The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Failing Amber Wyatt

The Washington Post has a must-read feature today about the sexual assault of 16-year-old Amber Wyatt in 2006—and how her Texas high school turned against her:

The rumor — at least initially, and certainly in the soccer player’s initial account to Aven — wasn’t that Wyatt consented to sex with the two boys, but that they never had sex at all. Yet the tone of murmurs around the school indicated that students believed the exact opposite: that Wyatt, perhaps intoxicated, had agreed to sex and then regretted it, and that, in accusing the boys of rape, caused trouble not only for herself but also for her classmates at Martin. Aven, in his statement to police, said he thought, despite the soccer player’s denials, that some consensual sexual encounter took place in the shed that night. Meanwhile, at the school, an internal investigation quickly began into students’ alcohol use, which resulted in athletes from four different sports being removed from their extracurricular activities for six weeks.

Wyatt became the bull’s eye of an angry backlash. As Liz Gebhardt, a close friend of Wyatt’s who remained by her side throughout the tumultuous period that followed, recalled: “Everyone started blaming [Wyatt] because she said something, and if she would have kept her mouth shut then nothing would have ever happened.” With 3,350 students, it was hard to contain the spread of malicious recrimination and even harder to maintain a sense of proportion.

Kids hurled insults at Wyatt in the halls and casually chatted about the news in class. Many of her former friends would no longer associate with her. Wyatt says she received threats and slurs by text messages, people telling her to kill herself, saying she got what was coming to her. Wyatt’s friendships with her former cheerleading pals grew brittle and strained. “Maybe it was me,” she speculated in 2015. “I mean, I totally changed.”

One night in September, text and MySpace messages began circulating among Martin teens who wanted to show support for the accused by writing “FAITH” on their cars. The lurid acronym — “f--- Amber in the head” — began appearing on rear windows the following morning, metastasizing as quickly as the rumors had. Even Arthur Aven wrote “FAITH” on his car.

It's as much an indictment of her town's justice system as much as her classmates. Wyatt has recovered, but it took a decade to get her life on track. The people she alleged had raped her had no consequences.

Lunchtime reading

Lots of stuff crossed my inbox this morning:

Back to my wonderful, happy software debugging adventure.

Rushing to seat a Justice

James Fallows says the Republican effort to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court without adequately weighing some key evidence risks a multi-generational error:

During his confirmation hearings for the D.C. Circuit Court 12 years ago, Kavanaugh denied under oath that he had participated in certain specified partisan fights. Two senior, hyper-cautious Democratic senators – Patrick Leahy, and Dianne Feinstein – have, along with others, now come out with statements that Kavanaugh was lying under oath in 2006, and is doing so again now.

Was he? This matters.

Every modern-era judicial nominee has mastered the art of dissembling, and pretending to have a completely open mind and a “I just call the balls and strikes” objectivity about every controversial issue.

But actual lying is something different. Clarence Thomas’s interlocutors believed that he was lying about Anita Hill, and the intervening years makes it more likely they were right. This is the first time I’m aware of, since the Thomas hearings, in which Senators opposing the nomination have come out to say: this nominee is lying under oath. It is worth knowing the truth before the now-or-never vote is cast.

The second question involves finances.

Brett Kavanaugh has some major financial gray-areas in his recent past. The very large credit-card debts, suddenly paid off?

Maybe this all is nothing. But the Senate is ramming through a vote before anyone knows what’s there.

Only 51 days until the election.

It pays for itself

President Trump has complained about how much Robert Mueller's investigation has cost the government. After the plea deal reached Friday with Paul Manafort, that should no longer be a problem:

If we assume the same cost-per-day for the investigation that was reported through March of this year, the probe has so far cost the government about $26 million.

[P]art of the plea agreement reached between Mueller and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort includes forfeiture of certain property to the government. While it’s not clear how much value will be extracted from that forfeiture, there’s reason to think that it could more than pay for what Mueller has incurred so far.

The combined value of [Manafort's] properties, according to estimates at Zillow.com and assigning the 2006 sale price to his Trump Tower property, is about $22.2 million. If those were sold at the values identified above and the money returned to the government, that alone nearly covers our estimated costs of the investigation to date.

