The Whatever Digest, 9/17/18

Let’s start the day off with something pretty, shall we. Like these sunset clouds from last night:

I’m often asked how much I Photoshop my sunset pictures, and the answer is, it depends on the day. With that said, this photo pretty much accurately recreates what the sky actually looked like when I took this picture. One thing I did actively Photoshop was my neighbor’s TV antenna, which I edited out of the photo. This is a thing I frequently do. I feel no guilt about it.

Anyway, this was our sky last night. It’s not bad.


Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser now has a name (she always had a name, mind you, only now it’s public) and more details of the sexual assault that happened to her, which Kavanaugh has denied. Senate Republicans have stated their intent to move forward with a confirmation vote this week, although at least three GOP senators are now saying they’d be happy to delay that vote until they know more. Jeff Flake is key to this since he’s on the Judiciary Committee and the Republicans on the committee need his vote to move forward to a general confirmation vote. My feeling is that the longer the vote is delayed, the less likely it will be that Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court at all. This suits me fine, since I don’t like his judicial rulings or general philosophy and think this entire confirmation process has been a ridiculous sham of the Republicans trying to jam Kavanaugh through without letting anyone see relevant documents, but it’s still very weird.

For the record, I believe Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s accuser, and more than that, the corroborating evidence (including notes from therapy sessions back from 2012) suggests strongly that Ford named Kavanaugh as her assaulter, and sent letters to her representatives about him, long before the man was actually up for confirmation. So the idea that this is some late, last-minute hit on the process don’t really hold up to scrutiny. I would agree this all should have been aired sooner, mind you; I would liked to have known that (another) man accused of sexual improprieties was headed to the Supreme Court.

Also for the record: If the allegations are true, which I don’t really have a problem believing they are, Kavanaugh should not be on the Supreme Court, and tangentially, the Republicans shouldn’t want them there. As people have noted on Twitter, the optics of a self-admitted sexually-harassing President nominating a man credibly accused of sexual assault (and indeed, attempted rape) in order to throw out women’s right to control their own bodies are pretty bad. Now, it’s entirely possible the GOP doesn’t care about that — it’s made it pretty clear it doesn’t give a crap about anything other than its own will to power recently — but it should care about it. We’ll see.

The wild card in this is the “oh, but it happened in high school and that was so long ago and if we’re all judged for what we did back then we’d all be in trouble” argument, and you know what? This argument in general is not a horrible one — we are all stupid as teenagers and certainly as a nearly 50-year-old man I wouldn’t think it’s accurate to base my current personhood on the actions of 17-year-old me. On the other hand, 17-year-old me did not get smashed, force myself on top of a 15-year-old girl, sexually assault her and try to pull off her clothing, either. The adult version of me also did not “categorically and unequivocally deny” the event having ever occurred, as Kavanaugh has.

And that’s the thing for me. I did stupid shit as a 17-year-old, but as a 49-year-old I should be able to own it, and if possible and necessary make amends for it. Kavanaugh, who is 53, is not owning his shit and certainly has no intent to make amends for it. I can believe that Kavanaugh now wouldn’t do such a thing as the drunken 17-year-old version of him would do. But the fact that Kavanaugh now thinks the best thing for him to do is simply to deny such a thing ever happened doesn’t speak well for him or for the GOP bound and determined to get him on the court.

At this point, either Ford is lying or Kavanaugh is. I know who my money is on for that.


Athena came home this weekend to see friends, and I took advantage of her presence to take a photo:

I posted this on Facebook, prompting concerned followers there to ask what has become of the rest of her body. Relax, it’s there (you can sort of make out her neck in this picture). Honestly, no one understands my artistic vision.


Time magazine is being sold to a tech billionaire, specifically Mark Benioff, who along with his wife Lynee is purchasing it for their investment portfolio. Apparently the Benioff’s plan for Time is similar to the one Jeff Bezos is following with the Washington Post, which is, pour money in but otherwise be hands off.

