Friday, September 07, 2018

Cruising the Web

Gosh! What a circus this Judiciary Committee hearing on Judge Kavanaugh deteriorates even further every day. Every time I think that the Democrats have reached absolute bottom, they descend even further. And the biggest clown of the whole show is Cory Booker. I guess he thinks that the only way to stand out to Democratic primary voters is to beclown himself with vainglorious grandstanding. The only problem is that is all so very bogus.

Yesterday, he bragged about his "Spartacus moment" as he said that he was going to release "confidential" memos concerning Kavanaugh and racial profiling. He bragged that he was willing to do this even if it meant that he would be expelled from the Senate. Such martyrdom would definitely give him a leg up in the primary fights and also more time away from Washington to campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire. When I first heard this story, my thoughts were on what a terrible precedent this was. If senators think that they can publicize confidential materials just because they want to or because they want the publicity, would anyone submit documents ever again to the Senate? Future presidents would claim executive privilege for even more documents.

But it turns out to be so much less than what Booker was claiming. Actually, the Republicans working for the Judiciary Committee had worked through the night to approve those documents. And they'd already cleared those documents and informed the Democrats on the committee, including Senator Booker, that the documents were going to be released.
In yet another bizarre turn of events at Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Republicans have revealed that documents Democratic Sen. Cory Booker published Thursday morning in supposed defiance of Senate rules had already been cleared for release.

“All of this drama this morning apparently was for nothing and it’s unfortunate,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters after a chaotic start to the third day of Kavanaugh’s hearing.

Earlier Thursday, Booker dramatically said he would “knowingly” violate Senate rules to release emails marked "committee confidential" that showed Kavanaugh discussing racial profiling as a White House lawyer in 2002. Booker referred to his actions as an act of “civil disobedience” and said he was prepared to face punishment.

“I am going to release the e-mail about racial profiling and I understand that the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate,” said Booker, a possible 2020 Democratic candidate for president.

At another point, Booker said, “This is about the closest I'll probably ever have in my life to an, ‘I am Spartacus’ moment.”

But it turns out, Booker didn’t actually break any rules with that release. The Republicans on the Judiciary Committee said they worked with the George W. Bush library and the Justice Department overnight to clear the emails. The restrictions were waived early Thursday morning.

“We cleared the documents last night shortly after Senator Booker’s staff asked us to,” said Bill Burck, a lawyer for Bush involved in the release of documents. “We were surprised to learn about Senator Booker’s histrionics this morning because we had already told him he could use the documents publicly."

"Apparently, some just wanted to break the rules and make a scene, but didn’t check their email," a spokesman for committee Republicans said in a statement. The committee posted the same documents.

"Clearly, he is running for president," GOP Sen. John Thune later told Fox News, speaking of Booker.
This is what the lawyer going through the documents said about all this bogosity.

So knowing ahead of time that he was posturing about something that was already going to be released, he still overacted in front of the cameras. The activists who might be looking for a Democrat to support who can take on Trump, do they really want someone who has made such a joke of his efforts. Is that what they're looking for - someone who will lie so he can grandstand even when he knew he was lying?

And then, in one more twist on this stupidity, it turned out that the documents with Kavanaugh talking about racial profiling were actually Kavanaugh, in the days after 9/11 rejecting the idea of racial profiling.
"The people who favor some use of race/natl origin (sic) obviously do not need to grapple with the "interim" question," Kavanaugh wrote in the document, referring to terrorism interdiction methods taking place in the wake of the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks. "But the people (such as you and I), who generally favor effective security measures that are race-neutral in fact DO need to grapple -- and grapple now -- with the interim question of what to do before a truly effective and comprehensive race-neutral system is developed and implemented."
So all that ass-hattery was in pursuit of demonstrating that, even in the frantic days after 9/11 Kavanaugh spoke of his support for "race-neutral" measures. Congratulations, Senator Booker, for engaging in all this buffoonery to make Kavanaugh look...decent.

At least, Senator Orrin Hatch is having fun with this.

