Once Again: What Are The Odds? – Blue Pill Philosophy Edition

by John Holbo on September 29, 2018

Attention conservation notice: TOO LONG. But I wanted to rewrite my last post to my own satisfaction. So I did it different, but same.

People of the internet, I have long been openly opposed to loose dispensing of the blue pill.

“You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.”

No, the story doesn’t end there. That’s tomorrow-never-comes thinking. Read the warning label! You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want? What a way to run the railroad. Morpheus is giving this stuff out like candy to any slacker bro who looks the least bit likely. Is he out of his mind?

Because, seriously: what is it you are sure to want to believe? You will want to believe you took the red pill – and we are off to the races! You will believe, falsely, you’re Neo. Past which point you will be no good to yourself or others. At best.

Most folks will be too tempted by the lazy beguilements of blue pill lifestyle, so we are soon up to our collective armpits in mass fantasies of red pill-popping pop-paranoid philosophy of politics. Gets so you can’t throw a rock without hitting ‘the One’ in some Spartacus line-up of ‘Ones’. (#METOO, but for Ones.)

Virgil poetized of the gates of horn and ivory. Even he never conceived of a gate of pizza. And now Kavanaugh (although he isn’t a gate yet, though I can’t imagine why not.) It is never going to end until someone figures out a way to stop Morpheus, a.k.a. Dr. Feelgood.

So I thought to myself: what will be the sign that BK has busted us through the basement, driving the right crazier? I designated a canary: if Dreher takes the blue pill, in a Kavanaugh-related manner, that will mean the right has found a way to delve deeper into crazy. That is, if Rod Dreher says he takes the red pill, that will be a sign he’s taken the blue pill. That will mean things are worse. And sure enough.

Why Rod Dreher, as my dead canary designate down a conservative coal mine?

Basically, because he doesn’t like Trump, largely for sexual ethics and all-around character issues.

So I had some hope his concern for character would cause him to maintain his equilibrium in the Kavanaugh case. But he has not. But I have some hope still that he is actually just intellectually turned around about how to think about the probabilities of a case like this. I think he might be making a math mistake. If so, then, if I can convincingly show his math is wrong, maybe he’ll change his tune. So this post is addressed to Rod Dreherish-types on the right. Maybenevertrumpers, I recommend you consider and assess the following arguments on the strict, rational merits.

To give us a target position in need of correction, here is Dreher summarizing his own thinking:

It’s not that I believe Kavanaugh is innocent. I think it is possible that he is guilty of what Ford accuses him of. But I believe he is not guilty, in the sense that there is not nearly enough evidence to judge him guilty of the accusation. Ford has nothing to support her accusation but her accusation. Kavanaugh strongly denies it, as you know, and he has offered evidence (e.g., his summer calendar) that he could not have been where he was supposed to have been. And, none of the people Ford has said could corroborate the event say they were there.

If we allow Kavanaugh’s nomination to go down on the basis of unsupported accusations, then we set a terrible precedent. We give a veto to anyone who makes an accusation against a nominee, however groundless. What strikes me is that liberals assume his guilt because he belongs to a class, and has an identity, that they despise: upper-class white male conservative.

There is serious but incidental confusion to be noted, first, and set to one side (for later reference.) You can’t seriously suppose conservatives don’t assume his innocence because he belongs to a class, and has an identity, that they exalt: upper-class white male conservative. The issue can’t be badness of tribalism. If that were it, there would be no impulse to jump right, of all directions. But maybe presuming innocence, in a tribal way, seems more humane, than presuming guilt? So in this case the right’s tribal defensiveness seems more like mercy for their own than vindictiveness towards the other side. Fine. Let it be so. The real problem is, in any case, elsewhere. Dreher’s thinking about evidence is just confused. Let me explain as clearly as I can. (Much of what follows rehashes my previous post, but in improved form I hope.)

It’s quite right to think that ‘there is not nearly enough evidence to judge him [BK] guilty of the accusation’ in a legal, beyond-a-reasonable-doubt sense. But that’s clearly the wrong standard. (See below.)

It is very wrong (here we get nearer the math error) to think ‘Ford has nothing to support her accusation but her accusation’. First of all, her accusation does support her accusation, in that it is plausible and coherent, as Dreher concedes. But, even more to the point, we don’t need her accusation to support her accusation. What we want to know is whether her accusation supports the proposition that BK is guilty. We care whether BK is likely to be guilty. This is his confirmation hearing. Does her accusation increase the likelihood of guilt – not itself.

But (the response will run): can it support guilt without first supporting itself?

Yes. The fact that a coherent, plausible – but unsupported – story of guilt is told can, in itself, lend credence to the proposition that BK is guilty. This is a perfectly reasonable and quite ordinary thing to happen.

How is this miracle possible? Well, suppose you know BK likes beer. Now someone tells you they saw BK in a bar, drinking a beer. The latter fact, in light of the former, lends some credibility to the proposition that BK was at the bar, drinking a beer. It isn’t that the statement is ‘self-evident’ or ‘self-supporting’, whatever that means. People just say stuff and we believe it all the time. Often that’s unreasonable but sometimes totally reasonable. Even if the people are kind of random and we don’t know them all that well it may be reasonable.

(Note that if someone says he saw the Pope walk into a bar, the situation is rather different. The event is so unlikely that a mere story doesn’t cut it. The difference between our ‘priors’ in the two cases is quite crucial.)

Why is this not obvious? I suspect Dreher is (vaguely) assuming evidence in this case can only be something on the order of a piece of paper, a record preserved from the time of the event. Something that could be labeled Exhibit A at trial, bagged, and introduced in accordance with proper rules of evidence. No, that’s too restrictive. What we care about here is likelihood of guilt. Anything that bears on that is fair. We want to weigh any factors whatsoever that factor into reasonable estimates of the likelihood that BK is guilty, whether or not those factors could be labeled Exhibit A at a criminal trial, whether or not they would be admissible at any trial we would call legally respectable. Those factors can be anything. This includes, notably, evidence in the form of overall, circumstantial judgments of character, now or in the past, when the alleged events happened.

Dreher is going to balk at this because he thinks it sounds very, very wrong to suggest we could, justifiably, damn BK as guilty by association with some class of rape-y teens. Not to put too fine a point on it.

BK seems like a rape-y type, because he hung with rape-y types, and wrote rape-y sounding stuff in a yearbook. So we’ll haul off and assume he has increased probability of guilt of sexual assault.

That statement is so far from being admissible at any fair trial – it is so far from being a thing that could or should be bagged and labeled as Exhibit A – that we recoil too far away from it. Because, rationally, it should factor into a reasonable judgment of likelihood of guilt.

One way to see that is to flip the point: Dreher has no problem introducing judgments of character in BK’s favor. BK seems like a good man to him. But you can’t possibly introduce apparent good character as evidence of likelihood of innocence unless you are also prepared to weigh apparent bad character as well. Maybe it’s the decent thing to do to think the best of someone, if there seems to be good in them. Maybe it’s the loyal thing to do if they are ‘on your side’. Maybe loyalty is a virtue. But no one can think that’s judging likelihood of guilt – as opposed to expressing loyalty or averting one’s gaze, decently, from something ugly.

No one thinks the rational way to weigh pro and con is to set aside con and just weigh pro, or vice versa. That’s just crazy.

Dreher is fully prepared to introduce apparent good character into evidence, regarding BK. As well he should be. But then you must finish the thought: we must factor in all factors that could be indicative, including judgments of character – good or bad. We are judging him innocent by good association (with that team of girls he coaches, with the Federalist Society, with Yale Law.) We must judge him guilty by bad association with Judge and wild parties where sketchy, skeezy stuff clearly happened. We have to size up the kind of person BK seems to be, and to have been. We have to size up the kind of person Ford seems to be. We have to weigh all – necessarily uncertainly. If we don’t, we literally can’t possibly come to any reasonable judgment about likelihood of guilt whatsoever. If we don’t weigh both sides, we are just saying what we want to be true.

[UPDATE the 2nd: obviously I should insert a true theory of the ethics of ‘profiling’ at this point. I wish I had one. Sometimes it’s impermissible but sometimes obligatory and sometimes merely unfortunately necessary. I think it must be permissible in a case like an SC nomination. You have to judge someone ‘on the content of their likely character’. But it’s a fraught question, no doubt.]

Everyone has an opinion about BK’s likely guilt, these days, so if you want to be doing better than contributing to keeping up the noise/ signal ratio, or lending a shoulder in the partisan scrum, you have to be honest about what you think the factors are that justify your judgment, be it what it may be. (If someone sincerely thinks they can come to no judgment whatsoever about whether BK is likely to be guilty, they are suffering some strange cognitive defect and should recuse themselves from the ongoing national controversy forthwith.)

So we are now going to weigh factors. But first, one more preliminary. Let’s be honest and clear in advance about what the benchmark will be for a necessary ‘no’ against confirmation.

The right ‘no’ standard is, I say: if there is a fairly high chance that BK is guilty he can’t be confirmed. This is especially clear after the latest hearings. Because if BK gave that performance, and he’s guilty, then he’s unfit for the seat. Because if he’s guilty, and crying like that about his innocence and the injustice of it all, he’s either totally delusional about his past, or he’s a devious, unrepentant, angry, lying liar. He thinks he’s the sort who should be able to abuse with impunity just because he went to Yale.

Please note what I just said: it isn’t that the crying makes it more likely that he’s guilty. It makes it worse IF he’s guilty. It speaks to his character now, and obviates any ‘but he was only 17’ defense.

So what does ‘fairly high chance’ mean? This is squishy. I would say: if a reasonable person could give BK an approx. 50% chance of being guilty, then that is clearly too high. So if we have a reasonable range of reasonable estimations of guilt, from, say, the 30% – 70% zone, kind of belling in the middle, that’s too high. Then you have to vote ‘no’. Because you can’t have reasonable people looking at the court and thinking, reasonably, ‘ah, the maybe rape-y Justice!’ That’s incompatible with the Court retaining a vital level of respect and credibility with the American people. That’s just the way it goes. The confirmation hearing is about maintaining the dignity of the court.

But isn’t it cruel to drag BK’s name through the mud like this if he might be innocent? Don’t the Dems need to be punished for this viciousness, by confirming him in the teeth of their attacks, if he even might be innocent?

No. Whether he’s guilty or innocent, it’s not Dems fault this is happening. The Reps shouldn’t have nominated a guy whose bad boy past frankly invited some such thing coming up and at least looking plausible. And they should have pulled him the instant it was clear they’d made a mistake. If Dems embarrassed the Reps a bit by springing Ford’s letter late, rather than early, in some leaky way, that’s a bit of shenanigans and a black eye for the Reps. But the issue can’t be that the Dems engaged in fairly mild shenanigans regarding the timing of a letter leak. The Reps – the President – could have spared BK this grinding humiliation by pulling him quick, when the letter came out – early or late. They could have put out some bland, mildly wounded statement about the unfairness of it all. Most people would have felt a bit sorry for BK and he would have gone on with his nice life.

But, no, that didn’t happen: Ford is a spear and the Republicans are throwing BK insistently onto the spear, again and again, hoping he’ll break it before it actually kills him. If that looks too awful, stop throwing him on the spear already, again and again. If BK finds it too awful, he should resign from his new job of guy thrown on a spear, repeatedly. He could regain a lot of his reputation by writing a wounded letter and withdrawing, loftily, ‘for the sake of the process’. He could save face that way. If he chooses not to, he can’t complain about how awful it feels to be thrown on a spear. It’s his choice. And they could just get Amy Coney Barrett instead.

That’s really the thing. If it wasn’t the case that there is no partisan, ideological cost to the Reps in pulling BK, you could say the Dems have forced their hand, forced them to torture BK. No, they can just pull him. Tomorrow. They have time to go for Barrett, and they’ll get her, after all this. No question. No one who even might vote ‘yes’ will vote ‘no’ on Barrett after this. She will glide. It will be a cakewalk.

But couldn’t this happen to anyone? If BK, then anyone. No, no it really couldn’t. (Quite apart from the part about how he could just withdraw back to his former nice life.)

Now, we get to the Bayesian math part of the lesson. I did the calculation in my previous post. In fact, I left out a few technically requisite twiddles, but the result of that was that my 40% likelihood of guilt answer should have been 39%. The twiddles are confusing, and the degree of correction is swamped by the fact that these are made-up numbers. Garbage-in, garbage-out. But the exercise is worth doing because people are just bad at thinking about probability in cases of this sort.

What I want to do now is retell my Bayesian story – same story – but more informally, in a way that makes more intuitive sense of why the Bayesian equation works. Exactly what is it we are multiplying and dividing, and why does it makes sense that multiplying and dividing those things would be the way to estimate this thing we want to know? This takes a bit of talking through, even making it simpler. If you want to skip down to the REALLY REALLY EASY EXPLANATION, scroll down to where it says that.

Bayes equation:

P(A|B) = P(B|A) x P(A)/P(B)

Informally this says the chance of A given B equals the chance that B given A times the chance that A, divided by the chance that B.

Here are our A & B.

A = BK committed sexual assault.
B = serious allegations of sexual assault are made in the course of BK’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

We want to solve for P(A|B); that is, the likelihood that A is true, given B is true. Because B is true.

To do this, we need to estimate P(A) and P(B) and P(B|A). Three pieces.

See my first post for a few more numbers (and notes on the minor technical adjustments). But here goes.

P(B|A) means
the chance of B, given A. That is, what is the chance that BK is accused, on the assumption that he’s actually guilty?

That is, if you are a sexual assaulter, who never got caught, what are the chances that, if you get nominated to the SC in 2018, this is the thing that makes your former victim(s) step forward finally to tell her (their) story?

Call this: guilty BK’s fear factor. (Please note: we aren’t begging the question by assuming that he’s guilty. Rather, an element of the equation is estimating the likelihood of exposure IF he’s guilty.)

This is hard to estimate but the thing is: it’s got to be pretty high. An SC confirmation hearing is an under-the-microscope examination. The other side is going to be looking for dirt on you. If you are someone with something seriously bad in your closet that you’ve hidden all these years, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if an SC confirmation hearing is the thing to bust open the closet door. And if that thing is sexual assault in the 80’s, and the year is 2018, those odds go up.

In my previous post I gave this fear factor a 0.5 value. Even-odds it blows up in your face if you are guilty and you try to slide in 2018 (of all years) onto the SC (of all places) without anyone dredging up your bad past.

If 0.5 seems pseudo-precise let’s just call it: relatively risky odds. That seems safe.

Now, P(A). This says: the probability that BK is guilty of something of the sort – sexual assault – independently of any accusations. This judgment is based on everything else we know: 1983, privileged, football, heavy drinking, best friends with Mark Judge, “what happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep”, what he wrote in the yearbook, joined Truth and Courage at Yale, etc. And now we should add: all the lies he pretty obviously told at the hearing. What’s he hiding, exactly? Gotta wonder.

What percentage of possible guys who fit this Band of Bros Truth and Courage profile are guilty of sexual assault at some point?

I said and I still say: P(A) = 0.1.

1 in 10 guys like that assaulted some girl at some party at some time.

I’ve had some critics – my dear wife, who went to the National Cathedral School For Girls – tell me this is too low. Some folks find it hard to believe it could be this high. 1 in 10 guys like that really engaged in actual sexual assault, back then? It was that hellish?

I could point out that some of BK’s defenders seem to put the number much higher: all boys engaged in ‘horseplay’. I’m not going to argue it here. I will just say: I honestly think a 10% estimate is not just reasonable but actually pretty generous. I think my wife is right that 1 in 5 would be more reasonable, strictly. But we’ll say half that: 1 in 10. The fact that such an alarmingly high number is independently reasonable is hugely important. Basically, it dooms BK to a situation in which, if anyone says anything plausible against him in the youthful misdeeds department, it will stick. It will stick because reasonable people will, reasonably, give credence to such reports.

It sucks to be in a position in which the people you hung around with 30 years ago are dragging down your reputation, even if maybe you did nothing wrong. But this is a thing that can happen.

