The Grand Inquisitor’s Mistress

On July 12th, Judi Hershman posted an extraordinary 2,600-word document on Medium. In it, the self-described “former professional partisan” laments what she accurately calls, “our country’s biggest existential crisis since the Civil War.” It has come about, she writes, because “too many people like me stuck our heads in the sand, swallowed our doubts, [and] let the unacceptable slide, [having] convinced ourselves it was in the interest of the greater good….”

Hershman attained this perspective, she says, through a long and close association with one of the most influential unelected figures in the Republican power structure. That emminent personage was Kenneth Starr: Grand Inquisitor during the Clinton impeachment, arranger of the infamous Jeffrey Epstein plea deal, mentor to Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and an aspirant himself to the Supreme Court.

Hershman wrote that for about a year, beginning in 2009, she and Starr—who were both then married—conducted an adulterous affair.

More than a fortnight has now passed, and Starr has yet to confirm or deny Hershman’s account.

Absence of a denial doesn’t prove Hershman’s story, of course. The story about LBJ, an aide, a rumor, an animal, and the punchline, “Of course it ain’t true, but I want to make the son-of-a-bitch deny it” must be borne in mind. But still….

More perplexing is the media silence. There was a time—and an annoying time it was—when the corporate media seemed to be serving up Kenneth Starr’s name on an hourly basis.

Now, when there’s something the public really should know about him, it’s crickets.

Since his name has come up, here’s more on Kavanaugh, Starr’s mentee….


Progressives Demand Probe After Revelations About FBI Investigation of Kavanaugh

by Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams

Rights groups and other progressives are demanding a probe of the FBI’s rushed and limited 2018 background investigation into U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after seven Democratic senators on Thursday revealed new details about the Bureau’s actions.

Kavanaugh was nominated to the court by former President Donald Trump and narrowly confirmed by GOP senators in October 2018, despite allegations of sexual assault, which Kavanaugh has denied. A newly released letter to lawmakers from the FBI sheds light on—but also raises more questions about—how the Bureau handled its investigation of those allegations.

In August 2019, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) sent a letter asking FBI Director Christopher Wray to provide a full picture of the Bureau’s 2018 supplemental background investigation of Kavanaugh. On June 30, 2021, they finally received a response from Jill C. Tyson, an FBI assistant director.

The FBI’s letter, which the senators made public, says in part that:

“Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination was the first time that the FBI set up a tip line for a nominee undergoing Senate confirmation. It was established at the direction of the FBI’s Security Division to centralize and manage incoming information related to the nomination. The FBI received over 4,500 tips, including phone calls and electronic submissions. The Security Division section handling the BI and supplemental background investigations provided all relevant tips to the Office of White House Counsel (as the requesting entity).”

In a joint statement Thursday, July 22nd, Whitehouse and Coons, along with Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), revealed they sent Wray another letter Wednesday evening to request more information.

“The admissions in your letter corroborate and explain numerous credible accounts by individuals and firms that they had contacted the FBI with information ‘highly relevant to… allegations’ of sexual misconduct by Justice Kavanaugh, only to be ignored,” the senators wrote. “If the FBI was not authorized to or did not follow up on any of the tips that it received from the tip line, it is difficult to understand the point of having a tip line at all.”

Whitehouse was more blunt in remarks to The New York Times, suggesting that the FBI ran a “fake tip line that never got properly reviewed, that was presumably not even conducted in good faith.”

Progressive activists and advocacy organizations were similarly critical and demanded action from Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Three years ago, our nation watched as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez shared their painful stories with the world about Brett Kavanaugh’s abusive behavior. Today, we learn that our institutions failed them both,” said Shaunna Thomas, executive director of the national gender justice group UltraViolet.

Thomas called the recent revelations “deeply troubling” and said that “the Senate Judiciary Committee should hold a public hearing on the handling of the investigation by the FBI and interference from the White House Counsel and release those findings publicly.”

“We owe it to survivors to ensure that they have systems of justice that treat their accusations seriously—and the failure to do so in this case is not only a betrayal of these survivors’ trust, but of our nation’s justice system as a whole,” she said.

Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, similarly recalled witnessing “incredible courage as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford shared her truth with the world.”

Henderson continued:

“Today’s revelations confirm and make more dire what we knew at the time—the allegations by Dr. Blasey Ford and Debbie Ramirez against Brett Kavanaugh were grossly mishandled. The Trump White House and Senate Republicans shamefully stifled an investigation to rush the process and guarantee their nominee a seat on the Supreme Court. These unconscionable actions undermine the Senate’s constitutional role and continue to cast a shadow on the integrity of the court.

“There are still numerous unanswered questions in the absence of a full and comprehensive investigation that should have taken place. We call for a full investigation into the large number of tips the FBI received about Justice Kavanaugh, how this process came to be, and who was involved. There must be full accountability.”

Alliance for Justice president Nan Aron concurred, noting that “we have said since the beginning that the FBI’s investigation during Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation process was a sham designed to protect his reputation instead of investigate credible allegations of sexual assault against him.”

Aron called for the Justice Department to “immediately reopen its investigation into the past behavior of Justice Kavanaugh and determine if he intentionally misled Congress and the American public during his confirmation hearings.”

She said the DOJ should also “conduct an expeditious review of how this investigation was conducted and share the details with the public.”

Applauding the senators who continue to push for answers, Aron added that “survivors deserve justice, and the country deserves to know the full truth of this situation, as well as the lengths the Trump administration was willing to go to cover up the truth about Kavanaugh’s behavior and ensure his confirmation.”

Like Aron, Demand Justice executive director Brian Fallon highlighted his organization’s long-standing critiques of Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court and declared that “the public deserves to know the truth about the cover-up that took place in 2018 and what the Trump administration may have concealed.”

