Friday, September 21, 2018


Nate Silver says:

Silver is responding to this analysis by Hot Air's Allahpundit:
Does McConnell Still Want This Nomination To Proceed?

... McConnell is a bottom-line guy.... in the end, it matters less to him which conservative gets to fill a SCOTUS vacancy than that *some* conservative does. He preferred Raymond Kethledge or Tom Hardiman....

McConnell is keenly aware, I’m sure, that Republicans are getting blitzed by women voters already in midterm polling. Anything that exacerbates that, like, say, Trump swiping at an alleged rape victim repeatedly for days on Twitter, will make the party’s electoral prospects worse. Meanwhile, the GOP’s chances of nominating and confirming a replacement for Kavanaugh before Election Day if he implodes this week grow slimmer by the hour....

All of this is a long way of speculating whether, in his heart of hearts, he wouldn’t prefer to have the nomination yanked and to proceed with alacrity on the confirmation of a replacement.... The process needs to start immediately, though. Assuming it’s not too late already.
McConnell is in a tough spot here, but I think he has to stay the course and hope Kavanaugh squeaks by, because if he doesn't, the Republican base will go into the midterms knowing that, at a crucial moment, libs were not owned. Lib-owning is the most important goal of the Republican base; the failure to own libs is the worst possible failure.

The Kavanaugh nomination was being managed as if the point was to persuade liberals and moderates that it wasn't part of an ideological war while conservatives realized that it actually was. Kavanaugh wasn't supposed to alienate moderates, especially moderate women; his handlers incessantly promoted him as female-friendly (carpool dad! girls' basketball coach! adored by women who've worked with him, even the liberal ones!).

But now that everyone knows we're in an ideological war, McConnell, on behalf of his troops, has to win -- the base won't accept failure. McConnell has to push Kavanaugh through because there's as much Democratic opposition as there is -- giving in would make him a cuck.

I think McConnell could achieve a significant amount of lib-owning if Kavanaugh were to withdraw and Amy Coney Barrett were to be appointed and approved in his place, because getting her approved would be seen as a blow to the hated Dianne Feinstein, whose remarks to Barrett when she was being considered as a lower-court judge were widely construed on the right as anti-Catholic. ("The dogma lives loudly within you" was the soundbite version of what Feinstein said; for more context, go here.) But McConnell is said to believe that Barrett is too obviously anti-abortion, which might inspire no votes from Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. (As if.) A bigger problem, I think, is Barrett's membership in a Catholic group called People of Praise, which isn't quite a cult but isn't all that easily distinguished from one. (The women in it were literally referred to as "handmaidens" until recently.)

Get her through and you'll really own the libs -- but that might be hard with much of the country noticing her and her belief system for the first time. (And I suspect Trump wouldn't appoint her -- he clearly prefers High Court appointees who are male and Ivy Leaguers, and she's neither.)

Approving Kethledge or Hardiman wouldn't be big lib-owns after Kavanaugh's fall, so it's full steam ahead with Kavanaugh, at least for now.


This happened yesterday:
Ed Whelan, a former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and the president of a think tank called the Ethics and Public Policy Center ... actually identif[ied] a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Georgetown Prep, and suggest[ed] that he might have attempted to rape Ford, not the future judge.

The tweet storm showed the results of Whelan’s internet sleuthing. The supposed evidence ... includes:

• A Google map of where Ford, Kavanaugh, and other alleged witnesses lived when they were in high school.
• Real estate photos of the home where Whelan thinks the incident might have occurred, based on Ford saying the house was “not far from” the Columbia Country Club.
• A floor plan that shows that the upstairs bathroom is across from a bedroom in this house, just like Ford described.
• And finally, the big reveal: 35 years ago, this was the home of a Georgetown Prep student who looks kind of like Kavanaugh and was also friends with Mark Judge (who was allegedly present during the assault). Yearbook photos and a current photo of the classmate are provided for comparison to Kavanaugh.
The Twitter thread is still up as I'm typing this; the alleged Kavanaugh doppelganger, a middle school teacher named Chris Garrett, hasn't announced that he's suing for defamation, but it's early yet.

(UPDATE: The thread has been deleted and Whelan has apologized.)

I don't know how this was supposed to work, but I assume Whelan expected it to pass smoothly through what James Carville used to call the "puke funnel" -- it was presumably meant to travel from his Twitter feed effortlessly into the mainstream conversation, after passing through increasingly "respectable" right-wing media outlets. The Drudge Report and Power Line are taking Whelan seriously, as is Ross Douthat -- but Senator Orrin Hatch's communications director, who'd retweeted Whelan's earlier tease of the theory, distanced himself from Whelan yesterday:

The [Washington] Post reported that top Republicans tried to distance themselves from Whelan after his tweet storm flopped:
Republicans on Capitol Hill and White House officials immediately sought to distance themselves from Whelan’s claims and said they were not aware of his plans to identify the former classmate, now a middle school teacher, who could not be reached for comment and did not answer the door at his house Thursday night.
Garrett Ventry, communications adviser for the Senate Judiciary Committee, tweeted that they had no involvement...
And the right-wing press was lukewarm:
Even right-wing outlets from Hot Air to the Washington Examiner dismissed the theory and said Whelan was wrong to identify the classmate. “It is inconceivable that this Whelan defense will help Kavanaugh in any way. In fact, it’s so nasty and desperate-seeming that it taints Kavanaugh, despite that fact that he might have had nothing to do with it,” wrote The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher.
And if my favorite barometer for what the right-wing base is thinking -- Free Republic -- is any indication, the theory isn't catching on with hardcore right-wingers because ... it doesn't make Christine Blasey Ford seem evil enough. Some FR comments:
I doubt the “mistaken identity” dodge they’re digging out now.

Imo, the entire thing was a lie, start to finish.


Ford’s a liar, stop lending credence to her story by pretending it happened.


Nope, she's just a liar.


Or, far more likely, his accuser is a stone liar looking to make a splash.
So the puke funnel isn't working as well as it used to. Now, let's hope that defamation suit happens.

Thursday, September 20, 2018


Politico reports that some Democrats are worried about an October surprise:
Democratic operatives are growing anxious that Republicans working to undermine the FBI’s Russia probe are teeing up a series of document dumps meant to gin up GOP voters ahead of the midterm elections.

After weeks of hand-wringing, President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the declassification of a slew of documents related to the FBI’s long-running investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential connections to Russia. The move came on the heels of top House Republicans revealing that they may also release documents related to their probes into Trump-Russia ties, as well as anti-Trump bias at the FBI and Justice Department.

... Democrats see a more sinister plan: to taint special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia probe, while simultaneously motivating Trump’s political base on the precipice of an election in which Democrats are favored to make gains....

