Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Fallout



So now Trump has rigged the FBI "investigation" (quelle surprise), and Dems are threatening impeachment of Kavanaugh in 2019.  I'm of a mind to say the Dems need to be true to their resolve and campaign (and follow through) on impeaching Kavanaugh because of his lies, his crimes, and his very confirmation (you know it's coming) is an affront to the history and reputation of the Court.

Yes, this will promote more both-siderism about how the Dems are being unreasonable (Molly Ball raised this argument on "Washington Week" and I changed the channel before I put a boot through my new TeeVee), and will be the start of a most uncivil war. But the GOP have played the bully and the tyrant and insisted on "my way or the highway" for too long. It is time there were consequences for their actions, and not just possible electoral ones. There has to be a war so that all sides agree a reset is better than continued combat. They have fought for power for power's sake, and they must learn the cost if that fight.

It may be the only way to save our republic.  We certainly can't afford to stand down after Kavanaugh and promise feebly to never let another like him on the bench. In fact, he should be impeached whether he is elevated or not. He has shown himself unfit for the bench and he should not fade away back to the D.C. court.  A price must be paid, the fight must be fought. There really isn't any alternative anymore.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Keeping Austin Weird

I suppose I ought to get one of these for my car someday....

I live just off a major north-south boulevard that runs perpendicular to Interstate 10, a freeway that cuts through Houston on the path once traversed by the old Kansas-Texas rail line (the lines were finally torn up a few years ago to widen the highway).  The story is that a Houston city planner once proposed turning the boulevard my residential street connects to, into a controlled access freeway.  The road is crowded with businesses and housing developments and even a high-school along its run north of the highway.  It's an idea that probably looked good on paper but one trip to the street would convince you it was utter nonsense born of sheer ignorance.

But I think of it when I read Matt Yglesias advising Austin on how to handle its growing pains.  First, "Keep Austin Weird" is a slogan that started after I moved away from that town 25 years ago.  It ostensibly meant "buy local" (I have a coffee mug from a local book store with the slogan on it; a lot of t-shirts with it are from local stores), but if it had a connotation of "keep Austin the same as it is," that wouldn't be denied either.

Funny thing:  that slogan took hold after I left, but since I've left Austin has changed so much I don't recognize most of it.  Even the house I owned there, the first home my daughter came home to, has been torn down and replaced.  I spent a night in a hotel, a local one that I thought would be "weird" (it was just disappointing) in a part of town that was thriving when I left, but now looked like a place you didn't want to be out in after dark.  And before that, back when I first moved to Austin, the slogan was "Native Texan."  It was on bumper stickers and coffee mugs (I still have mine), and it meant the owner was a native, not a transplant.  About the time that fad faded a local newspaper columnist published a letter of advice to a well-meaning person asking what to look for in Austin, which the writer was soon moving to.  Don't come, was the columnist's advice; we're full.  She was very popular for that; not that it stopped the development or the construction of apartments.  There was even an ordinance limiting the height of buildings downtown, trying to preserve "sight corridors" for the magnificent rose granite dome of the Texas Capitol in downtown Austin.  That didn't last long, either.  It's hard to see the Capitol now from several vantage points except coming straight up Congress Avenue.  The charming buildings of Austin, save for the Driskill and the Paramount Theater, are gone.  6th street, which was full of dive bars and tattoo parlors when I moved there in the late 70's, rose and fell in those almost 50 years; it's full of dive bars again.  It was once the center of Austin's entertainment sector, the most appealing street after dark in town. Now it looks like a war zone again.

So it goes.

Yglesias wants to build a rail line down 6th street, after one is built on Guadalupe, the street that runs north from the river past UT campus and up into north Austin.  It's a winding, crowded street with buildings all along it:  state buildings, the UT campus, churches, businesses.  Turning it over to light rail sounds rather like turning the street near me into a controlled access freeway.  But who would ride these rails?  People going to work?  From where?  To where?  And how do they get to the train stations?  Light rail is supposed to replace cars and reduce traffic and provide "mass-transit," but unless it stops at the end of your street, or in front of your house, you have to get to the station first.  And how many people using Guadalupe everyday are looking to park their car, get on a train, and ride to a store, a restaurant, a bar.  I know a coffee roaster several blocks off Guadalupe; I'd be loathe to get off a train blocks from that store and walk downhill and uphill to get my coffee, and then walk back with my packages, especially in August in Texas.  And what is down 6th street at the moment that anyone wants to take a train to?

When I lived in Chicago, I actually lived in Cook County, in a small town that bordered O'Hare Airport.  The family took the train into Chicago once.  It was easier to walk around Chicago than try to drive there, park, and get around, especially in the days before Google maps and smart phones.  Besides, Chicago had made sure there were no freeways out of the city into the county; they'd learned that lesson from St. Louis, and St. Louis County.  But in Austin?  I'm trying to imagine, if I lived there again, ever taking a rail that ran down Guadalupe or Sixth street, rather than just taking my car.

Yglesias is, like that apocryphal city planner declaring a boulevard would make a fine freeway by looking at a map, wholly out of his depth.  "Keep Austin Weird" may be the latest iteration of Austin's desire to be economically viable (when I moved there, the economy was moribund.  You worked for the city, the state, or a hospital, or you were a student working for tips at a bar.) and yet remain what it was when the last people got there.  That struggle is more than 50 years old, it didn't begin with Yglesias' notice.  And his solution doesn't take into account why people drive cars anyway:  they do it because Texas is hot, or wet, or cold (I was walking in downtown Austin decades gone when I crossed the line of an oncoming cold front.  It was like stepping into a freezer, the temperature dropped so dramatically between one step and another.), and because cars are so damned convenient. And because cars go where the people are, and where they want to go; trains don't, not in cities laid out like Austin.

