Musings of a Third-Generation Wagon Circler

 

Writing here at Ricochet last week, @KateBraestrup expressed her opinion that “even without the sixfold imprimatur of the FBI, it would be virtually impossible to make a circle of wagons tight enough to conceal the kind of lurid behavior that Kavanaugh has been accused of.” She continued: “It’s not that it doesn’t exist; rather, when it exists, people know about it. Louche, lascivious or predatory men (alcoholic or otherwise) over time become well-known for being so.” While I’m relieved Kavanaugh has been confirmed, and I dreaded the precedent that would have been set if he had not have been, I can’t agree that men’s wagon circles are virtually never this tight. I know because I’m part of more than one man’s wagon circle, as was my mother, and her mother before her. Three generations of conservative American women, all three with little inclination to laugh off predatory behavior as just “boys being boys” — and all three with just as little inclination to name and shame men for having stories like those alleged about Kavanaugh in their past.

Men become notorious for sexual predation by persisting in it for long periods of time, especially if they become shameless about it. One reason we caution youth to postpone sex is because immature sexual misadventures are often exploitative. As Mark Regnerus has documented in his books Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying and Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers, boys usually find it considerably easier than girls do to self-servingly and callously rationalize their “conquests,” even when they’ve had the moral formation to know better. Thank God that boys who should know better and don’t often mature into men who know better and do! Thank God that not everyone who has committed a sexual wrong in his past persists in that sort of misbehavior.

The most immediate reason to disclose someone’s predatory reputation is to warn others of an ongoing threat. Given this, when someone poses no ongoing threat, why not let bygones be bygones? This doesn’t mean rationalizing past wrongs as never having been wrong to begin with. Nor does it mean appealing to the preposterous notion of a “moral bank account” (if such bank accounts really existed, we could with a clear conscience “financially plan” monstrous depravity by saving up enough “moral credit”). Instead, it means acknowledging that justice isn’t served by long delay, the same moral logic which imposes a statute of limitations on reporting many crimes. Wrongs too great to lapse into bygones are wrongs great enough to warn others about promptly, while lesser wrongs may be forgotten about over time.

***

I was once pinned down and groped. Not at a party, but while lending someone a book. While I’m confident the boy who did it didn’t mean to bully me, I’d be wronging myself if I tried to rationalize his conduct toward me as anything other than wrong. Wrong, but how wrong? Wrongful enough to press charges? I decided no. Instead, I filed an informational report with campus police, saying I’d testify if he made such a habit of such behavior that others complained. Since I was never called upon to testify, to the best of my knowledge, this fellow didn’t make a habit of it. He had done wrong, but not enough wrong to be labeled a predator. Not enough wrong to have his promising prospects wrecked over it. I’ll never forget this boy’s first name, a name which I’ve found awkward ever since. But I don’t remember his last name anymore. Nor would I wish to. That someone had wronged me was no huge secret, but who that someone was I kept between myself and the kindly officer who assured me my groper’s name would never be publicized based on my report alone. Having formed a one-woman wagon circle around this fellow, I’m fairly confident this circle will remain tight indefinitely. The other, larger wagon circles I’m part of, I’m less sure about. I suppose someone could eventually break ranks. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Unlike my mother and grandmother, none of the men (or women) whose secrets I’ve kept were politicians — or judges — or at least not while I knew them. Maybe some are now. Youth can be cruel, and as soon as youth becomes sexually aware, sexual bullying can and sometimes will happen. I doubt it’s unusual for bullying, not romance, to be the first sexually-charged experience many youngsters have (perhaps the only experience some youngsters have for quite some time if they’re otherwise innocent). The tightest wagon circles I’m part of date back to my and my attackers’ youth. They’re tight because it’s just them and me, and because everyone involved realizes everyone was immature when it happened. Which makes none of what happened right just hopefully not indicative of my attackers’ eventual maturity.

Still, I’m part of some wider wagon circles around more mature men. As a wagon circle widens, the members of that circle are less likely to know the whole story, which is its own reason for not breaking the circle: Is it fair to break the circle by naming names when you’re not certain whether you know the whole story or whether it’s really your story to tell? I haven’t acted as if it is and neither has my mother or grandmother. Regarding wagon circles around political men, I know little more than that both Ma and Grandma knew of some politicians’ and legal eagles’ scandals and that neither woman was inclined to say too much or judge too harshly. If my dear ancestresses told me any more, they’d risk breaking the circle, after all.

***

While I’m profoundly relieved at Kavanaugh’s confirmation, I doubt I’ll ever believe Kavanaugh’s protestations of injured innocence quite as much as good conservative women are apparently expected to.

Oh, I think Kavanaugh’s more likely than not innocent of the worst sexual misbehavior attributed to him, and I believe he should get the benefit of the doubt in any case, especially as time’s passage has blurred the traces of what really happened. A conservative man of my acquaintance estimated there’s a 10% chance the incident Ford described with Kavanaugh happened exactly as she said it did, and a 5% chance Ford’s story was wholly invented. That is, he estimated there was about an 85% chance that some incident had happened to Ford in her teens, perhaps an incident involving Kavanaugh, but that calling it attempted rape wasn’t justified, and it wasn’t something which should be held against Kavanaugh so many years after the fact. His estimations, particularly the 10% figure, seem roughly in the ballpark to me.

