Ford vs. Kavanaugh

David French:

The allegations against Brett Kavanaugh — outlined now on the record in the Washington Post by Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford — are substantial and serious. She claims that Kavanaugh knocked her down, groped her, and attempted to remove her clothes. Here’s the core of her story:

While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house.

Do not count me among those who would minimize this alleged assault. I went to a high school that had more than its share of drunken parties, and my classmates could do crazy and stupid things, but an act like this was beyond the pale. This isn’t “boys will be boys.” Actions have consequences, and it’s hardly unjust to tell a person that if he mistreated another human being like this — even a long time ago — he has to remain “merely” a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Since Kavanaugh has denied the story, however, the question of whether the event is so egregious that it should disqualify him is moot. At the very least, if the attack happened, he should be disqualified for lying.

Yet unless all parties start telling the same story, there is no way to know for certain if this event occurred. We don’t need certainty, however, to make a decision on whether a man should sit on the Supreme Court. I have the same standard for Brett Kavanaugh as I did for Roy Moore, for Donald Trump, for Bill Clinton — or for any other politician who’s accused of misconduct. Is it more likely than not that the allegation is true?

Given the totality of the evidence, I believe it is more likely than not that Bill Clinton committed rape and sexual harassment. I believe it is more likely than not that Donald Trump has committed sexual assault. I believe it is more likely than not that Roy Moore engaged in sexual misconduct with underage girls. But the evidence against Kavanaugh falls far short of the evidence arrayed against each of these men. So far at least it falls far short of the evidence against virtually any other politician or celebrity who has faced consequences during this #MeToo moment. Here’s why:

First, one way to help test the veracity of old claims is to ask whether there is any contemporaneous corroboration. Did the accuser tell a friend or family member or anyone about the alleged assault when it occurred? With Clinton, Trump, Moore, and many other politicians and celebrities, there was ample contemporaneous corroboration. Here, there was not. According to the Washington Post, “Ford said she told no one of the incident in any detail until 2012, when she was in couples therapy with her husband.”

That’s almost three decades of silence — three decades when memories can grow cloudy and recollections can change.

But even the allegedly corroborating notes of the therapist raise a separate problem. They actually contradict her story on a key detail. According to the Post, “The notes say four boys were involved, a discrepancy that Ford says was an error on the therapist’s part. Ford said there were four boys at the party but only two in the room.” Nor do the notes mention Kavanaugh’s name, even though her husband says Ford named Kavanaugh in the sessions.

Those are important discrepancies, and if six years ago she told the therapist four men and says two men now, that suggests that her memory of the event may be suspect.

As a former trial lawyer, I can tell you that while neither notes nor memories are infallible, in a contest between contemporaneous notes and later verbal testimony about those notes, the content of the written notes usually prevails. Juries are extremely skeptical of witnesses who contradict written notes — after all, the notes are taken when the words are immediate and there isn’t the overwhelming pressure of a trial to conform your testimony to the desired outcome.

At least the investigation seems somewhat manageable. If there were only four boys there, who were the other two? Let’s hear from them. In fact, investigators should interview everyone else at the party.

Yet given all the years that have passed, would it be possible to find anyone who remembers being at that party? Would they remember any details at all? If someone saw Kavanaugh stumbling drunk at the party, that would obviously bolster Ford’s account. If another attendee says, “He was totally sober and with me the whole time,” that helps Kavanaugh. But the odds of getting details that precise are long indeed, and there is always a chance that a motivated classmate might lie — for either person.

Finally, there are no other allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh. If there’s one thing we’ve seen time and again, it’s that one allegation often triggers a cascade of additional claims. There seem to be precious few men who engage in serious sexual misconduct just once. If this was the kind of behavior that Kavanaugh engaged in, then look for more people to come forward. If no one does, however, we’re left with a sole claim, made by an opposing partisan (Ford is an outspoken progressive), that Kavanaugh strenuously denies, that lacks any contemporaneous corroboration, and that is contradicted in material respects by her therapist’s own notes.

That does not add up to “more likely than not.”

But these conclusions are tentative and preliminary. The next three days are crucial. We’ll likely hear more from Ford. I expect we’ll hear more from Kavanaugh. People who were at the party may come forward with their own accounts. The news cycle is moving so fast that it seems almost absurd to speculate about the state of our knowledge even 24 hours from now, but if this is the core evidence supporting the (very serious) claim against Kavanaugh, it’s not sufficient to derail the nomination of a man with an otherwise sterling record of professional excellence and personal integrity.

Jim Geraghty adds:

We need a way to evaluate accusations of sexual misconduct against public figures beyond “I like the accused person” or “I don’t like the accused person.”

Up until Sunday afternoon, the vague-but-ominous-sounding accusation against Kavanaugh didn’t have a named accuser, and those of us who prefer to see the judge confirmed had an exceptionally strong argument: You can’t destroy a man’s career and reputation on the basis of an anonymous allegation and no evidence.

Now it’s no longer an anonymous accusation; the Washington Post printed the account of Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford Sunday afternoon, and the accusation now has some more specifics. But there’s a catch:

After so many years, Ford said she does not remember some key details of the incident. She said she believes it occurred in the summer of 1982, when she was 15, around the end of her sophomore year at the all-girls Holton-Arms School in Bethesda. Kavanaugh would have been 17 at the end of his junior year at Georgetown Prep.

