Michael Cohen seems like a "rat" but former chairman of the Federal Election Commission Bradley A. Smith says that what Cohen plead guilty to isn't even a crime.

To this intuitively obvious fact -- very few people would think paying hush money is a legitimate campaign expenditure -- those eager to hang a charge on Mr. Trump typically respond that he made the payments when he did because of the looming election. That may be true, but note that the same is true of the entrepreneur, who instructs his counsel to settle the lawsuits pending against him. Further, note that in both cases, while the candidate has no legal obligation to pay at all, the events that give rise to the claim against him are unrelated to the campaign for office. Paying them may help the campaign, but the obligations exist "irrespective" of the run for office. Mr. Trump's alleged decade-old affairs occurred long before he became a candidate for president and were not caused by his run for president.

Further clinching the case, in writing its implementing regulations for the statute, the Federal Election Commission specifically rejected a proposal that an expense could be considered a campaign expenditure if it were merely "primarily related to the candidate's campaign." This was done specifically to prevent candidates from claiming that things that benefitted them personally were done because they would also benefit the campaign. And with that in mind, it is worth noting Mr. Cohen's sentencing statement, in which he writes that he "felt obligated to assist [Trump], on [Trump's] instruction, to attempt to prevent Woman-1 and Woman-2 from disseminating narratives that would adversely affect the Campaign and cause personal embarrassment to Client-1 and his family." (Emphasis in original.)

Do you think Trump's critics would have been satisfied if he had used declared campaign money to pay off his mistresses? I don't.

John Hinderaker suggests that under this new theory there are many more illegal campaign contributions yet to be found.

If we are going to start prosecuting illegal campaign contributions-sadly, too late to go after Barack Obama's two scofflaw campaigns-maybe we should begin by charging Google and its executives with federal crimes. Earlier today, Google's CEO, Sundar Pichai, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on, among other things, Google's apparent attempt to help Hillary Clinton win the 2016 presidential election. Tyler O'Neil at PJ Media reports:
On Tuesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai struggled to respond to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)'s persistent questions about an email from Google's former head of multicultural marketing, Eliana Murillo, reporting that the company attempted to push out the Latino vote "in key states" during the 2016 election. Murillo's email, reported by Fox News's Tucker Carlson, essentially admitted that Google had given Hillary Clinton an in-kind donation during that key election.

I look forward to all the upcoming prosecutions that this new interpretation of the law will lead to -- finally one sure way to get money out of politics!


The Australian government has made a monumentally stupid decision to essentially ban encryption.

The new law, which has been pushed for since at least 2017, requires that companies provide a way to get at encrypted communications and data via a warrant process. It also imposes fines of up to A$10 million for companies that do not comply and A$50,000 for individuals who do not comply. In short, the law thwarts (or at least tries to thwart) strong encryption.

"Strong encryption" is just encryption -- weak encryption is no better than nothing.

Apple has the right take:

Silicon Valley has largely decried Canberra's new law. In particular, Apple, which famously resisted American efforts to break its own encryption during a 2015 terrorism investigation, previously told Australian lawmakers that what they are legislating is impossible.

"Some suggest that exceptions can be made, and access to encrypted data could be created just for only those sworn to uphold the public good," Apple continued. "That is a false premise. Encryption is simply math. Any process that weakens the mathematical models that protect user data for anyone will, by extension, weaken the protections for everyone. It would be wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who pose a threat."

Great way to undermine every Australian industry that depends on encryption... which is all of them.


This analysis of the 4th National Climate Assessment is a great explanation of my general views on climate change. My thoughts are:

  • Earth's climate is changing, and it has never been static
  • Human activity isn't contributing much to the change
  • A general warming trend would be good for humanity
  • Therefore, we shouldn't disrupt our energy production and economy in an attempt to manipulate earth's climate

I highly recommend reading the whole analysis.

