October 7, 2018

An Indiana Demonstration

Coming home from the supermarket this afternoon, I drove down Philadelphia Street, the main drag of Indiana, Pennsylvania. On the sidewalk for several blocks were people holding signs, most of which said: “PRAY TO END ABORTION.” I didn’t actually count, but there must have been at least 12 or 15 people holding signs facing the street. I saw a single sign promoting adoption. The people were spaced out, so the effect was of a blocks-long demonstration.

It was not clear who was responsible for this event, but my guess is that (1) the demonstrators were Roman Catholic, and (2) they were emboldened by yesterday’s swearing in of Roman Catholic Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Until now, I had never seen anything like today’s display in Indiana.

I found the demonstration exceedingly annoying. Praying will do little good, though it may make some people feel more righteous. If the demonstrators really want to end abortion, they should advocate for serious sex education for public and private schools, as well as for home-schooled children. They should also advocate for easy access to contraception and sterilization. Typically, however, the “pro-life” crowd (who are really just anti-abortion) have little use for effective sex education and are often down on contraception as well.

Pray for sane and effective public policy on matters related to human reproduction.

September 28, 2018

Historic Hearing

Yesterday, Brett Kavanaugh proved beyond doubt that he is unqualified to be a judge, much less a Supreme Court justice. After showing himself to be a mean and vindictive witness, it is easy to imagine him as a mean drunk, as he has been characterized by a number of women.

After being coached by Trump’s minions at the White House, Kavanaugh changed his demeanor from innocent choir boy to cornered and enraged tiger. He exhibited a huge chip on his shoulder and wove a conspiracy theory about Democrats out to get him to even the score for Trump’s electoral victory, oppose his political views, and repay him for his role in the Ken Starr investigation. He complained about the millions spent to oppose his candidacy, ignoring the millions spent in its favor. He inveighed against damage to his reputation and family but showed no sympathy for the trauma and indignity endured by Dr. Blasey.

Kavanaugh evaded questions and talked incessantly in order to use up the little time each senator was allotted for questioning. He had the nerve to ask one senator a question, as if she were on trial. Most importantly, when repeatedly asked if he would request an FBI investigation of the charges against him, he consistently evaded the question, saying that such an investigation was up to the committee and, in any case, would not draw conclusions. (This last assertion is beside the point, of course. The FBI could solicit sworn testimony that would likely cast doubt on Kavanaugh’s indignant show of innocence.)

Kavanaugh’s questioning followed that of  Christine Blasey Ford. Dr. Blasey’s performance was nothing short of totally believable. Even an outside prosecutor could find no contradictions or suspicious details in her story. Though admittedly nervous, she maintained her composure and was forthright about what she could and could not remember. She declared herself 100% certain of the identity of her attacker and was even helpful in pointing out how some missing details of her story could be filled in. She, too, asked for additional FBI investigation.

It was expected that the hearing would be a he-said-she-said affair requiring a difficult choice of whom to believe. It was not! Any reasonable, objective person—apparently no GOP senator on the committee is in this class—would conclude that Blasey told the truth and that Kavanaugh lied and evaded. If Christine Blasey Ford was not telling the truth, she should be scooped up by Hollywood, as her performance was of Oscar caliber. If she was not telling the truth, she is the greatest actress of this age, perhaps of any age.

Kavanaugh, on the other hand, has shown himself to have a mean streak in his personality and a disregard for truth and the search for it. He is a privileged white male angry that anyone should attempt to limit his privilege. He lacks a judicial temperament. Not only should he not be a Supreme Court justice, but he also should be removed from his current position as a federal appellate judge.

NOTE: I am writing this about an hour before the Senate Judiciary Committee is almost certainly going to forward Kavanaugh’s nomination with a positive recommendation to the full Senate. I hope his nomination will be stopped in that body.

September 26, 2018

Stanislav Petrov Day

On this day in 1983, Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov (1939–2017), who was the duty officer at the Soviet Union’s command center for the Oko nuclear early-warning system, likely saved the world from nuclear war. The system he was monitoring indicated that six missiles had been launched from the United States targeted at the Soviet Union. In September 1983, relations between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were tense, and a nuclear attack, though unlikely, was not inconceivable.

For a variety of reasons, Petrov guessed that the alarm was false. He was, of course, correct, and he did not report an attack to his superiors. It is feared that, given the political tensions of the time, Soviet leaders might well have launched a counterattack, which would have elicited a similar response from the U.S.

As it happened, the warning that Petrov received was the result of a confluence of unusual circumstances misinterpreted by a relatively new monitoring system. He did not know this, however, and his failure to report an American attack may well have saved the world from nuclear holocaust. The incident ultimately resulted in changes to the Soviet early warning system.