I’m not a huge fan of billionaires buying media outlets (I kind of preferred it when people become billionaires by building media outlets, mostly, he said, wincing at the thought of Rupert Murdoch), but this is the new gilded age, and we actually need journalism now, and in a big way. So if selling Time to a billionaire is what it takes to keep it going, then, fine. If in fact the Benioff’s are serious about being hands off. If in fact they devote actual resources to it. If they don’t just strip it down for parts, like indeed Meredith, the current owner of the once-proud Time-Life stable of magazines is currently doing. If.


Let’s finish on a self-serving note: Hey! The Collapsing Empire is currently $2.99 as an ebook, on all your favorite electronic retailers. Get it cheap just in time to be all caught up for The Consuming Fire, which comes out a month from now. Wheee!

(Update: Sale’s over now.)

44 Comments on “The Whatever Digest, 9/17/18”

  1. I don’t see that Kavanaugh’s character has changed much since he was young. He still believes that the powerful should be protected from the powerless.

  2. [Deleted because the comment is trotting out bullshit and I don’t have time for that. Take the attempted character assassination of Ford elsewhere, Billy. — JS]

  3. If Kavanaugh did this in high school — which I’m inclined to believe — I would bet money it wasn’t the only, or the last time.

    Even if not for that, there are plenty of reasons I don’t want a right-wing Originalist on the Court.

    Even if not for that — it’s an outrage (if anyone’s still capable of outrage) that the Senate would even have a hearing for a SCOTUS appointment while the President is under criminal investigation, has shown utter contempt for the rule of law, and may soon be in front of that Court himself.

  4. The “he was 17 and we all did stupid things at 17” argument enrages me. You know what stupid things I did at 17?

    – I snuck wine coolers into my friend’s boyfriend’s basement and we all got tipsy on Bartles and Jaymes.
    – I shoplifted a lipstick on a dare (and felt so guilty about it that I went back later and paid, claiming I’d put it in my purse “by mistake” and forgot).
    – I skipped school and forged my father’s signature on my excuse slip.
    – I crawled out my bedroom window and went cruising and joyriding (more than once).
    – My friends and I snuck into the backyard of a house that was for sale that had a really cool swimming pool and went skinny dipping. (I think Bartles and Jaymes may have been involved here, too.)

    What didn’t we do? At no time did I attempt to rape someone and at no time did my equally stupid 17 year old male friends attempt to rape me or any of the other girls in our group.

  5. My stupidity landed me in AA at the age of 24, but so far as I know it didn’t involve attempted rape. However, there were occasions (plural) where my first thoughts upon waking were “Where am I, where are my clothes, and who am I in bed with? Anyone can have one blackout. Multiple? Well, as I said, I’m in AA. Part of being sober is owning up to your mistakes and making amends for them. Trying to right the wrongs to the extent possible. Somehow that became a left wing idea.

  6. I like how Kara’s friends didn’t try to assault Kara. I guess she was friends with stupid yet decent people. (Like me and you, dear reader)

    As for “women’s rights to control their own bodies” along with the rights to dignity and not being assaulted… it occurs to me that males who look down on women might have a vested interest in assault, and use their negative words and beliefs to prepare for that. Sort of like how if you plan to discriminate against a group you will first use derogatory slang words. This is just speculation, as I don’t see how I could ever ask anyone. My sister’s husband and the males I know are all decent people.

  7. Eeyore:

    Rejiggered the sentence.


    Indeed. “I was drunk” is not an exculpation of guilt. One of the things I like about twelve step programs is that they ask people to take responsibility and make amends.

  8. Kavanaugh is a proven liar. A probable thief. A possible gambling addict. A person with known, very questionable financial debts which were mysteriously taken care of.

    Don’t need to get to the latest news to think he should be rejected.

  9. Beautiful sky. A good reminder to look up from the daily quagmire of sh*t that we’re being dragged through once in awhile.

  10. Every time I see that smug, self-satisfied look on Kavanaugh’s face – which is every time I see him, now that I think of it – I want to smack it off, hard. But that’s just me, right? Obviously, McConnell and Grassley (who is clearly WAY past his sell-by date, as the Brits would say) are fine with a perjurer and attempted rapist on the Court (I won’t even mention the person who appointed him – duh). I am not convinced yet that he can be stopped, but if Flake lives up to his words for once, there is at least a glimmer of a chance. Yes, the next appointment will be even worse, but the Republican majority just might (fingers crossed) be gone by then, so keep the faith, baby!

