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Slick Willey

[ 0 ] April 1, 2007 |

In the wake of the discussion of the smears of Bill Clinton and Jessica Valenti I allude to below, debate about Clinton has resumed in some comments sections. What drives me crazy is that many liberal commenters seem to take various Clinton Tall Tales at face value, accepting that he’s a “sexual predator” but merely quibbling over the severity of the incidents. Whatever the ethical problems involved, the consensual Lewinsky scandal could not come close to justifying this label. The key to those arguing that Clinton is guilty of some kind of actual assault, then, is Kathleen Willey, and many comments sections have rolled over and played dead when apologists for Althouse and the rest of the Clinton Smear Machine have brought her up.

The problem? Her story was so strikingly lacking in credibility that Ken Starr’s office wouldn’t move forward with it. Josh Marshall:

But Willey didn’t merely hurt Clinton. It was also on her say-so, and to sustain her credibility, that the OIC pursued a merciless prosecution against Julie Hiatt Steele, one of the bit players in the Lewinsky saga, but one of the most damaged. Steele was a onetime friend of Willey’s who first said Willey had confided in her about the groping incident shortly after it happened. Steele later recanted this story and told the grand jury that Willey had put her up to it — testimony that won her an indictment from the OIC for obstruction of justice and a series of bizarre side investigations into matters as far afield as the legality of the adoption of her daughter. (The case ended in a mistrial in May 1999.)

So how credible is Kathleen Willey? Apparently, not very credible at all. And that’s not the word from some Clinton lapdog, but from the OIC itself. Appendix B of Ray’s report analyzes Willey’s accusations and concludes, rather hermetically, that “there was insufficient evidence to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that President Clinton’s testimony regarding Kathleen Willey was false.” But that conclusion is a comic understatement when read in the context of the report’s Appendix B. The OIC lawyers couldn’t even convince themselves that Willey was credible, let alone prove it beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury. They had already concluded that Willey was a liar.

For instance, as Appendix B explains, Willey’s testimony in the Jones suit differed from what she told the Lewinsky grand jury. It was contradicted by the testimony of other witnesses friendly to the OIC. And, most damning, during the period when Willey was cooperating with the OIC under an immunity agreement, the OIC caught her in a lie about her relationship with a former boyfriend. (As the report phrases it, with oblique understatement, “Following Willey’s acknowledgment [of the lie], the Independent Counsel agreed not to prosecute her for false statements in this regard.”)

In other words, the OIC did not opt to forego prosecution of President Clinton on the Willey front because it could not prove Willey’s credibility to a jury: They themselves believed she was not a credible witness. That makes you wonder why the OIC lawyers pursued their case against Julie Hiatt Steele based purely on Willey’s word. And if the OIC now thinks Willey isn’t credible, why didn’t this get a bit more play in the press? (And should we wait around, in Part 2 of the report, for an apology to Julie Hiatt Steele?)

See also Bob Somerby. Can we know, to an absolute certainty, that Clinton didn’t “grope” Willey without her consent? No. But to assert her story as simple fact is ridiculous. I mean, if Ken Starr won’t go forward with it, I think you have to presume Clinton innocent. Same thing with Paula Jones; unlike Lewinsky, that would be a serious case of sexual harassment, except that the case was thrown out of court. The evidence that Bill Clinton is a sexual predator, in other words, is scant at best. Liberals really need to stop accepting right-wing smear narratives as proven fact.

Rumsfeld Speaks!

[ 0 ] April 1, 2007 |

The TD gets an exclusive

She’s Engaging In Shameless Revisionism. Just Ask Her!