Note that his estimates make it twice as likely that Kavanaugh really did what Ford said than that Ford invented her story from nothing. Twice as likely may seem outrageously unfair to Kavanaugh until you remember that twice 5% is still only 10%, and a 10% chance that a man may have done something long ago in his youth does not tell us who he is now.

10% is an uncomfortable number, a magnitude that’s difficult to moralize either way, and people crave morals for their stories. If Kavanaugh were a teenager now, and he did have a 10% chance of doing what Ford accused him of, that chance would be uncomfortably high — especially for a well-reared, religiously observant teen who got into Yale and really should have known better. Nobody should be comfortable with a world where teens ostensibly receiving good moral formation have a one-in-ten shot of becoming the kind of sexual bully Ford described. And nobody should be comfortable with a world where a man can be ruined by a 10% chance he may have done wrong long ago.

***

I’ve been part of too many wagon circles, witnessed too much youthful bullying and partying in elite environments, to believe it’s nearly impossible for youngsters with the right credentials to successfully leave a sordid past behind them, even in the days of #MeToo. Human nature just doesn’t change that much from generation to generation, and one of conservatives’ humdrum duties is to keep pointing out the persistent homely truths — that, whether it’s fair or not, one reason people desire success is because it does insulate them from the downsides of their vices, women really are more susceptible than men to the risks of intoxication and sexual compromise, and so on. I see no reason for conservatives to defend excuses like “they threw themselves at him” or “they let you do it” (one suspects for varying definitions of “throw” and “let”) from the skepticism such excuses have always deserved. Still, despite today’s #BelieveAllVictims rhetoric, the flesh-and-blood people I know, even the leftists, aren’t so simplistic as to confuse skepticism of innocence with certainty of guilt.

I’ve written before that the benefit of the doubt is more than charitable mental hygiene. It’s also a powerful social statement. Who gets it, and how much, matters. Where there’s skepticism of innocence, but not certainty of guilt, there’s also doubt — hence benefit of the doubt. Kavanaugh gets the benefit of my doubt by a margin that’s not even close.

Still, I sense a social expectation that, if I really wanted to show solidarity with my own side, especially as a conservative woman, I’d widen that margin even further. The ballpark likelihoods my friend and I discussed are necessarily crude estimates surrounded by fairly wide confidence intervals. Given their width, why not settle on figures which would be more morally flattering to our side? Why not estimate that there’s, say, a less than 5% chance that Kavanaugh really did what Ford said, and, say, at least a 50% chance that Ford’s story is wholly fictional? Wouldn’t that be more comfortable?

Yes, it would be more comfortable, but it doesn’t jibe with all I know about the world. Moreover, it’s not necessary. Or rather, it’s not morally necessary. I concede the practicalities of political theater, where the benefit of the doubt each side gives the other is already so small, make it difficult to avoid exaggerating confidence in your own side’s rectitude to compensate for the benefit of the doubt your side should have gotten and didn’t. That I found Kavanaugh’s protestations of injured innocence over his youthful hijinks just a little too good to be true doesn’t undermine my belief that Kavanaugh would have been crucified had he admitted something which no grown man should be crucified for admitting: that he grew up and grew out of a youth involved in a party culture which is notorious for being less innocent than he portrayed it as. There’s not much reason to believe the man Kavanaugh is today is significantly less decent than advertised, even if his youth were less decent than political calculation could admit.

***

I was visiting family during Kavanaugh’s hearing, and one remark my mother made during the visit struck us younger members as particularly revealing: First, she said, Kavanaugh was innocent; but second, if he were guilty, so, too, she supposed, were countless other public servants, perhaps since time immemorial, and how could government exist at all if they were all disqualified from serving? Had her mother — my grandmother — still been alive, Grandma would probably have wondered the same thing. The family sat there, all of us knowing that each of us was part of wagon circles protecting others’ pasts, and all of us knowing my mother was part of some wagon circles leaving her hypothetical about public servants somewhat less than hypothetical.

To us youngsters, it was pretty clear that Mom’s estimation that men who go into public service are in general so likely to have indulged in such misbehavior that we couldn’t have government without them was an estimation increasing rather than decreasing the likelihood that Kavanaugh had once been a drunken sexual bully. Not increasing the likelihood to the point where Kavanaugh didn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt — even my more lefty relatives believed that how the accusations had been brought against Kavanaugh suggested a political hit job. But the claim that public servants can’t get away with it because they’re subject to so much scrutiny is rather at odds with the apparent fact that, over the years, so many public servants have.

***

Not all wagon circles will be broken, and that’s OK. Not all wagon circles deserve to be broken, either. A conservative sense of fair play does not try to right every single wrong, not because it rejoices in letting injustice stand, but because it recognizes that the pursuit of justice is subject to diminishing returns, especially as time passes. Civilization isn’t compatible with endless vendetta.

As the resurgence of scandal in the Catholic church illustrates, justice should smash right through some wagon circles, and those who demur over breaking those circles do the innocent no favors. It’s cruelly naive to keep others’ dirty secrets without asking whether those secrets are evidence either of an ongoing threat or of one of those few wrongs so great that the passage of time shouldn’t efface them. It’s also cruelly naive to blithely assume others will receive a fair hearing if whatever dirty secrets they do have are exposed, willy-nilly.