    *returns to ’60s era geezer bus*

  11. The rest of her body? I can’t even see the rest of her head! (g)

    Kevin Drum makes the same point about Kavanaugh: this isn’t about what he did when he was 17 so much as it is about what he’s doing about that now.

  12. gwangung:

    This is just me but I think we should go light on the “gambling addict” angle, because addiction issues are not disqualifiers for me in most things, if they are acknowledged and addressed. In this particular case, the issue wouldn’t be addiction, but whether he lied about it. The lying would be a separate thing.

    (also, I don’t know anything about this “thief” thing. Honestly, he’s got enough issues without even trying to bring up new “probable” ones.)

  13. Regarding Kavanaugh, and the “if he can be accused, anyone can be accused” rhetoric: I don’t know about other people, but when I was that age, I was a hot mess when it came to dealing with people I found attractive, and I didn’t break out of that until I was mumblety-some-odd years old, but even in my hormonal teens, I never even contemplated doing anything that’d fall in the same time zone as Dr. Ford’s account of what Mr. Kavanaugh did to her.

    (I feel that in this case, the woman deserves the honorific and the man doesn’t.)

    In fact, I’d bet a majority of men don’t have a skeleton like Mr. Kavanaugh’s hiding in their closet. Funny how none of them are getting a hearing before the Senate for confirmation to the Supreme Court this year.

    (And yes, I’m still pissed about the Merrick Garland thing.)

  14. My position is that Kavanaugh has covered up any information and has not said anything about his high debts and the $200K in baseball “tickets”. That’s why i said “possible.” (And the $200K is separate from the ongoing $80-100K in annual credit card debt).

    Admittedly, being a former gambler is not a bar to high office, but a current gambler who cannot manage his debt is a bar for me.

    YMMV, of course….

  15. Wow, just wow. I admit that I was very skeptical due to the timing and it being Diane Feinstein, but the account does sound very credible and at a minimum deserves much more consideration. I never understood why Trump nominated Mr. Kavanaugh instead of Mrs. Barrett as she seemed more qualified and less of a swamp critter.

  16. What the HELL does this argument about “high school, blah-blah, stupid blah-blah,” say about assumptions of male adolescent stupidity? That all male youngsters “back then” were raised by morally turpidinous adults who thought rape just a peccadillo and girls who got drunk deserved assault? That all male youngsters, given the opportunity “back then” would sexually assault someone, tsk-tsk but boys will be etc.?

    I grew up back then and from my own experience I can tell you that of the dozens of male associates who happened to be around when I got drunk, only ONE actually met those criteria. The rest- dozens of them- confined their adolescent male repulsive impulses to teasing me later, and in some cases passing on malicious gossip.

    And you know what? A few out of those dozens actually stepped up and helped me get back home, to a safe place to sleep it off, to a dorm room, or an apartment, without making any moves at all.

    I’m sorry, but DAYUM, it is misanthropic at best to advance an argument that all males who were growing up “back then” probably have some silly incident like sexual assault on their adolescent hijinks list. It’s an insult to MEN.

  17. I am by no means as sanguine as you are that adult Kavanaugh would not rape a woman. He probably wouldn’t do it the same way, and he’s probably smart enough not to choose underage targets any more, but a rapist who uses force at age 17 isn’t likely to stop. As I saw someone say elseNet, a powerful man can still rape a privileged woman and probably get away with it — but raping an unprivileged woman is completely risk-free.

  18. We admire your artistic vision! We do! We just wanted to make sure your artistic vision didn’t also possibly include decapitations!

    Seriously though, that’s an amazing picture. How did you manage the lighting, or did you to it as a post-process?

  19. Nojh:

    It’s post-processing. The actual picture was taken in ambient afternoon light in front of a dark background.


    As far as I know there’s been no indication that Kavanaugh’s done anything of the sort as an adult.

    Bryan Gardner:

    Feinstein is one of Ford’s senators and also the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, so it would have made sense of the letter to go to her.

