What to make of the allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford about Bret Kavanaugh?

Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend -- both "stumbling drunk," Ford alleges -- corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.

While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

"I thought he might inadvertently kill me," said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. "He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing."

Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh's friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house.

Kavanaugh and Judge categorically deny that any such event ever happened.

So what do we do with this claim? First off, it's worth pointing out that there's zero likelihood of prosecuting Kavanaugh for this alleged offense. Whatever happened happened over 35 years ago. There's no way to prove anything, and we're way beyond the statute of limitations. So the real question is, how should this accusation affect the confirmation process?

1. Kavanaugh has no right to join the Supreme Court. He suffers no injustice if his confirmation is derailed. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" isn't (and can't be) the standard for rejecting a political candidate -- and that's exactly what a Supreme Court nominee is. We The People have the right to reject aspiring politicians for any and all reasons, both high and low. Each of us is free to weigh the credibility of Kavanaugh and Ford and reach whatever decision seems best to us. It would be unjust (at this point) to demand a criminal prosecution, but it's perfectly reasonable to demand that he not be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

2. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" is too high to be the standard for rejecting a political candidate, but what should the standard be? Must a person be so guiltless that no accusation of wrongdoing is brought against him? Or no "reasonable" accusation (whatever "reasonable" means)? Or no accusation of a certain category or severity? We're each free to have our own standards, but it might be helpful to make them explicit in our own minds.

3. It's also useful to think systemically -- beyond any specific case. Do we want a system whereby opponents can derail a political candidate with a single uncorroborated accusation? What about two independent accusations, or three? There's probably some number of independent, uncorroborated accusations that would convince each person to withdraw political support from a preferred candidate. For example, Bill Cobsy had 60 accusers, which is quite convincing even though only three counts were proven at trial. I, personally, am quite comfortable shunning a person who has been accused of sexual assault by 60 people -- and I bet my real number is much lower than 60.

4. Does it matter than the alleged event occurred when Kavanaugh (then 17) and Ford (then 15) were both children? It could matter in at least two ways. A) You may consider the alleged behavior less offensive because Kavanaugh was young. B) You may consider that adult-Kavanaugh shouldn't be judged for what young-Kavanaugh did so long ago. In this specific case, 17-years-old isn't particularly young, so (A) may be less relevant than in the general case.

5. None of the blog posts or news reports that I've seen have mentioned it, but neither Kavanaugh nor Ford would be in this mess if they had followed the Pence rule (a.k.a., the Billy Graham rule. Aspiring politicians take note.

Update:

What the heck? Brett Kavanaugh's mother was the judge in in a 1996 home-foreclosure case in which the defendants were the parents of Kavanaugh's accuser Christine Blasey Ford. Here's the docket.


The US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine conclude that paper ballots are the most secure method for conducting elections.

The report, released on 6 September, calls for all US elections to be conducted using such ballots by the 2020 presidential election. It comes after US intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government backed attempts to infiltrate the United States's election infrastructure during the 2016 presidential election. The report's recommendations were developed by a committee whose members had experience ranging from computer science to officiating elections.

Check out what method your state uses, and if there's no "paper trail" call your legislator. Eliminating "Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) Systems" entirely would seem to be prudent.


With serendipitous timing we learn that Brian Amerige, a senior Facebook engineer, has written an internal post about the company's lack of political diversity. Of course we all remember the outcry when Google engineer James Damore wrote a similar thesis a year ago and was quickly fired, but this time the writing was leaked just as President Trump has been denouncing the company and barely a week before Facebook's COO is scheduled to testify before the Senate.

The dispute over employees' political ideology arose a week before Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, is scheduled to testify at a Senate hearing about social media manipulation in elections. A team helping Ms. Sandberg get ready for the hearing next Wednesday has warned her that some Republican lawmakers may raise questions about Facebook and biases, according to two people involved in the preparations.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump again brought up the issue of bias by tech companies with tweets attacking Google. In remarks later in the day, he widened his focus to include Twitter and Facebook.

Those companies "better be careful because you can't do that to people," Mr. Trump said. "I think that Google, and Twitter and Facebook, they are really treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful. It is not fair to large portions of the population."

So will Amerige be fired? I predict not, but oh the wailing and gnashing of teeth.