I'm all for mass transit, but Houston built a light rail system downtown.  It's great for people who live near the Medical Center and work there; but most people use it by driving downtown, parking near a station, then riding to the football field because it's easier than parking in the lots there.  Needless to say, even with the multiple uses that stadium gets, it's not a daily exercise for most of us.  The people who live there like it; the majority of people who live in Houston never use it.  And years after it was put in, it's still conflicting with the traffic; train/car collisions are numerous, and hard to avoid, the way the thing was laid out.  If Yglesias' plan doesn't cause the problems Houston's rail does, he'll have to shut down Guadalupe and 6th Street to cars; and that's not going to happen.

Austin will still consider itself weird, even if it has changed so much in 25 years I wouldn't move back there if I could.  The Austin I knew is gone, even as the people there earnestly want to preserve the Austin they know.  Like anything loved, it's better preserved in memory than preserved in amber.  That's the problem that needs solving, and the solution is not mass-transit or new city ordinances.  But then, technology and law are seldom the solutions we think they are going to be.

Ephemera



This post may be more ephemeral than most, as it may be completely pointless in as little as a few minutes; but CNN is reporting right now that Sen. Flake is announcing he will vote for Kavanaugh in committee if he can be assured the floor vote will be postponed for a week or more for further investigation by the FBI.  Indeed, as I type, they have voted 11-10 to send the nomination to the floor, apparently with a condition?  Per CNN, that's under discussion right now.

The reporting on this is still that a vote will be held on the Senate floor "early next week."  However, Ted Cruz cancelled a debate with Beto O'Rourke here in Houston in order to stay in D.C. over the weekend for "possible votes" on Kavanaugh.  The new term starts next week, and they want Kavanaugh on the bench by then if possible, so it's likely the Senate wants to confirm as late as Sunday, to ship Kavanaugh off to the bench Monday morning.  Will the Senate now wait a week because Flake has asked them to?    Signs point to "No":

There is no indication that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who controls the floor, has agreed to this plan.

Will Flake prove strong enough to resist the pressure to vote for Kavanaugh within 48 hours, or to fight for what he says he's standing for?

Nah.  He's trying to grow a spine, but this time it does legitimately come too late.  On the other hand, does McConnell have the votes?

“I do think we can have a short pause and make sure the FBI can investigate,” Flake said, adding that he and other members are prepared to make a request to the White House to order an FBI investigation. “I’ve spoken to a few other members who — on my side of the aisle that may be supportive as well, but that’s my position. I think that we ought to do what we can to make sure that we do all due diligence with a nomination this important.”

Well, he does if those other members are as resolute as Flake.  Just don't be surprised if Kavanaugh is confirmed before October 1.
Will Flake be as resolute as Murkowski? That's the next question.

Well, it doesn't matter now:


Of course, if even more information comes out, especially if the FBI turns up anything.....


It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over


Yeah, that's the problem here; and the man is the victim, right?

"Ugly" isn't even the word for this anymore:

“Kavanaugh dodged and dissembled, ranted and raved, filibustered — I did not find him credible,” [Sen.] Whitehouse said. “I don’t believe ‘boof’ is flatulence, I don’t believe the devil’s triangle is a drinking game, and I don’t believe calling yourself a girl’s alumnus is being her friend, and I think drinking until you ‘ralph’ or fall out of the bus or don’t remember the game or need to piece together your memory the next day is more consistent with Dr. Ford’s and others’ testimony than his own.”

“If Dr. Ford’s testimony is true, I hope we can all agree Kavanaugh has no business on the court, and I for one believed her,” he added.

And then there's that calendar tout le internet is talking about:

“We know ‘Bart’ Kavanaugh was there because it’s his schedule, and here’s Judge, and here’s PJ, here are all those three named boys and others at a house together just as she said,” Whitehouse said. “She said Kavanaugh and Judge were drunk and that she had a beer. (The calendar shows) skis — (or) brewskis, beer. They were drinking, just as she said.”

“Now, I will concede that the two girls aren’t mentioned, but spot me this,” he added. “If you had just sexually assaulted one of the two girls, would you add the girls’ names to your calendar? I doubt it. This may, may be powerful corroborating evidence that the assault happened, that it happened that day, and that it happened in that place, but with no FBI investigation, we can’t tell.”

And it ain't over 'til it's over:

“We have done a botch of the investigation, over time I expect the facts to come out,” he said. “They have a way of doing that. Coverups never last. The sand is running through Kavanaugh’s hourglass, and I pledge whatever I can do to make sure that the truth of his conduct is ultimately determined.”

There is no reason to think Kavanaugh's confirmation brings this all to an end.  The Republicans will, of course, blame the Democrats for the consequences of confirming Kavanaugh.  The guilty always blame the victim, though; that's not new, either.

Trump Derangement Syndrome


He misspelled the Justices names.

He's never been a U.S. Senator; so he's never voted for either Justice he names here.

Sad!

The Beatdown Goes On


 The American Bar Association did not recommend Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court (he was ruled "unqualified," if memory serves).  The ABA recommendation was swept aside in determination to seat Thomas on the bench.  This was before Anita Hill came forward, and, according to Matt Lewis on NPR this morning, incurred the everlasting ire of conservatives, who were still stung by the rejection of Robert Bork (hence the "Borking" reference Kavanaugh made yesterday).  Lewis was arguing that everything that has happened to the Supreme Court since Bork is the fault of Democrats (and liberals, by implication), and also implicitly that conservatives bear no responsibility.  Which is an argument for privilege and entitlement and immaturity that were the hallmarks of Brett Kavanaugh's testimony yesterday.  There is, as Thomas Jefferson wrote, "a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States."  Not by a king, but by an ideological movement; and it will brook no challenge to its authority, to its hegemony, to its absolute rule.  No more than Brett Kavanaugh will allow his place on the Supreme Court to be challenged.  When Republicans finally vote today, it will be because they don't care about what Dr. Ford said; and because they don't give a wet snap about the integrity of the Supreme Court as an independent branch of government.  All that matters, as Nina Totenberg said this morning, is that Mitch McConnell get the bench he's always wanted.

