The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Benefit of the Doubt

The Hill reports:
[An IPSOS/NPR] poll, which was published late last year, found that 79 percent of Americans believe that those who report they are sexual harassment victims should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents said that people accused of sexual harassment should be given the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise, according to the survey.
That's a reasonable position demonstrating the inherent fairness of the American people. However, the clear implication is that there are no extenuating circumstances that might lead the accuser to misremember key events or facts or in the extreme, manufacture events or facts to achieve some pre-defined objective.

When it comes to the sexual harassment allegation offered by California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford against SCOTUS nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, it is nearly impossible to determine whether she is telling the truth. Sure, she can be given the benefit of the doubt, but in her case, there are more than enough extenuating circumstances to justify significant skepticism.

First, the event in question happened 35 years ago. Even if Ford's intensions are pure and her trauma is real, it is not unreasonable to assume that a detailed memory of that day's events (before, during and after the alleged harassment) may have become hazy and/or unintentionally embellished over three and a half decades. The editors of Wall Street Journal note:
The vagaries of memory are well known, all the more so when they emerge in the cauldron of a therapy session to rescue a marriage. Experts know that human beings can come to believe firmly over the years that something happened when it never did or is based on partial truth. Mistaken identity is also possible.

The Post reports that the therapist’s notes from 2012 say there were four male assailants, but Ms. Ford says that was a mistake. Ms. Ford also can’t recall in whose home the alleged assault took place, how she got there, or how she got home that evening.
It's also worth noting that Ford's inability to remember the location of the alleged assault is odd. If the event were as traumatic as Ford claims, every detail of the location, the time, and the events would likely be etched into her memory. That isn't the case, making it impossible to interview other potential witnesses who were there.

Second, it appears that Ford is ideologically opposed to Brett Kavanaugh's judicial philosophy and may have reason to help derail his nomination to SCOTUS. She deleted her social media history before her name became public. Maybe that was for privacy, or possibly it was to eliminate claims that she is hyper-partisan. We'll never know.

Third, this is not a he-said/she-said case. Another person in attendance said the alleged incident never happened and other women who knew Kavanaugh contemporaneously said the allegation does not conform to their knowledge of him or his actions at that time.

Fourth, there is no known physical or documented evidence to support Ford's allegation—it is unsubstantiated. Her therapist's notes are not a secondary source, only Ford's earlier commentary on the same alleged incident. They do not represent meaningful corroboration.

And fifth, regardless of the conventional #MeToo wisdom that tells us that all women are always to be believed, there is a small, but non-trivial percentage of harassment allegations that have been provably false.

What might sway an objective observer to conclude that the allegations are true? First, if other provable cases of harassment by Kavanaugh had been found, the credence of Ford's claim would grow. It's worth remembering that Kavanaugh underwent detailed investigation by the FBI six times in his career and no such harassment cases were uncovered, nor were any allegations made.

Second, had the allegation been made without the overlay of a SCOTUS nomination process, it might be more believable. Why didn't Ford come forward when Kavanaugh was first appointed to the federal bench or in 2012 when she revealed the incident to her therapist? After all, Judge Kavanaugh's decisions at the Appeals Court level of the judiciary affected many women. Yet, Ford was silent.

Third, if Ford was politically agnostic (she is not), her allegation's might be given more weight. It's worth asking who benefits from the destruction of Kavanaugh's reputation and whether the accuser is of like mind with those who benefit. In this case, it appears that Ford is an activist Democrat.

Again from the WSJ:
The timing and details of how Ms. Ford came forward, and how her name was coaxed into public view, should also raise red flags about the partisan motives at play. The Post says Ms. Ford contacted the paper via a tip line in July but wanted to remain anonymous. She then brought her story to a Democratic official while still hoping to stay anonymous.

Yet she also then retained a lawyer, Debra Katz, who has a history of Democratic activism and spoke in public defense of Bill Clinton against the accusations by Paula Jones. Ms. Katz urged Ms. Ford to take a polygraph test. The Post says she passed the polygraph, though a polygraph merely shows that she believes the story she is telling.

The more relevant question is why go to such lengths if Ms. Ford really wanted her name to stay a secret? Even this weekend she could have chosen to remain anonymous. These are the actions of someone who was prepared to go public from the beginning if she had to.

None of this says that her allegations are false—we'll probably never know. But there is certainly reason to be very skeptical about their validity, and also reason to give just as much benefit of the doubt to the accused, particularly with the set of extenuating circumstances that come into play in this instance.