And then there is Booker's competitor for using the hearings to generate headlines that might help in the 2020 nomination fight - Kamala Harris. She spent her time going all hard-nose trying to imply that Kavanaugh had spoken with some unnamed lawyer at the law firm that was Trump's private lawyer and that Kavanaugh had talked about the Mueller investigation. She demanded to know if Kavanaugh had spoken with anyone at that law firm - a law firm with over 350 lawyers. That led to that stupid interchange.
Kavanaugh said he didn’t know every lawyer at the law firm to which she referred — there are more than 300 there — but Harris went on and on for nearly 10 minutes, accusing Kavanaugh of dodging the question.

"Is there a person you're talking about?" Kavanaugh asked. Said Harris: "I'm asking you a very direct question, yes or no. ... I think you can answer the question without me giving you a list of all employees of that law firm."

"Well, actually I can't," Kavanaugh said.

"Why not?" Harris asked.

"Because I don't know who works there," Kavanaugh said.

"So you're not denying?" Harris declared. "I'll move on. Clearly, you're not going to answer the question."
Unless she comes up with more than this nameless accusation, she will have aroused excitement from her Twitter followers but not done much else except look ridiculous. But she wasn't done.
She brought up the racial discord earlier this year in Charlottesville, Va., asking Kavanaugh if he agreed with Trump's statement that "there is blame on both sides."

Kavanaugh deferred, saying that's a political question. Harris interrupted: "Sir, I'd appreciate it if you'd answer the question."

"I am, Senator," he responded. "One of the things judges do, following the lead of the chief justice, is stay out of current events, because it risks confusion about what our role is. We are judges who decide cases and controversy. We are not pundits. We don't comment on current events. We stay out of political controversy."

Harris got bent out of shape. "Are you saying it's too difficult a question?" she asked. "Are you saying that you can't answer that very simple question?"

"I'm saying that the principle of the independence of the judiciary," Kavanaugh said, "means that I can't insert myself into politics in either of two ways: commenting on political events or, in my view, commenting on things said by politicians — a governor, a senator, a congressperson, a president. I'm not here to assess comments made in the political arena because the risk is I'll be drawn into the political arena."
Really? Is this all they've got? It seems that the more they flail around, the better Kavanaugh looks. He has certainly demonstrated that he has the desired judicial temperament to sit calmly answering all these idiotic accusations and questions while being shrieked at by protesters.

Lindsay Graham is angry that he voted for Obama's nominees because he thought they were qualified but now the Democrats have set a new precedent.
He held up what he considered his end of the bargain during the Obama administration, voting for both Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The Republican senator certainly didn’t agree with every decision either nominee made. But Graham found both of them to be qualified and found himself “getting a lot of crap” as a result.

The same standard, Graham groused, has not been applied to Republican nominees like Neil Gorsuch and now Kavanaugh. “I would suggest you think long and hard,” he said with some bitterness to the aspiring 2020 Democrats on the committee, “if you’ve got a political ambition, of voting for this guy because it will not play well on your side.”

All this nonsense presents a very good argument to end the practice of these hearings of nominees. Nothing comes out of them and the senators just waste time posturing for the cameras so they can send out fundraising requests. Ben Shapiro argues exactly this.
All of this is a clown show. We know it; the senators know it; the judicial nominees know it. All relevant questions could be asked and answered in writing. These are merely hearings done for spectacle, designed to degrade the judicial process and elevate senators with presidential aspirations. It’s time for them to come to an end. They’ve been in hospice care ever since the nomination of Judge Robert Bork in 1987; we’ve learned nothing of use in three decades of such hearings. Time, then, for them to die. At least then we won’t have to watch Cory Booker re-enact imaginary scenes from Spartacus.