And then if the Democrats respond in kind, retaliate against Kavanaugh for his numerous lies in these hearings, for his outrageously partisan stance that shocked even Ms. Totenberg, the war will be fully engaged.  If it isn't engaged, however, how long can the republic stand a one-sided assault on all it is supposed to prevent from happening?

Truth Outs

So the man we saw yesterday is NOT fit for the Bench, but he will be?

After all:

A good justice should be empathetic, not focused on oneself.

A good justice should be calm, not angry.

A good justice should show grace under pressure, not be easily rattled.

A good justice should be even-tempered, not short-tempered.

A good justice should be thoughtful, not strident.

A good justice should in the face of adversity show courage, not petulance.

Good leadership is all about making good decisions.  

And certainly we can agree that:

At the end of the day good leadership is about temperament. Having the kind of calm demeanor and even temperament that enables one to make sound thoughtful decisions under pressure. Not decisions that are reflexive, impulsive, angry or politically driven.

When one thinks of the sea of strident bitter recriminations that have engulfed this whole Supreme Court nomination process, and the partisan political football the Supreme Court has become, it feels like we’ve completely lost sight of what a Supreme Court ought to be.

But all is not lost!

Well, cheer up, the good news at least is I think we found someone today with the right temperament to make a fine Supreme Court Justice.

Her name is Christine Blasey Ford.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

End of the News of the Day


Stipulated:  Brett Kavanaugh is a liar.*

“I watched the whole hearing. A number of my Yale colleagues and I were extremely disappointed in Brett Kavanaugh’s characterization of himself and the way that he evaded his excessive drinking questions,” [Kavanaugh Yale classmate Lynne] Brookes said. “There is no doubt in my mind that while at Yale, he was a big partier, often drank to excess. There had to be a number of nights where he does not remember.”

She added, “There were a lot of emails and a lot of texts flying around about how he was lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee today.”
And this is going to get worse before it gets better:  during a break in the hearing this morning, NPR reporters filled the dead air with discussion of the committee's work, and one reporter opined that if the Democrats retook the Senate, Trump would never get another Supreme Court justice approved.  "For two years?," Nina Totenberg asked, incredulity in her voice.  The example of the late Sen. McCain was cited, who said before the last Presidential election that if Clinton won, she'd never get a Supreme Court appointment through a GOP Senate.

And it may, very reasonably, get worse:


There could still be an investigation out of Maryland, which would be an interesting problem for a sitting Justice.  And Rubin is right:  a Democratic Congress could certainly investigate and impeach Kavanaugh if, for no other reason, than his numerous lies in his testimony.  There is also the issue of expanding the Court.  Are these things right, or wrong?  Well, the nominee showed absolutely no judicial temperament today:


Imagine any other judicial nominee getting into a shouting match with Amy Klobuchar and not being shown the door instanter, especially if the Senator was a Republican and the nominee from a Democratic president.  It is not the Democrats, in Kavanaugh's poor phrasing of the adage, who will reap the whirlwind from this nomination:  it is the GOP.  Tom Cotton, doing his best Lindsay Graham imitation, noted:

“Women give birth to boys as well, and they worry as much about false accusations or show trials like the Democrats put on as they worry about the very serious crime of sexual assault,” Cotton said after taking a swipe at the press, calling a female reporter “the media wing of the Democratic Party” for asking about potential political fallout for the GOP if they confirm Kavanaugh.
I'm not sure how much both-siderism that comment, or Graham's, will hold, especially considering the alternative point of view:



“First, I thought he had a tantrum and showed that he doesn’t have the temperament to be a Supreme Court justice,” [former federal prosecutor Cynthia] Alksne concluded. “And he also showed that his — he can be an angry and belligerent person and it just felt like, ‘oh, that is what he’s like when he’s angry and belligerent when he’s drunk.'”

“Can you imagine if a woman came into the Senate chamber and screamed and hollered at senators like that and interrupted them and was that rude?” she wondered.

“She’d be taken out in a straight jacket, because it is Judge Kavanaugh, he got away with it,” she noted. “I thought it was shocking.”

This is what Kavanaugh is like when he's drunk, or when he doesn't get his way, or when he's challenged; not what is usually considered a "judicial temperament."  Imagine if he'd simply accepted that these stories, while he denied them, indicated pain in others he was sorry he might have caused, or that they had suffered.  Imagine empathy and sympathy replacing entitlement and "lack of simple decency."  Imagine a wholly different nominee, because that person clearly would not be Brett Kavanaugh.

John King said it best:  "“Brett Kavanaugh went full Trump today."  Yeah, pretty damned much.

P.S.  On the whole "ambush/bushwhacked/waited-too-long" thing.  Please let it finally be buried.  Had this all come out two months ago, it would now be dismissed as "old news" and "already talked about (if no more investigated than now)".  It's bullshit served on a platter to make it look edible.  Send it back, it's not even half-baked.

*As casually as another person says "Hello":

“I only have a few seconds left and I’ll just ask you a direct question: did you watch Dr. Ford’s testimony?” [Sen. Kamala ] Harris asked.

“I did not,” he acknowledged. “I planned to, but I did not, I was preparing mine.”

There may be added significance to the question by Harris, a veteran prosecutor who served as Attorney General of California and District Attorney of San Francisco.

