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.

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)

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.

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.

Now What? (Electoral Afterthoughts)

I can’t say it was my favorite birthday ever, or even a particularly good one, but it was an interesting evening. And long.

If you prefer to skip my due diligence — my recap of the races on my ballot and my predictions for them — and scroll down to the heading “Now What?” below, I won’t be hurt. Actually, I won’t even know.

Presidential Race

As I write this, it’s unclear what the final electoral vote totals will be in the presidential race. They say a few races are still too close to call: New Hampshire (probably Clinton), Michigan (probably Trump), Minnesota (probably Clinton), and Arizona (probably Trump). The present totals without these states are 279 for Mr. Trump and 218 for Mrs. Clinton. A win is 270 or better, a majority. If the four states I named go as I indicated, he’ll finish with 306, and she with 232. It’s a resounding victory for Mr. Trump, even though the popular vote totals at the moment seem to have him up by only one-fifth of a percentage point. (See my notes on the Electoral College.)

The Electoral College and the Vote

This post is not about candidates or races. I’m not telling you how to vote or why. I’ve already done all I intend to do of that.

Instead, this is something relevant but more general, something to think about while we await results — and briefly, something to do once we know them, whatever they prove to be.

The Vote

Be sure to vote today, if you didn’t vote early – and not to, if you did. (The Chicago exception is noted.) Besides tending to moderate the outcomes, a high turnout among living, registered voters is one of the best ways to ensure that the living outvote the dead, the legal outvote the illegal, and the real outvote the fabricated – if you worry about those things at all.

I believe there is an implied, inalienable voter’s right to be reasonably confident that conscientious measures are in place (a) to facilitate voting by everyone who is eligible to vote and wishes to, and (b) to protect the integrity of the vote from various forms of fraud, intimidation, and other activities which would corrupt it.

Notes and Thoughts on the Third Presidential Debate

It’s been nearly two weeks since I watched the third presidential debate live, and I’m only now finding time to clean up my notes and post them here. I apologize for the delay, but there’s something you should know.

A lot of fetid water has passed under the bridge since then, but the third debate is not old news. In terms of substance it’s probably the high point of the campaign. As we end the month of Icktober on the calendar but not in spirit, this is the debate you should watch — if you think our politics ought to be about policy; if you long for a bygone day when a presidential campaign wasn’t mostly about sleaze, thuggery, boorishness, and corruption; or if you want to compare the actions of the eventual winner to his or her declarations during the campaign.

I won’t offer a comprehensive summary of the debate; it’s simple enough to watch the whole thing on YouTube or at least read a complete transcript. (I recommend watching it, if you have 90 minutes.) I will try to give you the flavor of it, and I have a few thoughts on what was said.

Testing Evan McMullin

I did something for the first time last week: I went to hear an independent presidential candidate speak. The venue was the ballroom at the historic Provo Library. The candidate was Evan McMullin.

evan mcmullin
Evan McMullin

The crowd ranged in age from infants to senior citizens, but it was dominated by people who looked like college students, including lots of couples. Many of them looked quite married, which accounts for the infants. We were mere blocks from BYU, after all.

I’ve heard actual US presidents speak, at the White House and elsewhere, and I’ve always been closer to them than I was to the podium tonight, even though it’s not a large ballroom. And there was a pillar blocking my view. But that was okay.

Before I arrived, and while I waited for the event to begin, I fashioned a series of tests for the candidate. I’ll tell you what they were and how he did. But first . . .

Notes on the First Presidential Debate

I did it. Heaven help me, I did it. I watched the entire first presidential debate, from beginning to end.

I took only a few notes as I watched. But you can watch it yourself here or read a transcript here, and of course there will be multitudes offering to tell you what the candidates said and what it means and what you should think. There are already lots of fact-checkers too, and if I ever see one who appears nonpartisan, I’ll let you know.

For what it’s worth, I didn’t have time for the pregame chatter over the past few days, and I wasn’t interested in all the immediate postmortems, where everyone tries to spin the thing as if it were exactly what they wanted it to be.

Within minutes of the end, people were asking me who won the debate. I’ll answer that in a moment, but it’s not that simple.