[ 0 ] April 1, 2007 |

Sorry to return to this, but I found it while researching something else and it’s too good to pass up. Althouse, you may recall, has justified her unprovoked rage at GFR by claiming that she was merely engaging in a sober political discussion about feminism and Bill Clinton, and liberals who claim that she was engaging in personal attacks are being horribly, horribly unfair to her, and even worse is when they label her very serious political arguments the “Jessica Valenti breast controversy,” which is a grievous insult. Evidently, it’s not exactly news that her rationalizations are utter nonsense. But I now call to the witness stand…Ann Althouse:

No, you’ve mischaracterized the original post, which mocked the bloggers for effusing over Clinton. A commenter made a wisecrack about Monica Lewinsky. The person you refer to as “woman with the rack” showed up in the comments to refocus things on her, at which point, I decided to write a post making fun of her for sort of unwittingly and indirectly claiming to be good-looking.

To write the post, I visited her blog and saw that it was loaded with breast images! She was a total breast-blogger! How is that not hilarious? I then made fun of her ridiculous hypocrisy.

Well, I think that’s settled.

Comparative Evidence of Idiocy

[ 0 ] March 31, 2007 |

I’ve always thought skipping the 13th floor (although calling it “12A” rather than skipping it is a new one on me) has always been among the starkest evidence about the number of extremely stupid and irrational people a country has. I’m still not sure if it’s worse than the fact that astrology columns appear in major newspapers, though…

"Before you could say Eric Keroack you’d turn your back and I’d be gone."

[ 0 ] March 30, 2007 |

The anti-contraception wingnut appointed to oversee the nation’s birth control policy has resigned. Lots of interesting stuff at the link about Keroack’s rather fishy medical practice. Also, there’s a good reminder of this story about the scientifically inaccurate propaganda distributed at his “crisis pregnancy centers”:

A Woman’s Concern promotes itself to pregnant women considering abortion as a “pregnancy health center designed just for you.” Nowhere does the center reveal that its real mission is to dissuade women from abortion.

The center staff told our volunteer misinformation and lies about abortion. Counselors provided gruesome exaggerated details of an abortion procedure – including a description of “prying” open her cervix to get the “bigger baby out” because her pregnancy was past the first trimester. Our volunteer was also told gross exaggerations about the risks associated with RU-486 (the abortion pill), including hemorrhaging and ineffectiveness.

Counselors further made false assertions about the mental health effects of abortion –including telling our volunteer that she would likely have severe depression as a result of her abortion and that this was a common occurrence. Such assertions about “post-abortion syndrome” are not supported by the weight of scientific evidence, nor recognized by major psychiatric associations.

A Woman’s Concern also provided our volunteer with pamphlets containing information falsely linking abortion to a risk of breast cancer. This long-time anti-abortion myth has been repeatedly discredited. Other pamphlets in the center’s waiting room likewise contained disinformation about condoms and sexually transmitted infections, and were often seriously outdated.

A Woman’s Concern adopts an air of medical authority but in actuality it fails to provide accurate information or legitimate medical services of use to any woman.

Good riddance.

The Moderate Senator…Who Terrorized Chris Matthews!

[ 0 ] March 30, 2007 |

It is quite remarkable how obsessed Chris Matthews, remains with Bill Clinton’s sex life. (Why the adultery of Hillary Clinton’s husband is a major campaign issue while we can be free to swoon over Republican adulterers, some of whom actively humiliate their exes, remains unclear. Although one prominent law professor does claim that Hillary’s campaign events are being used as fronts for Bill to meet women — I’m sure Matthews will be discussing that soon.) Needless to say, this is just one dimension to his exceptionally creepy misogyny. Bob Somerby finds Matthews engaging in the following sober analysis, in language that occasionally bears resemblances to English:

You know, somewhere out in the Atlantic Ocean, I think there might be a giant, green, ugly, horny monster. A gigantic, gigantic monster of anti-Hillary, and anti-woman Hillary, anti-liberal woman Hillary, some real ferocious beast out there that says no matter what happens between now and Election Day, they’re not going to let her win. Men, some women, are just not going to let this woman, this woman win the presidency. I don’t know whether that monster’s out there. All men I meet are afraid to talk like that. You only hear criticism of Hillary from smart, college-educated women. They’re the ones that always have a problem with her now.