Suppose we had an SC nominee who turned out to have Mafia associations from 30 years earlier. No allegations against the nominee. Those were just boys from the old neighborhood. Well, maybe. But now someone makes a credible accusation that the nominee was part of some loansharking operation. No evidence but the story kind of hangs together. Then he’s toast. If it hadn’t been for the old associations, the loansharking charge would be outlandish and incredible. If it hadn’t been or the allegations, maybe the old associations could have been overlooked as something the candidate had overcome in time. But the combination would sink any candidate. If the loansharking charge is false, after all, then it’s bad luck for the candidate. But no one has an absolute right to be on the SC through having old Mafia connections politely overlooked.

We don’t normally think of going to Georgetown Prep as like having been part of the Mafia. But if we believe the school was a hotbed of sexual assault, in the bad old days – as we should – then there is some validity to the analogy.

If you think 1 in 10 sounds not too high but too pseudo-precise, let’s just say: hazardously high odds, because of the Georgetown Prep/”Sixteen Candles” factor. As a candidate for confirmation, BK is unfortunately distinguished by having a demonstrated bad past. That’s a fact, even if he’s changed his ways since.

So that’s the numerator: relatively high odds times relatively high odds. [Update: actually I adjust one of the numerator factors from 0.5 to 0.55 before calculating – see below. Sorry for unclear exposition.]

What about the denominator?

P(B) means the chance that BK is accused, irrespective of guilt.

In my previous post I made a technical error, as mentioned above. It’s more confusing than it’s worth to do the math exactly right. The garbage factor in the numbers we are inventing too obviously swamps niceties of calculation. But there’s no point doing math wrong. So let’s sort of fake it – informally but honestly.

Suppose you had to bet: what is the likely ratio of false accusations to true accusations in this sort of context? If all you know is that someone has accused an SC nominee of sexual misconduct, in a confirmation hearing, what odds do you give – knowing nothing else – of it being true vs. either a malicious frame-up or a crazy person saying something crazy?

In my previous post I basically picked the following number, for argument’s sake: 2 false accusations for every 1 true accusation. I used slightly wobbly math to get there but this time I’ll just jump there. 2 to 1. I consider that quite a generous allowance in the paranoia department. Lest this post get even longer, I’m not going to go through everything I went through in the previous post about how it’s actually pretty unlikely that there will be conspiracies to frame candidates, or crazy ex-girlfriends (or whomever) coming out of the woodwork with oddly plausible but delusional, false charges.

Let me illustrate the implausibility briefly, in light of the hearings. Sen. Grassley has said he believes Ford thinks she’s telling the truth but, nevertheless, she isn’t, because left-wing conspiracy. It’s a bit hard to see how that makes sense. How would Dems have engineered it (never mind why.) They find Ford and wipe her memories and implant false ones? Or they find someone who is credible, but happens to have just the one element of delusion they need, and they put her forward? That’s a unicorn. (And for what? Just to get Barrett on the SC? Not enough payout for such a fiendish scheme.)

If someone seriously wants to argue that every top-flight Federalist Society member is being tracked by a team of crack Dem frame-up artists, waiting to spring into action in the event of a nomination; or that every Federalist Society member has an ex-friend with the most inconvenient delusions conceivable – then make your crazy INFOWARS case. I will concede that, in the wake of Ford’s letter, and testimony, in light of the national controversy of the case, all bets may be off about what crazy or ill-intentioned people might say and do. I have more or less locked my own views on the subject (like a controversial Wikipedia article with editing shut off.) At this point, any new stories, that aren’t corroborated, could be bullshit of various sorts, from either side, advanced for a variety of reasons. (I’m actually worried that any fresh accusation might be a false flag, meant to explode a day later and thereby cast doubt retroactively on Ford.)

Let’s step back to the strange past world of Before Ford’s Letter Was Released. (It seems a more innocent time.) I say: if Ford hadn’t come forth, Kavanaugh would have sailed fairly smoothly. Ford is credible. Those appear to be the facts, whatever happens next.

None of this fits with the Grassley theory that there will always be fake accusations so we have to ignore credible accusations as likely fakes. That’s like arguing that all swans are black on the basis of one apparent white swan. Not a good inductive argument, to say the least.

So we run with 2 to 1 ratio, fake to true. We are assuming that most allegations of this sort are fake, but some are true.From above, we estimate true accusation rate at 5%. (That’s from 10% guilt and 50% chance of accused IF guilty.) So the overall accusation rate is 15%. Or rather, it’s slightly lower because these possibilities can overlap so they don’t just add. Don’t worry your head about it. The answer is about:

P(B) = .14

Or if you just want to be vague about it: pretty low odds.

Adding the 10% chance of false accusations to the 50% change of true accusation IF guilty, we get a P(B|A) of about 55%. (Again, we can’t just add them.)

So we run the numbers.

0.55×0.1/ 0.14 = .39 and some change.

That is, even assuming we live in a universe where fake and false accusations of sexual assault against the powerful outnumber true accusations 2 to 1, a reasonable person will still regard BK as about 40% likely to be guilty of sexual assault.

Obviously if you make a less paranoid assumption – which I think would be reasonable – the odds of guilt go up. This number is way too high to confirm. QED.

But Bayesian math is still kind of opaque to most folks. It seems like some weird, arbitrary rabbit-out-of-a-hat trick. So let me now do my best to make Bayes intuitive (which is an exercise worth doing, quite apart from BK-related concerns.)

Thus, the REALLY REALLY EASY EXPLANATION

Taking it from the top: P(A|B) = P(B|A) x P(A)/P(B)

But that is very not-intuitive.

How about this translation? (Nodding to our A and B values – A being an event, B a report of that event.)

If A is likely to happen; and if, if A does happen, A is likely to be reported; and if inaccurate A reports are not too likely; then reports of A are rather believable.

Obviously the converse also makes good sense: If A is unlikely to happen and/or unlikely to be reported if it does; and/or and if inaccurate reports are to be expected either way; then reports of A are worth not so much.

Makes sense, right?

Let’s run a few examples just to illustrate the parameters.

Suppose you overhear someone say that Trump just tweeting about ‘little rocket man’ again. Should you believe it? Well, that’s the kind of thing Trump might do (although why this week?) And it’s the kind of thing people would talk about if he did. It’s not the kind of thing people would lie about, in particular. (Who would bother to invent a Trump tweet? There are plenty of real weird ones.) So it seems reasonable to give this statement modest credence. Even if you literally don’t know who this person you overhead is. It’s not that the statement is ‘supported’. It’s plausible and coherent. That can be enough.

Suppose you hear that Obama tweeted about Kim, calling him ‘little rocket man’. Well, that would be so weird and out of character for Obama that surely it is some mistake. And you don’t change your beliefs. (Honestly, I wouldn’t even bother to Google. No way.)

Suppose you stumble on an article claiming scientists have discovered most dinosaurs had bright yellow feathers. That’s weird. I would not believe it, not because I feel confident that they couldn’t have had bright yellow feathers. Rather, I can’t imagine how, if that’s true, the truth of it could lead to (true) reports now. How could evidence of this have survived? And even if there’s some evidence for some one species, due to some fantastic fluke of preservation, how could we have evidence for MOST dinosaurs? Seems impossible. So, although I don’t see any reason to doubt most dinosaurs were yellow, and no obvious reason for someone to lie about this, I would give P(A|B) – the probability of reports of yellow feathers GIVEN yellow feathers – low credence, so the numerator remains tiny. Until someone explains to me how I’m wrong.

The easiest cases to understand in Bayesian terms are, of course, one’s in which lies are likely. We all get how, if there is a very high likelihood of reports of A, whether A is true or not, then reports aren’t worth much. If someone is going to cry wolf, whether there’s a wolf or not, then you may believe in a wolf, but not on the basis of any crying.

Now, BK. His problem isn’t mean SJW’s. His problem is his big numerator and small denominator. Big times big divided by small equals big.

To put it another way, my yellow-feathered dinosaur case may seem outlandish and at odd angles to our current BK confirmation concerns, but it really is not. Normally a cold case that isn’t even reported until it’s very very cold is not credible. If some victim comes forth, for the first time, 35 years after the fact – with no corroboration – you wonder why. Your bike was stolen 35 years ago and you only thought to mention it now? Why? Why would this report be made, and only now? That is, like the dinosaur case: even if it were true, there surely wouldn’t – couldn’t – be a report of it NOW. So I’m reasonably going to doubt it’s true, on the basis that the likelihood of B IF A is low.

But the fact is: we aren’t surprised in the least by Ford coming forth only very late. We get it that it was the 80’s then, and now it’s 2018, and it makes total, plausible sense that IF it happened (IF!) she would have said nothing at the time and is only coming forward now, in the #METOO era. Normally some old story, with no backing, is incredible. But this is not that. This old story is, unusually, perfectly credible. This is an important and rather unusual feature of the case.

So BK has got an unusually high chance of being guilty (that’s his bad boy past catching up.) He’s got a high chance of being reported IF guilty way back then (that’s a SC confirmation hearing in 2018). There isn’t an especially high chance of false reports. That is, there’s no way to make the denominator really huge. So the number is going to be big. Reasonable people may differ as to whether BK is 30% likely to be guilty or 70%. But that’s going to be the likely range.

Remember the mistake: Dreher says we can’t believe it because there’s no evidence for the accusation. Surely mere ‘coherence’ and ‘plausibility’ isn’t enough. Nevertheless, as these examples show, it’s perfectly in order for coherent, plausible statements to cause us to adjust our beliefs, rationally, even if we are not also presented with independent, corroborative evidence that the statements are true. Bayes makes sense.

Dreher also says he’s worried about his kids. If any conservative can be accused, they can be accused someday. This is upside down and backwards. If there had already been #METOO in 1982, BK would be better off now. Because there would have been more expectation that Ford would have come out with her complaint then, hence more question as to why she comes out only now. A world in which everyone knows there are lots of serious crimes going unpunished is a world in which lots of people can be plausibly accused of committing those crimes. The solution is not to squash accusations. The solution is to make it so such crimes are punished more.

There’s another way to put this point. Dreher has another follow-up post with a letter from a reader allegedly turned new-minted Republican by Kavanaugh’s sorry treatment. (I have my doubts that this isn’t one of those ‘independents’ who turns out to have always voted Republican all along, but whatever.) The conclusion.

The way he spoke – he could have been me or any one of my friends up there!

This is an exceedingly ugly time in our national politics, and I don’t know how long things can continue this way. I fear for the world that my children will inherit from us.

But I will remember this moment for a long, long time.

A man — one like me — played to win! And not just to win a seat on the court, but something much more important — he played to win his honor and that of his family and friends.

So this guy, who didn’t like Trump, is now a Republican, because Kavanaugh stood up for guys like him. Now, the thing is: he doesn’t deny that Ford was very compelling and plausible in her testimony. He doesn’t say he disbelieves her. I find this combination outrageous and offensive for various predictable reasons. He’s one of those who deplores tribalism without noticing his own reactions are purely tribal animus. He’s throwing himself a lavish pity party, this guy. But one implication of what he’s saying seems to be lost on Dreher – and the author himself – so I’ll draw it out.

Suppose I grant for the sake of the argument that he’s entitled to his pity party because white guys have it worse than anyone. (I don’t buy this for a heartbeat, but I’ll play along.) Let it be so. What do we plan to do about it?

The idea is – or was – that BK should be judged fairly. As an individual. This feeds into the idea that innocent-until-proven-guilty should be the righteous standard. That’s wrong, per above. But, having worked up all this angry energy around how innocence isn’t being sufficiently presumed, the energy is fired off in a manner wholly inconsistent with the thought that fair procedures should rule in this case. The suggestion, weirdly, is that the focus should now shift to this ‘much more important’ feature, which has got this man voting Republican, because the Republicans have BK’s back.

The ‘much more important’ feature has nothing to do with the likelihood of BK’s guilt or innocence. This writer wants Republicans to decide the nomination issue based, not on that, but on a judgment of relative issue saliency. Which of two things is more serious, or worse:

1) innocent men losing reputations due to false accusations.
2) sexual assault being committed with impunity against women.

The writer is saying – undeniably implying anyway – that, in order to preserve white men’s tribal ‘honor’, we should discount plausible charges of sexual assault against women. Kavanaugh on the court will be the symbol of that deal done.

The man is proposing that we take the blue pill so that we can believe whatever we want for tribal ‘honor’.

And we have to overlook sexual assault to preserve honor. If a sexual assault accusations threaten the stability of honor, we disbelieve. Such is our prerogative

This being flagrantly immoral as well as dumb – what with women having the vote and all – I hope some conservatives will take this 11th hour opportunity to spit out the perhaps only half-dissolved blue pill and come to their frickin senses.

But, honestly, isn’t the left just as bad? Aren’t some lefties saying we should smear BK just because we don’t like his judicial philosophy? Just like Rod Dreher is (seemingly approvingly) posting a letter that basically says we should discount Ford’s credible testimony, not because she isn’t credible, but because men’s honor is inviolable, so women’s bodies can’t be? (We have to wage a defensive war of honor against women?) Aren’t both sides being just horrible about gobbling the blue pill, to believe whatever horrible thing they want to believe, to make them feel good about themselves?

I have seen a couple people say something like: we should believe Ford because BK has a terrible judicial philosophy. That’s a terrible thing to say. You shouldn’t accuse someone of sexual assault because you think they are going to do some other bad thing. But, in fairness, I think people who are saying these things are maybe a bit confused by the swift current of change in the wake of the Ford letter coming out. It’s hard to keep up and keep track.

Remember when every Democrat (except maybe one or two) was going to vote against BK because he has a terrible judicial philosophy? If confirmed, he is going to use bad philosophy of language for decades to undermine the values on which our cherished republic was founded? Since that’s true, we should vote against confirmation.

OK, let’s actually go back a bit further. Remember when it was kind of a norm that anyone who looked good in the suit, and had the credentials, got the nod, so long as the President wanted them?

Let’s rank these possible norms.

1) Anyone who is ‘qualified’ and nominated gets confirmed. Qualified is a fairly high bar. You need to be a fairly distinguished lawyer. Some gravitas, if you please. If the ink is still wet on your law diploma, sorry – maybe in 20 years. This was Harriet Miers’ problem, more or less. She managed to fail this test to the dissatisfaction of both sides. (Yes, conservatives were also worried about her ideological solidity. But, nominally, she got knocked back for being a lightweight, legally.) If a significant portion of Americans are going to think you just look hopelessly sloppy in the robe, with the wrong temperament or a totally inadequate background, you can’t be confirmed.

2) Anyone who is qualified and not some sort of extremist ‘outside the mainstream’ gets confirmed. This is vague, of course, but you could have – arguably we did for a while – a system under which each side sort of self-restrains in the ideological extremism department. I don’t want to argue with you right now about how real this was, but it’s, anyway, possible, albeit inherently unstable and likely to collapse. It would be perfectly possible for Dems to take the view that they would vote for Trump’s nominee, so long as it isn’t someone like Kavanaugh or Barrett, both of whom are obviously extremely partisan. Pick someone who isn’t on Leonard Leo’s short list, so there’s some chance he or she isn’t just a total ideologue. That would actually be a way to ensure some moderation, some freedom from pure ‘judicial activism’, as it were. For Dems the equivalent ask from Republicans would be something like: you have to nominate someone like Merrick Garland – some moderate, not a real left-winger. Otherwise we won’t consider him or her. (You can judge for yourself, based on history, whether Dems would be likely to go so far as to nominate someone like Garland, if such a demand for ideological moderation were made of them.)

Everyone knows that ‘to bork’ is a verb conservatives use to mean knock back a qualified conservative candidate by pretending he or she is an extremist. But, before that “there was an earlier usage of bork as a passive verb, common among litigators in the D.C. Circuit: to ‘get borked’ was to receive a conservative judicial decision with no justification in the law.” So, opinions differ. And that is why 2) is probably inherently unstable.

3) Total partisanship. If you want to win this vote for confirmation, you have to win this seat. Otherwise, go sit and spin. This is the norm, post-Garland, thanks to Republicans. (But, fair enough, Dems have done their – in my opinion smaller and milder – part to ratchet up partisanship over the years.)

Now, in deciding whether to confirm a candidate, you have to decide what norm you are going to follow. Everyone agrees with at least 1. Pretty much everyone is actually at 3 now. But let’s think about something I said at the start.

I started out by laying down a rule – a bar to clear: if reasonable people are going to think there’s a reasonable chance the nominee is guilty of sexual assault, and likely lying about it under oath, you have to vote ‘no’. Maybe you want to privately forgive possible excesses of youth. That’s fine. Be forgiving. But you can’t very well forgive them on behalf of your fellow citizens, who may not want to forgive them. And, in any case, the lying under oath speaks to current character issues.