“Oh, God,” said Jennifer Palmieri, former communications director for Clinton’s campaign. “Trump could be setting the stage for the same kind of manufactured October surprise designed to help boost his standing and undermine Mueller.”
Could Republicans release something that has a significant impact on the midterms? I suppose it's possible -- but I agree with Yastreblyansky that's there's a lot of self-gaslighting going on:
A good con man always believes the spiel, at some level, as in the thing I wanted to talk about, the plan Trump announced Monday for declassifying a host of Mueller-relevant documents, where I think they've really gaslit not just their followers but themselves—Nunes and Gaetz and Trump himself in particular. Once again, as with the Glenn Simpson testimony and the Peter Strzok testimony and the first unveiling of the Carter Page FISC application, they're going to open up a box without knowing what's in it, because they've gone and persuaded themselves, for at least the fourth, fifth, and six times during this circus, that they do know.
It's been reported that Trump hasn't read the material he just ordered released, and we know that Devin Nunes didn't read the FISA application for surveillance of Carter Page before seeking its release. But I'm not sure it matters -- even if they read the documents, they're incapable of imagining how a person who doesn't live in the right-wing bubble will react to them. They just know that the FBI and the Mueller investigation are evil, and everyone they know is equally certain of this, so the only possible reason everyone doesn't know this is that some people just don't have all the facts. All information leads to one conclusion because no other conclusion is possible! So release more information and everyone will agree!

How damaging will the upcoming document dumps be? Let's go back to the Politico story:
Trump’s directive was in line with requests from Nunes and other congressional Republicans. And it also came just days after Nunes announced his own upcoming document dump. The Intelligence Committee head said he would release hundreds — perhaps thousands — of pages from interviews the panel conducted.

The closely linked timing of the Nunes and Trump announcements raised eyebrows among Democrats, as they had spent months pleading with Nunes to release the very same transcripts.
(Emphasis added.)

Nunes thinks he's going to nail the Democrats and the Deep State by going public with documents whose release Democrats have also requested? That makes no sense.

Yes, they're gaslighting themselves.


I've edited the word "evangelicals" out of this post in response to a commenter who notes that many of the religious conservatives who were subjects of the survey under discussion were not evangelicals. Otherwise, I stand by what I've written.

For the past few days I've been reading reports about a survey conducted by Emily Ekins, the polling director at the Cato Institute, that draws surprising conclusions about religious conservative voters. Today Ekins discusses her findings in a New York Times op-ed titled "The Liberalism of the Religious Right."
In a Democracy Fund Voter Study Group report, I found that religious conservatives are far more supportive of diversity and immigration than secular conservatives. Religion appears to actually be moderating conservative attitudes, particularly on some of the most polarizing issues of our time: race, immigration and identity.

Churchgoing Trump voters have more favorable feelings toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Muslims and immigrants compared with nonreligious Trump voters. This holds up even while accounting for demographic factors like education and race.

Churchgoing Trump voters care far more than nonreligious ones about racial equality (67 percent versus 49 percent) and reducing poverty (42 percent versus 23 percent)....

Religious participation also appears to pull Mr. Trump’s supporters away from the administration’s immigration policy. The more frequently Trump voters attend church, the more they support offering citizenship to unauthorized immigrants and making the immigration process easier, and the more opposed they become to the border wall.
The survey also says that frequent churchgoers who are white are less invested in their own whiteness than infrequent churchgoers.

Is this true? I haven't seen similar results in any other survey, but the work seems serious, and it doesn't seem to be tailored to push an obvious agenda.

Ekins draws one set of conclusions from the numbers:
Since the early 1990s, as record numbers of Americans began leaving organized religion, the percentage of white Republicans with no religious affiliation has tripled, according to an analysis of the General Social Survey. Today, only 31 percent of the president’s coalition attends church regularly. Forty-eight percent never or rarely attend services.

Some on the left might applaud such trends. Because of the L.G.B.T. culture wars, many incorrectly assume that if conservative churchgoers are less accepting of sexual minorities, they are also less accepting of racial and religious minorities....

Many progressives hope that encouraging conservatives to disengage from religion will make them more tolerant. But if the data serve as any guide, doing so may in fact make it even harder for left and right to meet in a more compassionate middle.
But I'm coming to different conclusions. It's been obvious for a while that Donald Trump isn't a devout Christian -- he doesn't go to church, he knows nothing about the Bible, and he's lived a life in which he hasn't followed the Christian moral code (most obviously in the area of sex). And yet religious conservatives are his most fervent backers.

Now we're told that religious conservatives are more tolerant and welcoming of people from other ethnic groups and other nations. So how many of their core beliefs are religious conservatives violating when they offer their support to Trump? And what does that say about their priorities?

Trump is giving them the judges they want. Brett Kavanaugh, or whoever might be nominated in his place if he withdraws from consideration for the Supreme Court, will almost certainly vote to effectively ban abortion in much of America. That clearly matters to religious conservatives, as do policies that hurt gay and transgender people, and policies that push religion into public schools and employer-employee relations.

We knew these issues mattered more to religious conservatives than how Trump lives his life -- but now we know that they matter more to religious conservatives than how Trump treats blacks, Hispanics, and immigrants. We knew that religious conservatives think it's a sin to be a pussy-grabbing dirty old man, but they voted for a pussy-grabbing dirty old man anyway. Now we're told that they don't like xenophobic racism -- but they voted for a xenophobic racist anyway.

So what good are these values if hatred gays, abortion, and breaking down the church-state wall of separation are always more important? Why should we try to make common cause with them on other issues if sex and their own status are the only issues they vote on?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


In The Washington Post, Aaron Blake writes this about the possibility that voting on Brett Kavanaugh might be further delayed while the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford are considered:
The main problem for Republicans is that they have no real arguments for why this can’t wait, apart from purely political motivations. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) ... said Wednesday that the confirmation couldn’t wait....

“It is imperative the Judiciary committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken ASAP,” Graham said.

The question is why? Why is it so imperative?
We know the real reasons it can't wait: Republicans want a base-motivating win before the midterms. They want Kavanaugh on the Court at the beginning of the next term. The president wants the next Supreme Court justice to be a believer in extreme deference to the whims of the president.

But they're not saying that. They're saying the vote needs to take place as soon as possible because ... it just does. Two years ago, they said Merrick Garland's Supreme Court nomination couldn't possibly be considered because ... it just couldn't. Not in an election year!

Republicans get away with this sort of thing all the time: They make up new norms on the spot and then Mitch McConnell, Orrin Hatch, or some other Republican doing a note-perfect imitation of a Salem witch trial judge scoldingly accuses Democrats and other critics of being advocates of chaos and anarchy -- even though it's Republicans who are throwing out the old rules.

Because they posture as defenders of tradition, and because much of the political world falls for this posturing, they get away with portraying the Democrats as the party of bomb-throwers and anarchists who are effectively indistinguishable from Antifa.

I'm seeing this on-the-fly rule creation not only in the way they talk about how nominees are considered but also in the way we're asked to think about the specific allegations against Kavanaugh. What Lili Loofbourow describes in Slate is a process of defining what we're allowed and not allowed to call a sex crime:
It is a remarkable fact of American life that hordes of men are now defending sexual assault.... a substantial group, many of them in politics, has taken to the internet to argue that a 17-year-old football player should get to do as he likes to a 15-year-old girl—say, for example, trap her in a bedroom, violently attempt to remove her clothes, and cover her mouth to muffle her screams—without consequences to his life or reputation.... It’s all in good fun, defenders declare. Horseplay.

Here’s the most surprising part: They’ve launched this peculiar defense despite the fact that the accused party denies it ever happened....

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....