  20. A dozen+ women came forward about Trump sexually harrassing or assaulting them. Republican voters didnt care. Trump bragged about assaulting women on tape. Republican voters didnt care.

    Kavanaugh tried to rape a woman at 17? Republicans dont care. The one and only thing republicans care about Kavanaugh is his partisanship loyalty. Kavanaugh helped Bush win the Gore v Bush case which stole the election outright from democrats and gave it to a republican.

    THAT is all any republican cares about these days. Kavanaugh only sees justice based on party politics, and that is exactly the sort of thug that republicans want on the supreme court.

  21. Ah, of course. I was thinking she lived in Maryland and didn’t put together that she now lives in CA. Thanks.

    Greg, I am mostly a Republican and what I want is my party back. I really worry that DJT is trying to stack the court to escape the eventual end of the Mueller probe.

    I cannot say or write Mueller without hearing it repeated questioningly in Ben Stein’s voice

  22. Kavanaugh denies the allegation completely. Said he has never done anything like that to anyone. Says he wasn’t even at the party in question. Says he would be happy to testify before the committee.

    That’s confident behavior. Perhaps he’s really telling truth despite having a penis.

  23. Time does not absolve criminal acts. Okay, wait…time inside does & especially so if you actually work on yourself and change from then forward. But time by itself does not absolve Kavanaugh of his assault on another human being and his lying about it now only worsens what he did. He should not be on the Supreme Court. If he had even a sliver of an ounce of human decency about him he would withdraw.

    I feel for the woman who came forward and I applaud her courage. I hope she is given the opportunity to testify and when it goes awry, as it will in this country where the reprehensible excuse of “boys will be boys” (no matter their age) will matter more than the damage done by said “boys”, I hope she still finds strength in speaking out.

    Good recap/digest Scalzi. As always, I appreciate your blog.

  24. I worked for Time in the Time & Life Building in Rockefeller Center in 1975, writing a WYSIWYG text editor for final tweaking of their several magazines before printing. Wrote it in PL/1 and CICS for IBM mainframes. They were a very impressive institution, occupied 21 floors of the 48-story building, had office chairs specially designed for them by Charles Eames and an astonishing corporate restaurant on the top floor. It really saddens me that they have fallen to the level of a vanity project by a tech billionaire. Sure, their entire business model is utterly obsolete, but they were really something back in the day.

  25. Bryan: “I am mostly a Republican and what I want is my party back”

    The republican party isnt defined by what you want. It is defined by what the party does. And since trump, that party has repeatedly supported racism, sexism, homoohobia, bigotry in general, fascism on a grand scale, and in the case of Kavanaugh it is ramming through a partisan stooge because he thinks anyone with (R) beside their name is in the right. Thats what the republican party does. Thats what it is.

    Pedro: “Kavanaugh denies the allegation completely. Said he has never done anything like that to anyone. Says he wasn’t even at the party in question. Says he would be happy to testify before the committee. That’s confident behavior. Perhaps he’s really telling truth despite having a penis”

    So, you believe a witness based solely on their testimony? Then why do you disbelieve christine fords testimony? Seems conveniently aribitrary. She seems pretty confident that Kavanaugh tried to rape her. She does have medical records and therapy notes that corroberate.

    Is the defense here to believe a witness when they seem confident, and when in doubt, believe the witness with the penis?

  26. John: “No indication” boils down to “nobody has come forward to say he did it to them”. Until now. I will not be surprised if (as we’ve seen so many times before) now that one person has broken the silence, others start to speak up as well.

  27. If the accusation against Kavanaugh derails his nomination by peeling off a couple of Republican Senators, he won’t be sentenced to a lifetime in the wilderness. He’s currently serving a life sentence on the DC Circuit Court. The notion that because he was nominated he is entitled to be confirmed is wrong. He’s not uniquely deserving of the position.

  28. Yes, it’s good to remember the *best-case* scenario, assuming Ford is telling the truth:

    Ford’s attacked in public, in the media, and the target of random conservative’s nasty emails, death threats, etc.

    Kavanaugh returns to the Circuit Court and is a pampered, well-remunerated judge for as long as he continues to want to work.