Prior to Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony, the Wall Street Journal published a story that contradicts Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony later in the day.

“Among those watching Dr. Ford’s testimony was Judge Kavanaugh, a committee aide said, from a monitor in another room in the Dirksen Senate Building, where he awaits the opportunity to tell his side of the story later today,” The Journal reported.
Judge Kavanaugh had better pray the Democrats don't take the Senate; whether he is on the high court or keeps his current sinecure, they are certain to come after him. 

Lindsay Graham is the real victim here

Gaze upon the face of the true victim here.  Weep for him.

A victim of the political calendar, and of being in the majority in the Senate:

“I don’t know what they told Ms. Ford but we were willing to go to California, we were told she couldn’t fly,” Graham snapped. “All I can say is that we’re 40-something days away from the election and [the Democrats’] goal — not Ms. Ford’s goal — is to delay this past the midterms so they can win the Senate and never allow Trump to fill this seat. I believe that now more than ever.”

“I don’t know who paid for her polygraph, but somebody did,” he continued, raising his finger into the air. “The [Democratic] friends on the other side set it up to be just the way it is.”

“I feel ambushed as the majority!” the senator added.

"I like beer...so, whatever."


Ford says she'll never forget the laughter of her assailants.

Kavanaugh says they'll never make him quit.

He already has, that much is clear. He had a lifetime gig when he was offered this one. He knows how this ends.

The Man Speaks

Kavanaugh says he wasn't at the party Ford remembers. She can't remember any details about where or when the party was (except she was 15), so the only conclusion is that Kavanaugh means he never attended any party before going to Yale. And he never drank or kissed a girl until he was married.  And he's been a choir boy all his life, no matter what his classmates from Yale say.

I'm still holding out for the phrase"hi-tech lynching." He's taken his outrage from the Thomas hearings, might as well take the words, too.

(And I agree with JMM: Kavanaugh has given up on the nomination. He can't invoke the moral umbrage of a black man, so he tosses his daughter up for sympathy and offers a "Fuck you all" for the rest.  JMM thinks Kavanaugh is cuing up a new career, but why? He has a lifetime gig now. He could moon the Committee and keep that job. Give him a beer, maybe he will.)

Clueless


She wasn't, but they sure are!

Reading a bit about the examination of Dr. Ford in the hearing (cross-examination seems the more correct term) because I'm not trying to watch the hearing myself, I found Josh Marshall summed it up pretty well:

I watched and couldn’t imagine what Committee Republicans were thinking if they thought this was accomplishing anything good, whether substantive or political. It wasn’t just that she didn’t lay a glove on Blasey Ford. It was more the jarring mismatch between the two people. Here you have a cooperative, sympathetic and seemingly guileless (in the good sense of the term) women getting questions the clear focus of which was to catch her out on some fatal contradiction. It was harsh and forensic. For all that, it was even more hapless because Mitchell clearly didn’t know the answers she was going to get. So she failed even in her probably impossible task.

I watched this brief interchange and thought: this is more catastrophic for them then I really could have possibly imagined. We all get why the older men on the committee didn’t want to question Blasey Ford. But gender isn’t the only factor here. A woman treating her as a hostile witness and apparently being tone deaf to how the testimony had already gone is just as bad and maybe worse. Especially when everyone knows she is there as a stand-in for the Majority’s moral cowardice. It was so bad I even felt bad for Mitchell. After all, she’s only had a few days to prep and in the nature of things lacks the authority to shift gears from her brief.
But here's what Marshall didn't say, and it's going to be obvious to almost every woman in America:  the old white men of the GOP sitting on that panel are using Mitchell as their proxy.  She is the puppet, they are pulling the strings.  The obvious purpose is to deflect from their gender, but all they do is deepen their position as the Men Who Should Be In Charge, and that's the defense of Kavanaugh that's coming down:  he is a man, he should be in charge, and women should not be believed.

Why else would Sen. Graham say this?

“She took a polygraph and they didn’t tell us until Sept. 26,” Graham said. “All I can deal with is what’s in front of me. I’ve got a guy who adamantly denies this. Anyone who knows him in a real way say this is not the guy I know. I’ve got Dr. Ford, who can’t tell me the time and the place, and we’ll see what happens.”

He accused Democrats of pulling a political stunt with Ford and other women who have alleged sexual assault by Kavanaugh, and he warned Republicans they would do it again.

“Let me put it this way to my Republican colleagues,” Graham said. “If this becomes the new standard, where you have an accusation for weeks, you drop it right before the hearing, you withhold from the committee a chance to do this in a professional, timely fashion. When they publicly say that their goal is to delay the vote, get the Senate back in 2018, to make sure he can’t fill the seat, they’re publicly saying that, I don’t want to reward that kind of behavior. I think we’ve been very fair.”

“To my Republican colleagues,” he added, “if you can ignore everything in this record, looking at allegation that’s 35 years old, that’s uncertain for time, place, date and no corroboration, if that’s enough for you, god help us as Republicans. Because this happens to us, it never happens to them.”

Then he threatened Democrats and their future nominees.

“Let me tell you, my Democratic friends,” Graham said. “If this is the new norm, you better watch out for your nominees.” 
Not a trace of irony about the nomination of Merrick Garland, not a hint of sympathy (more importantly) for Dr. Ford.  Let me put it this way:  women had better just shut up and mind their place and not interfere with the men's business; that's what Sen. Graham is saying.  And that's what the GOP is saying through Rachel Mitchell:  you ask the questions we want you to ask, you do what we tell you to do, and you keep us from having to be the Old White Men Asking Questions of a Woman on the TeeVee.  Mind your betters, woman.

Yeah, that's a winning slogan in 2018.



That would be the conspiracy theory even Whelan withdrew and apologized for.  And lower and lower they go....

