Sunday, September 30, 2018

Twilight Language and The Devil's Triangle

Some have said the Twilight Zone of the Brett Kavanaugh news has been filled with hidden messages and lies. Without getting political, for the record, I here capture the touchstones we have seen in the last few weeks, before they vanish into history.

The Hand Signals

What did it mean?

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for Brett Kavanaugh started with the flashing of cryptic hand symbols from behind Kavanaugh by a former assistant Zina Bash. That action began the conspiracy theories and twilight language discussions.

It devolved into mockery the next day, as Bash played to the camera.

The Devil's Triangle

A phrase that appeared in Brett Kavanaugh's prep school yearbook, Devil's Triangle, which was known to mean a sexual act involving three individuals, became a focus of the hearings.

(1) On Thursday [September 27, 2018], the testimony delivered by Brett Kavanaugh to the Senate Judiciary Committee took a turn that was at once unexpected and, the past week being what it has been, deeply predictable: Sheldon Whitehouse, the senator from Rhode Island, used a portion of his allotted questioning time to ask the Supreme Court nominee about the definition of the “devil’s triangle.” For most Americans who came of age in the same rough decades as Brett Kavanaugh, the term—included, along with his self-identification as a “Renate Alumnius” and references to kegs and ralphing and boofing, on Kavanaugh’s yearbook page—would seem an obvious reference to a sexual act. Kavanaugh, however, told the committee that his definition of the term was different. “Devil’s triangle,” he insisted, was merely a drinking game.
“Three glasses in a triangle,” Kavanaugh said. Like quarters.
If “devil’s triangle” is a game that, indeed, involves bouncing coins into cups, there was, as of Thursday afternoon, seemingly no evidence of this on the internet, when people watching Kavanaugh’s hearing, inevitably, checked. No evidence, that is, until shortly after Kavanaugh testified as to his personalized definition of the term. At that point, congress-edits, the Twitter bot that tracks updates made to Wikipedia pages from congressional IP addresses, recorded a change made to the entry for “Devil’s Triangle”: “‘Devil’s Triangle’: a popular drinking game enjoyed by friends of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.”
The edit might have been a clumsy joke; it might have been a flimsy attempt to corroborate an explanation of things that, in the context of the rest of Kavanaugh’s sex-suggestive and booze-bragging yearbook page, would seem to defy common sense. Either way, it was fitting: Thursday’s hearing, in its assorted grotesqueries, was its own kind of clumsy joke, precisely because of its transparent display of reason-defying entitlement. The event—the raw but measured testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, followed by the rage-fueled indignations of Brett Kavanaugh—was a testament to the corroborative effects of power: the ease with which those who edit entries and chair committees and run countries can rearrange the facts of the world until they conform to, and allegedly confirm, the tales told by the powerful. The Atlantic

(2.) "Devil's Triangle"
This term on the yearbook page is also known as a sexual slang term for a threesome involving two men and one woman. Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing a woman who said Kavanaugh was present at parties where gang rapes took place, implied in a tweet that the term on Kavanaugh's page had a sexual meaning.
But Kavanaugh told the Senate Judiciary Committee that this was a reference to a "drinking game" with three cups arranged in a triangle. He seemed to compare it to Quarters, a popular drinking game in which players toss coins into shotglasses.
"Devil's Triangle" has also been a title of board games, TV episodes and rock songs. According to the Twitter account @Congressedits, which keeps tabs on changes to Wikipedia, someone in the House of Representatives anonymously edited the Wikipedia results for "Devil's Triangle" during the hearing to include the result, "a popular drinking game enjoyed by friends of Judge Brett Kavanaugh." CBS News
(3.) It probably was neither Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s or Brett Kavanaugh’s proudest moment when the Rhode Island Democrat asked the Supreme Court nominee to explain what a “devil’s triangle” was, referring to a note in Kavanaugh’s now-infamous Georgetown Prep yearbook. An exasperated Kavanaugh claimed it was a drinking game with “three glasses in a triangle,” similar to Quarters. Right.
This was just one example where Kavanaugh offered the most innocent possible explanation for his yearbook entries that a reasonable person would read as references to sex or excessive drinking. It’s not a stretch to say most of Kavanaugh’s explanations don’t pass the smell test.
Take devil’s triangle. While it’s remotely possible that Kavanaugh and his friends used an idiosyncratic definition, the euphemism typically refers to a threesome with two men and one woman. This is directly pertinent to Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation for obvious reasons. Slate

Renate Alumni

(4.) His comment about “ralphing” was an innocent reference to his sensitive stomach and not related to heavy drinking. And, most incredibly, a group of football players posing for a picture calling themselves “the Renate Alumni” – a stunt that reeked of sexual boasting about a girl named Renate – were “clumsily” trying “to show affection” for a friend. The attempt was so clumsy that they never shared it with their friend, who learned about the joke only recently. She told The New York Times: “The insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue. I pray their daughters are never treated this way.” Portland Press Herald editorial 

