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"This confirmation process has become a national disgrace," Kavanaugh shouted in his opening statement, nerved up, coming at us in highest dudgeon. Only the most privileged can muster this level of indignation.
This. Should. Never. Be. Happening. To. Me.
I had to turn the sound waaaay down. "This is a circus." And he promises that "what goes around, comes around."
Indeed, we've been going around and coming around for quite some time. 27 years ago, I watched Clarence Thomas worked up with very similar indignation about the "high-tech lynching" he was being made to endure before his elevation to Associate Justice. (Lesson learned: deny everything, maximize indignation, trust the good old boy network will come through.)
There's something disgraceful in it for everyone, we can agree on that. We watched Christine Blasey Ford's testimony this morning, and that part wasn't disgraceful. It was riveting. Credible. Awful. Damning. But not "disgraceful." (And Dr. Blasey is just one of Kavanaugh's accusers. There are no plans to have a hearing for the others, or any other witnesses.)
I was deposed in a legal matter for the first time (and second time) of my life this year, and testified in court for the first time (outside of a teenaged traffic offense, voir dire for jury duty). I could empathize with a part of Christine Blasey Ford's expressed anxiety, what it's like to be on the receiving end of this complicated legal system. But I had no reason to be much beyond anxious, let alone "terrified." In my case, it wasn't much about me, and it wasn't about sex, and it wasn't playing out in front of a national audience, and no one cared enough to make threats against me.
Whereas Brett Kavanaugh knows the legal and political system inside out. Judge Brett Kavanaugh, nominated to be an Associate Justice of the highest court in the law. He knows how to write a script for it. He knows how to make a categorical denial. "Not ever!"
Standing by himself, he might have been convincing. Coming after Christine Blasey Ford's testimony, and knowing that there are at least two others with similar stories to tell, it is not.
Given that Dr. Blasey wanted an FBI investigation, and Kavanaugh professed to be fine with whatever the committee chose to do; knowing that (a) it's not up to the committee, and (b) even if it were, the 11-10 majority guarantees they wouldn't pursue the matter, his protestation is unconvincing. Never mind the bathetic part about his daughters saying "we should pray for the woman."
It's another opportunity missed to man up. He might have said, "yes honey, we should pray for her... but we should also do the right thing and agree to an FBI investigation so all the facts can come out."
Judge Kavanaugh, we are calling you a liar. Whether you know and remember what you did when you were getting drunk out of your mind as a teenager and a young adult or whether it really has been blacked out of your memory, we don't believe you. And we sure as hell don't want you sitting on the Supreme Court based on what we're seeing today.
Senator Lindsey Graham testified to reporters in between the two witnesses, and trumpeted his own high dudgeon. He's "really upset." (It wasn't easy for him and the rest of the Republican Senators to give up their 5 minutes of posturing and questions to that woman they brought in.)
"I'm really upset if Diane Feinstein believed this was a credible allegation, that she wouldn't do [ahem] Mr. Kavanaugh, Judge Kavanaugh the service of saying "I've got this, what's your side of the story?"
So it's all about the timing is it? We're here now, asking that question, and the only answering forthcoming is not terribly credible. For all its self-righteous indignation. What Graham went on to say, with Lisa Desjardins standing next to him, looking like she would rather be having a root canal:
"All I can say is, we're 40 days away from the election and their goal, not Ms. Ford's goal, is to delay this past the midterms, so they can win the Senate, and never allow Trump to fill this seat."
"I feel ambushed, as the majority, we're gonna hear from Mr. Kavanaugh, Judge Kavanaugh, and I've been a judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, here's what I'll tell you. When it comes to where it happened, I still don't know. I don't know when it happened. She said she's 100% certain it did happen, I bet you Judge Kavanaugh will say I'm a 100% sure I didn't do it, and that's the facts I'm left with."
Right. Because you and the majority on the committee and the president are making damn sure that no more facts are pursued.
But that "feeling ambushed," we can share that. We've all been feeling ambushed about Supreme Court nominations for two and a half years now.
James Fallows is assembling a Midterm Time Capsule for us. Here is 42 Days to Go, Fox News and The New Yorker. I noticed in a snippet of the FN interview that Kavanaugh's wife says she's known him for 17 years, which would mean they met when he was 36 or so, after prep school, after Yale, after the work for Ken Starr, after Bush v. Gore.
Meanwhile, the testimonials are stacking up. What would your college roommate from freshman year say about you?
"He was a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of that time, and he became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk," is what James Roche said about Kavanaugh. What Judge Kavanaugh jocularly admitted on previous occasions was falling down drunk (just an implied figure of speech?), belonging to "Beach Week Ralph Club" (unfounded yearbook humor?) and wink wink nudge nudge,
“Fortunately,” he said, “we’ve had a good saying that we’ve held firm to to this day, as the dean was reminding me before the talk, which is, ‘What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep.’ That’s been a good thing for all of us, I think.”
Fallows recommended Caitlin Flanagan's take of the 1982 Zeitgeist and Brett Kavanaugh's place in it, as do I. Those two Atlantic pieces were out before this fresh third allegation, Julie Swetnick's affidavit of what she witnessed—and experienced—at house parties back in the day. She says she's "aware of other witnesses that can attest to the truthfulness" of her statements. The NYT reports that her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said he "was not ready to present them as he waited to see if the Senate Judiciary Committee would begin a full investigation into her claims as he demanded, along with an F.B.I. inquiry."
POTWEETOH took his typical cheap shot... and Avenatti responded in kind:
“False accusations?” Like those crimes your fixer Cohen pled to? You are an habitual liar and complete narcissist who also is a disgrace as a president and an embarrassment to our nation. You are so inept that your “best and brightest” are Cohen and Giuliani. Let’s go.— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) September 26, 2018
The staff of Richard Viguerie's Conservative HQ may labor in obscurity, but that doesn't stop them from creating a remarkable record of the kleptocratic ruling class. Unbridled by attribution, they're freer than Fox News to run the party line with gusto. In the he said/she said swirl, the Left (always capitalized) has journalists, and CHQ has... PJ Media, tracking down references who aver that the future judge was "always a perfect gentleman," and "always conducted himself honorably with me at all times when we were together." The story today is that the Feminist Left Hates Him because he is just too perfect.
