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Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.
- Abigail Adams Letter to John Adams, 3-31-1776

This week's featured post is "Two Ways Brett Kavanaugh Could Be a Hero". That sounds crazy, but here's the basic idea: In a difficult situation, the hero is somebody who steps up to take the risk or pay the price. Heroes don't shove burdens off on other people. If you happen to be in west central Illinois next weekend, you can hear me discuss "Men and #MeToo" at the Unitarian Church of Quincy, Illinois on Sunday morning at 10:45.

This week everybody was talking about Brett Kavanaugh


The dust is still swirling from the second accusation that came out in The New Yorker yesterday. The second accuser is a Yale classmate, and apparently was picked out for victimization because she was drunker than the other women at the party. So her account is correspondingly muddled. She would have made a terrible first accuser, but her story does bolster Christine Blasey Ford's.

This morning, other news outlets are still trying to figure out what to do with the second accusation. As of 9:30, the New York Times still wasn't headlining it, but referred to it in an article about Diane Feinstein's call for a delay. Otherwise, the committee will interview Dr. Blasey Ford on Thursday. (I predict Kavanaugh will withdraw before then.)

One constant in Republican defenses of Kavanaugh is that he is a "man of integrity" and "one of the finest human beings you will have the privilege of knowing". But what exactly are they talking about?

I'm not aware of him working with Mother Theresa, making a major career sacrifice for a principle, rescuing people from burning buildings, winning a Medal of Honor, or doing anything else that rises above the kinds of things that ordinary decent people do. He drives other people's kids in a carpool; he coaches girls basketball; a lot of women say he has treated them well. Good for him, but don't we all know people we could say similar things about? I don't think any of that should qualify him for sainthood.

To me, this sterling reputation looks like a benefit of privilege: He's a straight white male Christian conservative from an upscale family, so he is presumed to be a man with a high sense of honor. No actual supporting evidence is needed.

When Kavanaugh was nominated, here's the first thing he said:
Mr. President, thank you. Throughout this process, I have witnessed firsthand your appreciation for the vital role of the American judiciary. No president has ever consulted more widely or talked with more people from more backgrounds to seek input about a Supreme Court nomination.
It may not have seemed like a big deal at the time, but that was a brazen, obvious lie.

Trump picked Kavanaugh off a list of 25 names that was given to him by the Federalist Society's Leonard Leo, a straight white male Catholic conservative from an Ivy League school. So Trump conspicuously didn't consult widely or seek input from large numbers of people from diverse backgrounds. On the contrary, together with the Neil Gorsuch search process, the Kavanaugh process was probably the least rigorous search in recent American history. That was public knowledge, and Kavanaugh surely knew it too.

In other words, whatever Kavanaugh's version of "integrity" entails, he's not above telling a big public lie to flatter someone important. He's not above introducing himself to the American people by telling a big, obvious lie.

So now he needs us to believe him rather than the women who accuse him of misconduct. Why exactly should we do that?

This picture of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Republican majority (posted by Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii) is worth contemplating. How small a slice of America do they really represent? If you were accusing an over-50 well-to-do Christian white man of something, is the group you'd want to judge your credibility?



TPM has the backstory on how Democrats on the Judiciary Committee handled the Blasey Ford accusation.

Some very unconvincing arguments are being made in Kavanaugh's defense. The NYT's Bret Stephens offers:
I believe human memory is imperfect. I believe it deteriorates over time. I believe most of us have had the experience of thinking we remember something clearly, only to discover we got important details wrong.
I know there are studies showing that spouses often remember very different facts about important moments, like their wedding or honeymoon or how they met. I myself sometimes notice that I remember an event happening in a room that didn't exist at the time. But I very much doubt that ordinary human memory drift extends as far as "Wait, maybe it was the other guy who tried to rape me."

A number of defenders have put forward some version of the he-was-just-17 argument. You know who's not convinced by this? 17-year-olds.
“They just keep saying ‘He was in high school—boys will be boys,’” says Maurielle, a 17-year-old from Houston. “But I’m in high school—I don’t want that to happen to me.”

Making up stuff about Blasey Ford shows lack of faith that the truth is on your side. No, she isn't poorly reviewed as a professor, she doesn't carry a grudge against Kavanaugh's mother, she didn't accuse Neil Gorsuch of anything, she's not a big Democratic donor, and her brother has no connection to the Trump/Russia investigation.

