URLs du Jour

2018-09-21

[Amazon Link]

Boy, this Kavanaugh drama is a giant weather balloon being inflated in the too-small space of punditry: everything else is getting squeezed out.

Worse yet, all the takes are pretty much the same (and pretty much predictable).

So we'll point to a couple of those that seem least tribal, and then scout around for something else of interest… anything else of interest. Please.

  • At Reason, Robby Soave has a balanced take: From 'Believe All Victims' to 'Who Cares If It’s True,' the Brett Kavanaugh Accusation Has Produced Shameful Certainty.

    Right now, no one can say for sure that Brett Kavanaugh is guilty of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford at a house party 35 years ago. But neither should anyone be certain it didn't happen.

    A lot of people nevertheless seem completely convinced, one way or the other. Quite coincidentally, their conviction that Kavanaugh has been slandered, or that Kavanaugh is a sexual predator, seems to line up perfectly with whether they oppose or support Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court. If you like the guy, you know he's innocent, or that it doesn't matter. If you fear he will provide a decisive vote against abortion rights, you know he's guilty. Fence sitters are betraying women everywhere, according to the left, or are letting the Democrats pull off a con, according to the right.

    Upfront, I'll admit I'm in Robby's "he's been slandered" camp. But I'm not "shamefully certain" about that. It's just the way I'd bet. If I were betting. Which I am not.


  • Baseball Crank Dan McLaughlin, at National Review, has a characteristically thoughtful take: In Evaluating Credibility, the Signs Point in Brett Kavanaugh’s Favor.

    It’s always a good idea, in politics, to evaluate accusations against your friends as if they were made against your enemies, and to evaluate accusations against your enemies as if they were made against your friends. That doesn’t mean you never give your friends some benefit of the doubt, but it does mean you should have some general principles and guideposts for making sense of charges and counter-charges that don’t change based on the R or D after the names. Or better still, ask, “How would I evaluate an explosive allegation if I had no dog in the fight?” Try doing that with the allegation by Palo Alto University psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford that Judge Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a high-school party in or about 1982, when Kavanaugh was 17 and Ford was 15.

    There are two unfair and irrational ways to look at this allegation. One, of course, is simply to decide that because you already opposed or supported Kavanaugh, that should determine whether you think the charge is true (or useful). That’s the partisan route, and it treats individuals caught up in political fights as fungible and disposable parts.

    What I think, if you care: it's a similar trajectory to the Rolling Stone "A Rape on Campus" story. A small yarn, told initially to a small circle, meant to garner sympathetic attention. Then expanding into public view, and the fabricator can't back down, may even have talked herself into believing it.

    Just a guess. Could be wrong.


  • At the Atlantic, Bianca Bosker writes on The Nastiest Feud in Science. Woah, that's a high bar to clear! Is it climate change? Something to do with transgenderism?

    Nope. It's dinosaur extinction! The spat pits most paleontologists against a 73-year-old Princeton prof, Gerta Keller. She thinks the dinosaurs were wiped out by volcanic eruptions, while most others think it was an asteroid hitting the Yucatan peninsula.

    While the majority of her peers embraced the Chicxulub asteroid as the cause of the extinction, Keller remained a maligned and, until recently, lonely voice contesting it. She argues that the mass extinction was caused not by a wrong-place-wrong-time asteroid collision but by a series of colossal volcanic eruptions in a part of western India known as the Deccan Traps—a theory that was first proposed in 1978 and then abandoned by all but a small number of scientists. Her research, undertaken with specialists around the world and featured in leading scientific journals, has forced other scientists to take a second look at their data. “Gerta uncovered many things through the years that just don’t sit with the nice, simple impact story that Alvarez put together,” Andrew Kerr, a geochemist at Cardiff University, told me. “She’s made people think about a previously near-uniformly accepted model.”

    Keller’s resistance has put her at the core of one of the most rancorous and longest-running controversies in science. “It’s like the Thirty Years’ War,” says Kirk Johnson, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Impacters’ case-closed confidence belies decades of vicious infighting, with the two sides trading accusations of slander, sabotage, threats, discrimination, spurious data, and attempts to torpedo careers. “I’ve never come across anything that’s been so acrimonious,” Kerr says. “I’m almost speechless because of it.” Keller keeps a running list of insults that other scientists have hurled at her, either behind her back or to her face. She says she’s been called a “bitch” and “the most dangerous woman in the world,” who “should be stoned and burned at the stake.”

    I am pretty sure there's credible evidence that Brett Kavanaugh killed all the dinosaurs. I'm not willing to testify to that before the Senate Judiciary Committee, however, unless I get assurances of fair and safe treatment.


  • Katherine Timpf points out an unintentionally funny column in the Dartmouth student newspaper by Steven Chun: The Problem with ‘Problematic’

    “Yeah, I can’t believe they did that. It’s so…”

    There’s a pause before it comes, an interminable breath where the speaker contemplates the identification of the issue at hand. Then it gushes forth, bringing relief from weltschmerz.

    “…problematic.”

    That pause is everything. It is the start of a long and difficult process of reckoning with exactly why something about the world is wrong. The word problematic cuts that process short and gives people a way out, easing the burden of identifying exactly what about the state of the word gives people unease.

    Steven's implicit assumption is that every perceived violation of PC rules ("racism, sexism, ableism, twisted power dynamics, ignorance, discrimination, injustice and the intersection of every one of those evils") simply must be broken down and analyzed into its component pieces. Every time, and as soon and completely as possible.

    Like there's a shortage of tedious discussion of "oppressive" language and actions on the Dartmouth campus these days? If Steven's demands were taken at face value, would anybody be talking about anything else at all?

    Anyway, Steven wants more. Humor him, please.