They quote Kellyanne Conway's "I know you are but what am I" accusation of the "vast left-wing conspiracy," augmented with the inevitable "our friend" mention, this time Heather Mac Donald of the self-proclaimed "free-market think tank," the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, explaining "feminist narcissism" (!) as "a revenge attack on a civilization deemed too male."
CHQ is exhorting its readers to call the possibly wobbly Senators Murkowski, Collins, Flake and Sasse, and then "after those four phone calls we urge you to work your way through the remaining Republican Senators urging them not to be taken in by this 'high-tech lynching'," complete with a handy list of phone numbers of all their people in the Senate.
The Leave it to Beaver version of America presented to Fox News featured Kavanaugh's Eddie Haskel-esque affirmation that he was all "focused on academics and athletics, going to church every Sunday at Little Flower, working on my service projects" and stuff. As for sexual intercourse, no siree!
"I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter. And the girls from the schools I went to and I were friends..."
Except for Christine Blasey Ford. And Deborah Ramirez. And at least one other preparing to make a statement. The Fox News interview did not probe the allegations that are actually at issue, short of "sexual intercourse" per se. From his time working with Ken Starr, we know that Kavanaugh is certainly conversant with the finer points of the topic when need be, and the distinction he made is telling.
Yesterday's CHQ staff screed was more direct fire for effect: Christine Blasey Ford: Female Suicide Bomber.
"Religious terrorism is a particularly potent form of violence; religion offers the moral justification for committing seemingly immoral acts, such as lying to destroy the reputation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and, make no mistake about it, Leftist feminism is a religion, and its adherents are motivated with the same zeal that motivates other fanatics."
Yes, that's right, they're modeling the accusations of Kavanaugh's prep school and college drunken debauchery as terrorist suicide bombing, complete with a quote from a survey of the literature on motivations of terrorists in the middle east, done by an undergraduate at the University of Utrecht.
Plus, sitting with his wife for that Fox News interview, "Judge Kavanaugh has flatly denied the allegations," what more do we need to know? Certainly nothing that the FBI might find out were they to investigate a little.
Don't usually take the LinkedIn content jumps, but today's top tease drew me in: How robots hire job candidates.
"Artificial intelligence is becoming a key component in how companies hire, according to The Wall Street Journal. While computers scanning keywords in resumes is now common practice among large firms, hiring technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated, from avatars interviewing candidates to machine learning assessing a candidates public profiles for personality traits. The WSJ report looks at two firms upending the hiring process: DeepSense, which scans social media accounts to develop a picture of the candidate's personality, and HireVue, which assesses the candidate's behavior from a recorded video interview."
The short blurb from the author, Jason Bellini, Senior Producer at the Journal, claims that "scores of Fortune 500 companies are using this service." At least for the moment, the short article, and 10 minute video are not paywalled, and an interesting take.
In the start of the WSJ video, and down the LinkedIn thread, there are more opportunities to see fascinating and horrific humanoid interview robots. I can imagine dealing with one would be hugely distracting; I found myself identifying all the things wrong with this picture, and expect I would get wrapped around the meta, while it was carefully examining my "microexpressions."
It's hard to decide which of the "two firms upending the hiring process" has the creepier product. Scanning (public) social media accounts is not a breakthrough by itself—we can assume that's been going on as long as social media—and cooking them down through an algorithm is what advertising and political enterprises have been doing right along. The chuckling refusal to disclose any of their clients tells you most of what you need to know about how proud they are of their work.
I have no doubt they're doing a more thorough job than human reviewers could, but in both cases, there is the fundamental flawed assumption that's disturbing: that a person's aggregate social media profile, or behavior and what-not in a 15 minute interview contain all that's needed to determine future success in a given role.
The HireVue guy's denial that a robot chat score of 37% ("on a scale of 100" he added, for those unfamiliar with the concept of percentage) would result in a candidate being screened out was ever so slightly disingenuous. Candidates will be ranked by their score... and ok, we might not watch all the interviews, but maybe we'll watch one or two questions? With, say, hundreds (or thousands) of applicants? This fails my interview test for candor and honesty.
Back in June, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel described the "very 'red' legislative map in 'purple' Wisconsin, where "in good times and bad, Wisconsin Republicans have enjoyed a virtual lock on the 99-seat state Assembly, thanks to the map they drew in 2011. Their control of the Legislature is essentially baked in before voters go to the polls to pick their representatives."
The describe in text and numbers one way to measure it: how the numbers split for the top of the ticket (president in 2012 and 2016, governor in 2014), versus how the 99 seats in the Assembly districts were divvied. They didn't provide the picture worth a thousand words, so here you go. The "Top of Ticket" bars are for Romney in 2012, Scott Walker in 2014, and Trump in 2016. (For the last of those, they said "just over 50% of Wisconsin's two-party vote"; that was 47.22 to 46.45%, and winner take all.)
The really strange thing about this phenomenon, playing out in both state legislatures and the U.S. Congress (where, for example, in 2012, the Republicans ended up with +33 seats with a million fewer votes) is that it continues to be completely uncertain whether or not there will be any remedy. One analysis estimates that "Democrats will need a margin of at least four points on the generic ballot in order to win a majority of seats in the House in the 2018 midterm election."
We're in the might makes right phase, where partisan hackery has created effective majorities that are resistant to the will of voters. It's not as extreme as the oligarchic control of economic power, but never mind that; it's the essential underpinning of that economic power.
Newer news in the merged successor to the paper I used to deliver, Democrats in Wisconsin have revived their lawsuit, after the first round was stymied by a decision on the plaintiffs' lack of standing. (Scott Walker's spokeswoman characterized that technical obstacle as "ruled unanimously in favor of the state of Wisconsin.")
"The legal fight is all but certain to eventually return to the Supreme Court at a time when the Senate is considering confirming Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy.
"Kennedy was a conservative who was open to legal arguments that election lines could violate voters' constitutional rights if politicians went too far in drawing the lines for partisan gain. Legal observers have contended Kavanaugh would be harder to persuade with such arguments."