Flatly misstating Blasey Ford's account is not convincing either. Here's Franklin Graham (whose Dad apparently forgot to warn him about bearing false witness):
Asked by the CBN interviewer what kind of message his remarks send to sexual abuse victims, Graham replied: “Well, there wasn’t a crime that was committed. These are two teenagers and it’s obvious that she said no and he respected it and walked away.”
Kavanaugh "respected" her refusal, according Blasey Ford, after groping her, trying to pull off her swimsuit, and holding his hand over her mouth to keep her from screaming. And he didn't "walk away"; she escaped after Kavanaugh drunkenly fell off her.

Two related items of interest: Following the lead of actress Alyssa Milano, many women have responded to Trump's tweet
I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.
by telling their own stories under the #WhyIDidntReport hashtag.

Or if you want to sum it all up with one story, look at "What Do We Owe Her Now?" in The Washington Post. When Elizabeth Bruenig was a sophomore in high school, a junior cheerleader reported a rape and became an outcast. The physical evidence supported her claims, but the authorities never filed charges, leading to the local rumor that she had made the whole thing up. When Bruenig grew up and became a journalist, she decided to investigate.

Nate Silver tweets that Kavanaugh is polling worse than any previous nominee who got confirmed. And that was before the latest charges.

and Rod Rosenstein

The New York Times is reporting that Rosenstein will lose his job today, either by resigning or being fired.
If Mr. Rosenstein exits, Noel Francisco, the solicitor general, would assume oversight of the Russia investigation, according to a Justice Department official. The acting deputy attorney general would be Matthew G. Whitaker, the chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an unusual move.
This follow an NYT story earlier in the week, which claimed that Rosenstein felt misused after his memo gave Trump cover to fire Jim Comey. Reportedly, he discussed the 25th Amendment (through which Trump could be removed without impeachment) and suggested taping Trump secretly. Rosenstein denies those reports. Vox sees problems ahead for Bob Mueller:
Rosenstein’s departure strikes at the heart of the Trump-Russia investigation because Mueller had to run major investigative decisions past the deputy attorney general. Rosenstein’s temporary replacement, Solicitor General Noel Francisco, could simply refuse to approve Mueller’s requests, effectively slowing the whole investigation to a crawl — or even fire Mueller outright if he felt there was a reason to do so.
So the long-anticipated constitutional crisis could be upon us.

and the midterm elections

We're about six weeks out from the election, and everything the Republicans expect to turn the tide in their favor keeps backfiring. Kavanaugh was supposed to work for them, and several candidates have been running attack ads against Democratic senators for not supporting Kavanaugh. That now looks like wasted money. Nate Silver's model now gives the Democrats a 4 out of 5 chance of gaining control of the House and a 3 in 10 chance of winning the Senate.

and the consequences of Hurricane Florence

A lot of North Carolina wasn't built with this kind of flooding in mind. (In fact, in 2012 the legislature banned state agencies from basing plans on a study that predicted rising sea level from climate change.) So toxic coal ash is entering the Cape Fear River and the waste pools from hog farms are also a problem.

Grist explores the side issue of why massive hog farms are in North Carolina to begin with. Hog farms should be in places that raise massive amounts of hog feed, like Iowa. Then the manure can fertilize the fields rather than build up in toxic pools.
If North Carolina wants to end the pattern of water pollution, it has to find a way to spread out the livestock or treat their waste. And the state needs to face the fact that once-in-a-lifetime floods are now hitting more than once a decade.

In this week's episode of "What's Wrong With That Man?", President Trump toured hurricane-ravaged North Carolina. Talking to someone whose house was damaged by a storm-driven boat (and was having trouble getting his insurance company to cover it), Trump commented, "At least you got a nice boat out of the deal." On the same trip, he also handed a box lunch to another victim, telling him to "Have a good time."

It's hard to know what to do with comments reflecting such a basic lack of human empathy. Stephen Colbert decided to turn them into a children's book

but you have to see this political ad

It's not often you can get six of your opponent's siblings to make an ad for you.

BuzzFeed tells how this ad came about. Six of Gosar's nine siblings appear in the ad and two others support it. But their 85-year-old mother is still on Rep. Paul Gosar's side. This should make for a lovely Thanksgiving.

and you also might be interested in ...

Congress is currently working on appropriation bills for the fiscal year that starts next Monday. Current bills don't include the funding Trump wants for the Mexican wall, so he is talking about a veto, possibly shutting down the government or some large part of it.

