(Just a few politics-related comments to get off my chest.  Feel free to skip if American politics isn’t your 5-liter bottle of Coke.)

FiveThirtyEight currently gives Beto O’Rourke a ~29% chance of winning Ted Cruz’s Senate seat.  I wish it were higher, but I think this will be such a spectacular upset if it happens, and so transformative for Texas, that it’s well worth our support.  I’ve also been impressed by the enthusiasm of Beto’s campaign—including a rally in Austin this weekend where the 85-year-old Willie Nelson, headlining the first political event of his 60-year music career, performed a new song (“Vote ‘Em Out”).  I’ll tell you what: if anyone donates to Beto’s campaign within the next two days as a result of reading this post, and emails or leaves a comment to tell me about it, I’ll match their donation, up to my personal Tsirelson bound of $853.

Speaking of which, if you’re a US citizen and are not currently registered to vote, please do so!  And then show up and vote in the midterms!  My personal preference is to treat voting as simply a categorical imperative.  But if you’d like a mathematical discussion of the expected utility of voting, then check out this, by my former MIT undergraduate advisee Shaunak Kishore.

But what about the highest questions currently facing the American republic: namely, the exact meanings of “boofing,” “Devil’s triangle,” and “Renate alumnius”?  I’ve been reading the same articles and analyses as everybody else, and have no privileged insight.  For what it’s worth, though, I think it’s likely that Blasey Ford is teling the truth.  And I think it’s likely that Kavanaugh is lying—if not about the assault itself (which he might genuinely have no memory of—blackout is a real phenomenon), then certainly about his teenage drinking and other matters.  And while, absent some breakthrough in the FBI investigation, none of this rises to the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard, I think it likely should be seen as disqualifying for the Supreme Court.  (Admittedly, I’m not a good arbiter of that question, since there are about 200 unrelated reasons why I don’t want Kavanaugh near the Court.)  I also think it’s perfectly reasonable of Senate Democrats to fight this one to the bitter end, particularly after what the Republicans did to Merrick Garland, and what Kavanaugh himself did to Bill Clinton.  If you’re worried about the scorched-earth, all-defect equilibrium that seems to prevail in Congress—well, the Democrats are not the ones who started it.

All of that would be one thing, coming from some hardened social-justice type who might have happily convicted Kavanaugh of aggravated white male douchiness even before his umbilical cord was cut.  But I daresay that it means a bit more, coming from an individual who hundreds of online activists once denounced just as fervently as they now denounce Kavanaugh—someone who understands perfectly well that not even the allegation of wrongdoing is needed any longer for a person to be marked for flattening by the steamroller of Progress.  What can I say?  The enemy of my enemy is sometimes still my enemy.  My friend is anybody, of whatever party or creed, who puts their humanity above their ideology.  Justice is no respecter of persons.  Sometimes those who earn the mob’s ire are nevertheless guilty.

I was actually in the DC area the week of the Kavanaugh hearings, to speak at a quantum information panel on Capitol Hill convened by the House Science Committee, to participate in a quantum machine learning workshop at UMD, and to deliver the Nathan Krasnopoler Memorial Lecture at Johns Hopkins, which included the incredibly moving experience of meeting Nathan’s parents.

The panel went fine, I think.  Twenty or thirty Congressional staffers attended, including many of those involved in the National Quantum Initiative bill.  They asked us about the US’s standing relative to China in QIS; the relations among academia, industry, and national labs; and how to train a ‘quantum workforce.’  We panelists came prepared with a slide about what qubits and interference are, but ended up never needing it: the focus was emphatically on policy, not science.

Kamala Harris (D-CA) is the leader in the Senate for what’s now called the Quantum Computing Research Act.  One of Sen. Harris’s staffers conveyed to me that, given her great enthusiasm for quantum computing, the Senator would have been delighted to meet with me, but was unfortunately too busy with Kavanaugh-related matters.  This was better than what I’d feared, namely: “following the lead of various keyboard warriors on Twitter and Reddit, Sen. Harris denounces you, Dr. Aaronson, as a privileged white male techbro and STEMlord, and an enemy of the people.”  So once again I was face-to-face with the question: is it conceivable that social-media discourse is a bit … unrepresentative of the wider world?

149 Responses to “Boof”

  1. Jay L Gischer Says:

    I think you’d be better off paying very little attention to certain people. Particularly since, in the grand scheme of things, you are on the same side. That said, I don’t know that I’d be able to do it if I were in your shoes.

    Really, we need to be focused on doing what’s right by our own lights, rather than reacting to whomever.

  2. A random guy Says:

    I believe Kavanaugh is innocent, particularly after I saw Rachel Mitchell’s five-page memo.

  3. Lawrence D'Anna Says:

    Has anyone, ever, in the entire history of politics and human conflict, ever thought that their own side started a scorched-earth, all-defect equilibrium?

  4. SJ Says:

    I gave $100 to Beto as a result of reading this post.

  5. Scott Says:

    Jay #1: If you know of anyone who’s been attacked the way I have, and who’s been able to laugh it off and pay it very little attention, please tell me that person’s name, or better yet introduce me! I’d like to ask them some advice. 🙂

    I couldn’t agree more about doing what’s right by our own lights! But I also can’t write off the split in values here as merely a personal wound.

    It’s like this: there’s a perfectly concrete accusation against Kavanaugh, which is either true or false. I’m not 100% certain which, and neither are you. As I said, given Blasey Ford’s credibility as a witness, and the plausibility of Kavanaugh’s having blacked out (given what we know of his binge-drinking), my personal guess is that it is true, and it is disqualifying.

    Over the past week, though, I’ve read at least sixty thinkpieces about how this is about so much more than two specific individuals and one specific allegation. Instead, it’s about all entitled straight white men everywhere, and their enraged grievance and whiny crocodile tears, and the pressing need to take them down and put them in their place. My Facebook wall is plastered with that same sentiment over and over and over, just an infinite loop of it.

    It’s like, imagine if the mainstream reaction to Bernie Madoff had been: this is not about one specific Ponzi scheme run by one specific guy. Instead it’s about the broader societal problem of greedy, lying Jews.

    And I’m no political consultant, but it seems to me that when my fellow progressives voice this sentiment, they’re basically just blaring to undecided voters with a bullhorn: “never, ever vote for any of us again! we’re out to destroy you, and your husbands and sons, and we don’t care if you’re guilty or innocent! vote for Trumpist candidates instead! however distasteful, they’re the only ones who’ll protect you from us!”

    Even if we supposed that Kavanaugh were innocent, I think that it’s both better politics and much better ethics to mistakenly conclude he’s guilty from the limited evidence available, than to insinuate that the question of his guilt or innocence isn’t even relevant, since everyone like him is basically guilty anyway.

  6. Hans Says:

    Hi Scott! I just donated 110$ to Beto O’Rourke as a result of reading this blog post. Thanks for matching!

    I agree with your assessment of Kavanaugh: his responses to the allegations seem about as unlike the ideal of a non-partisan, dispassionate supreme court justice as one can imagine.

  7. Hans Rinderknecht Says:

    … well, perhaps that’s unfair. One can imagine a lot of things. Let’s say the “about” in my previous post #6 is a +/- 10% uncertainty on a 10% likelihood of him being a good fit to the supreme court. Given the whole country to choose from, we can certainly get up in the 99.5% range without too much difficulty.

  8. Scott Says:

    SJ #4 and Hans #6: Thanks!! I’ll wait a couple days and then match the sum.

  9. Russ Abbott Says:

    I will donate the difference between Scott’s $853 limit and the amount readers donate (up to my limit of $150).

  10. Kevin S Van Horn Says:

    Sorry, but it’s still irrational to vote in most circumstances; Shaunak Kishore’s analysis of the expected utility of voting is flawed. His analysis implicitly assumes a highly unrealistic unbounded personal utility function of the form

    B_self + α N B_soc

    where B_self is the personal benefit, B_soc the social benefit, N the size of the affected population, and α > 0. Unbounded utility functions have long been known to be problematic. For example, the unbounded utility function above implies that, if N is large enough, you would be willing to see yourself and everyone you love slowly tortured to death just to secure a small increase in the probability of electing a slightly better candidate.

  11. anon Says:

    Ignoring everything else, I dislike the notion of imputing to any person that they might have been black out drunk in order to disregard their denial of an accusation.

    Wiki tells me 30% of people don’t get blackouts.

    It would be one thing if that person had a history of blackouts, but if there is no history of blackouts, then it seems unlikely.

    Maybe someone who is an MD, or researcher, or Bayesian, or attorney can frame it better.

    I think I would prefer a flatout “I think they are lying” than a “Oh, I think they were blacked out even they have no history of such and deny the incident entirely”

    It seems to open doors to imputing other psychological states when we need to do that to discard a denial.

  12. Scott Says:

    Kevin #10: As I said, I don’t really have a dog in this fight, but what do you think of Peter Norvig’s analysis?

  13. tas Says:

    I think the core divide in terms of what both sides are arguing (which is possibly not their true motivation) is where the threshold for the probability of the allegations being true is. Republicans are arguing that the allegations need to be proven beyond reasonable doubt, whereas democrats are arguing for a lower threshold. And some on the democratic side are arguing for a threshold so low that it may be below the probability that a random white male has committed sexual assault — I.e. the prior probability. It’s scary that there is such polarization and few people are staking out some middle ground.

    I would love to donate to Beto, but I’m not sure aliens are legally allowed to.

  14. Scott Says:

    anon #11: I mean, it seems relevant that he was treasurer of “100 Kegs or Bust,” and that blackouts are an extremely common side effect of heavy drinking. I’m almost as light a drinker as one can be without being a teetotaler, but even I blacked out once, on New Years Eve 2002, when I’d just landed in Tel Aviv, hungry and dehydrated, was taken straight to a party, and completely failed to understand how much alcohol was in the Long Island iced teas that I was suddenly handed (I’d never had one before). I remember a euphoric, liberating feeling—wow, so this is what it’s like to be a normal person, not consumed every nanosecond by the neurotic fears and inhibitions that are the basic texture of my existence, I can just go up to girls and start dancing—and then I remember one particular girl, who was probably drinking herself, responding enthusiastically, and she and I having fun together—and then … something something, a huge blank … I remember people holding me and giving me water, and me answering them in Hebrew, which I hadn’t spoken since the age of 12, and trying to convince them that whatever they’d just seen was the opposite of who I was. And then the next morning, I remember going around to my tripmates and profusely apologizing for anything I might have done, even though I didn’t know what I’d done. And they said it was fine, I didn’t sexually assault anyone or anything like that; the worst I did was almost accidentally step on a girl’s glasses after they’d fallen to the floor. Since that one experience, I’ve been very careful and never drank to excess again. I don’t like the idea of losing my memory, of lacking clarity about my own life.

  15. Edan Maor Says:

    I mostly agree with your analysis of the Kavanaugh situation, and I think you put it very well.

    For what it’s worth, I’m *also* an incredibly light drinker, having been drunk (which I’ll assume means anything more than “tipsy”) only about 3-4 times, and in at least one of those times, I certainly don’t remember most of what happened. I’m not sure I’d have called this a “blackout”, which in my mind implies fainting for whatever reason, but I assume most people would consider this a blackout.

  16. Ash Jogalekar Says:

    Kavanaugh disqualified himself because of his partisan performance during the testimony and drinking history, not because the allegations were proven to be true. A nominee for the Supreme Court must face a much higher standard of integrity and character than for an average job. Kavanaugh has failed this standard. There’s also the fact that it really should’t be hard to find a Yale or Harvard-educated jurist who hasn’t demonstrated this kind of behavior. Nonetheless, we are living in a time when one party has long ceased to be a political party and has turned into a radical insurgency, so I fully expect his nomination to go through.

  17. Eric Says:

    I donated $100 to Beto.

  18. Kevin S Van Horn Says:

    Scott #12: Norvig engages in the same linear utility function error again, applied to the presumed $6 trillion savings an Al Gore presidency would have produced. No individual, not even Bill Gates, has a utility function for money that remains linear all the way out to $6 trillion. And, of course, you as a voter would not be receiving that $6 trillion yourself, which reduces the individual utility even further.

    An additional error is the bias of one-sided accounting: assuming that none of the bad things that happened under Bush would have happened under Gore, and not considering whether some bad things would have happened under Gore that didn’t happen under Bush.

  19. Raphael Boleslavsky Says:

    Hi Scott,

    There are many interesting analyses of incentives for voting with strategic agents. See, for example, the paper below and the references therein.

  20. b Says:

    There’s not enough american politics or coke in this post.

  21. b Says:

    Where can I get a 5-liter bottle of Coke?

  22. Pedro Says:

    I donated $25 to Beto.

  23. Scott Says:

    You can find similar conclusions to mine in an excellent Atlantic Monthly article by a former friend and colleague of Kavanaugh’s, explaining why he can no longer support his Supreme Court nomination. After reviewing all the circumstantial reasons to find Blasey Ford’s testimony more credible than Kavanaugh’s, the writer adds:

      Over the weekend, I listened to a number of podcasts in which liberals mocked Kavanaugh as an entitled white male refusing to face accountability for what he had done. I find the tone of these discussions nauseating—undetained by the possibility of error. I, like Jeff Flake, am haunted by doubt, by the certainty of uncertainty and the consequent possibility of injustice. I spent a lot of time this weekend thinking about Oliver Cromwell’s famous letter to the Church of Scotland in which he implored, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.” I also spent some time with Learned Hand’s similar maxim, “The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.” We all need to think it possible that we may be mistaken; we all need to be not too sure that we are right.
  24. Shecky R Says:

    Two things that I think have to be recognized:
    1) If Kavanaugh is rejected Trump’s next choice is very likely to be even worse.
    2) and if Kavanaugh is rejected it may be just the motivating impetus to swell GOP voting participation on election day just weeks from now.

    I don’t say any of that as an argument for supporting Kav., but just as a realization of the possible no-win situation we may be in 🙁

  25. Shaunak Kishore Says:

    Kevin #10: I agree that linear utility functions break down for extremely large sizes and that precise calculations like Norvig’s rely on tricky counterfactuals. I wanted to keep that analysis short and focused on P(outcome|vote), which is complicated enough as is.

    Despite that, I think that voting still makes sense for most people, especially those who engage in other philanthropic activities. I’ll try to explain why qualitatively, rather than discussing specific alternatives to utilitarianism.

    I don’t like using arguments like “accept torture to vote when N is a quadrillion” to make decisions about real life. Something can be a good approximation in one numerical regime while completely breaking down in others. However, I will note that 1) this analysis doesn’t reach a repugnant conclusion, because it suggests constant, not increasing, voting impacts, and 2) people do suffer greatly on others’ behalf – for example, Union soldiers in the Civil War.

    I care more about myself, my family, and my friends than other people. (Sorry, EA crowd.) Given a choice between an extra $1k for myself and $2k for a poor person, I would generally pick the latter, though. (The choice comes up at least once a year with donation-matching programs.) Lots of other people have similar revealed preferences. That shows that, at least in the current regime, we do place value on other people’s happiness comparable to our own.

    Finally, regarding counterfactuals, I think it’s poor form to attribute the financial crisis to President Bush, but Democrats and Republicans do have very different policy platforms. It’s not a stretch to propose a big expected difference in the results of those platforms.