Due to the considerable doubt about the magnitude of the human contribution to climate change it would seem foolish to destroy the fossil fuel industry, throwing millions out of work and crushing the world's economy with higher energy prices. Anything this foolish and destructive should certainly wait until (and if) the climate models used to create the projections used in NCA4 volume two are validated and produce a much tighter set of projections than seen in Figure 1. However, the chapter on adaptation is still valid. If some climate changes are harmful in some areas, these ideas are useful. Regardless of how much climate change is man-made, communities should adapt by improving their infrastructure to resist climate-related threats. Coastal areas should improve storm-surge and flood barriers, the western U.S. should improve their forest management to make fighting forest fires easier, every part of the U.S. should improve their surface water drainage, etc. Adaptation is an obvious thing to do, the benefits of mitigation (reducing fossil fuel use) are far more speculative and much less likely to be effective (May 2018). Bjorn Lomborg has also written extensively about this in his book Cool It and in articles such as this one. NCA4 reports that construction of adaptation infrastructure in the U.S. has increased since 2014, which is a good thing (page 53, Report-in-Brief).


Glenn Reynolds writes that Trump should bust the big tech monopolies and I certainly agree.

Roosevelt built a strong reputation by going after the trusts, huge combinations that placed control of entire industries in the hands of one or a few men. He broke up John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil, the Google of its day. He shut down J.P. Morgan's Northern Securities Co., which would have monopolized rail transportation in much of the United States. And he pursued numerous other cases (45 in all) that broke up monopolies and returned competition to markets.

Roosevelt operated against a Gilded Age background in which a few companies had, by means both fair and foul, eliminated virtually all competition. This was bad for consumers, as it drove prices up. It was also, surprisingly, bad for shareholders: Wu notes that Standard Oil's value actually increased post-breakup, as it went from inefficient monopoly to a collection of competitive companies. Most of all, it was bad for American society.

Big monopolies aren't just an economic threat: They're a political threat. Because they're largely free of market constraints, they don't have to put all their energy into making a better product for less money. Instead, they put a lot of their energy into political manipulation to protect their monopoly.

Even though these tech companies tend to lean far to the political left, both leftists and rightists should be able to agree that we'd all be better off if these behemoths were broken up. Given the populist surge in America right now it's hard to imagine our next President, whether from the left or right, will be an elitist technocrat in the mold of Obama or Bush. These monopolies are living on borrowed time.


I don't know who will win in court over Jim Acosta's press pass, but I'm pretty tired in general of lawyers fractally parsing our laws into incomprehensible gibberish. "Legal analysts" quoted by the media are predicting that CNN will win the lawsuit, but it's pretty obvious they shouldn't. The First Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It's obvious that no individual person has a right to a press pass to the White House. Jim Acosta is free to continue writing and saying whatever he wants. He has no right to have access to the President, either at the White House or anywhere else. If I applied for a White House press pass I'd be denied, and no one would be up in arms about it. Jim Acosta has no more rights than you or I do.

What's more, his employer, CNN, has dozens of press passes for its employees. To the extent that the First Amendment should be understood to protect corporations, CNN has plenty of alternatives to Jim Acosta. Even if you think CNN has a right to access the White House (which would be absurd) there's no reason they have to send Jim Acosta.

President Trump is obviously correct to assert that he is under no obligation to let any journalists into the White House.

Donald Trump sought Wednesday to land a massive blow in his long-fought battle against the news media, with administration lawyers asserting in court that the president could bar "all reporters" from the White House complex for any reason he sees fit.

The sweeping claim, which came in the first public hearing over CNN's lawsuit to restore correspondent Jim Acosta's White House credentials, could have a dramatic impact on news organizations' access to government officials if it is upheld in court.

Politico's characterization is dramatic and overwrought. Public officials don't talk to reporters because they're forced to by the Constitution, or merely because the reporters have physical access to a certain location. They talk to reporters when they want to. The relationship between a president and the journalists who cover him really depends on the whims of the president. Here's some data on the number of press conferences held by recent presidents:

By president: Total / average per month:

Obama - 163 / 1.72
George W. Bush - 210 / 2.18
Bill Clinton - 193 / 2.01
George H. W. Bush - 137 / 2.85
Reagan - 46 / 0.48
Carter- 59 / 1.23
Ford - 40 / 1.36
Nixon - 39 /0.59
Lyndon B. Johnson - 135 /2.18
JFK - 65 /1.91
Eisenhower - 193 /2.01
Truman - 324 / 3.48
Franklin Roosevelt - 1,020/ 7.0
Hoover - 268 / 5.58
Coolidge - 407 / 6.07

President Trump talks more than any past president -- directly to citizens via Twitter even if not to the media. He's under no Constitutional obligation to talk to anyone.