That is such lovely, decorous language for an assessment of the current nominee, isn't it? With a history of partisan hackery that he's happy to lie about under oath, he might be "harder to persuade," you don't say.
Wisconsin's die is already cast for the 2018 election, but maybe, just maybe, the courts could begin to straighten things out for 2020 and beyond.
Don't suppose Brett Kavanaugh has David Brock on his "references" section of his résumé with a personal testimonial like this:
"Twenty years ago, when I was a conservative movement stalwart, I got to know Brett Kavanaugh both professionally and personally. ... Brett and I were part of a close circle of cold, cynical and ambitious hard-right operatives being groomed by GOP elders for much bigger roles in politics, government and media.
From true believer, to designated leaker, to "attempting vainly to legitimize wild right-wing conspiracies," Kavanaugh has made his mark, and is poised to be awarded his ultimate prize, from Mitch McConnell and his pals, the clotted crème de la crème of our ruling elite.
Somehow all that, and his willful ignorance about the stolen documents he trafficked in, and his outright perjury during his confirmation hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee weren't enough to torpedo his nomination. There's the Republican framing of Chrstine Blasey Ford's accusation as "a craven act of character assassination," to provide the ironic backdrop to the possibly more predictable angle of dismissing decades old teenage hijinks as not that big a deal. Jia Tolentino, for The New Yorker:
"[A] startling number of conservative figures have reacted as if they believe Ford, and have thus ended up in the peculiar position of defending the right of a Supreme Court Justice to have previously attempted to commit rape—a stance that at once faithfully corresponds to and defiantly refutes the current Zeitgeist. These defenders think that the seventeen-year-old Kavanaugh could easily, as Ford alleges, have gotten wasted at a party, pushed a younger girl into a bedroom, pinned her on a bed, and tried to pull off her clothes while covering her mouth to keep her from screaming. They think this, they say, because they know that plenty of men and boys do things like this. On these points, they are in perfect agreement with the women who have defined the #MeToo movement. And yet their conclusion is so diametrically opposed to the moral lessons of the past year that it seems almost deliberately petulant. We now mostly accept that lots of men have committed sexual assault, but one part of the country is saying, “Yes, this is precisely the problem,” and the other part is saying, “Yes, that is why it would obviously be a non-issue to have one of these men on the Supreme Court.”
Monica Hesse noticed this too, over at the Washington Post. Please count me among the men who agrees that:
"There is nothing inherently wrong with men. There is only something wrong with a society that would turn to millions of young women and say, Trying to rape you is a necessary part of his development, and say to young men, What happens in prep school stays in prep school."
I don't know if there are 99% of us or not (as she generously estimates for the sake of argument). It feels more like 47% sometimes, which is a sickening thought.
Update Deborah Copaken answers the worse-than-despicable Friday presidential tweet: My Rapist Apologized.
Update #2 If you're feeling too ebullient after that piece, consider Alberto Burneko's dark and too-accurate take on Deadspin: Brett Kavanaugh Is A Man The Right Can Get Behind.
Update #3 We need to hear from more 15-year-old girls. Three in Idaho wrote a letter.
I saw the rumors (on Tuesday? That's when they started), something big coming from this guy who was really smart, and generally right about everything. (It was said. I didn't know him from Adam.) I saw the (now deleted) Twitter thread yesterday, with the floor plans and everything, and *poof*, just like that, it's all turned to an embarrassing apology. Quicker than I imagined. It's nice that we get to see that wonderful word, doppelgänger running around anyway. It would be very entertaining as a TV series.
As the run-up to a possible Supreme Court appointment, not so much. Max Boot wraps it up for us, after Fox and Friends sent it national this morning:
"By 8:38 a.m. on Friday, Whelan had recanted. “I made an appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment in posting the tweet thread in a way that identified Kavanaugh’s Georgetown Prep classmate,” he tweeted. “I take full responsibility for that mistake, and I deeply apologize for it. I realize that does not undo the mistake.”
"Give Whelan credit for at least being more honest than the man who appointed Kavanaugh: President Trump has never apologized for all of the deranged conspiracy theories he has spread, from claiming that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States to claiming just last week that the death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane María was concocted by Democrats to embarrass him. But Whelan is right: His apology, however welcome, does not undo the mistake. ...
"Much of the right has taken leave of its senses. They are willing, even eager, to believe in “alternative facts,” to quote Kellyanne Conway’s infamous phrase, if by doing so it will advance their agenda. Any sin, no matter how grave — even maligning an innocent man on sexual-assault charges — is justified in the name of political expediency. And there is no higher imperative for the right than the confirmation of conservative judges."
Speaking of taking leave of senses, Politico's reporting that CRC Public Relations, "a powerhouse conservative firm" was Whelan's guiding light. That company name didn't ring a bell, but it should have, as it was "best known for its work with the Swift Boat Veterans on 2004."
So much for Whelan's vaunted credibility.
Seems like there must be more to it than cheating people for nickels and dimes? I'm wondering, after leveraging my Amazon Prime deal to get a "six-month" free trial digital subscription to the Washington Post. (As described on washingtonpost.com 3 years ago this month.)
The email confirmation tells me that my "initial term" is actually 168 days, which is 24 weeks, which is two weeks short of six months. And then if I stick with it, a "discounted monthly subscription rate of only $3.99" would be, yes, "a savings of 60% per month" over "$9.99 per month." But this email says it's "$3.99 every 4 weeks," 8.7% more than per month. In rounder numbers, the difference between $52/year and $48/year.
Not so much as you'd notice, I assume they're hoping. Like that shorter, and narrower toilet paper you've been using lately.
A dollar a week is a good deal for great journalism. Why not be honest about it?
WaPo's fact-checker finds the "repeated pleas of ignorance warrant heavy skepticism." That's the suit-and-tie way of saying he's a facile liar, a Three Pinocchio liar, which is the best kind, because the 11-10 majority of Republicans can scootch you through on the "hey, it wasn't four Pinocchios!" basis. Perfect nominee for POTWEETOH.