(5.) Judge Kavanaugh was one of 13 graduating seniors who referred to Ms. Dolphin in some way on their personal pages. Some gave themselves titles — DeLancey Davis, for example, listed himself as “chairman of the Bored” of the “Renate Club.” Another football player, Tom Kane, mentioned on his page “Renate’s Suicide Squad.”
The group photo, with Judge Kavanaugh and eight fellow football players in pads and uniform, grinning, was captioned “Renate Alumni.” Mark Judge, the commentator and author who has written about his alcohol-fueled years at Georgetown Prep, stands next to Judge Kavanaugh in the photo.
Barbara Van Gelder, a lawyer for Mr. Judge, declined to comment.
Four of the players in the “Renate Alumni” photo — Mr. Davis, Mr. Kane, Tim Gaudette and Don Urgo Jr. — said in a statement that they had “never bragged about” sexual contact or anything like that with Ms. Dolphin. The statement, issued by Jim McCarthy, a public-relations representative, said the yearbook’s “Renate” references “were intended to allude to innocent dates or dance partners and were generally known within the community of people involved for over 35 years.”
“These comments,” the statement continued, “were never controversial and did not impact ongoing relationships until The Times twisted and forced an untrue narrative. This shabby journalism is causing egregious harm to all involved, particularly our friend, and is simply beneath contempt.”
Michael Walsh, another Georgetown Prep alumnus, also listed himself on his personal yearbook page as a “Renate Alumnus.” Alongside some song lyrics, he included a short poem: “You need a date / and it’s getting late / so don’t hesitate / to call Renate.”
Mr. Walsh, a bank executive in Virginia, was one of scores of Georgetown Prep alumni who signed a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee leaders vouching for Judge Kavanaugh’s “sharp intellectual ability, affable nature, and a practical and fair approach devoid of partisan purpose.” He did not respond to requests for comment.
Ms. Dolphin was aware that members of Judge Kavanaugh’s clique were reciting that poem, according to a person familiar with her thinking. She told the football players that she found it offensive, believing it made her seem like a cheap date, and she asked them to stop.
Some of Judge Kavanaugh’s peers said they doubted that the yearbook notations were good-natured. “Those guys weren’t big on crushes,” Mr. Fishburne said. “I think they felt that if a girl didn’t want to date them, then they must be gay. I’m serious.”
A high school friend of Ms. Dolphin’s, who also signed the letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that while she stood by the letter’s contents, as a friend of Ms. Dolphin’s she was “sickened” by the yearbook’s “Renate” references. She and a second friend of Ms. Dolphin’s denied that there was any sexual contact between Ms. Dolphin and Judge Kavanaugh or anyone else in his circle. New York Times.

100 Kegs or Bust - noted in Mark Judge's high school profile.

Keg City Club (Treasurer) - 100 Kegs or Bust - noted in Brett Kavanaugh's profile.

Mark G. Judge

Zillow's Zero Results and Squi

One side trek was taken by 

Ed Whelan, a former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and conservative lawyer, [who] tried to use Zillow to prove Brett Kavanaugh's innocence and ended up going down a deep, deep rabbit hole of a conspiracy theory. Mashable.

Squi is Charles Garrett, the man who Whelan misidentified as the possible sexual assault candidate. And the link between Ford and Kavanaugh. Ford and Garrett "went out" together. Garrett and Kavanaugh were close friends. Garrett introduced Ford to Kavanaugh. These facts undermined the claim from Kavanaugh that Ford and he did not travel in the same social circles. 

The New York Times listed Chris Garrett as a “Kavanaugh friend” in an article that outlined “Three Inconsistencies the F.B.I. Investigation Could Address.”

The Washington Post detailed how the Republican's own prosecutor undercut Kavanaugh's defense in this regard. "Mitchell’s apparent role was to undercut Ford’s story. By linking Ford to Squi, she may have helped undercut Kavanaugh’s."
"It is regrettable that private citizens are being drawn into this," [Whelan] concludes his conspiracy thread, as if he didn't just drag a private citizen into this. "If the matter had been handled as it should have been, the Committee would have investigated the matter over the summer and resolved it privately to everyone's satisfaction without the smearing of Kavanaugh and the dragging the names of othersinto the public eye." Mashable
Ford dismissed Whelan's Twitter thread in a statement to the Washington Post:
“I knew them both, and socialized with” them, Ford said, adding that she had once visited the other classmate in the hospital. “There is zero chance that I would confuse them.”

Whelan's "evidence" totally backfired. 

Whelan – who was derided by many on Twitter for identifying Garrett without proving his claim, later apologized, writing, “I made an appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment in posting the tweet thread in a way that identified Kavanaugh’s Georgetown Prep classmate. I take full responsibility for that mistake, and I deeply apologize for it. I realize that does not undo the mistake.” Whelan is now on leave. Heavy.

The Many Faces of Brett Kavanaugh


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