    The costs of voting are minimal, and the potential benefits seem quite high. For people who already spend their time or money to improve other people’s lives, I think it’s a clear win.

  26. DangerNorm Says:

    “My friend is anybody, of whatever party or creed, who puts their humanity above their ideology.”

    Isn’t that just shoving all of the work of your ideology into how you define “their humanity”?

  27. Steven Says:

    Ford, who lied about being a psychologist, can’t remember where the assault happened, what year it happened, who was there, how she got there, or how she got home. All the witnesses she named, including her lifelong friend, deny it happened. But yeah, feel free to condemn this man based on such an accusation. Innocent ’til proven guilty — what a laugh!

  28. gene Says:

    It’s “alumnius,” not alumnus.

  29. Scott Says:

    DangerNorm #26:

      Isn’t that just shoving all of the work of your ideology into how you define “their humanity”?

    Well, it’s sorta like “the Dao that can be spoken is not the true Dao.” I.e., as soon as something becomes ossified and rigidified into a named -ism (Judaism, Marxism, Objectivism, feminism, rationalism…), it will inevitably accrete shibboleths that are at variance with just looking at the damned individual situation as a human being and applying conscience and reason and compassion.

    This is admittedly of limited use, since it can’t be developed into a more concrete ideology without becoming self-refuting! All it is, is a reminder for eternal vigilance: always use your conscience-muscle; never outsource the hard work to any ism.

  30. Scott Says:

    Steven #27: The replacement of “innocent until proven guilty” by “guilty until proven innocent,” in cases of sexual harassment and assault, is basically a done deal in the Western world at this point, in practical terms (i.e., the accused’s reputation and livelihood) if not yet in legal terms. I mean, yes, there’s the huge Trumpist counterinsurgency—but once that dies down (in part, via the old men who support it literally dying), we’ll be left with an entire generation of millennials, the people who fill my Facebook feed, for whom giving an accused sexual harasser the benefit of the doubt will seem as quaint as, I don’t know, vows of chastity, or asking a father for permission to court his daughter.

    One could give arguments for why this change is, on balance, a good thing—involving the extreme difficulty of proving guilt in he-said-she-said cases, the impossibility of enforcing a presumption of innocence in a distributed process like shunning by society, or the need for extreme measures to counterbalance the millennia of injustice that women have faced. One could also, of course, give arguments for it being a bad thing.

    But rather than engage those arguments, my point here is simply to say that if you’re having the argument at all, then you’ve already lost the future. If you’re watching the Senate hearings, rather than reading millennials on social media, then you might not yet realize how decisively you’ve lost, but in 20 or 30 years, you will.

    So if you ask me: “and are you willing that you’ll be presumed guilty if anyone accuses you?”—well, it no longer matters whether I’m willing or not. This is now the reality of the world. I’m extremely lucky to live among women who are kind and decent and reasonable and wouldn’t want to level a false accusation. But if that were ever to change, I know full well that the burden of evidence will be on me.

    I therefore make the following radical proposal, which I promise will seem less radical with every passing year. Namely: people concerned with due process and the rights of the accused, as I am, should accept the “guilty until proven innocent” standard in sex-related cases … as the best available compromise position! The goal should be to freeze “guilty until proven innocent” into place—for at least that standard still acknowledges the relevance of what the accused did or didn’t do in the temporal world. One can then concentrate one’s energies on preventing the further slide, which we already see signs of today, to the postmodern standard of “guilty even if technically innocent.”

  31. anon Says:

    Scott, here’s another reason why I dislike this notion of coming up with random theories that could fit…

    Emily Bazelon, Law Professor and NY Times oped writer, tweets:

    Kavanaugh in a bar fight, 1985 in New Haven. This is the story behind Chris Ludington’s report. Kavanaugh reportedly started it by throwing ice at a guy. Chris Dudley reported to have thrown a glass. The guy went to the hospital.

    No report of an arrest. Could have been expunged, I’m told.

    twitter dot com/emilybazelon/status/1046900555543732224

    Kimberley Strassel, WSJ reporter tweets in response:

    Of course you don’t know that. In fact you have absolutely nothing to suggest it is true bBut will irresponsibly put it out there anyway. Meet your media, America.

    twitter dot com/KimStrassel/status/1047284299702181889

    I know I don’t have to tell you Scott that your response to alchohol, esp when you are admittedly a lightweight, and you were dehydrated, will not be Kaufmann’s response.

    the above links were obfuscated to work around any spam filters, so I could put in this link:

    Two beers is about my max, but there are people who legit are drinking 10 drinks per day.

    > The top 10 percent of American drinkers – 24 million adults over age 18 – consume, on average, 74 alcoholic drinks per week. That works out to a little more than four-and-a-half 750 ml bottles of Jack Daniels, 18 bottles of wine, or three 24-can cases of beer. In one week.

    (3 * 24) / 7 = 10 cans of beer a day.

    These 24 million adults are not blacking out each and every day, neither are they committing assaults or rapes.

    So I just dislike the whole argument being made that he was probably blacked out, and also that he could have had his arrest record expunged, or even that he is a lizard, although the last one at least seems falsifiable.

  32. Chris Says:

    I think the thread about the utility of voting in this comment section illustrates the point made in this excellent smbc:

    It is meant as a joke, but I think it is valid. Voting loses you, at most, about a week in total. But not voting involves defending a theory of not voting for the rest of your life.

  33. Jo Says:

    “. Instead, it’s about all entitled straight white men everywhere, and their enraged grievance and whiny crocodile tears, and the pressing need to take them down and put them in their place.”

    As a straight white male, I do no feel threatened by this, because I do not consider myself entitled and I do not shed crocodile tears. I think that these kind of “attacks” do not target people for who they are (straight white males) but rather for who they are AND how they behave (superiority complex, crocodile tears…)
    Now there is still a notion of “who they are” I admit, but it is more palatable when you add the behaviour and maybe paints a reality (ie. power is disproportionately male and light-skinned, etc..) Il does not attack *all* white males.

    And trying to get society-wide “theories” from facts about individuals does not seem to me a bad thing. Especially when you have a series of facts about individuals (Weinstein, Kavanaugh, the rape statistics, women paid less than men etc..). Or else, you will never connect two lynchings together and realize that there was(is?) widespread, systemic racism in the US. Or treat progroms/jewish people attacked/murdered as individual occurences instead of parts from a whole and never realize that there was (is?) antisemitism in Europe.

    As for “guilty until proven innocent” yep this could be dangerous. But I think it is nothing more than mob mentality supercharged by social media. In past centuries, you could have found people exiled from villages or burnt as witches based on simple rumors. Bad, but not new.
    As for the specific Kavanaugh case, the debate is not putting him behind bars or not. For a Supreme Court Post, the person should be fully qualified beyond reasonable doubts. There *are* reasonable doubts, he should be out of contention.

  34. Gabriel Nivasch Says:

    My take: I found Kavanaugh’s sworn statement in which he defended his own good reputation very compelling. I think Ford must be mis-remembering. Search in Youtube Elizabeth Loftus’s 2013 TED talk titled “How reliable is your memory?”.

    (According to Wikipedia, Loftus has served as an expert witnesses in hundreds of court cases, and has received many awards and honorary degrees for her research on the malleability of memory.)

    Also see the following quote:

    “People’s memories for traumatic events are – like their memories for more mundane events – easily distorted. Importantly, memory distortion for traumatic events appears to follow a particular pattern: people tend to remember more trauma than they experienced, a phenomenon referred to as ‘memory amplification’.”

    D. Strange and M. K. T. Takarangi, Memory Distortion for Traumatic Events: The Role of Mental Imagery, Frontiers in Psychiatry 6:27, 2015.

  35. JimV Says:

    I just used your link to donate $100 plus a $10 “tip”. I would have done it without the match.

    I thought this analysis was the best I’ve seen:

    Too bad we don’t have anyone in the Senate or on staff there who could have spotted these things in real time and asked follow-up questions.

  36. A random guy Says:

    Dear Scott,
    You are suggesting we should accept “guilty until proven innocent”… so that we can avoid further slide? That doesn’t make sense to me. Apart from real damages making this compromise could do to falsely accused people, my understanding of the mindset of the mob tells me that these people will never appreciate your compromise. In fact, appeasement and apology will only encourage them to demand more.

  37. JimV Says:

    Steven at 27 said, “All the witnesses she named, including her lifelong friend, deny it happened.” As the link I gave pointed out, this is a repeat of BK’s claim under oath, which is a lie. None of them denied it could have happened, they just didn’t confirm it, and one of them said she believes it did happen.

  38. Scott Says:

    Random guy #36: No, my suggestion was not to offer the “guilty until proven innocent” standard as a form of appeasement, but simply to recognize the reality that, among millennials, that ground has already been taken and is no longer even contested.

  39. Scott Says:

    Jo #33: I think people are kidding themselves about the psychological effect of seeing that one’s Facebook feed, every hour of every day, is just an endless wall of denunciations of whiny, entitled straight white males, stretching out to infinity.

    To return to my analogy: suppose instead that it were an endless wall of denunciations of greedy, scheming Jews. Would you expect anyone to respond: “that’s fine, I’m a Jew but I’m neither greedy or scheming, so they’re obviously not talking about me“?

    Actually, my understanding is that at least before WWII, you could find plenty of Jews who’d basically respond that way. That is, you could find Jews for whom looking down on “the other Jews” was such a central part of their identity that they wouldn’t be perturbed by antisemitic stereotypes, so certain were they that the stereotypes weren’t targeting them.

    In the same way, I’m perfectly well aware that there are straight white males who can spend an entire day reading social-media denunciations of straight white males, and then sleep soundly at night—sleep like logs, in fact, contented in the knowledge that those other, bad straight white males are finally getting what’s coming to them. As for me, though—well, if there was any doubt about whether I was one of the bad ones, one of the ones who they are talking about, and who there’s really no place for in the exciting new moral order that’s growing before our eyes—what happened to me four years ago sort of removed all doubt, didn’t it? 🙂

    And I want to say: maybe this is just. Maybe straight white males deserve to suffer after millennia of undeserved privilege. And—admittedly, I’m still confused about this last part—maybe those with my psychological profile, nerdiness or neuroticism or whatever, deserve to suffer especially badly. All I ask is: if that’s how someone feels, then let them own it. Defend it explicitly. Don’t shy away from the full reality of the thing.

  40. Adam Chalmers Says:

    Hi Scott! Thank you for using your platform here to help publicly state that Kavanaugh is unsuitable for a SCOTUS position. I’ve spent all week fretting and soul-searching about a future where people can tell obvious lies to the US senate and still be nominated to the Supreme Court. I hope that there’s enough like-minded people who still think honesty is a virtue, and that we can be loud enough together to actually make a difference this time.

  41. Dan Staley Says:

    I just donated $100 to Beto. I probably wouldn’t have without your post, too.

  42. anon Says:

    FWIW, apart from general partisan nastiness these days, and apart from huge culture war we live in, I think the root problem here is the Ginsburg rule and it’s abuse, which keeps the Senate from getting straight answers to the candidate’s theory of law and how it applies.

    Jonathan Turley discusses how to reform the entire process, it sounds reasonable and easy to enact though it might require non-politicians in the Senate or politicians who could cross an aisle.

  43. Rob5289 Says:

    Regarding Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, imo his partisan statements disqualify him regardless of the sexaual assault allegation. It was really over-the-top, and lacked balance. Whatever Democrat partisan motivations are present, they are more than offset by the fact that Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination would most likely not even be under consideration if the Republicans had allowed Judge Garland’s nomination to move forward.

    Regarding the standard for adjudicating sex-related allegations, we need a more nuanced way of determining penalties. I have two daughters. If one of them were to be aggressively groped at a high school or college party by a drunk with no previous history, I wouldn’t want that person’s life to be ruined (and I doubt that she would either). However, I would want the incident reported so that a less-than-life destroying penalty could be meted out, and the incident documented.

  44. John Sidles Says:

    Scott opines (circa #29) “‘The Dao that can be spoken is not the true Dao’, i.e., as soon as something becomes ossified and rigidified into a named -ism (Judaism, Marxism, Objectivism, feminism, rationalism …), it will inevitably accrete shibboleths that are at variance with just looking at the damned individual situation as a human being and applying conscience and reason and compassion.”

    With this single well-crafted sentence, Scott concisely deconstructs the social notion of justice, arriving at substantially the same conclusions as Jacques Derrida’s celebrated essay/interview/treatise Deconstruction in a Nutshell (1997, entire transcript here, Derrida’s remarks specifically relating to “justice in a nutshell” here, amusing Existential Comics summary here).

    What is this problem of justice ‘in a nutshell’? … Justice is not reducible to the law, to a given system of legal structures. … That is, I think, what gives deconstruction its movement, that is, constantly to suspect, to criticize the given determinations of a culture, of institutions, of the legal systems not in order to destroy them or simply to cancel them but to be just, give justice, to respect this ‘relation to the other’ as justice. …

    Justice and the gift [of the human drive for justice-by-democracy] should go beyond calculation, which doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t calculate, we should calculate it as rigorously as possible but there is a point or a limit beyond which calculation must fail and we must know it and must fail.

    My bibtex database features a special keyword, ‘nutshell’, for works like Derrida’s Deconstruction in a Nutshell; other ‘nutshell’ entries include Tony Zee’s Quantum Field Theory … together with his Group Theory …, Luca Peliti’s Statistical Mechanics …, Gerald Mahan’s Condensed Matter …, and Edward Shuryak’s Quantum Many-Body Physics … (the latter due this coming November).

    What do these various ‘nutshell’ works have in common — aside from their all requiring slow, careful, thoughtful reading? For me, the video that won Nikon’s Small World in Motion Competition for 2018, namely, Elizabeth Haynes’ Zebrafish, demands of our understanding every kind of cognitive nutshell that we can bring to bear, from Derrida’s to Zee’s.

    In an ‘avocado’ — to borrow Grothendieck’s celebrated counter-nutshell deconstruction — the era in which humanity cracked each nutshell separately is nearing its end.
    PS: there is ample medical evidence that growing neurons are best not pickled in alcohol — as Brett Kavanaugh’s regrettably were pickled, severely and repeatedly — on the grounds that the resulting cognitive and empathic impairments are slow to present, subtle to diagnose, and (at present) infeasible to remediate.

  45. jonathan Says:

    Do you see any tension between your embrace of Beto, whose drunken driving at age 26 could easily have killed people, and your view that Brett’s alleged drunken behavior at 17 is disqualifying?

  46. Scott Says:

    jonathan #45: Honestly, somewhat, yes. On the other hand, setting political considerations aside, I do think that drunk attempted rape seems worse than drunk driving on some deontological scale, regardless of what a utilitarian calculus might say (they’re both bad). Also—this is maybe the most salient difference, if you think Kavanaugh is likely guilty—O’Rourke has admitted and apologized for his behavior while Kavanaugh hasn’t in the slightest. And in any case, Republicans don’t get to claim any moral high ground on DWI after their embrace of George W. Bush.

  47. Scott Says:

    OK, summing the contributions that people told me about by comments and email: someone just needs to donate $33 tonight to reach my $853 limit! Russ Abbott #9: since you’d previously offered, how about you?