Wagon circles can be evidence of unjust power structures, but they aren’t always. Sometimes they result from trying to do others justice in a world of incomplete and contradictory information, a world where we know that people’s motives — not only strangers’ but our own — aren’t always pristine, and where information degrades over time. These circles do create an in-group on defense against an out-group, and in-group-out-group dynamics aren’t always healthy or pretty. There will always be powerful men undeservedly protected by their wagon circles, but there will also be others, powerful or not, who don’t deserve to have the circle of protection others have willingly extended smashed up in the name of a “justice” that smacks suspiciously of revenge.

There are 54 comments.

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  1. Mark Camp Member

    Profound article, thx. We got some smart folks hereabouts but I think you may be in a class of your own.

     

    • #1
    • October 11, 2018, at 1:41 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  2. Joseph Stanko Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: That I found Kavanaugh’s protestations of injured innocence over his youthful hijinks just a little too good to be true doesn’t undermine my belief that Kavanaugh would have been crucified had he admitted something which no grown man should be crucified for admitting: that he grew up and grew out of a youth involved in a party culture which is notorious for being less innocent than he portrayed it as.

    This raises an interesting moral question: if Kavanaugh had admitted there were some truth to the story, perhaps said something like “yes I made a pass at Ford at a party, and I was very drunk at the time,” I agree he would have been crucified and forced to withdraw his nomination.

    Suppose for the sake of argument something like that did in fact happen, and he knowingly lied about it to protect himself and his family: if so, would that be disqualifying? Whereas culpability for the original offense would be somewhat lessened by immaturity and intoxication, lying about it would be the sober decision of a mature man. Is the cover-up worse than the crime?

    • #2
    • October 11, 2018, at 1:59 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  3. Gary McVey Contributor

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Profound article, thx. We got some smart folks hereabouts but I think you may be in a class of your own.

    Agreed! “Midge class” is the highest compliment for a Ricochet writer. 

    • #3
    • October 11, 2018, at 2:08 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  4. PHCheese Member

    I went to a Catholic all male, boarding prep school. Since the Kavanaugh hearings I have been thinking back on the prep days. It was a small class of 35. We also had a sister school 15 miles away and lots of town girls. There were sexual adventures but I never heard of any forced situations. There was one guy that probably was capable of something like that and perhaps he did do something because he was expelled the day after the prom. He was drafted a short time later and was killed in Vietnam. He was blown to pieces and there was very little of him to bury. Times were different in the early sixties and my experience does not relate to Kavanaugh’s straight up. My class with that one exception had respect for girls. However none of us has become a politician or a judge, lots of doctors and lawyers and one lousy cheese guy.

    • #4
    • October 11, 2018, at 2:48 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: That I found Kavanaugh’s protestations of injured innocence over his youthful hijinks just a little too good to be true doesn’t undermine my belief that Kavanaugh would have been crucified had he admitted something which no grown man should be crucified for admitting: that he grew up and grew out of a youth involved in a party culture which is notorious for being less innocent than he portrayed it as.

    This raises an interesting moral question: if Kavanaugh had admitted there were some truth to the story, perhaps said something like “yes I made a pass at Ford at a party, and I was very drunk at the time,” I agree he would have been crucified and forced to withdraw his nomination.

    Suppose for the sake of argument something like that did in fact happen, and he knowingly lied about it to protect himself and his family: if so, would that be disqualifying? Whereas culpability for the original offense would be somewhat lessened by immaturity and intoxication, lying about it would be the sober decision of a mature man. Is the cover-up worse than the crime?

    That’s the question. In a situation where people were being reasonable, a man would not be crucified for admitting that long ago in his drunken youth, he made a pass he shouldn’t have made, and he was sorry. To those who were judging reasonably, a full-grown man who couldn’t bring himself to fess up to the simple wrong of having done this way back when would be showing signs of present moral immaturity. In fact, I did find Kavanaugh’s defense of himself morally immature-sounding. Sounding.

    The problem is, Kavanaugh had little reason to believe he would be judged reasonably, in which case, what should a sober, mature man do? Be willing to act morally immature if it buys him a shot at avoiding condemnation he doesn’t deserve? Is having to pretend you’re more innocent than you are the lesser of evils in this case?

    I don’t think proclaiming his past oh so very innocent was a great look on Kavanaugh — I had trouble believing it — but admitting to something which would derail his nomination even when it shouldn’t wouldn’t just harm his personal success, but also future nominees through the precedent it set, as well as the family that depends on him to be a respectable father. Justifying your past in the language of the boy who never grew up (how could I do bad things if I also went to church?! and also got into Yale?!!!) is not something a grown man should have to do, but were there reasonable less-bad alternatives?

    • #5
    • October 11, 2018, at 3:29 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. Joseph Stanko Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):
    I don’t think proclaiming his past oh so very innocent was a great look on Kavanaugh — I had trouble believing it

    Could you be more specific? What did he deny that you had trouble believing?

    • #6
    • October 11, 2018, at 4:31 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Percival Thatcher

    An excellent post as usual, Midge.

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: A conservative man of my acquaintance estimated there’s a 10% chance the incident Ford described with Kavanaugh happened exactly as she said it did, and a 5% chance Ford’s story was wholly invented.