What does this bar have to do with norms 1-3? Note that I didn’t say that, so long as the candidate clears the bar, you have to vote ‘yes’. (I’m careful like that.) Obviously you can insist on a lot more in a candidate than ‘not likely to be guilty of sexual assault’. This bar I set is actually a lower bar than 1. Not being plausibly guilty of a crime is one part of being a respectable professional nominee.

And so BK fails 1. He’s not qualified because, if confirmed, too many people will, reasonably, regard him as an illegitimate pick, because of background and character concerns that are totally reasonable.

This is a bit head-spinning because, just last week, we were all hovering in our minds around 3). Will we have total partisanship or won’t we? Could we peel a few Republicans off to vote against, a few Dems to vote for (thereby providing a veneer of bipartisanship)? Only time will tell!

But now it’s all changed. Republicans know that Ford is credible. After her testimony everyone was saying, for 10 minutes, that it was all over. She was highly believable. You can’t confirm then. To admit that Ford was credible is to admit that BK can’t clear the bar even for 1).

And then – BK got angry. And everything changed. Now Republicans are going to vote to confirm him, not because he discredited Ford but because it’s in the cards. The angry white man card trumps the credible woman card.

In pharma terms: guys get to go blue pill. They get to wake up and believe whatever they want, for honor. BK on the Supreme Court is the seal on that deal.

And that’s why I’m sort of hoping Rod Dreher will sit up and say: oh my gosh, I made a simple math error due to not thinking about the nature of evidence correctly. BK is 40% guilty and that’s too high. He should not be confirmed.

{ 129 comments }

1

Salem 09.29.18 at 11:33 pm

… unless Dreher disagrees with you on the 10% prior. With a 1% prior, and your toy maths, Kavanaugh looks innocent. I suspect that Dreher would not unreasonably respond that your prior decides the whole calculation, and it’s not properly justified.

How could you persuade Dreher – or how could he persuade you – what sort of prior is reasonable here? I tried to do some order-of-magnitude calculations on how many American men have ever committed sexual assault in their lives (there are lots of stats for victimisation, but I have found none for perpetrators). I got ~0.1%. If that’s right, then the 10% for Kavanaugh has to be too high – it would basically be implying that similarly situated people are responsible for all sexual assault in America, which we know is not true. But maybe that 0.1% is way off, I don’t know.

2

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 12:31 am

Hi Salem, honestly I would prefer quibbling about numbers. If Dreher wants to doubt the numbers that’s easier than shouting at each other over the noise at a pity party with punch bowls of blue pills. But here’s a study that got linked in the other thread pointing to some research that supports the 10% number, if you’re curious.

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2375127

I’m glad someone linked that because I’d seen it then lost it.

3

LFC 09.30.18 at 1:28 am

I skimmed down till I got to the passage where JH says this:

Because you can’t have reasonable people looking at the court and thinking, reasonably, ‘ah, the maybe rape-y Justice!’ That’s incompatible with the Court retaining a vital level of respect and credibility with the American people. That’s just the way it goes. The confirmation hearing is about maintaining the dignity of the court.

I don’t esp. agree with this. For one thing, Clarence Thomas, credibly accused of harassment, is already on the Court.

In my view, if Kavanaugh had handled Ford’s very credible charge differently — for ex., saying he didn’t remember but that it could have happened, and then being appropriately contrite — he’d be in a different place now vis-a-vis public opinion. People are inclined to cut 17-year-olds a good deal of slack; they are much less willing to forgive adults who don’t acknowledge the bad things they did when they were kids.

To be clear, I opposed K. on political and ideological grounds before any of these allegations were known. And the way he’s handled the allegations, esp. Ford’s — even in the very unlikely case that he’s innocent — has been terrible. But that’s not v. relevant to JH’s point about the dignity of the Court. This is about a lot of things, but in my view the dignity of the Court is not one of them. Reasonable people can disagree on this, and JH and I disagree on this point.

P.s. I’ve tried to refrain from much involvement in online discussion of this whole issue, so this may be my last comment.

4

b9n10nt 09.30.18 at 1:51 am

Ford didn’t make an accusation. “Accusations” are made either to someone believed to have perpetrated a wrong or to a third party when either of them could provide restitution (even if only an acknowledgment of the wrong).

No, she reported it. First to her therapist and then, she reasonably claims, to authorities in hopes of protecting the institution of the SC. None of her reporting was directed at K personally or to a third party from which she sought restitution.

5

J-D 09.30.18 at 1:52 am

That’s incompatible with the Court retaining a vital level of respect and credibility with the American people. That’s just the way it goes. The confirmation hearing is about maintaining the dignity of the court.

My opinion is that the level of respect and dignity accorded to the court is too great and that it would be a good thing if it were accorded less respect and less dignity.

Remember when it was kind of a norm that anyone who looked good in the suit, and had the credentials, got the nod, so long as the President wanted them?

No, I don’t remember that. When was that?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unsuccessful_nominations_to_the_Supreme_Court_of_the_United_States

6

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 2:05 am

J-D makes a good point. B9n10nt is right about ‘report’ although I don’t suppose much hinges on it. It’s not hard to see why to BK it’s an accusation. But accuracy is always good.

7

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 2:08 am

LFC, I actually think the terrible handling is part of my point. Or can be. It’s understandable that he’s mad, but we expect better from an SC judge than this lashing out at people asking questions they have to ask.

8

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 2:10 am

Maybe i’m hung up on ‘respectability politics’ vis a vis the court. Not sure. Is that bad because it’s too late for that? Or because the court shouldn’t be revered in a democracy? I would like to revere it, I admit.

9

Saurs 09.30.18 at 2:14 am

Once again, this is incoherent overcomplication, a don’s attempt to insert a cute, deprecating lesson where it doesn’t belong, an exercise that is equally tiresome to his students as it is stimulating to his own impatient ego, straining one’s patience and imagination both as it manipulates the known facts, distorts the circumstantial, to arrive at a conclusion that flatters him before it illuminates anything else.
The ‘no’ standard you’re talking about doesn’t exist. Any critter can decide Brett’s not for for purpose for any reason, including that they don’t like that he was accused, they don’t like his jerk-off name, his jerk-off face, &c. They don’t need evidence of or against anything, which is why the votes will be determined by party first, the integrity of their own individual necks second. You went off the rails from the word jump when you pretended anyone with any power in this situation pays any mind to this kind of (almost absurdly flawed, parody-of-itself) calculation. They have eyes, they can see, and Blasey doesn’t figure into it at all, because Brett himself barely does. It’s what he represents (like Franken, as well); but because it’s supposed to be indelicate to admit to acting out of self-preservation and a desire to pwn our enemies, we pretend these men are Irreplaceable and act as white knights on their delicate, fragile little behalf, feeding our victim complex in the meanwhile.

10

Dave Maier 09.30.18 at 2:26 am

Sorry if this bit is really neither here nor there, and sorry to be dense; but I’m still not getting the “blue pill” thing. (Maybe I just don’t get what Morpheus is saying.) But if Neo takes the blue pill, he just goes back to being Thomas Anderson. He doesn’t “get to believe whatever he wants” — he’s going to believe (again, as he did before) what (poor, deceived) Thomas Anderson found rational to believe given the evidence available to him. He won’t remember that there even is such a thing as a red pill. He’ll just be back the way he was, like everyone else, none of whom know about the red pill either. That is, the blue pill doesn’t seem to be a license for epistemic irresponsibility – just a return to unfortunate but perfectly understandable (and predictable) error. What am I missing, if it matters?

11

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 2:30 am

Bless you, saurs, it’s strangely comforting to know that some things stay the same. For the record, I would never dream of trying to change your mind for better or worse. You needn’t worry on that score.

12

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 2:33 am

“He doesn’t “get to believe whatever he wants.”

My little bit of fun, Dave. Strictly he says ‘whatever you want’, but the implication is he goes back to his old life. But obviously ‘whatever you want’ invites something more lurid.

13

Saurs 09.30.18 at 2:36 am

I mean, are you really pretending to be scandalized at the idea of rejecting a candidate because you don’t like him? Like engels, are you pretending that Democrats didn’t demonstrate, in full color, the many ways he is intellectually, politically, and philosophically unworthy of this nomination? That there weren’t any substantive criticisms of his judicial record long before we heard he was a teen drunk who liked and continues to like bullying women?

Yes, you are inordinately but characteristically wed to respectability and civility in the face of common sense amd experience, wary of distinguishing between big and small sins because doing so (a) forces you into choices that require examination of unconscious bias and (b) doesn’t provide a stage for you to noodle on to the delighted astonishment of others. All those words to conceal such a pedestrian soul amd an allegiance not to goodness but to the idea that you are some kind of wily gadfly that boyishly exposes the Fatal! Flaw! that fooled better men (always men) into shirking the middle-ground’s comfy armchair.

It’s really easy to just concede that this man is a dick and isn’t owed shit. But you get less opportunity to thumb your nost st the right people if you say so, hence the desire to make this elaborate and difficult.

14

LFC 09.30.18 at 2:39 am

JH @7/8

Difficult questions. I don’t think reverence is required — some minimum level of respect among the public, yes. The Court should live up to the motto engraved on its building “equal justice under law,” but it often hasn’t.

Politically w/r/t the Ct, what has happened since the late 80s (and if I had the patience to read all the way down in the post I have a feeling you address this) is that the nomination process has become much more politicized (J-D’s point notwithstanding). That in itself harms the Ct’s reputation. People know about the hot-button 5-4 decisions more than about most of the 8-1 or 7-2 decisions. There’s already a perception that the Ct is a quite political institution, not simply 9 people impartially administering “equal justice under law.”

In that context, the question is: would confirming to the Ct someone who did what K probably did fatally injure the Ct as an institution when its reputation has already been damaged? I’m not sure, but I think you and I agree that the way in which K has responded to the allegations is relevant.

15

Dave Maier 09.30.18 at 2:45 am

I see. So it’s really more like what Smith says to Cypher (“Whatever you want”), where it’s clear that the latter is choosing among desirable illusions rather than (re-)submitting to conventional belief. (Never mind, I’m being picky.)

16

Saurs 09.30.18 at 2:49 am

Well, when your persona depends on regarding day-to-day living as a fun epistimological puzzle, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to people like me, John, that you’d rather devote yourself to studying the iconography on the back of a dollar bill. The stakes are still the same but the lectern is delightfully less crowded.

17

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 2:52 am

“I mean, are you really pretending to be scandalized at the idea of rejecting a candidate because you don’t like him? ”

I’ll do you one better. Not only am I not really pretending to be doing that, I don’t even seem to be really pretending to do that. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

18

Lawrence Maggitti 09.30.18 at 2:52 am

Dreher doesn’t really believe Kavanaugh didn’t do it – he believes it shouldn’t be disqualifying because it happened many years ago and Kavanaugh (in his eyes) shouldn’t be “punished” for it.

That’s not what he’s saying NOW, but it’s what he said a week ago.

Of course that’s wrong headed in many ways, but that’s pretty clearly where Dreher is.

19

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 2:54 am

“ your persona”

O that old thing! I even have a spare one for when guests come.

20

J-D 09.30.18 at 3:00 am

John Holbo

Maybe i’m hung up on ‘respectability politics’ vis a vis the court. Not sure. Is that bad because it’s too late for that? Or because the court shouldn’t be revered in a democracy? I would like to revere it, I admit.

Judges, particularly judges of the highest appellate courts, have a job to do which is often very important and often very difficult. Like anybody who has an important and difficult job, they deserve respect if they do the job well; but those who do the job badly don’t deserve any extra respect just for holding the position. Because the job is important and difficult, I would like to have the position held by people who do the job well, and if it were I would respect them for their performance in office, not merely for the holding of the office. So the situation I would prefer is one in which I would respect the judges; but I would prefer it because it would be a situation in which they did their job well (and that would be the reason I was respecting them).

21

czrpb 09.30.18 at 3:11 am

“””
That is, even assuming we live in a universe where ***fake and false accusations of sexual assault against the powerful outnumber true accusations 2 to 1***, a reasonable person will still regard BK as about 40% likely to be guilty of sexual assault.
“””

i think you vastly underestimate how much con/repubs and even poor “rationalist” (eg: IDW) believe they are constantly being accused of false accusations.

(conveniently and for example) just happened to (re)listen to the ezra/sam podcast on iq, race and murray .. sam was quite miffed at, as he sees it, ezra, et al suggesting he is a racist)

22

Karla 09.30.18 at 3:11 am

I get Saurs’ distaste for the witty puzzle. As a woman, it’s screamingly obvious that many privileged men, even of the liberal persuasion, simply don’t get that their intellectual games are played on our bodies. Here is the notice I sent to my dear Senator Hatch this afternoon:

As a psychologist who often works with survivors of rape and sexual abuse, I am very concerned at your overt bias toward believing Judge Kavanaugh rather than Dr. Blasey Ford. I recognize your frustration with being unable to get your radically conservative nominee onto the Supreme Court before the midterm elections. I understand Speaker McConnell’s wish to leave as his legacy a judiciary that will be conservative for decades – and that it’s even more important to him (and possibly to you) than alienating survivors and the women and men who believe them and support them. Please do not underestimate our anger and determination. We will remember you, and your legacy, and not in a good way. Kavanaugh is a flawed candidate for the highest court in the land. Please reconsider your decision to push this man onto the Supreme Court.

23

Raven Onthill 09.30.18 at 3:28 am

“we should believe Ford because BK has a terrible judicial philosophy.”

If that philosophy is misogynistic then, yes, that adds credibility to Dr. Ford’s allegations. These things are not always independent. Moreover, misogynistic beliefs may mean that BK still holds his long-ago attitudes – he would do it again under the right circumstances.

From my viewpoint, you are too much believing the claims of rationality from conservatives. I appreciate your line of argument, but, gods, if they gave awards for clear reasoning with conservatives, I’d have a shelf-full of them (and you would have a gold medal.) It is the same with climate change; the little dears will argue with thermometers and hurricanes, rather than believe the evidence.

24

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 4:35 am

“If that philosophy is misogynistic then, yes, that adds credibility to Dr. Ford’s allegations”.

Logically that makes sense but it’s weak especially in this case. You would have to argue that the likelihood of assault made him become an originalist and then backwards that some originalist seed in his soul made him more assault-y. It just muddies a good argument with a bad one. I honestly think the better explanation is that people are shifting arguments as the facts change – as they should – but not always describing that shift coherently. Last week they opposed his philosophy. This week it’s that he’s probably guilty and has bad character. That’s fine. It’s still his philosophy but you go with the strong argument that fits the news. But then you can sound inconsistent.

25

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 4:38 am

“i think you vastly underestimate how much con/repubs and even poor “rationalist” (eg: IDW) believe they are constantly being accused of false accusations“

I think that’s probably right but i’d still prefer they put a number to it rather than grumbling indefinitely. Because then maybe you can show the number implies other things that are pretty weird. Maybe you can change a mind.

26

DocAmazing 09.30.18 at 4:49 am

Am I the only one that finds it side-splittingly funny that Dreher, a guy whose entire career is based on the notion that Faith Is The Belief In What Cannot Be Proven and is a Good Thing, is now blathering on about the burden of proof?

27

bad Jim 09.30.18 at 5:39 am

Dreher: “It’s not that I believe Kavanaugh is innocent. I think it is possible that he is guilty of what Ford accuses him of. But I believe he is not guilty, in the sense that there is not nearly enough evidence to judge him guilty of the accusation.”

So, if we can’t send him to jail, he deserves to ascend to the Supreme Court. Okay.

With respect to blue pills, it’s my impression that Valium and Viagra fall into that category, along with who knows what else.

28

Raven Onthill 09.30.18 at 5:43 am

He could have become an originalist because it allows him to make his misogyny into law. I do not believe he is a philosophical person (how hard it is not to write “man” in that place!) in pursuit of excellence; he has chosen his legal position to allow him to implement his personal beliefs, not the other way around. Isn’t that the crux of this discussion? You want to reason with the people you want to reach, but first you must teach them the courage to believe in reason, and then you must keep them from doing damage while they are learning.

29

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 5:52 am

“he has chosen his legal position to allow him to implement his personal beliefs, not the other way around.”