[Count Floyd] Vasn’t That Scarrrrry! [/Count Floyd] I know I can’t have a conversation with a smart, college-educated women without her expressing abject terror about Hillary Clinton winning the presidency either! I’m assuming they all really like the idea of the Straight Talk Express running into town to invade their uterus, though.

The Crucial Question

[ 0 ] March 30, 2007 |

Fred Thompson scares me in the general more than Matt if he could secure the nomination. (I think Giuliani is a poor general election candidate — he largely takes social issues of the table, which won’t be good for the GOP in a lot of swing states, and paradoxically his lengthy record of social liberalism means that he will have to make more specific claims about the unpopular goal of overturning Roe more generic reactionaries like Bush had to.) On the other hand, I think it’s important to consider that campaign restrictions may result in his Law & Order reruns being taken off the air, which is a major social good. It would be one step toward returning to the golden age of L&O reruns, when the crappy new episodes were relegated to TNT where they could be easily avoided while the good old ones were on A&E. Has someone asked Dianne Wiest about running for the Senate somewhere?

But If We Make Access to the Ballot Easier, Democratic Unicorns Will Steal Our Elections!

[ 0 ] March 29, 2007 |

A really terrific piece by Michael Waldman and Justin Levitt about the GOP’s vote fraud fraud. The scam is advanced by the common method of “generalizing from apocryphal anecdotes”:

Allegations of voter fraud — someone sneaking into the polls to cast an illicit vote — have been pushed in recent years by partisans seeking to justify proof-of-citizenship and other restrictive ID requirements as a condition of voting. Scare stories abound on the Internet and on editorial pages, and they quickly become accepted wisdom.

But the notion of widespread voter fraud, as these prosecutors found out, is itself a fraud. Firing a prosecutor for failing to find wide voter fraud is like firing a park ranger for failing to find Sasquatch. Where fraud exists, of course, it should be prosecuted and punished. (And politicians have been stuffing ballot boxes and buying votes since senators wore togas; Lyndon Johnson won a 1948 Senate race after his partisans famously “found” a box of votes well after the election.) Yet evidence of actual fraud by individual voters is painfully skimpy.

Before and after every close election, politicians and pundits proclaim: The dead are voting, foreigners are voting, people are voting twice. On closer examination, though, most such allegations don’t pan out. Consider a list of supposedly dead voters in Upstate New York that was much touted last October. Where reporters looked into names on the list, it turned out that the voters were, to quote Monty Python, “not dead yet.”

Or consider Washington state, where McKay closely watched the photo-finish gubernatorial election of 2004. A challenge to ostensibly noncitizen voters was lodged in April 2005 on the questionable basis of “foreign-sounding names.” After an election there last year in which more than 2 million votes were cast, following much controversy, only one ballot ended up under suspicion for double-voting. That makes sense. A person casting two votes risks jail time and a fine for minimal gain. Proven voter fraud, statistically, happens about as often as death by lightning strike.

Yet the stories have taken on the character of urban myth.

And not only does the grossly exaggerated problem of voter fraud detract attention from the really serious problems with voting in this country, such as unreliable voting machines that vary across districts, insufficiently staffed vote booths, etc.–these urban legends are used to actually oppose efforts to make it easier to vote, as it is in most liberal democracies (which don’t seem to have problems running fair elections.)

…see LizardBreath as well.