Being loyal to your friends, family, God, and country is a generally seen as an admirable trait, in stark contrast to the traitor who turns against people who put their trust in him. But Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker isn't appropriately loyal to the president who appointed him, he's a no-good Trump loyalist!

The main complaint lodged against the acting attorney general is that Whitaker is a Trump loyalist: During his tenure as Sessions' chief of staff, Whitaker reportedly served as a "balm" between the Justice Department and the president, acting as the president's "eyes and ears" within what Trump viewed "an enemy institution."

Consider former Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch -- were they loyal, or loyalists? It's hard to imagine either of them allowing a special counsel to investigate Obama or Hillary under any circumstances. Would we prefer unelected, nearly unaccountable appointees to govern us according to their own will, rather than the Will of the People as embodied in their elected President? President Trump has already had to waste two years bending the bureaucracy to the will of the electorate, and the DOJ has been among the most intransigent.

The proof came early: Within two weeks of Trump's inauguration, acting attorney general and Obama administration holdover Sally Yates directed Justice attorneys not to defend the president's travel ban, forcing Trump to fire her. Since then, congressional investigations, Freedom of Information Act requests and dedicated work by Sessions have exposed additional efforts by Justice and FBI career employees to undermine the president. And yet even after nearly two years of cleaning house, just two months ago a supposedly senior official in the Trump administration claimed anonymously in the New York Times that "many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda."

While Trump's opponents may cheer such insubordination, our country suffers when unelected and unknown bureaucrats seek to thwart the agenda of the man freely chosen by voters to serve as our president. Whitaker's fidelity to Trump may be striking in contrast to the status quo in the D.C. swamp, but it is most assuredly not a stain on the acting attorney general's credentials or character.

It's not too much to expect loyalty from your subordinates; if you can't be loyal in good conscience, then you should resign. You'll have another chance to make your case to the American people in the next election.


Monica Showalter argues that Obama's campaigning was ineffective because many of the candidates he worked for lost, but I think that's the wrong way to look at it.

That said, the big loser who stands out here is hard-campaigning President Obama, the guy who thought he was the star of the Democratic Party and who, throwing the tradition of former presidents staying aloof from politics out the window, campaigned hard, long, and loud, for Democrats in this midterm. Turns out the ones he fought the hardest for lost.

Now he stands exposed as politically irrelevant, powerless, an embarrassment. Sorry 'bout that legacy thing, Barry-O.

Some of the Democrats campaigned for were in very tough races. If Obama wanted to maximize his "win rate", he would have stuck to the easy races.

But then there were the midterm campaigns that weren't gimmes, some very high profile, and high media-exposure ones: Joe Donnelly of Indiana for Senate. Bill Nelson of Florida for Senate. Andrew Gillum of Florida for governor. Stacey Abrams of Georgia for governor.

Those were the ones Obama went hoarse campaigning for, yelling and waving his arms, voice cracking, speeches described as fiery, telling voters to vote for these guys or die. With Gillum in particular, racial appeals were a factor and Obama's presence was supposed to help. Gillum had a big media buildup about being a first black governor of Florida as an argument to draw votes, and he later cried racism to fend off corruption allegations. Adding Obama to campaign was obviously part of the appeal. This time, the race-politics identity card simply failed.

And Obama? What did he get? Zilch. Zip. Zero. Nada. The voters rather noticibly rejected the ex-president's appeal for votes. Been there, done that.

The listed candidates faced an uphill battle, and many of the races were very close. I'd say that the Republican victories reflect voter preference for Republican policies, not a failure on the part of Barack Obama.


It's natural to expect big results when "your team" controls the levers of power in Washington D.C., but as Republicans have noticed over the past two years you're likely to be disappointed. President Trump has had some major victories in the first half of his first term, but few legislative accomplishments. But maybe Congressional inaction is the best that Americans can hope for these days, and that's exactly what last night's election results are set to deliver.

The idea that gridlock is good is based on the notion that most of what Congress does is probably bad, and that when Congress can't do much we're better off. As Bill Kort wrote in 2017, "Gridlock is good because when Congress is tied up in knots they can't do anything to hurt us. This idea has been verified by the market many times over the past 25 years."