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Lance Morrow minimized the victim’s side of things further by declaring that the incident wasn’t serious enough to matter. “The thing happened—if it happened—an awfully long time ago, back in Ronald Reagan’s time. ... No clothes were removed, and no sexual penetration occurred.”
Conservatives believe they have the right to define or redefine norms whenever it suits them, and they expect the rest of us to accede to their definitions of what's allowed and what isn't. Too many people in and around politics let them get away with this, because Republicans seem to represent eternal values and tradition. That has to stop.


This is a reasonable request:
The woman who has accused President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault all but ruled out appearing at an extraordinary Senate hearing scheduled for next week to hear her allegations, insisting on Tuesday that the F.B.I. investigate first.

Speaking through lawyers, Christine Blasey Ford said she would cooperate with the Senate Judiciary Committee and left open the possibility of testifying later about her allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. But echoing Senate Democrats, she said an investigation should be “the first step” before she is put “on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident.”
It's reasonable, but it won't be hard for Republicans to persuade much of America that it's unreasonable. They have so many talking points that will make sense to non-politics junkies who haven't been following the Kavanaugh story closely: Dianne Feinstein held the accuser's letter for weeks (never mind that it was to protect the accuser's privacy at her request); there's no corroborating evidence; Kavanaugh has been through six FBI background checks; he's prepared to testify on Monday; she's a Democrat, and Democrats want to delay this so Kavanaugh can't be approved before the midterms.

NBC's Kasie Hunt is being called a stenographer for right-wingers because she posted this:

I agree with this. Yes, Anita Hill's charges against Clarence Thomas were investigated by the FBI. But people in the mushy, apolitical middle don't remember that. They remember testimony -- and Blasey Ford will be seen as unwilling to offer that. The people who'll understand her decision are the ones who are already eager to vote against Republicans in November -- I don't think failing to accommodate her requests will change any votes. We sometimes talk as if what conservatives do will anger "women" when in fact there are many conservative and moderate women who aren't in sync with feminism and don't choose to call themselves feminists. Donald Trump won the white female vote in 2016, even after the release of the Access Hollywood tape, and he's only a few points underwater with white women now.

So I think Senate Republicans can get away with proceeding to a vote if Blasey Ford doesn't testify. They'll say she had her chance. And much of America will believe it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Charles Blow considers a hypothetical:

Jemele Hill is thinking along the same lines:

Would it? I'm not sure. I'm not denying the existence of white racism, especially on the subject of black men and white women. But Republicans at that moment were very determined to seat Clarence Thomas, who they knew was likely to be a reliable ideologue on the Court for decades. They also wanted to be seen as a party of inclusion -- without, of course, changing any of the policies that alienated non-white voters. These goals were agreed upon throughout the party -- recall that Strom Thurmond, the old segregationist, escorted Thomas and his wife, who is white, into the hearing room on the first day.

They might have played it another way, using the conservative press to suggest that Thomas's white accuser had an healthy obsession with black men. Then-conservative hatchetman David Brock called Anita Hill "a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty"; I think a white woman claiming that a black conservative committed sexual offenses might have been accused of imagining them for racial reasons. Of course, they'd have the opportunity to call her a racist, something conservatives love to do these days whenever liberals criticize a black person on the right.

Maybe I'm being a naive, oblivious white guy. But I recall the right treating the Thomas confirmation process as a must-win. I'm not saying Republicans aren't racist. But this was when the GOP was becoming a fully ideological culture-war party. Thomas was a right-wing zealot. Republicans argued even then that black people would be better off abandoning the Democrats; they pointed to Thomas as proof of concept. They wanted a victory. I don't think they would have let even a white female accuser stand in their way.


When I learned that James O'Keefe was about to release a new series of videos called "Deep State Unmasked," I wondered: Could he actually have found people who are openly subverting the Trump administration from within the government and are willing to talk about this to a stranger?

That's what O'Keefe's title implies, but that's not what he delivers, at least in the first installment. His opening sequence may include clips of John Brennan and Loretta Lynch, but his first subject isn't leaking White House dirt or sabotaging executive branch policy. The featured bureaucrat is a low-level functionary whose principal crime is trying to do campaign work for Democratic Socialists during office hours.

Stuart Karaffa has a job at the State Department, which sounds Deep State-y, but, in fact, he merely "works in the Office of Program and Policy Analysis at the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations." And that bureau does what exactly?
The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) directs the worldwide overseas building program for the Department of State and the U.S. Government community serving abroad under the authority of the chiefs of mission. In concert with other State Department bureaus, foreign affairs agencies, and Congress, OBO sets worldwide priorities for the design, construction, acquisition, maintenance, use, and sale of real properties and the use of sales proceeds.
Prior to that, he had a job in the Defense Department. This would also seem like an opportunity for Deep State subversion, but, again, not really -- Karaffa was
a Research Specialist for the National Security Education Program (NSEP), which is a component of the Department of Defense. The mission of NSEP is to expand U.S. expertise in foreign languages and cultures, thereby enhancing America’s national security capabilities. Mr. Karaffa’s position focuse[d] on DoD-funded study abroad scholarships for college students learning critical languages. He also manage[d] several IT and administrative contracts.
Dude, where's my Deep State?

Karaffa boasts about doing non-government work on government time, and he really does have quite a few irons in the fire -- he's a commissioner on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission in D.C.'s Mount Pleasant neighborhood, and, as noted, he works on Democratic Socialist campaigns -- here he's identified as a contact person for the campaign of Lee Carter, an ex-Marine and DSA member who was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017, in an upset victory over the Republican who was the House majority whip, Jackson Miller.

Should Karaffa be doing DSA or neighborhood commission business on work time? No -- but this isn't the Deep State.

Over the weekend, O'Keefe spoke at a St. Louis gathering at which Mike Flynn was given a "Service to America" award by the late Phyllis Schlafly's Gateway Eagle Council. At the gathering, O'Keefe tried to link his new project to "resisters" within the federal government -- but notice how he was lowering expectations for the series:
"To some, this deep state is an anonymous, faceless resistance. To others, it is a vast unaccountable government bureaucracy or some would it an extra-legal state within a state," O’Keefe [said].

"Some call it a conspiracy theory. But that conspiracy theory recently took out an op-ed advertisement in the New York Times," he joked.

“At the most fundamental level, Americans make their voices heard through elections, and these people are circumventing that,” he told the audience, adding, “A lot of them brag about how they can’t get fired.”
Karaffa says in the video that he's safe because it's impossible to fire federal workers. O'Keefe didn't get what he presumably wanted -- evidence of federal employees working to thwart Trump -- so he defined "Deep State" down. Now it just means "government bureaucrats who bunk off work."


It's possible that Republicans sincerely believe #MeToo has changed the political calculations, and therefore they won't try to destroy Christine Blasey Ford's reputation. We know they're restraining the president -- Politico says that Don McGahn and Mitch McConnell persuaded Trump not to lash out, while The Washington Post says it was unnamed "White House aides." So treating Ford with some respect appears to be part of the strategy. It's possible that they're waiting for some opposition research to do her in, which won't have their fingerprints on it. But for now they're behaving, including Trump.