Manuel Miranda, the Republican Senate staffer who oversaw the theft of most of five thousand documents over 18 months from 2001 to 2003, insists "I never told him that I got this from the Democrats." "There was never anything like that." Handed this trove of "richly detailed" inside information with "a ton of clues," this extremely qualified future jurist was somehow utterly clueless about what was going on around him.
"I never suspected anything untoward," he testified back in 2004 on his way to being confirmed to the Court of Appeals. "Nothing out of the ordinary."
You can see why they're so keen to get this guy on the Supreme Court, eh. Not just his ability to recognize strategic advantage and act on it, but his ability to pretend like it's all above board. As counsel for Sen. Patrick Leahy, Lisa Graves put it:
"Kavanaugh was certainly a hardcore political operative. He would know exactly what this was, that this was secret research from the Democrats, from a Democratic lawyer, on the most important fight they were having, in the middle of that fight, on the most important issue that fight was about."
Her headline for a piece in Slate earlier this month kind of wraps up the story in a nutshell: I Wrote Some of the Stolen Memos That Brett Kavanaugh Lied to the Senate About. And the subhead: "He should be impeached, not elevated."
In between the thievery and Kavanaugh's carefully measured and durable ignorance, there was this:
"...the story of the theft exploded in the news, Miranda was forced to resign, and the U.S. Senate sergeant-at-arms began a bipartisan investigation into the files stolen from the Senate...
"As of November 2003, when the sergeant-at-arms seized the Judiciary Committee’s servers, Kavanaugh would have been on notice that any of the letters, talking points, or research described as being from Democrats that were provided to him by Miranda were suspect and probably stolen from the Senate’s server. ...
"But he did nothing. He did not come forward to the Senate to provide information about the confidential documents Miranda had given him, which were clearly from the Democrats."
What Leahy himself just said in a Sept. 13 op-ed, Brett Kavanaugh misled the Senate under oath. I cannot support his nomination.
"I have served in the Senate for 44 years, including 20 years as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. It has never been normal to obtain sensitive, inside information from the opposing party, conveyed in secret and in real time involving the most contentious issues before our committee. A smart political operative on the frontlines of these battles would have seen these glaring red lights for what they were: clear evidence of nefarious acts."
John Solomon's account is that the president was "very relaxed, very confident" in his decision to (very selectively) unclassify documents from the ongoing FBI probe into the scope (not the existence, since that's already been demonstrated) of collusion and corruption in his administration. He's upped the ante from "witch hunt" to "hoax" and "fraud" (which is something he's certainly very familiar with).
Trump in a one-on-one or one-on-two seems especially good at self-indictment. That one with Lester Holt, for example, when he first admitted his corrupt intent in firing FBI Director James Comey. Now we have him admitting that his intent to fire Comey went back to 2016.
"I should have fired him right after the convention," Trump said, "before I even got to be president," Solomon says he said. Not to be all megalomaniacal or anything.
One thing we know for sure, when Trump says he "feels very badly" for someone, anyone, he's really saying that he feels very badly for himself. He does not know pity. He only knows self-pity.
You know what I mean. And the way he looked, was way beyond compare... Oh, I'll never dance with another, when I saw him standing there.
Let us all practice our disingenuity now, starting with "I never did that or anything like that." Are you sure? Did you ever get so drunk that you didn't remember what happened? It certainly happened to me. Teen-aged drinking has to be about the most dangerous kind, for all sorts of reasons.
It's been a few years, but I do vaguely recall being 17 (and 15) and making a few how shall we say mistakes. It used to be that we and the law recognized the fact that maturity is preceded by immaturity, and justice and mercy need to be somewhat intertwined. (For the record, and to the best of my recollection, augmented by what others have told me, I never did anything like that.)
Since we're talking about a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court after all, let's weigh this as carefully as we can. As respondent, here's a good time to employ one of those weasely verbal stylings about the "best of my recollection," with a pre-emptive apology, just in case.
Better than the nominator's fatuous bloviation ("one of the finest people I've ever known"), support from the very least credible source imaginable.
Definitely better than, say, fundraising for (I wish I were making this up) CatholicVote Supreme Court Victory Fund [sic] to spread the word about the "unhinged Left" "in open warfare against Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) nominee federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his loyalty to the Constitution." That surprisingly extensive ad copy was written before the latest twist, and feels a bit stale. The punchline is of course "send money to our 501(c)(4)" and call your Democratic or wobbly Republican Senator. (I've already sent two messages to mine, and the chances of Idaho's wobbling are reliably zero.)
Judiciary committee chairman Chuck Grassley, who hoped to set things straight with a conference call or something, had to cave to an actual face-off on Monday, live she said, he said. That means, first of all, no committee vote on Thursday. With a little old-school Catholic humor, the NYT reports this pushes the "confirmation once seen as inevitable into limbo." (From Wikipedia's voluminous treatise, I see a casual notion that "the Pope closed Limbo" is apparently wrong, and there is still quite a bit of pin-dancing going on about this subject. At any rate, Mr. Kavanaugh is past qualification for both Limbo of the Infants and Limbo of the Patriarchs.)
There was this interview with Brandeis University professor Anita Hill reflecting on that early 90s go-round. That's just 4 minutes. If you've got a half-hour, watch John Oliver's Last Week Tonight (you can skip forward to the start of the interview at 17:30 if need be). It's a lot better than watching a senate committee hearing, trust me.
Hill has put her considered advice into an op-ed for the NYT, how to get the confirmation hearings right, or at least better. (Her old boss is still sitting on the Court, don't you know.) In case you need a refresher:
"In 1991, the Senate Judiciary Committee had an opportunity to demonstrate its appreciation for both the seriousness of sexual harassment claims and the need for public confidence in the character of a nominee to the Supreme Court. It failed on both counts."
Fast-forward. The senate judiciary committee now has four women on it, rather than zero.
"Today, the public expects better from our government than we got in 1991, when our representatives performed in ways that gave employers permission to mishandle workplace harassment complaints throughout the following decades."
The highest court deserves the highest standards, does it not?
"Our interest in the integrity of the Supreme Court and in eliminating sexual misconduct, especially in our public institutions, are entirely compatible. Both are aimed at making sure that our judicial system operates with legitimacy."