Turn out the lights....


I mean, when reality penetrates that carapace!  Maybe it's because the medium is the message:

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Speaking of Fallacies in Logic


A classic form of ad hominem.  The character of Mr. Avenatti is irrelevant.  The character of his client is relevant, but on that subject Trump has nothing to say, so he tries to shoot the messenger.

Missed it by that much!*

*ask your grandfather, ya snot-nosed punk!

All False?


Yeah, I think that statement is already broken:


The woman who reached out to the Senate said that her daughter witnessed the incident along with three other women and wanted to flag it for them.

“When they left the bar (under the influence of alcohol) they were all shocked when Brett Kavanaugh, shoved her friend up against the wall very aggressively and sexually,” the mother said.

The letter didn’t provide names and said they wanted to remain anonymous.

I know the smart thing to do is to ignore anonymously sourced information like this; but at this point, you can't really blame them for not seeking notoriety.

That was in 1998, allegedly.  This one was in 1985:

“Senator Whitehouse received a call this morning from a Rhode Island constituent [unnamed] who made allegations regarding U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. [Unnamed] reported that early on a Sunday morning in August of 1985, a close acquaintance of the constituent was sexually assaulted by two heavily inebriated men she referred to at the time as Brett and Mark.”

“The event took place on a 36-foot maroon and white boat in the harbor at Newport, Rhode Island, after the three had met at a local bar. According to [unnamed], when he learned of the assault at approximately 5:00 a.m. that same morning, he and another individual went to the harbor, located the boat the victim had described and physically confronted the two men, leaving them with significant injuries,” the statement read.

“[Unnamed] recently realized that one of the men was Brett Kavanaugh when she saw Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook photo on television over the weekend. He promptly reported the incident to our office on Monday Morning, September 24, 2018,” it continued.
Wonder why [unnamed] waited so long, right, Mr. President?

Kavanaugh is quick on the response:

Kavanaugh said he has never been on a boat in Newport.

Well, I'm sure he hasn't; and he probably has a calendar from 1985 to prove it.  And he never touched a girl or himself until he was married and he and his wife had prayed to Lord Jesus on their wedding night, and then they only did it in the missionary position, like God intended.  At this point all these categorical denials are starting to look pretty weak.  I mean, it's not like he faces criminal charges (although Slate argues he should, in Maryland, where there is no statute of limitations to protect Kavanaugh; and wouldn't the spectacle of a sitting Supreme Court Justice under state criminal investigation be an interesting one?).  There isn't even a civil suit (preponderance of the evidence) in the Senate hearings; just the question of fitness for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.  The question is not: did it happen, but rather:  why don't the other 8 Justices on the Court drag around so much personal baggage?

That's five cases, by the way; or six, if you count my way.  Charlie Pierce didn't think there were the votes in the Senate at close of day today.  This news doesn't make that calculus less prescient.

When does Kavanaugh go all-in and call this a high-tech lynching?

The Day's News


So start there, and work your way down (and by "down" I mean "lower and lower and lower...):

“The FBI told us they’ve investigated Judge Kavanaugh six times, five times, many times over the years. They know him very well. Here there was nothing to investigate from at least one standpoint. They didn’t know the location. They didn’t know the time. They didn’t know the year,” Trump said.

Trump also that called all three allegations false.

“These are all false to me,” Trump said.
But hey, Trump also said:

“It’s possible I’ll hear that and I’ll say, ‘Hey, I’m changing my mind.’ That is possible,” Trump said, referring to Blasey Ford’s expected testimony at a Senate hearing on Thursday. “I could be persuaded.”

Although just before that:

Trump made the comments after claiming that Kavanaugh is facing “false accusations in certain cases.”
Apparently there was no follow-up as to which cases were not based on false accusations.  Equally apparently, Brett Kavanaugh cannot tell a lie:*

“If we brought George Washington here and we said, we have George Washington, the Democrats would vote against him,” Trump said. “Just so you understand. And he may have had a bad past, who knows, you know? He may have had some — I think accusations made. Didn’t he have a couple of things in his past?”
Oh, we're not done yet:

“The people that have complained to me about it the most, about what’s happening —are women,” Trump said. “Women are very angry. You know, I got 52 percent with women. Everyone said this couldn’t happen. But 52 percent of women are so angry. Frankly, I think they like what the Republicans are doing. But I think they would have liked to have seen it go a lot faster.”

He's also accomplished more than any President in history, as he recently told the UN, who loved that stuff.  I mean, he killed in the General Assembly!

 “That’s fake news, and it was covered that way,” he said. “OK. So I said that since my election our economy has become the hottest in the world. Tax reductions, regulations, confidence levels are the highest in 18 years, really soon to be historic. Unemployment is the lowest in the history of our country. You look at black unemployment, you look at Asian unemployment, you look at women, 65 years, the unemployment numbers are among the best we’ve ever had, ever.”

He went on to say that the group was mostly from other countries as if he didn’t know what the United Nations was. He then claimed that they weren’t “big into clapping, applauding [or] smiling.”

“And I heard a little rustle as I said our country is now stronger than ever before. It is true. I mean it is true. I heard a little rustle. And I said, ‘It is true.’ And I heard smiles,” Trump said, though he didn’t clarify what a smile sounds like.

“I said, ‘I didn’t know there would be’ — they weren’t laughing at me,” he continued. “They were laughing with me. We had fun. That was not laughing at me. So the fake news said, people laughed at President Trump. They didn’t laugh at me. People had a good time with me. We were doing it together.”

