Quick hits (super-late edition)

Super-late and super Kavanaugh-heavy edition (of course).  Had an amazing trip visiting DC with NC State Park Scholars for four days to learn about leadership in health care crises.  Anyway, here goes:

1) Rebecca Traister on women’s anger:

Brett Kavanaugh bellowed; he snarled; he pouted and wept furiously at the injustice of having his ascendance to power interrupted by accusations of sexual assault. He challenged his questioners, turned their queries back on them. He was backed up by Lindsey Graham, who appeared to be having some sort of fit of rage over people having the audacity to listen to a woman speak about her life and consider that she might be telling an ugly truth about a powerful man. And, as soon as he was finished, it certainly felt as if the white men’s anger had been rhetorically effective, that we had reflexively understood it as righteous and correct.

Fury was a tool to be marshaled by men like Judge Kavanaugh and Senator Graham, in defense of their own claims to political, legal, public power. Fury was a weapon that had not been made available to the woman who had reason to question those claims.

What happened inside the room was an exceptionally clear distillation of who has historically been allowed to be angry on their own behalf, and who has not.

And outside the room was a hint of how it might be changing.

Most of the time, female anger is discouraged, repressed, ignored, swallowed. Or transformed into something more palatable, and less recognizable as fury — something like tears. When women are truly livid, they often weep.

Maybe we cry when we’re furious in part because we feel a kind of grief at all the things we want to say or yell that we know we can’t. Maybe we’re just sad about the very same things that we’re angry about. I wept as soon as Dr. Blasey began to speak. On social media, I saw hundreds of messages from women who reported the same experience, of finding themselves awash in tears, simply in response to this woman’s voice, raised in polite dissent. The power of the moment, the anxiety that it would be futile, the grief that we even had to put her — and ourselves — through this spectacle, was intense.

2) Fascinating combination of good and horrible– the opioid crisis is really helping people on the organ transplant list.

3) This “I believe Brett Kavanaugh” is kind of awesome:

Brett Kavanaugh: I believe you.

I believe you when you called yourself the “biggest contributor” to the “Beach Week Ralph Club.”

I believe you thought the term for a sexual encounter involving two men and a woman, “Devil’s Triangle,” is so funny to you and your friends that you included it on your yearbook page.

I believe you thought it was funny when you eagerly joined your classmates in making cruel jokes at your friend Renate Schroeder’s expense.

Most of all, I believe you when you’ve said in at least two speeches in recent years that you and your friends are committed to hiding the details of your behavior. “But fortunately, we had a good saying that we’ve held firm to to this day … which is: What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep. I think that’s been a good thing for all of us,” you told students at Catholic University in 2015.

You also told Yale Law School students that you and your friends had a motto for the night that ended with you falling out of a party bus onto the law school steps: “What happens on the bus stays on the bus.”

I know you’re committed to these mottos because you haven’t fessed up to any of the obvious behavior you described at the time. You claimed in testimony under oath that “ralphing” at Beach Week refers to your sensitive stomach, not puking after a night of drinking.

You claimed in your Senate hearing that you never drank so much you forgot any details the next day, though you were a member of the “100 keg club.” (Half a dozen of your friends stepped forward afterward to scoff at your claim.)

4) EJ Dionne on Trump’s mocking and the GOP:

When a leader can hold power only by dividing his country, stoking its anxieties and hostilities, ridiculing his opponents, and disrespecting every norm of decency, the result is a broken democracy and a demoralized nation.

The fight over Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation to a seat on the Supreme Court has caused predictable handwringing about partisan division, tribalism and incivility. We hear often that both parties are behaving like toddlers who need to be brought to heel by responsible “adults” who know better.

But the narrative of equivalence is worse than inaccurate. It is destructive. It points us to the wrong diagnosis and thus the wrong cure. At this moment in our history, there is only one party being led by President Trump and only one that rushes to his defense over and over.