Professor Hill has aged more gracefully than Judge Thomas, I daresay, and she offers great advice that I expect the GOP to ignore. Select a neutral investigative body, and rely on its findings. Do not rush the hearings. Treat Dr. Blasey as a whole person.
When Obama nominated Merrick Garland, eight months before an election was far too short a time to even consider it, remember. Even to meet with him. And now, eight weeks seems way more than they need. Funny how that works.
McConnell complains that Democrats aren’t following “standard bi-partisan process” and “regular order” on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) September 17, 2018
As the Carolinas brace themselves for Hurricane Florence's arrival for the weekend, folks on the other side of the pond are pointing and... shaking their heads in amazement, at least. Amusement would be a little too mean. But they remember when North Carolina passed a law against climate change, a few years ago. The bill's sponsor, Pat McElraft, is quoted, from back in the day:
"The science panel used one model, the most extreme in the world. They need to use some science that we can all trust when we start making laws in North Carolina that affect property values on the coast."
It's not likely Florence will be checking state code before it comes ashore. And there will definitely be some property values affected, out there on the Outer Banks from Kitty Hawk to Nags Head to Waves (seriously), to Surf City, Topsail Beach on down to Wilmington.
If not legislation, can we position the tireless gasbag Rush Limbaugh in some strategic location to stop the whirlwind? He's still working that idea that the forecasting of extreme damage and risk to lives is being exaggerated in order to "politicize" climate change.
"The forecast and the destruction potential doom and gloom is all to heighten the belief in climate change."
You have to wonder... is he really That Stupid, or is he just pandering to an audience that is?
Notice from my insurance about the end (more or less) of my broken eyeglasses came in, with an ambiguous statement of the amount that would be "my responsibility" for the eye exam that ensued, and the amount that was billed, but no mention of what, if anything, they paid. Maybe nothing, and they just got me a 50% discount? That seems to be the way things are going with medical providers and insurance anymore.
I looked for more in the "Explanation of Benefits" section of myRegence, and found one more detailed statement, but it's from that physical I had on July 31. The preamble promises "A new, simpler EOB," "redesigned ... to make it easier to read and understand. You'll quickly see who got care, who provided care, what you owe and how much your insurance covered."
It's true: I could quickly see all those things. You might notice that the list skips over mention of what care you were given, but that has to be there, right? Well, yes and no. The primary focus is on how much was billed, paid, and what I owe. ($0 still. Other than that premium, month after month.)
There are a dozen line items: 5 provided by ST LUKES REG MED CENTER, 6 from BATEMAN, WADE M. (all on July 31), and the one from EXACT SCIENCES LABORATORIES LLC two weeks later. 7 of the 9 columns are dollar amounts (billed, not covered, your discounted rate, amount we paid, applied to your deductible, your copay, what you owe), one is the date, and one is the "Care description."
One item has a two-word description: "Office visit." Every other line has a one-word description, "Laboratory" or "Medical." All but two line items have a note:
PXN: Pricing is based on maximum allowance for the service billed by this provider.
One of the "Medical" items from the doctor was undiscounted, at $16.00. One of the "Laboratory" items from St. Lukes was negatively discounted: they billed $48.00, but the insurance paid $55.07, go figure. (Don't worry, they more than made up that $7.07 in the other stuff.) Line item discounts ranged from -15% to 75%, for a $26.00 Laboraory charge paid at $6.60. The bottom line comes out to a 23% discount on the total bill, $340.21 off of $1,458.11. The folks with the shittiest job got the largest share of the total: $508.87 to Exact Sciences. ($458.50 went to the doctor, and $150.33 to St. Lukes.)
There are no billing codes. There is no expansion of what "Medical" and "Laboratory" might be about. At the bottom of page 2, the beginning of the fine print, there's a Reminder: This is not a bill.
"Make sure this summary reflects the care you received and the amount billed by your providers. If it doesn't, or you suspect fraud, give us a call at 1 (800) 323-1693."
I don't suspect "fraud," exactly, but how would I know? I'm not a full participant in the accounting. The good news for me, this time, is that it was all in-network, and all covered, and the three rightmost columns are fully populated with $0.00s. What I owe is $0.00. In less happy times, 5 or 6 weeks after the fact, I might have reason to take heed of the Notice of Benefit Payment and Parameters footnote:
"To receive a higher level of benefits from your health plan, you should ensure that in-network providers deliver all your services, including ancillary services (e.g., lab, anesthesia, etc.). If you receive your care from an out-of-network provider, even if you are in an in-network facility and/or your principal provider is in-network, you may have additional costs. Except as prohibited by law, you may be responsible for paying higher out-of-network deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments, up to the applicable out-of-network maximums on your plan. You are also responsible for the difference between the amount the out-of-network provider bills and the Allowed Amount. That difference does not apply to your deductible or out-of-pocket maximum. Review your policy or benefit booklet for details about coverage of out-of-network care. You can review your provider's network status at regence.com and select “Find a Doctor” or call us at the telephone number on the back of your member ID card."
I'm guessing most insurance plans are going toward this "network" deal, in which the providers and insurance company have an understanding, and the patient is at significant risk for going outside, say "e.g., lab, anesthesia, etc." What's in fine print there on page 3 should be bold with an ALL CAPS kicker:
Except as prohibited by law, you may be responsible for paying higher out-of-network deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments, up to the applicable out-of-network maximums on your plan. You are also responsible for the difference between the amount the out-of-network provider bills and the Allowed Amount. THAT DIFFERENCE DOES NOT APPLY TO YOUR DEDUCTIBLE OR OUT-OF-POCKET MAXIMUM.
David Waldstein's report of the match in the Sunday paper impressed me with its objective reporting; the online version of How the U.S. Open Descended Into Chaos is more fully detailed, and with opinions swirling from every side, he managed to keep his own to himself. I didn't watch the post-match press conferences, so that, and some of the other particulars of what happened were new to me, even having watched the match. Above it all, my respect for Naomi Osaka has increased. She showed tremendous poise for anyone in the circumstance, and makes an impressive, 20-year-old major champion.