Raising once again the question of what color the sky is in his world.  And proving that Nikki Haley certainly earned her paycheck today.  On the general topic of sexual assaults and being Leader of the Free World with access to more intelligence and experts than you can shake a stick at:


Oh, hell, that press conference was just the gift that keeps on giving:
Because it's always all about Trump:

The Leader of the Free World, ladies and gentlemen!  Thank you for coming!  Tip the buffet!  Try your waitress!  Good night!


*Although, ironically, that story was made up by Parson Weems to teach young children the virtues of honesty.  You can't make this stuff up.

The Courtier's Impertinent Reply

Not an actual courtier; then again, it's not an actual logical fallacy

In looking for that picture, I came across the alleged (Wikipedia is right, for once) logical fallacy of the "courtier's reply."  It apparently goes like this:

I have considered the impudent accusations of Mr Dawkins with exasperation at his lack of serious scholarship. He has apparently not read the detailed discourses of Count Roderigo of Seville on the exquisite and exotic leathers of the Emperor’s boots, nor does he give a moment’s consideration to Bellini’s masterwork, On the Luminescence of the Emperor’s Feathered Hat. We have entire schools dedicated to writing learned treatises on the beauty of the Emperor’s raiment, and every major newspaper runs a section dedicated to imperial fashion; Dawkins cavalierly dismisses them all. He even laughs at the highly popular and most persuasive arguments of his fellow countryman, Lord D. T. Mawkscribbler, who famously pointed out that the Emperor would not wear common cotton, nor uncomfortable polyester, but must, I say must, wear undergarments of the finest silk. Dawkins arrogantly ignores all these deep philosophical ponderings to crudely accuse the Emperor of nudity.
So there you are:  the man who laughs at commonly accepted knowledge is the wise child perceiving the Emperor is naked.  And to fail to understand this, on the basis that the child is uneducated and simple, rather than wise in innocence and ignorance, is to court logical fallacious reasoning.

The irony here is that P.Z. Myers is a biologist by training (reportedly; I can't vouch for anything except the name), not a logician.  Were I to say in my ignorance cum innocence that biology was bosh, he would undoubtedly reject my reasoning as the product of an unlearned mind, and a fine example of foolishness, to boot.  He would not be wrong.  But without any training in logic (which is a field of study and human thought as old as Aristotle, and as complex as Godel's Theorem of Incompleteness, which I doubt Mr. Myers could read and understand anymore than I can), he declares to understand logic enough to identify a new fallacy of reasoning.

Logic is very close to mathematics (which is the reason Godel's theorem was a reply to Russell and Whitehead's Principia Mathematica, and why the theorem itself creates a formula, a near algebraic one, to establish its proof.).  The logic used by Godel is modal logic:  it involves symbols and signs indicating functions, much as mathematics does; but it has its own symbols and signs and uses them in ways arithmetic and calculus and other forms of mathematics, do not.  Still, the idea is to eliminate lexical issues of the kind that so annoyed Wittgenstein (who knew better than to apply such formal reasoning to all human concerns; that's where Russell foundered and why Whitehead abandoned the project for a quasi-theological tome).  The lexical problem shows up in a simple syllogism:

Major premise:  All humans are mortal.
Minor premise:  Socrates is mortal.
Conclusion:       Socrates is human.

That is an actual logical fallacy.  It's called the fallacy of the undistributed middle.  If you don't read carefully, you won't note the problem immediately.  If I rewrite it as pseudo-modal logic (I don't have the chops myself, though I studied it briefly in college decades ago, and I'm not going to figure out how to make the correct symbols on this keyboard), it looks kind of like this:

All H are M.
S is M.
S is H.

Still not perfectly clear, I suppose, although clearer that the class of things with the characteristic "M" are "H", but that does not mean all "M" are "H".  Modal logic has rules and set formulae (sort of like knowing "2+2=4" without doing the calculation, or remembering the multiplication tables) which would establish the error, to the logician, as casually as we accept "2+2=5" is wrong.  If you don't know modal logic, of course, you don't know that, though you can reason it out.  Now, can we reduce Myers' alleged fallacy to symbols, the better to understand it?  Only if you can tell me what it is in the first place, because while the Wiki interpretation makes sense, it doesn't necessarily derive from the quoted passage. Besides, there's the problem of the shuffle, as the example itself replaces real arguments with Myers' straw-man versions.  The whole thing is shot through with chop logic to the point it doesn't say anything.  But to say P.Z. Myers is not a logician and doesn't understand logic, is not to court the alleged fallacy of the courtier's reply.  It is, in fact, to prove there is no fallacy, nor even an appeal to authority (Wikipedia identifies the fallacy as a sort of appeal to authority; if it identified a legitimate fallacy in reasoning.). Myers' argument is an appeal to ignorance; which is a logical fallacy.

The appeal to authority is a tricky one.  On the one hand, to shut down argument because "The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!" is certainly a logical fallacy, being an appeal to authority.  But has P.Z. Myers recapitulated personally every scientific study he learned in school, to verify independently the validity of such studies?  Or has he accepted the reasoning behind the conclusions because that is what he was taught, because he took those teachings as authority?  There has to be an appeal to authority, or we have to reinvent the wheel with every individual born.  The legitimacy of the appeal is the issue; not the appeal itself.