  48. the problem with the gatekepers Says:

    With respect to the SCOTUS circus, I think that if we are looking for anybody to blame, nobody deserves the blame more than the justices themselves, particularly Anthony Kennedy. If the Supreme Court looks libertarian since 2005 is because Anthony Kennedy himself is libertarian. He has been a “de facto” dictator for 13 long years. Ever since “judicial supremacy” became the accepted view on judicial decisions, liberals have made sure that their nominees were reliable liberals. There hasn’t been any David Souters or Anthony Kennedys among the left’s nominees. Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor are as hard left as they come. In the case of Ginsburg she is on the record bashing the nominee of the Republican Party during the 2016 election, something that was totally unprecedented in terms of protocol until she broke it.

    The right is now playing the same game, and understandably so, the political party who believes to have a God given right to political power at any cost is going to let it go without a fight. Destroying the reputation of a man and attacking his family is irrelevant to the goal of keeping the seat open until 2020.

    Unfortunately for the left, Trump is as much of a street fighter as they are. There is already a procedural vote set for Friday that will force senators to vote. The word of Lindsey Graham is that the confirmation of Kavanaugh will be the issue used to excite Republican voters in November if he fails to be confirmed within a week, something that won’t play well in states like North Dakota or West Virginia that now have Democratic senators but whose voters support Trump in overwhelming margins. In fact, recent polling by respected firms already see a so called “Kavanaugh effect” of Republican voters being as excited as those of “the resistance”.

    In reality, only the Supreme Court can fix itself by abandoning its self appointed role of being a de facto “super legislature of nine”. That was never the intention of the framers. They said that the US Constitution is the supreme law of the land, not the opinions of the Supreme Court on how the constitution must be interpreted. The other branches, particularly the executive branch, could as well ignore its opinions with a “I agree to disagree” and let the voters decide at the next election who’s right: the executive of the supreme court.

    The American people will emerge the winner of the current circus.

  49. the problem with the gatekeepers Says:

    With respect to Ford, it seems clear that she believes that something terrible happened to her in high school. It is impossible for me to say whether Kavanaugh had anything to do with it. It is well known that victims of horrible events can become convinced that famous people did them wrong. It is also well known that people can pass polygraph tests for alien abductions . Not to mention that people can create false memories that can end up sending innocent people to jail as it happened with the so called satanic panic in the 1980s.

    As evidence that academics -who lean to the left overwhelmingly- are as petty as the rest of us when it comes to their politics, one would expect that skeptics would be as aggressive questioning Ford’s version -given the lack of evidence for her story- as they are questioning Travis Walton’s alien abduction account. Alas, when it comes to politics, reason and logic tend to not matter that much.

  50. Sniffnoy Says:

    Why are we even discussing whether Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Ford? As others have already pointed out, at this point it’s pretty clear that Kavanaugh lied or was deliberately misleading about a number of things, regardless of whether that particular incident actually happened. So, the question of whether Kavanaugh ought to be confirmed can basically already be decided in the negative due to other factors. I mean, people can argue over the original question if they really want, sure, but I should hope they realize that at this point it has little bearing on the question of whether Kavanaugh ought to be confirmed.

  51. Leo Says:

    @Lawrence D’Anna #3: “Has anyone, ever, in the entire history of politics and human conflict, ever thought that their own side started a scorched-earth, all-defect equilibrium?”

    I have thought so twice. In one case, I left my side as a result. In the other, I’m still on that side, though I try to keep the aggressive tactics restricted to one issue and not burn down all of society.

  52. Jo Says:

    Scott #39:
    Yes you are right, it is a dangerous slope, when part of how you define people that you criticize, is what they are. I would be much more comfortable with “whiny people should go to hell” than with “whiny white males should go to hell.”
    Interesting about some Jews before WW2 “It does not apply to me”. Problem is, antisemites think like this: “This person is Jewish therefore he/she is greedy” (which apart form being stupid places the emphasis on what the person is, the supposed behavior is just a by-product). I think that “whiny white males” criticizes white males who happen to be whiny, but does not imply strict causality. I may well be wrong and see the world with pink-tinted glasses.
    As for what you had to suffer at the hands of twitter vigilantes, first of all it should never happen but unfortunately does happen. My (remote) view on this is that it is mob mentality, pure and simple. It is only vaguely correlated with social justice or contemporary feminism. To wit, a lot of people are harassed by *right wing* morons à la 4chan, because they dared speak out for women, or they happen to be a non-white female in a commercial movie (see: Kelly Marie Tran, or the latest “Ghostbusters” movie). Or maybe you have two poles of attraction for trolls, the “social justice” scene and the “right-wing” scene. Don’t assume that the “SJWs” are winning. See who is in the White House, witness the immigration policies getting stricter by the day everywhere… This is what frightens me. The right-wing. The morons on the “other side” are also a problem but less pressing, in my view. Maybe I’m wrong to prioritize so much, I do’t know.

    And Facebook reinforces the mob mentality, reinforces the endless hate messages… You are absolutely right about the effect of an endless wall of hate. Both on the intended (or not) target and on the people who are encouraged to hate such-and-such. If you see endless “social justice warrior” messages on you wall, that is because of your Facebook friends and your interests (what you “liked”, which sites you visited…) But Facebook only surfaces the basest, dumbest content that vaguely aligns with you interests, because this is what has viral potential. I hope you realize that other people, in their Facebook bubble, do in fact see endless messages about “greedy Jews”, or Rohyingas…

    Finally, I don’t think white males deserve to suffer, to right some wrong, but I think they may have to suffer (to some extent…), to achieve some balance.

  53. Scott Says:

    Jo #52:

      I would be much more comfortable with “whiny people should go to hell” than with “whiny white males should go to hell.”

    Frankly, I’m not that comfortable with the former either. 🙂 Often people have legitimate grievances to ‘whine’ about—picture the thermonuclear outrage that would understandably follow any statement of the sort, “whiny black/disabled/trans people should go to hell.” And even if not, it seems infinitely more useful to focus on someone’s actual grievance and why you think it’s unjustified, than on their ‘whining’ about it. In practice, I find that the latter typically functions as a way to ridicule a speaker, build up a social alliance against them, and insinuate that their grievance must be unjustified, without needing to answer anything on the merits. Even the left-wing writer Nathan Robinson, in an article that (unsurprisingly) is withering toward Kavanaugh, condemns the constant focus on his emotional state, anger, self-pity, etc. as unacceptable “tone policing.”

  54. Scott Says:

    Sniffnoy #50: I confess that, in the specific case of Kavanaugh, there would be an infinitely delicious historical irony to voting him down with the argument, “no, this has nothing to do with the original sex-related allegation, it’s only about the later lying under oath.” 😀

    On the other hand, regarding Kavanaugh’s apparent lying on the central issue of his teenage drinking habits, he might be able to answer honestly that his definitions of moderate drinking, heavy drinking, blackouts, etc. are just shifted relative to yours or mine! He could even insist that, in his mind, he had only respectful feelings toward Renate and he thought boofing meant vomiting: without a contemporaneous record, it would seem almost impossible to prove he was lying.

  55. Gabriel Nivasch Says:

    Sniffnoy #50: What you’re saying basically supports Jonathan Turley’s argument that this was all just a perjury trap.

  56. sf Says:

    undoubtedly stood for the ForgetFul Functor, or some higher power thereof.

  57. Michael Says:

    @the problem with gatekeepeers#49- Ordinary claims require ordinary evidence, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Drunken men commit rape every day, no one has ever proven the existence of extraterrestrial abductions. If a woman told me she had been raped by a drunken guy, I would be more inclined to believe her than if she said she was abducted by aliens.

  58. the problem with the gatekeepers Says:

    Michael #57

    Spare me of your moralizing. It is very clear what is going on in the Kavanaugh investigation. The Democrats would have pulled a similar stunt on any male nominated by Trump to replace Anthony Kennedy: find somebody from a distant past to accuse the nominee of having done something horrible. Gang rapists and drunks don’t stop being so at the age 17.

    The “left” has a history of creating these stunts since time immemorial if necessary to grab political power. Winston Churchill already noticed “Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.”

    A normal, “non left leaning” Supreme Court is a threat for the left’s plan of controlling the United States via a “super legislature of 9” as they have been doing since the 1970s.

    You might find this hard to believe, but the average Joe -even those with left leaning sympathies- is not as obsessed with controlling other people’s lives as the hard left activists behind the Ford stunt or those who are happy with the stunt.

    The “Kavanaugh effect” is real. As usual with the left, it has overplayed its hand and it will pay dearly at the polls in one month.

  59. the problem with the gatekeepers Says:

    Michael #57

    I learned this after sending my other reply. Here is a fresh data point supporting the Kavanaugh effect

    “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Thursday shows that 50% of Likely U.S. Voters approve of President Trump’s job performance. Forty-nine percent (49%) disapprove.”

    Trump’s approval rating as measured by Rasmussen -which granted has a Republican spin but it was also the most accurate of the public polls in 2016- is at the highest point is has been in months. Another clear sign of Republican voters excitement as we approach the midterms. If the Republicans were to pick up 2 or 3 US senate seats (as I have heard some commentators say this morning) as a result, Kavanaugh will be confirmed after the midterms should he be rejected in the upcoming vote for whatever reason.

  60. Richard Gaylord Says:

    “the 85-year-old Willie Nelson, headlining the first political event of his 60-year music career”. you mean his first event for a political candidate. His annual Farm Aid concert is definitely a political event.

  61. Scott Says:

    Richard #60: OK thanks for clarifying.

  62. Scott Says:

    OK, my $853 matching donation has been made! Thanks everyone!

  63. Hal Gabow Says:

    here’s $35 more, happy even though no match!

  64. amy Says:

    So – interesting thing on the subject of believability.

    I’m pretty sure that, had I seen Kavanaugh’s performance as a 19-year-old, I’d have bought the whole thing. Not a 1980s 19-year-old, which was when I was 19, but as a 2018 19-year-old. I’d have bought it because here’s a guy in a suit and he’s upset and he’s *crying*, for god’s sake, and he’s angry about it, and you just don’t see grown professional men in suits behaving like that unless something’s terribly wrong.

    I’m also pretty sure that had I watched that as a 19-year-old in a college lounge in the 1980s, there would have been two or three women undergraduates and a few guys saying he was bullshit, and I’d have been very confused, because these people would have seemed very savvy, like superior-being savvy, but I just wouldn’t have been able to see where they were getting this from. Had I watched it in a college lounge in 2018 and heard the jeering, I’d have assumed that was partisan baloney and that my take was accurate.

    As a 50-year-old, though, holy cow, have I seen a lot of guilty-as-hell snuffling guys with self-pity stories and the rage shtick and the convenient Mitty syndrome. And there’s a limit to how many times even someone as thick as me will fall for that. I’ve also seen what middle-aged men look and sound like when they’re really being framed, and it’s not that. So I don’t buy this anymore, and neither did the 63-year-old woman I was watching part of this thing with, because we couldn’t neither of us bring ourselves to watch the whole show. When he had a little breakdown over someone’s sending him a note to call him a good guy, we both just shouted and she closed the window. It was lost on neither of us that what he was really concerned with was reputation, and the whole thing was just angling for that.

    I still don’t understand how those few college kids manage to get wise so fast, but there you go. Some people are just better than spotting motive than others? They understand people better? They have specifically horrible childhoods? I dont know.

    As for Blasey Ford…well, there are good reasons why people were quiet and crying all over the country. The thing is, sexual assault has never been rare. There are a lot of people who know what it’s like. Everything she said rang true — including the details of 80s midatlantic rich-kid party culture. (Swetnick got too much wrong there and had other problems; I didn’t believe her.) Her little tiny girl voice made me sad, but I understand where that comes from, too.

    I think the midterms will be unremarkable, that the Republicans will view it as endorsement, and that we’ll go over some cliffs. My sense throughout this, though, is that it kind of doesn’t matter, because the fireworks I’m seeing in a generational sense are just spectacular, and the demographics are just not on the GOP’s side. (Even before you talk age, white right-wing Christian men make up a pretty small slice of the population, under 20%. You go looking for the millennial/Z slice of that and it’s a minority slice, and they tend not to marry as much as the X/Boomer men did, meaning they don’t have so many women there to back them up and stand by them.) I think this process has catalyzed things that would’ve taken decades to get to otherwise, just because it’s been so concentrated and so very visible in front of the faces of young women and men — so many of whom seem to be much sharper about all this than I would have been at their ages. And the young men are not unimportant there. So I think that in 20, 25 years, this place is going to look radically different in terms of gender representation, discourse, and power distribution — and as gender goes, so goes race in this country. We’ve been heading strongly in that direction anyhow for the last, what, 50 years, but I think this week’s imparted a certain determination to young people who’re already pissed off about what’s being done with their futures.

    I have actually not felt this optimistic in a long time. I do believe we’re in for a bad time immediately, but I’ve not felt this good about the country in…maybe ever. I’m seeing a lot of democracy. It’s very interesting how the idea of the institutions is stronger than the view of the current state of the institutions. Rather like the way the idea of America is actually more important than the country itself is.

  65. John Sidles Says:

    The substance of Amy’s comment (circa #64), in regard to sexual assault and the Kavanaugh nomination, holds true equally, in regard to denial of alcoholic / substance abuse and the Kavanaugh nomination.

    Such denial is sadly common, as all-too-many alcoholic families know.

    In a nutshell, that Kavanaugh seriously abused alcohol has been factually established. By all reasonable standards of judicial fitness, the associated fact, that while under oath, Kavanaugh vehemently sustains his denial of serious alcohol abuse, is disqualifying.

  66. Aaron Rotenberg Says:

    Kevin #10: I mean, Yudkowsky has argued that this in fact exactly the correct way of reasoning about such problems, and that the only reason the formula seems absurd is because our puny meat brains are unable to intuitively comprehend morality when N gets big enough (a.k.a. the “shut up and multiply” decision theory). Note that the required “large enough” N may be vastly more than the number of humans that exist in the universe, though…

    Scott #54: Nate Silver gave a response to this argument on Twitter earlier today: “if you say 7 or 8 things that are very likely but not quite certain to be lies, it’s essentially certain that at least one of them is a lie.”

  67. the problem with the gatekeepers Says:

    Amy #64

    There is plenty of data to support the fact that generation Z (those following millennials which happen to be the children of Gen X-ers) are more conservative than both millennials and baby boomers were at their comparable ages. I won’t be quoting those. Suffice it to say that Susan Rice’s son (you know the Susan Rice of Obama’s fame) is one of them

    John Sidles #65

    The issue of Kavanaugh’s alleged lie under oath has been debunked elsewhere. But while we are on topic, excuse me if I am skeptical of all this sudden outrage by the left when it comes to lying under oath and character issues. These are the same left wing people who 2 years ago were asking that we vote for a rapist enabler (Hillary Clinton) who stood by his man (Bill Clinton) when the latter not only lied under other on the Lewinsky affair but, more importantly, couldn’t care less about destroying the life of a young woman (Lewinsky) who to this day has been unable to rebuild her life as a result of the incident. The way the liberal mind is able to live with these contradictions is beyond my limited brain’s ability to understand.

