Quick hits part II

The lots and lots of Kavanaugh edition.

1) Vox on the 3.4 million chickens killed in Hurricane Florence:

Should anyone care? It’s not clear that drowning is a worse death for chickens than standard methods of slaughter. But there are lots of reasons for concern about the general changes to the industry which have increased the scale of the industry so drastically and concentrated animals onto so few farms.

Animals are likely to suffer intensely under those conditions. Waste disposal — an extraordinary challenge at that kind of scale — is handled irresponsibly. Efforts to keep animals alive under those conditions have driven antibiotic resistance. The millions of dead chickens floating in the floodwaters of Florence are just one of many ugly effects of our current agriculture system and its unprecedented scale.

2) I’m not a vegan at all, but definitely vegan-sympathetic.  Really liked this NPR opinion piece on the toll on livestock from Hurricane Florence:

But day by day, the picture is slowly coming into focus, and it’s a horrifying one: confirmed deaths of 3.4 million chickens and 5,500 pigs, numbers that may yet rise…

We need to look beyond the numbers, though, and the tendency to focus on just the agriculture industry’s losses of “swine” and “broiler chickens.” As I have written elsewhere, these pigs and chickens, just like the hunting dogs, are thinking and feeling beings. It’s all too easy to imagine their terror as the floodwaters rose. No one came to their rescue, and they drowned…

We can pledge not to turn away from the plight of these animals — illustrated so powerfully here by McArthur’s and Guerin’s photographs — just as we don’t turn away from trapped hunting dogs or our own pets in trouble. The first step is to open our hearts to what is happening.

In this case, such a pledge means realizing that the drowned pigs and chickens would have died soon anyway, if not in floodwaters, then in the slaughterhouse. In other words, it’s not just the storm deaths. The whole CAFO network and its entanglement with our food system is rotten.

3) Wow– this was a disturbing story.  A physician who is a regular expert witness in child abuse cases who has, apparently, never seen an actual case of child abuse.  Pretty much every time, it is actually a very rare medical condition.  The history of shaken baby syndrome tells us we need healthy skepticism of medical experts and that people are wrongly accused, but, for my money, any “expert” who somehow always finds the same thing might not really be such an expert.

4) My wife could not stop talking about this great essay on “himpathy” for the whole day after she read it.

When it comes to the moral deficiencies exhibited by Mr. Trump and other supporters of the judge, many critics speak about lack of empathy as the problem. It isn’t. Mr. Trump, as he has shown clearly in the Kavanaugh confirmation process, seems to have no difficulty taking another person’s perspective, and then feeling and expressing a sympathetic or congruent moral emotion.

The real problem is that the people Mr. Trump feels with and for are most frequently powerful men who have been credibly accused of serious crimes and wrongdoing. He felt sorry for Michael Flynn, referring to him as a “good guy.” More recently, he felt bad for Paul Manafort. And, in the case of Judge Kavanaugh, Mr. Trump feels sorry for a man accused of sexual assault while erasing and dismissing the perspective of his female accusers.

Mr. Trump is manifesting what I call “himpathy” — the inappropriate and disproportionate sympathy powerful men often enjoy in cases of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, homicide and other misogynistic behavior.

5) And a nice Vox interview with the “himpathy” author.

6) Timothy Egan on how Republicans’ bargain with the devil keeps getting worse:

If you put a man in the White House who openly boasts of being a sexual predator, a president credibly accused by more than a dozen people of misconduct, you are no friend of women and the good men who love them.

If your rallies are highlighted by “lock her up” chants against a person who has never been charged with a crime, you cannot wrap yourself in due process or presumption of innocence.

If your men of God, led by the Rev. Franklin Graham, say attempted rape is not a crime because “if it was true, these are two teenagers, and she said no and he respected that,” you need a new faith in which to cover your hypocrisies.

Story follows character, as the Greeks knew, and what we’re seeing now with the Bonfire of Republican Vanities is the predictable outcome of those who enabled the amoral presidency of Donald Trump.

The bargain was simple: Republicans would get tax cuts for the well-connected and a right-wing majority on the Supreme Court, and in turn would overlook every assault on decency, truth, our oldest allies and most venerable principles. They expected Trump to govern by grudges, lie eight times a day, call women dogs, act as a useful idiot for foreign adversaries, make himself a laughingstock to the world.

“I knew he was a shallow, lazy ignoramus,” as Ann Coulter said, “but I didn’t care.”