The Post says that the overgrown toddler in the White House was mollified by a diversionary tactic.
Trump’s advisers calmed him by giving him space to vent privately about Senate Democrats, whom Republicans accuse of improperly withholding the sexual assault allegation until now....
On the Senate floor last night, McConnell also directed his anger at Democrats, saying this:
It is an accusation which the ranking member of the committee of jurisdiction [Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA)] has known about for at least six weeks, yet chose to keep secret until the 11th hour. Neither she nor any of her Democratic colleagues chose to raise this allegation during the committee staff’s bipartisan background calls with the nominee. They did not raise it even with the name redacted in the 65 meetings Judge Kavanaugh held with senators before his confirmation hearing, including his private meeting with the ranking member.

They did not raise it even with the name redacted in four days of exhaustive public hearings while Judge Kavanaugh testified under oath. Even though they chose to raise myriad other matters at the hearing, including sometimes bizarre innuendo.

They did not raise it in the closed session, the proper forum where such an allegation could have been addressed with discretion and sensitivity. They did not raise it in the 1,000-plus follow-up questions that senators sent to Judge Kavanaugh in writing. But now — now, at the eleventh hour, with committee votes on schedule, after Democrats have spent weeks and weeks searching for any possible reason that the nomination should be delayed, now they choose to introduce this allegation.
Out in the fever swamps, there's a darker version of this message: Democrats are professional character assassins who do this all the time, cynically and with ruthless efficiency. Don't focus on the incident in question -- focus on the sinister, evil Democrats who put it before us. This a classic Democratic hit job.

That's why the Investor's Business Daily op-ed page says:
... getting to the truth isn't the goal of this week's Democrat-orchestrated circus....

This is about sending a warning.

Democrats are warning conservatives, and those who would appoint them, that they will do anything to derail their nominations. That includes flagrant attempts at character assassination — even if that requires throwing out unverifiable allegations from the distant past at the 11th hour.

At this point, the only real question that needs an answer is whether Republicans will reward Democrats for their craven attempts to scare highly qualified conservatives away from public service.
That's what Rush Limbaugh says:
How are decent people ever prepared to deal with these kinds of never-ending allegations, destruction, perversion? I mean we’re dealing with a genuine sickness here with people on the left, and it’s not right. Something about them is just not right.... This never ends, and it’s getting worse and worse and worse. Decent people are blindsided by this stuff every time it happens, and there’s a reason for that. Decent people do not wallow in this kind of mire.

Decent people are not calculating and plotting how to destroy people, how to ruin them. Decent people don’t do that. Decent people might get into arguments with people, try to find out how to win the argument or defeat a political opponent or whatever, but destroying people is not what decent people do. And, as such, decent people — it seems like — are always surprised....

He hasn’t done anything to anybody. He’s a decent person. It’s obvious he’s a decent person. He may define what a decent person is. He may be the epitome of decency. Same thing for his family. Yet here comes the left targeting — once again — another decent human being who happens to be Republican and conservative for utter destruction. Ruin his career, ruin his reputation, ruin his life and all of those who speak up and try to defend him. How do decent people deal with this?
And Noemie Emery:
The time had come to break glass and break out the ultimate weapon, the one that had (almost) worked last time — the unproveable claim of abuse that had never been mentioned to anyone at the time it was said to have happened....

If it works, you get to change history; if it doesn’t work, you live out your life as a martyr and heroine, revered as a goddess by silly young women, guaranteed a lifetime market for your appearances, speeches, and books.

And in case you think there was anything spontaneous about the time the accuser decided that she could in good conscience stay silent no longer, rest assured that it all had been planned for maximum impact, to coincide with demonstrations already planned to take place....

Do the Democrats keep a steady supply of female accusers, adjusted as to age, geography, and possible chance of having met the subject, ready and set to be called on as needed, depending on which nominee, from which part of the country, the Republicans happen to choose?

If they fail with Kavanaugh, will they try it again with the next male contender? if they succeed, surely they will try it over and over, until not a single male judge might be left.
This may be what McConnell is counting on -- the fever swampers will believe everything right-wing media tells them, so they'll think this is just a sleazy off-the-shelf plot from the same people who destroyed Roy Moore and tried to destroy Donald Trump with his own words on the Access Hollywood tape. Add in the people who aren't quite as fevered in their Republicanism but who know they don't like Democrats very much and you're approaching 40%. Sprinkle on a few earnest types who think a guy should get a break for what he did at seventeen (if he's white and has been portrayed as an ideal suburban dad) and who, now that you mention it, think women have a tendency to lie or misremember or whatever, and now you're near 44%, 45%, maybe more.

Republicans never care if their ideas have majority support -- look at the polling on guns and abortion and tax cuts for the rich. They just want a highly motivated near-majority, though if they get a real majority (Clarence Thomas had great poll numbers after Anita Hill testified), obviously they'll take that.

So I'm guessing that's the plan: make Democrats the Antichrist rather than the accuser, because it's always easy to demonize Democrats in the eyes of heartland white voters, and besides, that's what congressional Republicans need as a base motivator with midterms coming up.

Monday, September 17, 2018


It will be a good thing if Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testify under oath about that high school party, but Marcy Wheeler is right: The third person in the room should also testify.
... she shouldn’t testify alone. Mark Judge should testify along with her. After all, according to her letter and the WaPo account, he was a witness to the event....

And while he currently claims he doesn’t recall the event, she says that the one time they crossed paths afterwards, he exhibited discomfort upon seeing her.

Judge has also admitted to being an alcoholic in high school. He and Kavanaugh both admitted to being Keg Club members together, and they appear in a number of pictures together.
Both Judge and Kavanaugh included "100 Kegs or Bust" in the yearbook summaries of their prep school careers; the goal was to tap 100 kegs before graduation.
In addition, Judge’s comments about women at the time were pretty atrocious.
His yearbook quote was a line from a Noel Coward play: "Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs."
Virtually all the people attacking Ford’s story are utterly silent on Judge’s presence as a witness. I suspect that’s because both his own descriptions of his social life at the time, and his professed inability to recall the event, might suggest that Kavanaugh, too, was simply too drunk to remember this attempted rape.
By his own admission, Kavanaugh was quite a drinker at least through law school. Mother Jones unearthed a 2014 speech he gave to the Yale Law School Federalist Society, in which he said:
I am approaching my eighth anniversary on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. I am approaching the 24th anniversary of my graduation from this school. That means I am approaching the 24th anniversary of my organizing 30 classmates in a bus to go to Boston for a Red Sox game and a night of Boston bar-hopping, only for us to return falling out of the bus onto the front steps of Yale Law School at about 4:45 a.m. One friend of mine, Steve Hartmann, actually had a Labor Law final the next morning. (I checked with him just yesterday to confirm that it was Labor Law.) True story.

On the bus, he actually had his book out and was reading his notes while people were doing group chugs from a keg. He got a P. I think the people doing the group chugs got H’s. Fortunately for all of us, we had a motto, what happens on the bus stays on the bus. Tonight, you can modify that to what happens at the Fed Soc after-party stays at the Fed Soc afterparty.
They've tried to portray Kavanaugh as a Boy Scout, a car pool dad and girls' basketball coach. They want everyone to believe that he's too nice to take away abortion rights, or consistently rule on behalf of the powerful and against the powerless.