And She Rubbed The Pot Roast All Over Her Chest

[ 0 ] March 29, 2007 |

In addition to explaining the rather obvious problems with the claim that asking a question about the “Jessica Valenti breast controversy” is beyond the pale (“Ann then says that “It was character assassinating to talk about it like that.” Now, maybe I’m slow, but as far as I remember, Ann wrote a post about about Jessica’s breasts. The post was entitled “Let’s take a closer look at those breasts.” In the post, she refers to Feministing as a “breast blog.” Lots of comments ensued. Lots of other blogs picked up the post, and many were critical of Althouse. In other words, there was a controversy.”), Jill gives us the perfect summary of the YouTube meltdown:

Which is one of the reasons that I don’t like Ann Althouse, so I don’t think Garance was all that far off. Well, Ann did not like that answer, and proceeds to completely flip her shit. You really have to watch it to understand. She starts yelling at Garance and shaking her finger, and tells her that “I don’t accept your saying the Jessica Valenti breast controversy. I consider that an insult. — You know, I’m on the verge of hanging up with you for bringing it up that way.”

The look on Garance’s face is priceless. It’s the same look that I probably had when a little girl I was nannying for decided to pee on the floor to get my attention.

Admittedly, for the analogy to be perfect the girl Jill was nannying for would have then berated Jill for assassinating her character by discussing the puddle on the floor rather than assessing the theories about Bill Clinton’s murder of Vince Foster she was expounding at the time of the incident, but close enough to be the last word.

[Video by Chris Clarke.]

no comment.

More On Quebec Nationalism and Secessionism

[ 0 ] March 28, 2007 |

I can once again outsource follow-up commentary to Jacob Levy, whose views and experiences are similar to my own (although mine might be more intense since I was there during the last referendum. You might think that teaching Canadian politics would present few challenges other than keeping students awake, but mine got into a fistfight in the library elevator. And his are expressed in much better prose.) After some good stuff about the desirability of “normal politics” in Quebec, Jacob commented in the earlier thread:

I’ve been amazed at how much my basic indifference to Quebec secession (two liberal democracies or one, what’s the difference?) has transformed into (stereotypical anglophone) antipathy toward the PQ since I moved to Montreal. It’s not out of any affection for the territorial integrity of Canada: I really don’t care about that as such. And it’s not about a defense of the Montreal anglophones even though I’m now one of them– I moved to another country, and perceive myself to have moved to a French-speaking country, deliberately moved to the Plateau in order to make the most of that move. I wanted to move to Montreal, regardless of whether that was in Canada or not. I just have the wrong upbringing to care about the Canada-shaped object on a map. Being an anglophone minority in a French-speaking society (independent or not) is what I signed up for.

But I do have real annoyance at the victimhood-and-bad-faith tales that I see the PQ using. The indivisibility-of-Quebec argument above all annoys the hell out of me– my interest in indigenous rights is a lot older than my move to Montreal, and makes it very hard for me to be cheery about people who tell a straightforwardly hypocritical story about their own right to self-determination and the lack of same among the First Nations. As a secondary matter I genuinely perceive the PQ to be relevantly similar to the Jacobin laicite’ tradition in France on matters of multiculturalism and minority religions. It somehow turns out that most of the ostensible hostility to religion falls on the shoulders of conservative Jews and Muslims, with very little falling on the giant cross looming over the city, or all the Christian holidays. And as a tertiary matter, while it’s ordinary rent-seeking, I’m more than a little shocked at the ‘fiscal imbalance’ narrative as a justification for secession. Upshot: after nine months I’ve become utterly disgusted with the PQ and happy to see them lose. I’d have been very unhappy to see the ADQ win the election, but am pretty pleased with the outcome we got.

Right. The argument about Quebec’s indivisibility really gives away the ethnic nationalist show (although, of course, many individual proponents of secession are liberal progressives.) I have no particular attachment to arbitrary national boundaries, but the current post-Quiet Revolution secessionist movement is premised on all kinds of bad faith. And not only is the fiscal imbalance argument the kind of dishonesty people will recognize from the American south (Quebec is actually gets a net fiscal gain from the federal government), it’s a fundamental part of many “sovereignty-association” schemes, which seem to involve Quebec retaining all powers except those that involve the ability of the federal government to transfer money to Quebec. There just aren’t any arguments about why secession is necessary that work without ethnic nationalism.