I agree but I just think it’s hard to argue that his misogyny fueled his originalism and also that the proof of his misogyny is his originalism. In real life there’s feedback, but as a proof it’s circular. And as a psychological mechanism it’s a needless reach. We believe he’s guilty because Ford not because of his reading of the Federalist Papers.

30

nastywoman 09.30.18 at 5:56 am

– as the odds that K is thankfully history have become at least 51 percent – I don’t have any objection to change the subject (again) to any silly consideration that ”it’s all the Democrats -(or MY) – fault”?

31

ph 09.30.18 at 6:02 am

This isn’t a re-write, it’s a re-rant replete with gross generalizations.

“Everyone has an opinion about BK’s likely guilt.” Really? Based on political theater, politicized polling, and an absence of evidence? This is like Jerry Springer.

My guess is plenty of sober people are more comfortable with: “I don’t know and/or I don’t much care.” Personally, I couldn’t care less what happens to BK. Ford’s problems don’t begin, or end, with him. I hope she finds some peace and resolution somewhere.

Biggest yuk – you claiming that you’re writing to a conservative never/trump audience.

That is all.

32

Alex SL 09.30.18 at 6:15 am

Salem:

your prior decides the whole calculation, and it’s not properly justified

That’s the best summary of Bayesian reasoning I have seen in a while.

Can’t find it anymore, but two or three years ago I read a long post by a libertarian economist who basically went, “yes, here is good evidence that a minimum wage helps people, but I have a strong prior against that, so I will now use Bayesian reasoning as a justification to ignore this evidence”.

At its best Bayes’ formula is a tool for organising one’s thoughts, as in the present post. Unfortunately, in practice it is often an exercise in pretending to be rational while supporting pre-conceived conclusions through cherry-picking.

On the other hand, a colleague (this in biology) once replied to my concern about unjustified priors with “priors don’t matter if your data are strong”. I think he may at the same time have glossed over how priors work (set it to 100% or 0% and the evidence becomes irrelevant) and been unaware that his response would defeat the entire purpose of Bayesianism. Which is, funnily enough, how a lot of people in biology seem to use it, by setting largely uninformative priors.

33

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 6:21 am

ph: “Everyone has an opinion about BK’s likely guilt.” Really? Based on political theater, politicized polling, and an absence of evidence? This is like Jerry Springer.”

Surely this can’t have escaped your notice before, ph. Politics has a Jerry Springer-like quality, when there is a controversy that gets lots of attention.

34

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 6:26 am

“your prior decides the whole calculation, and it’s not properly justified

That’s the best summary of Bayesian reasoning I have seen in a while”

I probably should have reiterated the garbage-in/garbage-out concession a few more times but it gets labored and, after all, the impossibility of impossible knowledge is pretty obvious. You are talking about the derp problem, which is very real. But there is, I hope, value as well. I think people sometimes do realize: oh, I really thought about that wrong. And sometimes when there’s sincere ( non trolling) disagreement you can at least isolate the source better by breaking it down your analysis.

I hope it’s not derp all the way down.

35

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 6:34 am

In case anyone doesn’t know, ‘derp’ is the constant, repetitive reiteration of known priors.

http://noahpinionblog.blogspot.com/2013/06/what-is-derp-answer-is-technical.html

My hope would be that some analysis can not just indulge derp but expose, as it were, cryptoderp. The constant, repetitive presupposition of known priors which, if articulated out loud as often as they are thought, would sound so derpy people might be shamed into changing their minds.

36

ph 09.30.18 at 6:57 am

@33 Jerry Springer and politics, true, and I’m glad we’re finally getting to the nub of your pieces: politics – and the mid-terms?

Meanwhile, I did a little more background reading on the latest round of accusations. Witness number 2 confirms that BK was an obnoxious drunk at Yale, and very much a “man’s man” in the infantile sense of the expression. From CNN

“James Roche, Kavanaugh’s roommate in the Fall 1983, also issued a statement saying that Kavanaugh was a “notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time.”
“(H)e became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk,” Roche said.
One classmate who attended many of the same parties as Brett Kavanaugh but did not want to be identified, says he was “aggressive, obnoxious drunk, part of the crowd he hung out with.”
Roche added that he became close friends with Ramirez in the early days at Yale and while he “did not observe the specific incident in question,” he did remember “Brett frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk.”

BK whipped out his male parts on at least one occasion, seems hopelessly immature, and could be grabby and inappropriate. First time I’ve heard of that kind of behavior, ahem.

My own narrow experiences in this community as a youth were limited to middle-school athletics. Members of the rugby team liked to pull down their pants when drunk. Even at sixteen I could see that kind of behavior wasn’t going to lead me to the promised land. That said, after migrating into a much more mixed community, I distinctly recall being dragged into a totally dark bedroom at a party and thrown down onto a bed in a manner quite different to Ms. Ford. Lines blurred. I’ve known a number of women who owned to intimate contact with two or more partners in an evening in high school and after, and who are now successful parents and hold good jobs. People do grow and change.

Yet, it’s clear BK and I would never have been at the same parties, but I’m not sure I’ve read anything that makes him a sexual predator, (a charge you withdrew), or guilty of rape. He seems guilty of nothing more than being an asshole to both girls and boys as a high-school student, and an entitled and ugly drunk at Yale.

If there’s more, I’m ready to change my mind.

Burn him at the stake.

37

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 7:42 am

“if there’s more, I’m ready to change my mind.”

A woman named Ford credibly alleges that BK sexually assaulted her.

38

Hidari 09.30.18 at 7:55 am

Gosh, most of the males on this thread, (every one of whom is male, AFAICT) seem to be terribly sanguine about the idea that a sexual predator would be in charge of deciding the law as related to, amongst other things, sexual predators. Since most men seem to be incapable of seeing things from a woman’s point of view, imagine that it was you that was sexually assaulted (such things do happen, you know). Would you be so sanguine then?

Men (who are, overwhelmingly, the ’cause’ of sexual assaults/rapes) always tend to be terribly keen to tell women (who are, overwhelmingly, the victims) that sexual assault isn’t so bad, or is a distraction, or is a ‘he said she said’ situation, or whatever.

39

bad Jim 09.30.18 at 7:57 am

I’m a bit older than Kavanaugh, and attended public high school and college on the left coast, and my experience seems to have been quite a bit different from his. I was 16 as a high school junior and so my drinking opportunities were limited. As a college student, tall and of solemn mien, I was nearly never denied alcohol purchases, but, having limited means, my consumption was necessarily constrained. Living off campus, as one did, meant that one more often than not had roommates of the opposite sex, which occasioned considerable conversation and compelled comparable consideration.

At age 18 I was made lead negotiator for my apartment building’s tenant union. For this, I blame my beard, my summer jobs in the aerospace industry, and my father for encouraging fearlessness. It was pretty sweet, though; it led me to hanging out with my slightly older neighbors, mostly grad students, who mostly were not Californians.

One was a mechanical engineer who had been in a fraternity. He told stories about drinking games that I did not want to believe. Who would do that, drinking until you puked, until you passed out? I didn’t hear similar stories from the other couples, and didn’t run into such behavior in following years. This is not to say we were abstemious — far from it — but we treated the women in our midst appreciatively.

We were hippies. What can I say? When we needed to alter our brain chemistry, which we did fairly often, we used weed, or less often, LSD, and sometimes peyote. Ugh. The two times I’ve tried it I spent the first few hours not puking. The hours following, however, were wonderful.

40

Murc 09.30.18 at 8:12 am

It’s worth noting that John is being absurdly generous to Kavanaugh here, because he wrote this entire post without once referring to either Julie Swetnick, a second credible witness to Kavanaugh committing lurid acts of sexual assault, or to the fact that Senator Gardner apparently was approached by a third person, still anonymous, who claims that Kavanaugh assaulted them.

So this isn’t a case of a single accusation, which Dreher (and many other scumbags) want to consider it as being one because that’s their last thing reed. It’s a case of multiple accusers.

41

SusanC 09.30.18 at 8:15 am

I’m highly skeptical of the whole Bayesian approach JH is setting up here.

Among other objections,, I suspect that in the cases of Trump, Julian Asange, etc. we are seeing substantial adverse selection, along the lines of the joke in a Douglas Adams novel that anyone who wants to rule the world is ipso facto unfit to do so. It is not the case that Trump was selected uniformly at random from the US population to be President, and this time round by pure chance we have a President who is the subject of accusations of impropriety (Stormy Daniels etc.) Wanting to be President and wanting to make out with a porn star are symptomatic of the same personality type, and potentially are highly statistically correlated.

Id be similarly suspicious of corelations in the case presently under discussion.

42

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 8:21 am

“It’s worth noting that John is being absurdly generous to Kavanaugh here”

In case it wasn’t clear that actually is my intent. Be absurdly generous and it’s still too bad. Leave the rest out and it’s still too plausible.

43

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 8:25 am

“Id be similarly suspicious of corelations in the case presently under discussion”

So double that 0.1 to 0.2!

Naw, i’ll Let it go. I’ve rid the Bayes pony as far as the poor thing can go.

44

nastywoman 09.30.18 at 9:27 am

@36
”Burn him at the stake”.

No – let’s make him ”Erected President”!
-(and let’s put Von Clownstick into the Supremes that you and me have more to laugh)

45

Saurs 09.30.18 at 10:07 am

Murc, he was reminded of that in his previous post when referring to “the sexual assault” rather than plural assaults. Incorporating that reality would spoil his fun, I guess, or would be too taxing. Plus, it’d draw away the attention he’s paying to Blasey’s credibility through the lens of rape skepticism, where “probability” is whistling to several distinct breeds of canine. ‘Hark at my generous rationality that concedes the little lady might be telling the truth, but only because my maths say so.’ As per usual, his ignorance and incuriousity about all the professional work already done on the subject at hand betrays itself, displays itself, and calls itself cute.

46

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 10:26 am

Well, if you are prepared to deal with the problem by calling in professional pluralizers, and if that is going to solve it, don’t let me detain you.

For whom does the ‘probability’ whistle?

47

Saurs 09.30.18 at 10:26 am

As long as you assert your right to orchestrate your own light-hearted enjoyment, you’re gravy, John. Please don’t let women talking at you or objecting keep you from doing what you want. We’ve seen what happens when men’s plans for themselves get thwarted by such trifles. It’s better to let you try to fulfill your potential than ask that you exercise some self-control. Heed the advice of Canada’s most recent export: resist domestication and clip those buzzkill apron strings, bucko ma boy

48

Nigel 09.30.18 at 10:32 am

‘Gosh, most of the males on this thread, (every one of whom is male, AFAICT) seem to be terribly sanguine about the idea that a sexual predator would be in charge of deciding the law as related to, amongst other things, sexual predators’

It’s the ones who hold Democrats to a higher standard and are perfectly prepared to see Roe v Wade overturned to teach them a lesson about what political positions work when it comes to getting elected that leave me confused, at best.

49

John Holbo 09.30.18 at 10:53 am

Memo to self: I’ve got to start making the attention conservation notices bigger and scarier.

50

ph 09.30.18 at 12:25 pm

@38 Arguing that a single plausible incident of aggressive groping by a seventeen-year old makes the individual a (lifelong) sexual predator as an adult is precisely the kind of overkill that makes it hard to take this discussion seriously.

I’ve very little doubt something happened, I’m very inclined to believe Ford correctly identifies BK as one of the people in the room, and the individual who attacked her.

If he’s guilty of a crime, I’m genuinely curious what crime was committed under the statutes of that time.

This is a frenzy, not a discussion. If there’s a provable pattern of predatory behavior, as a youth, or as an adult then let’s hear of it. The lack of interest in any factual account of what might have taken place then and in the years since is troubling to say the least. Some seem decidedly indifferent to what BK has done, or not done, unless what we learn casts him in a more negative light. Ford’s experiences at 15 do not diminish the gravity of her charge against BK.

The question is what to do with the man today, 35 years after the fact, and whether his behavior at 17 disqualifies him from serious office at 53.

I say no, and I’d say the same about anybody who committed almost any criminal act as a youth, whether they were charged and found guilty or not. Bad me.

51

Lee A. Arnold 09.30.18 at 1:39 pm

The reason a lot of conservatives held their noses and voted for Trump was the nutty idea that Hillary would stack the courts with leftwingers who would ruin their United States. That seems to be the real emotion here: if Kavanaugh can’t go through, our vote for Trump is lost. Strangely they are unable to remember that a year ago Gorsuch went through without a hitch. The example of Gorsuch is not much support for Dreher’s theory that straight white Christian males are under assault from “neo-McCarthyism of the left”.

Also, Dreher’s characterization of one of Lindsey Graham’s typical drama-queen moments as a “passionate defense of Kavanaugh” ignores the most likely emotional referent of Graham’s nonsense: Graham’s own shabby blockage of Merrick Garland. There is a lot that Dreher doesn’t remember.

Kavanaugh did this to himself; nobody else to blame. If Kavanaugh had said, “I was a heavy drinker and I think I may have assaulted Ford and I am terribly sorry and I will withdraw the nomination if you feel that is necessary,” perhaps the forgiveness of others would save him his seat on the court. But these so-called Christians would never think to do that. And it’s way too late, now.

It may be that Kavanaugh will be rejected, not for a possible sexual assault decades ago, but for the petty lies he has told Congress in these hearings as well as other hearings — legally he has committed perjuries, and let’s hope the FBI nails them down — and also the remarkable intemperance of his partisan whining on camera a few days ago which has caused alarm among staid members of the legal system across the political spectrum, who would prefer that the judicial system retain the pretense of impartiality.

In short, Kavanaugh is now a real stinker. He has made himself into damaged goods.

His previous employments as something of a Republican dirty trickster may have given him the wrong precedent to follow in managing his own nomination to SCOTUS. He is a tribalist, and heated tribal emotions make big mistakes, and no one is easier to lure and goad into making those mistakes than a pretender to the high and mighty with a big brass ring in reach.

I doubt that as much money was spent by outside groups to oppose him as was spent to support him (I don’t know) — but surely the spigots will be turned on this week, in press and on screen, to reconfirm to the voters Kavanaugh’s manifest unfitness.

52

nastywoman 09.30.18 at 2:33 pm

@
”In short, Kavanaugh is now a real stinker”.

– and that’s the real beauty of this whole thing – a ”Real Stinker” has now become a real stinker to such a dimension that not even Stephen (ph) Colbert will be able to save him by mentioning ”whether his behavior at 17 disqualifies him from serious office at 53”.

Don’t ya know that everybody is actually always ”the same age”? – like this guy next door who so obviously was born being sixty already – and he never got younger.
-(as this ”Judge” friend of Brett mentioned that even his hair never changed) –

And so we were in danger to put a 17 year old dude on the Supreme Court while having already an 8 year old -(with a permanent erection) as our President?

What a ”crime” against… against? –
Humanity? –
I mean concerning child labour?
– ph?

53

Scott P. 09.30.18 at 4:23 pm

The question is what to do with the man today, 35 years after the fact, and whether his behavior at 17 disqualifies him from serious office at 53.

I say no, and I’d say the same about anybody who committed almost any criminal act as a youth, whether they were charged and found guilty or not. Bad me.

I’d say a big part of whether it is disqualifying is a) the seriousness of the act and b) the amount of contrition and restitution the person has shown.

Kavanaugh won’t even admit it has happened, let alone show any contrition. To my mind, that means he doesn’t think he did anything wrong, which is the disqualifying factor. I don’t think anyone who feels there is nothing wrong with assaulting a woman belongs on the Court.

54

Donald 09.30.18 at 4:24 pm

LFC summarized my own views pretty well on Kavanaugh in one of the earliest comments in this threa and of course there are a lot of superb essays deconstructing his testimony and his record online. The Internet is at its best on things like this. Also its worst, depending on what you read.

As for Rod, I really like him and that isn’t snark. I think he is a very honest by his lights. But certain things make him irrational and when he is in that state, if you want to put it in Bayesian terms, his prior probabilities become either zero or one, depending on how you define the proposition, and no amount of evidence will change his mind.

The triggering subjects are anything that looks like SJW s trying to discredit a conservative Christian. Rod was trying to be thoughtful a week or two ago, but once he perceived it as SJWs going after a conservative Christian, some switch went off in his head and evidence became irrelevant. He also sees reverse racism by SJW’s against white males, which means any criticism that involves the rather obvious factor of affluent white privilege has a type of backfire effect on his mind.