Not that anyone is going care about one more opinion on the subject, but I read a number of others' before deciding whether I'd weigh in at all. The variety of responses are rather fascinating, and a reflection of the times, we're in. A Facebook friend's reference to the "horrible treatement" of Serena Williams, and former champion and now commentator Mary Carillo's insensitivity to it prompted me to say more.
In Sally Jenkins' pro-Serena opinion for the Washington Post, she laid into chair umpire Carlos Ramos as villain, who managed to rob not one but two players in the women's U.S. Open final." He made both women cry and thousands of fans to scream boos, "all because he couldn’t take a woman speaking sharply to him."
Oh my god.
(Also, Ramos once had the temerity to call Rafael Nadal for "a ticky-tacky penalty over a time delay, and Nadal told him he would see to it that Ramos never refereed one of his matches again," which Jenkins brings up because... the different treatment shows sexism? Or something. Nadal's use of time delay gamesmanship, is a subject for a different day.)
Waldstein brought up past episodes of contention around Williams. Two past episodes. The one with Jennifer Capriati in 2004, having to do with a really bad call (and before the whole video review thing), and then the really ugly scene with the lineswoman who called Williams for a foot fault in the 2009 seminfinal against Kim Clijsters. Williams has had a long career, so that's a lot less than "every time [she] play[s] there" that there have been issues. If those and this incidents were the worst things that happened, it hasn't been all that terribly biased against her, I'd have to say.
I'm one of several hundred thousand recreational players who plays organized league tennis under the USTA's organization, and subject to The Code, and occasional rides on the emotional roller coaster of sometimes fierce competition. There's no big prize money (and no small prize money either, and most trophies aren't much to look at), so I have no idea what it would be like to have $200 on the line, let alone $2 million. (Williams got $1,850,000 for 2nd place, minus $17,000 in fines for her three Code violations. Osaka collected $3.8M.)
In case you wondered, the president of the USTA, Katrina Adams, weighed in, on the side of the superstar, noting that "guys do this all the time" and don't get whacked. "They are badgering the chair umpires on the changeover. Nothing happens." In Christopher Clarey's news analysis, he noted that Adams also "unilaterally released a statement on Saturday commending Williams’s support of Osaka at the awards ceremony while ignoring the tumultuous moments that preceded it."
That was gracious from Williams, and needed, asking the crowd to quit booing during the award ceremony.
I think Ramos should have definitely taken more time (and yes, verbal abuse) before calling the game penalty. And it arguably would have been better to make the coaching a soft warning (which is to say not-a-warning), given the circumstances. (In Clarey's piece, former experienced officals disagree with that generous opinion from me, by the way.) Williams might have blown it off, and her coach presumably would have stopped doing what he admitted he was doing, and when she smashed a racquet, that would have been her Warning, and we wouldn't be having this conversation.
The penalty schedule in The Code is what it is, with an escalation as steep as most any sport. Warning, point penalty, game penalty, match penalty. After the warning, the 2nd violation costing you a point, that's a clear signal you're on the edge. Most players rein it in at that point, and you don't read about them in the papers.
It's astounding to me that someone could be a professional player for more than two decades and not know to expect a point penalty after having received a warning, upon smashing a racquet (which is very reliably deemed a Code Violation; if it's the FIRST violation you've made in a match, that earns the Warning). It was absurdly over the top for her to call Ramos a "thief" for applying the rule.
There is a strange status dynamic in the business. The elite players are much higher status than the officials. But the officials' job is to apply the rules, and the Code. You can appeal a decision... but unless it's very obviously wrong, you won't win that. "Judgment" calls stand, unless the judgment is very, very bad. Ramos' wasn't, which is why bringing out the tournament referee and the WTA gal didn't change anything. They absorbed a fair dose of Williams' ire without her getting still another Code violation, and the match penalty, so there was that.
Williams totally lost me as a fan after that incident with the lineswoman, which she never adequately apologized for, that I saw. But time heals all wounds... and her story gained emotional depth, and appeal, and I eventually came back around. Now I think I'm done. I don't care to ever watch another match like that women's final.
Update: Another friend's comment provided a link to Martina Navratilova's opinion, which is the best I've seen so far. It's got a bit more US Open history, and attention to the first principle, the question she suggests we should ask ourselves: "What is the right way to behave to honor our sport and to respect our opponents?"
"I used to lead the charge in the war on privacy," Linda Woolley begins, provocatively, "as president and C.E.O. of what was then the Direct Marketing Association."
Her letter, responding to Nicholas Confessore's feature in the Aug. 19 New York Times Magazine was in the Sept. 2 print edition, but I couldn't find it online, ironically. The digital version of the feature was titled "The Unlikely Activists Who Took On Silicon Valley — and Won." That game over headline is followed by a stay-tuned subhead: "Mining personal data has become a trillion-dollar business — which is why activists are pushing laws to curb the practice, and why Facebook and other companies are desperate to stop them."
The bold cover art of the disembodied, giant Facebook hand, thumbs-down, bearing down on a flattened legislator (with a brutally gratuitous red banner alt-title), is also not in the online version, superseded by a FB finger tipping open the cover on a peephole. Down the scroll, another illustration has FB fingers poking into various Congressional orifices. (Pablo Delcan's striking illustration for print is featured online, however, in a Behind the Cover video feature, which allows you to see a few outtakes, as well.)
What have we won, now?
Mid-scroll, there is a window-wide AD (it dubs itself) from DISCOVERCARHIRE for me to Rent a Car at Chicago O`Hare Airport (ORD), something I recently wished to do, and that the Ad-o-sphere remembers past its usefulness to me (but not to the NYT, which earned micropayments for this and two other placements on this page.
(Not to be all squirrel or anything, but why the hell does that ad have a backwards apostrophe between O and Hare?)
Long story short, the victory was California's AB 375, a.k.a. The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, passed in that state's Assembly and Senate without opposition and signed into law by governor Jerry Brown on June 28. Variety reported that "When it goes into effect in 2020, the law will give consumers the right to request all the data businesses are collecting on them, as well as the right to request that businesses don’t sell any of their data."