    And since I see it coming, again, when I voted for Trump, I voted for chemotherapy to treat a corrupt system. I didn’t vote for a pastor or a spiritual leader. I have those elsewhere. He is doing the work for which millions like me voted for him beautifully. Nobody was surprised by the alleged affairs associated with Donald Trump. At the same time, I still have to see an instance in which Trump viciously destroyed the life of a young woman the way Bill Clinton destroyed Monica Lewinsky’s.

  68. Gabriel Nivasch Says:

    Well, Kavanaugh *was* telling the truth about “Devil’s triangle”:

    But I still want to know what those three asterisks mean on line 3 of his yearbook page:

    *That* is obviously a reference to some kind of sex act…

  69. Scott Says:

    Aaron #66: I’m only seeing Silver’s point if the events are independent!

  70. Aaron Rotenberg Says:

    Scott #69: Perhaps Silver’s point was less about the statistical probability of the events as if they were independent coin flips, and more that people telling the truth typically don’t repeatedly say things that sound like lies on their face but are nonetheless unfalsifiable.

  71. Sniffnoy Says:

    Gabriel Nivasch #55:

    Once again, for the sake of argument, let’s suppose that’s true. That still doesn’t make Kavanaugh any more qualified; it still has no bearing on the question at hand.

    Focus, man.

  72. Dan Staley Says:

    Problem with Gatekeepers #67: What, exactly, did Bill Clinton do that viciously destroyed Lewinksy’s life? Was it the incident itself? Do you think she didn’t give consent? Or that he said he did not have sexual relations with her? Do you think things would have been better for her if he had said she had?

    I’m really having trouble understanding how anything Clinton did to Lewinsky could compare to, say, calling on the “second amendment people” to deal with a political opponent.

  73. John Stricker Says:

    I am frankly astounded at the prevailing views on Judge Kavanaugh and his suitability among the commenters here. Perhaps the issue is too highly politicized, and as an outsider and foreigner my perspective is more neutral

    The American Bar Association has awarded him their highest rating, “Well Qualified”, which still stands. He constantly made “top of class” everywhere he went, boozing or not. And if, for just a moment, one assumes that the man is actually innocent of the accusations, it is well understable how upsetting the events will have been for him. (Of course, if one adopts this postion it also speaks volumes about the Democrats.)

    Are the commenters here aware of how often Dr. Christine Ford changed her testimony? Of how there is no corroborating evidence? Of the statements under penalty of perjury in favor of Kavanaugh? This is all well documented. (Not that one would think so from the prevalent media narrative.)

    It is my understanding that the Republican Senators, and also a sizable amount of GOP voters, are well aware of it.

    Let me end on a happier note, by congratulating Scott on his fundraising success for his preferred candidate, executed in true “Shtetl-Optimized” fashion!

  74. The problem with the gatekeepers Says:

    Dan Staley #72

    Glad that you asked. Since I assume you are in the “women have to be believed” camp, let’s read what Monica herself said in recent years,


    “With every man I date (yes, I date!), I go through some degree of 1998 whiplash. I need to be extremely circumspect about what it means to be “public” with someone. In the early years post-impeachment, I once left a front-row seat along the third-base line at a Yankees game when I learned that my date—a guy whose company I thoroughly enjoyed—was actually in another relationship. It was only a green-card marriage, but I freaked that we could be photographed together and someone might call the gossip rags. I’ve become adept at figuring out when men are interested in me for the wrong reason.”

    – 2016

    “Her plan after graduating was to get a job and lead “a much more private life, and move towards a more normal developmental path”. But she found that nobody would employ her. The stigma outweighed her qualifications and aptitude.”

    The rest of the articles’ text is worth reading, I am just quoting some things to give readers an idea.

    When Bill Clinton had the affair with Monica Lewinsky, there was a clear power imbalance between the most powerful political figure in the world at the time (the president of the United States) and a 22 year old intern. There is a reason why most institutions -such as universities and corporations- place the burden of responsibility on the most powerful person when there is a romantic relationship -even if that relationship is consensual- between two employees. When Bill Clinton was caught having an affair, he threw Monica Lewinsky under the bus, you know “that woman”. How did Hillary Clinton react to the affair? “Jan. 27: On The TODAY Show, First Lady Hillary Clinton dismissed the allegations as a “vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced [his run] for president.”” Yeah, it wasn’t that Bill Clinton was an unrepentant womanizer who abused his political power, quoting Colin Powell “dicking bimbos”. No, the whole problem in the Lewinsky affair was a vast right-wing conspiracy. Yeah.

    Your last question is a red herring. What I was referring to in #67 is the hypocrisy of the whole Kavanaugh show as put forward by the left and its fake outrage that “Kavanaugh might have perjured himself” or that they care about women. Bill Clinton lied under oath and misused his power to take advantage of a 22 year old intern whose life ended up destroyed in the aftermath with the complicity of Hillary Clinton. None of that seemed to matter to those who now seem outraged about the allegations against Kavanaugh even though the latter have not been corroborated by independent evidence.

    If you want to know why millions of people like me who had given up on voting altogether came out for Trump in 2016, you just need to read this exchange and see the cynicism of people defending Bill Clinton’s behavior in the Monica Lewinsky affair in the context of the unsubstantiated accusations leveraged against Brett Kavanaugh.

  75. Dan Staley Says:

    Problem with Gatekeepers #74: You wrote an awful lot of text to answer a simple question – most of which doesn’t actually deliver an answer. As far as I can tell, your answer was that having the affair itself was what Bill Clinton did that you disagree with.

    So it seems you’re either saying that Lewinsky couldn’t give consent due to the age/power imbalance, or that Bill Clinton had an affair with a consenting adult – and this is as bad as sexually assaulting someone who hasn’t given consent.

    I disagree with you either way.

  76. GASARCH Says:

    Kav almost said something interesting — or perhaps I had my hopes up high. He said something like

    These attacks are the democrats revenge for ……….

    I THOUGHT he would say

    These attacks are the democrats revenge for the way the republicans treated Merrick Garland.

    But no. He went for revenge for Trump winning, revenge for his part in the Bill Clinton investigation, etc. Oh well.

    More on topic:

    Not wanting an FBI investigation, and then wanting it to be short, are all the kinds of things a guilty person would do. Plus he has lied about judicial matters as well.

  77. John Sidles Says:

    John Stricker affirms “The American Bar Association has awarded him [Kavanaugh] their highest rating, ‘Well Qualified'”

    Hmmm … recent reports afform that the ABA has downrated Kavanaugh at least once, in 2006, for reasons that included:

    One judge called Mr. Kavanaugh simultaneously unprepared and sanctimonious. A lawyer said he had dissembled in his handling of a case. A third interviewee questioned Mr Kavanaugh’s ‘ability to be balanced and fair should he assume a federal judgeship.’

    Mr. Kavanaugh’s own unprecedented excuses and apologies for his own unprofessional performances are doing little to alleviate widespread, evidence-driven, reasonable, public doubts regarding deficiencies in Kavanaugh’s legal temperament.

    On a positive note, in regard to quantum physics, Scott’s original post provided a welcome link to a well-written one-page summary of the proposed “National Quantum Initiative Act“. Thank you, Scott!

    It was heartening (to me at least) that the NQIA summary makes a case for quantum research that is admirably well-balanced and hype-free … so much so, that the NQIA summary scrupulously avoids even the words “computer”, “scalable”, “algorithm”, and “supremacy”.

    For optimistic believers (like me) in the Extended Church-Turing Thesis (ECT), it is heartening to contemplate the NQIA roadmap for quantum research, a roadmap that is sufficiently robust in its design, as to prosper even in the eventuality — the entirely plausible eventuality (as it seems to me) — that researchers like Gil Kalai and Gerard ‘t Hooft turn out to be entirely correct, in regard to the fundamental infeasibility of quantum supremacy demonstrations.

    The point is, that supposing Kalai’s and ‘t Hooft’s concerns turn out to be correct — on the basis, for example, of the mathematical foundations that are provided in Jacob Biamonte and Ville Bergholm’s recent survey “Quantum Tensor Networks in a Nutshell” (arXiv:1708.00006), as further illuminated “super-radiantly”, by the broad-ranging quantum ‘nutshell’ surveys that are mentioned in comment #44 — then it follows, that each new fundamental reason for doubting the feasibility the demonstrating quantum supremacy, acts to strengthen the fundamental grounds for believing the ECT, in the specific sense that each new quantum noise mechanism that makes quantum supremacy more difficult to demonstrate, concretely suggests new tensor-network simulation algorithms, and new physical domains, that make the ECT easier to demonstrate.

    This is why, for me at least, it’s far more restful to lay in bed, hopefully contemplating the many plausible quantum reasons why the ECT may be true, than to lay in bed, fearfully contemplating the many plausible cognitive and political reasons why Brett Kavanaugh may be temperamentally unsuited to the Supreme Court responsibilities.

  78. Michael Says:

    @the problem with gatekeepers#58- Some gang rapists and drunks do stop- men like Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein don’t but others do. And I’ve called out the Left in the past when they go over the line- but I honestly think that Kavanaugh is probably guilty.

  79. Jr Says:

    How plausible is it that Ford could misremember who assaulted her or have a false memory of a assault that never happened? To me it seems incredibly unlikely. I know we can have false memories but surely they should come from somewhere, how would be they have arisen in this case? But no, it is not proven beyond reasonable doubt, straight out lying can’t be ruled out either.

    By the way, if we are supposed to “ban the box” and let criminals have a second chance, as Democrats sometimes propose, it seems like an assault decades ago, committed while not even an adult, is the sort of thing one should ignore.

  80. amy Says:

    Gatekeepers #67: I’m awash in gen Z here, so the following is not theoretical. Yes, they are more conservative, but not in the sense that you’re thinking.

    They are *prudent*, and thank god for that. They are conservative in the oldfashioned sense of moderacy and unwillingess to fling any kind of capital around, and in the sense of protecting what they see as good. They remind me of the generation that actually put through the EPA and the Clean Water Act and those things — not the Boomers, who just made a lot of noise, but the old gray conservationist-minded guys who were in the Senate at the time and had been waiting for the opportunity.

    But they are also radically diverse. In terms of gender politics, if there’s a moon somewhere over to the left, that’s where they live. When it comes to race, they already live in a world where white people are a minority. And they value and respect experience. When someone comes up and says “this situation harms me”, they don’t say “grow up”, they listen and ask questions, and are quick to accommodate. They also function beautifully in groups — their socialization is amazing — while also being able to function as individuals.

    They are also poor. It’s hard to impress upon people how poor they’ve grown up. Most of them have never seen a middle class in the sense that we experienced it in the 20th c. In the last decade we saw 17% of the country on food stamps, for which you have to be destitute. A quarter of them at least grew up in poverty, and most saw their parents working multiple jobs while still coming out with not much. Single-parent homes are common, and single-parent homes are frequently poor, not because the parents are lazy, but because our work structures in the US make it difficult or impossible to work salaried fulltime jobs with advancement potential while having any real responsibility for children. So these kids have seen a lot and they feel close to and responsible to their parents — again, in an oldfashioned way I haven’t seen since my own grandparents’ generation. That threadbare experience is also a good part of the motivation of their moderacy and get-along/see-all-sides quality. People who can’t afford many battles choose carefully.

    In that hardship, though, they aren’t generally selfish. Again, it’s oldfashioned. They look around and, without some sort of hair-afire soak-the-rich sentiment, they ask why we don’t just share more, and think we ought to. It’s really been quite interesting. I had a surprisingly moving conversation with a young Turning Point USA rep a couple of weeks ago — he was out there spreading “big government sucks” religion at, of all places, a public university with 30K students — and we talked a while, and then he asked me if he could ask a question, since I’d mentioned my own salary (it’s pretty puny) — he asked, in the most open and genuinely curious way, why I did this job for so little money. And then he listened to my answer. They were ideas that just hadn’t occurred to him before, he hadn’t known these things went on. You could see in his face how they were fighting with this whole table of propaganda he’d brought with him: it made sense to him to share with people who don’t have, when you have enough, but he just hadn’t seen it in action, or hadn’t know he was watching it. I am finding this to be characteristic of this generation.

    I’m really quite impressed by them, and have been for a long time. Now that they’re hitting the undergrad years, I find them to be a gigantic relief. To generalize wildly: they make few excuses for themselves. They’re fearsomely well-organized and proactive — they have to be, every hour at school is more than they and their families can afford. They’re thoughtfully mature beyond their years. They’re open and want to learn. They’re also down-to-earth in a way that, again, I find to be a huge relief.

    If I’m worried for them at all, apart from what we’re leaving to them, it’s because they’ve been trained to be extremely superficial: move very fast through a set of tasks in a glib and polished manner, tick the boxes, look for the next set of tasks. It’s not their fault; it’s how their education’s worked. But it’s a problem for thinking, and I worry that too much of their university education will just be more of the same. That’s on us older people to fix, though.

  81. amy Says:

    As for #74: I can never understand the propaganda about “the left” on Clinton. If that story were to run again today, he’d have been out on his ass. His own party would’ve dropped him faster than you could say Al Franken. Of course the power imbalance was wild. The fact of the affair would not have bothered most on the left, but the president/intern business certainly would have. Why don’t those on the left blame Hillary? I don’t know, maybe because she wasn’t the one taking advantage of the intern, and it’s her own business what she wants to tolerate in a marriage? It’s not like he was less slimy without the intern. They do very much blame her for supporting her husband’s racist tough-on-crime legislation, though. I don’t think she gets enough scrutiny for her TANF support.

    On the other hand, she has by and large been a genuine advocate for girls’ and women’s opportunities and rights.

    Maybe what you’re missing is that Bill Clinton hasn’t been a hero on the left for a long time. 1992 was almost 30 years ago. People have been born, grown up, gone to college, and found they’ve had to move back home in that time. The kids heading off to college next year were born after 9/11, it’s all old-people history to them.

    Jr #79: you get special scrutiny when you want to be a Supreme Court justice and have power over 300 million people’s lives. Even so, the questions have much to do with how you’ve comported yourself and spoken and written since. With Kavanaugh we have an unbroken line of misogyny that even now has him trying to force girls into reproductive acts against their will — he was the judge who illegally tried to delay the Mexican teen’s abortion proceedings until it would’ve been too later for her to have an abortion. Had to be overridden by the two other judges on the panel, who were like, “wtf no, that’s illegal, she has actual rights here.” So even before he went into to testify, it’s not as though he’d looked back in horror at what he’d done as a kid and devoted himself to trying to redeem it.

    Once he actually sat down, though…holy crap. I actually wondered in the first few minutes whether it was a setup, whether they’d intentionally sent him in to self-destruct. But no, there’s been no reflection, no awareness of the meaning of his behavior. It was just a long self-pity monologue. And John Sidles is right — if you’ve seen alcoholism, there was something unsettlingly familiar in the behavior, the way the monologue and Q&A went in those tight little low-ceiling poor-me nonsequitur lashing-out/tears circles. I found it very hard to look at his wife’s face. These were all things she’d hoped would stay at home, and here they were out in the open, in front of the whole world. She’s a PR person, too.

    Yeah. Essentially, had he been an entirely different person for the last 35 years, he could’ve gotten past it, and if that had been the case we wouldn’t have had a hearing anyhow, because it wouldn’t have been necessary for Blasey Ford to come forward like that.

