Brett Kavanaugh’s Drinking Problem

Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony last week made me want to wretch. And it wasn’t just for his grotesque display of white male rage at — the gall! — having to explain himself. Nor was it Kavanaugh’s “One of my closest friends to this day is a woman who was sexually abused” remark, though that was something truly repulsive. What really irked me, as a recovering alcoholic, was Kavanaugh’s repeated implications that his successes preclude a potential drinking problem. In the Supreme Court nominee’s mind, someone like him — a Yale graduate, a golden man-child, a former football player — could never have a drinking problem. Kavanaugh never said this outright, but this odious misconception wafted through the subtext like a stale beer.

I caught the first real whiff during Kavanaugh’s tense exchange with Senator Mazie Hirono, after the Democrat from Hawaii asked Kavanaugh if he’d been a heavy drinker in college. Kavanaugh, floundering and seething at this suggestion, deflected: “I got into Yale Law School. That’s the number one law school in the country. I had no connections there. I got there by busting my tail in college.” While Kavanaugh’s entire defense that day was built around his triumphs, here he was using his CV more pointedly: to nullify any implication of a drinking problem. In Kavanaugh’s eyes, academic and professional success not only negate any responsibility for alleged alcohol abuse — he made up for it in gold stars —, but the very possibility of alcohol abuse in the first place.

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HBD: Yosemite National Park

“Yosemite Valley, California, 1865,” Library of Congress

Happy Birthday, Yosemite! It was on 128 years ago today that the California Valley was designated a national park, a development spurred in large part thanks to Carleton Watkins’ incredible snapshots of the park, like the circa 1865 images above and below.* He was kind of like the John James Audubon of landscape.

Reprinted from coast to coast, Watkins’ exposed  increasingly industrialized, urbanized Americans to nature’s bounty, convincing them and political leaders alike that our land deserves protection from ravenous, capitalistic development. If only contemporary politicians saw things the same way.

You can read all about Watkins’ impact on saving Yosemite  in Tyler Green’s upcoming book, Watkins: Making the American West.

(*This development also helped precipitate the collapse of the racist, socialist Kaweah Colony.)

“Yosemite’s Domes, 1865,” Library of Congress


“Cathedral Rock, 1865,” Library of Congress


Friday Vibes Video: GnR, ‘November Rain’

Friday Vibes Videos are typically poppy and boisterous, but his week’s been looong, and today also happens to be the 27th anniversary of Guns N’ Roses Use Your Illusion I hitting the billboard charts, so I’ve gone a different direction with “November Rain.”

It’s a depressing track, sure, but, I mean, it’s also so great and there’s Stephanie Seymour and Slash’s solo and just… everything. Have good weekends, all!

Trump Tries To Create Midterm Cover

President Trump today, without any kind of evidence, claimed China is meddling in the 2018 midterm elections. Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election coming up in November against my administration,” Trump said at the United Nations Security Council meeting today. “They do not want me or us to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade.” Chinese representatives deny this claim.

This isn’t the first time the Trump administration’s made such an unfounded statement about China. The President claimed in last month that China hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails, a claim the FBI disputed, and National Security Director Dan Coats also previously pointed a finger at China, among others: “We have seen signs of not just Russia, but from China, and capabilities potentially from Iran, and even North Korea.” National Security Advisor John Bolton also made similar remarks.

It’s clear that Trump and his cohorts believe  these preemptive remarks can explain away a potential GOP loss this November. He knows such a loss will not reflect poorly on him, but that it would imperil his whole presidency. Unfortunately for Trump, the GOP is all but conceding in some battlegrounds: The Hill reported today that The National Republican Congressional Committee has been pulling ad buys for struggling candidates, an indication they’re scrambling to save what seats they can.

The First Vampire Was a Lesbian

In case you’re interested, the first vampire novel was 1872’s Carmilla, by Irish author Sheridan Le Fanu, and it had a distinct lesbian bent: The titular character is a succubus-esque creature who tries to seduce and feed upon a young woman, a plot perhaps informed by eons-worth of patriarchal anxieties.

Predating Bram Stoker’s Dracula by 26 years, Le Fanu’s story first appeared as a serial in The Dark Blue, a literary magazine, before being published as a single volume illustrated by D.H. Friston, the same man who first illustrated Sherlock Holmes.

Above, one of Friston’s  images from that collection depicts Carmilla making for her prey, Laura.

Lyndon Johnson Hated ‘The Graduate’

Lyndon Johnson’s greatest presidential legacy was by far the Great Society, a series of New Deal-inspired initiatives expanding social and cultural services in America — public broadcasting, national endowment for the arts, and Medicare and Medicaid were all part of his circa 1964-1965 program. Some of his efforts were successful; others fell short, such as Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” which many, including Martin Luther King Jr., described as  a “war on the poor,” especially people of color, for all its inadequacies, inequalities, and impotencies.

But the pros and cons of LBJ’s Great Society aren’t the point here. The point is that despite his apparent interest in the little guy, Johnson hated Benjamin Braddock, the protagonist of The Graduate. I understand Braddock — fresh from Williams College, from a wealthy, white family — doesn’t qualify so much as “the little guy,” but the widespread alienation he represents/ed put him squarely on the “us” side of the archetypal “people versus the establishment” equation. That said, one might think Johnson would feel a bit of empathy for lost, confused Braddock. Wrong.

“How in the hell can that creepy guy be a hero to you?” he told staffer-turned-biographer Doris Kearns (pre-Goodwin).

“All I needed was to see ten minutes of that guy, floating like a big lump in a pool, moving like an elephant in that woman’s bed, riding up and down the California coast polluting the atmosphere, to know that I wouldn’t trust him for one minute with anything that really mattered to me. And if that’s an example of what loves seems like to your generation, then we’re all in big trouble. All they did was scream and yell at each other before getting to the altar. Then after it was over, they sat on the bus like dumb mutes with absolutely nothing to say to one another.”

Perhaps Johnson’s distaste for Benjamin Braddock and the ennui he embodies stems from Johnson’s hurt feelings over American youth’s utter disdain for him. Vibrant John Kennedy’s successor, stodgier-seeming Johnson was far more pro-Vietnam than the slain Camelotian, a stance that garnered him plenty of intergenerational ire. And it’s clear this animus bothered Johnson something awful. “I don’t understand those young people,” he said. “Don’t they realize I’m really one of them? I always hated cops when I was a kid, and just like them I dropped out of school and took off for California. I’m not some conformist middle-class personality. I could never be bureaucratized.”

Luckily for Johnson’s ghost, his legacy has been undergoing a redesign lately, as people shift their attention from his failings vis a vis Vietnam and focus on his more progressive moves. Coincidentally enough, Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote about that very subject a few weeks ago at The Atlantic.