Trump regularly and unashamedly reminds us of his vileness and thus single-handedly demolishes the everybody-does-it narrative.

Trump’s lying, mocking, despicable verbal mugging of Christine Blasey Ford during a Mississippi rally on Tuesday night may not be a new low for him because there have been so many other lows. But his willingness to suggest that Ford is one of the “evil people” and his twisted account of her testimony about Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee ripped the mask of respectability off the campaign to confirm Trump’s appointee.

6) John Cassidy is exactly right on the big-picture lesson from Trump’s tax fraud:

This experience points to an enduring scandal that goes well beyond the Trumps. “The key takeaway from the New York Times article . . . is that the wealthy and powerful abide by a different set of rules than the rest of us,” [emphasis mine] Alan Essig, the executive director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonpartisan research group, said in a statement. “Not only does the tax system allow the wealthy to take advantage of legal loopholes, it also allows them to blur the line between legal avoidance and illegal tax evasion with little consequence. . . . We need to reform the tax system to close the loopholes the wealthy use to avoid taxes and substantially increase funding to the IRS to ensure that the laws we do have are robustly enforced.”

But, of course, the Trump Administration and the Republican Party are busy ignoring this advice. The G.O.P. tax-reform bill that passed at the end of last year did virtually nothing to prevent rich people from evading the estate tax and other levies. In reaction to budget cuts imposed by the Republican-controlled Congress, the I.R.S. has slashed its enforcement staff by about a third and reduced the number of cases it brings by about a quarter. “Due to budget cuts, attrition and a shift in focus, there’s been a collapse in the commitment to take on tax fraud,” Chuck Pine, a tax consultant who was formerly a senior criminal-enforcement officer at the I.R.S., told ProPublica. “I believe there are thousands of individuals who have U.S. tax obligations and are not complying with U.S. tax laws.” They are following the example set at the top.

7) This swine disease being spread from disparate pig populations by humans is not great.

8) Brett Kavanaugh brings the 80’s movie “Revenge of the Nerds” back into the news.  I loved that movie as a teenager.  And damn, has it really not aged well.

9) Okay, this is a super-important point from Rebecca Traister (via Ashley Fetters), that I admit I had never really thought about:

Yet Good and Mad posits that there are a few particular types of female anger that are generally exempt from this type of backlash. Which is why, Traister explains, women learn pretty quickly to either hold in their anger or channel it into something more palatable—like caustic humor, indignation inspired by God, or mama-bear protective ferocity. She goes on to suggest that historically, women who have expressed fury on behalf of their children, their household, or some other sort of family-like flock tend to get better results than women who publicly express their fury in other sorts of ways. In other words, the anger of women has a better shot at being taken seriously if it’s recognizable as, or reminiscent of, a mother’s protective anger. In other words, women’s anger is often taken more seriously when it’s packaged as mothers’ anger. [emphasis mine]

Indeed, when Traister offers examples of women who have packaged their anger as a maternal instinct, often they’re the success stories, the women whose dissatisfaction has been taken seriously. For example, there’s Mary Harris Jones, otherwise known as “Mother Jones,” who fought for the rights of miners and other laborers—“her boys,” as she called them—in the late 1800s. More recently, there’s Senator Patty Murray, who as a young aspiring state representative drove to the Washington State Capitol with her two small children in tow to give speeches about state cuts to preschool funding. (She was derided as “just a mom in tennis shoes,” which later became her campaign slogan.) And then there were the conservative women who protested and ran for office during the Tea Party uprising in 2010, dubbed “Mama Grizzlies” by Sarah Palin. As Traister puts it, “these women voicing their anger and throwing around their political weight weren’t caricatured as ugly hysterics; instead they were permitted to cast themselves as patriotic moms on steroids.”