  82. the problem with the gatekeepers Says:

    Dan Staley #75

    Thank you for stating so clearly that you don’t see anything wrong, from a moral perspective, on the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair even though the power imbalance destroyed Monica Lewinsky’s life and Bill Clinton lied under oath in an attempt to make the affair go away with her enabler, Hillary Clinton, blaming everything on a vast right wing conspiracy.

    Yes, we agree to disagree. From my vantage point your position on the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky disqualifies you to make moral statements about uncorroborated accusations against Kavanaugh. It’s all petty politics: you give a pass to your guy on demonstrably morally corrupt sexual practices and you want Kavanaugh down even though the allegations against the latter have not been corroborated. Further, the WSJ reports today that “A friend of Christine Blasey Ford told FBI investigators that she felt pressured by Dr. Ford’s allies to revisit her initial statement that she knew nothing about an alleged sexual assault by a teenage Brett Kavanaugh, which she later updated to say that she believed but couldn’t corroborate Dr. Ford’s account, according to people familiar with the matter.”.

    It’s all what it has always been: hard ball politics. A normal RINO GOP guy would have caved -that was the Democrats end goal all along- but Even Bret Stephens -the ultimate anti Trump Republican- will tell you “I’m grateful because Trump has not backed down in the face of the slipperiness, hypocrisy and dangerous standard-setting deployed by opponents of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court”.

  83. the problem with the gatekeepers Says:

    Amy #81

    Thank you for stating so clearly what any fair-mined person would think. Other than the two articles I mentioned above, I have also listened her speak in recent years of his experience in youtube talks about the pain of not having been able to rebuild her life after she was used as a scapegoat for the impeachment proceedings by both left and right. Reading her testimony is one thing, listening to her as she almost comes to tears is a different thing. I cannot for the life of me understand this “left” that continues to defend both Clintons given how destructive their brand of politics has been to the nation and to individual people like Lewinsky.

  84. John Sidles Says:

    “I have a dream” … of a White House that appoints Amy to the Supreme Court … or persons of Amy’s temperament, at the very least.

    Thank you Amy, for your numerous, well-conceived, and well-expressed contributions to Shtetl Optimized discourse … of which #64#80, and #81 are outstandingly excellent examples.

  85. Dan Staley Says:

    Problem with the gatekeepers #82: I don’t think I’ve made any “moral statements about uncorroborated accusations against Kavanaugh.” Nor have I given Bill Clinton a pass. Nor have I even speculated on the likelihood of Kavanaugh’s guilt or innocence. I’m merely comparing the severity of the accusations against him to the severity of the actions of Bill Clinton.

    Obviously we’re not going to convince each other of anything in the comments section of a blog, but I will say one last thing:

    What you seem to be missing is that people on the left, myself included, put a huge emphasis on *consent*. Consensual sex is worlds apart from sex without consent. And to be clear, I’ll happily agree that some situations make it impossible for someone to give consent (minors, for example), and that sexual harassment in the workplace is a real thing.

    Now we’ve all heard lots and lots about the Clinton-Lewinksy affair, but I’ve never heard anyone claim it was not consensual. If you want to present an argument that it wasn’t, I’m happy to listen. But I’ve never seen anyone claim that it wasn’t something Lewinski didn’t want. (Regret later? Sure. But that’s quite different.) If you have a source showing differently I’m happy to read it.

    Was it amoral? Absolutely. But like I said, it is *worlds* away from forcing a woman into non-consensual sex. The latter is a much more serious crime (the former isn’t even a crime, the entirety of the investigation was to determine the meaning of the term “sexual relations”).

    I’m sure you’ll disagree with me somehow. Maybe you’ll say that the result of the Clinton affair makes what he did as bad as sexual assault. Maybe you’ll say the “sexual relations” statement under oath was as bad as sexual assault. But to me, neither of those measure up compared with rape.

  86. Regular Lurker Says:

    I’d be happy to donate 50USD to Beto O’Rourke (anything I can do to make the US Senate sane again; given what I’ve seen and read from Cruz, he’s among the worst senators you have. He supported all of Trump’s corrupt cabinet and his judges, voted against affordable healthcare, against net neutrality, for warrantless spying, against Dodd-Frank,.. so the sooner he’s out, the better. But any senator who saw Kavanaugh’s performance in the hearing and still votes for him should be sent packing!) – but I’m not legally allowed to do so (not a US citizen). If there’s some other charity that you plan to donate to, I’d be happy to cover that sum (up to the given limit) so that you can donate more to Beto.
    Please restore some faith that the US is still a land based on democracy, rule of law, and enlightenment values (and is not turning into Buzz Windrip’s country).

  87. John Stricker Says:

    Re: John Sidles #77

    “recent reports afform (sic) that the ABA has downrated Kavanaugh at least once, in 2006”

    This is correct. But so is this, from the very same article:

    “The 2006 statement was the outlier of the four ratings the bar association gave Mr Kavanaugh.”


    “‘Kavanaugh had stellar credentials, a stellar intellect and his writing and briefs were stellar in 2003,’ said Pamela Bresnahan, who helped conduct a 2003 review of Mr Mr (sic) Kavanaugh and was the committee’s chairwoman until recently. ‘But he was off the charts, by our criteria, by the time 2018 rolled around.’

    And keep in mind, 2006 to 2018 is 12 years. This is now to be erased, because of exhibiting emotions after some terrible accusations?

    John Sidles continues: “Mr. Kavanaugh’s own unprecedented excuses and apologies for his own unprofessional performances are doing little to alleviate widespread, evidence-driven, reasonable, public doubts regarding deficiencies in Kavanaugh’s legal temperament.”

    This is repeating the narrative of 85% of the media and 99% of Democrat opinion. but how well-researched and unbiased is it really? Seeing what you chose to quote, and what you chose not to.

  88. John Stricker Says:

    Re: amy #81

    You write about Hillary Clinton: “On the other hand, she has by and large been a genuine advocate for girls’ and women’s opportunities and rights.”

    But you do not write about Judge Kavanaugh’s law clerk hiring practices. According to wikipedia, “twenty-five of Kavanaugh’s forty-eight law clerks have been women, and thirteen have been people of color.” A record that I am sure the host of this blog would be proud of, but which counts for nothing anymore in the judge’s case, apparently.

    You further write: “With Kavanaugh we have an unbroken line of misogyny that even now has him trying to force girls into reproductive acts against their will — he was the judge who illegally tried to delay the Mexican teen’s abortion proceedings until it would’ve been too later for her to have an abortion. Had to be overridden by the two other judges on the panel, who were like, ‘wtf no, that’s illegal, she has actual rights here.'”

    This is an incredibly uncharitable reading of a highly politicized issue.

    For contrast, here is a direct quote from Kavanaugh’s dissent opinion:

    “In sum, under the Government’s arguments in this case and the Supreme Court’s precedents, the unlawful immigrant minor is assumed to have a right under precedent to an abortion; the Government may seek to expeditiously transfer the minor to a sponsor before the abortion occurs; and if no sponsor is expeditiously located, then it could turn out that the Government will be required by existing Supreme Court precedent to allow the abortion, depending on what arguments the Government can make at that point. These rules resulting from the panel order are consistent with and dictated by Supreme Court precedent. The three-judge panel reached a careful decision that prudently accommodated the competing interests of the parties.”

    Finally, you go on to say that, “essentially, had he been an entirely different person for the last 35 years, he could’ve gotten past it, and if that had been the case we wouldn’t have had a hearing anyhow, because it wouldn’t have been necessary for Blasey Ford to come forward like that.”

    In light of readily available evidence, this sounds very much like character assassination to me.

  89. the problem with the gatekeepers Says:

    Dan Staley #85,

    On the Lewinsky situation, I think that this is what I makes people like me not take people like you seriously. On the one hand,

    “And to be clear, I’ll happily agree that some situations make it impossible for someone to give consent (minors, for example), and that sexual harassment in the workplace is a real thing.”

    No disagreement there. But then when you go on to see the relationship between the most political figure of its day (Bill Clinton) with a 22 year old intern who genuinely thought Bill Clinton loved her as consensual. I hope you can see how people like me don’t buy it. Legal technicalities aside (like Lewinsky not being a minor as defined by consensual sex laws), I see the Bill Clinton – Monica Lewinsky situation as being similar to the numerous cases of sexual abuse of minors by powerful clerics abusing minors (at the Roman Catholic Church but also other religions like we learned recently in a Buddhist case). If you red the accounts of the investigation by Pennsylvania on the Roman Catholic Church’s priests, you’ll see a lot of similarities between the stories of those survivors and Lewinsky’s. Monica Lewinsky was so traumatized by what followed that she hasn’t been able to rebuild her life per her own testimony which she very powerfully expressed here .

    This takes me to the Ford accusations against Kavanaugh. There is zero evidence corroborating her accusations. Zero. I do not question that probably something bad happened to her in high school but information that has been made public in recent days by an ex-boyfriend paints a very different picture from the one she portrayed at the hearings, one that includes infidelity. Ford was able to rebuild her life and start a family. And then “miraculously” had a recovered memory on Kavanaugh. We don’t know what she said to her marriage counselor because those notes (not even the relevant part) have been made public.

    So on the one hand “the left” wants me to give a pass to Bill Clinton because the relationship with Lewinsky was allegedly consensual. On the other hand they ask me that I treat Kavanaugh as guilty until proven innocent. This is the world of ethics in reverse as far as I can tell.

  90. Luke Says:

    >This is now to be erased, because of exhibiting emotions after some terrible accusations?

    It’s not the emotions. It’s comments such as

    “This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups”

    This was part of prepared testimony, not something that could be explained by spur-of-the-moment emotions.

    It was well-reported and self-admitted that Judge Kavanaugh spent considerable time preparing for the hearing. And yet his exchanges with the Senators were hostile and evasive. There were plenty of cringe-inducing moments, such his exchange with Sen. Klobuchar, “You’re asking about blackout, I don’t know, have you?”. If you review the transcript, it is clear that he avoided answering the majority of Democratic senator’s questions. (Ford, in contrast, didn’t try to dodge a single question.) Emotions alone can’t explain this.

    This is not the sort of behavior one would hope to have from a judge (or any public figure), much less a Supreme Court justice. There’s no excuse to have a SCJ with such a cloud over them, when there are dozens of similar candidates to choose from. Over 2400 law professors–a truly extraordinary number!–agree he should not be confirmed.

  91. Dan G Says:

    Scott #39:

    I think you may be overreacting when you write that any group might “DESERVE to suffer after millennia of undeserved privilege”. (emphasis mine) To my mind, individuals not groups suffer, and no individual ever deserves to suffer.

    Yet I think the members of those groups may HAVE to suffer somewhat to achieve true equality, because asymptotically converging towards equality will literally never get you all the way to equality. If there’s some temporary over-swing, the friction on the pendulum may eventually get you undulating around true equality, which seems like the most ‘fair’ outcome. I’m unclear on whether it’s the outcome with least suffering involved, but I think it probably is that, too, simply based on power dynamics.

  92. James Cross Says:

    Ironic in so many ways the discussion about Clinton-Lewinksy matter being a parallel.

    First, Bart Boy was one of the lead attorneys persecuting Clinton on the phony witch-hunt that was the Starr investigation, suggesting that Clinton be forced to answer the most graphic questions.

    Second, if Bart Boy had the position then that apparently he has now, according to him, Clinton should not have even been subject to investigation. The whole Starr endeavor would have been unconstitutional.

    What “destroyed” Monica Lewinsky’s life wasn’t the relationship with Clinton but the right-wing nut jobs who kept pursuing Clinton with unending lawsuits and investigations who eventually caused the whole thing to come to light.

  93. John Stricker Says:

    Re: Luke #90

    > It’s not the emotions.

    I beg to differ. Google “kavanaugh temperament unsuitable”; and also note that the American Bar Association (ABA) has only just announced that it is reopening its evaluation, citing “new information of a material nature regarding temperament”!

    > It’s comments such as “This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups”

    I’m sorry, but this does not sound outlandish to me.

    > This was part of prepared testimony, not something that could be explained by spur-of-the-moment emotions.

    > It was well-reported and self-admitted that Judge Kavanaugh spent considerable time preparing for the hearing.

    On this we agree.

    > And yet his exchanges with the Senators were hostile and evasive.

    I did not find them so.

    > There were plenty of cringe-inducing moments, such his exchange with Sen. Klobuchar, “You’re asking about blackout, I don’t know, have you?”.

    I sort of agree, and apparently, so does Kavanaugh himself: “I might have been too emotional at times. I know that my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said.” (From his op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, worth a read)

    > If you review the transcript, it is clear that he avoided answering the majority of Democratic senator’s questions.

    Again, I do not have this impression. (Also, the man is a lawyer, for goodness’ sake.)

    > (Ford, in contrast, didn’t try to dodge a single question.)

    This is debatable. Also, she changed her testimony multiple times.

    > Emotions alone can’t explain this.

    > This is not the sort of behavior one would hope to have from a judge (or any public figure), much less a Supreme Court justice.

    What else do you know about Brett Kavanaugh’s behavior, over the last twelve years? Have you looked stuff up, or are you just going on hearsay?

    > There’s no excuse to have a SCJ with such a cloud over them, when there are dozens of similar candidates to choose from.

    The “Cory Booker defense”: First make a candidate impossible, then suggest to move on “beyond the vicious partisan rancor that is going on, beyond the accusations”. ( (1:22 minutes, worth watching)

    Thank you, no.

    > Over 2400 law professors–a truly extraordinary number!–agree he should not be confirmed.

    I agree that this is some sort of argument; but how many of them have spoken up before, during the normal confirmation process, with plenty of time for statements of this sort? (Still sure it’s not about “temperament”?!) And don’t forget: by now, the political pressure has reached immense levels, on both sides.

  94. throwaway_reader Says:

    Scott 330

    “we’ll be left with an entire generation of millennials, the people who fill my Facebook feed, for whom giving an accused sexual harasser the benefit of the doubt will seem as quaint as, I don’t know, vows of chastity, or asking a father for permission to court his daughter.”

    What are the odds that the millennials in your facebook feed aren’t representative of millennials in general when it comes to this point and every other point?

  95. the problem with the gatekeepers Says:

    throwaway_reader #94
    Scott #30

    I am with #94. I am also quoting the preceding part of Scotts’ #30 commentary,

    ” I mean, yes, there’s the huge Trumpist counterinsurgency—but once that dies down (in part, via the old men who support it literally dying)”

    Are you sure about that? On the one hand, millennials, just as their baby boomer parents, are not immune to the effect that people get more conservative as they age because life tends to make people realist and pragmatic. The current conservative crop of seniors were the same people who brought the 1960s sexual revolution when they were young. Second, as I mentioned above, there is plenty of evidence that the crop that follows the millenials is already more conservative in their 20s. Here is one of the numerous articles that ca be read on the topic . And third, as anecdotal evidence, I provide which is clearly managed and maintained heavily active by males in their 20s (by the way they write) and is one of the most popular sites in, so much so that had to change its algorithm several times to prevent their pages to show up in’s front page. Bashing Reddit’s CEO Steve Huffman is one of the ongoing jokes in r/the_donald.

