Notes and Comment Blog

Blame the university presses

Sep 20th, 2018 5:52 pm | By

More on Ian Buruma’s departure from the NYRB, in the National Post:

A former editor at the New York Review of Books says he stands by his decision to publish a controversial essay written by disgraced former radio host Jian Ghomeshi.

Ian Buruma has told Vrij Nederland, a Dutch magazine, that it is ironic that he has lost his job after publishing a theme issue about #MeToo offenders who had been convicted on social media, but not in court.

Well, you could also say it is ironic that a man decided to run a story about a man who, several women claimed, got a good deal too rough during sex. You can say anything is ironic. I for one keep finding it “ironic” that so many men are more interested in the complaints of men who are told to stop assaulting women than they are in the women who say they were assaulted. I say potato, you say hasn’t he suffered enough.

The essay sparked an online backlash who said the former CBC radio host should not have been given such a prestigious platform to write an unchallenged first-person piece.

Buruma says he was not fired from the prestigious literary magazine, but felt forced to resign after it became clear that university publishers who advertise in the Review of Books were threatening a boycott.

The BBC:

Ian Buruma, 66, had been editor of the New York Review of Books for 16 months.

His interview with Slate magazine defending the publication, drew outraged on social media.

He told the publication: “In a court of law he was acquitted, and there is no proof he committed a crime.”

He continues: “The exact nature of his behaviour – how much consent was involved – I have no idea, nor is it really my concern.”

Mr Buruma says the point of the article is to discuss the fallout and “social opprobrium” that follows such a case.

He says: “My interest in running this piece is the point of view of somebody who has been pilloried in public opinion and what somebody like that feels about it. It was not run as a piece to exonerate him.”

Not to exonerate, but to invite sympathy, interest, concern…while ignoring the women he got a little too forceful with. We do wonder why so much curiosity about him and so zero about them.

He is risen

Sep 20th, 2018 5:32 pm | By

John Lundin on Facebook:

There’s something sick about ‘campaigning’ for a Supreme Court nomination to begin with, then this…

“When you rent a bus that seats 80 but only 6 women show up”

That’s just weird. A bus? With his face plastered on the side along with WOMEN FOR KAVANAUGH? Weird weird weird. But then it’s “Concerned Women for America” – concerned about all this scary talk of equal rights and abortion and stuff. More bible, less feminism, please.


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Poverty in America

Sep 20th, 2018 1:25 pm | By

Matthew Desmond on the vast number of the working poor in the US:

These days, we’re told that the American economy is strong. Unemployment is down, the Dow Jones industrial average is north of 25,000 and millions of jobs are going unfilled. But for people like Vanessa, the question is not, Can I land a job? (The answer is almost certainly, Yes, you can.) Instead the question is, What kinds of jobs are available to people without much education? By and large, the answer is: jobs that do not pay enough to live on.

In recent decades, the nation’s tremendous economic growth has not led to broad social uplift. Economists call it the “productivity-pay gap” — the fact that over the last 40 years, the economy has expanded and corporate profits have risen, but real wages have remained flat for workers without a college education. Since 1973, American productivity has increased by 77 percent, while hourly pay has grown by only 12 percent. If the federal minimum wage tracked productivity, it would be more than $20 an hour, not today’s poverty wage of $7.25.

The economy has expanded and corporate profits have risen and housing costs have gone through the roof. Hourly pay has not come close to keeping pace.

American workers are being shut out of the profits they are helping to generate. The decline of unions is a big reason. During the 20th century, inequality in America decreased when unionization increased, but economic transformations and political attacks have crippled organized labor, emboldening corporate interests and disempowering the rank and file. This imbalanced economy explains why America’s poverty rate has remained consistent over the past several decades, even as per capita welfare spending has increased. It’s not that safety-net programs don’t help; on the contrary, they lift millions of families above the poverty line each year. But one of the most effective antipoverty solutions is a decent-paying job, and those have become scarce for people like Vanessa. Today, 41.7 million laborers — nearly a third of the American work force — earn less than $12 an hour, and almost none of their employers offer health insurance.

That’s a staggering little collection of facts right there – 41.7 million; nearly a third; less than $12 an hour; no health insurance. We’re a very rich country with a huge immiserated segment of the population.

Most working poor people are over 35, while fewer than five in 100 are between the ages of 16 and 19. In other words, the working poor are not primarily teenagers bagging groceries or scooping ice cream in paper hats. They are adults — and often parents — wiping down hotel showers and toilets, taking food orders and bussing tables, eviscerating chickens at meat-processing plants, minding children at 24-hour day care centers, picking berries, emptying trash cans, stacking grocery shelves at midnight, driving taxis and Ubers, answering customer-service hotlines, smoothing hot asphalt on freeways, teaching community-college students as adjunct professors and, yes, bagging groceries and scooping ice cream in paper hats.