This isn’t just a political phenomenon—it wound up in the spotlight a month ago when Serena Williams, during the hotly contested U.S. Open final, invoked her motherhood in an outburst after the umpire penalized her for on-court coaching: “I have a daughter, and I stand for what’s right for her,” Williams said.

10) This is a powerful essay well worth your time, “I watched a rape. For five decades, I did nothing.”

11) Alexis Grenell on white women:

After a confirmation process where women all but slit their wrists, letting their stories of sexual trauma run like rivers of blood through the Capitol, the Senate still voted to confirm Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. With the exception of Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, all the women in the Republican conference caved, including Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who held out until the bitter end.

These women are gender traitors, to borrow a term from the dystopian TV series “The Handmaid’s Tale.” They’ve made standing by the patriarchy a full-time job. The women who support them show up at the Capitol wearing “Women for Kavanaugh” T-shirts, but also probably tell their daughters to put on less revealing clothes when they go out.

They’re more sympathetic to Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who actually shooed away a crowd of women and told them to “grow up.” Or Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, whose response to a woman telling him she was raped was: “I’m sorry. Call the cops.”

These are the kind of women who think that being falsely accused of rape is almost as bad as being raped. The kind of women who agree with President Trump that “it’s a very scary time for young men in America,” which he said during a news conference on Tuesday.

But the people who scare me the most are the mothers, sisters and wives of those young men, because my stupid uterus still holds out some insane hope of solidarity.

We’re talking about white women. The same 53 percent who put their racial privilege ahead of their second-class gender status in 2016 by voting to uphold a system that values only their whiteness, just as they have for decades. White women have broken for Democratic presidential candidates only twice: in the 1964 and 1996 elections, according to an analysis by Jane Junn, a political scientist at the University of Southern California.

12) Brain-eating amoeba is super-rare (fortunately), but just struck again in Texas.  Somebody died from this near us at Jordan Lake around a decade or more ago and my wife hasn’t let us back there since.

13) Yale Law dean on Kavanaugh:

Over the past decade, Kavanaugh has been a casual acquaintance. He seemed a gentle, quiet, reserved man, always solicitous of the dignity of his position as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. It was therefore with something approaching unbelief that I heard his speech after Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony.

With calculation and skill, Kavanaugh stoked the fires of partisan rage and male entitlement. He had apparently concluded that the only way he could rally Republican support was by painting himself as the victim of a political hit job. He therefore offered a witches’ brew of vicious unfounded charges, alleging that Democratic members of the Senate Judicial Committee were pursuing a vendetta on behalf of the Clintons. If we expect judges to reach conclusions based solely on reliable evidence, Kavanaugh’s savage and bitter attack demonstrated exactly the opposite sensibility…

His performance is indelibly etched in the public mind. For as long as Kavanaugh sits on the court, he will remain a symbol of partisan anger, a haunting reminder that behind the smiling face of judicial benevolence lies the force of an urgent will to power. No one who felt the force of that anger could possibly believe that Kavanaugh might actually be a detached and impartial judge. Each and every Republican who votes for Kavanaugh, therefore, effectively announces that they care more about controlling the Supreme Court than they do about the legitimacy of the court itself. There will be hell to pay. [emphasis mine]

14) Happy to see an NYT Op-Ed takedown of the sanctimonious Susan Collins:

But if Ms. Collins is a maverick, then I’m an appaloosa.

Yes, she’s shown herself willing to buck her party now and again. FiveThirtyEight reports that she votes in line with Donald Trump 79 percent of the time; only Rand Paul of Kentucky, at 74 percent, has a lower score among Senate Republicans. She’s opposed the president on immigration and abortion restrictions, net neutrality and his policies toward Russia, Iran and North Korea.

But on many key votes, her record is about as moderate as Ted Cruz’s. In January, she provided the Republicans with the crucial 51st vote for the tax bill. She set three conditions: the additional passage of two separate bills to shore up insurance markets for individuals who weren’t covered through their work, along with a promise for Congress to undo the cuts to Medicare automatically triggered by the deficit increase from the tax cut.