    Piffle. Her story changed too many times. She “took a polygraph test” (for what little that is worth). Polygraph tests are beatable — by actors, psychologists, and sociopaths, among others. The test she was given is of questionable rigor. She did that while still planning on remaining anonymous. Why? She deleted all of her social media presence before coming forward. Again, why? Kavanaugh was investigated by the FBI a total of seven times. The way a background check works is that they get a list of contacts from the subject, then they get a list from those contacts, and so on. What are the chances that this incident could have escaped everyone’s notice?

    • #7
    • October 11, 2018, at 4:41 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  8. Guruforhire Member

    Of all the things accusations, the whole exposing himself at a college party was the most believable. People of all sexes flash their primary sex traits at drunken college parties.

    Its like being scandalized that once 35 years ago some chick flashed her boobs at a rock concert. Its a great big steaming pile of who cares. It was the 80s, come on, hell I remember reading research whereby putting the jubblies on the large format displays actually helped maintain a calmer crowd.

    • #8
    • October 11, 2018, at 5:39 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):
    I don’t think proclaiming his past oh so very innocent was a great look on Kavanaugh — I had trouble believing it

    Could you be more specific? What did he deny that you had trouble believing?

    I think he was under great pressure to deny he ever got as drunk as he likely did sometimes. (Weak stomach? Really?) And while I think it’s preposterous to cross-examine a grown man on high-school yearbook contents to begin with, and it’s true that not every juvenile joke revolves around intoxication or sexual innuendo, that it was all as innocent as he claimed seemed a stretch. Guys sometimes boastingly joke about some girl being the village bike, or about sexual conquests — quite possibly fictional.

    Sexualized bullying among teens is fairly common, even before teens have had sex, and I think he was under pressure to deny anything that might have even hinted at it, for understandable reasons.

    Anything suggesting he might have drunk enough to not remember clearly or he might have been sexually disrespectful could have been used against him, but what are the odds he never drank enough to not remember something clearly or was never sexually disrespectful in his callow youth?

    It wasn’t just denial, though, but a form of rationalization which struck me as somewhat dubious. Among high-performing teens who like to party, it’s pretty common to rationalize bad behavior with “I’m successful, I work hard, I get done the good things adults want me to get done, so how could I be bad?” A moral bank-account-ish argument where going to church Sundays mornings and getting straight As might “cancel out” some really alarming behavior. As someone editorialized, “‘I Got Into Yale’ Isn’t a Moral Defense”. Morally mature adults understand it isn’t, and it was strange to hear an adult talking as if it were. If he hadn’t talked as if it were, maybe he would have left himself vulnerable to another unfair attack. But it did strike me as oddly juvenile justification coming from a full-grown man, and something I hope he wouldn’t have had to resort to if he hadn’t been put in such an unreasonable spot.

    • #9
    • October 11, 2018, at 9:06 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Joseph Stanko Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):
    what are the odds he never drank enough to not remember something clearly

    Is this a common experience? Commentary after his testimony made me suspect it’s perhaps more common than I realized. I always thought blackouts and memory loss were signs of hardcore alcoholism and a serious problem, not just normal run-of-the-mill teenage experiences.

    Granted I’ve never been a heavy drinker, but the idea of not being able to remember what happened the night before seems really alarming to me.

    • #10
    • October 11, 2018, at 9:28 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):
    what are the odds he never drank enough to not remember something clearly

    Is this a common experience? Commentary after his testimony made me suspect it’s perhaps more common than I realized. I always thought blackouts and memory loss were signs of hardcore alcoholism and a serious problem, not just normal run-of-the-mill teenage experiences.

    Granted I’ve never been a heavy drinker, but the idea of not being able to remember what happened the night before seems really alarming to me.

    There’s a lot of factors that come into play. I would expect it to be somewhat common in teenagers, because they have less tolerance and are probably consuming alcohol at a higher rate.

    • #11
    • October 11, 2018, at 9:42 PM PDT
    • Like
  12. Joseph Stanko Member

    Matt Balzer, Straw Bootlegger (View Comment):
    because they have less tolerance

    Do they? Why? What’s the biological basis for this?

    • #12
    • October 11, 2018, at 9:56 PM PDT
    • Like
  13. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Percival (View Comment):

    An excellent post as usual, Midge.

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: A conservative man of my acquaintance estimated there’s a 10% chance the incident Ford described with Kavanaugh happened exactly as she said it did, and a 5% chance Ford’s story was wholly invented.

    Piffle. Her story changed too many times. She “took a polygraph test” (for what little that is worth). Polygraph tests are beatable — by actors, psychologists, and sociopaths, among others. The test she was given is of questionable rigor. She did that while still planning on remaining anonymous. Why? She deleted all of her social media presence before coming forward. Again, why?

    I don’t think the polygraph had much bearing either way on this fellow’s estimates. Rather, here’s how he put it:

    Without trying to overthink this, part of my thinking was that a) [it] happening exactly as she described and b) her completely fabricating it were both relatively unlikely and the truth lies somewhere in the middle – but the fact that she told her husband a few years ago makes the latter less likely than the former.