In response to Matt, I would say that the kind of social democracy advocated by the PQ is only half-appealing, particularly given the much different political context than the U.S. (even in Alberta, you can’t run against the fundamentals of single-payer.) The Quebec left supports the robuset European welfare model that I support, but also some elements of European dirigisme that I’m more more skeptical about. I will concede, though, that Dumont is pretty awful.

UPDATE: John dissents.

It’s Not Personal, Sonny

[ 0 ] March 28, 2007 |

I have no particular desire to revisit the issue, and indeed have every intention of continuing my post-Pelosi-smear policy of ignoring her except for MSM appearances or unusual circumstances such as her bullying a colleague, but since Garance has implied here that there’s some sort of mutual personal grudge between me and Ann Althouse I suppose I have to clarify something. I invite anyone to click on the link and look at what I’ve written — you’ll see nothing remotely resembling the kind of genuinely personal insults Althouse has directed at me or Glenn Greenwald (among many others.) I criticize Althouse a lot because she happens to combine in one package several of the most annoying and most pernicious types of punditry: “Everything changed for me on September 11. I used to consider myself a Democrat, but thanks to 9/11, I’m outraged by Chappaquiddick” fake moderation, obsession with meaningless trivia and junior-high-school personality narratives when discussing politics, and crying “civility” to pre-empt your vicious smears form any scrutiny. But whether you agree or disagree, these are things I consistently believe to be odious irrespective of the party involved. If you look at most of the things I’ve criticized her for — completely undefended assertions that Sam Alito is a moderate, apologizing for the Bush administration’s foreign policy (including its assertions of arbitrary power and use of torture), claiming the Iraq War is rationally seen as part of a conflict with Islamic terrorism, repeating lies about Nancy Pelosi requesting a luxury jet — you’ll find that I’ve criticized other people who have made similar arguments. Admittedly, some of her arguments are sui generis, so you’re just going to have to take my word that I would find claims that liberals opposition to Sam Alito reflected their belief that people don’t have rights, or that New York’s most prominent feminist blogger was invited to a meeting by Hillary Clinton’s campaign as part of an elaborate ruse to get Bill Clinton some action equally idiotic if someone else made them. I don’t think this is much of a stretch.

Of course, saying that this is all about a personality clash, in addition to being an almost comically transparent case of projection (and her meltdown in the face of Garance’s mild questions is just the latest example), is also yet another clever strategy for insulating her silly arguments from any criticism on the merits. People criticize her not because they disagree, but because they’re been “sucked into the Althouse vortex” or some such nonsense. This her way of seeing the world, not mine. And in fairness, given the quality of the arguments Althouse would have to try to defend, you can’t really blame her for using various diversions to avoid having to do so. Don’t buy it.

In Defense of Jacques Lemaire

[ 0 ] March 28, 2007 |

Looking at the boxscore, you might think that last night’s Flames/Wild game was a throwback to the worst of the early-aughts NHL. But you would be quite wrong. It was a terrific game: fast, plenty of chances, great goaltending. As long as the league is enforcing the anti-obstruction rules, looking at total goals scored is the wrong metric to evaluate the quality of play. All of which reminds me that I’ve always thought that Lemaire’s great Devils teams always got a bad rap. There certainly were teams of that era that tried to win through tedious clutch-and-grabbing, but the Devils were an exciting, hard-hitting, highly skilled team that happened to specialize in defense and goaltending. If you don’t allow goals because you’re fast and well-coached, that’s still fun to watch. The other good thing about the game is that the Flames had been so bad in shootouts it was difficult for me to argue against them without seeming to be acting out of self-interest, but now that we’ve won a few in a row I’m free to reiterate what an abomination they are.

Also, for Brad, Darcy et al. allow me to graciously congratulate the Pigfuckers Canucks on clinching a playoff spot.