After that bill was passed, Ms. Collins said the promises to her were ironclad, and that if her conditions were not met, “there would be consequences.” But the additional bills never got a vote, and a follow-up attempt to add her provisions to the omnibus spending bill in March was defeated, by other Republicans.

Of course they were…

There’s another kind of “maverick,” though — the kind of centrist who wants to please everyone. For Ms. Collins, it’s often meant voting with the most right-wing members of her party, even while attempting to occupy some imaginary moral high ground. It’s hard to see what our senator got for her vote supporting the tax cut last fall. It’s just as hard for me to see her vote for Judge Kavanaugh as anything other than a warm embrace of Donald Trump and everything he stands for, her 45-minute speech notwithstanding.

15a) Honestly, pretty disappointed to see so many political scientists and other academics defend the cultural studies programs/journals against the academics who clearly showed much of the discipline to be a shoddy joke.  I think Kevin Drum has it about right:

Mounk’s list is similar to one I put together last night, and he does a good job of addressing it. So go read Mounk for more on all that. For myself, I just want to make one point about this affair. It’s by far the most important point:

If an amateur with no background can spend three months brushing up on your field, and then immediately start cranking out papers that get accepted at serious, peer-reviewed journals, there is something badly wrong with your field.

That’s it. That’s what the hoaxsters uncovered. All fields have at least a few weak journals. All fields can boast of plenty of lousy journal articles. All fields are embarrassed by occasional frauds. All fields suffer from ideological biases or conflicts of interest that interfere with good scholarship.

But I can’t think of any serious field in which an amateur who’s done a few month’s reading could even produce a plausible parody, let alone a paper that would be taken seriously by dozens of editors and peer reviewers. If that’s all it takes, a PhD is a meaningless five-year waste of time.

This is the problem the academy needs to address, and they need to address it for exactly the reason the hoaxsters gave: these fields are mostly important ones. They deserve rigorous, high-quality scholarship. They can’t be treated as dumping grounds for impassioned mediocrities and then ignored.

If they are, and everyone tacitly agrees to sweep away the whole episode because the hoaxsters didn’t get IRB approval or something, it just gives the game away: these fields exist only to placate troublemakers, and nobody in the serious parts of the university cares about them.

Alternatively, we do care about them, and it’s time for the various disciplines of cultural studies to end their adolescence and adopt the same standards of scholarship as their older, more established peers. That’s my vote.

15b) And Mounk’s whole thread is great.

16) What it looks like when a deer runs in front of a car.  This is kind of amazing (and, yes, disturbing).

17) So, I made it into Politifact on somebody claiming a Democratic opponent was in with “the Pelosi crowd.”

18) 11 Takeaways from the NYT investigation on Trump’s tax fraud.  A huge story for any other president (or almost any other week).

19) The New Yorker asks, “Could Smithfield Foods have prevented the ‘rivers of hog waste‘ after Hurricane Florence?”  Of course, you know, the answer is yes.  But heaven forbid we should expect consumers to pay a few cents more per pound for pork and cause even the tiniest hit to Smithfield’s profits.

 

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

2 Responses to Quick hits (super-late edition)

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    #3 Headlines today say Dr. Ford is too fearful to move back home because she continues to receive death threat and threats of other nastiness. Are the brown shirts feeling powerful?

  2. R. Jenrette says:

    Do you think it’s an accident that Kavanaugh chose a topic like Presidential power in his long term plan to gain a Supreme Court seat? He was all too aware of that topic because he was part of Ken Starr’s investigation of the Clintons’ investment activities. They found nothing except a lie about his sex life to impeach on perjury lines. He thought that many future presidents might be tempted to nominate such an author to the judicial bench. It drew attention to himself and who can doubt that it worked?
    He wrote on other controversial topics as well, aimed at the conservatives. It’s one way to make one’s name known in the legal profession.

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