The government’s seizures from Manafort could be worth about $42 million, including the upper estimates of just the properties, Federal Savings Bank loan and insurance policies. And that doesn’t include the other accounts, which might contain some portion of the $30 million that Wheeler points to as having been identified by the government as ill-gotten gains. That’s enough to pay for the Mueller probe for some time to come.

Somehow, though, I don't thing Trump is as much concerned about the money as he is about what Manafort has told Mueller's team. That, I suspect, is his real concern.

51 people

James Fallows will spend the next 54 days (until the next Congressional election in the US) talking about the 51 people who each have the power to stop President Trump:

The 51 senators who now make up the GOP’s governing majority represent about 30 million fewer constituents than do the 49 Democrats and independents. And thanks to gerrymandering and similar factors, a 1-percent GOP edge in House of Representatives voting in 2016—just over 63 million total votes for Republican candidates, versus just under 62 million for Democrats—translated into a 47-seat majority in the House.

I mention these disproportions to introduce a Time Capsule series for the 55 days between now and the 2018 mid-term elections. It will focus on the 51 people who have disproportionate power. Unlike the other 330+ million Americans, could do something directly to hold Donald Trump accountable for what nearly all of them know is his reckless unfitness for office—but who every day choose not to act.

Those 51 are, of course, the Republicans who make up Mitch McConnell’s current Senate majority.

But 55 days before the election, not a one of these 51 people has dared act. Not after the “anonymous” op-ed in The New York Times; not after Bob Woodward’s Fear (and the dozen previous books to similar effect); not after … anything.

Encouraging to me is that polling now suggests at least two of those 51 could lose their seats in November.

Morning reading list

Before diving back into one of the most abominable wrecks of a software application I've seen in years, I've lined up some stuff to read when I need to take a break:

OK. Firing up Visual Studio, reaching for the Valium...

Lunchtime reading list

While trying to debug an ancient application that has been the undoing of just about everyone on my team, I've put these articles aside for later:

Back to the mouldering pile of fetid dingo kidneys that is this application...

Party like it's 1879

Atlantic editor Adam Serwer draws a straight line between the ways the Redemption court of the 1870s paved the way for the Gilded Age and Jim Crow, and how the Roberts court now (and especially with Brett Kavanaugh on it) is returning to those halcyon days:

The decision in Cruikshank set a pattern that would hold for decades. Despite being dominated by appointees from the party of abolition, the Court gave its constitutional blessing to the destruction of America’s short-lived attempt at racial equality piece by piece. By the end, racial segregation would be the law of the land, black Americans would be almost entirely disenfranchised, and black workers would be relegated to a twisted simulacrum of the slave system that existed before the Civil War.

The justices did not resurrect Dred Scott v. Sandford’s antebellum declaration that a black man had no rights that a white man was bound to respect. Rather, they carefully framed their arguments in terms of limited government and individual liberty, writing opinion after opinion that allowed the white South to create an oppressive society in which black Americans had almost no rights at all. Their commitment to freedom in the abstract, and only in the abstract, allowed a brutal despotism to take root in Southern soil.

The conservative majority on the Supreme Court today is similarly blinded by a commitment to liberty in theory that ignores the reality of how Americans’ lives are actually lived. Like the Supreme Court of that era, the conservatives on the Court today are opposed to discrimination in principle, and indifferent to it in practice. Chief Justice John Roberts’s June 2018 ruling to uphold President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting a list of majority-Muslim countries, despite the voluminous evidence that it had been conceived in animus, showed that the muddled doctrines of the post-Reconstruction period retain a stubborn appeal.

Roberts wrote that since the declaration itself was “facially neutral toward religion” and did not discriminate against all Muslims, it did not run afoul of the Constitution. In doing so, he embraced the logic of decades of jurisprudence from his predecessors on the high court, whose rulings ensured that the Constitution would not interfere with the emergence of Jim Crow in the American South. The nation’s founding document is no match for a dedicated majority of justices committed to circumventing its guarantees.

He lays out that in the Roberts court at least they're not vociferously white supremacist. But the deference to corporate rights, he points out, almost guarantee another generation of increasing wealth disparities in America.

Unless we win all three branches of government and pass an amendment or two. But it'll have to get a lot worse before we do that, if history is any guide.