    “Both relatively unlikely” seems consistent with ballparking both with a chance of 10% or less, and making the latter less likely than the former would be expressed by assigning a smaller chance to it, and a relatively larger chance to the former. Hence ballparking the former at 10% and the latter at 5%.

    Kavanaugh was investigated by the FBI a total of seven times. The way a background check works is that they get a list of contacts from the subject, then they get a list from those contacts, and so on. What are the chances that this incident could have escaped everyone’s notice?

    As for the chances some juvenile incident involving pinning and groping could escape notice… It’s not really that uncommon for an incident of juvenile sexual bullying (if that were what it was) to escape everyone’s notice but the bullies’ and the victim’s. Nor is it so uncommon for a pawing, sloppy pass to avoid drawing attention to itself, even if the pass is quite offensive — indeed frightening — to the pasee.

    For my own part, I’m inclined to suspect the fellow who pinned and groped me maybe grossly misread me, misidentifying me as the sort who was game for a rough-and-tumble pass on the flimsiest of pretexts. There were people all around in the building, just not any others in the same room with us. And there’s no reason any of his contacts, even contacts several steps removed, should have known about it, or even remembered my name. Assigning the label “attempted rape” to what Ford described may have been melodramatic, but the behaviors she described, pinning, groping, grinding, laughing… often, there’s no reason for them to even be remembered by anyone other than a person receiving them as extremely unwelcome (indeed perhaps shocking) attention.

    • #13
    • October 11, 2018, at 9:59 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):

    Matt Balzer, Straw Bootlegger (View Comment):
    because they have less tolerance

    Do they? Why? What’s the biological basis for this?

    Because they haven’t had as much alcohol. It’s like any other drug: the more you take, the more it takes to get any effect.

     

    • #14
    • October 11, 2018, at 10:01 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):
    I always thought blackouts and memory loss were signs of hardcore alcoholism and a serious problem, not just normal run-of-the-mill teenage experiences.

    I don’t know how normal they are for teens in general, but for teens who drink enough at parties to vomit, they do seem to be fairly run of the mill.

    Hurling and not remembering the good time you supposedly had doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time, either. But it’s not not part of the drinking culture at some fancy schools.

    • #15
    • October 11, 2018, at 10:20 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. Percival Thatcher

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    An excellent post as usual, Midge.

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: A conservative man of my acquaintance estimated there’s a 10% chance the incident Ford described with Kavanaugh happened exactly as she said it did, and a 5% chance Ford’s story was wholly invented.

    Piffle. Her story changed too many times. She “took a polygraph test” (for what little that is worth). Polygraph tests are beatable — by actors, psychologists, and sociopaths, among others. The test she was given is of questionable rigor. She did that while still planning on remaining anonymous. Why? She deleted all of her social media presence before coming forward. Again, why?

    I don’t think the polygraph had much bearing either way on this fellow’s estimates. Rather, here’s how he put it:

    Without trying to overthink this, part of my thinking was that a) [it] happening exactly as she described and b) her completely fabricating it were both relatively unlikely and the truth lies somewhere in the middle – but the fact that she told her husband a few years ago makes the latter less likely than the former.

    “Both relatively unlikely” seems consistent with ballparking both with a chance of 10% or less, and making the latter less likely than the former would be expressed by assigning a smaller chance to it, and a relatively larger chance to the former. Hence ballparking the former at 10% and the latter at 5%.

    Kavanaugh was investigated by the FBI a total of seven times. The way a background check works is that they get a list of contacts from the subject, then they get a list from those contacts, and so on. What are the chances that this incident could have escaped everyone’s notice?

    As for the chances some juvenile incident involving pinning and groping could escape notice… It’s not really that uncommon for an incident of juvenile sexual bullying (if that were what it was) to escape everyone’s notice but the bullies’ and the victim’s. Nor is it so uncommon for a pawing, sloppy pass to avoid drawing attention to itself, even if the pass is quite offensive — indeed frightening — to the pasee.

    For my own part, I’m inclined to suspect the fellow who pinned and groped me maybe grossly misread me. misidentifying me as the sort who was game for a rough-and-tumble pass on the flimsiest of pretexts. There were people all around in the building, just not any others in the same room with us. And there’s no reason any of his contacts, even contacts several steps removed, should have known about it, or even remembered my name. Assigning the label “attempted rape” to what Ford described may have been melodramatic, but the behaviors she described, pinning, groping, grinding, laughing… often, there’s no reason for them to even be remembered by anyone other than a person receiving them as extremely unwelcome (indeed perhaps shocking) attention.

    Her most common response was “I don’t remember.” She doesn’t remember where, or when, or how she got there, or how she got home, or how she got home, or who was there. She couldn’t remember if her polygraph test was the same day as her grandmother’s funeral and that was only two months before her testimony. I suspect if her address wasn’t on her driver’s licence, she would possibly forget where she lives. Her story changed over time. That is not a good indication of veracity. Did something happen to her once? Maybe. Did Kavanaugh have anything to do with it? Nuts.

    • #16
    • October 11, 2018, at 10:20 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  17. Joseph Stanko Member

    Matt Balzer, Straw Bootlegger (View Comment):
    Because they haven’t had as much alcohol. It’s like any other drug: the more you take, the more it takes to get any effect.

