty will make a great nation of him and his children.

Ishmael is claimed by Muslims as an ancestor of the Prophet. It is said that Abraham took Hagar and Ishmael to Mecca, and that Abraham returned to construct the Kaaba. That Ishmael is included in both Jewish/Christian texts and Islamic texts is a duality that seems relevant to the personality Melville’s Ishmael reveals to us.

Ahab too is a Biblically freighted name. Ahab was a king of Israel, and Ishmael knows this:

And a very vile one. When that wicked King was slain, the dogs, did they no lick his blood?

Compare 2 Kings 21:19 with 2 Kings 22:38.

In the beginning, Ishmael is on his way to Nantucket, planning to ship out on a whaler. He stops in New Bedford at the Spouter Inn for a couple of nights. The bar is made to resemble a whale’s head, including the entire jaw bone of a sperm whale. Standing under this arch is the bartender, called Jonah. The story of Jonah and the Whale is one religious thread.

Ishmael goes to a whaler’s church for Sunday services. The church is built on the model of a ship. There are plaques on the walls commemorating men who died at sea. The preacher, an ex-whaler, climbs into the tall pulpit on a ship’s ladder, and gives a sermon on Jonah. He paints the story from the perspective of a sailor, with vivid descriptions of the ship’s crew and captain, and the storm. He draws two lessons. For the sinner, Jonah is a tale of proper repentance:

.., Jonah does not weep and wail for direct deliverance. He feels that his dreadful punishment is just. He leaves all his deliverance to God, contenting himself with this, that spite of all his pains and pangs, he will sill look towards His holy Temple. And here, shipmates, is true and faithful repentance: not clamorous for pardon, but grateful for punishment.

Compare this to the words of Abraham Lincoln in the Second Inaugural Address.

Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether”

Christianity isn’t the only religion. Ishmael meets the harpooner Queequeg at the Spouter Inn. He is the son of royalty on the island of Rokovoko, “an island far away to the west and South”. He’s Black, and a cannibal, and a head hunter; he’s bald, has sharply filed teeth and is a large and imposing man and a highly skilled harpooner. He also practices his religion, seemingly centered on a small ebony figure he calls Yojo. Queequeg explains to Ishmael that Yojo wants Ishmael to select a ship for them. While Ishmael somewhat unwillingly sets out on this errand, Queequeg begins a ritual with Yojo: he sits cross-legged with Yojo perched on his head and stays that way for 24 hours, unmoving. Ishmael calls this a “sort of Lent or Ramadan or day of fasting, humiliation and prayer”, the best explanation he can envision because Queequeg doesn’t explain and Ishmael doesn’t aask.

A strange scene of religious import takes place after the Pequod kills its first whale, flenses it, and beheads it, preparatory to extracting the valuable sperm oil. Ahab leans over rail staring at “…that blood-dripping head hung to the Pequod’s waist like the giant Holofernes’s from the girdle of Judith”, and gives this elegy:

“Speak, thou vast and venerable head … which, though ungarnished with a beard, yet here and there lookest hoary with mosses; speak, mighty head, and tell us the secret thing that is in thee. Of all divers, thou hast dived the deepest. That head upon which the upper sun now gleams, has moved amid this world’s foundations. Where unrecorded names and navies rust, and untold hopes and anchors rot; where in her murderous hold this frigate earth is ballasted with bones of millions of the drowned; there, in that awful water-land, there was thy most familiar home. Thou hast been where bell or diver never went; hast slept by many a sailor’s side, where sleepless mothers would give their lives to lay them down. Thou saw’st the locked lovers when leaping from their flaming ship; heart to heart they sank beneath the exulting wave; true to each other, when heaven seemed false to them. Thou saw’st the murdered mate when tossed by pirates from the midnight deck; for hours he fell into the deeper midnight of the insatiate maw; and his murderers still sailed on unharmed — while swift lightnings shivered the neighboring ship that would have borne a righteous husband to outstretched, longing arms. O head! thou hast seen enough to split the planets and make an infidel of Abraham, and not one syllable is thine!”

Chapter 70. Later the crew is drawing out buckets of sperm oil from a hole drilled in the whale’s head guided by the harpooner Tashtego. Suddenly the hooks holding the head slip out, and Tashtego is thrown into the hole in the whale’s head. The head breaks away from the tackle holding it to the ship and falls into the sea, carrying Tashtego down into the deeps. Queequeg somehow manages a rescue. The godless parallel to the Jonah story suggests Ishmael’s secular religion.

That brings us to the second point: civic tolerance. Recall that Ishmael met Queequeg at an inn, forced to share a bunk. Ishmael is in bed when Queequeg arrives and scares the daylights out of Ishmael. But shortly, Ishmael reconsiders. Queequeg agrees to the joint sleeping arrangement, and the tomahawk in this passage is both a pipe and an ax:

“You gettee in,” he added, motioning to me with his tomahawk, and throwing the clothes to one side. He really did this in not only a civil but a really kind and charitable way. I stood looking at him a moment. For all his tattooings he was on the whole a clean, comely looking cannibal. What’s all this fuss I have been making about, thought I to myself — the man’s a human being just as I am: he has just as much reason to fear me, as I have to be afraid of him. Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.

Chapter 3. It doesn’t take long for the two men to become actual friends as well as co-workers, and the respect each has for the other becomes relevant in several episodes in the book.

Ishmael’s attitude is genuine. He’s interested in people, and observant without judging his crewmates by class or nationality or cannibalism. There are several chapters discussing the members of the crew, and there is not a word of judgment, just statements of fact.

It’s also a parallel to the treatment of religion. He is most familiar with the Christian Bible, but has a basic knowledge of other religions, again without judgment, and without making much of his own views, at least directly.

This kind of tolerance, religious and civic, cheerfully informed by wide experience of various people and an open mind, seems to me to be a perfect demonstration of an important virtue of idealized America. It turns out it’s a sad reminder of what we no longer care about in this country, of what we have abandoned as civic virtue. Maybe I just can’t read anything without recognizing our own times, with our depleted national identity.

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