It would be nice for our government to return to "normal", with both parties finding a sliver of common ground to make positive change (haha), but I find it hard to imagine that the Democrats are going to want to work with Trump, and Trump is going to bang them like a drum as he campaigns for re-election over the next two years. If there's another Supreme Court vacancy, the Democrats will be apoplectic.

So my prediction is that nothing much gets done, and that's probably just fine.


If you haven't been paying close attention to nutrition science you may not know that recent studies have completely undermined the decades-old advice to reduce fat and cholesterol in your diet.

"No evidence exists to prove that having high levels of bad cholesterol causes heart disease, leading physicians have claimed" in the study, reports the Daily Mail. The Express likewise says the new study finds "no evidence that high levels of 'bad' cholesterol cause heart disease."

The study also reports that "heart attack patients were shown to have lower than normal cholesterol levels of LDL-C" and that older people with higher levels of bad cholesterol tend to live longer than those with lower levels.

But the nutrition and medical industries don't seem to be eager to educate people on these findings.

"In fact researchers have known for decades from nutrition studies that LDL-C is not strongly correlated with cardiac risk," says Nina Teicholz, an investigative journalist and author of The New York Times bestseller The Big Fat Surprise (along with a great recent Wall St. Journal op-ed highlighting ongoing flaws in federal dietary advice). In an email to me this week, she pointed out that "physicians continue focusing on LDL-C in part because they have drugs to lower it. Doctors are driven by incentives to prescribe pills for nutrition-related diseases rather than better nutrition--a far healthier and more natural approach." ...

"The reason that we don't know about these huge reversals in dietary advice is that the nutrition establishment is apparently loathe to make public their major reversals in policy," Teicholz says. "The low-fat diet is another example: neither the AHA or the dietary guidelines recommend a low-fat diet anymore. But they have yet to announce this to the American public. And some in the establishment are still fighting to retain the low-fat status quo."

On her blog, Teicholz shares some charts that show that the public perception of fats and carbs is gradually changing to reflect our new understanding.


Whenever a confrontation goes in Trump's favor everyone talks about how lucky he is. But... what if he's just better at politics than his opponents?

One can only assume that in the Kavanaugh home, there's a horseshoe over every door, a rabbit's foot in every pocket and a lawn entirely planted with four-leaf clover. There were half a dozen times during Brett M. Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination battle when most experts were certain he'd have to be withdrawn. Republicans already faced a likely Democratic wave in the midterms, and standing by Kavanaugh would all but concede not only the House but also possibly the Senate.

Yet somehow he was confirmed. And his party's luck is even more astonishing. Far from turning the Blue Wave into an Indigo Tsunami, the Kavanaugh fight seems to have produced a Red Undertow. As of this writing, that backwash looks strong enough to check Democratic advances in the Senate and maybe even gain a couple of seats. If Republicans are very lucky, they might even retain control of the House.

A few months ago Dov Fischer wrote "Everyone is Smart Except Trump". Trump's opponents would do themselves a favor if they took Trump more seriously.

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.

Remember the four years when Anderson Cooper was President of the United States? And before that -- when the entire Washington Post editorial staff jointly were elected to be President? Remember? Neither do I.


Project Veritas is performing a public service by giving politicians and their staffers an opportunity to reveal their true political beliefs. Veritas is a rightist group that is targeting leftist politicians, and what they've uncovered about Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill and Tennessee Senate candidate Phil Bredesen is enlightening.

Here's McCaskill speaking with the undercover journalist:

Senator McCaskill revealed her intention to vote on various gun control measures in undercover footage:
MCCASKILL: "Well if we elect enough Democrats we'll get some gun safety stuff done. They won't let us vote on it, we've got 60 votes for a number of measures that would help with gun safety, but McConnell won't let 'em come to the floor."

JOURNALIST: "Like bump stocks, ARs and high capacity mags...?"

MCCASKILL: "Universal background checks, all of that... But if we have the kind of year I think we might have I think we could actually be in a position to get votes on this stuff on the floor and we'd get 60 [votes]..."

JOURNALIST: "So you would be on board with the bump stocks and... high capacity mags."

MCCASKILL: "Of course! Of course!"

And here are some Bredesen staffers who claim to know the candidate's true position on the Kavanaugh nomination.