Ford said she does not recall the date “around the end of her sophomore year” or the exact location, or “who owned the house or how she got there.” It’s natural that some memories would be hazy after 36 years and alcohol consumption at the time of the incident; in Ford’s account, she had a beer. But this means that if anyone can contradict any detail of her account, she has the built-in excuse of a hazy memory. Perhaps Kavanaugh could prove he was away from the D.C. area during some periods of late spring or the summer of 1982, but because the allegation can’t even be narrowed to a particular month, that would be pointless.

There is evidence that Ford discussed her experience and allegations before now, but that has complications:

Ford said she told no one of the incident in any detail until 2012, when she was in couples therapy with her husband. The therapist’s notes, portions of which were provided by Ford and reviewed by The Washington Post, do not mention Kavanaugh’s name but say she reported that she was attacked by students “from an elitist boys’ school” who went on to become “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.” The notes say four boys were involved, a discrepancy Ford says was an error on the therapist’s part. Ford said there were four boys at the party but only two in the room.

As noted, Kavanaugh denied the accusation. The White House points out that Kavanaugh has undergone six FBI background checks over the course of his career and none of them uncovered this event, or any other events like it. The one other witness that Ford names, Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate Mark Judge, denied her allegations in a statement to The Weekly Standard:

Now that the anonymous person has been identified and has spoken to the press, I repeat my earlier statement that I have no recollection of any of the events described in today’s Post article or attributed to her letter. Since I have nothing more to say I will not comment further on this matter. I hope you will respect my position and my privacy.

The Post writes, “Ford named two other teenagers who she said were at the party. Those individuals did not respond to messages on Sunday morning.”

As of this writing, there are no photographs of the two together, no letters between them, no physical evidence proving that the two met each other, much less that the events occurred as she described.

The allegation against Kavanaugh is almost certain to get lumped into the discussions about #MeToo and powerful men engaging in wanton sexual misconduct. Unless more women come forward, this will be exceptionally unfair to the judge; all of the most infamous cases of #MeToo have involved multiple accusers and patterns of abuse. In at least two cases that were briefly high profile, the accusations were found to be either false or insufficiently provable to carry consequences. CNN reinstated Ryan Lizza, formerly of The New Yorker, after conducting what it called “an extensive investigation” and concluding, “based on the information provided and the findings of the investigation, CNN has found no reason to continue to keep Mr. Lizza off the air.” AMC reinstated television host Chris Hardwick after a suspension for allegations of being abusive in a past relationship, declaring “given the information available to us after a very careful review, including interviews with numerous individuals, we believe returning Chris to work is the appropriate step.”

The Post‘s story ends with Ford’s husband declaring:

“I think you look to judges to be the arbiters of right and wrong,” Russell Ford said. “If they don’t have a moral code of their own to determine right from wrong, then that’s a problem. So I think it’s relevant. Supreme Court nominees should be held to a higher standard.”

Indeed, but … Kavanaugh has been a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals since 2006. If this allegation is serious and important enough to deter his confirmation by the Senate now … why was it not serious and important enough to deter his confirmation by the Senate twelve years ago?

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Presty the DJ for Sept. 18

We begin with the National Anthem because of today’s last item:

The number one song today in 1961 may have never been recorded had not Buddy Holly died in a plane crash in 1959; this singer replaced Holly in a concert in Moorhead, Minn.:

Britain’s number one album today in 1971 was The Who’s “Who’s Next”:
Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Sept. 18”

The Crash: Another view

Matthew D. Mitchell has a different opinion about The Crash of 2008 and the resulting bailouts:

As the 10th anniversary of the historic bailout of 2008 looms, many people will undoubtedly say —as President Bush said at the time—that it was necessary to abandon“free market principles to save the free market system.” They will tell us that the government had no alternative. And they will say that the bailout “worked” because the economy didn’t go from a recession to a depression.

The truth is that there were alternatives. As our George Mason University colleague Garett Jones has written, a process known as “speed bankruptcy”—endorsed by economists on the left and the right—would have permitted quick conversion of bank debt into bank equity, recapitalizing the banks while avoiding the use of taxpayer funds.

We can’t be certain of what would have happened had something like speed bankruptcy been tried. But we do know that even with the bailout, the economy fell into the deepest and longest-lasting recession since the Great Depression. That is hardly proof positive that it “worked.”

Moreover, we know from the history of bailouts that the true cost of a bailout is not the taxpayer expense (which is often recouped) but the expectation it sets for future bailouts, an expectation that invites future disaster.

In 1971, the US government gave Lockheed Aircraft Corporation $250 million in emergency loan guarantees. It was the first time the federal government ever came to the rescue of a single firm. Shortly thereafter, the bankrupt Penn Central Railroad and other struggling railroads received hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency grants and loan guarantees. That was followed by $1.5 billion in loan guarantees for the ailing Chrysler Corporation in 1979.