He might calm down. For now, though, evidence will probably just bounce off his dead certain priors.

55

Donald 09.30.18 at 4:29 pm

Okay, that was weird. I posted something. Usually I think I see the message with a “ waiting for moderation” note. This time it vanished.

Short version. Rod is an honest man, but right now he is a man “ triggered” by seeing Social Justice Warriors going after a conservative Christian judge, previously seen as a respectable citizen, and without absolutely irrefutable evidence. So until or unless Rod calms down, evidence is irrelevant. In Bayesian terms, his priors are either one or zero on this subject, depending on how you phrase it.

56

dilbert dogbert 09.30.18 at 4:31 pm

Sure a lot of Blah Blah Blah. You only needed to post the last couple of paragraphs.

57

PatinIowa 09.30.18 at 5:22 pm

ph @50

“If he’s guilty of a crime, I’m genuinely curious what crime was committed under the statutes of that time.”

Without reading the Maryland statutes circa 1981, I’ll speculate on how a white prosecutor would initially charge a black seventeen-year-old in 2018 in Iowa who did what Dr. Ford described to a white fifteen-year-old from a upper-middle-class family.

Underage drinking.
Assault with intent to commit
sexual abuse.
He forcibly prevented her from leaving the room. That’s kidnapping.
He had help forcibly keeping her in the room. That’s conspiracy.

Oh, and by the way, who was driving? If it was Kavanaugh, then we can add DUI, although I’m certain the alcohol concentration threshold has risen.

Here are the relevant statutes.
Sexual Assault: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/ico/chapter/709.pdf.
Kidnapping: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/code/710.pdf
Conspiracy: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/code/2016/706.1.pdf
Underage drinking: https://law.justia.com/codes/iowa/2016/title-iv/chapter-123/
DUI: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/code/321J.2.pdf

One other thing: If a person is walking down the street and a person they know pulls a gun on me and takes their wallet, their testimony counts as evidence. If a person (it happens to men, too) is raped by a person they know, the response to their testimony is “Do you have any evidence?”

I know I’m supposed to be polite, but that’s fucked up.

58

Orange Watch 09.30.18 at 5:40 pm

ph@50:

The question is what to do with the man today, 35 years after the fact, and whether his behavior at 17 disqualifies him from serious office at 53.

Well, no. The question is just as much whether his behavior at 53 disqualifies him from a more serious office than the serious office he already holds. You’ve conceded a belief that Judge Kavanaugh did it. But that means he’s lied to the Senate under oath. Admittedly, we had (carefully limited) evidence he was inclined to do that before Dr. Ford’s allegations were brought forward – but now we have him on camera lying under oath anew. If you’ve conceded we should probably accept he assaulted Dr. Ford at 17, you’ve conceded we should probably accept he’s lying to Congress under oath at 53. That’s pretty thoroughly disqualifying for the office he seeks; indeed, it’d be good reason to remove him from the office he holds…

59

Dr. Hilarius 09.30.18 at 5:43 pm

My response may be off-topic, containing nothing Bayesian, a theorem I have learned and forgotten multiple times.

First, to answer ph @ 50: attempted rape is an obvious possible charge, along with assault with sexual motivation or just plain, everyday assault. A clever prosecutor might even try kidnapping (and no, you do not have to move a victim, only restrain them from leaving). Statutes in effect at that time? Do you think they’ve changed much since the 1980s?

Should such conduct at 17 have consequences for a man of 53? I can assure you that there are many men who are registered sex offenders for conduct at 17. Expectations to the contrary seem to be based on Kavanaugh’s race and class.

I would prefer to have Kavanaugh denied a seat on the USSC for being a right-wing hack incapable of fairly applying existing law than for his drinking and possible sexual assault. His entire history is of being a highly partisan Republican devoted to whatever benefits the party. The idea that his shifting views on presidential power and immunity flow from anything other than which party is in power isn’t credible (he himself has cited no change in law to support his current view).

Anyone seeking a peak into Kavanaugh’s legal reasoning should read his dissent in “Garza v. Hargan” the case of a 17-year old refugee seeking an abortion while in federal detention. The woman had complied with all of Texas’ requirements for a minor to obtain an abortion without parental consent. The federal district court approved the abortion. A three-judge panel of the DC Circuit, including Kavanaugh, blocked the abortion on specious grounds with one judge dissenting. The DC Circuit reversed, allowing the abortion, with Kavanaugh dissenting. (One other judge, Henderson, also wrote a dissent, one so vile as to make Kavanaugh appear reasonable.) The opinion is lengthy with the majority opinion followed by Henderson and Kavanaugh. If you think that Kavanaugh has any intention of allowing Roe v. Wade to stand or that he respects precedent you don’t need to read beyond his opening paragraph where he asserts that there is ample Supreme Court precedent favoring the government’s interest in preserving fetal life and to not facilitate abortion. Note that he doesn’t actually cite any precedent for this sweeping assertion.

The whole mess is here: https://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/C81A5EDEADAE82F2852581C30068AF6E/$file/17-5236-1701167.pdf

60

Sebastian H 09.30.18 at 6:00 pm

I’m going to take the opportunity to agree with J-D and say that the Supreme Court has far too much respect and dignity accorded to it, and flat out too much power for its institutional position—especially if it really is as much of a pure political institution as the legal realists say.

I’m also going to say that as far as I’m concerned Kavanaugh has shown himself to be unfit in his rantings, so by all means he should be voted down.

But your analysis is troubling unless it is strictly limited (ie Gore v Bush style) to Supreme Court Justice nominations. Because if you apply it to say black kids who grew up in a rough neighborhood trying to get high level jobs it’s going to have a rather different look.

61

Jacob Steel 09.30.18 at 6:20 pm

I’m afraid I think you’re asking a dangerously wrong question: the question we should be asking is”how strong is the case against him”, not “how likely is it that he is guilty?” .

The distinction being that the former is that the former is weighting solely things relevant to his culpability – the accusations, the supporting evidence and the like – but explicitly excluding the things that you put into your prior, while the latter is a combination of that and demographic factors that correlate with guilt like “being a jock” and, in particular, “being black”.

Another way of putting this is that we should ask “how likely is it that a person about whom we know nothing except for the factors directly relevant to wrongful behaviour, against whom there was a case like this, is guilty on average”, rather than “how likely is it that this person is guilty”.

You touch on this, but then shy away from it, when you talk about the ethics of profiling being complicated. I think that unless you’re willing to go into detail, you have an obligation to give the benefit of the doubt to the side you’re not arguing for – you can’t just say “it’s complicated, and I admit that in many cases it’s not justified, but in this case I’m going to do it without explaining why” and still have a compelling case.

62

Murc 09.30.18 at 6:20 pm

The question is what to do with the man today, 35 years after the fact, and whether his behavior at 17 disqualifies him from serious office at 53.

Why shouldn’t it?

Why shouldn’t we insist that the highest offices in the land, when remotely feasible, be occupied by people who have never sexually assaulted someone, regardless of their age? This seems a reasonable standard.

Hell, I’ll take it a step further; we live in a country of 325 million or so. The best five percent or of us, the people who have lived their lives with the highest degree of moral and ethical rectitude, would come out to, what, like sixteen million or so people? Plenty big enough of a pool to find qualified folks for every appointed office in the land, if not every elected office. Why not find THOSE guys?

And hell, it isn’t as if this is Kavanaugh’s only disqualifying action. His relentless perjury, which did not happen when he was a teenager but happened over the course of the last month, should by itself do that.

63

Jacob Steel 09.30.18 at 6:24 pm

FWIW, I started off thinking that the chance that Kavanaugh was guilty was fairly low, but now think it’s much higher.

Before details of Ford’s report to her psychiatrist became public, the probability of a false accusation against him was 1 – (1-p)^n, where

p = probability a randomly selected left-wing woman does not choose to make a spurious accusation of sexual assault against a conservative supreme justice at a time of unparalleled partisan rancor when the power of accusations of sexual assault to destroy careers is very much in the public eye, and a delay of a few months could change the balance of the supreme court for years to come.

n = number of left-wing women in the united states.

At that point p is pretty tiny, but not zero (the single dumbest comment on the affair that I’ve read was Ezra Klein suggesting that there was no conceivable reason Ford might be lying, which suggests that he really wasn’t trying very hard to conceive, and has never heard of, for example, Roe vs Wade), and n is in the tens of millions, so 1-(1-p)^n is probably quite large – there’s a good chance of spurious accusations.

However, we now know that Ford told her psychiatrist about being assaulted years before Kavanaugh was nominated. Back then there really was no conceivable reason for her to lie about it, so I think it’s reasonable to be pretty damn confident that she genuinely was sexually assaulted in the manner she describes at the appropriate time. And that makes the probability of a spurious accusation at least as credible as Ford’s 1 – (1-p’)^n’, where

p’ = as above, but factor in that the woman genuinely was sexually assaulted by someone else, and is choosing to exploit that traumatic personal experience for political reasons, and let her real attacker off the hook into the bargain.

n’ = number of women who have evidence of being sexually assaulted at a time and place it was plausible Kavanaugh could have been the attacker at least as strong as Ford’s.

p’ is even smaller than p, but the really important change was from n to n’: from tens of millions down to, say, a few hundred. At that point 1 – (1-p’)^n’ is looking pretty minute – not nearly at the point where I’d find Kavanaugh guilty beyond all reasonable doubt, but I think (although I’m always wary of claiming intellectual intregrity when it hasn’t been tested) probably at the point where I’d believe he was guilty even if not confirming him meant a serious risk of the court spending years as conservative rather than liberal rather than vice versa.

(A separate, rather horrible, question, of course, is whether I’d oppose confirming him in that situation – given a choice between even “someone I’m 100% certain is a rapist on the Supreme court, but abortion remains legal” and “Justice with impeccable personal character and hardline rightwing principles, Roe vs Wade gets overturned”, I’m not sure I’d view the former as the lesser evil. But, optimistically, I think the Democrats are more likely to take care to avoid people having to make that kind of no-win choice).

64

MD 09.30.18 at 7:37 pm

Patrick (another one) expressed a worry towards the end of the last thread about factoring in estimated demographic statistics for making judgments like this–it seems too close to clearly objectionable profiling for comfort.

Just wanted to flag this issue again here, since I think it’s an interesting one. It’s also a pretty hot and controversial topic in philosophy at the moment. Just saw a journal alert announcing this, for example: https://academic.oup.com/mind/advance-article/doi/10.1093/mind/fzy026/5098314
Plenty of references to other relevant work inside.

I’m not too familiar with it, but my impression is that much of the literature justifies not basing decisions on statistical evidence by appeal to some burden of proof or fairness constraints. But it’s not clear what standards should be at play here, as it’s not a trial. Some of them will rule out relying on merely statistical considerations altogether. Others will allow them, but require a relatively high threshold for acting on them. Others will allow them with a low threshold. Is 39% chance of BK doing what was alleged enough? 10%?

Suppose all we knew is that there was some attempted rape (or other horrible crime) and that it was done by either by BK or one of two other BK-like bros, and that the other two of these three had nothing to do with it (not even as bystanders). No other evidence–eye-witness has no idea who of the three it was, no difference in alibis, all three deny it in similar ways, etc. We’d say it’s 33% likely that BK did it. Would this be enough to keep BK off the court? I’m unsure, but lean towards thinking it would be enough. But I think reasonable people can disagree. As with court cases (and yes, I know this is not a trial), they might think that there’s something wrong about relying on such evidence in this scenario. Others will get off the boat only once we go to the 1 in 10, or 1 in 100 case.

It’s worth noting, though, that many who have worries about relying on statistical evidence for certain purposes think that one can rely on eyewitness testimony, even though such testimony may be less reliable than the relevant statistical evidence. So even someone who doesn’t want to use the demographic information may think Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony is good enough evidence to reject BK. (Complications here: we might think there hasn’t been a systematic enough cross-examination, or might have worries about testimony concerning events so far in the past. Not to say these are sufficient to undermine the testimony, but I can see someone being less sure whether the testimony is good enough evidence for these reasons). Indeed, I’m inclined to think it is good enough, independently of the background statistical considerations.

All that said, it’s no secret that most of those who think BK should not be rejected on these grounds don’t think so on anything like the above grounds, but have partisan and reactionary (to feminism) motives. The above isn’t an attempt at interpretation, then, or even rational reconstruction. Just expressing some reasons that might make someone reasonably, in good-faith, feel like there’s something off about John Holbo’s reasoning. Though again, I myself more or less agree with him.

65

J-D 09.30.18 at 10:16 pm

Donald

Okay, that was weird. I posted something. Usually I think I see the message with a “ waiting for moderation” note. This time it vanished.

Weird is the new normal. The way the site works has changed. It must be a while since you posted.

66

J-D 09.30.18 at 10:28 pm

Hidari

Gosh, most of the males on this thread, (every one of whom is male, AFAICT) …

Salem: no information
LFC: no information
b9n10nt: no information
Saurs: no information
Dave Maier: Dave is a masculine name
Lawrence Maggitti: Lawrence is a masculine name
czrpb: no information
Karla: writes explicitly ‘as a woman’
Raven Onthill: no information
DocAmazing: no information:
bad Jim: Jim is a masculine name
nastywoman: explicit screen-name
Alex SL: Alex is an epicene name

That’s just from comments before yours. In subsequent comments, bad Jim mentions a beard and refers to how ‘we treated the women in our midst’, and Saurs writes ‘Please don’t let women talking at you or objecting keep you from doing what you want. We’ve seen what happens when men’s plans for themselves get thwarted by such trifles.’
So what made you think that they were all male, including Saurs, Karla, and nastywoman?

67

ph 09.30.18 at 11:21 pm

@62 Go ahead, I’m not offering advice.

I’m looking forward to more “white, entitled men must never be forgiven” for the sins of youth. The notion that BK remembers events differently, to the degree that he does remember them, (see eyewitness accounts of BK frequently blind drunk above) doesn’t seem a possibility. I know people who’ve done worse sober.

Me, I’m on the forgiveness side. Have a nice day!

68

John Holbo 10.01.18 at 1:28 am

Jacob: “I’m afraid I think you’re asking a dangerously wrong question: the question we should be asking is”how strong is the case against him”, not “how likely is it that he is guilty?” .

The distinction being that the former is that the former is weighting solely things relevant to his culpability – the accusations, the supporting evidence and the like – but explicitly excluding the things that you put into your prior, while the latter is a combination of that and demographic factors that correlate with guilt like “being a jock” and, in particular, “being black”.

Another way of putting this is that we should ask “how likely is it that a person about whom we know nothing except for the factors directly relevant to wrongful behaviour, against whom there was a case like this, is guilty on average”, rather than “how likely is it that this person is guilty”.”

I strongly disagree – per the post. I am extremely sure my view is the right one (no offense!) but I admit that a good argument is owed, because of the alarm bells about ‘profiling’ going off. The reason I’m sure I’m right, even though I haven’t really given the full dress argument is this: I’m not sure how to explain why it’s ok to factor in all these factors about character, but I’m sure it must be right somehow, otherwise no judgment is possible. We can’t judge by the color of skin. That’s for sure. But we can’t judge by the content of someone’s character unless we are allowed to size that character up based on evidence. What’s the likelihood that BK is a man of good or bad character. If we aren’t allowed to judge that we have to just fold the tent and go home. The hearings are about that. So, while it remains difficult to explain when ‘profiling’ is ok, concerning someone’s character, everyone who even thinks we should be having these hearings at all is consistency-bound to admit that, somehow, we have to make these sorts of judgments. Maybe instead we should just have some sort of random draw from a list of characters who are Yale grads. But so long as we are, instead, examining whether someone is fit for the court, we have to try to MEASURE their fitness. That makes all these sorts of facts that wouldn’t be admissible in a criminal trial fair evidential game.

69

John Holbo 10.01.18 at 2:10 am

“I’m looking forward to more “white, entitled men must never be forgiven” for the sins of youth.”