Petrov received little recognition in his native Russia but has received a number of awards from the West. More information about him and his heroic inaction can be found on Wikipedia.

On this day, it is appropriate that we offer a moment of silence or prayer in thanksgiving for Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov.

Stanislav Petrov
Stanislav Petrov in 2016 (photo by Queery-54)

September 24, 2018

In What Year Did Brett Kavanaugh Stop Assaulting Women?

A second woman (and possibly others) have accused Supreme Court justice candidate Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. First, it was an incident in high school. Now we have a charge of an incident in college. We are told that Kavanaugh has led an exemplary life. We must ask, however, in what year did he stop abusing women? When did he become the paragon of virtue described by the president and GOP senators?

Kavanaugh’s truthfulness and his expansive view of the presidency have already come into question. But the president and his minions in Congress have attempted to hurry through the Kavanaugh nomination before he is thoroughly vetted and before any more damaging information comes to light.

Under the circumstances, it is time for Brett Kavanaugh to withdraw from consideration to become a Supreme Court justice. This country is in danger of having a Supreme Court 22% of whose members are likely guilty of sexual improprieties. Of course, this is no concern of those radicals who see the reversing of Roe v. Wade as the highest priority of the United States of America.

Let’s get this increasingly ugly mess out of the way. Let the president find another, more appropriate, candidate to elevate to the Supreme Court. How about Merrick Garland?

Kavanaugh: Withdraw!
Click on image for a larger view.

My earlier posts on Judge Kavanaugh can be found here, here, and here.

September 22, 2018

Clean Your PC

My PC, which was once very quiet, has been quite noisy of late. Initially, this was worrisome, as I feared the noises, which were clearly coming from some rotating device, indicated that my hard drive was about to fail. On careful listening, however, it didn’t seem like the hard drive was making the noise.

Like many computer users, I keep my “desktop” machine on the floor under my desk. I knew that the fans in the computer tend to suck in dust, a particular problem because I have two cats who cannot seem to keep all their fur attached. Once before, I wiped off the accumulation of dust from the perforations on the side of the computer and decreased the noise made by the PC by doing so. That trick didn’t work this time. Almost certainly, the fans designed to keep everything cool were working very hard to move air through an accumulation of dust and making unusually noises in the process.

I opened the case and began a more thorough cleaning. My computer contains three fans, each of which can suck in dust. There is a small fan at the back of the power supply, a larger one below it ventilating the case generally, and a fan mounted atop the CPU heat sink. In each case, I used the suction function of my vacuum cleaner to remove dust. I also dusted other components with a soft bush, a shaving bush, actually, which comes in handy for such tasks.

When finished, I replaced the side panel of the case and turned on the machine. I now hear only the slightest hum, but I have become acutely aware of the noises made by my refrigerator.

If you are hearing loud whirring sounds from your PC, you might want to try cleaning it as I did mine. It’s a good idea to remove power from the computer first. Keep metal implements away from internal components. Oh, and be careful with that vacuum cleaner. Don’t let it get near anything other than a fan intake.  I inadvertently sucked up a USB drive that was lying nearby and had to retrieve it from the dust bag.

September 20, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, Round 3

I want to address the charges Dr. Blasey has brought against Judge Kavanaugh as this psycho-political national drama moves toward a conclusion. My first post on this subject can be found here. My most recent post is here.
As of this writing, it is unclear whether Christine Blasey Ford will testify against Brett Kavanaugh before the Judiciary Committee. Senator Grassley is insisting that the testimony be given at a session on Monday and that Dr. Blasey deliver a statement to the committee by tomorrow. Dr. Blasey, on the other hand, wants there to be an FBI investigation of her charges before she testifies. It is unclear how this standoff will end. Although the GOP line is that an FBI investigation would be irregular, there was such an investigation, albeit a less than intensive one, after Anita Hill brought forward her charges of sexual harassment against judicial candidate Clarence Thomas.

We should ask whether the assertions of Dr. Blasey, if determined to be true, will make any difference. The alleged rape attempt took place a long time ago and may well be dismissed by senators as a “youthful indiscretion.” If Judge Kavanaugh has not carried his drinking and sexual predation practices into adulthood, does this one incident really matter? If he has since lived an exemplary life, should he be denied his chance to become a Supreme Court justice?

Of course, if Dr. Blasey’s story is true, we must ask whether it was an aberration on the part of her attacker or whether it was part of a pattern of which we are presently unaware. An FBI investigation into Judge Kavanaugh’s youth might be indicated.