  96. Gil Says:

    Scott #5. It seems to me (but maybe I miss something) that the cases of Thomas and Kavanaugh do have some bearing on the question of how wide are the phenomena of sexual assaults and sexual harassment are. If two out of nine (>20%) members of the supreme court sexually harassed or sexually assaulted, then this does give some very rough and rather sad estimate about how wide spread the phenomenon is. (Of course, you can replace the number two by the expectation according to your own subjective probability, or perhaps come with some a priori reason for why members of the supreme court are more likely to be sexual offenders than just random people.)

  97. amy Says:

    Gatekeepers #95 (I should be working, really will keep it short, I hope) — I’ve been thinking about this, because the whole Boomer phenomenon is just so weird. Here you had a whole giant generation that had everything, disavowed lots of it, and then swung back around to declare greed good, all in an incredibly loud and self-obsessed way. I remember their parents and grandparents, and I don’t recall their having been like that. Now the Boomers (this is all very US-centric, my apologies) seem to be noticing that they’re losing their grip on the culture, and their clampdown in reaction is intense. But I don’t see any change in the refusal to admit that we all get old and die — there’s just that weird WE ARE IT FOREVER thing going on. And there’s a tremendous capacity for blithely white-noising out anything they don’t want to hear that, as far as I can recall, has been there all along.

    I saw other generations get more conservative in the sense of prudence, fewer risks, and, frankly, tiredness. That was the thing about old people. They were tired. They’d worked hard and now they sat in chairs. You were supposed to leave them alone with your noise, be nice, stop trying to explain your new thing at them so hard. They had this great line in smiling patiently while making it clear in no words at all that they didn’t understand this thing and also didn’t care, but loved you, but still wished you’d leave it alone and let them rest now, go tell someone else about your exciting thing.

    The thing about getting old is that it’s actually very dangerous. People don’t tell you that. There’s a lot less margin for error as you go, and as you get into your 40s, 50s, you see the less careful people smashing into the walls like tie-wing fighters. By which I mean actually dying. Those are the stakes. Then there are the lesser stakes like the prospect of losing all your money and your home without having time left to make it up, just as you’re starting to get deeply tired. So yes, at that point, unless they’re very quick of mind and healthy (or oblivious, or self-destructive), people do start reeling it in, conserving energy, being more cautious, pulling away from new changes.

    I think there are two differences we’re seeing here, though. One is this apparent genuine Boomer belief that they run the show till the end of time, which comes with this outrage and indignation at losing influence that I just haven’t seen before on this scale. And the other is the fact that through their own insistence on hanging onto top jobs, there’s a missing generation that would normally buffer the changes. They didn’t retire or move aside and let Gen X up. That’s why it’s so hard to find good candidates in their 40s and 50s, and why you’re seeing so many 30somethings, even 20somethings, popping up. So in a sense there’s a cultural overhang and the whole ledge is getting ready to crack and fall off. All this change has been bubbling up underneath them and has had little or no representation in formal structures. Governments. Universities. That change has no choice but to happen very soon, because these people are literally dying. 10-15 years tops. And at that point, the millennials and Z will still be far from old, still be far from growing cautious and reeling it in.

    It’s a very weird thing, watching this happen from the pov of Gen X. Which is about all I can do. I said somewhere else that the main thing I’m doing lately is adjusting from living in a world run by people older than me to living in a world run by people younger than me. It’s a pretty fast pivot, necessarily. These guys were just not going to get off the ride voluntarily and let someone else have a turn — in fact they were the ones who broke up the retirement rules so that they could stay. Now, well, ride’s just about over.

  98. John Sidles Says:

    As a follow-on to Gil’s post, today is an especially appropriate day, for men to respectfully ask the women in their lives, about those women’s personal experience(s) of sexual harassment and/or assault.

  99. amy Says:

    Gil #96 – can’t resist. Yeah, it’s quite widespread. The thing is, though, it also has something to do with where they’re pulling from, and I realized this while watching the circus of the last few weeks. The culture Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh were describing was painfully familiar to me and also ubiquitous, in that class and region, at the time. And that is where you usually get Supreme Court justices from. Republicans in particular will have a very tough time fielding nominees they like who weren’t neck-deep in it and don’t still think on it fondly. Their problem, of course, is that where once the women could be counted on to be cool about it, now they show up and tell everyone what you did and how it felt. Because the language and conversation for all that started to develop around 1990. The social circles are also quite small. Without even asking, for instance, a friend and a friend-of-friend popped up in email and on facebook with reports on Gorsuch from way back. (My favorite: “He was weird, but I don’t think he was a fascist then.”) And the women tend to be some of the most articulately progressive and self-confident women around. Strong Seven Sisters representation. In an unhappy and deeply classist way, I guess this is still a schools story. I hope that that ends, too, although given how our schools and universities have polarized economically, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

    So I think this is going to be an problem for Republican nominations for about, oh, 20 years, because you get this generation of men who grew up under one set of rules for winning and are being scrutinized under another. The guys who were aware even as kids that the whole setup was disgusting, but played anyway because that was the game, aren’t generally Republicans at this point. And the Dems have more people who grew up outside the magic Establishment men’s circle anyhow.

    One of the reasons I don’t feel like the world has ended with this installation is that I don’t actually believe this guy’s radically different from generations of SCOTUS justices. I think he’s probably pretty representative. It’s just that the world has changed. I think we’ll start seeing a SCOTUS that looks pretty different in 20, 25 years. There are still no…and it’s weird to say this, it’s such an oldfashioned term…openly gay justices. If there’s an interracial marriage, another throwback term, I don’t know about it. Multiracial, multiethnic backgrounds, where. The societal gradient between SCOTUS and my kid’s midwest-cornfields high school is pretty frickin steep.

  100. John Sidles Says:

    Amy’s prediction (of #99) in-a-nutshell: The demography of the 2018 Oregon Supreme Court accurately foreshadows the demography of the 2038 US Supreme Court. 🙂

  101. James Cross Says:


    I would be cautious about generalizing about Boomers. Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. The attitudes of those leaving high school in the late 60’s vs the early 80’s could be quite different. In addition, there is always a wide distribution in attitudes in any age group. We tend to associate, I think, the Boomers with the late sixties but even then a minority of them were far to left, most were towards the center, and quite a number were conservative and to the right.

    I’m not exactly sure how the Boomers “had everything” either. They had assassinations and the Vietnam War, for sure. A stagnant economy after that followed by the whole Reagan thing which has been all about the erosion of the power of unions and middle class wages. The generation before had an economy where anyone who wanted to work could get a job that paid more than enough to raise a family, save, send children to college, and take an occasional vacation. Not so possible now for many.

    For myself, one of the early Boomers, I was pretty much to the left then as I am now.

    One of the most disheartening things is that so much of the progress that I have seen happen since the 60’s seems to be unraveling. This progress has mostly been achieved slowly with moderate approaches. Yet the progress apparently can be quickly undone with a few elections. Perhaps moderation hasn’t been the right approach after all.

  102. Joshua Zelinsky Says:

    Are you going to write anything on Urmila Mahadev’s recent results about verification of quantum computation by classical computers?

    Also, up to what matching number for donations are you currently at?

  103. DS Says:

    Oh no, sorry to miss your visit! Looking back at my email archive, I see the mention of the Krasnopoler lecture in the daily events listing that we get, but it doesn’t say that you were the speaker.

    Incidentally I pass by the Nathan Krasnopoler Memorial all the time, but never knew who he was; so, thank you for the link describing what happened. )-:

  104. fred Says:

    Scott #39

    “I think people are kidding themselves about the psychological effect of seeing that one’s Facebook feed, every hour of every day, is just an endless wall of denunciations of whiny, entitled straight white males, stretching out to infinity.”

    The thing is that straight white males aren’t any less sensitive to bias and unfair treatment than any other arbitrary slice of society.
    The only reason there hasn’t been any more direct push-back is that for decades it was understood that new generations were working together to fix the wrongs of the past (sex equality, civil rights movement, etc).
    Now this is all turning into tribal wars with little interest in the individuals, a huge setback.

    Two things I like to keep in mind:

    – As Von Neumann once told Feynman: we don’t have to be responsible for the world that we’re in.

    – The world could really benefit from more compassion, aka understand that *none* of us chose to be born as we are.

  105. fred Says:

    Gil #96

    “perhaps come with some a priori reason for why members of the supreme court are more likely to be sexual offenders than just random people.”

    I think that the thirst for power and social status often correlates with some deviant sexual aspects (Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, … the list goes on and on).

    It’s quite different from the expected sexual obsession of male teenagers.
    And one thing that’s quite different from the 1980s is that porn is now readily available to satiate the curiosity and needs of most frustrated horny teens.

  106. Sniffnoy Says:

    Josh #102: Got a link? 🙂

  107. Scott Says:

    Joshua #102: I already blogged about Urmila’s breakthrough here. (See also the Quanta magazine article that just came out here, for which I was interviewed.)

    Also, I already said that I got up to the full matching amount ($853). Feel free to donate more though! 🙂

  108. Logical Thinker Says:

    To those who believe Blasey Ford’s accusation:

    You would never accept a math paper asserting to solve an open problem with no proof. Why would you accept her vague account without skepticism when there is no witness or any evidence that it happened?

  109. Scott Says:

    “Logical Thinker” #108: Someone could turn that around and say, why would you accept Kavanaugh’s denial with no evidence? And if you say there’s a presumption of innocence, they could respond, this was like a job interview, and then there’s no presumption of innocence in job interviews. To some extent this was a philosophical disagreement, not about the actual probability of guilt, but just about which side should face the burden of proof. That debate was not resolved (to put it mildly) by the 50-48 confirmation vote, and will probably never be resolved by anything short of civil war or by one of the two sides dying out.

  110. amy Says:

    James Cross #101: well, we can certainly notallboomers the night away. But I’ve been living with your generation for 50 years now, and I’m comfortable standing by my generalizations. (And will accept Xish generalizations as well; even though there are real differences between 1965 and 1979 — and I’ve got friends from both times — there are enough commonalities, culturally, for a reasonable grouping. For me, the unofficial cutoff for the X/Boomer line has been “if male, do you secretly, somewhere in your heart, still wish you were Mick Jagger.”) To an extent, I get it. You guys have been very loud in your own ears. In a sense it’s like being American.

    One other generalization, though: there’s a real — and generationally characteristic — startle at the suggestion that your generation had an unusually marvelous setup, and it’s important to the entire society that your generation try to come to grips with it and understand what the young people are living with now — and just how relatively fortunate you were. How the opportunities you guys had, and to some extent my generation had, are so unheard-of now that when you talk to young people about them it’s like you’re telling fairy tales from another world, and then there’s a sick look they get as they realize that yes, you are not making this up, this used to be real, and they missed it. There are reasons why the public universities have food banks now. There’s a deep, widespread, and persistent poverty that was not part of the landscape when I was growing up. And it’s come at the same time that the data mavens have made it harder than ever to escape your origins and troubles. The closest I’ve come to the generations-deep poverty I’m seeing — not just familial poverty, but societal poverty, where educational and cultural engines, the things that inform a child’s mind, have simply disappeared — is the novels of the early 20th century. Dust-belt stuff. I hear it even from the kids whose families have money in those places — dentists’ sons. They talk about what they’ve seen working with their dads, and what they’ve seen is deep poverty that stretches back a while now. It rots people out, that kind of deprivation.

    By the time I got out of school, the unions were broken and the compact with the worker was gone. Loyalty was gone. And that was a shock. Healthcare costs, too, had already ballooned into a nightmare, and the rust belt had collapsed. But we had grown up in a society that had the benefit of wealth. We had grown up in a middle class. Libraries, swimming pools, public this, public that. Public universities where you could pay the tuition with a summer job. Public admiration of publicly-funded science, the wow of a big blue marble. You too could be an astrophysicist. Public music schools. My city had a public music school where you could take lessons for five dollars a week and they’d move a piano into your house for free if you couldn’t pay, to use for as long as you were taking lessons. It’s astonishing what kind of a difference that makes. I would suggest strongly: look around at the kids, listen to the kids.

    LT #108: Tens of millions believed her because tens of millions relived their own assaults as she described, with great accuracy, both in detail and emotion, experiences they knew intimately. Many had never told anyone. Millions more listened and heard the same story, with the same emotional tenor, that they had heard one very bad night from someone they loved. Sometimes it’s plain that a person knows what they’re talking about. In these instances, I’m afraid that deduction alone will not get you there.

  111. amy Says:

    Hey, totally off-topic, but I’m in receipt of Errol Morris’s _The Ashtray_, and I haven’t been this excited about a book in quite a while, even though I can already see I’m going to disagree pretty substantially with some of his interpretation of what Kuhn was saying. This is a gorgeous book and it looks like it roams and connects in all the right ways. I really think U of Chicago Press is underappreciated for its book design, too. The last several years, whenever I see a beautifully-composed and typeset book that really seems to know what A Book is all about, it’s almost always U of C Press.

  112. Logical Thinker Says:

    How do you prove a negative? How is he supposed to prove that he didn’t do it? No one can produce an alibi for every moment he/she has ever lived! (That’s essentially what Kavanaugh would have to do since she doesn’t remember when it happened and has suggested two different dates that are years apart.)

    If the accusation is sufficient to deny him this particular job, why is he allowed to hold any job that requires a basic background investigation, including his current (or former) position as a federal judge? Without suitable work, it would be like a death sentence to him, not to mention the harm suffered by his family. So the “just a job interview” excuse is as absurd as the “believe women” mantra (as if women are incapable of lying or being mentally ill).

    There are plenty of female and male victims of sexual assault whose accounts have been corroborated. Their voices must be heard, and justice served. But the story of CBF is very strange, to say the least.

  113. cambridge trumpiste Says:

    [@Scott #38]

    > “recognize the reality that, among millennials, the [guilty until proven innocent]
    > standard is no longer even contested.

    That is astonishing passivity about giving up a basic principle of civil society, whose importance extends beyond the judicial system proper.

    If surveys showed that Generation Z accepts as uncontested fact that Jews are parasites who cleverly exploit Gentiles, would you just shrug your shoulders and suggest to “recognize reality” that this is Z’s opinion and that’s that?

    Unverifiable rape accusations are a form of negative cheque, that becomes positive currency for one side in a zero-sum game such as the Kavanaugh confirmation battle. They are subject to the same problems as counterfeit currency, and “skin in the game” moral hazards. If millenials have the idea that the possibly counterfeit cheques should automatically be cashed in at face value, the solution is not to accept this but to solve the TCS problem of engineering a better protocol and then lobby for the use of that protocol. I suggest that initially anonymizing one or both parties would be part of any sane solution that does not place free weapons in the hands of half the population to use at opportune moments against the other half.

  114. Garrrett Says:

    Why are you not taking into account that Beto wants to limit my rights, Constitutional and otherwise?

  115. amy Says:

    Man, I just do not have time for this right now. (“I have exams!”) Scott, can’t you please encourage your readers to say tired-and-wrong things about women and sexual assault during academic recesses, like polite people, when there’s time for a serious back/forth?

    Very slightly more seriously: I’ll try to respond later tonight, though dudes, seriously, this Errol Morris book is all kinds of bomb. I’m sure he’s going to say many wrong things in it. But it’s pulling from all the right kinds of places and the whole business with conversations and fragments is just right. I don’t think Poole understood what he was looking at.

  116. James Cross Says:

    amy #110

    “Millennials, who are projected to surpass Baby Boomers next year as the United States’ largest living adult generation, are also approaching the Boomers in their share of the American electorate.”