I don't know what he's really like now. I suspect that -- admittedly like a lot of people, many of whom turn out fine -- he was a binge drinker in his youth. His circle of friends included Judge, who's a reformed alcoholic now but has alienated parts of his family enough that even his own brother thinks he's "a solipsist," "spoiled," and "unable to recognize any pain but his own."

I don't know what all this says about Kavanaugh, except that it suggests he's not the squeaky-clean guy we were supposed to believe he was. That's not a reason to reject him, but if he was sold as a Boy Scout, at least we'll get to see that he wasn't one when he was more or less of Boy Scout age. More important, we'll put the one witness to this alleged act under oath -- why wouldn't Democrats want to insist on that?


We know there are still some restraints on President Trump's behavior because, left to his own devices, he'd be all over Twitter this morning smearing Christine Blasey Ford as a liar and a Democratic operative (and probably worse). Someone has managed to persuade him that that's not prudent, and that can only be because he's been assured that there's a better plan in place to destroy her reputation and get Brett Kavanaugh confirmed.

I don't know what the plan is, and I don't know whether it will work, but I would never count the Republicans out. Axios's Mike Allen reported that they assumed she wouldn't want to testify publicly.
Some involved in the process are going to urge Senate leaders to call on the accuser ... to testify publicly this week, ahead of Thursday's scheduled Judiciary Committee vote. This gambit basically bets that she will decline, and Republicans can then say that they tried to investigate further.
But now her lawyer says she's willing to testify.

She can't prove that the allegation is true, but she's likely to be compelling and believable. The third person who was in the room, Mark Judge, was, by his own admission, a "drunk" in prep school.

I don't know how right-wingers will damage Ford's reputation, but if there's any way, they'll pursue it. So far they don't have much: She's a registered Democrat who's given a whopping $80.50 to Democratic campaigns since 2014, she signed a petition protesting family separation, and she attended a scientists' march against Trump in 2017, wearing a knitted "brain cap" modeled after the pussy hats from the Women's March.

But I can't believe Republicans won't find someone -- probably a woman, maybe one or more of the women who signed that pro-Kavanaugh letter -- who'll be willing to discredit Ford, probably as a fabulist, or as someone whose grasp on reality is tenuous. Or maybe she'll be portrayed as a shy, unworldly nerd who misread cues in that encounter, or as a younger girl (she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17 when the incident took place) who just didn't understand older teens.

They'll mount a counteroffensive. Maybe it won't work. But it could be nasty -- possibly nastier than what I'm describing. They can't expect the public to dismiss the allegation in the #MeToo era. They have to make it seem phony. And they'll try very hard to do that.


UPDATE: Well, I'm already seeing a claim on Twitter that Brett Kavanaugh's mother was the judge in a 1996 foreclosure involving Ford's parents. Is this true? Was there even such a case? I don't know. (Update: Here's one of the case documents. Martha Kavanaugh is one of the ruling judges listed. Power Line is already working this story.)

Oh, and she got a bad review from a student on RateMyProfessors. (No, wait -- several students.) Hang her!


UPDATE: Whoops -- the reviews aren't even for her:

It doesn't matter -- this will just be a fake fact about her that people on the right "know." Getting it out there was still worth it for the pro-Kavanaugh forces.


UPDATE: And the foreclosure story evaporates under scrutiny.

Sunday, September 16, 2018


Michael Moore's new documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9, had its U.S. premiere Thursday night in New York. This exchange took place on the red carpet:
Asked if he knew the identity of the anonymous New York Times op-ed leaker in Trump’s circle, Moore said: “No, but if you want me to make a wild guess, Trump wrote it or one of his minions wrote it.... He’s the master of distraction. He’s the King of the Misdirect. If we’ve ever known anything by now, it’s that he does things to get people to turn away and the line that is most identifiable in terms of what he wants the public to believe, the line that says, ‘don’t worry, adults are in the room.’ The idea is to get him to get us to calm down and look away from what he’s really doing.”
I'd assume this was just a joke on Moore's part, but he seems at least semi-serious about his explanation. And it's all wrong. Trump does appear to work very hard at creating distractions from news stories unfavorable to him -- unless we only think that's the case, and what we regard as distractions are really just Trump fighting every day to be the center of the media's attention, which for him is a primal need. What's clearly wrong about Moore's conjecture is the idea that Trump wants us to think, ‘don’t worry, adults are in the room.’ Trump obviously hates that idea. He think he's the adult in the room. The suggestion that he needs adult supervision is deeply offensive to him. Latest evidence: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was quoted by Bob Woodward as saying that Trump has the "understanding of a fifth or sixth grader," and now there are fresh rumors that Trump will fire Mattis after the midterms.

We know that Trump could never have written the op-ed -- it contains too many words and ideas he's incapable of understanding. And, of course, it directly contradicts many of his stated positions. There are staffers smart enough to write it, but I can't imagine Trump would approve it. Trump's preferred tactics are direct blunderbuss attacks on opponents and distractions mounted with all the subtlety of a rampaging elephant (HEY!!! LOOK OVER HERE!!! I'M ATTACKING MAXINE WATERS!!!). In this administration, even the people with functioning gray matter don't play eleven-dimensional chess.

I don't know who wrote the op-ed, but Trump is incapable, and no Trump loyalist ever would have done it.

Saturday, September 15, 2018


I told you in my last post that the person named as a witness and accomplice to Brett Kavanaugh's alleged high school sexual assault has been identified and interviewed by The Weekly Standard -- he's Mark Judge, a Georgetown Prep classmate of Kavanaugh's, and now a right-wing writer. I quoted some of Judge's more appalling Daily Caller pieces in that post. Now, thanks to Yastreblyansky in comments, I see that Josh Marshall has found another gem.

This 2011 Daily Caller piece by Judge is relevant not only to the Kavanaugh story but also to the question of how we talk about sexual abuse by Catholic priests -- specifically, how conservative Catholics talk about it.

In the piece, Judge plugs his 2005 book God and Man at Georgetown Prep: How I Became a Catholic Despite 20 Years of Catholic Schooling. Judge says he loved Georgetown Prep -- but liberalism was storming the school's barricades:
... the liberalism that had much of the Catholic Church in its clutches beginning in the 1960s was evident in some departments — not all — at the school. This was mostly in matters of sexual morality. It is no longer a secret that starting in the 1960s many Catholic seminaries began to blackball orthodox and masculine applicants in favor of what has been called the “lavender mafia” — homosexuals. I have seen enough of this and talked to enough witnesses to know it to be true.... My own take is that it had less to do with homosexuality than with the feverish libertinism of the 60s. Long gone were the days when Dorothy Day would argue for heroic virtue as a requirement for both anti-war pacifism and obedience to the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexual ethics. After Vietnam, Vatican II and Watergate, sexual reticence was considered a hang-up.
The abuse started long before "the feverish libertinism of the 60s" was a factor, but never mind. Judge doesn't think all enemies are "lavender." Anyone with a modern view of sex is a threat to the moral order:
One of the more traditional teachers I had at Prep was John Nikola, S.J., who had been the technical advisor to the film “The Exorcist.” One of the things I learned from Fr. Nikola is that what evil wants to do is similar to what our sexual liberators want: to make us consider each other as meat, as things, as bestial forms there to be used. That’s why in the book the demon refers to the possessed girl’s mother as “pig” and the girl as “piglet.” ...