Legal euthanasia is a slippery slope, as Canadian Roger Foley has demonstrated by releasing tapes of hospital staff seeming to urge him to take his own life.

"You have already violated my preferences...So what is the plan that you know of?" Foley asks the man.

"Roger, this is not my show," the man replies. "I told you my piece of this was to talk to you about if you had interest in assisted dying."

In a separate audio recording from January 2018, another man is heard asking Foley how he's doing and whether he feels like he wants to harm himself.

Foley tells the man that he's "always thinking I want to end my life" because of the way he's being treated at the hospital and because his requests for self-directed care have been denied.

The man is then heard telling Foley that he can "just apply to get an assisted, if you want to end your life, like you know what I mean?"

When Foley says that he is being forced to end his life, the man protests and says that's not the case.

"Oh, no, no, no," the man is heard saying. "I'm saying if you feel that way...You know what I mean? Don't get me wrong. I'm saying I don't want you to be in here and wanting to take your life."

Euthanasia is much cheaper than medical treatment, so it shouldn't be a surprise that the incentives in a government-run system line up in that direction.


New York Times has hired Sarah Jeong, who apparently doesn't like white people very much.

Jeong.jpg

Jeong can like or hate anyone she wants, and the NYT can hire anyone it wants... but this is an example of why trust in the mainstream media is at an all-time low.

The NYT says that Jeong "regrets" her previous "approach" to social media but... does she still think the same things that she thought from 2013 to 2015? There's no indication that she has changed her mind, only that from now on she intends to write hateful things in a less forthright manner.


Trump's support among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents remains remarkably high -- higher than Obama's support among Democrats was at this time in his presidency.

The media has focused on the strong support that Trump voters have for their president and Pew verified it.

Over Trump's time in the White House, Pew said that he has received the support of 84 percent of Republicans. That is more than Obama had or former President George W. Bush had and the last president to reach that level was John F. Kennedy. What's more, their numbers fluctuates but Trump's has held steady no matter what.

It's really interesting to consider how immense negativity from the media has affected the public's view of Trump. I'd guess that Trump's media opponents intend for their negativity to drive down his approval among everyone, but Trump gets a lot of mileage from the feud among his base. The feud (which both Trump and the media are responsible for, natch) is strengthening feelings on both sides but not actually changing anyone's mind at this point.


John Hinderaker points out a great example of AP reporters Ken Thomas and Jill Colvin intentionally missing the point Trump is trying to make.

Tuesday night's freewheeling rally lasted more than an hour and included numerous attacks on the media, as well as one glaring false claim. Trump was railing against the idea of noncitizens voting and advocating stricter voting laws when he claimed that IDs are required for everything else, including shopping.

"If you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card, you need ID," he said at the event at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. "You go out and you want to buy anything, you need ID and you need your picture."

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to questions about when the billionaire president last bought groceries or anything else himself. Photo IDs are required for certain purchases, such as alcohol, cigarettes or cold medicine.

Is the point about groceries? Is the point about who does Trump's shopping (or Hillary's, or Obama's)? Obviously the argument Trump is making is that requiring identification to vote is reasonable, since identification is already required for many mundane transactions (like buying groceries with a credit card or check). Journalists may or may not agree with his proposal, but they should at least engage with the President's proposal in good faith rather than pretending that it's incomprehensible.


I noted yesterday that President Trump keeps doing the same things because his approach is working for him. Today Dov Fischer sarcastically writes that everyone is smart except Trump.

It really is quite simple. Everyone is smart except Donald J. Trump. That's why they all are billionaires and all got elected President. Only Trump does not know what he is doing. Only Trump does not know how to negotiate with Vladimir Putin. Anderson Cooper knows how to stand up to Putin. The whole crowd at MSNBC does. All the journalists do.

They could not stand up to Matt Lauer at NBC. They could not stand up to Charlie Rose at CBS. They could not stand up to Mark Halperin at NBC. Nor up to Leon Wieseltier at the New Republic, nor Jann Wenner at Rolling Stone, nor Michael Oreskes at NPR, at the New York Times, or at the Associated Press. But -- oh, wow! -- can they ever stand up to Putin! Only Trump is incapable of negotiating with the Russian tyrant.