After writing about the "collateral damage" that Ford's accusations level on Kavanaugh's family, his daughters and the many woman he coached and mentored, Roger Simon doesn't pull any punches when he writes:
But arguendo everything [Ford] says is true or at least true-ish, is what the young Kavanaugh did anything much different from a million fraternity boys at a million parties? Probably not, although it is reprehensible. But has Kavanaugh since then lived an exemplary life regarding his relationships with women? Evidently. In fact he has mentored them and helped them advance on numerous occasions. Sixty-five women who knew him stepped forward almost instantly to defend him. How many of us could say that? Is he likely to be biased against women as a Supreme Court justice? Nonsense.

Is there a single person of any political persuasion who would vouch for everything he or she did in high school?

Nevertheless, we live in a time of consummate selfishness and evil. Almost nothing is done with clean hands or pure motivation. Few, if anyone, think about others -- in this case even about their very young and impressionable sisters. Christine Blasey Ford is a poster woman for the worst, most narcissistic end of the #MeToo movement.

UPDATE: Grabien is reporting that her students despised Ford and urged others to avoid her. They called her "unfiltered" and "vengeful" on This meshes with the vengeance she may have been getting for Kavanaugh's mother adjudicating the trial of Ford's parents.
I'm sure there will be sanctimonious protestations that Christine Blasey Ford has been "victimized" as her life is dissected, following her accusations. Yet, she chose to initiate this ugly episode 35 years after the alleged event occurred.


In a shout out to an awful event that happened over 300 years ago, Lance Morrow discusses the hysteria (called “spectral evidence") that surrounded the Salem witch trials and the strange tricks of memory that had decent people testifying that they saw a woman accused of witch craft turn into a black cat.
Three hundred twenty-six years later, an anonymous woman—a spectral and possibly nonexistent woman, for all that one knew when the story emerged—accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her 36 years ago, when he was a high-school student. It seemed as if the American constitutional process might be drawn back to the neighborhood of Salem, Mass. According to this phantom testimony, 17-year-old Brett held the girl down, pawed her and tried to force himself upon her, and held his hand over her mouth when she screamed, until a second prep-school devil piled on top, they all tumbled to the floor, and the girl managed to slip away. The boys were “stumbling drunk,” according to the account.

You were supposed to feel the sudden wind-shear of hypocrisy. The nominee was a seeming paragon—perfect father and husband and coach of his daughters’ basketball teams. He is a Roman Catholic with an Irish name, but now the script became as gleefully Calvinist as a Hawthorne tale. What imp of hell had possessed the Kavanaugh boy? The Protestant tale seemed to obtain subliminal verification against the background of Catholic sex-abuse scandals.

Thus the constitutional process takes on an aspect of the 21st-century medieval.
I can only wonder how modern day Democrats would have judged the spectral evidence presented in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692.


This entire Democrat-generated Ford v. Kavanaugh episode is so despicable, so vicious, it deserves three updates. But, but, but, argue progressives ... Merrick Garland.

Uh ... no. The GOP held the Senate at the end of the Obama era and had a constitutional right to block hearings on Garland. The Dems didn't like it but the solution was to win back the senate or have their candidate, Hillary Clinton win or both. Neither happened.

The GOP never vilified Garland, never accused him a sexual harassment and never ginned up last minute unsubstantiated accusations that tarnished his character and reputation. That was left for the Democrats to do this past week.

Richard Epstein writes:
[Christine Blasey Ford ] putting the information exclusively in the hands of key Democrats thus invited the wholly corrupt strategy that has now unfolded. First, the Democrats would try to discredit Kavanaugh by engaging in a set of procedural antics and obnoxious substantive questions during the hearing, without mentioning this letter. When that strategy abjectly failed, they knew they had to go to Plan B, which was to release the letter and the allegation days before the confirmation vote. A perfect sandbag, for the Democrats knew full well that there was no time to respond to them, without causing an enormous delay in the confirmation hearings. Their hope was, and is, to create a huge media circus that would take weeks if not months to sort out. Shipwreck this nomination. Make it impossible for the current Senate to pass on any subsequent nominee before January. Then take control of the Senate and create a stalemate that could run on until the next presidential election.

And for what? Ford, Kavanaugh’s accuser, maintained a stony silence on these allegations for more than 35 years. At no point did she raise them in connection with the Senate confirmation hearings before Kavanaugh was confirmed in 2006. Kavanaugh has categorically denied the allegations. Late last week, Mark Judge, his alleged accomplice, denounced the allegations as “absolutely nuts.” No other woman has ever made any allegation of this sort against Kavanaugh. and 65 women have written an explicit letter in his defense. Kavanaugh is right not to respond beyond his categorical denial, knowing full well that further comment would only draw him further into a vortex on which credibility determinations would be unending. And the Senate is right to continue with the confirmation vote. The institutional damage to the Senate, the Supreme Court, and the nation has already been enormous. What is left now is only the sorry task of damage containment. What sane judge would like to be the next Supreme Court nominee?
The Dems don't care—it's the politics of personal destruction all the way down. Sad.