The phrase “too big to fail” entered the American lexicon in the wake of a federal bailout of Continental Illinois Bank in 1984. Next, the federal government bailed out the creditors of hundreds of savings and loan (S&L)associations in the late 1980s and early 1990s at a cost to taxpayers of around $150 billion. In the late 1990s, the Fed orchestrated the private bailout of hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management. No taxpayer money was involved, but the Fed’s keen interest in the case led many industry observers to believe that the Fed would not let large institutions—or their creditors—fail.

The record-setting federal bailout of 2008-09 showed that these expectations were accurate. First, the New York Federal Reserve made a $30 billion loan to J. P. Morgan Chase so that it could purchase Bear Stearns. Next, in order to save them from bankruptcy, the federal government took over mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Then the government paused, allowing Lehman Brothers and its creditors to fall on September 15, 2008. Two days later, bailouts resumed and the Federal Reserve made an $85 billion loan to the insurance firm American International Group. The culmination of this series of bailouts was the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a $700 billion bailout that gave hundreds of financial firms and auto companies emergency government assistance.

Although proponents of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, passed after the 2008 meltdown, claimed it would help avoid future government bailouts, the perception that major financial interests are “too big to fail” remains an unfortunate reality. The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s “Bailout Barometer” periodically estimates the extent to which the financial industry’s liabilities are explicitly and implicitly backed by the federal government. According to the most recent estimate, the share of financial sector liabilities subject to implicit or explicit government protection from losses grew from 45 percent in 1999 to 60 percent in 2016, by which time they amounted to $26 trillion. The authors succinctly note that “This protection may encourage risk-taking, making financial crises and bailouts more likely.”

As the Richmond Fed researchers explain in an accompanying document, the Bailout Barometer includes “other liabilities [that] are believed by many market participants to be implicitly guaranteed by the federal government.” The expectation that a company and its creditors will be bailed out by the government, should they find themselves in dire financial straits, can be an extraordinary privilege.

Take, for example, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Well before they were rescued by the federal government, Fannie and Freddie benefited from the expectation of government assistance. The firms were chartered by Congress and widely assumed to have its financial support. This assumption meant that compared with firms lacking support from the federal government, Fannie and Freddie appeared to be safer investments. As the Congressional Budget Office explains, this expectation, in turn, provided the companies a competitive advantage against private competitors:

“Because of their implicit federal guarantee, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could borrow to fund their portfolio holdings at much lower interest rates than those paid by fully private financial institutions that posed otherwise comparable risks, and investors valued the GSEs’ credit guarantees more highly than those issued by fully private guarantors … The advantages of implicit federal support allowed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to grow rapidly and dominate the secondary market for the types of mortgages they were permitted to buy (known as conforming mortgages). In turn, the perception that the GSEs had become “too big to fail” reinforced the idea that they were federally protected.”

The federal government’s history of bailing out creditorsmade this expectation especially strong.

Now that the summer of 2008 is a decade in the rearview mirror, we should be mindful that bailouts– and expectations thereof–encourage risky behavior, inviting crisis and further bailouts. Notwithstanding Mr. Bush’s assertion, one cannot save free enterprise by abandoning free enterprise. And free enterprise runs on market signals. Just as firms need profit signals to encourage good decision making, they need loss signals to discourage mistakes.

Unfortunately, just as the bailouts of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s begat the massive bailouts of the 2000s, the likelihood of further–and perhaps even larger–bailouts in the future remains disconcertingly high.

 

The Crash: One view

The New York Times’ Neil Irwin writes about the financial meltdown of a decade ago, and reactions to the fixes:

It’s hard to overstate how deeply Americans despised their government’s response to the global financial crisis. It has helped shape the last decade of American politics, fueling distrust of powerful institutions and speeding a drift toward ideological extremes.

But for all that anger, the engineers of the American crisis response got the economics mostly correct, and more right than most of those — including leading economic thinkers and prominent politicians — who were second-guessing them.

I was a beat reporter covering the events at the time and the key players — including the former Treasury secretaries Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner, and the former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke — and then wrote a bookon the crisis. Looking back on it a decade later, I’m struck by the way that I, and they, misunderstood what “success” would actually mean.

The engineers of the response succeeded in their immediate goal, to preserve the financial system. But they — or, more precisely, they and their political leaders at the time — also left fissures that threaten to undermine the system they sought to preserve. The very underpinnings of modern capitalism are being questioned from all sides. A Republican administration has gleefully cast aside trade deals, for instance, and the energy among Democrats is around democratic socialism.

To understand the challenges and ultimately the failure of the politics of their response, it helps to put yourself back in 2008 and 2009, when the financial might of the United States government — trillions of dollars, cumulatively — was deployed to try to contain the crisis.

Mr. Geithner, Mr. Paulson and Mr. Bernanke are centrists in the context of modern American politics, but they are conservatives in the traditional sense — people trying to preserve a system they inherited.

Their strategy was to patch things up as quickly as possible. The goal was not to try to reinvent Wall Street on the fly, but to keep the flow of capital coursing through the global economy while minimizing the depth and duration of the recession that the crisis had caused.

Some 230 academic economists signed a letterattacking the bank bailout legislation that Mr. Paulson proposed as unfair and a potential threat to the vibrancy of private markets.

Mr. Geithner’s disinclination to nationalize banks drew fierce criticism from liberals who argued that the government was essentially funneling money to banks with little assurance they would resume lending.