    It’s not justice, but it might be as close as we can get to it, which is depressing.

  29. Greg, those things haven’t defined the GOP since Trump. They have defined the Party since Reagan (hopefully, Lee Atwater is rotting in hell)

    I believe Dr Ford because I know how hard it is to talk about this and I can’t imagine having to testify on National TV.
    The past 2 days have been very triggering and as I write this, there are tears in my eyes. I cry for my 11 yr old self who in one instance learned to trust nobody ever., who learned to be ashamed of herself and her body. Who felt that somehow she did something to deserve this. I am 62 now but I can still feel the fear that little girl felt. You can heal but it never really goes away.

  30. No end of Republicans told me they couldn’t stomach Clinton because he dodged the draft. In his early twenties. But rape when you’re 17? Why should we care what someone did in their youth?
    Of course as the same people who opposed “the draft-dodging president” had no problem with W, I already knew that was bullshit.
    2)The cries of witch hunt are funny in a black-humored way. Investigating allegations of rape trigger much more outrage than accusations everyone who opposes Trump is a Satan-worshipping pedophile and cannibal, i.e., a literal witch hunt.
    I agree Republican voters won’t give a crap. But it’s telling they’re not budging even though Kavanaugh’s hardly indispensable — any right-wing judge could deliver the goods just as well.

  31. The lighting on that photo of your daughter really highlights the similarity of your faces. Fortunately, she makes it work anyway. :)

  32. Greg: I cannot approve entirely of what either major party does, not sure where that leaves me except ticked off at idiots in Washington (for Frankfort)

  33. Dear Pedro,

    Confident behavior is an indication of truth-telling?

    Hoo boy, there’s a name for people who believe that. Actually several — “sucker,” and “mark” come to mind first. Criminals, con artists, sociopaths, and psychopaths easily demonstrate confidence. Sounding confident is not a measure of anything, except one’s ability to sound confident. Under the circumstances you described, I could lie convincingly, and so could you. It’s not hard.

    So here’s the thing — somebody’s not telling the truth here, either Kavanaugh or Ford. Let’s start with the raw statistics — there are a gazillion studies that show that the overwhelming majority of accusations of sexual assault are true. Just statistically speaking, the odds strongly favor Ford.

    On top of that, what might Ford’s motivation for lying be? Facts, please, not imaginings. One can imagine it’s a Democratic Party ploy, one can imagine she’s got a personal or profound political grudge against Kavanaugh. One can imagine any number of things to account for her story. Please come up with one that has some facts behind it.

    On the other side, what might Kavanaugh’s motivation for lying be? Because he wants to be on the Supreme Court! That doesn’t take any supposition or imagining.

    Preponderance of evidence and logical thinking says you should be believing the one **without** the penis.

    Does that prove Kavanaugh’s lying beyond a reasonable doubt? Absolutely not. And if this were a criminal trial, that would matter. But it’s not. It’s not even about him losing his job, ala Weinstein. Nor even about him getting minimally punished – it’s only about whether or not he gets a great promotion. So, yeah, I’m willing to go with the standard of likelihood. She’s most likely telling the truth. He most likely isn’t. That’s sufficient.

    – pax / Ctein \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery. 
    — Digital Restorations. 

  34. Ctein said, “Criminals, con artists, sociopaths, and psychopaths easily demonstrate confidence.”

    So do honest people.

  35. Dear Pedro,

    ‘Zactly! Exuding confidence is no evidence of anything whatsoever. Except exuding confidence. Your invoking it as some kind of telling point is non sequitur.

    Youse a smaht guy, try coming up with a REAL argument.

    pax / Ctein

  36. Dear Ctein,

    Direct evidence concerning the Kavanaugh Affair is super thin, leads us to multiple possible interpretations. Which means the evidence is ambiguous. In the court of public opinion, there’s a little something for everyone.

    And as for my argument, perhaps you noticed the word “perhaps” was included, as in, “Perhaps he’s really telling truth despite having a penis.”

    Read in between my lines what you will. But one could interpret my “argument” as a friendly, if indirect, reminder to keep an open mind.

    Because both sides can’t be right.



    P.S. Will quip for pixels.

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