America prides itself on being the country of economic mobility, a place where your station in life is limited only by your ambition and grit. But changes in the labor market have shrunk the already slim odds of launching yourself from the mailroom to the boardroom. For one, the job market has bifurcated, increasing the distance between good and bad jobs. Working harder and longer will not translate into a promotion if employers pull up the ladders and offer supervisory positions exclusively to people with college degrees. Because large companies now farm out many positions to independent contractors, those who buff the floors at Microsoft or wash the sheets at the Sheraton typically are not employed by Microsoft or Sheraton, thwarting any hope of advancing within the company. Plus, working harder and longer often isn’t even an option for those at the mercy of an unpredictable schedule. Nearly 40 percent of full-time hourly workers know their work schedules just a week or less in advance. And if you give it your all in a job you can land with a high-school diploma (or less), that job might not exist for very long: Half of all new positions are eliminated within the first year. According to the labor sociologist Arne Kalleberg, permanent terminations have become “a basic component of employers’ restructuring strategies.”

This is a country where the president both rages at immigrants, especially immigrants from poor countries, and hires immigrants from poor countries to work in his golf clubs because he pays such low wages.

There’s more; read the whole thing.

Normal and expected

Sep 20th, 2018 12:20 pm | By

George Felis shared this post on Facebook and was inspired by comments to take a more extended look at the “why do people shrug off bullying when it’s only girls?” question. I got his permission to quote what he said.

Evidence that Kavanaugh was a high school bully would be generally taken to be a plausible indicator of his character, and even those who disagreed — those who rejected the idea that such youthful bad behavior could serve as a significant indication of the kind of person he is to this day — wouldn’t simply fail to understand why or how someone might think otherwise. But much of the conversation around the evidence that Kavanaugh committed sexual assault on a 15 year old girl is utterly point-missing in exactly that way: It’s not simply that Kavanaugh’s defenders don’t believe the accusation; they don’t seem to understand why anyone would think that might have any bearing on his character even if it were true. I mean, he was just a teenage boy who wanted sex, right? That’s like saying water is wet!

People are so thoroughly embedded in and emotionally committed to rape culture that they view sexual assault as not merely the deplorable but predictable behavior that some significant minority of adolescent boys and men engage in, but as normal and expected behavior for adolescent boys and men, so much so that they are quick to blame girls and women for “putting themselves in that situation.” Pretty much no one would hear the story of an adolescent boy physically assaulted and humiliated in a locker room and say, “Well, as a skinny geeky kid, he should known better than to go into that locker room.” But I’ll be damned if I didn’t see some asshole commenters discussing the swimwear 15 year old Christine Blasey Ford was purportedly wearing and her choice to attend a high school party with alcohol while just scrolling casually past a story on facebook today. That’s a pretty big damn difference.

It’s true. Even though feminism has been pointing out for at least two generations that rape is bad, and violent, and damaging, and subordinating, and a very serious issue, there is still this huge segment of the population and the culture that sees it and treats it as just natural male sex-seeking behavior. The Kavanaugh train wreck is letting us know that all over again – as did Jian Ghomeshi’s NYRB whine, as did Ian Buruma’s indifference to Ghomeshi’s victims, as did the election of the self-described pussy-grabber. On the one hand this knowledge – that rape is not a cute joke – is well available and conspicuous, on the other hand powerful lawyers who pick clerks for even more powerful lawyers still want the women to look like models. We learn and learn and learn the lesson; every time there are columnists and reporters saying now finally this is getting through to people, and then along comes a Kavanaugh and it becomes painfully obvious that a lot of people have not learned one.fucking.thing.

Not an accident

Sep 20th, 2018 11:31 am | By

Oh ffs – of course. Kavanaugh likes his women to look like models, and “his women” include his female law clerks.

A top professor at Yale Law School who strongly endorsed supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a “mentor to women” privately told a group of law students last year that it was “not an accident” that Kavanaugh’s female law clerks all “looked like models” and would provide advice to students about their physical appearance if they wanted to work for him, the Guardian has learned.

Amy Chua, a Yale professor who wrote a bestselling book on parenting called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was known for instructing female law students who were preparing for interviews with Kavanaugh on ways they could dress to exude a “model-like” femininity to help them win a post in Kavanaugh’s chambers, according to sources.

Let me take a wild guess.

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Remember that photo of White House staffers last year? Where every single woman in the photo repeated the theme – the blonde hair parted in the middle with two hanks placed in front of the shoulders just the way Princess Ivanka has arranged hers there? These guys should just create clones for their sexual diversions and let real women get on with life.

Yale provided Kavanaugh with many of the judge’s clerks over the years, and Chua played an outsized role in vetting the clerks who worked for him. But the process made some students deeply uncomfortable.

One source said that in at least one case, a law student was so put off by Chua’s advice about how she needed to look, and its implications, that she decided not to pursue a clerkship with Kavanaugh, a powerful member of the judiciary who had a formal role in vetting clerks who served in the US supreme court.

What, just because it’s deeply insulting and creepy as fuck? Picky picky picky.

In one case, Jed Rubenfeld, also an influential professor at Yale and who is married to Chua, told a prospective clerk that Kavanaugh liked a certain “look”.

