The Whatever Digest, 9/18/18
Let’s see what the world has for us today, shall we?
To begin on a high note, congratulations to my dear friend Mary Robinette Kowal, who has just announced a three-book, six-figure deal with Tor Books. The deal covers two more books in her “Lady Astronaut” series plus a standalone novel. The Verge has all the details, plus a short interview with MRK on the matter.
I’m thrilled about this. Aside from MRK being one of my favorite people on the planet, I’m a very big fan of the two current Lady Astronaut books, The Calculating Stars (which I think is a top contender for Hugo and Nebula Best Novel nods) and The Fated Sky. More in this universe makes me very happy. I’m also pleased Tor recognizes her value with the size of the deal. This is good news for everyone, but especially for MRK. I like it when my friends get good news.
Oh, let’s talk more about that Kavanaugh mess, I suppose.
Brett Kavanaugh, it should be noted, has doubled down on his categorical denial, regarding Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation that he sexually assaulted her back when they were teenagers. Both Kavanaugh and Ford are going to testify about it in front of the Senate on Monday, and one would hope under oath. And won’t that be interesting if it is under oath? Because then, if they both stick to their stories, one or the other of them is, flatly, lying.
Alternately, if one wishes to be extraordinarily generous about it, it’s possible that Kavanaugh isn’t lying, precisely, he simply has no memory of the incident. Ford did describe him as being stumble-down drunk at the time. But the thing about that is, he didn’t say “I have no memory of such an incident ever occurring.” He said it never happened. So we’re back to it being an actual lie, in my book.
And here’s the thing for me: Removing all the political aspects of the incident and focusing on the individuals and the incident itself, who are you more likely to believe has a better memory of the incident: The person who was stumble-down drunk when the incident occurred, or the person who was not, and had the event seared into her brain so significantly that it still came up in therapy, three decades later? I’d put my money on the latter, personally.
(The other, exculpatory-for-Kavanaugh explanation is that Ford isn’t lying but has misremembered the identity of her assaulter, which is possible, but given what we know of things, seems unlikely.)
But the timing of this shows it’s all political! Meh. Again, Ford expressed her concerns about Kavanaugh to her elected reps well in advance of his actual nomination for the court, and asked for confidentiality, which she was given. By all indications Senator Feinstein didn’t send the letter to the FBI until someone else leaked it. On Ford’s part, this doesn’t seem like the actions of someone desperately hungry to throw a spanner into the political works. The fact that some people want to blame her for the current mess is more than a little gross. Once the letter was a known thing, she came forward and was willing to testify. But she wasn’t responsible for the events that led to her letter becoming a political hot potato.
Someone in email accused me of smearing an innocent person (Kavanaugh, to be clear) and leading a mob against him. Well, Kavanaugh may well be innocent! But it seems unlikely to me, given what we know, and since I’m not a court of law or Kavanaugh’s lawyer, I’m not obliged to pretend I think he is. It seems likely to me that as a teenager he sexually assaulted Ford; it also seems likely to me that as an adult, he’s lying about it. Merely stating that opinion is not riling up a mob, I’m not stating “Kavanaugh is lying, go set fire to his house!” (Please do not set fire to his house.) Nor is the Whatever audience much of a mob (sorry).
Nor, bluntly, is Kavanaugh in much danger of having any major repercussions for his (probable in my opinion) teenage sexual assault. The worst case scenario for Kavanaugh is that he goes back to his job on the DC Court of Appeals — just like Merrick Garland! — and keeps doing what he’s already been doing. I mean, technically, if he lied in front of Congress he could be penalized for that, but he’s already arguably lied in front of Congress, and Congress seems to be willing to give him a pass for that. Kavanaugh’s real world penalty, if the Senate chooses not to confirm because, among other things, more of its members than not believed he pinned down a fifteen-year-old girl, put his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams, ground himself into her and tried to take off her clothes, is… he keeps the immensely privileged life he already has. Oh, my God. How horrible for him.
But his reputation! Again, meh. It seems unlikely to me that any of Kavanaugh’s pals on the right will penalize him for it; he will still be admired and respected in the circles he already runs in. These are the same circles who elected as president a man who indisputably sexually assaulted women as an adult. There’s not much evidence at the moment that the right thinks sexual assault should count against a person’s reputation unless that person is on the left. Let’s not pretend that if the exact same accusations were made against a Supreme Court nominee picked by a Democratic president, the right would be calling for that nominee’s withdrawal (at least). But I guess it’s different when you’re on the right and you have a nominee that you know will overturn Roe v. Wade the first chance he gets.
So, yeah. Don’t cry for Kavanaugh. He’s going to be fine, whether he’s innocent or not.
People in Washington seem to be worried about an emerging “Kavanaugh Standard,” i.e., what you did at seventeen will now be held against you in senatorial confirmation hearings. A few thoughts here:
1. Can we stop pretending that sexual assault is just average teenage hijinx? I went to high school in the same era as Kavanaugh, you know. Even in the benighted 80s, we fucking well knew that sexual assault was not within the scope of acceptable activities. I was there! I know this to be true!
2. If you can’t or won’t agree that sexual assault is not your average teenage hijinx, one, what the fuck were you up to in high school, pal, and two, in fact, what you were doing in high school might be relevant to your senatorial confirmation, especially if you evince no actual moral growth from that point forward.
3. Otherwise, I think most people are probably in the clear regarding their high school stupidity.
4. But might it not also be wise to tell teens that all their lives will be affected by the choices they make as teenagers, including the choices they’re not aware they’re making? Is it not worth it to inculcate in their still-forming brains the idea that far-reaching consequences exist, even if they can’t yet fully understand these consequences may arise at a point that is a multiple of the years that they have currently been alive? And that their actions will have consequences for others, all through their lives as well?
5. Also, you know what? I would be fine culling out of governmental service everyone who sexually assaulted someone else as a teenager. Or as an adult! Why not both! And if it turns out there is a noticeable dearth of available men for such service, well, I guess them’s the breaks, and the good news is that there are almost certainly a large number of women available to come on board to take care of things, whilst the men fix their cultural shit. I’m fine with that. If this is indeed the new “Kavanaugh Standard,” there would be far worse things, I have to say.
And to end on a high note: Look! The Captain Marvel trailer! Looks like fun.