Byron York has a good analysis of why President Trump seems so resistant to acknowledging Russian meddling with our political system. He could have simply agreed with the widespread consensus that Russia tried to interfere with the 2016 election, but instead he refused to give a straightforward answer.

The president clearly believes if he gives an inch on the what-Russia-did part -- if he concedes that Russia made an effort to disrupt the election -- his adversaries, who want to discredit his election, undermine him, and force him from office, will take a mile on the get-Trump part. That's consistent with how Trump approaches other problems; he doesn't admit anything, because he knows his adversaries will never be satisfied and just demand more.

But Trump's approach doesn't work for the Trump-Russia probe. There's no reason he could not accept the verdicts of the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Intelligence Community, and, yes, Mueller, that Russia tried to interfere in the election. There would be no political loss, and, in fact, great political gain, for Trump to endorse that finding.

At the same time, there is nothing wrong with Trump fighting back hard against the get-Trump part of the investigation. Voters know that Democrats, Resistance, and NeverTrump activists have accused Trump of collusion for two years and never proven their case. Mueller has charged lots of people with crimes, but none has involved collusion. That could still change -- no one should claim to know what is coming next from Mueller -- but Trump, as a matter of his own defense, is justified in repeating the "no collusion" and "witch hunt" mantras.

York wrote, "Trump's approach doesn't work for the Trump-Russia probe", but for several years now we've been hearing about how "Trump's approach doesn't work" for hundreds of challenges -- and yet it seems to be working better and more consistently than previous, more conventional approaches. Trump's approach doesn't work every time, but neither does conventional thinking. Trump has had incredible success with his approach so far, so one can understand why he sticks with it.


I'll resist the urge to make a Strzok/"struck" pun, but here are three takes on the man's Congressional testimony.

First, Andrew C. McCarthy says that his testimony illustrates that the Congressional investigations are a farce.

The principal question before the joint investigation of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees is whether the Democratic administration's law-enforcement and intelligence arms strained to manufacture an espionage case against the Republican candidate, having buried an eminently prosecutable criminal case against the Democratic presidential nominee.

It should be straightforward to answer this question, provided that the investigative process has the one attribute central to any credible probe: the capacity to compel the production of evidence and testimony, with the corollary power to hold witnesses in contempt for defiance.

The House investigation has devolved into farce because it lacks this feature.

Second, Mark Penn highlights the flat-out lies by "deep state" actors.

I've seen President Clinton deny he had a relationship with "that woman, Miss Lewinsky." I've seen President Obama assure people they will get to keep their doctor under ObamaCare. And I've seen former press secretary Sean Spicer declare that President Trump's inaugural crowd was larger than Obama's.

But these falsehoods pale in comparison to the performances of a series of "deep state" witnesses who have combined chutzpah with balderdash, culminating so far in the testimony of FBI agent Peter Strzok.

Let's review just some of the highlights.

Third, Michael Goodwin says that while the whole FBI isn't rotten, the head sure was.

Then there is Comey's successor, Wray. He looks as if he wandered into the wrong movie theater and can't find the exit.

He defined himself as unwilling to tackle the mess he inherited by downplaying the devastating inspector general report on the handling of the Clinton investigation. While conceding the findings made it "clear we've got some work to do," he minimized them by saying, "It's focused on a specific set of events back in 2016, and a small number of FBI employees connected with those events. Nothing in the report impugns the integrity of our workforce as a whole, or the FBI as an institution."

Baloney. While it's true only a fraction of the total employees were singled out, they were the director of the FBI, his top deputy, the deputy's top lawyer and Strzok, the head of counterintelligence.

Others were also faulted, but not named, including an agent who tried to get his son a job on Clinton's campaign while sending campaign boss John Podesta "heads up" emails.


I've been advocating the repeal of the 17th Amendment for a long time -- the direct election of Senators has weakened States and Congress, and strengthened the Presidency and the Supreme Court. Glenn Reynold's tongue-in-cheek (?) proposal to expand SCOTUS to 59 justices sounds like a promising way to re-empower the States and (continue to) bypass the dysfunctional Congress.

OK, 1,001 justices might be too many, but perhaps we should substantially expand the Supreme Court. After all, if the country can be thrown into a swivet by the retirement of a single 81-year-old man, it suggests that the Supreme Court has become too important, and too sensitive to small changes, to play its role constructively as it's currently made up.