“He told me, ‘You should know that Judge Kavanaugh hires women with a certain look,’” one woman told the Guardian. “He did not say what the look was and I did not ask.”

Neither of them needed to. We know the look wasn’t “serious” or “professional” or “industrious” because why would that apply only to women?

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Chua advised the same student Rubenfeld spoke to that she ought to dress in an “outgoing” way for her interview with Kavanaugh, and that the student should send Chua pictures of herself in different outfits before going to interview. The student did not send the photos.

Well I certainly look forward to the day when Kavanaugh gets the chance to re-impose forced childbirth on all American women.

Having fun yet?

Sep 20th, 2018 5:46 am | By

Trump pretended to do the empathy thing in North Carolina yesterday. It went about as well as it usually does.

Trump visited North Carolina on Wednesday, as the death toll from Hurricane Florence climbed to at least 37. During a morning briefing on the damage, Trump asked a state official, “How is Lake Norman doing?”

When the official said it was doing fine, Trump replied, “I love that area. I can’t tell you why, but I love that area.” (It’s probably because there is a Trump National Golf Club in the area.)

That “I can’t tell you why” is not a dreamy expression of ineffable negative capability je ne sais quoi mystery, but a moronically coy allusion to the fact that he’s breaking the law by promoting one of his businesses on our dime.

The president remained weirdly upbeat as he visited with survivors in hard-hit New Bern.

“Is this your boat?” Trump asked an older man as he looked at a yacht that had washed ashore and crashed into the deck of his home. When the owner said no, the president answered, “At least you got a nice boat out of the deal.” Then he mulled the legality of who gets to keep the boat.

Then he told him to play a few rounds at his golf course.

Later, Trump helped distribute box lunches consisting of hot dogs, chips, and fruit, to people who had waited over an hour to collect the meal. “Got it? Have a good time,” Trump said as he handed one man a meal, prompting an MSNBC reporter to exclaim off-camera, “I think he just said, ‘Have a good time!’”

Remember the jollifications when he visited survivors of the Parkland shootings? This is like that.

During his visit to Houston a little over a year ago to meet with victims of Hurricane Harvey, Trump said, “Have a good time, everybody,” as he was leaving an emergency shelter.

Though it drew negative coverage a year ago, Trump seems fond of the remark, which might be one of the awkwardest we’ve ever seen, from the standpoint of talking.

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“This woman, whoever she is, is mixed up.”

Sep 20th, 2018 5:06 am | By

Dick Polman at the Atlantic collects some of the ways Republicans are displaying their settled, instinctive indifference (or outright hostility) to women:

After Christine Blasey Ford, a clinical-psychology professor, put her name to the accusation, announcing publicly that she’d passed a polygraph and had shared her story in a 2012 therapy session, Senator Orrin Hatch, a longtime member of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s all-male Republican contingent, told the cameras: “This woman, whoever she is, is mixed up.” He also said that even if the assault accusation were true, the past wouldn’t matter so much: “It would be hard for senators not to consider who he is today.”

His Republican colleague Bob Corker voiced sympathy for Kavanaugh, but none for his accuser: “I mean, I can’t imagine the horror of being accused of something like this.” Donald Trump Jr. joked on Instagram that Kavanaugh had merely had a schoolyard crush. And an unnamed lawyer close to the White House said that the alpha gender is under assault: “If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried.”

It’s all about him, and she is either irrelevant or a lying monster.

In a sense that’s inevitable, since he’s the one up for the Supreme Court seat…but in a more important sense it’s not, because if he can’t get to that seat except via all these manly dismissals of his alleged assault on a younger female person…then why are they so hell-bent? Why doesn’t this matter to them? Why hasn’t it put them off him? Self-evidently they don’t care about it enough to slow down the process, so that means they don’t care about it any significant amount at all. Senate to women: you don’t matter. We knew that, but it’s galling to watch it played out so publicly and emphatically by the people who govern us.

Now, the exodus of women to the Democratic Party appears to be accelerating, and for a more profound cultural reason than policy differences: the belief that Trump and his male allies refuse to fully see them as equal human beings. Trump lost the female electorate by 12 percentage points (although he won among white women). Meanwhile, a solid majority of men clearly didn’t care much that Trump had allegedly abused, harassed, or groped almost 20 women, or that Trump responded by calling the women liars and threatening to sue them. The president was similarly hostile last winter to the multiple women who came forward to accuse the Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore of molesting them as minors.

Yet they apparently can’t stop themselves displaying their contempt for women as if it were normal and only to be expected.

It’s as if men and women have different pain scales

Sep 19th, 2018 4:12 pm | By

Lili Loofbourow has a scorching analysis of the whole “never mind the women what about the poor men” phenomenon at Slate. I saw it via about 14 people at Facebook and they nearly all quoted a different passage, which shows how good it is.

The “locker room” once invoked to normalize Trump’s language (every man talks this way behind closed doors!) has expanded into a locked American bedroom with a woman trapped inside. It’s all in good fun, defenders declare. Horseplay.