  117. amy Says:

    Yep! Very exciting. Or terrifying. Not sure which yet. Gen Z is about the same size as the Millennial generation, and if their behavior so far is anything to go by, they’ll be much bigger on the voting scene than any other living generation when they’re old enough to be up to bat. They should be very interesting indeed. I know I keep talking about gradients, but the differences between them and Boomers, demographically as well as experientially, are profound. They may also be the first non-US-centric US generation — they still will be, of course, but they’re the first alive to grow up in a time when the US isn’t so gigantic on the landscape that it’s hard to see past its borders from inside. My daughter’s in a snit because her homecoming dress ordered from some Chinese girl on D-pop (with money earned working at a 1960s-era ice cream stand) is hung up in customs and she doesn’t get why this should be a thing, has never been a problem before.

  118. gregory miller Says:

    I’m a little surprised at the failure in many of these comments to see the simple reality of what happened. The Executive branch picked the nominee. The legislative branch vetted him. SCOTUS has nothing to do with this. They got stuck with the problem.

    The Executive branch limited the scope of the FBI investigation to get their guy in. The legislative branch, who has subpoena power, failed to use their power to better vet the nominee with respect to Ford’s claims early on in the background which would have spared both Brett and Ford pressure they came under in public. Brett, if and when faced with new evidence not surfaced in earlier FBI investigations could have made his risk/reward decision to go forward or withdraw.

    Compounding these issues Brett’s Yale education evidently didn’t remind that going before the judiciary committee and running off at the mouth with some Trump like the-fix-is-in nonsense disqualified himself. Brett either lack the competence to avoid this unforced error, was easily manipulated by Trump’s office to make the speech anyway, was too ambitious in his goal to join SCOTUS with means justify the ends, or is too much of a me-too guy and joined the partisan brand of the Trump-GOP or some combination thereto. Either way it’s bad. Brett was asked point blank if he thought the FBI investigation would be advised in clearing his name, and he tapped danced around the question meaning due process was never really attempted.

    The final responsibility lays with the Congress, here the GOP majority that got him in, because even if the nominee blows it they have a separate responsibility to not make the problem worse.

    That’s the problem with Congress over the last six to ten administrations: they spend so much time lost in cheap symbolism rhetoric on guns, planned parenthood, God, the main stream media, and all the red meat the Dems throw to their side that they’ve confused it with their actual work: running the trains on time and on budget. The institutional weakness of Congress is a major factor why Trump won, in addition to Comey and HRC’s weak platform.

  119. William Hird Says:

    Hi Scott,
    Sorry for getting to this conversation late, but having read all the comments so far the first thing that comes to my mind is that I think you will have to set country straight by writing a paper ( like you don’t have enough to do now ! ) entitled ” A Mathematical Theory Of Democratic Government” ( a la Claude Shannon ) where you lay out for all eternity the fundamental concepts of what it really takes to have a real corruption-free democratic society. In your paper don’t forget to liberally use the concept of entropy ,and because nobody really knows entropy is, in any argument concerning your paper you will always have the upper hand 🙂

  120. cambridge trumpiste Says:

    >[@amy #81] “if you’ve seen alcoholism, there was something unsettlingly familiar in the behavior, the way the monologue and Q&A went in those tight little low-ceiling poor-me nonsequitur lashing-out/tears circles.”

    And if you’ve seen cluster B psychiatric disorders, everything from Dr CBF at the hearing and everything reported about her in the papers fits the pattern disturbingly well. My impression was that she is an outright HPD case (BPD or both also possible) or just barely subclinical on that spectrum. The “sequelae” of that condition, to use her term from the testimony, include manipulation of others; manipulability by others; and a communication pattern that is vague on critical details but makes a show of honesty and certainty about things that nobody else can verify.

    If Kavanaugh were an alcoholic for the past 30 years that would be a lot harder to hide than he said-she said groping episodes from his teens. Anyone with information or a grudge has known where to call for some time now. Sorta like with Trump.

  121. fred Says:

    amy #117

    “They may also be the first non-US-centric US generation — they still will be, of course, but they’re the first alive to grow up in a time when the US isn’t so gigantic on the landscape that it’s hard to see past its borders from inside.”

    That’s probably more a result of the way we all consume entertainment.
    In the 70s and 80s, news, music, movies, books were way more curated experiences (given the way they were distributed), and big cultural events anchoring larger swaths of society.

    Now we have access to all the music, all the books, all the movies, all the people who share our tastes and interests, from a single device we carry 24/7 in our pocket.
    It’s creating absolute lowest common denominator content (Marvel superhero, GOT, etc appealing to everyone around the world, instantly), or super specialized niches within niches, but hardly anything in between (appealing to a lot of people while being of quality).

    So the view is both more global and more myopic.

  122. A B Says:

    Scott, I recommend you look at the tiers mentioned in this article. At some point, who you believe becomes less important than following procedures and looking at things like independent corroboration.

    For what it’s worth, I believe that the conduct of the accusing side (not revealing the letter and then leaking it, lying about the fear of flying, not delivering Grassley’s offer to fly to California) matters a great deal, especially since we are in (the article’s) tier 4 or even higher. To wit- that the accusers muddied the waters goes directly to their believability.

    For example, if Diane Feinstein wanted to maximize the chance that Kavanaugh didn’t make it to the court, she would have gone to Grassley immediately and told him there was a problem. Giving Kavanaugh the ability to withdraw without the circus would have increased the chance that he didn’t get on the Supreme Court. That would have left Trump plenty of time to pick someone else. That Senator Feinstein did not do this implies she had another goal in mind. Process tells you something about truth.

  123. chad Says:

    Mr. Kishore,

    The voting analysis is interesting, but seems very wrong to me. The problem, it seems, is that you just sort of assume that I as a voter have some sort of perfect knowledge of outcomes, that I am uber-informed, and that my vote accomplishes what I think it does. What happens to your analysis of the utility of voting if you assume, for example, that my strategy for picking a candidate is that I flip a coin? Do you….think that this is actually far off from the process that a marginal voter (i.e. someone who otherwise wasnt going to vote but was convinced to vote by your analysis)?

    IOW, what if I vote for Trump?

    This makes your conclusion that “voting is about equally effective at all levels of government” particularly bad, as my information deficit increases DRAMATICALLY as the locality of the election decreases. If I’m the coin-flip vote guy, even if I could be ASSURED my vote would be the deciding one, my vote has no utility.

  124. chad Says:

    gregory miller #118

    Or perhaps he noted that Clarence Thomas called what was happening to him akin to a LYNCHING, and was subsequently confirmed, and so he used some of that Yale smarts to pick an obviously winning strategy. Your point that “lol he is so dumb he didnt realize doing that would disqualify him” would be more persuasive if “doing that” had “disqualified him.”

    That being said, its possible that almost any strategy he took would have resulted in confirmation and none of it actually mattered.

  125. amy Says:

    fred #121 – that’s part of it. Part is that we have more immigrants than we’ve had for a while; part is waning American power internationally; part is a function of the internet and the fact that ordinary people have been having conversations routinely with people outside the US for a couple of decades now. It’s an interesting thing, when you’re in a room with young people and also people 60+ — the presumptions about what the world looks like, how dominant America is in it, come out in ordinary conversation, and they’re pretty radically different.

  126. amy Says:

    AB – Your take leaves out the central items that are responsible for her believability and the impact she’s managed to have, starting with the fact that tens of millions of women in the US know similar experiences firsthand. (Jacobite is written as though “default person” is a man like the guys who run Jacobite.) It also leaves out their importance relative to the peripheral things you mention.

    I see this kind of problem chronically in these circles, btw, when it comes to trying to predict how people will behave. I think of it as the Quora problem. You get a lot of highly similar people with middling-to-low emotional perceptivity and relatively limited experience in the world — lots have never even been out of school. Just haven’t gone out knocking around in the world much. Their reading’s also quite narrow and nonliterary, so they don’t have a good feel for people with lives very different from theirs. Then they make two mistakes: they figure that their experience is a sufficient basis for understanding how and why people do things, and — crucially — they figure they can reason their way to an idea of “reasonable behavior” for people who aren’t much like themselves from that wholly inadequate basis. (And then, when people don’t behave that way, they decide that people are irrational/stupid, and that this is why their model isn’t working. Or, worse, they decide that the things that actually matter *should not* matter. Except they do.)

    Most of what you’re missing up there is a well-known, well-discussed range of experiences of how it is for girls and women when girls women are sexually assaulted. None of CBF’s behavior argues with reasonable behavior for someone who’s been sexually assaulted and found it to be deeply traumatic. Which means that you show your list and your tiers to someone who’s either had that experience or been in those conversations, and they shrug and say, “So?”

    All you can do at that point is talk about fairness, authority, and experience. (And, I hope, recognize that some sophisticated and earnest conversations have been going on about these things now for years, so there’s no need to behave as though nobody’s thought about this before and it’s an empty field.) Because after all, if you aren’t a woman who’s been sexually assaulted, does that mean you just have to shut up and sit there? Who gets to be the judge of anyone’s testimony? Well, we have a problem. In social circles that are diverse — say a high school, or a state university dorm — you’re likely to hear a loud voice saying, “I know what she’s talking about, and that’s exactly right.” And, in public conversation with the person, demonstrate that she does in fact have authority to vouch — she gets things right, she words things accurately, she brings up things the first speaker hasn’t but are in fact highly relevant. And the assembled crowd will broadly agree that speaker #2 knows her shit and is an excellent judge of the situation, and the one guy who thinks his voice should be more important here because it doesn’t make logical sense to him winds up having the situation explained to him, and then things depend on whether he digs in or listens, but essentially the authority is the disinterested person who knows what’s up.

    Courtrooms and the Senate are not highly diverse. On the contrary. The legislators and judges responsible for our bodies of law are, likewise, rather a narrow bunch making assumptions about how things go in life and what’s reasonable. So how do you solve that problem of authority, accurately perceived meanings, accurately named reasonable events, and understood-as-reasonable responses to events there? Well, normally, you try to at least mitigate with experts and other witnesses that can do the translation for the named authority. Obviously that didn’t happen in the CBF/Kavanaugh hearing, because Grassley wouldn’t allow it. Which is why that cartoon went viral. But even when that is permitted, we still wind up with quite significant problems, failures to recognize “normal and reasonable” when a speaker’s testimony is too far from the judge’s own experiences.

    My guess is that a combination of demographic shift and the work that’s being done now in such conversations is going to wind up changing some standards in jurisprudence. There’s enormous authority being given by younger people to authenticity of experience, particularly minority experience and women’s experience — and my guess is that they’ll take legal proceedings and decisions to a place that’s far less gladiatorial, far more experiential, and much more aimed at negotiated settlement that acknowledges real costs of events in people’s lives. Some of that already goes on now, but I suspect that, in a nutshell, major cases will start with a recognition that all the parties have already lost because otherwise they wouldn’t be there; the aim now is to minimize future damage, see justice broadly served, repair what can be repaired, and move on. People who show up angry and looking to win or destroy will be asked to go away and get themselves in order for the kind of process that actually exists — and if they can’t or won’t, they’ll more or less forfeit. Note that a key thing missing here is paranoia about the possibility that the complainant is lying for gain.

    That’d be a gigantic shift in how we do law — but I bet we’re headed in that direction.

    I do keep coming back, incidentally, to the weird way in which we have all these gaming-out scenarios driven by the notion that people are not only horrible but have endless free time for carrying out horrible schemes. The amount of fear and mistrust of people baked into these things is unbelievable.

  127. Michael Says:

    @amy#126- I agree that Blasey Ford was probably telling the truth.
    But you of all people should know that an inability to see people’s perspectives is not limited to one side or to people with limited life experiences. Think about the comment#171 affair- many feminists were unable to conceive of the reality of Scott’s story- and of course he received many emails from people that had similar experiences. You yourself said something to the effect that you never hear similar stories from mothers- when in reality, mothers becoming obsessed with somehow hurting their babies are one of the most common forms of OCD. Is that because of your limited life experience or your middling-to-low emotional perceptivity? No, it’s because humans are notoriously bad at seeing other people’s perspectives.

    I myself was convinced that the defendants in the Central Park Jogger case were guilty when their supporters (and one of their lawyers) suggested that the victim’s boyfriend did it or that
    she was in the park to buy drugs, because that was the way rapists act.
    And that’s the problem with courts of law considering authenticity of experience- no one can grasp the authenticity of EVERYBODY’S experience.

  128. James Cross Says:

    A B #122

    You seem to have a lot bet on the “fact” that Democrats leaked the letter.

    “Despite what the GOP has started to claim, I’m convinced they are lying when they say Senator Feinstein leaked Dr. Ford’s identity and her letter. It came from the GOP side, specifically via the Senate Ethics Committee. I hope you’ll indulge me as I explain.”

    If nothing comes from the investigation, I think we can conclude it was actually the Republicans Walking it back already?

    “But Grassley said in an interview that he hasn’t yet decided how much further he should pursue an inquiry into how Ford’s letter reached the public eye. “I’ve got some people on my committee that feel strongly about following up on the leak and all that stuff,” the Iowa Republican said. “I’ll have a conversation with them. I haven’t made up my mind yet.”

  129. amy Says:

    James Cross #122 Grassley’s busy making himself a legitimate media target: he wasn’t always like this. Used to be a normal deficit-hawk Republican, a reasonable-people-disagree kind of guy. For decades and decades. Something changed during the Paul Ryan years, and it would be very interesting to know what happened and why.

    His staff have also changed — dude’s got a rough crowd around him now. His district staffers are the usual party locals, Christian homeschoolers, and PR/marketing types, but he’s been hiring aggressive people with long histories of petty lawbreaking for some of the top jobs. I’m not surprised that his counsel had that twitter moment, or that he had to let go a guy who’d been accused of sexual harassment on the job. I could be wrong, but I don’t recall that this is what you used to get with these guys.

    Michael #127 – I’m not sure what you’re referring to with the mothers-hurting-babies reference, but sure, everyone’s perspective is limited. Some more than others, but regardless, that’s the point. (The Quora problem comes up when people aren’t aware that this is a real problem, try to reason in ways that are probably inapplicable anyway from a seriously inadequate basis, and call the answer good — then use it to make judgments about other people.) There’s a lot more public recognition of this now, in the US, than I can recall at any other time in my life, and it leads directly to questions of authority to decide, to judge. It’s buttressed by decades’ worth of arguments and conversations about who can represent whom in performance, who can write about or speak for whom, who can treat whom, who can wear whose clothing and under what circumstances, who can understand the experience of others. I will short-circuit the Arendt question by agreeing with her and saying that yes, of course we can and must judge things of which we have no direct experience. The question, refined, is who can judge well. Which is not just about experience, or the ability and willingness to hear and understand other people’s experiences, but I’d submit those things are key ingredients.

    An interesting thing that happens for real in courts is that, people being what they are, the same kinds of cases, same stories, come up over and over and over in a courtroom, and it becomes possible for a judge or mediator to understand better than the parties themselves do what’s going on. A real danger though is that under time pressure the mediator/judge stops listening too soon, stops thinking “but maybe I’m wrong”, and also fails to question his or her own interpretation of a familiar story, and you get some pretty rough justice that way.