In the end, they would get what they wanted. In the end, they would get a court to return America to one imagined by the elites who put forth the lifetime protectors of the permanent class. They would get justices who came through a laboratory of privilege, someone “who was born for” a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court, as Trump said of Brett M. Kavanaugh.

Oh, but the price has gone up. Republicans are left with a roomful of men standing athwart the #MeToo movement and yelling, “Stop!” They are left with Trump, who outlined the game plan for sexual predation, saying women who remember atrocities from the past are part of a “con game.” And men better watch out. George Washington would lose his teeth if he were around today.

7) How the ABA thought there were legitimate concerns about Kavanaugh’s fitness as a judge way back in 2006.

8) Really interesting essay by a sex crimes defense attorney on the questioning of Blasey Ford.

But angry doesn’t always mean credible. In fact, it’s usually a very bad sign when a witness gets angry, especially when the witness starts fighting with the lawyer (or in his case, the senator) questioning him…

In my experience, once a prosecutor like Ms. Mitchell believes a victim is credible, the truth-finding process is over for them. They become the victim’s advocate.
That’s what happened today. Ms. Mitchell asked the questions she was supposed to ask. She tried to show inconsistencies in Blasey Ford’s statements. She tried to show political motivations and improper influence.
But at some point, Ms. Mitchell decided she believed Blasey Ford. I think that happened when she called her a “victim” of sexual assault trauma. At that point, I don’t think she was going to do anything to hurt Blasey Ford. Perhaps that’s why the Republican senators decided to drop her like a hot potato when it came time to really confront Judge Kavanaugh about these allegations.
9) Greg Sargent on the casual lying of Kavanaugh:

Never mind, for now, the bigger matters that Kavanaugh stands accused of misrepresenting and falsifying. This sort of casual lying about trivial things that one should own up to belongs in its own category of reprehensibleness. It betrays a special order of contempt for one’s listeners to feed them obvious crap about matters that most ordinary people would forgive, if only the speaker copped to them.

My guess is that Kavanaugh panicked. All that grooming for this position — Georgetown Prep, Yale, the Federalist Society gatherings and schmoozing, all the slimy, sordid partisan committee grunt work against Democrats, and, in fairness, all the grinding study and hard work — flashed before his eyes.

I don’t know if the content of these seeming misrepresentations about Kavanaugh’s drunkenness and frat-goon treatment of women should be disqualifying. I tend to doubt it. I do think this apparent willingness to casually engage in such trivial dishonesty — about who he once was and where he came from — amounts to an ugly mark on his character that says a lot about who he is now. And that is something one might add to the case against him.

10) Really interesting experiment on perceptions of media bias:

Among all readers in the group who could see the news source, 35 percent exhibit large bias — meaning their trust rating of an article diverged from the blind-review group by 1.5 points or more on the 1-to-5-point scale.

Not surprisingly, those with more extreme political views tend to provide more biased ratings of news. Those who described their political views as very liberal or very conservative exhibited large bias across 43 percent of the articles they rated, whereas those who described their views as moderate exhibited bias just 31 percent of the time. Likewise, those who leaned toward one party but did not fully identify with it exhibited about the same bias as the moderates.

The data also suggests that those who approve of President Trump rate news articles with more bias than those who disapprove of the president (39.2 percent versus 32.8 percent). However, Trump supporters tend to be less biased than those identifying as “very liberal.”

11) Jennifer Rubin with multiple reasons Kavanaugh should not be on the Supreme Court:

4. Kavanaugh’s anger and, more worrisome, his baseless assertion of a political smear inspired by the Clintons(!) and his anger toward Democrats reveal his partisan core. No Democratic claimant or party going before him can have confidence he will deliver an impartial ruling. His rudeness to senators, especially to two women, violated every norm of judicial conduct one can imagine. It is impossible to believe he would recuse himself in any matter involving President Trump and very easy to imagine him taking the president’s side in claiming the Russia probe is part and parcel of the same left-wing conspiracy he thinks tried to defeat him. One can say, Well, he had every reason to be upset. That is why only a select few should be chosen for the court.

12) On Kavanaugh discovering that there’s unfairness in the world.