Kids having fun!

This group has opted instead to defend male impunity for sexual assault and frame a woman’s story of coping with years of trauma as a true crisis … for men. A White House lawyer was quoted saying, “If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried.” Similar things were voiced by Ari Fleischer and Joe Walsh. Per this dark vision of the future, any consequence for committing assault—even being unable to move from one lifetime appointment to another lifetime appointment—is the beginning of the end of a just society.

Meanwhile in another part of the forest Ian Buruma has left the NYRB. Steps forward, steps back, all crosshatching each other.

“Boys will be boys” is a nostrum with the designated purpose of chalking male malfeasance up to innocent high spirits. It’s a saying that meant to exonerate, but here’s the funny thing: It only works on the agreed-upon assumption that boys do shitty things, the gravity of which we’re supposed to ignore or dismiss. The message isn’t that the boys don’t know that the things they do are bad; it’s rather that the rest of us should forgive, understand, and love them anyway, without their needing to ask for it.

Is it any surprise that an incentive structure like this one breeds entitled indifference to girls and women in the coddled party, and in the system that coddles them? Is it any surprise that men would panic at the realization that the system that they could depend on to look the other way is fast eroding?

It is a bit, yes, because the unfairness and asymmetry of the whole thing seems so obvious.

We knew this would happen, she writes, but we didn’t know it would be this explicit.

I never thought I would see a group that has spent years laughing at the very idea of anything like “rape culture” suddenly not just admitting that it exists but arguing that it should—nothing should be done about it; male malfeasance is an unstoppable cocktail of culture and biology. The subtext—stripped of all chivalric pretense thanks to the recent panic—is that victims don’t matter. They’re invisible because they’re unimportant, and women’s pain is irrelevant.

This was brought to our notice of course by the little (yet so noisy) spate of abusive men taking to the quality mags to whine about having been rebuked for abusing women.

What they share—besides a history of inflicting their sexual attentions on the less powerful because they felt like it—is an itch to be famous once again. They want their timeouts to be over. They have suffered, they believe, and they wish us to know it. This should be laughable: Anyone who assaulted or harassed someone and escaped without a record should be thanking their lucky stars. Their minimal privation mostly consists of being economically comfortable and doing without attention for 10 or 11 months. But it’s not laughable! They mean it. They grew up in a world that taught them they “get to” do the things they did. They feel, accordingly, that they have been unjustly penalized. They believe they’re suffering greatly.

They believe their suffering matters, and women’s does not. Not even a little.

It’s almost funny. Almost. Imagine Harper’s and the NYRB running angst-fests by people who violently attack strangers on the street in order to steal their wallets – angst fests about how sad it is for the violent attackers, with nary a word about the smashed noses and broken teeth of the people they attacked. Wouldn’t happen, but when it’s specifically women…that changes everything.

It’s as if men and women have different pain scales emotionally as well as physically. Of course men believe they suffer more, and many women—having spent their lives accustomed to men’s feelings mattering more than everyone else’s—will agree with them. Most of us have been socialized to sympathize with men, the troubled geniuses, the heroes and antiheroes.

Women don’t get to be the troubled geniuses, the heroes and antiheroes; women are the boring empty trivial people who serve the troubled geniuses. Women are flat, like paper dolls.

It’s useful to have naked misogyny out in the open. It is now clear, and no exaggeration at all, that a significant percentage of men—most of them Republicans—believe that a guy’s right to a few minutes of “action” justifies causing people who happen to be women physical pain, lifelong trauma, or any combination of the two. They’ve decided—at a moment when they could easily have accepted Kavanaugh’s denial—that something larger was at stake: namely, the right to do as they please, freely, regardless of who gets hurt. Rather than deny male malfeasance, they’ll defend it.

It’s useful I guess but it’s also hard to bear. I know all this stuff but seeing men happily saying it the way Tom Nichols did over and over and over on Sunday is profoundly grating.

Amid an uproar

Sep 19th, 2018 11:34 am | By

Ian Buruma has left the NYRB. It’s not currently clear if he was pushed or not.

Ian Buruma, the editor of The New York Review of Books, left his position on Wednesday amid an uproar over the magazine’s publication of an essay by a disgraced Canadian radio broadcaster who had been accused of sexually assaulting and battering women.

“Amid” – thus not ascribing causation. Careful.

After rumors about [the piece] began appearing on social media, it was published online last Friday, causing immediate furor, with some criticizing what they saw as a self-pitying tone, and soft pedaling of the accusations against him, which included slapping and choking, and had ultimately been brought by more than 20 women, rather than “several,” as Mr. Ghomeshi wrote.

In an interview last week with Isaac Chotiner of Slate, which was posted not long after the piece, Mr. Buruma, who was named top editor of The New York Review of Books in 2017, defended his decision to publish Mr. Ghomeshi’s piece, noting that while “not everyone agreed,” once the decision was made the staff “stuck together.”