If I compare the slavery that has resulted from our “liberation” to what we learned from some people at Prep, I would only add that I’m guilty as well, at least of the bouts of dehumanizing lust that is part of the fallen world and being human. We all are. We all have that monster in us to some extent. But the orthodox at least know what it is. We recognize it, fear it, and try to walk away from it.
The problem with this worldview is that it really doesn't make a distinction between sexual assault and harmless horniness -- if you experience lust, or if you have mutually gratifying sex for pleasure or as an expression of love outside of heterosexual marriage, you're part of an "evil" in which we "consider each other as meat, as things, as bestial forms there to be used." The only sex that escapes this trap is with a spouse and with the possibility of conception -- no birth control allowed. You can't have morally acceptable sex for pleasure. Caring non-procreative sex is bad. Masturbation is bad. Desire is bad.

These things are so bad that rape and child molestation can barely be worse. And the predators aren't completely to blame, because in this fallen world, lust is everywhere, and the culture is pro-lust.

If Judge thinks this way -- if he believes just wanting someone means you "have that monster" in you -- then he can't say that there might have something sexual between Kavanaugh and his accuser that didn't end in misconduct or assault, because even then he's accusing Kavanaugh of evil. It's all evil -- "We recognize it, fear it, and try to walk away from it."

This doesn't prove that the accuser's story is true, but it tells me that Judge is not a reliable witness.

And this is the worldview that leads to blame-shifting in discussions of priestly abuse. The priests aren't the real problem. The people who covered up for the priests aren't the real problem. The system that shuffled abusive priests around and allowed them to assault again isn't the problem. The problem is the culture -- it's the devil. Everyone who rejects Church teaching on sex is consorting with the devil. So the devil pervades our society. Who can blame the Church?

Catholic conservatives want Pope Francis to bear the guilt for decades of abuse and cover-up. And why not? He's taken baby steps toward an acceptance of gay people and divorced Catholics. So he's lost in the miasma of sex that's polluting the culture. He's consorting with evil. Make him the scapegoat.

Friday, September 14, 2018


In The New Yorker story about sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, we're told that the woman who accuses Kavanaugh says that a classmate acted as an accomplice:
The allegation dates back to the early nineteen-eighties, when Kavanaugh was a high-school student at Georgetown Preparatory School, in Bethesda, Maryland, and the woman attended a nearby high school. In the letter, the woman alleged that, during an encounter at a party, Kavanaugh held her down, and that he attempted to force himself on her. She claimed in the letter that Kavanaugh and a classmate of his, both of whom had been drinking, turned up music that was playing in the room to conceal the sound of her protests....

Kavanaugh’s classmate said of the woman’s allegation, “I have no recollection of that.”
The Weekly Standard has named the classmate: Mark Judge.
"It's just absolutely nuts. I never saw Brett act that way," Judge told TWS.
Judge is identified as "a writer in Washington, D.C." But Judge is not just any writer. As Elon Green notes on Twitter, he wrote a notorious (and implausible) 2012 Daily Caller piece titled "The End of My White Guilt." In it, he says his bicycle was stolen in a predominantly black D.C. neighborhood, after which he was infuriated when "a liberal friend" told him not to pursue the thief. “That person needs our prayers and help,” the friend said, according to Judge. “They haven’t had the advantages we have.” Result: "My white guilt died."

But more relevant to the current circumstances is this (hat tip Tom Hilton):

That's from a Daily Caller piece by Judge titled "Barack Obama: The First Female President." (Additional inspirational quote: "Barack Obama doesn’t have just a streak of the feminine in him; he seems to be a woman, and a feminist one at that, with a streak of man in him.")

Yeah, why don't we ask that guy about male-on-female sexual violence.

Judge doesn't write about sex on a regular basis, but when he does, it's clear he's part of the "Help! Help! I'm Being Repressed!" school of conservative punditry, as in this Caller piece,written after Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson denounced homosexuality:
I have two observations about homosexuality. The first I am always allowed to express. The second, never.

The first observation: Homosexuality has been around forever, and always will be around. A reasonable person can conclude that gays are born that way. As such, they should be treated with respect and given the same rights as other couples. Arguing that it can or should be cured is delusional, and harmful.

Observation the second: as Mr. Robertson put it, an anus is not a vagina. One was designed to allow something to go inside it, the other was not. This medical fact leads one to conclude that that the bodies of men and women are different from each other. Thus, marriage is about the complimentarity, both emotional and phsyical, between male and female.

Observation number one is allowed and celebrated. Observation two is banned. We now live in a fantasyland where we can no longer make the observation that a man’s body is different from a woman’s. This is how insane we’ve become. For the past decade and more we’ve had a debate about homosexuality and gay marriage, and in that entire time we have been prevented from speaking freely about the genuine hard wired differences between male and female. Gay marriage advocates like Dan Savage write acres of copy gleefully celebrating all kinds of unusual sexual practices. But the rest of society is prevented from making an observation about basic human plumbing.
Sorry, Brett -- you're going to need better character witnesses than that.


It took a while to learn the details of this, but now we know, thanks to Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer of The New Yorker:
On Thursday, Senate Democrats disclosed that they had referred a complaint regarding President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to the F.B.I. for investigation. The complaint came from a woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when they were both in high school, more than thirty years ago.

... The allegation dates back to the early nineteen-eighties, when Kavanaugh was a high-school student at Georgetown Preparatory School, in Bethesda, Maryland, and the woman attended a nearby high school. In the letter, the woman alleged that, during an encounter at a party, Kavanaugh held her down, and that he attempted to force himself on her. She claimed in the letter that Kavanaugh and a classmate of his, both of whom had been drinking, turned up music that was playing in the room to conceal the sound of her protests, and that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand. She was able to free herself.
Now let's go back to yesterday. We didn't know all this. But we knew from The New York Times that "the incident involved possible sexual misconduct between Judge Kavanaugh and a woman when they were both in high school," according to "two officials familiar with the matter." The Washington Post had also referred to "an alleged episode of sexual misconduct."

Then The Guardian published a story characterizing the allegations this way:
A source who said they were briefed on the contents of the letter said it described an incident involving Kavanaugh and a woman that took place when both were 17 years old and at a party. According to the source, Kavanaugh and a male friend had locked her in a room against her will, making her feel threatened, but she was able to get out of the room.
Two serious news organizations had characterized the allegations as sexual in nature, then The Guardian described a scenario that wasn't rape but sounds as if it very well could have been rape-y. Even without the New Yorker story, this seemed pretty bad.

Unless you were a right-winger. To the right, or at least to the right-wingers quoted in this Twitchy post, the whole thing was a laff riot.

The last three tweets, from the sports editor of the Washington Free Beacon, have since been deleted, perhaps because Griswold now realizes that something less than hilarious actually might have happened that night. I think that seemed obvious even before the New Yorker story landed. But I'm not a right-winger. And the other snarkers still aren't embarrassed enough to delete those tweets.


Excellent news in my state:
Years of anger at a group of Democratic state senators who had collaborated with Republicans boiled over on Thursday, as primary voters ousted nearly all of them in favor of challengers who had called them traitors and sham progressives.