“Unlike in the fall of 2018, Democrats now hold the gavels in both the Senate and House,” Fallon noted. “With so much credible evidence that Kavanaugh committed perjury, the relevant committees should be mounting their own investigation by directly interviewing the witnesses the FBI never spoke to, collecting the tips the Trump White House tried to bury, and insisting on the records from the National Archives that were withheld in 2018.”

Ford’s attorneys, Debra S. Katz and Lisa J. Banks, also responded to the revelations in a statement. The FBI’s letter, they said, “confirms what we knew”—that the Bureau’s investigation into Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh “was a sham and a major institutional failure.”

“This never should have been an ordinary background check,” Katz and Banks continued, noting that the FBI refused to interview Ford or the corroborators listed in their letter to the Bureau’s director.

“The FBI should have referred the evidence it was receiving to the Criminal Investigation Division. FBI Director Wray must answer the question as to why he failed to do so,” the pair added. “Because the FBI and Trump’s White House Counsel hid the ball on this, we do not know how many of those 4,500 tips were consequential, how many of those tips supported Dr. Ford’s testimony, or how many showed that Kavanaugh perjured himself during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Our nation deserved better.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.


We hate to be alarmists—well, we hate to be perceived as alarmists—but we feel it’s our duty to warn the public that there may be a lion on the loose. We can definitively state that there’s usually a second lion atop this set of stone steps in front of the Rockingham—but it wasn’t there Monday.


Something To Not Look Forward To

Beginning at noon on January 3, 2023, when members of the 118th Congress will be sworn in, New Hampshire’s First District could be represented by the youngest person in Congress.

Karoline Leavitt will then be 25. If elected she’ll also be one of the half-dozen youngest members ever to serve in the House of Representatives.

And she’ll have one more distinction, not so easily quantified: she’ll be among those Members whose ties to reality are the most antagonistic.

The Conway Daily Sun reported July 20th on Leavitt’s first campaign event, a gathering of about 50 people at the Center Conway home of Mount Washington Valley Republican Committee Chairman Steven Steiner. Leavitt described working in the White House as an assistant press secretary under Kayleigh McEnany:

“I was so blessed to spend many amazing moments during the COVID-19 pandemic when he was briefing every day and fighting fake news media to get you real information, like the fact that hydroxychloroquine works and the fact that, I don’t know, maybe COVID actually did originate in the Wuhan Lab.”

Leavitt is a native of Atkinson, a town in New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District. According to the Sun, she has been working for Rep. Elise Stefanik [R-N.Y.], but recently moved to Hampton.

Leavitt’s former boss Stefanik is currently the youngest woman ever elected to Congress; she was 30 in 2014. She was elected to chair the House Republican Conference after Rep. Liz Cheney [RINO-Wy.] was ousted for telling the truth. The third most powerful Republican in the House by virtue of that position, she is also among those most reality-challenged. On Tuesday, she said, “The American people deserve to know the truth. That Nancy Pelosi bears responsibility, as speaker of the House, for the tragedy that occurred on January 6th.”

Leavitt appears in a video clip posted by William Tucker at MiscellanyBlue, being interviewed by famed Presidential Pardon recipient Steve Bannon.

“Do you believe Donald Trump won on the 3rd of November in 2020?” Bannon asks. “Did he actually win the vote for the Presidency in your opinion?”

Leavitt replies, “Absolutely! The Democratic machine took over our election system months before Nov 3rd in the guise of pandemic precautions, and they…there was chaos and irregularities that occurred across the country. That’s why I proudly stood with Elise when she held the line on January 6th and objected to the electors.”

Leavitt may face Matt Mowers in the GOP primary. Mowers, a former aide to then-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie during the Bridgegate scandal, lost to Chris Pappas in 2020. Since derangement is no longer a disqualification, Leavitt’s local connections could put her ahead of a blow-in with a losing record.

Then factor in the pending redistricting process—which does not bode well for Democrats, what with the Republican trifecta in charge—and this frightening possibility could become our new reality…or surreality.


Monday morning fog obscures the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge. Our Wandering Photographer obtained this image from a well-known vantage point on Bow Street. Being the prudent sort, he refrained from venturing onto the deck at that location. A modest pergola once graced this deck. That decorative element succumbed years ago to Newton’s second law of thermodynamics. More recently the deck itself—originally capable of supporting perhaps a dozen free-spending tourists—has been fenced off by a tatty-looking stretch of perforated orange plastic netting adorned with a sign saying, “UNSAFE DECK–NO TRESPASSING.” Eventually the rotting remains of this public amenity too will crumble, to lie on the rocky northern slope of this bluff above the river. Perhaps at that point the condo owners will find a way to keep the riff-raff confined to the sidewalk.


No, George Carlin Did Not Say That

Hampton Selectwoman Regina Barnes recently made the news by posting a meme that was simultaneously racist, transphobic, and dismissive of legitimate public health concerns. People have called for her to resign; she has refused.

Without meaning to diminish or dismiss the original complaint about Barnes, we wish to raise another. Her Instagram page includes a meme in which George Carlin is alleged to have said, “Political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners.”

Barry Popick, an expert at tracking such things, wrote about this line in 2014. Carlin’s name does not come up, just various online personages such as @Captn_Caveman.

Carlin is no longer here to defend himself. We wish he was still around for a lot of reasons. Now we have a new one. We’d love to hear what he’d say about Regina Barnes.


Climate Catastrophe: The Local Angle

Just 23 days into the month, this became New Hampshire’s rainiest July ever. Six inches fell overnight on southwestern New Hampshire the weekend of the 17th and 18th.

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