Increasing the number of justices would reduce the importance of any single retirement or appointment. And it would also reduce the mystique of the court, which I see as a feature, not a bug. Nine justices could seem like a special priesthood; two or three times that number looks more like a legislature, and those get less respect. Which would be fair. ...

So forget 15 justices. Let's keep the nine we have who are appointed by the president, and add one from each state, to be appointed by governors, and then confirmed by the Senate. Fifty-nine justices is enough to ensure (I hope) that they aren't all from Harvard and Yale as is the case now, and enough to limit the mystique of any particular justice. If the Supreme Court is going to function, as it does, like a super-legislature, it might as well be legislature-sized.

I love this idea, and it doesn't require a Constitutional amendment.


And now they're reaping the whirlwind. Remember this from 2013?

reid filibuster 2.jpg

Weakening the filibuster weakened the institution of the Senate and strengthened the Presidency, regardless of which party holds the majority in the chamber. It was a short-sighted decision by Harry Reid and the Democrats, taken for partisan advantage, and the Republicans doubled-down in 2017. De-escalation would would require the parties to trust each other, but that's impossible in the present political climate.

I personally think America would be better off with a stronger, more active, less risk-adverse Congress. The omnibus spending bills, partisan oversight committees, and delegation of lawmaking powers to the executive bureaucracy are all dangerous, and can generally traced back to the 17th Amendment which established the popular election of Senators. There's no panacea, but repealing the 17th Amendment would be a good start at fixing the current mess in the Senate.


As much as leftists decry originalism, they should be careful what they wish for: they'd really hate a right-wing "living Constitutionalist".

But Barnett made another point that's worth thinking about here: What if right-leaning jurists listened to their critics on the left, and adopted a "living Constitution" approach instead of relying on what the Framers understood the text to mean? As Barnett asks: "Why would you possibly want a nonoriginalist 'living constitutionalist' conservative judge or justice who can bend the meaning of the text to make it evolve to conform to conservative political principles and ends? However much you disagree with it, wouldn't you rather a conservative justice consider himself constrained by the text of the Constitution like, say, the Emoluments Clause?"

Reynolds speculates about new individual rights and government limitations a right-wing "living Constitutionalist" might find/create, and it's a pretty persuasive argument for originalism.


This table from Open Secrets showing union contributions pretty much explains why liberals and Democrats are mad about Janus v. AFSCME.

public sector union contributions.jpg

As President F.D.R. warned us, public sector unions are "unthinkable and intolerable".


In another 5-4 decision, SCOTUS ruled this morning that members of public employee unions can't be forced to pay for political speech. These kinds of decisions are exactly why many people voted for Trump instead of Hillary.

In 1977, when public sector unions were getting established, the high court said teachers and other public employees may not be forced to pay full union dues if some of the money went for political contributions. But the justices upheld the lesser fair share fees on the theory that all of the employees benefited from a union contract and its grievance procedures.

But today's more conservative court disagreed and said employees have a right not to give any support to a union. These payments were described as a form of "compelled speech" which violates the 1st Amendment.

The anti-union National Right to Work Foundation, which funded the challenge, predicted the ruling would free more than 5 million public employees from supporting their unions.

For the unions, which traditionally support Democrats, the ruling will mean an immediate loss of some funding and a gradual erosion in their membership. Union officials fear that an unknown number of employees will quit paying dues if doing so is entirely optional.

An organization that takes your money by force as a condition of employment is inherently unjust. Voluntary associations of all kinds -- unions, governments, churches, corporations, clubs -- should be protected, but no one should be forced to join or fund something against their will. This is liberty 101.


How stupid do they think we are? Just like Jim Comey's "exoneration" of Hillary Clinton, the FBI Inspector General's report overflows with findings of criminality and then proclaims that there's nothing to see here. What's the deal? Why bother documenting over 500 pages of damning evidence just to withhold judgement?

"[W]e did not have confidence that Strzok's decision was free from bias." Delicately put. After reading some of the violently anti-Trump effusions the two exchanged, you might find your confidence that their behavior was "free from bias" shaken as well. Try this:
Page: "[Trump's] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!"