“Whatever its merits, his bailout plan offers generous subsidies to banks and private investors while protecting bank management and creditors,” John B. Judis wrote in 2009 in a New Republic article titled “The Geithner Disaster.”

Mr. Bernanke’s efforts to pump money into the economy by buying up bonds also met opposition. A group of conservative economists wrote a letter in 2010 arguing that the Fed’s plans to engage in quantitative easing “risk currency debasement and inflation, and we do not think they will achieve the Fed’s objective of promoting employment.”

These attacks were misguided.

Mr. Paulson’s financial rescue package did not herald an era of socialism on Wall Street; nor did it come at a huge continuing cost to taxpayers. By many measures, it made money.

Mr. Geithner’s stress tests achieved their goal of restoring confidence in major banks without the cost and political damage of nationalizing them. They were successful enough that similar stress tests are now a part of regulators’ tool kits both in the United States and overseas.

Mr. Bernanke’s aggressive monetary policy probably played a role in getting the expansion on track starting in mid-2009. Quantitative easing and low interest rates did not cause a collapse of the dollar or spiraling inflation.

Nobody would argue that the United States economy is perfect, or that the policymakers got everything exactly right.

If Mr. Paulson had secured financial rescue legislation before Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, perhaps the most severe phase of the crisis could have been avoided altogether, though it is a puzzle how he could have gotten the votes for such a plan before the crisis became more severe. If Mr. Bernanke had moved faster — putting an open-ended quantitative easing program in place in 2009 or 2010 instead of waiting till 2012 — maybe full recovery would have come sooner.

It’s not clear how the recovery might have looked had Mr. Geithner embraced a more activist approach to replacing management and taking greater government control of the most troubled large banks, notably Citigroup and Bank of America. Or if he had welcomed a larger program to help relieve borrowers who were underwater on their homes.

The tactics the men chose can be second-guessed, but the result of their efforts speaks for itself. The expansion has lasted nine years, the second longest on record. Although job gains were disappointingly slow for years, the unemployment rate is now 3.9 percent, among the lowest in decades.

From 2007 to 2017, per-person inflation-adjusted G.D.P. rose 6.3 percent in the United States, compared with only 3 percent in the eurozone, where similar policies were embraced more slowly.

In exhaustive research of the history of financial crises, the economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff found that it takes eight years on average for a society to return to its level of per-person income. The United States did so in 2013, only six years after the peak of the crisis.

The political price

It was Feb. 19, 2009, less than a month into the Obama administration. Mr. Geithner and his colleagues had introduced plans to assist struggling homeowners, which many liberal critics considered deeply inadequate.

The human cost of the foreclosure crisis was indeed immense; there were 2.8 million foreclosures that year alone. But the politics of helping troubled homeowners were more toxic than the crisis managers had foreseen.

From the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the CNBC broadcaster Rick Santelli began a rant for the ages. “How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?” Mr. Santelli said, as traders cheered behind him. “President Obama, are you listening?”

“We’re thinking about having a Chicago tea party in July,” he continued.

The term stuck, and was embraced by the conservative activists who propelled Republicans to victory in the 2010 midterm elections — driven, in no small part, by opposition to economic stimulus, financial bailouts and the work of the Federal Reserve.

The policymakers knew history’s warnings about economic policy that reacts too sluggishly to financial crisis.

Mr. Geithner spent some evenings in the darkest days reading in Liaquat Ahamed’s “Lords of Finance” about how an earlier generation of policymakers bungled the response to the Great Depression. Mr. Bernanke is a scholar of that era in his own right.

But they seemed to assume that if they got the economics right, popular support would follow. As Mr. Bernanke wrote in his memoir about the Santelli rant, “I remained perplexed that helping homeowners was not more politically popular.”

There’s a reason, of course, that they were in their roles as appointed technocrats and not politicians. But it isn’t clear that George W. Bush or Barack Obama had any better ideas for bringing along the public than did the men they chose to lead financial policy. The crisis response may well have been a Rubik’s Cube of political and economic challenges too complicated to solve.

It was foreseeable, perhaps, that many on the left would view the Geithner-Paulson-Bernanke strategy as too friendly to Wall Street interests. It was also foreseeable that the libertarian right would loathe the bailouts. More surprising were the ways in which some of the biggest beneficiaries of the strategy became vocal opponents.

The Geithner strategy was based on rescuing Wall Street, using hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars — while building a more rigorous regulatory system to try to prevent a similar crisis.

But by the time what became the Dodd-Frank Act was on its way to passage in 2010, the financial industry and nearly all Republicans in Congress had committed to all-out opposition of industry regulation. Only three of 178 Republican House members, for example, supported the bill.

Even as Mr. Bernanke’s easy money policies pushed the stock market upward and coincided with a gradually improving economy and low inflation, the drumbeat of commentary was overwhelmingly negative.

You could turn on a financial network at nearly any hour of the trading day and hear complaints about how quantitative easing and zero interest rates were distorting markets. When Mr. Bernanke left office in early 2014, when the stock market was soaring and the unemployment rate was falling fast, only 28 percent of Republicans approved of his performance, according to a Gallup survey.

Success has rarely been so unpopular.

