Ford v. Kavanaugh Last Thursday

Readers have been asking for my thoughts about Thursday’s all-day Senate Judiciary Committee hearing since Thursday morning, when the committee was still questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford about her allegation that Judge Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school. I’ve put off everyone who’s asked, until I could finish these notes. (I was hoping for Saturday, but it turns out that I have a life.) Six days later, off we go. I know this is a lot.

First, my starting point: I awoke that morning willing to believe Dr. Ford and to conclude that President Trump should withdraw his Supreme Court nomination. I was also willing to believe Judge Kavanaugh and to declare that the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate should just vote already.

The hearing ran through the afternoon. I watched or listened to about half of it live — some of it from my dentist’s chair, and the dental work was a lot less painful. By Friday evening I had watched the rest of it. Parts of it I watched a second time, or even a third or fourth.

This all would have been easier, if I were willing to believe that he is lying simply because he’s a man (and a conservative), and that she is telling the truth simply because she’s a woman. Some folks are wired that way, I guess, but I still see guilt and innocence as individual matters, not a tribal thing.

Judge Kavanaugh: Things We Know and Things We Don’t

Let’s start with this: I don’t know who, if anyone, is telling the truth about Brett Kavanaugh and who isn’t. Nor do you.

I am aware that in our hyper-tribalistic political climate, I have just invited accusations that I am disrespecting the victim — here still the alleged victim, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford — or that I am a misogynist, or that I have insulted all women or at least all abuse victims by not instantly and automatically believing this one.

I choose to believe that American society has not disintegrated so far as to think we can determine truth by reading the labels we put on people. I choose to believe that more of us than make a fuss about it are still capable of rational thought, civil discussion, and patiently weighing all the evidence before drawing any conclusions.

I keep hoping that logic will help a little.

Why I (Still) Love the United States of America

I’ve been poking at these thoughts on why I love America for a while now. Once you see what they are, you’ll see why Constitution Day seems appropriate for posting them.

More broadly, this is either an especially good time or an unusually bad time for these reflections. We’re several weeks from a midterm election; those are never pretty. We’re two weeks into the Kneel for the National Anthem regular season. We’re in the throes of another nasty Supreme Court nomination battle. We’ve been watching — has it been forever yet? — the ongoing attempt to overthrow a duly elected President I heartily dislike by a  bureaucratic coup I dislike even more. We’re seeing (still? again?) just how ugly our politics can get, when we’re more committed to obtaining political power over each other than we are to truth, justice, freedom, and the rule of law.

And yet I love my country. Here are some of my reasons. (They don’t have to be yours.)

Mr. Justice Mike Lee? Not in 2018.

United States Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) is said to be on the short list, but perhaps not the shorter list, to fill the US Supreme Court seat opened by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement.

Here we’ll consider why President Trump might nominate Utah’s junior senator — and why he probably won’t.

Senator Mike Lee
Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah)

November 7: An Anniversary to Remember, Not Celebrate

Long Ago, on a November 7 Far Away . . .

Long ago in a distant land, a new social and political order arose. Many in the United States and around the world celebrated its appearance and subsequent development. It was such a modern thing. It was clear and promising evidence of human progress. It was cause for hope for the world at large.

That this new order arose in blood and horror scarcely merits mention; what new order has not risen that way? Granted, the violence probably seemed like more than a footnote to the millions whose lives were taken by bullets, bombs, and famine, and to the many millions more who loved and mourned them as sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, spouses, parents, neighbors, teachers, students, and friends. (I prolong the list advisedly.) But that wasn’t enough to disillusion Western intellectuals, among other idealists.

It Got Worse

Not many years passed before a great butcher replaced the brutal theoretician who led the Revolution in its early years. This butcher was ruthless and paranoid, and his reign gushed rivers of blood. In a sick parody of bureaucracy’s worst tendencies, he extinguished every leader, especially military leaders, whom he thought capable of becoming a rival. Every loyal subordinate with any ability was a potential traitor.

graveyard

Good Numbers, Bad Numbers

In politics, as in work and life generally, I’m a longtime fan of getting the right numbers, getting the numbers right, and understanding what they tell us and what they don’t. My recent essay, Water Bills, Fees, and Our Politics, applied that to local politics.