This looks like your wish-fulfillment problem again, ph. The fact that you are looking forward to this with such (I would say unseemly) eagerness is what disqualifies you from the role of observant onlooker, viewing the political scene. You will see this thing whether it’s there or not. It’s derpy. You are reiterating, reiterating your strong prior that this must, must be the problem. This also incapacitates you for any normative discussion. If there is any position that a crazy person might arrive at, wrongly, in the manner that horrifies you so deliciously, you will refuse so much as to consider that a sane person might arrive at something like that conclusion, rightly. Since someone might wrongly exclude BK from the Supreme Court, out of excessive, partisan vindictiveness, it is impossible that there could be a good argument for excluding him because the reasonable conclusion is that we can’t be confident he’s fit for the job – hence he’s unfit. You are blinkered by your wish-fulfillment fantasy concerning the wrong, and literally cannot see the potential valid argument concerning the right.

There, I’m done. I quit. I’m out. I’ve got work to do today.

70

J-D 10.01.18 at 2:34 am

John Holbo

You’re arguing with ph again?

71

ph 10.01.18 at 2:47 am

@69 Interesting. I haven’t called anybody a sexual predator, nor have asserted that ‘everyone’ has an opinion on BK’s guilt, nor have have tried to suggest you aren’t arguing in anything but good faith. Indeed, you’re back to your mind-reading, again. My observation re: “looking forward to…” is both tongue in cheek, and serious, as I assume your own Jerry Springer approach to discussion is.

The question I want to ask seriously: is whether many/any here are hoping that we’ll soon be presented with clear evidence that more women suffered at the hands of BK?

I get the sense many are. I very much hope I’m wrong. No need for JH to reply.

72

likbez 10.01.18 at 3:18 am

I believe Dr. Christine Ford and Judge Kavanaugh have both had their lives greatly damaged. Probably ruined.

For example, Dr. Christine Ford testimony arose a lot of interests in minute and private details of her biography.
https://heavy.com/news/2018/09/christine-blasey-ford-bio/

Rolf Henriks

Her yearbook said she had had 54 consensual sexual encounters. But apparently only the alleged encounter with Kavanaugh was the one that traumtized her. Is she kidding me?

Research is very extensive and unlikely please her, or her husband
https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/09/20/christine-blasey-ford-got-doxed-can-anyone-ever-really-disappear-online/

Despite those efforts, the Palo Alto University psychology professor’s fears have come true since she came forward over the weekend: Her lawyers say she’s facing harassment and death threats. Supporters and opponents have found pictures of her on the Web and converted them into memes. And her Palo Alto home address was tweeted, forcing her to move out.

In the age of the internet, what’s to keep the same thing from happening to any victim of sexual harassment or assault who decides to come forward? Can they — or anyone — completely erase their online presences to protect themselves?

“The extremely short and brutal answer is no,” said Gennie Gebhart, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She does research and advocacy for issues that include consumer privacy, surveillance and security.

73

John Holbo 10.01.18 at 3:59 am

Aaargh, just when I thought I was out!

Ph: “The question I want to ask seriously: is whether many/any here are hoping that we’ll soon be presented with clear evidence that more women suffered at the hands of BK?”

That is a crazy question to want to ask!

Obviously nearly everyone on both sides is hoping rather nastily. The left is hoping for confirmation that BK is bad. The right is hoping for confirmation that it’s all a frame-up like Glassley and Graham and BK allege. You can also frame it more positively: the left wants to think well of Ford and the right of BK.

You are, in effect, asking whether anyone is suffering from confirmation bias. Obviously everyone is. (For example you yourself quite obviously are. Every comment you write is drenched in it, to my suspicious eye.) It seems to me the question cannot be is anyone suffering from confirmation bias. That is a given. I am suggesting we do our honest best to try to think clearly and maybe overcome that somewhat. Probably I am failing. Folks always do. But at least I’m trying. I’m trying to come up with a reasonable answer. You, by contrast, are trying to cling to a view on the grounds that the opposite view can be held unreasonably. That’s not reasonable. Since it’s trivially true that all views on this ridiculous issue are unreasonably held by literally millions of people.

To adapt the old Elvis fan wisdom. 20 million people holding an opinion for reasons that can only be wrong – since they are obviously too pissed off to think straight – can be right. The opinion, that is.

I need to step away from the internet for a while. My reasonableness is looking a bit brittle, isn’t it? I apologize for that.

74

ph 10.01.18 at 4:14 am

Hi John, does it make it worse to remind you I’m a fan? I hope not.

Re: my question. It’s not a terrible question to ask: it’s the right question, because many on the left are hoping to learn that more women suffered at the hands of BK, and you possibly agree. You’ve changed, frankly, and seem to have lost much of the equanimity and balance you possessed (unlike many others) in great abundance.

I blame the left’s embrace of guilty until proven innocent, a very radical departure from your own position of 2016-17. That’s where we’re at. The left is flat out of ideas and leadership, and is now rolling around in the muck with the pig – and the pig is winning.

Trump looks to score another major win on trade with NAFTA, the BK lynching “he’s a sexual predator” slur repeated here after your own retraction, and Feinstein’s cynical manipulation of Ford, are likely to cost Dems more than they gain, both in the short-term and the long-term.

I wasn’t kidding when I reported that my own Trump-hating relatives were the ones who pointed out that liberals have transformed themselves into a collection of Trump mini-mes, with guilty until proven innocent the new “liberal” mantra. You’ve got standards.

Stick to them, and my guess is the brittleness will fall away. Oh yeah, and go for a walk.

Peace

75

John Holbo 10.01.18 at 4:55 am

“are likely to cost Dems more than they gain, both in the short-term and the long-term.”

Fortunately, I’m pretty sure you are wrong about that, ph. The one-two combination of women not liking to be sexually assaulted plus the 19th Amendment which, as Schoolhouse Rock teaches us, ‘struck down that restrictive law’, means the midterms will be good for the Dems.

76

ph 10.01.18 at 5:14 am

I’ve been wrong before and a month is an eternity, so the prognosis is subject to revision. I’ve linked to positive Democratic activism at the local level, and clearly there’s a robust grass movement, that’s anti-Trump. The problem with that strategy is that it motivates the base, but is unlikely to convert anyone.

To do that Dems have to prove that despite a booming economy, the GOP oligopoly needs to be broken, simply to ensure that policies the GOP doesn’t support – better health care, protection of social security, etc. aren’t forgotten by a GOP congress. There are people trying to make that positive argument for change, but they’re being drowned out by Trump’s good economic news, and the current Dem position as the party of no. Are you suggesting that women hostile to BK were actually GOP supporters Dems have converted?

Wasn’t that the strategy with the access Hollywood tape? How’d that work out?

Good for the Dems isn’t good enough. Dems might take the House, which looks very doubtful to me now, and are unlikely to take the Senate. That’s the best case, which still leaves Trump and the GOP set up well for 2020. Notice how nobody is pinning their hopes on Mueller at the moment.

Meanwhile, from your canary:
https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/when-they-came-for-kavanaugh-kid-chris-britt/

77

floopmeister 10.01.18 at 5:20 am

First up – reports of sexual assault are serious and demand investigation – period. To hell with the political considerations.

But the question that keeps jumping out at me is quite simple:

Why appoint Supreme Court Justices for life?

No other country (that I know of) does this – how much of the angst here (not about the credible reports of sexual assault – but about ‘the character of this guy – he could be on the court for a generation!’ etc)

SC justices for life; electoral collage; sure seems like much of this constitutional exceptionalism just causes a lot of headaches…

78

nastywoman 10.01.18 at 7:09 am

@74
”The left is flat out of ideas and leadership, and is now rolling around in the muck with the pig – and the pig is winning”.

I couldn’t agree more as being ”left”:
The pig is winning!! –
or actually – ”the pig” already has won – not only another major win on trade with NAFTA- and what you call a ”BK lynching” is an outrage – since when does lying about drinking in America disqualify you from ”judging” anything or anyone – and I – as a member of the ”Left” love – absolutely LOVE NOT beer – I love wine – and especially Amarone’s – and I#m all with you -(and my sister Miley) when she sings:

”It’s our party we can do what we want
It’s our party we can say what we want
It’s our party we can love who we want
We can kiss who we want
We can see who we want

– And I wasn’t kidding when I reported that my own Trump-loving relatives were the ones who pointed out that liberals have transformed themselves into such party poopers – they got standards

Let’s stick to them,
Oh yeah!! and sing with ME:.

” la da da di we like to party
Dancing with BK
Doing whatever we want,
This is our house
This is our rules
And we can’t stop (whoa)
And we won’t stop (whoa)
Can’t you…

Piece!!

79

nastywoman 10.01.18 at 7:23 am

BUT –
ph? –
what is deeply disturbing – that so many of our fellow Trump-lovers – who voted for Trump BE-cause he promised US to show them ”Elites” –
(no only from Yale!) ”Whassup” –
are suddenly routing for a ”swampy elitist”?

Whassup with that?!

80

J-D 10.01.18 at 7:55 am

floopmeister

But the question that keeps jumping out at me is quite simple:

Why appoint Supreme Court Justices for life?

No other country (that I know of) does this …

There are mandatory retirement ages for judges of the highest courts of Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

To institute them for the US would require a constitutional amendment, wouldn’t it?

81

Collin Street 10.01.18 at 8:16 am

No other country (that I know of) does this

We do. I think most of the common-law world does in practice if not in theory. It’s actually a reasonably-sensible idea, all-else-being-equal; if you’ve got checks-and-balances with the idea that they’ll keep an eye on each other, they need to have vacancies filled through different mechanisms to decorrelate their failure modes, and it turns out that “lifetime appointment by people selected through a different mechanism” is a usefully different appointment mechanism.

The fundamental problem here is that — “byzantine generals problem” — no coordination or governance mechanism can generate useful results if more than a third of the active participants are prone to malfeasance or arbitrary failure.

82

Saurs 10.01.18 at 10:38 am

Are you suggesting that women hostile to BK were actually GOP supporters Dems have converted?

Wasn’t that the strategy with the access Hollywood tape? How’d that work out?

This is, of course, back-asswards, as is this thread and the other thread’s wont. At present, all the Republicans can hope for is to suppress / depress all female voters–who outnumber men–while animating their male base, hence playing up their male victim culture with tearful, defiant, and persecuted Kavanaugh as representative of their beleaguered flock, one and all. It’s the GOP establishment that prefers to make sexual assault and violence and harassment against women a partisan issue*, which is why, to answer your question, the pussy groper lost disproportionate amounts of white women the last time around.

*for all the white male left-wing whinging about Franken, for example, the bulk was directed not at some perceived right-wing rat fuck but where it’s always directed: the women in their midst who’d had enough. Gillibrand as assassin. Franken’s own voters and constituents, whose asses he’d grabbed, as traitors.

83

ph 10.01.18 at 12:33 pm

@82 “the pussy groper lost disproportionate amounts of white women the last time around.”

Speaking of bass-ackwards:

https://democracyjournal.org/magazine/45/reaching-white-women/

“Fifty-three percent of white women voted for Donald Trump…
…The majority of white women have been voting Republican in elections for some time—an average of 54 percent going back to 2004. (So, that disproportionate loss equals 1 percent, we’ll get to why even that fraction is meaningless)…The grievous error made by political strategists was assuming that these women would break with voting patterns simply because there was a fellow white woman on the ballot and because of revelations about her opponent’s sexism. But they did not.” But they did not.

You seem to live a strange land in which women don’t really understand male culture, but once CNN ‘splains how sexist and bad all their brothers, sons, husbands, fathers, co-workers are they rise up, stamp their feet, and declare: “well thank you very much, now I know how to vote! Whatever would I have done without your wisdom.” White women might not have liked Trump much, more liked Hillary less. Blame Russia!

Do you even bother to look up any data before posting?

Trump’s polling numbers among white women are down, but he’s still getting 60 percent of evangelical women. We’ll see. Don’t click on this link, it might make you sad.

From Vox: https://www.vox.com/2018/7/25/17607232/trump-white-women

84

Donald 10.01.18 at 12:50 pm

Another TAC writer speaks out. Larison is right, as he usually is.

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/kavanaugh-and-the-rule-of-law/

85

Lynne 10.01.18 at 1:21 pm

ph: “Me, I’m on the forgiveness side. Have a nice day!”

You really aren’t in a position to forgive Kavanaugh, though, are you?

86

ph 10.01.18 at 1:23 pm

87

Sebastian H 10.01.18 at 1:52 pm

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy they have some posts on technical legal issues that may seem confusing (like the misdemeanor issue). But Illya’s post on job interview vs. criminal standard is good. http://reason.com/volokh/2018/09/30/why-supreme-court-confirmation-hearings

His approach is broadly in line/compatible with yours but for some reason made me realize what really bugs me with your approach. Your I don’t know what to call it, maybe ‘hangs around with the wrong crowd in high school’ part of the analysis is both unnecessary to your main point and raises far too many false positives to be useful. It also has the potential to cut against poor people and minorities in essentially every other context, a fact which doesn’t logically exclude it, but might raise a note of caution.

88

Trader Joe 10.01.18 at 2:03 pm

A slightly different Bayesian problem, with a legitimate question.

Suppose Dr. Ford’s allegations are correct (not hard)
Suppose, instead of keeping quiet she took it to the authorities of the day and suppose, against the norms of the time, her allegations were believed (a much lower, but non-zero chance)

The most likely charges (again if any) against a 17 year old would have been:

a) possibly underage drinking – though, Dr. Ford said quite succinctly that she felt everyone involved (i.e. herself, BK and his side-kick were sober).

b) assault with intent to commit….most likely some class of misdemeanor since (again based on her testimony) he didn’t actually accomplish much because of the bathing suit. Based on testimony he did forcibly cover her mouth and did pin her down – but that’s not going to get a felony assault too often even today.

Assuming those charges stuck he was a 17 year old. Its my understanding that in most states, misdemeanor charges are expunged at 18 (lawyers in the crowd, is this true?)

Assuming all of the above – would an FBI review of BK have been allowed to introduce a presumably expunged charge into their dossier? If not, than BK has the rare distinction of having actually been made worse off (from his perspective) for having not had a crime he’s alleged to have committed be reported at the time.

So what’s the chance we’d be where we are today had a slightly altered version of history played out.

To be clear, this is mostly parlor games. At this point it should be clear to Rs that there are better choices and its just selfishness of wanting to get their way that is sending this to a vote….that said, if “plan B” is a cleaner version of BK with substantially the same politics, such a person could be tangibly worse on the court (i.e. Ds might should be careful what they wish for).

89

Nigel 10.01.18 at 4:30 pm

‘liberals have transformed themselves into a collection of Trump mini-mes, with guilty until proven innocent the new “liberal” mantra.’

Now chant ‘lock her up’ a few times.

90

likbez 10.01.18 at 4:48 pm

@Sebastian H 10.01.18 at 1:52 pm (87)

Illya’s post on job interview vs. criminal standard is good

I respectfully disagree. Illya’s post is naïve because the key problem with this nomination is that it tips the scale in the Supreme Court. That’s why we see torture supporting female senator assaulting torture supporting nominee and rebuffed by the best friend of Senator John McCain.

But I agree that the discussion is good and illustrate various point that are missing from this thread, especially the fact that this creates a new standard that Dems will now face, if they have a chance to nominate a new member of Supreme Court. They might regret about elimination of filibuster. Now it is about vicious attacks in the personally of the nominee with no stone unturned in his/her personal history.

I will provide some interesting quotes below. Not that I agree with them all (I would like Kavanaugh to be derailed due to his participation in justifying torture in Bush II administration)

No, but this isn’t a job interview. A better analogy would be more like a TV interview. If the interviewer is reasonably fair and asks sensible questions, it would be foolish to get angry with him / her. But if the interviewer is obviously biased, asks loaded questions, constantly interrupts your answers, and paraphrases your answers into the opposite of what you said, then rather than sit and take it meekly, it may be more sensible to push back and call the interviewer out.

Senators and Congesscritturs in committees have been allowed to get away with the pretense that they are owed deference for their showboating and that people up before them must meekly submit to the most egregious abuse. A nominee who tells them where to get off, in no uncertain terms, is very welcome.

Miguel Estrada’s comment that he would never accept a nomination because it might require him to be civil to Chuck Schumer is one way out. The other is to accept the nomination and forget about being civil to people like Schumer.

The discussion also raised the importance of the fact that the supposed assault was reported so late and that there is a possibility that 2012 therapist session served as a justification of creating a separate entrance to the master bedroom in order to rent it to Dr. Ford students, the hypothesis that is now circulating at alt-right sites:

We want actual assaults reported, but we want them reported at the time, not decades later. Not just because they can’t effectively be investigated decades later, but because real sexual predators don’t stop at one victim.