How the crisis broke our politics

In July, Mr. Bernanke, Mr. Geithner and Mr. Paulson were together again. They invited a handful of reporters to interview them in a conference room at the Brookings Institution, where they will be participating in a crisis retrospective in September.

Might the rise of anti-establishment parties around the world — not least Donald J. Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders-esque socialists on the left in the United States — be traced to their work as crisis responders?

“We know from history that financial crises, particularly big ones, do tend to get followed by a populist reaction,” Mr. Bernanke said. “I think we all tried our best to explain what we were doing and work with the politics, as difficult as it was. I think back to the crisis, we were very focused on preventing the collapse of the financial system. And developing our communication to the broad public wasn’t always our first priority.”

He argued, though, that longer-term trends — like stagnation in middle-class wages, social dysfunctions, rising mistrust in government and hostility to immigration — were a bigger explanation for the rise in a politics of extremes.

This analysis seems both correct and incomplete. Of course, the embrace of anti-immigrant nationalism on the right and of socialism on the left have roots considerably deeper than a bank bailout or a quantitative easing program.

But it was the experience of the crisis, and the sense among Americans of all ideological dispositions that they were being asked to foot the bill for someone else’s mistakes — whether by Wall Street C.E.O.s or by Mr. Santelli’s neighbor with the renovated bathroom — that helped make those long-simmering problems boil over.

The response to the crisis was in many ways the high-water mark for a mold of centrist, technocratic policymaking that seeks to tweak and nudge existing institutions toward better outcomes. It also undermined any widespread popular support for that mode of governing for the foreseeable future.

It turns out, when you throw trillions of dollars at rescuing a system that most people don’t like very much in the first place, the result isn’t relief.

It’s anger.

Watch this space for another opinion on this subject.

 

Presty the DJ for Sept. 17

Today in 1931, RCA Victor began selling record players that would play not just 78s, but 33⅓-rpm albums too.

Today in 1956, the BBC banned Bill Haley and the Comets’ “Rockin’ Through the Rye” on the grounds that the Comets’ recording of an 18th-century Scottish folk song went against “traditional British standards”:

(It’s worth noting on Constitution Day that we Americans have a Constitution that includes a Bill of Rights, and we don’t have a national broadcaster to ban music on spurious standards. Britain lacks all of those.)

Today in 1964, the Beatles were paid an unbelievable $150,000 for a concert in Kansas City, the tickets for which were $4.50.

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Sept. 17”

Presty the DJ for Sept. 15

Today in 1956, Elvis Presley had his first number one song:

Today in 1965, Ford Motor Co. began offering eight-track tape players in their cars. Since eight-track tape players for home audio weren’t available yet, car owners had to buy eight-track tapes at auto parts stores.

Today in 1970, Vice President Spiro Agnew said in a speech that the youth of America were being “brainwashed into a drug culture” by rock music, movies, books and underground newspapers.

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Sept. 15”

Another selection for the Hall of Fame application

If you’re on Facebook, look up Kevin Hunt (former WTMJ-TV sportscaster) and watch this video, but make sure you visit the bathroom first:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fkevin.hunt.9619%2Fvideos%2F1966766740029388%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Presty the DJ for Sept. 14

Today in 1968, ABC-TV premiered “The Archies,” created by the creator of the Monkees, Don Kirshner:

The number one single today in 1974 is a confession and correction:

Stevie Wonder had the number one album today in 1974, “Fulfillingness First Finale,” which wasn’t a finale at all:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Sept. 14”

When what you read is wrong

Young Americans for Freedom:

Citing bias reports filed during last year’s 9/11: Never Forget Project, administrators at Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin, ruled that YAF’s 9/11: Never Forget Project posters are creating an “environment” where “students from a Muslim background would feel singled out and/or harassed.” As a result, Ripon administrators will not allow the Ripon Young Americans for Freedom to hang the flyers as part of their work to remember the victims of September 11 or other victims of radical Islamist terrorism.

When leaders from Ripon YAF pressed administrators in a meeting to explain what was objectionable about the posters which merely depict history, the school’s “Bias Protocol Board” failed to provide anything more than the usual bizarre leftist excuses that rely on feelings, rather than facts, to back up their censorship.

According to administrators, the objections were “raised to the administration and the bias incident team about the environment that that [the poster] creates… That because of the focus, in this case relentlessly on one religious organization, one religious group, one religious identity—in associating that one religious identity with terrorist attacks which go back far before 9/11 and after 9/11— creates for some students here an environment which they feel like they are not able to learn.”

Administrators reminded the students that Ripon college is a private institution and therefore Ripon can decide what it feels is appropriate for display on campus and what is not. According to the administrators, they are allowed to rule on bias complaints using a “cost-benefit analysis” where they seek to understand “to what extent does something advance” or “hinder… the educational mission of the institution.” YAF would remind Ripon administrators that being a private institution does not render it immune from criticism of its decisions, especially when they attempt to censor key moments in our nation’s history that would be forgotten if not for bold Young Americans for Freedom activists such as those in Ripon YAF.

“There is nothing that this poster, in particular, adds to the conversation about 9/11, or about the politics of terrorism, or about national security or responses to it that couldn’t be done easily and more constructively without it,” claimed the members of the Bias Protocol Board.