Maria Amalla and Will Stewart, staffers in Bredesen's campaign, both say on hidden camera that if he were in the Senate, Bredesen would not actually have voted to confirm then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh. They explained that the statement Bredesen issued in support of Kavanaugh was a political ploy to gain the support of moderate voters in Tennessee.
JOURNALIST: "Like he wouldn't really vote yes [for Kavanaugh,] would he?

AMALLA: "No, it's a political move... He thinks that like we're down like half a point right now. It's like really close and we're losing by a point or two. So he thinks that if like by saying this he's appealing to more moderate republicans and he'll get more of them to vote for us."

JOURNALIST: "I was so confused because I just can't believe he would actually vote [for Kavanaugh.]

STEWART: "He wouldn't. But he's saying he would... Which I don't know if it makes it worse or better. No, it makes it better... "

[snip]

JOURNALIST: "So he'll lose voters if he says yes [to not confirming Kavanaugh?]"

STEWART: "Oh, straight up, yeah."

JOURNALIST: "Are the people of Tennessee that ignorant?"

STEWART: "Yeah."

This is all valuable information for voters, especially with public trust in our politicians at a record high!

Unfortunately Project Veritas only targets leftist politicians. It would be valuable if a similar group were to stage undercover interviews with rightist politicians.


Dahlia Lithwick's angst-ridden lament for the Kavanaugh-confirmed Supreme Court is a fantastic illustration of how Leftists view themselves as neutral centrists.

Constitutional law professors have been wondering aloud how they can neutrally teach case law after signing a letter opposing Kavanaugh's elevation (over 2,400 professors nationwide did so). Some say they believe the court has now been irredeemably politicised.

As if the professors could have taught in a non-political manner if they had kept their anti-Kavanaugh bias secret? The court hasn't just now been politicised, it has been politicised at least since Bork was Borked by Ted Kennedy.

Whether Roberts proves to be a fifth vote to strike down protections for abortion, affirmative action, and to curb voting rights with the stroke of a pen, or merely to check these rights in small but certain steps, those rights will be limited. He will be the fifth vote to shrink the authority of regulatory agencies; the fifth vote to protect business over workers' rights; the fifth vote to chip away at gun regulations; and, the fifth vote to allow religious dissenters to opt out of civil rights and public accommodation laws. We don't know how or when this will happen, but happen it will.

Lithwick casts these issues in a way that portrays the Leftist preference as "neutral" and the shift she predicts as an aberration. A conservative can play the same game.

  • "strike down protections for abortion" becomes "uphold protections for the unborn"
  • "strike down protections for affirmative action" becomes "enforce equal laws equally without regard for race"
  • "curb voting rights" becomes "prevent voter fraud"
  • "shrink the authority of regulatory agencies" becomes "limit the federal government to its Constitutionally defined role"
  • "chip away at gun regulations" becomes "protect Americans' natural right to self-defense, as guaranteed by the Second Amendment"
  • "allow religious dissenters to opt out of civil rights and public accommodation laws" becomes "protect Americans' natural right to religious freedom, as guaranteed by the First Amendment"

The Leftist preference isn't the natural, "neutral", "centrist" order of the world.

This president--who lost the popular vote--has now seated two Supreme Court justices. Four sitting justices have been confirmed by Republican senators who collectively won fewer popular votes than the senators who voted against confirming them. A minority-majority president and a minority-majority Senate have remade the court in their own image, and completed that process by installing a singularly divisive nominee.

In August (before the Kavanaugh agony) Michael Barone encouraged Democrats to play by the rules rather than denouncing them, and his stats undermine Lithwick's complaint.

The Democrats argue that they've been winning more votes but don't control the federal government. They've won a plurality of the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, but have elected presidents in only four of them. That darned Electoral College-- "land," as one liberal commentator puts it -- gave the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016.

Of course, the Gore and Clinton campaigns knew that the winner is determined by electoral votes, not popular votes. But that hasn't stopped many Democrats from calling for changing the rules to election by popular vote.

Or from complaining about the composition of the Senate. A majority of senators, writes ace election analyst David Wasserman, represent only 18 percent of the nation's population. That's because under the Constitution, each state elects two senators, and a majority of Americans today live in just nine states.