"The law also comes with strict disclosure rules about data collected by businesses, and it empowers the California Attorney General to fine businesses for non-compliance."
The interesting part for the moment, is that California's governing bodies cruised past opposition from "media, telco and tech companies including Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, which all financially contributed to a California Chamber of Commerce-led campaign against its passage." They also noted that Facebook's $200,000 contribution came before it "reversed course" after the Cambridge Analytica dust-up.
Oh, and Variety's page has ads for rental cars at O`Hare [sic], too. That drives us back around to the money quote from Ms. Woolley:
"Assume that everything you do anywhere on the interent is searchable, stored, analyzed and used, and if this freaks you out, act accordingly."
P.S. If you can't get enough of this kind of legislation, there's more! California's SB-1121, a.k.a. the "California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018" proposes to amend 16 sections of state civil code, add a new one, "and declaring the urgency thereof, to take effect immediately," rather than wait for the one set to start January 1, 2020.
That's an artifact of the impetus the winning activists put on the California legislature to get "it" done by June 29, or else. As Confessore noted:
Flying around the country to do this stand-up routine has to be taking a toll. But the time the president butchered anemones into a slithering snake in the grass, the folks in Montana seemed to be losing focus, too. They're not following the "he" said "she," "probably that's a little disguise that means it's she," and OMG you know this is eating away at him.
I'd say today's top guess seems to be Kellyanne Conway, by the way. How like her to work all sides, and toss in a "lodestar" of indirection to juke the blogosphere. Rising to "a piece of moral cowardice of the worst sort" definitely sounds like something she could do.
Why are we in Montana? Its lone House member, Greg Gianforte, is up for re-election. You remember him, doncha?
Always worth taking an opportunity to remember that Greg Gianforte assaulted a reporter than lied to the cops about it, and now, of course, he's a member in good standing no one even thinks twice about sending the president to campaign for. https://t.co/uoCFSzxRLt— Tim Murphy (@timothypmurphy) September 7, 2018
But anyway, how 'bout that president of ours?
Nothing says "stable genius" quite like comparing one's rambling, incoherent stump show ("without notes"!) to the Gettysburg Address.
"You know when Abraham Lincoln made the Gettysburg Address speech, the great speech, do you know he was ridiculed, he was ridiculed. He took the horse and carriage up from the White House, he wrote it partially in that carriage and partially at a desk in the Lincoln bedroom, which is incredible by the way, in the White House, and he went up to Gettysburg, and he delivered that speech, the Gettysburg address..."
I'm getting a weird Bizarro Garrison Keillor vibe from this.
"And he was excoriated... by the fake news, they had fake news then."
Well, the New York Times liked it, I hear, thanks to their "Republican-leaning." Trump went on, whatever. Less than two hours, more than two minutes. How interesting that his enunciation of ridiculed and excoriated were just as sharp as sharp can be.
Headline says Pence, Pompeo, Mattis and Mnuchin Deny Writing Anonymous Op-Ed, but there's a little headline shorthand in that. The report from Eileen Sullivan says Mike Pence's spokesman denied it. Mike Pompeo personally denied it, as did DNI Dan Coates for himself and his principal deputy.
"Press officers for the secretaries of the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development also issued denials on behalf of their bosses."
In other words, as far as the press officers know, their boss was not the guy (or gal). Some folks at the New York Times do know. And POTWEETOH tweeted his opinion that "the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!" which is of course a #fakePresidentialDeclaration that was not intercepted by Mr. (or Ms.) X.
Here's some must-see TV: Sen. Kamala Harris questioning the nominee about who he's been talking to about the Mueller investigation.
Mike Lee jumps in to rescue the foundering sailor.
"This town is full of law firms. Law firms are full of people. Law firms have a lot of names, there are a lot of people who work at a lot of law firms."
Shouting from the gallery interrupts. "Vote no! Be a hero!" The woman is gently escorted out by a half dozen Capitol police officers. Lee resumes, talking about how the lot of law firms are "constantly metastasizing."
"They're like rabbits, they spawn new firms. There is no possible way we can expect this witness to know who populates an entire firm..."
More shouting, a group interruption. Lee resumes his "point of order," suggesting that if there's a list of names the nominee can be given? Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse raises a point... of order? That they all agreed points of order weren't in order, "because this is a 'hearing'."
E v e n t u a l l y, the nominee comes around to supposing (for the third time) that he's "talked to fellow judges about it," and he "guesses" that the answer is yes, he has talked to others about the Robert Mueller investigation.
But at that law firm? He's not sure. Needs a roster. So, why can't Harris ask him directly, did he speak to Mr. (or Ms.) X?
Also, Cory Booker is ready to be ousted from the Senate to stop the cover-up.
Of course there is a tweetstorm today, and it's always amazing to watch, but this:
Kim Jong Un of North Korea proclaims “unwavering faith in President Trump.” Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will get it done together!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2018
That is some industrial-grade crazy, right there.
But if you need some good news today, note this is one area of consistency for Donald J. Trump. A year ago May, NPR made a list of 6 strongmen the president praised, only one of whom (Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey) seems to have fallen by the wayside. As opposed to, you know, our biggest foes.
Yesterday, headed up to the lake before sunrise (and before the Labor Day party barge flotilla), I noticed the flag at the LDS temple was hanging limp, at half-staff. Given the "day of interment" had passed (and the flag was not illuminated), this was a mild breach of protocol. An innocent mistake, we'd presume, and after the astounding ups and downs of flag and personal etiquette last week, we might count it as a partial antidote to intentional disrespect.
On Sunday, we attended a delightful tea arranged to remember the life and passing of a friend who lived well into her 90s, and who insisted that no "memorial service" fuss be made for her. She was thoughtful to a fault, unwilling to accept the focus of attention even when her friends and family were prepared to give it, lovingly.
John Sidney McCain III was not so self-deprecating upon departure. Having a holiday weekend's worth of eulogies might have seemed fitting enough to a man who wanted and ran for another term in the Senate after three decades there, and at age 80. Indeed, he'd made arrangements for some of the people he wanted—and didn't want—to have speak. (Somehow, Mitch McConnell, Mike Pence and Paul Ryan had a go at it, which was... unfortunate.)