In his interview with Slate, when pressed by Mr. Chotiner about the several accusations of sexual assault against Mr. Ghomeshi, Mr. Buruma said: “I’m no judge of the rights and wrongs of every allegation. How can I be?” He also noted that Mr. Ghomeshi had been acquitted and said there was no proof he committed a crime, adding, “The exact nature of his behavior — how much consent was involved — I have no idea, nor is it really my concern.”

That was the really infuriating remark. I think what he meant was that he’s interested in Ghomeshi’s take, regardless of how badly behaved he was, as opposed to general indifference to how violently he may have abused women…but that still leaves unanswered the question why take such an abstract interest in a guy accused of treating female human beings as things to manipulate for his own pleasure? Why be so interested in the man accused of abusing women and so shruggy about the women who say he abused them? Why do women always come in a very distant second?

I suppose Bari Weiss will do a think piece on the foolhardiness of believing what women say about all these talented men.

“Justice Kavanaugh has been treated very, very tough.”

Sep 19th, 2018 11:21 am | By

Trump again sides with the man. In other news, flies swarm rotting meat.

President Trump said on Wednesday that he found a sexual assault allegation against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, his Supreme Court nominee, difficult to believe and described the furor surrounding it as “very unfair” to the judge.

He somehow managed to refrain from trashing the woman directly, but…

But he expressed sympathy for his nominee.

“Really, they’re hurting somebody’s life,” he said of the senators considering Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. “Justice Kavanaugh has been treated very, very tough, and his family. I think it’s a very unfair thing what’s going on.”

Him. Him him him. Never mind her, she doesn’t count. Yes if it’s true then he was the aggressor and she was the aggressee, but never mind that, all sympathy goes to the man, who is a man.

During his seven-minute encounter with reporters, Mr. Trump referred to his nominee as “Justice Kavanaugh” three times.

Spoiler: he’s not a justice.

“Look, if she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting and we’ll have to make a decision,” Mr. Trump said. “But I can only say this: He is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened.”

Well sure; we know that. It’s very hard for him to imagine anything he doesn’t like, and especially that any bitch of a woman has the right to get a man in trouble just for assaulting her. Women don’t matter; only men matter. Women are there to be slots for men’s penises, and no other purpose. Men are there to run the world. You do the math.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican committee member from South Carolina and ally of the president who was traveling with him on Wednesday, said that requiring an F.B.I. investigation before a hearing would not be “about finding the truth but delaying the process until after the midterm elections,” when Democrats hope to win control of the Senate.


“It is imperative the Judiciary Committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken as soon as possible,” Mr. Graham said in a statement.

Why is it imperative now when it wasn’t imperative in March 2016?

He guesses he studies history

Sep 19th, 2018 8:37 am | By

Trump’s project for this morning: trash Jeff Sessions some more. Sessions richly deserves trashing, but not for the reasons Trump is doing it.

“I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad,” Trump said in an interview with Hill.TV, in which he also said the former senator from Alabama came off as “mixed up and confused” when he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in January 2017.

Not as mixed up and confused as Trump comes off every time he opens his mouth.

Trump doubled down on his criticism of Sessions as he left the White House on Wednesday morning for North Carolina to survey hurricane damage.

“I’m disappointed in the attorney general for many reasons, and you understand that,” he told reporters.

In the interview, Trump suggested he appointed Sessions out of blind loyalty.

Well, no; out of the belief in Sessions’s blind loyalty is more like it.

Trump said Sessions did “very poorly” during the confirmation process.

“I mean, he was mixed up and confused, and people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him, but he was giving very confusing answers,” Trump said. “Answers that should have been easily answered. And that was a rough time for him.”

This from probably the stupidest most confused most confused-answers-giving head of government on the planet.

In the interview, Trump questioned Sessions’s self-recusal, asserting that the FBI “reported shortly thereafter any reason for him to recuse himself.”

It was not immediately clear what he meant.

See? Confused, and not good at the talking thing.

Trump, as president, could fire Sessions at any time, but for more than a year, he has chosen instead merely to insult his attorney general.


Trump did not offer a firm answer when asked about Sessions’s future by Hill.TV.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “A lot of people have asked me to do that. And I guess I study history, and I say I just want to leave things alone, but it was very unfair what he did.”

“We’ll see how it goes with Jeff,” Trump added. “I’m very disappointed in Jeff. Very disappointed.”

From the standpoint of water.

Guest post: The law uses a standard that corresponds to the stakes

Sep 18th, 2018 5:20 pm | By

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey on Prosecutors look for corroborating evidence.

I haven’t seen the apologists trot this one out yet, but based on discussions about Shermer, Krauss, et al, I’m sure it’s coming: “you can’t vote no on his nomination based on this unless there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt of his guilt!”

Bullshit. “Guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” is the legal standard used in criminal trials. There’s no good reason to apply that standard here.