David E. Bernstein writes at the Volokh Conspiracy to explain why people just don't have much faith in the American establishment and why Trump's supporters haven't lost faith in him.
Why? Well consider how the establishment would react if George W. Bush were seated two seats down from David Duke at Willie Nelson's funeral, with Duke given a place of honor. Now consider that Bill Clinton sat two seats away from an equally odious hatemonger, Louis Farrakhan, at Aretha Franklin's funeral. Some Jewish groups expressed dismay, but Clinton acted as if nothing was amiss, as did the rest of the establishment. Former attorney general Eric Holder took a picture next to Farrakhan, and it sure looks posed. But wait, you will say, Farrakhan is black, and because of historical differences in power, black racism and anti-Semitism simply isn't as problematic as white racism as anti-Semitism. That's a fine argument to have in university seminar room. What your average person sees, however, is hypocrisy and double standards. So when the establishment says, "reject Trump, he associates with some dubious characters with dubious connections on the 'alt-right," the establishment makes a fair, if sometimes exaggerated, point. But to the average Trump fan, it sure looks like the establishment is much more concerned with bigotry when it can be connect to conservatives and Trump than when it involves figures who are aligned with left-wing Democratic constituencies.

What about the fact that Trump shows little interest in truth, and his supporters are too quick to dismiss expert and scientific opinion, that they try to bend the truth to their political agenda? As Gail Heriot has recounted on this blog, a psychology professor at Brown (and you can't get more establishment than the Ivy League) published a peer-reviewed article suggesting that at least some teens who claim transgender identity do so as a matter of social contagion rather than because they were "born that way." After complaints from transgender activists, Brown apologized for issuing a press release touting the study, and the journal that published the study announced it would review it further. Establishment voices that are usually raised very quickly at any hint of the politicization of science from right-wing political sources were notably silent. But can you imagine the reaction if the study had been one favorable to, say, same-sex marriage, and the same thing had happened after conservative evangelical Christian activists complained?

Finally, there is the matter of John McCain's passing. Deaths of famous individuals are often occasions for charitable assessments of someone's legacy. In McCain's case, however, the praise heaped on him made him out to be someone so far from the actual John McCain that he was virtually unrecognizable. Someone who always treated his political opponents with respect? Not really, but a useful way to implicitly attack Trump. More important, the politically aware recall that McCain was a hero when he took on George W. Bush in 2000, and again when he became an implicit member of the "Resistance" to Trump until his death. But in 2008, when he ran against the establishment's favorite, Barack Obama, the establishment turned on him with a vengeance. Sort of seems like the esteem in which they hold a prominent individual has less to do with his character, and more to do with whether he is serving a useful political purpose at the moment. So attacks on Trump's character, however well-founded, are considered in that light.

I should emphasize that I agree that Trump has at times promoted bigotry, is a congenital liar, and engages in demeaning and belittling behavior toward his political opponents. Indeed, I think these things are obvious. But much of the country isn't listening when the traditional gatekeepers point this out, and that is, at least in part, the gatekeepers' own fault.

Instead of worrying about wedding cakes, this is an issue that supporters of LGBQT rights should really be raising the roof over.
Malaysia's caning on Monday of two women convicted of having a sexual relationship reflects the continuing crisis in political Islam.

Too often, Islamic political thought remains focused on punishing select crimes of morality rather than advancing the causes of good governance and economic empowerment. After all, the public caning reflects a familiar image of justice in too many Islamic systems. At the most grotesque end of this warped application of Sharia — or Islamic — law is the activity of groups like the Islamic State and the Taliban. ISIS holds public stoning trials for young women, the Taliban keeps women in a condition of servitude. And those women who agitate for their natural rights of freedom face assassination. But more broadly, women continue to face formal and informal structural prejudices in many Islam-governed nations.

Okay, this is a truly creepy story.
A Philadelphia museum is pleading with thieves to bring back its bugs.

In all, 7,000 insects, arachnids and lizards disappeared from the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion last week. And they didn't creepy-crawl themselves out of the building on their own.

According to a New York Times report, police have zeroed in on three suspects, all current or former museum employees. The report cites security footage showing thieves slipping out of the building with large plastic containers. And inside those containers? An estimated $50,000 worth of giant African mantises, bumblebee millipedes, warty glowspot roaches, tarantulas, dwarf and tiger hissers, and leopard geckos.

But the price isn't the point.

"How do you characterize the value of a creature that you cannot get again?" museum chief executive John Cambridge asked Gizmodo.

Indeed, finding thousands more bugs — some hailing from the other side of the world — could take the kind of time a museum that just lost 90 percent of its collection doesn't have.
Who steals thousands of insects? And who wants to buy a six-eyed venomous spider?