    For heavy, habitual users, perhaps. I don’t know, I tend to hear the opposite from most of my middle-aged peers, complaints of “I’m too old for this, back in my day I could party all night and still ace the test the next day, now I have a few drinks and I can barely function at work tomorrow.”

     

    • #17
    • October 11, 2018, at 10:53 PM PDT
    • Like
  18. Joseph Stanko Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):
    I always thought blackouts and memory loss were signs of hardcore alcoholism and a serious problem, not just normal run-of-the-mill teenage experiences.

    I don’t know how normal they are for teens in general, but for teens who drink enough at parties to vomit, they do seem to be fairly run of the mill.

    Hurling and not remembering the good time you supposedly had doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time, either. But it’s not not part of the drinking culture at some fancy schools.

    Perhaps, although I suspect there’s a fair bit of play-acting and exaggeration as well. Saying “wow, I got so wasted last night I can’t even remember what happened!” makes you sound hardcore and therefore cool, and also serves as a convenient excuse if you did something you’d rather not remember (and are hoping no one else remembers either).

    • #18
    • October 11, 2018, at 10:55 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  19. Gary McVey Contributor

    Percival, I believe Kavanaugh too. Kavanaugh spoke from the heart, and his blowtorch intensity is part of what made his testimony so electric. Midge is right, though. He wandered off course and became less effective the more side stuff he brought in. Unavoidably in this situation, “less effective” means less convincing than when he stuck for laser beam righteousness. 

    I’m a lifelong fan of Richard Nixon’s, and I think he got the rawest media deal of any president before the present era. Nixon’s speeches were generally strong. But when he got into trouble, we heard a lot more about the sacrifices his parents made, how much the word “peacemaker” meant to the Quakers, and how saintly his mother was. What bothered me as a sympathetic listener wasn’t the sentiment, it was the irrelevance. No one was questioning Hannah Nixon’s saintliness, Mr. President; the question was about you and your actions. 

    As for Ford, I do think something happened to her, but a connection to Kavanaugh is flimsy and she is in all likelihood mis-identifying him. She’s flaky and contradictory. But she didn’t come across as a “plant”, she’s not trained by Soros’ mysterious minions, etc, and I find nothing sinister about her deleting her online profiles, etc.; I think most people would get off Snapchat/Facebook etc. if they were being drawn into the public arena as a controversial figure at the center of an explosive case. 

    • #19
    • October 11, 2018, at 11:01 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  20. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):

    Matt Balzer, Straw Bootlegger (View Comment):
    Because they haven’t had as much alcohol. It’s like any other drug: the more you take, the more it takes to get any effect.

    For heavy, habitual users, perhaps. I don’t know, I tend to hear the opposite from most of my middle-aged peers, complaints of “I’m too old for this, back in my day I could party all night and still ace the test the next day, now I have a few drinks and I can barely function at work tomorrow.”

    True, but also like any other drug, there will be negative effects with sustained use.

    If I actually did found the Institute for Hangover Studies (IHS) and got some of that sweet sweet grant money, I could probably figure out the best age for maximum drinking effectiveness. However except in cases where they’re managing to come up with alcohol regularly, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be teenagers.

    I’d also add that they might be remembering the past as better than it actually was.

     

     

    • #20
    • October 11, 2018, at 11:04 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  21. Joseph Stanko Member

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    As for Ford, I do think something happened to her, but a connection to Kavanaugh is flimsy and she is in all likelihood mis-identifying him. She’s flaky and contradictory. But she didn’t come across as a “plant”, she’s not trained by Soros’ mysterious minions, etc, and I find nothing sinister about her deleting her online profiles, etc.

    The two aren’t mutually exclusive. I think it’s entirely plausible that she was once groped by a drunken teen at a party and that she was trained and coached by Democratic operatives who figured this real-life trauma would make her testimony all the more effective.

    • #21
    • October 11, 2018, at 11:07 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  22. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):
    I always thought blackouts and memory loss were signs of hardcore alcoholism and a serious problem, not just normal run-of-the-mill teenage experiences.

    I don’t know how normal they are for teens in general, but for teens who drink enough at parties to vomit, they do seem to be fairly run of the mill.

    Hurling and not remembering the good time you supposedly had doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time, either. But it’s not not part of the drinking culture at some fancy schools.

    Perhaps, although I suspect there’s a fair bit of play-acting and exaggeration as well. Saying “wow, I got so wasted last night I can’t even remember what happened!” makes you sound hardcore and therefore cool, and also serves as a convenient excuse if you did something you’d rather not remember (and are hoping no one else remembers either).

    There’s that, too. But when you’re one of the sober ones one who plays nursemaid to the folks who did get wasted enough at a party to get sick, you find out why people can expect to be believed when they cite being too drunk to remember something clearly as an excuse.

    Drinking as such doesn’t bother me, but the heavy drinking so many otherwise intelligent and well-informed kids did?… Campus “mixologists” priding them on concoctions intended to get others (especially girls) drunker than they’d suspect?… We’re not talking 120 Days of Sodom here (or at least not usually — the wildest stuff I never witnessed), but was there something morally off about it? Yeah. People do mostly seem to grow out of it, which is largely my point. And young bodies, for the most part, recuperate quickly.

