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Last updated: Sun, 23 Sep 2018 01:23:35 GMT

 Kavanaugh Round 2 is make or break for both sides Sun, 23 Sep 2018 05:37:00 UT

The epic confrontation begins Monday with Kavanaugh's return engagement before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He will reiterate his denial of charges leveled by Blasey Ford that as teenagers, Kavanaugh assaulted her while drunk, pinned her down on a bed and put his hand over her to mouth to stifle screaming.

Ford's appearance was the subject of intense negotiations between her lawyers and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. Saturday night, the committee agreed to meet with Ford on Thursday. Earlier on Saturday afternoon, Ford's lawyers, Debra S. Katz and Lisa Banks, had emailed an acceptance of "the committee's request to provide her firsthand knowledge of Brett Kavanaugh's sexual misconduct next week."
Their email also criticized the committee's proposed conditions for her testimony as "fundamentally inconsistent with the committee's promise of a fair, impartial investigation into her allegations."

Her testimony is likely to be graphic and detailed - undermining what had been relatively smooth sailing by the 53-year-old Washington, D.C., federal appeals court judge toward confirmation.

Whether its enough to derail Kavanaugh remains to be seen. For Democrats, however, it represents the path to scuttling Kavanaugh that eluded them during two days of intense Q&A during the committee's confirmation hearings.

For Republicans, the high-wire act they must perform to win Senate confirmation is full of peril. Already projected in most polls to lose control of the House, Republicans could lose the Senate as well if they appear to give Blasey Ford short shrift in order to ram the Kavanaugh nomination through.

Given the #MeToo-inspired awakening of women to long-unaddressed abuse by powerful men, the charges against Kavanaugh could hardly have come at a worse time.

But failure to win confirmation would alienate the Republican base of Trump-supporting conservatives and evangelicals, the foot soldiers Republicans need at the polls this November.

At this point, the Kavanaugh battle "has very little to do with the way legal philosophy has diverged over the past few decades, and everything to do with ideological purity of the parties," said Michael Dorf, a Cornell University law professor. "This is a phenomenon that started over 50 years ago, but only now are we seeing Senate polarization bleed into the confirmation process."

For those of a certain age and perhaps political conviction, the Kavanaugh v. Blasey Ford confrontation evokes memories of Anita Hill in 1991 accusing then-nominee Clarence Thomas of lewd sexually oriented discussions while the two worked together. Though gripping and graphic, Hill's testimony didn't sink Thomas, who won confirmation on a Senate vote of 52-48.

But Thomas joined the court as a third solid conservative vote, with the remaining six justices - nominated by Republican and Democratic presidents - representing a mushy mainstream of legal thinking.

Now, "there isn't a single mainstream," said Dorf.

And that may explain why the Kavanaugh battle to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired, is as intense as it is. With four solid conservatives and four solid liberals on the court, Kavanaugh's confirmation likely would tip the court in a conservative direction. Liberals see cherished precedents in jeopardy, including Roe v. Wade, which established abortion rights in 1973.

The very thought of a fifth conservative on the court mobilized Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, who much like his Republican counterparts is feeling pressure from his base to deliver the goods - defeat of Kavanaugh, in this case.

On the Republican side, President Trump has not been restrained in his finger-pointing.

Kavanaugh is "under assault by radical left-wing politicians who don't want to know the answers, they just want to destroy and delay," Trump tweeted Friday. "Facts don't matter. I go through this with them every single day in D.C."

In a separate tweet, Trump also suggested that if the assault was "as bad as she says," she should bring forth copies of complaints filed with police "so that we can learn date, time, and place!"
Anti-Kavanaugh advocates counter that Blasey Ford was understandably reticent about coming forward and did so on her own.

"We didn't come up with it," said Nan Aron of the Alliance for Justice, one of the leaders of the anti-Kavanaugh coalition. "We didn't bring her forward."

Democrats insist the political motivation is all on the Republican side.

"What we're seeking to uncover is the truth and the facts through testimony and an investigation, without any real delay at all," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Judiciary Committee. Republicans "fear her testimony because they fear the truth."

Undergirding Democratic opposition is the bitter memory of Merrick Garland, nominated by then President Baracl Obama in March 2016 to fill the vacancy left by the abrupt death of the court's leading conservative, Justice Antonin Scalia.