This is a time when major proposals can get swept into a bill without much fanfare. One such is in the House's version of the appropriation bill for Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education: It would "cut 15% of federal adoption funding to states and localities that penalize adoption agencies that refuse to place children in families that conflict with the agency’s 'sincerely held religious beliefs or convictions'" and also bar "the federal government from refusing to work with adoption agencies that discriminate."

Once again, Christians would get the special right to ignore discrimination laws, and gays and lesbians would lose the "equal protection of the laws" promised in the Constitution's 14th Amendment.

If you're going to give huge tax cuts to rich people and big corporations, you have to crack down somewhere. How about on young people who have trouble repaying their student loans?
The proposal unveiled Monday would sharply curtail income-based loan repayment plans, scratch the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, embolden the government to go after students who don't pay their loans and cut funding for federal work study in half.
... The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is eliminated in the proposed budget. This program allows former students who fulfill certain public service positions — such as public school teachers or health researchers — to have their loans erased after 10 years of on-time payments. Nearly two-thirds of student loan borrowers who've shown interest in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness earn less than $50,000 a year.
... People whose loans fall into delinquency would be subject to more stringent enforcement as the proposal also calls to "streamline the Department of Education's ability to verify applicants' income data held by the Internal Revenue Service."

A new round of tariffs on Chinese goods went into effect today. These tariffs are 10%, and will automatically rise to 25% in 2019 if no new deal is negotiated. China is retaliating, and there's no end in sight.

I'm slowly making my way through Bob Woodward's Fear. I recently hit the point where Trump is reviewing a proposed speech on the economy and writes in the margin "Trade is bad."

Apple has warned that tariffs on Chinese imports will raise the cost of its products to American consumers. Trump has responded that Apple should just make its iPhones in the US. Vox takes a look at how practical that is. Not very, as it turns out.
The issue is not so much cost of putting an iPhone together, or even the cost per part on paper. The issue is skill, scale, expertise, and infrastructure — all of which require money, time and long-term investment. Unlike other manufacturing jobs that have migrated from the United States, Apple wouldn’t be bringing them “back” so much as starting from scratch. The cost would come in attempting to build a system that’s never been in the US, but has been built over decades abroad.
China has these jobs because it has put together the right combination of "craftsman-like skill, sophisticated robotics, and computer science".
“There’s a confusion about China,” [Apple CEO Tim] Cook said. “The popular conception is that companies come to China because of low labor cost. I’m not sure what part of China they go to, but the truth is China stopped being the low labor-cost country many years ago. And that is not the reason to come to China from a supply point of view. The reason is because of the skill, and the quantity of skill in one location and the type of skill it is.”
If Apple could do it, making iPhones in America would raise the price anywhere from $16 to $100, depending on what "Made in America" means to you: If the US plant would just assemble parts made elsewhere, you get the lower number. If you want all the parts made here too, you get the higher number.

For similar reasons, the official statistics exaggerate how big a dent iPhones make in our trade balance with China: China is reaping about $8 from each iPhone, but a tariff would fall on the full import price of around $240.

Florida GOP gubernatorial candidate DeSantis has run into another racial controversy (his fifth since winning the primary a month ago).
A Republican activist who donated more than $20,000 to Ron DeSantis and lined up a speech for him at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club recently called President Barack Obama a “F---- MUSLIM N----” on Twitter, in addition to making other inflammatory remarks.
Steven M. Alembik told POLITICO on Wednesday he wrote the Obama tweet in anger, that he’s “absolutely not” a racist and that he understood that DeSantis’ campaign for governor would need to distance itself from the comments — which the campaign promptly did.
Of course Alembik isn't a racist. I'm sure lots of non-racists tweet about F---- MUSLIM N----s every day. Nonetheless, Paul Waldman raises the question: "Why do all these racists keep joining the GOP?"
DeSantis may have been embroiled in an unusual number of these controversies, but it’s what every Republican candidate worries about these days. What if some supporter of mine says something shockingly racist? What if that guy who introduced me at that rally turns out to be a klansman? What if I get endorsed by some neo-Nazi group?
But you know who doesn’t have to worry about getting endorsed by neo-Nazis, white nationalists and racists? People who don’t give neo-Nazis, white nationals and racists any reason to believe that they share their views.

and let's close with something awesome

A bridge through Vietnam's Ba Na Hills, held up by stone hands.