    • #22
    • October 12, 2018, at 6:45 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  23. Nick H Coolidge

    Looking back on my own youth (which is in the same general time frame of Kavanaugh’s), I can see what Ford describes happening. Unlike some of the more ridiculous allegations, such as the one where he ran gang rape parties every week, her’s was plausible. What is also plausible is that if something did happen, each party would have very different memories of the event. People will project their own feelings onto the other person and totally misunderstand what’s happening. A boy who is fooling around with a girl will be excited and want to do more, and can mistakenly assume that she feels the same. Teenage boys aren’t known for their clear thinking, especially when hormones are flowing. (And yes, I realize that can be true well past the teenage years.) At the same time the girl might be uncomfortable and want to stop. She projects that he can’t really be having fun either and therefore his intentions are more sinister than just fooling around. So that means that even if something did happen there’s a whole range of possibilities. My best guess is that she’s describing something that happened with someone else, and what did happen wasn’t an attempted rape.

    The other factor here is that some people always convinced that others are having more fun or getting more action than they really are. That that girl is always putting out or that guy is getting lucky every night, and that their own lack of excitement is unique. What they miss is that “that guy” and “that girl” feel the exact same way about someone else. So now people are projecting onto Kavanaugh all their own ideas about how it is when you’re “that guy”, when really he’s no different than the rest.

    I don’t think Kavanaugh claimed he was “oh so innocent”. He admitted to doing some stupid things, the kind of stupid things that almost every kid does. He was just careful to not give ammunition to the people who would take anything he said out of context and use it to portray him as a depraved alcoholic predator. Which they did anyway.

    • #23
    • October 12, 2018, at 1:27 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  24. RossC Coolidge

    I kind of hate this thread. One it makes me think this is way more common than I think it is, and two because his high school/college drinking and carousing should not be a central issue at all. Now it depends on the behavior and it can be an issue if it was egregious but that is not the case here.

    Even if young men holding young women down and groping them is a common occurrence, that still does not mean we can apply the standard of “accused” equals “guilty enough”. It is just not right to do that. Nor should we judge based on his demeanor. 

    Even more to the point it is not a workable scenario. We want capable people to serve in the government. Lily white is way secondary. I don’t prefer a wicked prince but I would prefer a wicked prince to an incompetent, virtuous one. Unless the job is unimportant in which case I don’t care.

    If Kavanaugh had no record that he could do the job then maybe this accusation is enough to deny. The Dems made no realistic case that he was not suitable based on his record as judge.

    • #24
    • October 12, 2018, at 1:35 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    RossC (View Comment):
    Even if young men holding young women down and groping them is a common occurrence, that still does not mean we can apply the standard of “accused” equals “guilty enough”. It is just not right to do that. Nor should we judge based on his demeanor. 

    I believe a large part of my essay is devoted exactly to these points you mention.

    Much of what I wrote is about letting bygones be bygones and giving the benefit of the doubt, which encompasses the idea that accusations (especially tardy accusations) should not be treated as “guilty enough”.

    Moreover, I hoped to make it obvious that, despite something striking me as “off” about Kavanaugh’s demeanor in recalling his youth, I considered that no reason to judge him unfit for the office he was recruited for. Had I lapsed into pretending not to notice something “off” about his demeanor because I believed he was fit for the office he was recruited for, I would have reinforced, not contradicted, a bias favoring judging by demeanor.

    • #25
    • October 12, 2018, at 1:55 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Nick H (View Comment):
    Looking back on my own youth (which is in the same general time frame of Kavanaugh’s), I can see what Ford describes happening. Unlike some of the more ridiculous allegations, such as the one where he ran gang rape parties every week, her’s was plausible. What is also plausible is that if something did happen, each party would have very different memories of the event.

    This is true even of incidents which really are about bullying, rather than sincere interest being mistaken for bullying because it’s unwanted. Rod Dreher explains here, of his own experience with sexualized bullying,

    I think we should be reluctant to hold teenage behavior against adults 35 years after the fact. I thought yesterday about a time when I was 15 — same age as Ford at the time of her alleged attack — and a group of 17 year old boys held me down in a hotel room on a school beach trip, and tried to take my pants off. Nobody was drunk; they were trying to impress their girlfriends, who were looking on. The two adult chaperones stepped over me, lying on the floor, pinned by the boys, to escape the room. The boys eventually let me up without taking my pants off, and I ran out.

    That event lasted maybe one minute, but it affected the rest of my life…

    And yet, if one of those boys were nominated for high public office, I wouldn’t say a word about it. They never apologized, but the truth is, they probably remember none of it.

    I can likewise think of incidents, especially in my early teens, where I would have had to be unbelievably gullible to suppose some sexual advance or another wasn’t a prank intended to embarrass me for others’ amusement. (I was in my late teens before I attracted a “heavy pass” which was sincerely meant.) One of these early pranks was not too dissimilar from the one Rod describes, one difference being my gang had a grand time using sexual language to spook me. I remember it vividly, but would the gang who did it remember it at all? Quite likely not. Why should they? To them it was a prank, a joke which happened to involve some (heavily sexualized) bullying.

    For them it was frivolity. That I had good reason to find it something else isn’t something they could be expected to remember.

    • #26
    • October 12, 2018, at 2:16 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. Dorrk Member

    I saw someone on another site trying work out the probabilities, and it struck me both there and here as completely useless. Statistics are useful when discussing large numbers of people, but they have no bearing on individuals. It simply adds a patina of “science” to one’s own biases.