The losses were ... a resounding upset for the members of the Independent Democratic Conference....
Of the eight members of this turncoat conference, six lost primaries yesterday, including their leader, Jeffrey Klein of the Bronx. They thwarted quite a bit of progressive legislation, and our governor, Andrew Cuomo, liked it that way. And yet he easily survived Cynthia Nixon's primary challenge by campaigning as a foe of Donald Trump and by emphasizing the issues on which he's more progressive -- immigration and LGBT rights, for instance.

But Matt Yglesias thinks Cuomo's obvious presidential ambitions have been thwarted by the choices he's made -- choices that were intended to make him a more viable presidential candidate.
Somewhat ironically, it was actually Cuomo’s presidential aspirations that, in retrospect, have ended up dooming his presidential aspirations.

... Cuomo ... had the ... fear ... that governing as a progressive in such a heavily Democratic state would push him to adopt policies that would make him unelectable in a national contest.

Consequently, Cuomo has consistently worked behind the scenes to keep the New York state Senate in Republican hands via the machinations of a small group of state senators who, despite winning election as Democrats, caucus with the GOP. That kept the most ambitious progressive ideas off the legislative agenda, allowing Cuomo to avoid both having overt fights with his base and endorsing policies that pushed the state substantially to the left.

... in retrospect, it was too clever by half. The mood among national Democrats has swung substantially to the left over the past five years....

Had Cuomo simply done the normal thing and supported Democratic state Senate candidates and gotten the chance he feared to sign ambitious progressive bills, he’d be perfectly positioned for the circumstances of 2020.
But now he's out of step with likely Democratic primary voters. Or is he? Someone who'd be in the same "lane" as Cuomo in 2020 is once again signaling that he wants to run:
Billionaire ex-New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is planning to run for president in 2020, according to a report in the Times of London. The report says Bloomberg, who toyed with an independent run for the White House in 2008, 2012, and 2016, is going to run as a Democrat.
And then there's this guy, who sent up a presidential trial balloon over the summer:
Howard Schultz is the quintessential corporate Democrat. As CEO of Starbucks, Schultz preached (and, arguably practiced) the gospel of “conscious capitalism” ...

On Monday, Schultz resigned from the board of his coffee company, and signaled interest in a potential run for president....

In recent interviews, Schultz has argued that progressive Democrats have grown so rigidly ideological, they can no longer recognize basic political and policy realities.

He has also contended that the wealthiest nation in human history can’t afford to provide public health insurance to all of its citizens; that the national debt is a bigger threat to the United States than climate change; and that Democrats would be wise to demonstrate “leadership” to the electorate — by calling for cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
Cuomo might be hopelessly out of step with regard to the Democratic primary electorate, but candidates who are arguably even more out of step think they have a shot in 2020. I worry that a centrist could win the primaries because there'll be so many candidates in the progressive "lane" and they'll split the votes. But we may not have to worry about a corporatist because the corporatist lane could get awfully crowded, too.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


Politico reports:
In an alternate universe, President Donald Trump would be heading into the midterms relentlessly touting his stewardship of a strong economy with results that include historically low unemployment, solid economic growth, sky-high enthusiasm among small businesses and shattered records for job openings.

Instead, the president is repeatedly muddling that message with easily debunked falsehoods or hyperbole about the state of the economy while pressing on with unpopular trade wars that frustrate establishment Republicans and business groups worried about price increases. His undisciplined approach — coupled with his obsessing about the Russia investigation, Hillary Clinton and the 2016 election — is damaging what many Republicans say should have been a political slam dunk for the GOP heading into the fall.
And those aren't the only message-muddling distractions, as Gabriel Sherman notes:
According to sources, Trump has been furious at former economic adviser Gary Cohn and staff secretary Rob Porter for their apparent cooperation with [Bob] Woodward’s book. “Trump thinks he took Gary in and gave him a job when he was going nowhere at Goldman,” a Trump adviser told me. According to the adviser, Trump let it be known to Cohn and Porter that he would attack them publicly if they didn’t disavow the book. (On Tuesday, they both did.) “The president has had it,” a former West Wing official said. “When books like this come out, he tends to shut down and calls up people he sees on TV saying good things about him.”

But Trump’s anger over Woodward’s book is dwarfed by his continuing fixation on the anonymous New York Times op-ed. Sources told me Trump is “obsessed,” “lathered,” and “freaked out” that the leaker is still in his midst. His son Don Jr. has told people he’s worried Trump isn’t sleeping because of it, a source said. Meetings have been derailed by Trump’s suspicion. “If you look at him the wrong way, he’ll spend the next hour thinking you wrote it,” a Republican close to the White House said.
Sorry, Republicans, but it's hopeless. Trump can't focus on talking up the economy because whenever a new or perceived enemy pops up, he has a compulsion to declare total war against that enemy. Today he's blaming the Democrats because a report on the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico made him look bad.

He's also obsessed with old enemies -- for instance, any country that has a trade deal with the U.S. (Every trade deal negotiated prior to Trump's presidency is the worst deal ever, according to Trump.)

If Democrats were challenging Trump on the economy, the conflict might get his juices flowing. But Democrats aren't doing that -- they're arguing (correctly) that the good numbers now are just a continuation of the progress made when Barack Obama was president, and they're questioning the wisdom of Trump's trade war and of the budget-busting, unevenly distributed tax cuts. But no Democrat is against GDP growth and low unemployment.

As a result, Trump can't motivate himself to focus on the economy. He needs an enemy. He needs someone getting in his face and saying that the unemployment rate and GDP suck. Democrats aren't doing that -- so Trump simply has no choice. He has to follow his compulsions and engage in pointless vendettas instead. Damn sneaky Democrats!


Yeah, he's really doing this -- he's challenging Puerto Rico's recent declaration that the death toll from Hurricane Maria was 2,975 rather than 64:

Of course this is completely wrong. The Atlantic's Vann Newkirk explained how the number was arrived at last month.
... researchers from the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health released a series of studies on Hurricane Maria’s impact in Puerto Rico. The mortality study [was] completed at the official request of Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló and administered in conjunction with the University of Puerto Rico.

... the GW researchers essentially modeled what the death rate in Puerto Rico would’ve looked like if Maria hadn’t hit, and then used that number from September to the following February as a baseline. The estimate of real-life deaths above that baseline are the “excess deaths” estimated throughout that period.
The study, Newkirk tells us, "used official death certificates from Puerto Rico’s health department" to arrive at its estimates.
“The official government estimate of 64 deaths from the hurricane is low primarily because the conventions used for causal attribution only allowed for classification of deaths attributable directly to the storm, e.g., those caused by structural collapse, flying debris, floods and drownings,” the report notes. “During our broader study, we found that many physicians were not oriented in the appropriate certification protocol.This translated into an inadequate indicator for monitoring mortality in the hurricane’s aftermath.”

... while the storm did create a major lag in filing death certificates, physicians did eventually file records thoroughly and consistently.
So the method used to arrive at the estimate was careful and reality-based. It doesn't resemble Trump's caricature at all.

But it's still an estimate. Researchers can't brandish precisely 2,975 death certificates and say, "Here are dead people who wouldn't have died if the hurricane hadn't hit" (although it's clear that they've identified a significant number of such people).