It's suggested that the framers didn't expect population to be so heavily concentrated in a few states. Actually, it was similarly concentrated in big states 50, 100, 150 and 200 years ago. And when the framers met in 1787, small states demanded equal Senate representation precisely from fear that the big states would dominate them.

Moreover, small states today aren't uniformly Republican. Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware and Hawaii currently send two Democrats to the Senate. Maine, North Dakota, and Montana each send one. The 12 smallest states are represented by 13 Democratic senators and 11 Republicans.

The real problem for Leftists is that their current ideology doesn't have broad appeal, unlike in the days of President #MeToo Clinton.

A party which wants to win more elections might take note of that and look to broaden its support base, rather than plead for impossible constitutional changes and fiddle with fixes that might produce unanticipated negative consequences.

Once upon a time, Bill Clinton showed Democrats how. He won the presidency, from which his party had been shut out for 20 of 24 years, by adapting its platform to appeal to additional voters. In 1996, he won 174 electoral votes in states that his wife was to lose 20 years later.

Bill Clinton carried California twice by the solid margin of 13 points. In 2016 she carried it by 30. But she built up that margin by taking stands that antagonized "deplorables" in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, and the rest is history.

Back to Lithwick, who completely fails to notice judicial gaslighting by the Left. The Left works itself up into a tizzy, and then uses that tizzy to claim that the Right's preferences aren't legitimate.

But the court will not have so long to recover its standing as a neutral oracle: cases testing the boundaries of Trump's executive authority, his treatment of immigrants and refugees, and possibly, someday even the legitimacy of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling will soon pile up on its doorstep. There cannot, for long, be any hiding from the front pages, or from making highly-charged calls.

Attention spans can be short. After the Kavanaugh debacle, however, the Court could find more citizens than ever suspect its practice is directed by partisan convenience, not by law.

Translation: when the SCOTUS rules in favor of the Left, it is "neutral"; when it rules in favor of the Right, it is "partisan".

As Glenn Reynolds has pointed out, the Left should be thankful that the Right doesn't advocate for a "living Constitution" approach to the judiciary.


Robyn Urback writes that the Clintons are long-overdue for a #MeToo reckoning. It has always struck me as fundamentally unjust that Monica Lewinski's life has been permanently scarred while the Clintons have prospered.

To this day, Clinton maintains a rather unrepentant air. When he was pushed about his affair with Monica Lewinsky during a television interview back in June, Clinton lashed out at the interviewer and accused him of ignoring supposed "gaping facts" about the saga. Clinton also noted that he was a victim, too, in that he left the White House $16 million in debt. Let's pause here a moment to appreciate the trauma of the Clintons' fleeting financial insecurity.

Lewinsky, during that time, was made the nation's punchline, villain and slut. Decades before the term "gaslighting" would enter the mainstream lexicon, the president of the United States went on national television and told the world that he "did not have sexual relations with that woman." Clinton's allies painted Lewinsky as a stalker and a manipulator, and even feminist icon Gloria Steinem suggested in a column for the New York Times that Lewinsky was equally at fault for the illicit affair.

It would take Lewinsky nearly 20 years to realize that the power imbalance between an unpaid intern and her boss -- a man 27 years her senior and also the president of the United States -- complicates notions of consent and culpability. She would grapple with post-traumatic stress disorder for decades and struggle to find a clear career path. These are not ordinary consequences for a poor decision; most of us do dumb things we regret in early adulthood, but few of us are defined by them for the rest of our lives.


A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare's?

Baron C.P. Snow The Two Cultures: The Rede Lecture (1959)


I guess everyone thinks that the sexual assault allegations against Judge Kavanaugh are bogus, which is why we're talking about his "judicial temperament" and alcohol consumption. Writes Orrin Hatch:

That Judge Kavanaugh had the temerity to defend himself vigorously is now being counted as a strike against him. Over and over we hear him described as "angry," "belligerent" or "partisan," followed by the claim that his conduct at the hearing shows that he lacks a judicial temperament. Even "Saturday Night Live" got in on the action.

You've got to be kidding me. Do the people making this argument really expect a man who until five seconds ago had an unblemished reputation to sit passively while his reputation is viciously and permanently destroyed? While he is accused of the most horrific and obscene acts imaginable? Judge Kavanaugh's critics seem to be aghast that he is a human being who is unwilling to take slander lying down.