    Where does this baseline — 5% he’s telling the truth; 10% she’s telling the truth — come from, other than come combination of personal bias and projection of fairness? How would this baseline shift if he were Ted Bundy instead of Brett Kavanaugh? Or Jesus Christ? Or if she was a known prevaricator or activist, or a nun? When you know something about the people, applying universal statistics — about the likelihood of lying or sexual assault — is no longer needed, as these types of arguments aren’t settled by probability but by evidence. The problem is, we still don’t know anything about her, because she hasn’t been forthcoming. The only evidence we have is from him. How does that shift the baseline?

    • #27
    • October 12, 2018, at 6:41 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  28. GrannyDude Member

    One of the things I think was interesting and overlooked was that Ford didn’t say that Kavanaugh was going to rape her. She said “I thought he was going to rape me.” Then, she claimed he put his hand over her mouth “and I thought he would accidentally kill me.” 

    In other words, the worst case scenario isn’t that Kavanaugh was a rapist. It’s that Kavanaugh drunkenly, at the age of 16 or so, behaved in a way that frightened an evidently very fragile and (if I may say so) rather foolish girl. Even if we assume that Kavanaugh was the party in question, one could easily make a case that Kavanaugh didn’t actually do anything wrong; that she was interpreting his behavior in ways he did not intend and that another girl, given the same circumstances, would’ve understood differently. 

    This is why the pattern of behavior matters. When I was sexually abused as a kid. my mother didn’t believe me. As it turned out, there had been others before me who attested to the same behavior. There nearly always is. Not always—a sixteen year old could easily be dipping a toe into the waters of predatory behavior. But by the time the guy is in his fifties (Bill Clinton, etc.) patterns can be discerned. Not necessarily if you’re an ordinary person, but if you’re in the public eye, let alone being accused of XYZ, you’d better believe that the victims would start coming out of the woodwork. 

    That’s what I meant about the circle of wagons: yes, you could form a circle tight enough to protect the good name of an ordinary, reasonable obscure person, particularly if he confined his predation to vulnerable persons unlikely to tell or be believed. But, as I said, everyone knew about Teddy, Bill, Harvey and the rest of the creep-roster. Of course they did. 

    • #28
    • October 12, 2018, at 7:15 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  29. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Dorrk (View Comment):

    I saw someone on another site trying work out the probabilities, and it struck me both there and here as completely useless.

    It’s actually not.

    Statistics are useful when discussing large numbers of people, but they have no bearing on individuals. It simply adds a patina of “science” to one’s own biases.

    No, evidence and probability are inherently linked. When we speak of evidence seeming stronger or weaker to us, we are speaking in qualitative ways about the evidence suggesting to us that something is more or less likely.

    I know many conservatives like to suppose probability estimates are “just about statistics”, where statistics is a fakey science manipulated not to arrive at truth, but to deceive the gullible. But that’s not true. Probability is about reasoning on incomplete information, which is what the human brain has to do all the time.

    …as these types of arguments aren’t settled by probability but by evidence.

    To Bayesians, probability and evidence are the essentially same thing. Or rather, evidence is a log ratio of probability. Evidence and probability cannot be anything but interrelated. After all, the the whole point of evaluating evidence is to figure out whether something is more likely or less likely to have happened.

    Subjective probability — that is, trying to put a number on what you believe you know about something in this world of incomplete information — can be incredibly useful for expressing, not just to others, but to yourself, what you really think, especially what you really think of risk.

    For some people, these numbers, which are admittedly subjective rather than trying to put a patina of objectivity on anything, are especially helpful for communication. It seemed to me the conservative man I was talking to and I disagreed pretty vehemently until he began busting out his probability estimates. But once I heard his estimates, I had a much better idea about what his qualitative descriptions of evidence and plausibility really meant.

    • #29
    • October 13, 2018, at 7:34 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  30. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    GrannyDude (View Comment):

    One of the things I think was interesting and overlooked was that Ford didn’t say that Kavanaugh was going to rape her. She said “I thought he was going to rape me.” Then, she claimed he put his hand over her mouth “and I thought he would accidentally kill me.”

    In other words, the worst case scenario isn’t that Kavanaugh was a rapist. It’s that Kavanaugh drunkenly, at the age of 16 or so, behaved in a way that frightened an evidently very fragile and (if I may say so) rather foolish girl.

    I thought that was interesting, but less interesting and overlooked than interesting and obvious — though I concede it may have been a point not mentioned much in the national conversation, much to the conversation’s detriment.

    I’m less sure that momentarily being scared something dreadful might happen when you’re 15 and your person has unexpectedly been invaded is all that fragile and foolish (the folly of participating in parties like that in the first place, especially without a safety buddy, is another matter). Rather, it would be continuing to believe, for years and years after, that rape or death were a likely outcome, which would strike me as fragile. And to be fair to Ford, before her story was exploited for political gain, would she have described whatever unpleasant memory she had as attempted rape? I don’t know. Obviously, once she agreed to be involved in the political theater, it would make sense for her to frame her story in the worst terms — that is rather the point of using political theater against the opposition.

    • #30
    • October 13, 2018, at 8:15 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
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