This argument came up, per the Wikipedia article (my authority for this, such as it is), in the context of Dawkins' challenge to the existence of God in The God Delusion.  I've written about that and Terry Eagleton's criticism of Dawkins on the subject, and even the arguments about the existence of God (there's probably a lot of overlap in those links), so I won't belabor the subjects here.  Suffice to say the Courtier's Reply is called by critics the "Myers' shuffle" for good reason, if only because the alleged logical fallacy seems to apply (again, per the Wiki article) only to arguments about the existence of God.  Again, I've addressed this subject before, though I think Kierkegaard did it better almost 2 centuries ago:

It is generally a difficult matter to want to demonstrate that something exists-worse still, for the brave souls who venture to do it, the difficulty is of such a kind that fame by no means awaits those who are preoccupied with it. The whole process of demonstration continually becomes something entirely different, becomes an expanded concluding development of what I conclude from having presupposed that the object of investigation exists. Therefore, whether I am moving in the world of sensate palpability or in the world of thought, I never reason in conclusion to existence, but I reason in conclusion from existence. For example, I do not demonstrate that a stone exists but that something which exists is a stone. The court of law does not demonstrate that a criminal exists but that the accused, who does indeed exist, is a criminal. Whether one wants to call existence an accessorium [addition] or the eternal prius [pre-supposition], it can never be demonstrated. We shall take our time; after all, there is no reason for us to rush as there is for those who, out of concern for themselves, or for the god, or for something else, must rush to get proof that something exists. In that case, there is good reason to make haste, especially if the one involved has in all honesty made an accounting of the danger that he himself or the object being investigated does not exist until he proves it and does not dishonestly harbor the secret thought that essentially it exists whether he demonstrates it or not.

If one wanted to demonstrate Napoleon's existence from Napoleon's works, would it not be most curious, since his existence certainly explains the works but the works do not demonstrate his existence unless I have already in advanace interpreted the word "his" in such a way as to have assumed that he exists. But Napoleon is only an individual, and to that extent there is no absolute relation between him and his works-thus someone else could have done the same works. Perhaps that is why I cannot reason from the works to existence. If I call the works Napoleon's works, then the demonstration is superfluous, since I have already" mentioned his name. If I ignore this, I can never demonstrate from the works that they are Napoleon's but demonstrate (purely ideally) that such works are the works of a great general etc. However between the god and his works there is an absolute relation. God is not a name but a concept, and perhaps because of that his essentia involvit existentiam [essence involves existence].

Johannes Climacus, Philosophical Fragments.

Another reason to have some reading under your belt.  I'm not sure what the biological (read: scientific) definition of "existence" is, but I'm sure it's not the one used by philosophers of religion (who debate the existence of God), nor of phenomenologists (who discuss the nature of existence and being), nor even of the average person (who doesn't spend much time on these subjects).  Johannes Climacus can argue that essence involves existence (a philosophical argument of some age now), but he also points out that to argue about the existence of God one must first accept such existence is possible, and then why prove it?  If you don't accept the possibility, how is it proven?  Or, as Climacus put it:

If, namely the god does not exist, then of course it is impossible to demonstrate it. But if he does exist, then of course it is foolishness to want to demonstrate it, since I, in the very moment the demonstration commences, would presuppose it not as doubtful--which a presupposition cannot be, inasmuch as it is a presupposition--but as decided, because otherwise I would not begin, easily perceiving that the whole thing would be impossible if he did not exist. If, however, I interpret the expression "to demonstrate the existence of the god" to mean that I want to demonstrate that the unknown, which exists, is the god, than I do not express myself very felicitously, for then I demonstrate nothing, least of all an existence, but I develop the definiteness of a concept.

And the definiteness of a concept is a philosophical pursuit, no matter how much Myers may wants to insist it is an empirical one (itself a philosophy which defines concepts, and I'm guessing Myers isn't a very philosophical guy).  It's going 'round the mulberry bush (or the prickly pear, if you prefer to update), but that's about all it is.  Conclusive, decisive, definitive, it is not.  And just to point this out is to point out again the error of the "courtier's reply."  An argument from ignorance is not an argument; it's just ignorance.

P.Z. Myers is sitting at the kiddie's table throwing food while adults, the real thinkers like Kierkegaard and Derrida and Godel and Aristotle and Wittgenstein, have an adult conversation in another room.

Fourth Kavanaugh Shoe Drops


Yeah, fourth; this was the third:

Several former classmates of Judge Brett Kavanaugh who just last month endorsed his nomination to the Supreme Court have now called for the Yale alumnus to be investigated over allegations of sexual misconduct.

And Brett Kavanaugh wants to assure you he didn't write down the parties where he got blackout drunk and tried to gang rape girls by getting them drunk (I had friends who talked about doing this, in high school and college; none of them ever did, though.  Talk is cheap.  They weren't rapists, despite being adolescent boys.).  Since he didn't document his crimes, they didn't happen!

And this is less a new shoe than simply a rebuttal to liars:

Christine Blasey Ford has provided four sworn statements from people who say they had discussed her alleged assault before Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh must be affirmed, the reputation of the Supreme Court be damned!  All that matters is victory (and a vote before the lame duck session)!

They Weren't Laughing at him!


They were laughing for him!

“They loved how honest he is,” [U.N. Ambassador Nikki] Haley said. “It’s not diplomatic and they find it funny. ... When he goes and he is very truthful, they kind of were taken back by it.”

“All day yesterday, they were falling over themselves to get a picture with him, to talk about how great his speech was,” she continued. “They love that he’s honest with them and they’ve never seen anything like it, so there’s respect there. I saw that the media was trying to make it something disrespectful. That’s not what it was ― they love to be with him.”

Delusional lunacy is truth when spoken from the mouth of the Ruler.  The art of the courtier is not dead.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

"I thought you were pre-med."

If Kavanaugh would wear the coat, he'd be a shoo-in!

This is the best take on the "Kavanaugh Defense."

The Shoe is ALWAYS On The Other Guy's Foot Dept.


Prompted by this:

Turns out it wasn't just once:
And by the way, world:  Refugees should stay home and make their countries great again.  And peace is for suckers!

Precisely why Beto should win



“Because he’s like a serpent covered in Vaseline,” Stephens began. “Because he treats the American people like two-bit suckers in 10-gallon hats. Because he sucks up to the guy who insulted his wife — by retweet, no less. Because of his phony piety and even phonier principles. Because I see him as the spiritual love child of the 1980s televangelist Jimmy Swaggart and Jack Nicholson’s character in ‘The Shining.'”