First, there’s no need to “borrow” any particular legal standard at all. A Senate confirmation isn’t a legal trial at all, let alone a criminal one. Kavanaugh doesn’t have any real legal rights here whatsoever. He’s not entitled to due process on his Supreme Court nomination. (And if you think he is, I have two words for you: Merrick. Garland. He wasn’t even given a hearing or a vote, let alone a yes vote, based on no wrongdoing other than having been nominated by a black Democratic president.)

Second, even if you want to look to legal standards, the law has plenty of standards, of which “beyond a reasonable doubt” is the strictest. There’s “clear and convincing evidence,” there’s “preponderance of evidence” (which is sufficient to award a judgment against you even if it bankrupts you), there’s “probable cause” (which is enough to allow the police to show up at your home or place of business and tear the place apart looking for evidence — and you don’t even get a chance to argue the matter) and “reasonable suspicion” (which allows a cop to stop and frisk you).

The law uses a standard that corresponds to the stakes. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is reserved for those instances where someone is potentially being deprived of life or liberty. As the old saying goes, better to let ten guilty men go free than to imprison one innocent man. But why would that standard apply to an appointment to one of the highest jobs in the land? Is it really “better to allow ten attempted rapists on the Supreme Court than to deny one innocent man the honor?” (I suspect that for many people, the answer is yes: the prospect of a man being denied something on the word of a woman is so horrifying that it outweighs any other harms.)

To put it another way: what standard would you apply if you found out that a babysitter you were considering had been accused of child molestation? How many parents would say “well, he/she hasn’t been convicted….” or “well, it was just a he said/she said situation”? Would you really insist that the evidence be overwhelming before you moved on to one of the many other candidates?

Yale churns out ~200 graduates a year; Harvard another ~500+, and rumor has it there are actually other law schools in the country capable of producing Supreme Court justices. Even if you limit yourself to the subset that is Federalist Society-approved, that’s still a lot of options. Even conservatives weren’t claiming that Kavanaugh was clearly the “best” candidate on the shortlist, whatever “best” means in this context. It shouldn’t require overwhelming evidence of his unfitness (and I think we had plenty even pre-rape allegations) to say, “no thanks. Next!”

And it certainly is not good

Sep 18th, 2018 5:15 pm | By

“One of the wettest we’ve ever seen from the standpoint of water.”

“There’s been a loss of life and” – sticking flap-hands out to the side – “MAY GOD BE WITH THEM. AND THEIR FAMILIES.” When he remembers a formula his voice gets louder, because he’s not diverting energy to thinking of Correct Words To Say.

“It’s a tough one…tough to understand…but this has been a difficult period of time for a lot of people – FEMA!” – the hands shoot up into the air – “the job you’ve done, the military…uh, the Coast Guard – what you’ve done in saving so many lives has been…really something special.”

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Prosecutors look for corroborating evidence

Sep 18th, 2018 2:57 pm | By

Five prosecutors point out that prosecutors deal with conflicting claims all the time.

While some argue that the truth about this incident will come down to a “he said, she said” situation, that’s not how it looks to us. Prosecutors and investigators are confronted with these scenarios frequently and don’t just throw up their hands and say, “We can’t decide.” Instead, prosecutors look for corroborating evidence — and there are strong indications already that Ford is telling the truth about her attack. Here are some of those indicators:

First, there is corroboration. Ford’s therapist’s notes in 2012, provided to The Washington Post, generally record her account of the attack. To believe that this is a made-up tale to prevent Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Ford would have had to plant the seeds of this story in 2012. That makes no sense.

Second, while not determinative, the fact that Ford passed a polygraph administered by a former FBI agent lends credence to her claims. Polygraph exams are inadmissible in court because they are not always reliable, but the FBI and other law enforcement agencies frequently use polygraph tests to assess the credibility of witnesses and defendants.

In addition, consider the motives of Ford, who by all accounts is not a particularly politically active person, to go public with allegations of sexual assault. It appears that she did not want to speak publicly at all, but that reporters discovered her identity and pursued her. Ford knew that she would be personally attacked in front of her children, colleagues, students and friends. There is no reasonable explanation for why she would subject herself to such humiliation other than the reason she has given: that she felt she had a duty as a citizen to speak up.

A duty as a citizen with a particular kind of knowledge that should be very relevant when it comes to a Supreme Court candidate, especially one who will end abortion rights.

Ford’s delay in coming forward isn’t evidence that she’s lying, because there are other reasons for delaying, ones these prosecutors are familiar with.

If you are still inclined to believe that Ford is lying, ask yourself: Why would she create a defense witness by identifying Mark Judge, who was and still is indisputably a friend of Kavanaugh’s, as being present and participating in this attack? Why would she place at the scene an individual who could, because of loyalties to his friend, contradict her account if she were making this up? She wouldn’t.

Some have said that because these alleged acts occurred so long ago, when Kavanaugh was a teenager, they should not be disqualifying — even if true. We strongly disagree. In our criminal justice system, people 17 years old (and younger) are held accountable for acts they commit, sometimes in very harsh ways. It is simply not acceptable for one of the people tasked with overseeing that criminal justice system to not be held to the same standard.