Update: Longtime reader MB sent this: "At every crossroads on the path that leads to the future, tradition has placed 10,000 men to guard the past."—Maurice Maeterlinck

The snakes are biting each other now

Yesterday, the New York Times ran an anonymous op-ed from a "senior White House official" that described a "resistance" inside the White House against President Trump's insanity. Greg Sargent calls bullshit:

If anything, the sum total of the revelations offered, while valuable in some respects, reveals the sharp limits on which Trumpian impulses these greatly alarmed patriots discern to be seriously damaging to the country. In so doing, it actually reveals just how deeply insufficient these constraining efforts really are. If the people around Trump think this sort of display will insulate them from any post-Trump reckoning, we’d better make sure it fails ignominiously.

Perhaps the most pointed charge is directed at Trump’s “amorality.” As the piece says: “Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.”

Except in a sense, Trump absolutely does have “first principles,” and these are precisely the problem. Among them are racism and white nationalism; the prioritization of self-enrichment over all else, even extending to a total lack of concern about foreign sabotage of our democracy, simply because he was its beneficiary; and the corrupt, intertwined convictions that law enforcement is merely an instrument of his political will and that he and his cronies should be protected from institutional accountability at all costs, no matter what damage is done along the way.

These do not come in for condemnation. Nor do the policies and actions they have given rise to — policies and actions that are inflicting an untold human toll and great damage on the country. In this sense, the claim that Trump is “amoral” lacks meaningful moral content, and the assertion that Trump is “anti-democratic” lacks meaningful pro-democratic content.

Josh Marshall agrees:

I say ‘faux-resistance leader’ because I see this exercise primarily as one of anticipatory self-exculpation. As things look darker and darker for the President we are beginning to see the first glimmers of the argument that those who should be tainted forever by their association with President Trump may actually be “unsung heroes” who were resisting from within.

This argument has no merit. Not only does this amount to late in the game special-pleading, on the merits what is described here is not good. Presidents are elected by the people. They run the executive branch. If a President is unfit, committing criminal acts or guilty of misrule, our system has open and lawful paths to rectify the situation. There is the 25th Amendment. There is impeachment. There is the simpler course of disclosure: speaking out publicly, revealing the truth to the people in your own name and being fired. The “two-track presidency” which the author describes, with top advisers using subterfuge and stealth insubordination to frustrate the President’s constitutional rule is, at least in concept, clearly unconstitutional. A more hard-boiled version of what the author describes is this: We are fully cognizant of the the danger the President poses to the country and the fact that he is manifestly unfit for the job. But we are going along with the charade as long as it lasts to pocket deregulation and tax cuts.

The upshot is that the administration is coming apart, which is as unsurprising as it is horrifying.

As Tom Lehrer once said, I'm feeling like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis.

STBX Mayor Emanuel

Getting off the airplane yesterday, I discovered that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is hanging them up:

After nearly three decades of intense public life, from Chicago to the White House to Congress and back again, it was time for this “empty nester”—the term Emanuel kept dropping, to move on. Likely with a huge push from his wife. The prospect of the upcoming election, which Emanuel insisted he “without a doubt” would have won, wasn't the deciding factor.

In the interview, Emanuel also said he’s “probably not” going to get involved in the race to succeed him. He added that he intends to pursue projects such as Elon Musk’s proposed underground express train to O’Hare International Airport and admitted that his departure could hurt the city’s bid to lure Amazon’s HQ2 and a promised 50,000 well-paying jobs.

“I love this job,” he told me. But “you haven’t sat in the cockpit. I know what this job demands. I have to be honest with the public as to whether I have everything this job takes.”

One thing that took a toll was the city’s incessant and horrid gang violence. “That wears on your soul,” he said. Though the city under his leadership has improved Chicago Public Schools, remade much of its economy and stabilized its finances, his big regret is that public safety does not exist “in all parts our city. . . .That tears at me.”

Another thing clearly was personal, though.

Emanuel spoke about how he yanked his family to Washington only to move them back here after he won the mayor’s job. That forced some difficult choices, he said, like the time “I had to leave my son’s bar mitzvah early to go to the White House to count votes” on the bill to enact Obamacare.

Now that the kids are gone, “We’re empty nesters. We’re still young enough to write another chapter.”

In today's issue of Crains, along with the Emanuel interview is a similar statement from a local former CEO. Pete Kadens, who led Green Thumb Industries, a Chicago-based (technically Canadian) company that grows medical marijuana, insists he really did want to spend more time with his family.