Another interesting point is that the potential benefits for Dr. Ford create a perverse incentive in the future to come forward with false accusations with the expectation of a huge monetary reward from “Me too” funding sources :

“I’m becoming convinced the only thing that will actually deter such unsupported accusations, is to abolish the “public figure” rule for libel. Blasey Ford is already better than a half million dollars richer having made this accusation, and faces a future of lucrative speaking fees and possibly even a movie. And having carefully avoided any claims specific enough to be proven false, she has no need to fear perjury charges.”

91

Nigel 10.01.18 at 5:07 pm

‘he’s still getting 60 percent of evangelical women.’

Triumphantly anticipating the end of Roe V Wade. Of course ‘we don’t care what he did we just want him to criminalise abortion’ would want ‘well we care about what he might have done’ to be spun as ‘guilty until proven innocent.’ They’re probably grateful to you for doing your bit to spread that message.

92

Z 10.01.18 at 7:47 pm

Since we are talking conditional probabilities and all, what is the probability that a supposedly accomplished judge will dissolve in transparent lies, pitiful fabrications, whining obfuscations, more whining non sequiturs and – and that’s really hard to believe – refusal to support criminal investigations given that he is innocent?

In a functioning system, his hearing in itself should absolutely discredit him for this office, any public office really. But there is little point in pretending that the US is a functioning democracy obeying the rule of law.

93

politicalfootball 10.01.18 at 8:05 pm

ph informs us:

The question I want to ask seriously: is whether many/any here are hoping that we’ll soon be presented with clear evidence that more women suffered at the hands of BK?

JH responds:

You are, in effect, asking whether anyone is suffering from confirmation bias.

No. He doesn’t care about rightwing confirmation bias.* Ph was very careful to omit rightwingers from his analysis, and we’re doomed to misunderstand him if we try to add elements to his argument merely because logic demands it.

The liberal confirmation bias that ph wants to promote can’t possibly reflect on the facts of the case. How could it? Any liberal bias exists independently of those facts. But ph isn’t interested in the facts of the case, nor is he even interested in discussing how bias could lead to liberal misinterpretation.

The point that ph makes again and again is that some people are fit to have opinions; others are not. Once we establish that liberals are not fit to have informed opinions, the actual opinions they hold are irrelevant.

*JH knows this, of course.

94

Saurs 10.01.18 at 8:26 pm

The backest of asswards. He’s lost them more than half of GOP women on this issue, as Trump’s name on the ballot did two years ago. The play is to shore up the men, who are reliable when it comes to rape. This isn’t even hard.

95

John Holbo 10.01.18 at 11:01 pm

“No. He doesn’t care about rightwing confirmation bias.* Ph was very careful to omit rightwingers from his analysis, and we’re doomed to misunderstand him if we try to add elements to his argument merely because logic demands it.”

No, I get it. Good is not perfect, therefore bad is good. Once you accept that as a valid inference form, as ph has, all sorts of strange normative conclusions follow.

96

Another Nick 10.01.18 at 11:45 pm

Trader Joe @ 88

https://law.justia.com/codes/maryland/2010/criminal-law/title-3/subtitle-3/3-307/

(a) Prohibited.- A person may not:

(1) (i) engage in sexual contact with another without the consent of the other; and

3. threaten, or place the victim in fear, that the victim, or an individual known to the victim, imminently will be subject to death, suffocation, strangulation, disfigurement, serious physical injury, or kidnapping; or

https://law.justia.com/codes/maryland/2010/criminal-law/title-3/subtitle-3/3-301/

(2) “Sexual contact” includes an act:

(ii) that can reasonably be construed to be for sexual arousal or gratification, or for the abuse of either party.

“Indirectly through clothing” is commonly specified in many definitions of sexual contact.

A third degree sex offence conviction in Maryland would require Kavanaugh registering as a sex offender for minimum of 25 years – regardless of his minor status.

It would also automatically disqualify him from filing for the expungement of his juvenile records. Which means bugger all anyway, when it comes to eg. applying to join the military, applying for any job where police, and in this case FBI background checks are required.

97

Another Nick 10.01.18 at 11:50 pm

98

John Holbo 10.01.18 at 11:53 pm

Sebastian: “Your I don’t know what to call it, maybe ‘hangs around with the wrong crowd in high school’ part of the analysis is both unnecessary to your main point and raises far too many false positives to be useful. It also has the potential to cut against poor people and minorities in essentially every other context”

I agree that it is problematic, but since so much of his defense hinges on ‘hangs around with the right crowd – i.e. his wife and family, Yale, admiring colleagues – then it’s important to bite the bullet on this one. This is probably a point worth making in itself: if this were a sexual assault trial, then guilt by association would be inadmissible. But if it were a sexual assault trial we would also have no patience for all the good character witness stuff, which is only really appropriate for a job interview. The trial/job interview opposition is good and I should probably have used it to shave 2000 words from my typically Holbonic production. But one thing to say about that opposition is that you could hardly have a sexual assault trial where you were NOT permitted to provide evidence of bad character but WERE allowed to provide signed affidavits of ‘he’s a good guy’. No one thinks we can have an SC confirmation hearing where we don’t hear evidence of good, judicial character. That’s literally what it’s largely about. Ergo, the other stuff has to be fair game, since the objective is to judge likelihood of guilt.

I do admit that it’s tricky to say how the point generalizes, without creating awful implications. I don’t think we should start allowing guilty-by-association arguments at actual sexual assault trials. I can’t say exactly how to draw the line so that SC confirmation hears have different standards for admission of evidence. But I take it to be obvious that, somehow, they must have different standards. Otherwise we just shouldn’t have them.

99

Cranky Observer 10.01.18 at 11:54 pm

= = = likbez 10.01.18 at 4:48 pm: But I agree that the discussion is good and illustrate various point that are missing from this thread, especially the fact that this creates a new standard that Dems will now face, if they have a chance to nominate a new member of Supreme Court. They might regret about elimination of filibuster. Now it is about vicious attacks in the personally of the nominee with no stone unturned in his/her personal history. = = =

Fascinating to see both the Merrick Garland nomination blackhole and the Starr investigation overreach simply forgotten.

100

John Holbo 10.02.18 at 12:23 am

One thing about this case is that, in an ideal world, this investigation would be going on. The FBI would be crawling around in BK’s life most uncomfortably, and, if they found anything suspicious, he wouldn’t get the nod. Like if someone is a sketchy person, they don’t get a security clearance. That’s how it goes. But it shouldn’t be done as a reality TV show. Imagine if security clearance investigations were all oohs and aahed over by the whole nation, as embarrassing shit came to light. Security Clearance reality TV would be an abomination.

Both sides feel outraged by the very absurdity of the political theater, and that’s right. But both sides feel the theater itself is the other sides fault. And only the left is right to feel that way, in this case. The right is wrong. They should have pulled BK’s nomination 2 weeks ago at least, at which point this circus was all-too-predictable as a highly possible outcome. By sticking by their man, when they could have swapped in a different hard-line ideological partisan, they made this inevitable. The gross circus-like quality of it is on their head. If they feel sorry for how that circus is traumatic for BK, if he’s innocent, that’s on their head.

101

likbez 10.02.18 at 12:49 am

@ph 10.01.18 at 12:33 pm (83)

White women might not have liked Trump much, more liked Hillary less. Blame Russia!

Both parties are neoliberal so, in essence, this is just an identity politics show designed to smokescreen the key issues that the nation faces. And Kavanaugh’s hearing is nothing but a variation of a Show Trial. As in Marx saying “History repeats … first as tragedy, then as farce.”

And while it would be good to see Kavanaugh derailed, Dems has no votes to do it again if even more hardcore conservative (read neoliberal) candidacy is suggested by Trump. Actually, Neoliberal Democrats killed the cloture rule with respect to confirmation of judges, failing to realize that this would be the price they need to pay.

They ran a campaign in 2016 on “identity wedge” platform which consisted of nothing other than “soft neoliberalism” in domestic and jingoism in foreign policy plus mudslinging and demonizing the opposition. They lost to Trump combination of “hard neoliberalism” in domestic and the end of foreign wars in foreign polity (the latter part of the platform he promptly betrayed, repeating Bush II feat in this area)

Now they are running on the same “soft neoliberalism”+”identity wedge” platform again promoting candidates from military and intelligence services and expect to win due to Trump blunders and ragtag groups they are trying to assemble into the coalition. They just enhanced this platform with a character assassination tactic and cannot imagine that the same practice might backfire the next election cycle and that Republicans are much better in it.

A positive effect of this Show Trial on midterm elections is questionable. Most of the people who are energized by Dems belong to their electorate and would vote for them anyway. But a large part of independents might view this as a witch hunt and vote accordingly.

In any case we entered the period in the crisis of neoliberalism which might be called an “uncivil wars.” Will we see the physical fights in the Senate in our lifetime is still too early to tell but the trend is clear ;-)

Both parties are neoliberal so, in essence, this is just an identity politics show designed to smokescreen the key issues that the nation faces. And Kavanaugh’s hearing is nothing but a variation of a Show Trial. As in Marx saying “History repeats … first as tragedy, then as farce.”

And while it would be good to see Kavanaugh derailed, Dems has no votes to do it again if even more hardcore conservative (read neoliberal) candidacy is suggested by Trump.

Actually, Neoliberal Democrats killed the cloture rule with respect to confirmation of judges, failing to realize that this would be the price they need to pay.

They ran a campaign in 2016 on “identity wedge” platform which consisted of nothing other than “soft neoliberalism” in domestic and jingoism in foreign policy plus mudslinging and demonizing the opposition. They lost to Trump combination of “hard neoliberalism” in domestic and the end of foreign wars in foreign polity (the latter part of the platform he promptly betrayed, repeating Bush II feat in this area)

Now they are running on the same “soft neoliberalism” + “identity wedge” platform again and expect to win due to Trump blunders and ragtag groups they are trying to assemble into the coalition. They just enhanced this platform with a character assassination tactic and cannot imagine that the same practice might backfire the next election cycle and that Republicans are much better in it.

IMHO Republican base was much more energized than Dem base during this Show Trial, and mid-term results are a toss. Most of the people who are energized by Dems belong to their electorate and would vote for them anyway. But a large part of independents might view this as a witch hunt and vote accordingly.

In any case, we entered the period in the crisis of neoliberalism which might be called an “uncivil wars.” Will we see the physical fights in the Senate in our lifetime is still too early to tell but the trend is clear ;-)

102

nastywoman 10.02.18 at 3:51 am

@100
”By sticking by their man, when they could have swapped in a different hard-line ideological partisan, they made this inevitable. The gross circus-like quality of it is on their head”.

”By sticking by their man, when they could have swapped in a different hard-line ideological partisan, they made this inevitable”.

”By sticking by their man, when they could have swapped in a different hard-line ideological partisan”,

”By sticking by their man”,

”their man.”

”man,”

Some men:
Now could we please talk about ”torture” and ”Democrats” and ”various point that are missing from this thread, especially the fact that this creates a new standard that Dems will now face, if they have a chance to nominate a new member of Supreme Court. They might regret about elimination of filibuster. Now it is about vicious attacks in the personally of the nominee with no stone unturned in his/her personal history…

103

nastywoman 10.02.18 at 8:03 am

”A positive effect of this Show Trial on midterm elections is questionable. Most of the people who are energized by Dems belong to their electorate and would vote for them anyway. But a large part of independents might view this as a witch hunt and vote accordingly”.

But on the other side – the most positive effect on what you call a ”Show Trial” is – that most viewers started to understand that the whole thing is about a very emotional… let’s call it – ”issue between women and men” –
and that actually all silly remarks about disputing ”the importance” of this issue –
(that a lot of US men seem to have ”serious issues” concerning their relationship with women) – REALLY FINALLY get’s shown in ALL it’s details –

AND –
that no ”pivoting” -(for example ”to other more relevant issues) will derail OUR focus on this very long overlooked ”issue” of US men.
AND –
that no effort to change the subject – or to come up with all kind of non related other ”issues” men seem to have – will work.
AND –
that any dude – who has been very successful before – in changing the subject – or turning away form a woman just like a Republican – will have a very, very hard time – just as hard as the dudes – even – on this blog…

ph-PEACE!
-(and I really would love to hear what a Japanese wife has to say to all of this?)

104

ph 10.02.18 at 10:48 am

@101 “IMHO Republican base was much more energized than Dem base during this Show Trial…”

You’re not supposed to be thinking like this.

But you’re right, the Dems enjoyed a considerable advantage in both enthusiasm to vote, and certainty to vote. The Show Trial has not (yet) increased Dem determination to vote, which was already high. However, the Show Trial has energized Republican voters and the enthusiasm and certainty to vote advantage the Dems previously enjoyed. Surprise!

https://news.gallup.com/poll/243173/parties-voters-keyed-midterm-elections.aspx

This is one poll, so make as much or little of it as you will. Total non-whites are less enthused and less likely to vote, a block Dems will need.

So, yes, the midterms look today to be a toss-up. Stay tuned if you must.

Wake me in November.

105

John Holbo 10.02.18 at 12:32 pm

“Wake me in November.”

If only!

106

Ogden Wernstrom 10.02.18 at 12:43 pm

likebez, in the midst of a bunch of unattributed quotes that assert various things-not-in-evidence, mentions:
…the fact that this creates a new standard that Dems will now face, if they have a chance to nominate a new member of Supreme Court.
…but that must mean that this creates a new standard in the minds of Republicans (and reactionary pundits), since they are spinning a straw version of the Dems’ position against BK.

Meanwhile, the Republicans will have to prove their assertions about that future Dem nominee beyond a reasonable doubt, won’t they?

107

politicalfootball 10.02.18 at 7:19 pm

ph@104: That’s an interesting link, but it mostly doesn’t address the issue of Kavanaugh’s impact on Republican vs. Democratic enthusiasm, except to the extent that it refutes your argument. Democratic enthusiasm has risen more than Republican enthusiasm since the last midterm — the only comparative data that Gallup provides.

Gallup did, however, take the temperature of congressional voters in July, and has current figures to compare that with. Guess how the post-Kavanaugh numbers compare?

According to the generic congressional ballot updated on the current poll, 51% of registered voters prefer the Democratic candidate in their district while 42% favor the Republican. That nine-point lead for the Democrats exceeds the five-point advantage they held on this measure in June.

The US has a serious democracy problem. A nine-point Democratic preference won’t necessarily lead to a Democratic House. But to the extent that the US is a democracy, Republicans are screwed on the national level.

108

anon/portly 10.02.18 at 7:47 pm

Why Rod Dreher, as my dead canary designate down a conservative coal mine?

Basically, because he doesn’t like Trump, largely for sexual ethics and all-around character issues.

So I had some hope his concern for character would cause him to maintain his equilibrium in the Kavanaugh case. But he has not.

It seems to me that this post starts going off the rails a bit here. Dreher is Mr. Excitable, right? He’s an alarmist. Once piece of evidence: in the referenced post, he’s comparing the Kavanaugh thing to the Dreyfus Affair. I mean, c’mon.

For me Dreher is not generally a good choice for “canary,” he’s a better choice for “low-hanging fruit,” when it comes to not maintaining equilibrium. And I say this not to criticize Dreher, I genuinely like him, but he’s also alarmist, excitable, prone to react and not reflect, etc. Dreher has never seen a trend he thought might turn around.

Things go a little further off the rails here:

Dreyer: “What strikes me is that liberals assume his guilt because he belongs to a class, and has an identity, that they despise: upper-class white male conservative.”

Holbo: “You can’t seriously suppose conservatives don’t assume his innocence because he belongs to a class, and has an identity, that they exalt: upper-class white male conservative.

Maybe other conservatives are doing this, but obviously Dreher is not, as he’s not assuming Kavanaugh’s innocence (“I think it is possible he is guilty”), nor does he exalt Kavanaugh (“[he] sounds like the kind of person I couldn’t stand in high school” he says in another post). It doesn’t refute Dreher’s argument that liberals are making a bad argument to point out that some conservatives are making similar sorts of arguments. At least I don’t see how it does.