Had Merrick won confirmation, the court's balance would have tipped 5-4 in a liberal direction. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., halted the nomination on a gamble that Republican victory in the 2016 presidential election would give conservatives breathing room.

McConnell's strategy paid unexpected dividends when Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton, against all odds. In the 20 months since Trump's inauguration, the Senate confirmed one conservative, Neil Gorsuch, to the court and was on the verge of clinching a conservative majority until Blasey Ford stepped forward.

When the dust from this week's cross-fire testimony settles, the fate of Kavanaugh's confirmation will be in the hands of a few Red-state Democratic and moderate Republican senators.
The cloud surrounding Kavanaugh may give Democrats from states won in 2016 by Trump "more of an out to oppose Kavanaugh than would otherwise have been the case," said Ronald Schurin, a political scientist at the University of Connecticut.

In addition, Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, both pro-choice and skittish about Kavanaugh on that issue, may turn against him. A combination of centrist Republicans and Democrats voting "no" likely would seal Kavanaugh's confirmation tomb for good.

Dorf of Cornell compares the last-minute drama to former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal's legendary poor performance at the free-throw line.

"I make them when they count," Shaq said, according to Dorf. But later statistical analysis proved Shaq's claim untrue, Dorf said. The superstar was no better in the fourth quarter than at any other point in the game.

For Dorf, a successful basketball team shouldn't have to depend on a last-minute free throw - much like the political parties shouldn't be depending on a last-minute crisis to keep a crucial fifth vote out of enemy hands.

"If your goal is to get majority of like-minded people, you've got to fight like hell for every seat," he said. "The fifth vote is no more important than the prior four."

It may be too little, too late for Democrats, who are in need of "a time machine to go back and (more vigorously oppose previous Republican nominees) and get the millennials to turn out and vote," he said.

 How safe are abortion rights in NY if Kavanaugh is confirmed? Sun, 23 Sep 2018 04:34:29 UT

Just how liberal are New York's abortion laws by today's standards? According to legal scholars and advocates — not very. And that matters, they say, as the nation gears up to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court that many believe could pivot the court in unprecedented favor of the anti-abortion cause.

 Four buildings burn in Pittsfield, arson suspected Sun, 23 Sep 2018 02:09:06 UT

Pittsfield

Firefighters battled blazes at four different Pittsfield buildings Saturday night. No injuries had been reported. The Eagle newspaper quotes Pittsfield Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski as saying that arson and police investigators are on the scene and all the fires were started with an incendiary device.

Pittsfield Police issued a Code Red alert about the fires Saturday, asking the public's help in locating Phillip Jordan, 58, in connection with "multiple arsons."

Pittsfield residents who have registered for the Code Red system get alerts from city agencies via phone, text, email or social media.

 Review: 'Hir' @ Shakespeare & Company, 9/21/18 Sun, 23 Sep 2018 01:20:11 UT

Lenox, Mass.

Black comedies don't get much darker and sharper than "Hir." It's like a double-sided shard of obsidian, slicing through both liberal pieties and old-fashioned notions about gender as it flays a California family that is unhappy in its own very distinctive way, in its own very messy living room.

The superlative production is the final summer show at Shakespeare & Company.

 UAlbany football beats Saint Francis (Pa.) 35-28 Sun, 23 Sep 2018 00:45:37 UT

The Great Danes won their second straight and improved to 2-2 overall heading into a bye week.

 Ground-and-pound proves profound for Queensbury football Sun, 23 Sep 2018 00:12:50 UT

Queensbury, looking to avenge a 2017 loss against Glens Falls, set a school record with 612 yards total offense (570 coming on the ground) Saturday in registering a 48-34 victory over the Indians.

 Midnight Bisou wins Cotillion Stakes via DQ Sat, 22 Sep 2018 23:26:57 UT

The rematch between two powerhouse 3-year-0ld fillies was not decided by Monomoy Girl or Midnight Bisou in Saturday's $1 million Cotillion at Parx Racing. This one went to the judges and the Parx stewards disqualified Monomoy Girl from first to second in what appeared to be an unpopular decision in front of a packed track (there was no attendance given as the track allows everyone in for free).