  130. Tetryar Says:

    “And I want to say: maybe this is just. Maybe straight white males deserve to suffer after millennia of undeserved privilege. And—admittedly, I’m still confused about this last part—maybe those with my psychological profile, nerdiness or neuroticism or whatever, deserve to suffer especially badly.”

    God dammit, man, stand up for yourself. It’s like you are writhing to find any possible excuse to side with the same people who made your life a living hell. No, it is not just in any way whatsoever that a human being be made to suffer for the sins of that human being’s ancestors, or that a human being should be made to suffer for being nerdy or neurotic. You should not entertain this garbage for even a nanosecond. It is _wrong_, and it will continue to be wrong even if ten billion millennials post “it’s right” on Facebook.

  131. justin Says:

    It’s “alumnius,” not alumnus.

  132. fred Says:

    “Maybe straight white males deserve to suffer after millennia of undeserved privilege.”

    Unfortunately the world didn’t wait for the emergence of white folks to start massacring each other on a constant basis (on every continent, across all colors).
    It’s just that whites happened to be the last to stumble into the latest methods to ramp up technology even faster than anyone else (after the Chinese had the upper hand for a few millennia).

    As an example, if a people should be held responsible, it’s the Mongol descendants of Genghis Khan:

    “Mongol invasions and conquests took place throughout the 13th century, resulting in the vast Mongol Empire, which by 1300 covered much of Asia and Eastern Europe. It has been calculated that approximately 5% of the world’s population were killed during Turco-Mongol invasions or in their immediate aftermath. If these calculations are accurate, this would make the events the deadliest acts of mass killings in human history.
    In addition, Mongol expeditions may have brought the bubonic plague along with them, spreading it across much of Asia and Europe and helping cause massive loss of life in the Black Death of the 14th century.”.

    Of course, guilt-ridden white people will dismiss these examples because they believe that they should be held to a higher standard than the rest of humanity, itself the result of a latent belief in some form of white supremacy. Hence the guilt and confusion.

  133. amy Says:

    It strikes me that those humanities deans didn’t bargain hard enough when they signed off on Vannevar’s plan for NSF. Fred, I look at your comment, and I think that even Will and Ariel Durant would have to be polite about your read on the History of Man’s Progress.

  134. fred Says:

    amy #133

    Hehe, my point is that if you trace the lineage of every single human alive today you will stumble into an unending series of horrible misfortunes and tragedies. No one was spared as a victim or as a culprit. So, if we’re going to look for responsibility and blame, it will get us nowhere. Instead we should look ahead and have more compassion, because none of us chose who were are.

    I’m dubious about the idea of “History of Man’s Progress”.
    Progress in science has obvious pros and cons in terms of our survival as a species, but it doesn’t really change what it is to be human all that much, and it’s likely that our ancestors were way more attuned with the true nature of reality and much wiser than we are because they were constantly reminded that death, suffering, loss, and dissatisfaction are what life is about, and learning how to face them is the key to happiness.

    Now the earth feels so tiny and crowded, we’ve totally shielded ourselves from the realities of the human condition and nature by distracting ourselves in a constant information overload (of facts about the physical world or imaginary worlds), which we call “progress”.
    We’re certainly good at finding new/more ways to confuse ourselves.

    Pascal summed it up nicely with his “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”… and that was in the 17th century when the world population was 10 times smaller!

  135. fred Says:

    We think that progress has banished the intrinsic mystery of existence out of our daily life (out of sight, down at the Planck distance, or in obscure abstract equations), but the mystery is still as whole as it was over 2000 years ago, when it was right at the surface of everything. And yet the sages in those days understood probably better the importance of focusing on the right things, as illustrated in this parable:

    “It’s just as if a man were wounded with an arrow thickly smeared with poison. His friends & companions, kinsmen & relatives would provide him with a surgeon, and the man would say, ‘I won’t have this arrow removed until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble warrior, a priest, a merchant, or a worker.’ He would say, ‘I won’t have this arrow removed until I know the given name & clan name of the man who wounded me… until I know whether he was tall, medium, or short… until I know whether he was dark, ruddy-brown, or golden-colored… until I know his home village, town, or city… until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a long bow or a crossbow… until I know whether the bowstring with which I was wounded was fiber, bamboo threads, sinew, hemp, or bark… until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was wild or cultivated… until I know whether the feathers of the shaft with which I was wounded were those of a vulture, a stork, a hawk, a peacock, or another bird… until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was bound with the sinew of an ox, a water buffalo, a langur, or a monkey.’ He would say, ‘I won’t have this arrow removed until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was that of a common arrow, a curved arrow, a barbed, a calf-toothed, or an oleander arrow.’ The man would die and those things would still remain unknown to him”

  136. Think Says:

    Is this a conditionless proof of P is not BQP? If not what does it prove?

  137. Scott Says:

    Think #136: No, it’s nothing close to an unconditional proof of P≠BQP (which would also imply P≠PSPACE). Don’t you think I would’ve blogged about that? 🙂

    But it’s still extremely nice. What it is, is an unconditional separation between the class of relation problems solvable by constant-depth bounded-fanin quantum circuits, and the class of relation problems solvable by constant-depth bounded-fanin classical circuits. The relation problems considered are all easy to solve in classical polynomial time; the way they achieve their unconditional separation is to consider much, much weaker complexity classes (but weakening the classical and quantum models in the same way, namely to constant depth and bounded fanin).

    In what’s now an extremely familiar pattern, this paper appeared on the arXiv a year and a half ago, and was a highlight of the QIP conference in January. So it’s already been assimilated by people in the field and there’s even been followup work. But then it gets officially published in Science, which leads to garbled popular articles about the brand-new earth-shattering breakthrough, and only by clicking the link to the paper do you learn that that breaking news and the thing that was really nice when you digested it last year are one and the same.

  138. fulis Says:

    Hi Scott, have you seen this paper from about a month ago?

    Do you have any thoughts as it relates to fault tolerant QC?

  139. Scott Says:

    fulis #138: As it happens, I’m flying back to Austin right now (from U of New Mexico), and I asked someone to print out that very paper for me so I could read it on the plane! It came up in discussions. Hopefully I’ll have some comments soon.

  140. John Sidles Says:

    Please let me join with commenter fulis (circa #138) in hoping for a thoughtful Shtetl Optimized discussion of Xun Gao and Luming Duan’s preprint “Efficient classical simulation of noisy quantum computation” (arXiv:1810.03176). Also eminently worthy of Shtetl Optimized mention, in the same week’s bolus of arXiv preprints, is Zhong et al. “12-photon entanglement and scalable scattershot boson sampling with optimal entangled-photon pairs from parametric down-conversion” (arXiv:1810.04823).

    Highly commended too is Gil Kalai’s ICM 2018 Plenary Lecture “Noise Stability, Noise Sensitivity, and the Quantum Computer Puzzle” (video here, slides here). An invitation to give a ICM plenary lecture is a very high honor for a mathematician, so congratulations, Gil! 🙂

    Considered in aggregate, these works provide multiple, obvious, tempting opportunities to engage in charmingly witty motte-and-bailey discourse; for prophesying that “quantum supremacy is near” or alternatively, “quantum supremacy is a mirage”; for arguing that “Gil Kalai is completely wrong” or alternatively, “Gil Kalai is entirely right”.

    Such discourse too-easily devolves into “charm that does harm” — the phrase “charm that does harm” is from Arkady Plotnitsky’s foresighted essay “Derrida, Relativity, and the ‘Science Wars'” (Postmodern Culture, 1997).

    As an active countermeasure against “charm that does harm”, I for one am hopeful that recent, top-quality quantum research relating to the universality (or not) of the Extended Church-Turing Thesis, will evoke the sober, reasoned, public, scientific discourse, that topics like the ECT absolutely require and eminently deserve.

    Uhhh … discourse with perhaps with just enough charmingly witty and sardonic remarks, to provide grounds for shared hilarity, and evoke an appropriate shared humility, in the face of humanity’s many, immensely difficult, shared challenges.

  141. fulis Says:

    #140 Regarding the boson sampling, there was a result similar to the one from Gao and Duan for boson sampling as well (arXiv:1809.01953).

  142. Jelmer Renema Says:

    @ John 140: I can’t comment on the Gao / Duan paper, although it appears very interesting and I would certainly like to learn more about it. The Zhang paper is an immense technical achievement (I’ve seen photographs from the lab, which are scary), but certainly not a demonstration of scalable boson sampling.

    The main problem in the approach they use to boson sampling is photon loss in the sources. In their method of generating photons, each source generates two photons, and one is routed to a detector to announce the presence of the other photon (‘herald’) while the second photon goes to the experiment. They key figure of merit is how well you can perform that process. That is: if you also plug the second photon directly into a detector, what is the probability that that detector clicks, given that the first one clicks? This number is called the heralding efficiency.

    They claim a heralding efficiency of 97%, which indeed would be crazy good, but if you read their text, this number first goes to 93% when say they’ve backed out 4% in free space losses, and then later on they mention they have 75% efficient detectors. The detector efficiency constrains the overall heralding efficiency, so it’s not clear what this number 93% now means. I am pretty sure the referees will force them to clarify this. As far as I understand, the record for uncorrected heralding efficiency is still around 80-82%, achieved by various groups.

    Is this enough for scalable boson sampling? No. In a recent work we show that in fact any level of losses or photon distinguishability results in some number of photons beyond which a polynomial sampling algorithm becomes efficient. If you then ask the question ‘at what level of imperfections is does that happen before you hit 50 photons?’ the answer is: you need 88% efficient sources, provided your definition of ‘simulated’ is ‘simulated to within 10%’.

  143. fred Says:

    That’s easy, you just need to build a QC out of neutrinos.

  144. fred Says:

    seems like the key sentence in the paper is

    “Therefore, our result has no contradiction with the threshold theorem. Instead, it reveals the subtle boundary between classical simulatability and the power of quantum computing: although generic noisy quantum circuits are classically simulatable as indicated by the theorems here, the fault-tolerant quantum error correction implements a particular (non-generic) type quantum circuit of physical gates that escapes the curse of noise and thus is essential for the power of quantum computing”

  145. luysii Says:

    Consider this

    You can’t con an honest man, but you can con yourself

    How could Kavanaugh and Ford tell two diametrically opposed stories, which both sincerely believed to be true? Here are 3 examples of exactly how it could happen, the first from clinical neurologic practice, the other two from the New York Times and the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    As a neurologist I was asked to do an Independent Medical Evaluation (IME) on an unfortunate man who was electrocuted at work (he worked on high voltage transmission lines). He went into cardiac arrest and sustained severe brain damage. The issue was not fault, which the power company readily admitted, but whether in what appeared to be a vegetative state, with no visible response to verbal commands, he was in fact conscious but unable to respond. In the latter case the reward to the family would have been substantially larger (for pain and suffering in addition to loss of consortium, etc. etc.). It was claimed that facilitated communication showed that he was able to write the answer to simple calculations given verbally, not visually.

    Reviewing the chart before seeing the man, showed that he and his wife were truly admirable people, adopting children that no one else wanted and raising them despite limited income. He was seen at the rehab facility, with attorneys for the insurer for the power company and his family present. It was apparent that the people caring for him were quite devoted, both to him and his wife and were very sincere, especially one of his young therapists.

    The neurologic exam showed that although he did react to deep pain (sternal compression), he did not follow simple commands (e.g. blink). He appeared to be in a coma. Following the neurologic examination the young therapist then demonstrated how when he held the man’s hand to which a pencil was attached, the man could actually perform calculations — add 2 and 2 produce a 4, etc. etc. Several such calculations were produced all with correct answer.

    What do you think I did next?

    No peeking. Think about it.

    I took the first sheet of paper away, placed a clean sheet under the man’s hand and asked for a repeat (this time with the therapist’s eyes closed).

    This produced a bunch of random lines, nothing more. When the therapist opened his eyes and saw the results, he was visibly shaken and close to tears.

    Was therapist faking the whole time? At any time? I seriously doubt it. A fraudster could easily have produced a reasonable number with his eyes shut. Try it yourself. He didn’t.

    “You can’t con an honest man” —

    True, but you certainly can con yourself.

    The second example is of a highly educated woman (a tenured professor of ethics at Rutgers Newark) using ‘facilitated communication’ who convinced herself that a severely retarded individual could communicate, and was in fact in love with her. The jury convicted her of sexual assault and sent her to prison.

    The article appeared in 25 October 2015 New York Times Magazine — here is a link

    The third example is the product of the youngest author ever to appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Emily Rosa age 11). She put a definitive end to “Therapeutic Touch”—

    The point of all this is that highly intelligent people can con themselves. I take no position on whether Ford or Kavanaugh (or both) conned themselves. Syracuse, when I was practicing in the area in the 90s, was a hotbed of facilitated memory recollection, usually resulting in claims of sexual abuse, and I saw several parents whose life had been destroyed by it. It would be of great interest to find out if Dr. Ford’s therapist used the technique. We’ll likely never know and the Ford Kavanaugh affair will be the Patty Hearst affair of the decade.

  146. James Cross Says:


    “How could Kavanaugh and Ford tell two diametrically opposed stories, which both sincerely believed to be true? ”

    The idea occurred to me but from an entirely different angle than yours.

    The events happened pretty much as Ford described them. However, Kavanaugh was drunk and basically horsing around. He might not even have remembered the event at all since it was insignificant to him and anyway he was drunk. Ford interpreted Kavanaugh’s actions as a serious attempt to assault her. Judge, the third party, may have actually realized that Ford was not going along with the play. Remember Ford recounted that she tried several times to make eye contact with Judge. At any rate, Judge realizing he had to break this up jumped on the bed several times. Ford also recounted that. In the process of jumping on the bed, Judge did break it up and Ford got out of the room.

    Complete speculation, of course, as is your idea that Ford fooled yourself with reconstructed memories.

  147. luysii Says:

    James Cross — ” I take no position on whether Ford or Kavanaugh (or both) conned themselves.” Your idea about Ford/Kavanaugh is plausible. Reconstructed memory is another speculation, as you note, but equally plausible (to me at least), as I saw its effects several times in clinical practice. It wasn’t pretty.

    For another example — see

  148. Eric Boesch Says:

    amy #99 — Minor detail — Clarence and Virginia Thomas are in an interracial marriage.

  149. William Gasarch Says:

    Kamala Harris is a big fan of Quantum Computing. Well that is of course great news it does raise the question:

    KH majored in Poly-sci (OH- there is a poly in there!) and hence I assume does not know much about QC. So how can she be a big fan of it? I ask this non-cynically and propose some answers:

    1) She has science advisors who know stuff and can tell her whats up in terms she can understand enough to make policy. However, I wonder if she is a big fan since she thinks QC will factor large numbers and break crypto OR because she recognizes its value intellectually ind. of factoring. OR she thinks QC can solve NP-complete problems (oh well).

    2) Its a big game of Telephone. Someone who might know some QC tells someone who tells someone who… omega moves later … tells KH that QC can cure cancer.

    A more general issue: people who do not know science making decisions on funding science. If (1) above is common then this may not be a problem. But it requires politicians to hire OBJECTIVE scientists and NOT just people who are biased (already bad) and already agree with them (worse). Having said that, I doubt KH purposely chose pro-QC science advisors.