“Because his ethics are purely situational,” he continued. “Because he makes Donald Trump look like a human being by comparison. Because “New York values.” Because his fellow politicians detest him, and that’s just among Republicans. Because he never got over being the smartest kid in eighth grade. Because he’s conniving enough to try to put one over you, but not perceptive enough to realize that you see right through him. Because he’s the type of man who would sell his family into slavery if that’s what it took to get elected. And that he would use said slavery as a sob story to get himself re-elected.”
"Because he never got over being the smartest kid in eighth grade" is particularly brutal.  I honestly wish I'd thought of it.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Submitted For Your Approval



And I can't read the words of Judge Kavanaugh's righteous indignation without hearing steel balls being rolled around in the palm of his right hand.

“I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process. The coordinated effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out. The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out. The last minute character assassination will not succeed.”

“There is now a frenzy to come up with something—anything—that will block this process and a vote on my confirmation from occurring. These are smears, pure and simple. And they debase our public discourse...Women from every phase of my life have come forward to attest to my character. I am grateful to them. I owe it to them, and to my family, to defend my integrity and my name. I look forward to answering questions from the Senate on Thursday.”

If we don't find out what happened to the strawberries, there's no reason not to confirm!

In The Space of a Few Hours



Well, except for the part where Rosenstein still has his job....

Rod Rosenstein resigned; or was going to.

Then he (reportedly) said he'd have to be fired.

Which prompted all manner of interesting reactions, my favorite of which was this:

“If in fact Rod Rosenstein does end up resigning today,” Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said on his radio program on Monday, “I think it clearly becomes necessary and appropriate...that there be a step back taken here, and a review, a review that has to be thorough and complete...and basically a time out on this inquiry.”

Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s lawyer and former New York City mayor, told The Daily Beast on Monday afternoon that he agrees with Sekulow’s call for a cessation of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, in the event of Rosenstein’s ouster—which was reported to be near as of Monday morning.

Which didn't happen because Trump, in fact, did not fire Rosenstein. 

Which is funny, frankly:
It certainly didn't benefit the press.

This does raise a pertinent question:  did Axios confirm anything with Rosenstein?  Of course, it even snookered Trump's legal counsel, so everybody looks like a damned fool in this.

ADDING:  There's a reason Rosenstein went to the White House to visit Trump personally.  Because Trump lacks the balls to fire anyone in person.  Rosenstein's place is safe until Trump returns to the White House on Thursday, but if Trump fires him, it will be on Twitter or through Kelly.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Well shut my mouth!


Lindsay Graham sez:

Elsewhere, he characterized Blasey Ford’s allegations as being “too old for a criminal trial. You’d never bring a lawsuit because it’s uncertain. You couldn’t even get a warrant.”

Wallace corrected that statement at the end of the interview, saying that “there is no statute of limitations on sex assault cases in Maryland, so there are weaknesses with the case, obviously, but she could legally bring it.”

“Well, it would go nowhere,” Graham responded.
This doesn't lower the bar, it buries it ten feet deep.  A court case would "go nowhere" so that's sufficient to put a Justice on the Supreme Court for life. I mean, ya can't ever prove anything, so what's the issue here?

Sen. Whitehouse, however, disagrees:

"This is such bad practice that even if they were to ram this guy through, as soon as Democrats get gavels, we're going to want to get to the bottom of this," the Rhode Island senator said on CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."

As I say, Graham isn't lowering the bar, he's trying to bury it.  An investigation of a sitting Supreme Court Justice.  Sure, why not?  The GOP held a seat open for a year, why can't the Dems investigate allegations against a nominee the GOP rammed through to approval?  Maybe the investigations would "go nowhere," too, but is this the standard of practice for appointments to the highest court in the land?  Which way, precisely, "ruins" Judge Kavanaugh's life, hmmm?

Adding, because it doesn't deserve a separate post:  heard an interesting statement this morning.  You don't doubt someone when they say their car was stolen; but a woman who alleges assault has to "prove" it.  Indeed, if I said someone hit me, punched me in the face, I'd hardly need show a bruise, or expect to.  But assault of a woman, especially sexual assault?  How much proof does she need to present, and how much proof it wasn't her fault?  If my car is stolen because I didn't lock it, it's still stolen.

We really do have to think deeply about how we adjudge allegations.  We employ different standards for different crimes, especially depending on who the victims are (Ted Cruz is convinced a white cop shooting a black man in that man's apartment is still grounds for giving the cop the benefit of the doubt.  Dual standards exist everywhere, and whom do they benefit?)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

There Are No Words

There's got to be a morning after...


These two articles (Politico, Vox) will give you a good summary of the first O'Rourke/Cruz debate last night. What they won't show is that Ted Cruz is a brilliant, or even "world-class" debater.

That was the expectation of this first-ever political debate for Cruz.  A local PBS political program, taped before the debate and aired after, included comments that Cruz was a "world-class" debater, that he could be expected to "wipe the floor" with O'Rourke. Yeah, that didn't happen.

Maybe it's the format of political debate that Cruz can't adjust to. Maybe he held back, to keep his opponent from winning sympathy in the face of Cruz's dominance. Or maybe this reputation is a myth, an invention, a thing of stories and gullible minds.

This morning comes the answer:


Apparently a roomful of black people cheering your words disqualifies you for the U.S. Senate.
Yes, yes he is. Terrible at rebuttal, too, which is a key element of argument. You know, that thing debaters are supposed to be so good at.  Cruz is clearly going for the white racist vote here; O'Rourke is just as clearly happy to let him have it.