I think this really summarizes his view, and (at least some or much of the) motivation for his view:

Neither political party, and no faction, is innocent of this. Donald Trump’s refusal to accept facts that obviate his preferred narrative is deeply destructive, because it ratifies emotivism. But Trump’s attitude is a crude, populist version of what many left-wing elites believe, and do not apologize for believing! I’ve written before about a time in a workplace in which I was accused of racism by a minority colleague. The accusation was completely preposterous, and my initial instinct was to defend myself against this smear. But I quickly understood that within the culture of that company, there was no way a white male conservative would prevail over an allegation of racism made by a minority. So I stood down. I felt pretty certain that had this gone to Human Resources, the company would have found a way to fire me, and I would not only have lost my job, but would have had to leave the company under an accusation of racism.

That’s why defending Kavanaugh is not strictly about defending Kavanaugh. It’s about fighting the mob, and defending some sort of rational process by which we discern truth and falsity, guilt and innocence. It’s about standing up to the mob — on Capitol Hill, on campuses, in newsrooms, and in elite institutions — that determine guilt based on identity. As the reader above said, this is about self-protection — not in a selfish sense, but in the (old-fashioned liberal) sense of protecting the processes that are our best chance of establishing fairness. I have sons, and I have a daughter. If any of them are ever sexually assaulted, or are accused of sexual assault, I want them to be treated fairly. I do not want my children to be privileged or un-privileged, based on the color of their skin, their sex, their social class, their religion, or anything else.

It seems to me if I were Dreher I would frame this more as the necessity of investigating further and getting at the truth, if possible, rather than “defending Kavanaugh.” But maybe this is a quibble.

Finally….

It is very wrong (here we get nearer the math error) to think ‘Ford has nothing to support her accusation but her accusation’.

I suspect Dreher is (vaguely) assuming evidence in this case can only be something on the order of a piece of paper, a record preserved from the time of the event.

But it’s clear that Dreher does find Ford credible and thinks Kavanaugh may be guilty. I think he’s looking at the evidence more or less like most anti-Kavanaugh people, so he is “maintain[ing] his equilibrium” in that respect. He’s just thinks the anti-Kavanaugh people are using a second type of argument as well, and that’s what’s he’s arguing against here.

I would also say he’s a “stakes are high” person when it comes to Supreme Court nominations (the opposite of my own view), so if he’s pushing his own logic too far, it’s because of his view that future Supreme Court decisions could mean dire consequences for religious conservatives like himself.

109

Raven Onthill 10.02.18 at 8:20 pm

John Holbo #29: all good points; it doesn’t make for a stronger argument to observe the feedbacks. For me, though, it sparks the following reflections:

First, reasoning about feedback, even the concept itself, is a very new thing, apparently dating to the 1930s, though Wikipedia does cite a few 19th-century precedents. So those arguments are still new and strange; we don’t even really have language.

The second thought is much darker. Kavanaugh’s career, taking into the account Swetnick’s allegations, and considering only the parts that have not been concealed, shows a pattern of positive feedback, leading to steadily expanding pattern of stalking and harassment. At 17 we have his clumsy attempt at rape of Dr. Ford. In his college years, if Swetnick is to be believed, he was an accomplished and successful stalker, drugging women and organizing gang rapes. In his career as assistant to Ken Starr as special prosecutor we have him stalking and harassing Vince Foster’s family, and finally President Clinton and his wife. There is no higher target.

Whatever satisfaction he gets from stalking and harassment he has gotten plenty of it, and he wants more.

I do not entirely believe the above – to confirm it would require much more information about Kavanaugh than is yet available. And yet I wonder: is this where police states come from? This impulse?

110

engels 10.02.18 at 10:53 pm

“Gosh, most of the males on this thread, (every one of whom is male, AFAICT)”
So what made you think that they were all male

Your answer may make use of predicate calculus…

111

Lee A. Arnold 10.03.18 at 11:41 am

What are the odds… FiveThirtyEight computes that the Democrats have a 77% chance of taking the House and the Republicans have a 71% chance of keeping the Senate. These odds have been fairly steady since at least the beginning of August.

People who might be motivated to vote, are already very motivated to vote. Hard to imagine that Kavanaugh changes this much, no matter what happens to him. Fox News is hoping to whip up a storm of aggrieved white males. But then, on the other hand, they don’t outnumbered the aggrieved females, and Trump just mocked Ford — after mocking McCain, mocking the disabled reporter, mocking the Gold Star family, mocking the shithole countries… and golly there’s still a month for mocking, yet to come! So the odds probably remain: the Dems take the House, the Repubs pick up a few seats in the Senate.

112

politicalfootball 10.03.18 at 8:12 pm

I wanted to expand a little on 107, because by itself, it’s rather pointless to suggest that ph is “wrong” about something. He is not wrong, except in the sense that his facts and interpretations are absurd. As we’ve seen, however, facts aren’t relevant to his comments.

I think trolling of this sort is based on two things:

1. An epistemic approach that doesn’t value truth, or defines truth in some pre-Enlightenment sense.
2. An epistemic approach that is based, essentially, on bullying — on creating the truth through force of will and imposing it on other people.

Humpty Dumpty gets it:

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

When you are open to the world — when evidence can change your mind — you surrender mastery. You are at the mercy of the external world, and could wind up thinking something totally different tomorrow. How can you control what you think if you permit facts to intrude?

Also, ph’s epistemic approach has the advantage of requiring very little work. If you don’t care whether a piece of evidence supports your position, you save a lot of effort. You can develop an authoritative opinion on a any topic with almost no investigation.

And your expertise is limited only by your imagination. While other folks grind away at their studies, you can know everything about anything.

113

politicalfootball 10.03.18 at 8:34 pm

Aha! There actually is some evidence supporting ph’s view.

114

John Holbo 10.03.18 at 10:51 pm

“Aha! There actually is some evidence supporting ph’s view.”

Yeah, if the election were held today. But it won’t be held today. It will be in November after the guy is confirmed. Having won doesn’t fire the base. Losing fires folks up.

115

Sebastian H 10.04.18 at 2:38 am

While we are talking about statistical chances of things regarding sexual harassment, I want to use the method you are using above to discuss a related topic: that lots of men seem to be concerned about false accusations quite a bit more than makes sense for a lot of women.

It only requires one major unsupported assumption–that sexual harassment/rape/near-rape events follow something like an alcohol use distribution–i.e. that a large number of the bad situations are caused by a few serial offenders. I do in fact believe that to be true, but I want to be super clear about the assumptions.

It requires one other minor unsupported assumption, that I also believe to be true–that women are much more likely to talk to each other privately about women they know who claim to be harassed/assaulted and men are much more likely to talk to each other privately about men who have been accused.

Given these two stylized assumptions, and given even a very low rate of false accusations (say 2-5%), it is easy to see what will happen. One or two offenders will harass/molest/assault dozens of women over a period of years. Some of these incidents will go entirely unreported. Some of these incidents will be reported informally to groups of friends. A very few of these incidents will be reported to the police, or in some cases in another very public way. But every woman will have a frighteningly high number of female friends who have been harassed/molested/assaulted. They will judge these reports in various ways, but they will see a much larger number of reports, so even if they judge one of the reports to be false or unlikely, they still will have experienced a large number of them either personally or through the eyes of friends.

Men will experience this differently. They are likely to hear about things from the man’s point of view. So except in the most rapey of circles (which is another related issue) they aren’t going to hear very much that is troubling from the serial assaulter. He will be doing his thing, and maybe inappropriately getting the benefit of the doubt in situations where no accuser comes forward. When it finally comes to light that he has been abusive, in his circles it very unlikely that the other men (or in fact anyone) will personally know many/most of his victims, so he gets coded as once ‘incident’ by his peers. Even if it is a terrible incident, that his peers think is worthy of putting him in prison, they will still code it as one incident. Even though his impact on women has been MANY incidents–probably dozens of incidents, and maybe even hundreds.

They will also find out about the guy who is falsely accused. (This is further complicated of course by the fact that they will sometimes be wrong about the accused, and believe it to be false even when it is true. But that is going to make my point stronger. So for now we will assume that for the most part these men are able to recognize a false accusation as false). So of the incidents that they are AWARE of touching their lives, they may see two or three men correctly accused for each man that they see falsely accused. So given 100 incidents, from the female point of view the women who they know were assaulted more properly reflects the fact that only a very small number of reported incidents are false. But from the male point of view of knowing men who are accused of incidents, it looks like men who are accused are falsely accused about 1/4 to 1/5 of the time.

So given the information that women are exposed to in their normal life, false accusations seem like a trivial sidenote. But given the information that men are exposed to in their normal life, false accusations seem like a much bigger chance.

Now this difference in information comes about because of what we call the ‘rape culture’ where women are reluctant to talk to people, and especially their male friends, about a lot of sketchy situations and even full blown sexual assaults. So I’m not trying to wave that away. What I’m trying to illustrate is that this asymmetry in information makes the chances of a false accusation look VERY different depending on highly gendered information.

116

engels 10.04.18 at 11:41 am

lots of men seem to be concerned about false accusations quite a bit more than makes sense for a lot of women

Under patriarchal capitalism women are overwhelmingly the victims of intimate violence and men are overwhelmingly the victims of the carceral state.

117

politicalfootball 10.04.18 at 1:02 pm

Regarding polls, everybody knows Nate Silver is the gold standard. Silver’s tentative conclusion is that Kavanaugh has helped in the Senate (especially in the Heitkamp race) but the impact is more ambiguous in the House.

Overall, I’m inclined to conclude there’s actually something there for Republicans — that their position has genuinely improved from where it was a week ago (although, not necessarily as compared to where it was a month ago). But I’m also wary of the idea that this is necessarily a turning point, since it wouldn’t take much — a couple of good generic ballot polls for Democrats, plus a handful of good state-level results in places like North Dakota — to reverse the GOP gains in our forecast.

118

politicalfootball 10.04.18 at 1:30 pm

The polls are interesting to me; the fact that ph says ridiculous things about the polls is interesting to me; but most interesting to me is the way that ph employs polls to discuss ethical issues:

Wasn’t that the strategy with the access Hollywood tape? How’d that work out?

The Access Hollywood tape is defined by ph in terms of its political utility — it doesn’t exist as a genuine ethical problem for Trump. Trump won, so folks who were enraged by Trump’s conduct were wrong. Ph employs variations on this argument to excuse pretty much everything Trump has done: Trump is president, and you are not.

Ph’s technique (or fallacy, if you’re going to be a stickler) is a common one. If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich? Might makes right!

That’s why ph reverts to polling — or elections — when discussing ethical issues related to Trump. (Once ph changes the subject to Trump’s support, he then misrepresents that support, as we see in this thread with the discussion of the Gallup poll, or his ongoing failure to acknowledge that at actual polling places, Trump came in second to Clinton. Ph is a troll onion. He has layers.)

But discussion of polling also sidesteps the key issue in another way. On issues that implicate racism and sexism, Democrats and Republicans are lashed to their respective masts, and don’t have much room to maneuver. Each party is committed to its position regarding insults to women and minorities, and the parties’ electoral coalitions are based on those positions. It’s a weird delusion of Bernie-or-bust types* that you can build a leftist coalition in the US by expressing indifference to the concerns of people who are really, really pissed off about racism and sexism. Hillary simply had no choice, after the Access Hollywood tape, other than to come out strongly against sexual assault.

Democrats can’t meaningfully change their positions to be more pro-rape. Franken had to go. Democrats just have to win at the polls by more than a few percent and hope that in the long run, the US changes to a more democratic system.

*Who have to be distinguished from Bernie voters, of which I was one.

119

engels 10.04.18 at 1:41 pm

Patriarchy also means society takes a greater interest in violations of women’s ‘purity’ than men’s (as in the historical rationale for rape laws, which was protecting the husband’s or father’s ‘property’) and women are conditioned to feel a heightened fear and shame about sex (including sex that was forced on them) that men aren’t. Also on a more mundane level the patriarchal norm that men initiate sex and romantic relationships means most men have experienced making (legitimate) unwanted advances but not receiving them and vice-versa for women.

Also the stark gender differences on display in some CT threads are’t really evident to me in conversations with male and female friends offline—ymmv.

120

bob mcmanus 10.04.18 at 2:19 pm

Hear tell gonna be yet another March in DC tomorrow. Who knows, 50,000? Times ten that? But 50k is enough, enough to do just about anything if they are willing to take casualties. Fences down WH stormed, assholes defenestrated. Kavanaugh stopped with pictures of unarmed women getting beaten or shot in White House corridors. Time to quit marching and quit striking. Really angry people riot.

Why don’t I do it (for them, do it for women?) Jeez. I have come a ways into Buddhism or OG Kush or something but now I say if you really want to cede abandon or give away power you have to give away the responsibility. We feel guilty about Syria Palestine Iraq because we like to pretend we can do something about it, fix it, we have just a little power here. All ego and imperialism honestly.

Same with men and feminism. Do we want to retain just a little paternalistic power here? Even saying “they can do it themselves” feels condescending. Just shut up, get out of the way, go fishing. Does this mean not caring? Maybe, even my empathy can too often be narcissism.

Maybe when they see we aren’t watching and judging women might express their rage more effectively.

121

bob mcmanus 10.04.18 at 2:28 pm

Meant to add to the last:

Am I crazy bloodthirsty living a nostalgic fantasy of violence? Maybe! I think about it, trust me.

But mostly I read, just finished the recent Tooze, Walter Scheidel, currently into Vol 2 of Rabinowitz on the Bolsheviks. Lenin has completely given up on the Soviets in August because they failed to rise on July 3-4. Like half the Bolshies at the time, I don’t get it.

We can’t do it like that anymore? Of course we can. Kavanaugh can be stopped, and Justice Kavanaugh will be a failure, mostly of feminism.

122

engels 10.04.18 at 3:27 pm

Maybe, even my empathy can too often be narcissism

Ya think?

123

L 10.04.18 at 3:34 pm

@ politicalfootball #117

The Hill’s wrapup of various party strategists and their internal polls comes to the same conclusions.
https://thehill.com/homenews/house/409790-gop-sees-kavanaugh-as-boost-for-senate-danger-for-house

124

engels 10.04.18 at 5:59 pm

This article is absurd and nauseating from start to finish: what a fucking cess pit https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/oct/01/kavanaugh-clerk-hire-casts-light-on-link-to-judge-forced-to-resign-in-metoo-era

125

Nigel 10.05.18 at 7:41 am

bob mcmanus: the feminists didn’t fight hard enough so it’s their own fault.

126

ph 10.05.18 at 11:45 am

NeverTrumper swoons in the NYT for the big bully…

Articles (and more polls) too numerous to mention confirm somebody was right @74 to suggest BK Show Trial might backfire. Won’t know till voting day, of course.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/04/opinion/trump-kavanaugh-ford-allegations.html

Dems must be praying BK is confirmed quick and the GOP base lose interest.

127

nastywoman 10.05.18 at 2:31 pm

@126
-”to suggest BK Show Trial might backfire”

– for sure – as it was you who told US:

”The pigs are winning” .

and you couldn’t be more right about all of these ”pigs” out there – who are backfiring as ”hard” as they can –
(if you know what I mean) –
BUT WE will tell them:
Next Spring Break or ”Beach Week” – they firstly will have to choose – being ”with the pigs” or against them – before WE ever will agree to party with them! –
(it’s called ”Threat of Liebesentzug”)

-(and believe me – them pigs – they really hate any type of ”Liebesentzug” – as you can study every day watching our erected FF von Clownatick)

And do you think this who BK-thing is Von Clownsticks revenge BE-cause WE never partied with dudes like him -(or BK?)

128

Ogden Wernstrom 10.05.18 at 6:11 pm

ph self-congratulates:

…somebody was right @74

What are the odds? (First, let’s assume a puny 0.1 rate of a single post actually being right – not some self-serving rate of being right. Then, consider @31, @36, @50, @67, @71, @74, @76, @83, @86, @104 and @126. The odds of an instance of being right seem pretty good.)

Dems must be praying BK is confirmed quick and the GOP base lose interest.

…the price is all the gloating that will come from the people who claim to be victimized by the dismissive/condescending/disrespectful attitudes of the elitist/educated/saltwater.

But, once the deplorables of flyover country have their gloatfest, will their motivation wane?

129

Raven Onthill 10.06.18 at 11:31 am

Are we to conclude, then, that much of the motivation of conservative men was not any of their claimed high ideals, but simple threatened masculinity? That the radical feminists have been right all along?

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