“Some things [on the poster] don’t have anything to do with 9/11—ISIS, for example,” asserted one administrator. “I’m not sure I think the Iran hostage issue was Islamic terrorism,” said another.

Students of history will recall that the Iran hostage crisis was “America’s first searing experience with Islamist terrorism,” and that ISIS rose out of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and al-Qaeda carried out the deadly attacks of 9/11, as well as other attacks highlighted on the poster.

“I wouldn’t see the Pulse [nightclub] shooting as related to New York. If I were LGBT, oh yeah, that’s what that picture’s for. I do know that the shooter mentioned some comments and pledged some allegiance, but that’s not at all what the media portrayed it as.” Whether the media portrayed the truth or not (the media largely did report the shooter’s commitment to radical Islamist terror), the Pulse nightclub attacker did say “I did it for ISIS. I did it for the Islamic State.” What’s more, to claim that the deadliestterror attack in the United States since 9/11—murdering 49 innocent people—is only meaningful to the LGBT community is inexplicable.

Administrators further—and falsely—claim that one of their objections is because radical Islamist terrorism “represents a small percentage of the terrorist attacks that happened to this country, and they don’t represent the full gamut, and they show a very small picture of a specific religion or nationality instead of the larger viewpoint.” From 1992 to 2017, Islamists were responsible for 92% of deaths caused by terrorism in the United States, and are “far and away, the deadliest group of terrorists by ideology.”

Trying to reiterate their objections, administrators pointed out that, “It seems like the only terrorist activities brought up in this poster are those done by extremist Islamic groups, and so if I’m Muslim on this campus, like, ok, it sends the message that all terrorism happens by Muslims.”

Just as remembrances of horrific events carried out in the name of Nazism or Communism include honoring other victims of those ideological treacheries, so does the remembrance of the attacks carried out by radical Islamists on September 11, 2001.

“The intent is admirable to talk about why are we killing each other,” said an administrator. “That’s very admirable, and I support that, but what about school shootings? We’ve had almost a school shooting a day for the last ten days, and we’re continuing to up the body count.”  The administrator then suggested discussing Buddhist terrorism in Myanmar before threatening the students that, “If you put this poster out there… you’re going to get the same negative results. It’s these images.”

There is a problem with what you have just read, and it’s reported by the Ripon Commonwealth Press:

Ripon College has been refuting what it states is misinformation being spread by several partisan news organizations.

Several websites have reported that the college allegedly has banned posters about 9/11.

Ripon College representatives insist they have banned no posters.

The incident stems from an article posted on YAF.org, the website for the conservative group Young Americans for Freedom (YAF).

In it, author Spencer Brown claims Ripon College banned the college’s YAF chapter from posting 9/11 memorial posters.

His article then was the basis for a series of additional stories targeting Ripon College.

Ripon College’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications Melissa Anderson was unequivocal in refuting this claim.

“These posters are not banned,” she said.

Ripon College also released an official statement via social media elaborating on that point:

“There has been much misinformation posted related to a recent discussion between Ripon College officials and student members of the Ripon College Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter regarding a 9/11 poster and memorial. Ripon College encourages an environment for free speech and civil dialogue on our campus. The YAF posters are not, and have never been, banned. After receiving complaints from our students about the YAF Islamic extremism posters last year, College officials gave the Ripon College YAF student representatives suggestions as to how to have a discussion about 9/11 this year with our entire campus and community. The annual 9/11 flag memorial is a great example of how YAF students engage the entire community.”

Anderson noted Brown claimed the Bias Protocol Board at Ripon College banned such posters; however, she explained that is not true.

“That Bias Protocol Board is not a decision-making board,” Anderson said. “It has no authority. Its job is to hear complaints, hear from those who have been accused of creating something that’s bias and to have an open discussion about ways to avoid it. In no way shape or form, was the word ‘ban’ ever used.”

She noted students did have an issue with YAF’s posters last year and talked to the Bias Protocol Board about it.

“The poster has several depictions of beheading and other things that some of our students have found offensive [and] concerns have been brought up to a Bias Protocol Board that we have in place to deal with things like this,” Anderson said.

She noted college administrators have taken no action against the local YAF chapter. Instead, she explained, discussions have been held on how to include the entire campus in the chapter’s 9/11 memorial this year.

“It’s a response to complaints from students who find it offensive and biased towards a certain ethnicity,” Anderson said. “But keep in mind, all we’re having are conversations with the local YAF chapter … These posters are not banned; the students were asked to think of different ways to involve the entire campus community in their Sept. 11 tribute.”

Brown told the Commonwealth that his reporting was based on an audio recording he had received of a Bias Protocol Board meeting attended by Ripon College registrar Michele Wittler, Vice President and Dean of Faculty Ed Wingenbach, Director of Residence Life Mark Nicklaus, Director of Multicultural Affairs Kyonna Henry, and Associate Professor of Exercise Science Professor Mark Cole.

He said the names were provided to him by “student activists we work with who alerted us to this situation.”

Since the college has not banned the posters, Anderson said, it was taken by surprise when articles were posted saying otherwise.

“This is kind of very unexpected,” she said. “… Really the source of the misinformation begins with YAF National, Spencer Brown and his article.”

Anderson added once Brown’s article was posted on the YAF website, it “spread like wildfire.”