Additionally, attempted rape is not simply an act of youthful recklessness, as some have cautioned. Few of us have such serious crimes in our pasts — and those who have committed them should not expect to easily be confirmed to posts like Supreme Court justice.

The five prosecutors are Mimi Rocah, Barbara McQuade, Jill Wine-Banks, Joyce White Vance and Maya Wiley.

Chuckle chuckle wink nudge

Sep 18th, 2018 2:36 pm | By

Oh really.

His beautiful young daughters

Sep 18th, 2018 12:47 pm | By

Trump thinks it’s a terrible terrible sad thing…for Kavanaugh.

“I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this,” Trump said at a White House press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda. “This is not a man that deserves this.”

Well of course President You Can Grab Them by the Pussy thinks that.

Trump on Tuesday chose to focus on the wrong he felt had been done to Kavanaugh, however. “I feel terribly for him, for his wife who is an incredible lovely woman and his beautiful young daughters,” said the president.

They’re hot, see. His wife is hot, and his daughters are hot. Obviously they wouldn’t matter if they weren’t, but they are, so Trump feels “terribly” (he means terrible) for them. Poor Brett Kavanaugh, who has a lovely (i.e. way too old now so kind of gross but she was hot once so we’ll call her lovely as a courtesy) and beautiful young [slobber drool I’d hit that] daughters – why should a man who owns a bunch of hot women be made to suffer?!

Oh, what about the woman who reports that Kavanaugh assaulted her?


Big stuff!

Sep 18th, 2018 12:21 pm | By

Jennifer Rubin on Trump’s latest move to obstruct justice:

The move is unprecedented. Never have we seen a president declassify documents in contravention of clear warnings from the intelligence community that doing so would harm national security. That this occurs in yet another effort to derail an investigation into his own wrongdoing, and to smear law enforcement officials, only underscores the degree to which Trump now puts his own political survival above the security of the American people.

I would omit that “now” – he’s done that all along.

“At best, a disgraceful distraction from the [Supreme Court nominee Brett M.] Kavanaugh matter; at worst, an abuse of power tantamount to obstruction of, and tampering with, the Russian investigation,” observes former FBI official Frank Figliuzzi. “People die when sources and methods are disclosed, this is not a game.”

That whole protect and defend the constitution thing? Pah, mere words.

Trump’s actions constitute such a grave violation of his oath to “take care” that laws are faithfully executed, his decision raises constitutional concerns. “Certainly, this is yet another action that triggers the threshold event of a House Judiciary Committee inquiry into abuse of power. Indeed, this is one of the more odious ones on the long and ever-growing list,” former White House ethics counsel Norman Eisen tells me. “To play political games with sensitive national security and law enforcement information is reprehensible. To use declassification as a pawn in his battles with his perceived adversaries is worse. It also weakens our national security and law enforcement, and so raises the danger to all of us.” Even if this issue alone does not constitute a singular impeachable offense, he says, if the declassification decision was “undertaken with corrupt intent, [it] certainly could form part of the mosaic of an obstruction case.”

Others see the abuse of presidential power regarding classification as a parallel, but distinct, issue. Constitutional scholar Laurence H. Tribe argues, “Has this president repeatedly and dangerously abused his powers to classify and declassify information — risking our national security to punish his critics (as with [former CIA director] John Brennan), undermine the work of those investigating him and his family, and reward family members with access to sensitive information they would otherwise be unable to access? The answer appears to be “yes” and, at least, the question warrants systematic investigation by the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.”

Protecting the boss

Sep 18th, 2018 12:10 pm | By

Greg Sargent at the Post:

President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress are running a systematic campaign of harassment and disruption directed at legitimate law enforcement activity being conducted on behalf of the American people — with the active goal of protecting Trump and his cronies from accountability and denying the public the full truth about a hostile foreign power’s effort to corrupt our democracy.

They call it “transparency” – which is idiotic, because “transparency” about ongoing investigations is not a thing. Sargent says this move will probably blow up in Trump’s face. I sure hope so.

Beyond this, the release is a remarkably brazen abuse of power. As national security expert David Kris notes, Trump is overruling national security professionals who wanted to keep certain portions secret to protect sources and methods — not for purposes of “transparency” in the “national interest,” but because he believes it will serve his own “self interest,” as a “subject” of this investigation.

That’s why I want to see it when it blows up in his face.

Genuine transparency is generally a laudable goal, and Trump, of course, has the authority to do these things, but his intent is what matters here. Trump is placing his own personal interests before those of the country, rendering this an abuse of that authority, under the guise of phony, selective, cherry-picked transparency. This is also a massive abuse of the public trust by his GOP allies. The whole point of legitimate oversight is to bolster public confidence in law enforcement, given the awesome powers it wields, but this is fake oversight designed to weaken public confidence in it — solely to serve Trump’s political needs.