Dr. Blasey’s charges are certainly serious. It is clear, as I am sure she will testify, that the incident has been deeply troubling and has engendered a long-term psychological burden. That burden is particularly heavy for having been visited on a 15-year-old girl. Will this matter to the senators on the Judiciary Committee? Anita Hill, to whose situation that of Dr. Blasey is being compared, wrote this two days ago in The New York Times:
In 1991, the Senate Judiciary Committee had an opportunity to demonstrate its appreciation for both the seriousness of sexual harassment claims and the need for public confidence in the character of a nominee to the Supreme Court. It failed on both counts.
I fear that the committee will fail again.

Her accomplishments make it clear that Dr. Blasey is a smart woman. She knows what Anita Hill went through. It is almost inconceivable that she would make the charges she has were they not true. If committee members are convinced that Dr. Blasey’s story is true, and if Judge Kavanaugh continues to insist that it is not, then he must be a liar. It is difficult to see how this would not be disqualifying. Ironically, it would be easier to excuse his actions were he to admit to them.

If there is a hearing with Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey as witnesses, difficult questions will be asked of the reputed victim, and many will not be answerable. On what date did the attack occur? At whose house? Who was in charge? Who else was there? How do you know that Brett Kavanaugh was your assailant? Are you sure? Who did you tell about the attack? If you told no one, why did you not?

Questions must be asked of Judge Kavanaugh as well. Did you know Christine Blasey? Did you ever attend a party with her? Did you go to many parties? Were you a frequent drinker? Did you ever not remember events of the night before after drinking heavily? Were you sexually active at 17? Did you date younger girls when you were 17?

Without an investigation to shed more light on the situation, the proposed hearing will degenerate into a he-said-she-said affair. Democrats will believe Dr. Blasey and vote against the nomination. Republicans will pretend to believe Judge Kavanaugh and will send his nomination to the full Senate with a recommendation to consent to the nomination. And the country will take another step on the road to perdition.

September 19, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, Round 2

I was writing a new post about the charges leveled against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when I learned that his accuser is requesting an FBI investigation of those charges before she testifies before the Judiciary Committee. I’ve put that post on hold, so I can write about the situation we now find ourselves in. My original post on the Kavanaugh-Ford matter can be found here. In the interest of clarity in what follows, I will refer to Kavanaugh as Judge Kavanaugh and to Ford as Dr. Blasey, by which name she is known professionally. In the incident described by Dr. Blasey, of course, she was simply Christine Blasey.
Dr. Christine Blasey, through her lawyer, has requested that the FBI investigate her charges against Judge Kavanaugh before she offers testimony before the Senate. This is problematic. Dr. Blasey has agreed to testify, but committee chair Senator Chuck Grassley has scheduled testimony to be heard on September 24, five days from now, and he appears to view the date as non-negotiable. Not only does this leave insufficient time for an investigation, but the president and the FBI have rejected the investigation sought by Kavanaugh’s accuser.

The FBI asserts that it has added Dr. Blasey’s charges to its background file on Judge Kavanaugh and is not going to investigate what it construes to be a crime that is a state, rather than a federal, concern. This, of course, is nonsense. Government background checks do not merely collect rumors, but attempt to discover actual facts about the person being investigated. (Republicans no longer believe in facts. But I digress.) Adding a devastating charge to a background check without indicating if it is to be taken seriously is simply irresponsible.

President Trump has suggested that the Senate committee should investigate. This is reasonable in the abstract, but not in actuality. Such an investigation would be controlled by Republicans, who are not objective investigators. Moreover, the Judiciary Committee lacks both the resources and time to carry out such an investigation.

Why has Dr. Blasey made the request she has? This question is easy to answer. A hearing conducted now (or next Monday), absent more information than is now known, will simply become a he-said-she-said affair. There will be no objective means to determine who is telling the truth. Republicans will believe Judge Kavanaugh; Democrats will believe Dr. Blasey; and Judge Kavanaugh will likely become Justice Kavanaugh.

As I said in my earlier post, no one has a right to become a Supreme Court justice. The Judiciary Committee can use whatever criteria it chooses to decide Judge Kavanaugh’s fitness for office. The life tenure of Supreme Court justices should demand that the suitability of a particular candidate be established beyond a reasonable doubt, however. It should not be necessary that serious doubts about a candidate’s suitability be established beyond a reasonable doubt.

There is time for an investigation, preferably by a reasonably objective body such as the FBI. Perhaps there are witnesses who can establish that both Kavanaugh and Blasey attended the same party or that Blasey left unexpectedly and distraught. Perhaps there is evidence that would exonerate Kavanaugh. We won’t know unless we look into the matter. That should be done forthwith.

Note: An earlier version of this post asserted that the FBI has said that the Senate should investigate the charges against Judge Kavanaugh. It is the president, not the FBI, that has made this statement.