New York magazine’s Rebecca Traister has written incisively about the constraints that exist on women’s anger. It is not a coincidence that Kavanaugh’s rage and open weeping seem to have buoyed his chances of confirmation, while Ford’s self-presentation was far more “nice”—if she had shown an ounce of the anger Kavanaugh did, she could have easily been written off as shrill or hysterical.
The many women alongside whom I watched the hearing—both in person and virtually, through text messages and social media—all seemed to see some of themselves in Ford because they had all experienced, or lived in fear of experiencing, something along the lines of her story. They, unlike her, were openly angry—probably because they did not have to perform for an audience of mostly male senators. These past two weeks have been a time of sickening, exhausting rage for many women I know.And for that reason, Kavanaugh’s anger was familiar, too. It was the anger of a person who seemed to be just discovering the unfairness of the world.
13) Dahlia Lithwick:

The dynamic of Thursday’s hearing was consistent: He had fury, and contempt, and seething threats that the republic would pay if he were thwarted. She had to functionally lie back and try not to infuriate anyone, as Republicans cowered behind the female prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, they had brought on to interrogate her. That was until it was Kavanaugh’s turn to speak, when they quickly jettisoned that paper-thin pretense of investigative “independence” and joined Kavanaugh to form a chorus of angry shouting men. They towered silently over Mitchell for the first half of the hearing, then summarily ignored her when she wasn’t offering questions fast or furious enough to protect their nominee.

At least Anita Hill was insulted, demeaned, and discredited to her face. Ford was patronized, thanked, and told that she was very, very credible. Over and over she was told she’d been given a “safe space” to tell her story; as if a safe space substitutes for reasoned process and investigation. She was given a safe space and then dismissed as though she were some character in a very sad French movie that had been very affecting indeed but had nothing to do with the great man and his destiny. After presenting an undeniable narrative—and one the nobody ever really attempted to specifically refute—she was told that her credibility didn’t count for anything because a man was bellowing and injured, that whatever had happened to her was not as important as his pain. And Senate Republicans—having tucked Mitchell back into her naughty chair—were delighted to bellow and yelp of horrid injuries they too had sustained alongside their guy.

14) Great Adam Serwer piece:

Senate Republicans are poised to confirm a man credibly accused of sexual assault with a mere cursory attempt to investigate the charges. With Thomas, at least, many of the facts emerged only after his confirmation. But today’s senators are moving ahead with their eyes open, knowing of Kavanaugh’s dishonesty, his devotion to partisan vengeance over the rule of law, and the possibility that he is a sexual predator.

They will do so because they have not paid a political price for the president’s bigotry, corruption, and incompetence, and the feebleness of the opposition they face has led them to believe they never will. The Republican Party has surrendered itself to a Trumpian agenda of the restoration of America’s traditional hierarchies of race and genderand of vengeance against those who would threaten those hierarchies. The accusations against Kavanaugh—and his conspiratorial, partisan response—have made him a fitting champion for the party of Trump…

By Kavanaugh’s own standard, he is incapable of sitting on the Court. While justices are in practice often partisan actors, hewing closely to one party’s preferred outcome in big cases, they understand their own role as impartial jurists interpreting the law and the Constitution. Kavanaugh’s characterization of the charges against him as a left-wing revenge plot shows that the illusion is not one he even cares to maintain. There is no case that might come before the Court involving partisan interests in which Kavanaugh could be impartial. Kavanaugh himself told us so…

The lesson of the Trump era, since his nomination for president, has been that Republicans will pay no political price for the shattering of rules or norms, or for disregarding common decency, because the Democrats are unwilling or unable to extract one. As long as this is the case, Republicans have no reason to respect any of those things. If Republicans pay a price for confirming Kavanaugh, it will only be because the American electorate has had enough.

15) Dan Hopkins argues that Kavanaugh hearings won’t really affect the midterms, but will have long-term political consequences:

But there is a cost to dropping the cloak of non-partisanship and reserved judicial temperament en route to the Supreme Court, just as there is a cost to putting someone accused of sexual assault by multiple women in a position to cast pivotal votes on abortion rights and related subjects. Trump and other Republicans could have avoided these costs by quickly withdrawing Kavanaugh in favor of an equally conservative but less controversial nominee, but they are now in the position of either forcing their own party’s moderate members to vote Kavanaugh down or setting him up to be a divisive figure on the bench for years to come. It’s even conceivable that John Roberts—sufficiently concerned about the legitimacy of his institution to serve as the surprise swing vote upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in 2012—will turn out to be less ambitious in charting a new rightward trajectory for the Court if Kavanaugh is confirmed than he would have been alongside a different appointee.

Trump, whatever his other qualities, is not known for being excessively occupied with long-term planning, and the entire Republican Party is now subject to Trump’s win-the-day strategic mentality for at least the duration of his tenure as its national leader. That doesn’t mean, however, that the rest of us can’t take the broader view. If Kavanaugh joins the Court, the consequences may not be immediately visible in the election returns, but they will still stretch on for many years after the 2018 midterms have come and gone.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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