The big problem we face is that, regardless of the facts, these situations allow Trump and his allies to exploit deep structural imbalances in our discourse and political media. Even if the new release debunks Trumpworld’s narrative, they will lie relentlessly in bad faith to the contrary, and madly cherry-pick from the new information to make their case. And they can count on assistance from a massive right-wing media infrastructure that will faithfully blare forth this narrative — even as the major news organizations adopt a much more careful approach that treats the interpretation of the new information as a matter for legitimate dispute, thus putting good-faith analysis and bad-faith propaganda on equal footing.

Rinse, repeat.

What about the deeper ethical question here?

Sep 18th, 2018 11:15 am | By

Ah the riches of the Intellectual Dark Web. Bari Weiss goes on tv to repeat the “who among us has not assaulted someone at 17, and should that really disqualify someone for a seat on the Supreme Court?” mantra.

WEISS: What about the deeper, moral, cultural, like, the ethical question here? Let’s say he did this exactly as she said. Should the fact that a 17 year old, presumably very drunk kid, did this, should this be disqualifying? That’s the question at the end of the day, isn’t it?

RUHLE: Wait, hold on. We’re not talking about should he be disqualified to be a dog catcher. We’re talking about to be a Supreme Court justice.

WEISS: I’m aware.

Cool, she’s aware, but why shouldn’t the standard for the Supreme Court be that high? It’s not even all that high, saying no assaulters thanks. The age cutoff is hardly an absolute. What if it’s a kid of 5? One who likes to kick dogs and cats, for instance? Do we just say “well, 5…” or do we recall that that can be a warning sign for psychopathy? The issue isn’t Kavanaugh breaking a window or smoking weed, it’s Kavanaugh assaulting a girl two years his junior. He looks to be a fairly beefy guy, and he had two years on her, and she was a girl. Yes this is something we should be taking seriously.

You know, if he’d done it to a boy two years his junior – jumped him, pinned him down, tried to drag his clothes off to humiliate him – I bet everyone would be taking that seriously. Everyone would grasp that that would show he was a bully as a teenager. But because it was a girl and the goal was sex, that somehow becomes not real violence any more. He didn’t want to hurt her, he just wanted to fuck her – and that’s totally understandable and forgivable and not something that should stand between him and ending abortion rights in the US for a generation.

Every man certainly should be worried

Sep 18th, 2018 10:48 am | By

Alexandra Petri wrote this scorching parody yesterday, and I regret not reading it until just now. (A whole day lost!)

“If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried.”
— A lawyer close to the White House, speaking to Politico

Look, who among us?

If, apparently, a single alleged assault at a single party decades ago is to be frowned upon, then no man is safe, right?

What’s next? You can’t harass a colleague and serve on the Supreme Court? You can’t pick up high schoolers outside custody hearings and serve in the Senate? You can’t have a meat locker full of female femurs and expect to breeze through your confirmation as interior secretary?

Right? Won’t somebody at last think of the men and boys before it’s too late?

I wonder if she too saw Tom Nichols’s tweets and was inspired by them.

“Things you did as a minor.” It’s funny (i.e. infuriating) how consistently he veiled it, how adamantly he refused to say “35 year old accusations of assaulting a teenage girl” in all that fretting about precedents.

Back to Petri:

This isn’t just my worry. This isn’t just something horrible I am now revealing about myself. This is an every-man problem.

If suddenly, as a country, we decide that violently attempting to assault someone is, like, bad, then that knocks out 98, maybe 99 percent of men, just going off the locker-room talk I’ve heard.

Look, which of us is 100 percent certain all his sexual encounters are consensual? That isn’t most people’s baseline, surely? You’re telling me I am supposed to encounter dozens, hundreds, thousands of women in my life, some drunk and some sober and some with really good legs and just … not assault any of them?

It’s funny, in a bitter way, but it’s also real.

I mean, it’s not as though they’re people, are they? At the moment of conception, yes, but then they come out Daughters, not people! They grow into objects; some become Wives or Mothers, others Hags or Crones. Then they die! If they were people, we would not expect dominion over their bodies, surely; if they were people, we would not feel entitled to their smiles. If they were people, I could read a novel with a female protagonist and not be instantly confused and alarmed.

No. They are an unintelligible something else. They are to be put on pedestals, as John Kelly urges, or groped, as the president urges. They are impervious to cold, capable of wearing a bikini on the most frigid day to please us; they can run great distances in heels without discomfort; they were created for us from a rib and designed as our companion. If they have wants of their own, there is really no way of knowing.

And even if they do have wants of their own, those wants are rudimentary and shallow, and forgotten in an instant. They may seem to struggle and resist when we throw them onto beds and jump on top of them, cover their screaming mouths with our hands, and drag their clothes off, but actually it’s just a reflex, with no connection to anything going on in their tiny smooth brains.

If assault renders a man unfit to serve on the Supreme Court, then how are we to discern the Founders’ intent? I mean, Jefferson, hello? And what is going to become of the presidency? Who wants to live in that world?

Every man should be worried. If boys cannot be boys, then how can boys be men who rise to the highest offices in the land? If this stops being something you can get away with, then will anyone still be above the law?

Yeah, I don’t see this whole move getting anywhere.