Now that the flags are back to the top of the poles, the best thing to have (and I'd like to think John would applaud this, too) would be a critical discussion. Rebecca Solnit sets a superb example for us, in The Guardian.
"What captivated me at times was the sense of McCain as a tragic figure, someone who knew what he ought to do when he was not doing it as well as when he was. In his 2008 concession speech he sounded relieved to have escaped the nightmarish grip of his own ambition and all the contortions it had forced him into..."
Reports varied, but here in the NYT it suggests that "last week, it even appeared that Mr. Trump would stop publicly toying with the idea of removing [Attorney General Jefferson Beleagured] Sessions [III] until after the midterm elections," but he can't stop himself from tweeting his pique. The president imagines "The Democrats, none of whom voted for Jeff Sessions, must love him now."
Speaking only for myself, I don't. Nor do I love his work. But I am gaining a certain grudging respect for him standing up to his psychopathic boss, even as he carries on implementing awful enough policies on his own.
I did note that in tweet #1, the sarcastic punch before the run-on ellipsis could be taken literally as a compliment. (As if!) POTWEETOH stumbled into plausible deniability for once?
No one is much fooled by that, even as the shock of the president's suggestion—that "very popular Republican Congressman" should not be indicted "just ahead of the Mid-Terms"—added yet another clause for drafting into the inevitable articles of impeachment.
By all means, let's talk about these two very popular Republican Congressmen.
Rep. Duncan Hunter was indicted by a federal grand jury in San Diego twe weeks ago today, "after a monthslong criminal investigation into allegations that he spent tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds on family trips to Hawaii and Italy, private school tuition for his children and even a $600 airline ticket for a pet rabbit." There's always a pet rabbit in there somewhere.
"In a 48-page indictment released by the Justice Department, Mr. Hunter, Republican of California, and his wife, Margaret, are charged with converting more than $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal expenses and filing false campaign finance records with the Federal Election Commission."
So how many months in "monthslong"? We're 19 months into the current administration.
In the third paragraph, links to the other indictment on the president's mind, Rep. Chris Collins, another of "the earliest congressional supporters" of the Trump campaign, indicted on charges of insider trading earlier in August, with the "dramatic scene described in court papers" actually available on day-of video, from "the clubby annual picnic at the White House on June 22, 2017," 5 months into the reign of error, and thus rather difficult to have been a "long running, Obama era, investigation." What former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said:
"Repeatedly trying to pervert DOJ into a weapon to go after his adversaries, and now shamelessly complaining that DOJ should protect his political allies to maintain his majority in the midterms, is nothing short of an all out assault on the rule of law."
This is disturbing, whether or not the weaponized microwaves turn out to be the culprit in the ills of US Embassy workers.
"The dimensions of the human head, scientists say, make it a fairly good antenna for picking up microwave signals.
"[Allan H.] Frey, a biologist, said he stumbled on the acoustic effect in 1960 while working for General Electric’s Advanced Electronics Center at Cornell University. A man who measured radar signals at a nearby G.E. facility came up to him at a meeting and confided that he could hear the beam’s pulses — zip, zip, zip."
So could Frey when he put himself in the right spot. The NYT report refers to "false sounds" and "sonic delusions" just after that quote, but that's not quite right. What's described is a sensory pathway. My first conscious awareness of the absurd oversimplification we're taught as children of our "5 senses" came from an engineering colleague 25 years ago. I told the story here in the blog not quite 10 years ago, and listed out the supposed 13 senses that have been described and studied, unaware that what became "commonly called RF hearing" was well-established almost a half century earlier.
So make it 14 senses. At least.
What scientific knowledge doesn't get turned into a weapon sooner, rather than later?
Soviet research on microwaves for “internal sound perception,” the Defense Intelligence Agency warned in 1976, showed great promise for “disrupting the behavior patterns of military or diplomatic personnel.”
The DIA was not much on my radar in the mid-70s, and that particular paper (referring to "a phenomenon first reported in the US open literature more than thirteen years ago") was CLASSIFIED to boot. A "FOIA Electronic Reading Room" was still in the realm of science fiction, even though the FOIA was real enough; it turned 10 in 1977.
You could have also read more about it if you knew where to look in the US Patent and Trademark Office too, now made easy-peasy with Google Patents: an Apparatus for audibly communicating speech using the radio frequency hearing effect with a 1996 priority date was granted in 2003, with its rights assigned to the US Air Force.
Heard the All Things Considered segment yesterday about how Trump's supporters in Indiana are staying loyal despite the astounding developments of recent days.
They led with an audio clip of POTWEETOH on the endless stump, saying the Justice Department and FBI need to "start doing their job, and doing it now." Which of course they are, and oh lordy, be careful what you wish for, sir. "What's happening is a disgrace," he added. #Truth (Just not in his "everybody but me and my mob" way.)
Derrick Smith, who "likes everything Trump is doing," pointed out that "if someone spent months investigating you or me, they'd pick up something."
Smith: "I'm sure they they would find things in my life that I wouldn't be too happy about 'em writing about, but all in all, it doesn't amount to a hill of beans. I'm only interested in what he's doing for the country."
Sarah McCammon: "I'm guessing you haven't paid hush money to anyone though."
Smith: "Well not yet... I wish I had a reason to! Heh heh."
Wink wink, nudge nudge, Stormy Daniels, youknowwhatI'msaying, amirite?
If a couple of Hoosiers at the Pie Pan seem too easily dismissed, there's the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll and the 16 month history of answers to the approve/disapprove question. "All adults" have been north of 50% disapproval right along, and currently up to 60% negative, with 53% strongly disapproving. Half of us are ready to get going on impeachment.
Approval has hovered around 40%, most recently dipping to the lower limit in the mid-30s. But for those who hang out at the Pie Pan in Evansville, and those who identify or lean Republican, it's smooth sailing, in the 70s and 80s, apparently no matter what happens. Dig in to the cross-tabs with the WaPo presentation and you can find this data, showing the history of seven polls taken from April 2017 to just now.
Tom von Alten