The article had been picked up by various partisan news media outlets, such as Washington ExaminerThe Daily WireThe BlazeIndependent Journal Review and more.

None of them, Anderson noted, ever contacted Ripon College to see if the claim was true.

“You’ll notice that no Ripon official was quoted in the [YAF] article whatsoever and any of the subsequent articles,” she said. “No, not a single one [contacted the college].”

Because of the misinformation it alleges is being spread due to these articles, the college is working to clear the air about the alleged poster ban along with the flag memorial the local YAF chapter undertakes every year.

“There’s two issues that have been stuck in some of these false articles,” Anderson said. “One, just generally, is the memorial tribute for Sept. 11 victims. Every year our local chapter of YAF leads that effort by putting flags on the Hardwood Memorial lawn … It’s a cherished event that we have every year. We take photos of it. It’s included on our social media. We share it around [and]  we put it in our publications to honor those who lost their lives.”

Anderson explained that in posting his article, Brown used an image of the flag tribute that the local YAF chapter organizes every year, which she said led to more confusion and misinformation.

“He had an image of the flag tribute … and then subsequent articles also picked that image up,” she said. “The big issue here is that the only thing that was a point of discussion was the poster and at no point was it banned, which I have evidentiary proof of actually. What happened is the media [and] those stories kind of got it inflated to the point where people were associating the ban, that never happened, with the flag tribute.”

Due to concerns that the college banned posters and the flag tribute, many individuals have flocked to Ripon College’s Facebook page to post comments disparaging the college and to give the college bad reviews.

In less than 48 hours, 54 “does not recommend” and one-star reviews were left on the college’s Facebook page.

Some of the comments state the college is “a disgrace to America,” and  an “unpatriotic college. Faculty and staff would rather pander to those who may be offended rather than a national tragedy.”

Other comments suggested “the free exchange of ideas is one of the primary purposes of Colleges and Universities. Ripon would do well to remember that.”

Anderson sees these comments as byproducts of the false information that was spread.

“What we’re responding to is a bunch of misinformation” she said. “People are obviously angry and concerned. ‘Why would a college restrict a celebration that honors Sept. 11 and its victims?’ We’re doing the best job we can to set the record straight.”

Along with its statement on social media, college administrators are “answering every call and every email that we receive and sharing the actual truth,” Anderson said. “It’s an unfortunate situation that this day and age we’re having to fight for the truth.”

I am told the posters were displayed, so in this case the college’s response seems more credible than YAF’s accusations.

YAF then came out with this self-congratulatory revision:

Following last week’s original reporting in the New Guard, Ripon College sent its liberal lap dogs after Young America’s Foundation and the myriad pieces of coverage on the school’s bizarre objections to the memorial posters used as part of YAF’s iconic 9/11: Never Forget Project.

Ripon College claims that because they never used the word “ban” in reference to the posters memorializing innocent victims of radical Islamist terrorism, they don’t deserve the criticism that’s been leveled at them. To be clear, YAF’s reporting never used the word ban, only repeated direct quotes from administrators on the school’s Bias Response Team, a body which refused to approve any version of the 9/11: Never Forget Project poster. It seems self-evident but in our view, as well as the view of the larger press, a refusal to grant approval is the equivalent of a ban.

Let’s go back to the original YAF release:

As a result, Ripon administrators will not allow the Ripon Young Americans for Freedom to hang the flyers as part of their work to remember the victims of September 11 or other victims of radical Islamist terrorism.

The headline on the revision was “Ripon College’s Ban by Any Other Name.” That previous sentence sounds like “ban” to me, which was YAF’s accusation. It is weaseling to claim that because YAF didn’t use the word “ban” that YAF never reported that Ripon College banned the poster. To most people “will not allow” and “ban” are synonyms.

Our original reporting quoted portions of a 38-minute recording of the meeting between Ripon YAF and administrators obtained by Young America’s Foundation. Since apparently those excerpts weren’t enough to show the bias team’s intent, below are some additional, previously-unreported quotes (emphasis added) that further show the opposition to Ripon YAF’s plans to distribute posters in remembrance of the victims of 9/11 and radical Islamist terror. We stand by our reporting, as well as the widespread coverage Ripon College has been mentioned in related to this situation.

In discussing the Bias Protocol Board’s review of bias complaints against the posters, an administrator says of the bias panel’s findings on the posters, “The concerns about the education environment outweigh any potential contribution to the education environment. There is nothing that this poster in particular adds to the conversation about 9/11.” They add, “The fact that there are genuine concerns about [the poster’s] negative consequences leads to a pretty easy cost/benefit analysis that the poster doesn’t need to be up.”

Despite offering more than a dozen times to consider making edits or additions to the posters in order to address some of the administrators’ concerns, the school’s leaders refused to grant approval and refused to express concern for anti-conservative bias that clearly exists at Ripon College. Instead, administrators call the posters “problematic,” say “there’s a problem in the product,” and chastise the students by saying “you kind of miss the mark.” If this is a supportive administration, as Ripon College has claimed in their attempts at damage control, I’d hate to see an oppositional one.