Right-wingers don't believe in statistics. Oh, sure, they like the unemployment and GDP numbers now, because they're good and Trump is president. But they don't believe good numbers (economic or otherwise) when Democrats are in charge and they don't believe bad numbers when Republicans are in charge. Also, they don't believe numbers that challenge firmly held opinions -- they think undocumented immigrants are criminal-minded, so don't even bother telling them that the numbers contradict their feelings.

Right-wingers believe in anecdotes -- they point to the individual deaths of Mollie Tibbetts and Kate Steinle as "proof" that the undocumented are dangerous. They like to keep their arguments on the level of individual outrages. Trump doesn't have a specific outrage here, so he makes one up ("If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list").

Conscientious people applying appropriate methodology are always at risk of ridicule from right-wingers -- it's an extension of the right's anti-science, anti-expertise bias. Conservatives regularly suspect researchers and experts of bad faith and political bias -- see the climate change debate, or the smearing of the inspectors who correctly determined that Iraq lacked weapons of mass destruction in 2003.

Trump is wrong and the George Washington researchers are right -- but they're researchers, so of course they're an easy target for conservative know-nothings.


UPDATE: Rush Limbaugh is also a Hurricane Maria truther. From his show today:
Do you know that researchers at George Washington University did not go down there and count bodies? George Washington University, their finding was not the result of a death toll accounting. Nobody, researcher or otherwise from George Washington University went to Puerto Rico to count bodies on the ground, in the morgue, or wherever. Instead, you know what they did? They used a public health study that compared mortality in the six months following the storm with the number of deaths that would have been expected if the storm had not hit. They used a computer model!

Researchers at George Washington University reached their conclusion via a computer model, and the way they did it, they did a study that compared death in the six months following the storm with the number of deaths that would have been expected if it had not hit. And they come out magically with a number of 2,975 excess deaths that nobody chronicled, nobody reported, nobody counted, there are no bodies to confirm this.

... It’s just a bogus research study to go along with the fake news that Trump and the U.S. didn’t care about Puerto Rico ’cause they’re people of color because Trump is racist and all that and didn’t do anything to help the island.

They’re just lying through their teeth! They’re making it up as they go! The only thing different is that we have a president who’s pushing back against it when they lie about him. And that’s what they can’t digest.
Rush, do you know that the people who put together the GDP numbers Trump likes to brag about don't personally count all the money in America? And the people at the Bureau of Labor Statistics who've been producing those good jobs reports don't personally check the payrolls of every company in America to count every person who has a job?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


So this happened today on Fox & Friends:
Eric Trump is lashing out at veteran Watergate journalist Bob Woodward, and his remarks are drawing accusations of anti-Semitism....

Co-host Steve Doocy ... noted that the anonymous New York Times op-ed, combined with Bob Woodward’s book, “Fear,” has thrown the administration into “chaos.”

Eric Trump pushed back.

“Don’t you think people look through the fact, you can write some sensational, nonsense book, CNN will definitely have you on there because they love to trash the president. It’ll mean you sell three extra books, you make three extra shekels, at the behest of the American people, at the behest of our country, that’s doing a phenomenal job by every quantifiable metric. Is that really where we are?”

White nationalist bigots like to invoke "shekels" -- but Woodward isn't Jewish, and even Eric Trump might be sufficiently well informed to know that. Also, "a few shekels" is a long-established phrase in English meaning "a certain amount of money." Many people have used the expression who aren't flagrantly anti-Semitic.

But does any person under the age of 50 use this expression on a regular basis? Eric Trump is 34. For him, this should be a dad expression -- or maybe even a granddad expression. (Based on a search of book files, Google's Ngram says the use of the expression "a few shekels" peaked in 1936, when Eric's grandpa Fred Trump was a little younger than Eric is now.)

The Trumps always seem to be living in a time warp. With his overdone steaks and aversion to several decades' worth of cooking innovation, not to mention his decor preferences, Donald Trump seems to be a guy whose clock stopped around the time the Rat Pack were still playing the Sands. Eric and Donald Jr. still seem to be getting tonsorial advice from American Psycho's Patrick Bateman. So maybe Eric -- who's technically a Millennial -- would really talk like his grandpa.

Then again, his grandpa was once arrested at a KKK rally, so maybe we don't have to choose between Eric the throwback and Eric the bigot.


The attacks on Beto O'Rourke as a (gasp!) former punk rocker have done absolutely nothing to hurt his Senate campaign against Ted Cruz, and, in fact, have probably helped O'Rourke with younger voters. The GOP is doing the same thing to Antonio Delgado, a congressional candidate in upstate New York.

Delgado, the son of General Electric workers in Schenectady, New York, attended Colgate and Harvard Law and was a Rhodes scholar. He's now a married lawyer with two kids.

But a decade ago he was an aspiring rapper called AD the Voice, and the GOP, trying to save the seat of the Republican incumbent he's challenging, John Faso, is cherry-picking Delgado's lyrics to make him seem dangerous and scary:
In [an] ad from the National Republican Congressional Committee, lyrics from Delgado’s rap career are juxtaposed against clips from his recent campaign ads. A line in which Delgado says that he is “fighting for what’s fair and just” is followed by an old AD the Voice lyric, “gotcha sweatin’ this like ya having sex to a porno flick.” Another line where the candidate says “we owe it to our country to restore the American Dream” is followed by a clip of AD the Voice saying “criticize — it’s what a patriot does” and “God Bless Iraq.”

The "God bless Iraq" edit is particularly obnoxious. Delgado's record came out in 2007. The song from which it's taken, "Draped in Flags," ends with the following recitation:
Terror does not just come in brown, nor is it new. Evil lives in us all, so we must fight with love and goodness in our hearts and peace in our minds, if democracy, equality, and freedom are truly to prevail. God bless America. God bless Iraq. God bless us all.

Remember, the Iraq War was sold to us as, among other things, a way to liberate Iraqis from Saddam's rule. The last line of President George W. Bush's speech to the nation after Saddam was captured was "May God bless the people of Iraq, and may God bless America."

This isn't the only GOP ad to attack Delgado for his lyrics. There's also this one:

That comes from the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is Paul Ryan's super PAC. While we're talking about lyrics, I'll remind you that a 2012 New York Times profile of Ryan depicted him "stroll[ing] the halls of Capitol Hill with the anarchist band Rage Against the Machine pounding through his earbuds." Rage's most famous song is, of course, "Killing in the Name," otherwise known as...

(After Rage guitarist Tom Morello declared that Ryan was "the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades," the congressman said, "They were never my favorite band. I hate the lyrics, but I like the sound. Led Zeppelin has always been my favorite band." Paul, we know you were trying to be more culturally conservative with this pick, but can we talk about Led Zeppelin and that shark?)

In any case, the attack on Delgado doesn't seem to be working: Faso and the Republicans started raising the subject of Delgado's rap career back in July, and the most recent poll, from Monmouth, shows Delgado in the lead:
Delgado is supported by 45% and Faso is supported by 43% of all potential voters.... Another 9% are undecided. When applying two different likely voter models, the contest continues to favor the Democrat. A historical midterm model gives Delgado a 48% to 45% lead over Faso, while a model that includes a turnout surge in Democratic precincts gives Delgado a 49% to 43% lead.
So maybe it's not a good idea to make your Democratic opponent look cooler than you.