Strzok: "No. No he won't. We'll stop it."

This shocking exchange has rightly been front and center in the cataract of commentary that has been disgorged about the IG report over the last few days. It is just one of the scores of examples of what Andrew McCarthy crisply described as the "ceaseless stream of anti-Trump bile" adduced in the report--adduced, and then half swept under the rug in a forest of anodyne verbiage.

"We'll stop it."

Who is "we"? Not Peter Strzok and Lisa Page as individuals. It's the collective or institutional "we": "We, that is the FBI, will stop Donald Trump from becoming president of the United States."

Even more egregious, that damning exchange was redacted from earlier transcripts provided to Congress. Why? Because revealing it endangers national security? Um, no. It doesn't take a genius to connect the dots here.

Listen up government employees: the American people respect your service to our country, but you're not our masters. You work for us. You're free to vote for anyone you want, but you must not use your public offices to undermine democracy.


I'd love for Bill Clinton to elaborate on what you used to be able to "do to somebody against their will"!

Former President Bill Clinton suggested the "norms have changed" in society for what "you can do to somebody against their will" in response to a question about former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken's resignation from Congress following sexual harassment allegations.

"I think the norms have really changed in terms of, what you can do to somebody against their will, how much you can crowd their space, make them miserable at work," Clinton told PBS Newshour in an interview that aired Thursday.

I especially love Clinton's use of the non-gendered "their".


Sharyl Attkisson has a brilliant recasting of the "Russia investigation" as if it were an attempted bank robbery and the government decided to investigate the bank instead of the robbers, and then didn't even bother to prevent the robbery.

Once upon a time, the FBI said some thugs planned to rob a bank in town. Thugs are always looking to rob banks. They try all the time. But at this particular time, the FBI was hyper-focused on potential bank robberies in this particular town.

The best way to prevent the robbery -- which is the goal, after all -- would be for the FBI to alert all the banks in town. "Be on high alert for suspicious activity," the FBI could tell the banks. "Report anything suspicious to us. We don't want you to get robbed."

Instead, in this fractured fairytale, the FBI followed an oddly less effective, more time-consuming, costlier approach. It focused on just one bank. And, strangely, it picked the bank that was least likely to be robbed because nobody thought it would ever get elected president -- excuse me, I mean, because it had almost no cash on hand. (Why would robbers want to rob the bank with no cash?)

Just go read the whole thing.


Why does our political class have such an obsession with style? "Never Trump" Republicans loathe the president primarily because he offends their aesthetic sensibilities, and now Justice Neil Gorsuch's critics are condemning him for his style as well.

Gorsuch quickly antagonized his colleagues on the bench, reportedly skipping a justices-only meeting Chief Justice John Roberts had asked him to attend and then dominating oral arguments in the first case he heard, about a workplace-discrimination claim. He later dissented in the case, lecturing the majority for overstepping its bounds. "If a statute needs repair, there is a constitutionally prescribed way to do it. It's called legislation," he wrote. "Congress already wrote a perfectly good law. I would follow it." In cases since, he has come across as "awkward," "condescending," and "tone-deaf," in the words of NPR's Nina Totenberg, and has prompted Court watchers to comb his opinions for egregiously gassy prose -- then launch them into Twitter orbit with the hashtag #GorsuchStyle.

"That style stuff is what has infuriated people on the left more so than anything else," says Ian Samuel, who teaches at Harvard Law School and co-hosts the influential Supreme Court podcast First Mondays. "He's not any more conservative than Justice Alito, for example, but attracts a disproportionate amount of hate.

Is this appeal to stylistic sensibilities growing more common because it garners more agreement from the target audience? Perhaps more people dislike Trump's style than dislike his policies, and more people dislike Gorsuch's style than dislike his rulings?

I don't think the fixation on style over substance does America any good.


I saw "Solo" yesterday with my family, and it was good. Apparently it isn't making as much money as expected, and many people are luke-warm towards it. However, it was light-years better than "The Last Jedi", and pretty much delivered exactly what I expected. The plot wasn't brilliant, but that has never been the point of Star Wars.

I grew up on Star Wars and love Star Wars, but let's be honest: the magic of those movies is inextricably dependent on the magic of our own youth. Nothing we see now as adults will elicit the same response.

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