It also left me thinking that some illustrative, more general examples might be useful or at least fun. They’re not all from politics, let alone the current local election cycle.

Using Numbers Wrong

Let’s warm up with a softball.

The other day, I saw something like this floating around the Internet (I’m paraphrasing): “An orchestra consisting of 80 musicians can play a Beethoven symphony in 30 minutes. How many minutes would it take an orchestra of 120 musicians to play the same symphony?”

orchestra

If you don’t think about the situation, you might just make a calculation and say 20 minutes. Your math would be right, but your answer would be wrong. A moment’s consideration will reveal the obvious: the number of minutes will be approximately the same, no matter what size the orchestra. It’s not like asking how many more Toyota Tundras you can make if you have three identical, adequately staffed and supplied Tundra factories instead of two.

Water Bills, Fees, and Our Politics

One thing I’ve learned to watch for in candidates for local and national offices is how good they are at doing the math and connecting the dots. When I hear a candidate who knows what the numbers mean and what they don’t mean, and who understands and can explain causes and effects, I know I’ve found one who deserves my careful attention and likely my vote.

It’s not so much a question of native intelligence or college degrees, or of being articulate and clever. All these things can help – or hurt. It’s that I know she’ll do her homework on complex issues, if elected, because she’s already doing it. I know he’ll reason carefully in difficult matters, because he’s already doing it.

Water Bills, Water Bills Everywhere

In my small city, American Fork, Utah, water bills are a sore subject and have been for several election cycles. They’re mentioned in virtually every debate, and over the years we’ve seen the full range of responses, from the shallow and the knee-jerk to the well-reasoned and historically aware.

dripping faucet

Proofreading and Politics in Draper

Here’s a headline from yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune: “Draper to hire independent investigator to review councilwoman’s e-mails.”

Hmm. Sounds serious.

Here’s the story’s first paragraph: “The Draper City Council has authorized the city attorney to hire outside counsel to determine whether Councilwoman Michele Weeks violated any ethics rules or laws when she used a city employee to proofread emails unrelated to her official duties.”

They had me until I read the word “proofread.”

Draper City Councilwoman Michele Weeks
Draper City Councilwoman Michele Weeks

Guest Post: Molly Hogan – “We Need Them As Much As They Need Us”

Molly Hogan

Nine years ago, my husband Brady and I were living in a small but cozy apartment in Salt Lake City. We were pregnant with our first child, going to school for our bachelor’s degrees, and working full-time. After crunching the numbers again and again, we realized that I would still need to work once the baby was born.

I’d always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, so I began to look for jobs that would allow me to work from home. After a lot of searching we found an apartment manager position just a couple of blocks away. We went to check it out.

On Inauguration Day: 15 Things I Didn’t Blog About Lately, 9 Wishes for Our Future, 8 Points of Gratitude and Pride, and 3 Gifts for You

As I post this, one President of the United States is in the last minutes of his second term. (Much of the chattering class said this as New Year’s Day approached, but now it’s literally true.) Another President will call this the first day of his first term. Yet I will finish the day much as I begin it: a citizen of a country whose chief executive’s political aspirations and principles, or personal qualities, or both, I expect to be more harmful than beneficial to the freedom and welfare of my nation and the world.

Ten and a half weeks have passed since Election Day; one day less has passed since I last blogged here. True, I’ve been caught up in personal, professional, and church obligations; I spent more than half that span at least slightly ill (due to nonpolitical causes); and there was a holiday season stuck in there somewhere. So I have plenty of excuses for not blogging here. But they are only excuses. Obviously, I had some time to write, as you can see at my non-political blog, Bendable Light. I just didn’t want to write about politics enough to finish anything I started. I’m not sure what that means.

But here we are. I propose to do four things during our time together here today. First, I’ll briefly mention most of the political topics on which I’ve considered writing in recent weeks. I don’t know what that will do for you – paint a picture of my current political thoughts, perhaps, without belaboring any of them – but it will probably make me feel better and help me move on. Second and third, I’ll try to lift my eyes and words above grim politics, mostly, to some hopes and some points of pride and gratitude we’re more likely to share. Fourth, I have three small gifts for you.