Hannah Krueger, chair of Ripon College Young Americans for Freedom, released a statement further clarifying her chapter’s mission and addressing recent criticism, saying that Ripon YAF “champions free speech from all viewpoints.” Krueger notes that her YAF chapter is “relatively new” but “no stranger to adversity and conflict” on campus. She adds that “It is because I love the college that I cannot stand by and watch organizations be pressured [to censor themselves].”

So now it’s being “pressured,” not a “ban” whatever words you’d like to use. I guarantee you that none of the campus activists of any political bent when I was at UW–Madison, then (and probably now) the most political college campus on Earth, would have knuckled under or used weasel words when faced with authority.

Let’s read Krueger’s statement:

Ripon College Administration has never “banned” the 9/11 memorial or the posters in question. The original YAF article never utilizes the word “ban.” Reporters repeatedly asked me if the College had banned the posters, and I repeatedly replied that “ban” was an inappropriate word for the situation. Many in the media on both sides of the issue made their own assumptions. …

Our 9/11 “Never Forget” posters are presented to the Student Judiciary Board year after year to determine if they violate poster policy, and each year the students on that board decide that they are in accordance with posting policy. It was only this last year that our posters signaled a new investigation by the Bias Incident Response Team.

In our meeting on Tuesday, August 28th, the members of the Bias Incident Response Team stated they had found issues with our posters—which we had displayed last year— as early as September 2017. Ripon College YAF members were informed of this issue in May 2018, during the last weeks of school. This gave us little time to respond, as officers were studying for and taking final exams. In an effort to identify what the specific issues were, I was referred to the Dean of Students. As he was not a member of the Bias Incident Response Team, he was unable to give a clear and concise answer of what was purportedly wrong with our posters.

He then referred me to the Bias Incident Response Team, a board composed of mainly administrators, which ultimately has no power to dictate the actions of student groups, but one who can make recommendations to the administration who then can take action. Why does this board exist? If the school believes in free speech and discussion, it would not have a panel of faculty and administrators that strangles discussion by determining what it feels is “appropriate.” The term “biased” is itself derogatory and used to stifle speech. President Messitte is correct in that the way to deal with speech one disagree with is more posters and speech, but there are groups of students and faculty who prefer to throw about disparaging labels and call certain activities and posters “biased.” Instead of a bias protocol board, the administration might establish a free speech board to ensure all ideas are heard on campus, not just those the school determines are appropriate and will not jostle liberal sensibilities. …

In the meeting, YAF proposed adding other images to the poster to avoid creating the anti-Muslim bias that the board was convinced our posters exhibited. We were willing to include events like Oklahoma City and other suggestions that the team had. The Bias Incident team told us that these images would appear to be an afterthought and would not make the poster any less of an issue. No matter what YAF offered to add or change about the poster, the team found reasons to disagree. The supposed mediator of the meeting, Dean Ed Wingenbach, was the one who offered the greatest argument of why the posters did not need to be up. We were pressured to make completely new posters. The members of the Bias Incident Response Team found no acceptable way to display these posters

It appears that the Bias Incident Response Team is itself biased.

Ripon Media, formerly known as the Ripon College Days student newspaper, adds:

In an email, Brown clarified that the http://www.yaf.org article never explicitly used the word “banned.” Brown said that the administration’s alleged comments during a meeting with Ripon YAF members, specifically that putting their posters up would cause a negative reaction from the student body, “are what I believe led many in the press to close the circle and call the board’s attempted intimidation of the YAF students a ban.”

“Ripon is attempting to save face by claiming the letter of their ruling does not imply the spirit of their ruling would be to keep the posters from being displayed,” Brown said.

According to Melissa Anderson, vice president of marketing and communications, a meeting did occur between Ripon YAF members and Ripon administrators, however the meeting was requested by YAF and did not lead to a “ruling” of any sort.

“The YAF leadership requested that the bias team explain how their poster could be considered biased. That generated a wide-ranging exchange of ideas and perspectives as everyone in the meeting discussed how the poster might be perceived by various audiences, what sort of reactions it is intended to elicit, and whether the poster itself actually meets the goals our YAF students articulated,” Anderson said. “The meeting was not a hearing or a trial, but a conversation, and the quotes in the article were part of that conversation.”

Brown’s article contains multiple quotes that are attributed to unnamed Ripon administrators, who he later identified in an email as Michelle Wittler, Ed Wingenbach, Mark Nicklaus, and Kyonna Henry. Brown said the quotes used in his article were from the meeting between administrators and YAF students and that for questions surrounding attribution “I’ve been suggesting ‘According to a recording of the meeting obtained by Young America’s Foundation…’”

“There may have been a recorder in the room but no college official was aware of it,” Anderson said.

As of yet, no recording of the meeting in question has been released by YAF’s national organization or its local members and the existence of such a recording has not been verified.

As someone with, as readers know, connections to Ripon College, I find the existence of a Bias Incident Resource Team ludicrous. I also find YAF’s claim of a ban and then backpedaling to be disingenuous bordering on duplicitous. I also find YAF’s unwillingness to identify the unnamed college administrators they quote very revealing. Based on this one instance I don’t find the national YAF to be a very good messenger for the conservative cause on college campuses, at least in its willing distortion of what appears to have happened at Ripon College.

Conservatives claim to be more moral than liberals. Being more moral means telling the truth, not just your version of the truth.