But he drinks alcohol?

Countless articles have been written about how Judge Kavanaugh "lied" about his high-school and college drinking at the hearing, thereby calling into question his honesty. These articles claim the judge portrayed himself as a "choirboy" who, in the words of the New York Times, enjoyed "a beer or two as a high school and college student." Then they hit back with quotes from college acquaintances who say they saw the judge drink quite a lot.

This is known in the business as a straw man. Judge Kavanaugh never claimed he always drank in moderation. To the contrary, he admitted, "Sometimes I had too many beers."

It's weird to me that the Left is going all-in on teetotaling and the Mike Pence / Billy Graham rule. I think this is quite sensible, but I'm surprised that the Puritans have somehow managed to win the culture war.


Andrew McCarthy is obviously right about what Senate Republicans should have done to advance Kavanaugh, but the simple fact is that they didn't have the majority required to do it.

So, finally, we get to a committee vote over two weeks after it should have happened; after reopening a hearing that involved 31 hours of testimony from the nominee; after 65 meetings with senators and followed by over 1,200 answers to post-hearing questions, more than the combined number of post-hearing questions in the history of Supreme Court nominations. We finally get Kavanaugh's nomination voted out of committee. And then, as a final floor vote is about to be scheduled and debated, Republicans -- taking their lead from the ineffable Jeff Flake -- agree to accede to one more Democratic request (really, just one more, cross-our-hearts . . .). And what would that be?

What else? Another week of delay.

The rationale for this delay is priceless: We need an FBI investigation. It is understandable that the public does not realize how specious this demand is. But who would have thought Senate Republicans were in need of a civics lesson?

Unfortunately for the Republicans, they've only got 51 Senators. I'm sure Senate leadership was aware of and would have preferred McCarthy's approach, but that approach wasn't possible without unanimous approval from the Republicans' marginal senators, like Flake. If Republicans had a stronger majority, Kavanaugh would be seated already.

The seeds for this ongoing debacle were planted years ago when Republican Senate candidates like Christine O'Donnell, Todd Akin, Ken Buck, and Sharron Angle failed to win races that were well within Republican grasp.


From Clifford Krauss at the NYT: Trump's Iran sanctions are working. Here's the key part:

"The president is doing the opposite of what the experts said, and it seems to be working out," said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, a research and consulting firm.

Initial signs of a foreign-policy success could benefit Mr. Trump politically as Republicans try to hold on to control of Congress. The president and lawmakers allied with him could point to the administration's aggressive stand toward Iran as evidence that his unconventional approach to diplomacy has been much more fruitful and far less costly than Democrats have been willing to acknowledge.

Expertise is valuable -- I say, as an expert myself -- but it's not everything. Making good decisions requires more than expertise.


Dianne Feinstein doesn't believe Ford's accusations against Kavanaugh.

Senator Dianne Feinstein of California conceded Tuesday that she can't attest to the veracity of Christine Blasey Ford's allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school.

"[Ford] is a woman that has been, I think, profoundly impacted. On this . . . I can't say that everything is truthful. I don't know," Feinstein told reporters on Capitol Hill when asked if she believed the allegation.

That's fair -- no one seems to know what actually happened 35 years ago, including Ford.

Christine Blasey Ford, a Palo Alto University biostatistician and professor of psychology, is a Democrat -- a Bernie Sanders contributor and an anti-Trump activist. Some 36 years ago, when she was 15, she says the 17-year-old Kavanaugh tried to force himself on her, clumsily trying to get her clothes off. A friend of Kavanaugh's, Mark Judge, who had been watching, jumped on the two of them, allowing Ms. Ford to wriggle away and lock herself in a bathroom until the boys left.

There is no way to prove that this happened. That's not just because Kavanaugh and Judge, the only witnesses besides Ms. Ford, vehemently deny it. Ford cannot even place it: She doesn't recall in whose Maryland home it supposedly happened, what she did afterwards, how she got to or from the place. She never breathed a word of it at the time. When she finally told a therapist about it three decades later, notes indicate that there were four assailants -- a discrepancy she blames on the therapist.

When and where seem like important elements of an accusation.

Dr. Blasey has been uncertain about some details of the episode, including when it happened and whose house they were at.

At this point it seems impossible to discover the truth.


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.

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