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Father Doesn’t Know Best: Kavanaugh and Women’s Unshared Traumas

[NB: Check the byline. / ~Rayne]

This weekend brought back some ugly memories, one of which involved my father. We’ve never had a close relationship; it was rocky at times. But in 1991 one phone conversation particularly damaged my meager relations with him.

I can’t even remember why we had been talking on the phone — did he call me? Did I call him? The context’s utterly irrelevant now after all this time. But we butted heads about the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.

Dad’s not political though he’s always been conservative. He’s a professional in a STEM field, raised Catholic, and a post-WWII veteran. Sadly, Dad’s racist in spite of being brown himself. This may come from having been raised where he was in the majority and not a minority. He wasn’t overtly racist as his closest friend in college was African. He’s not been overtly sexist. In my teens he argued with a small town school board so I could take wood shop. They didn’t let girls take that course in the early 1970s. Nor was I punished for bringing home Cs in typing though they were the lowest grades I’d ever had. He knew I’d need nominal keyboard skills as I was pursuing a STEM education in college.

But in all that I had known about my father by the time I was 30 years old, I’d made a miscalculation.

In that conversation we’d drifted into current affairs and the Senate’s hearing. I told him I was very upset. I’d hoped Clarence Thomas wouldn’t be confirmed. He wasn’t Supreme Court material based on his background and Hill’s testimony put Thomas’ character into question.

My father said he didn’t know why Anita Hill waited so long to say anything to anybody. Why hadn’t she spoken out at the time Thomas was harassing her? He suggested Hill was acting in bad faith.

I couldn’t say anything. Words wouldn’t come. It was as if I was talking to a stranger. To whom would a black woman go to complain about her boss’s sexual harassment? Especially if her boss was the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission? Who would take a young black woman’s word over that of a black man, let alone a man in charge of the EEOC? Why would a young black woman subject herself to more harassment by Senate Judiciary Committee and the public if not to protect the Supreme Court from an unworthy nominee?

At some point my understanding of the world forked sharply away from my father’s. It’s not as if he didn’t know women faced gross inequality. The fact he had to fight for my shop class was a concrete example. He’d heard plenty of stories about gender bias, sexual harassment and assault from my mother who worked in health care. Did he think that every girl or woman had some man who could make it better by going to bat for her? That some man would have resolved the harassment Hill faced in the work place had she simply come and asked them for help?

I didn’t know if he was naive. I didn’t know if this was a manifestation of his nebulous racism at some level. I didn’t know if it was misogyny I’d not detected in my father’s makeup to that point.

It took me a long time to get over this. I don’t know yet if I am over it because I struggled with the phrasing of that last sentence. I felt betrayed, as if he’d never seen the world as it was, nor had he seen me. I felt I’d betrayed myself for not seeing him more clearly.

It was some time before I realized he was as sexist as he was racist. Not overtly, and in spite of having two daughters in non-traditional STEM education paths — but his sexism was there and I’d internalized it.

It took me a while longer to realize I’d buried an episode which should have created a more realistic perception of my father.

~|~|~

When I was a pre-teen a group of boys harassed me. There was bodily contact, sexualized language, grabbing at clothing during class. The male teacher ejected me from class. He told my parents I was “precocious” which made no sense to me since I was a year younger and much smaller than the rest of my class, and I alone had been targeted. My father negotiated with the teacher and principal to let me to take this class independently — as if I was the one at fault and not the boys who’d harassed me. I was the one in the wrong because I was a girl. My father accepted this as fact. He didn’t demand the teacher do a better job of supervising his classroom.

I would bet good money that if asked now, none of the boys would remember harassing me. They might not even remember I was a former classmate. The situation mattered little to them, not changing their world one iota.

I never spoke with my father again about any problems I had with boys and men. I was on my own with the boys who shoved me around and pawed at me throughout high school or stole my drafting and engineering equipment. I was on my own when I got my first job in manufacturing as a co-op student, dealing with cat calls and sexual taunts and threats of violence. On my own when I didn’t get a raise when my boss said “his boys” in the department needed the raise that year.

Over the last couple of decades I’ve talked with many other girls and women about harassment. It’s nearly universal that women face it and sometimes with violence. Let me emphasize this: there are many, MANY women who were harassed, abused, assaulted in school and beyond who never reported it. They may never even have spoken about their experiences. But the system disempowers and marginalizes us; it maintains the status quo and actively resists change. It questions our ability to speak for ourselves. It places the value of a man’s career and lifestyle above any woman’s. Women’s empowerment and the ability to effect positive change has been close at times but we are still celebrating so many firsts. We haven’t yet a first woman president, or a first half of the Supreme Court or Congress, leaving us without adequate representation to protect our rights and interests though we are half this nation and give birth to the rest.

~|~|~

The revelation of Christine Blasey Ford’s name and the release of her letter to Senator Feinstein triggered memories. The harassment and abuse by teen boys, the Thomas confirmation hearings, that 1991 conversation with my father bubbled back up. Many women likewise revisited their own experiences. I’ve read their tweets consoling each other across Twitter. We and our traumas are finally seen and heard by each other in great numbers, but not by our government.

Like my father, this government assumes it’s her fault, not his. This government will go after Ford for speaking her truth. Its proxies villified her, some for not coming forward sooner though it wasn’t prepared and willing to help her back then. The system itself harasses women.

It wasn’t my fault I was harassed and abused. It wasn’t Anita Hill’s fault she was harassed, either, nor was it our fault we didn’t come forward. We couldn’t. It wasn’t Ford’s fault she was a 15-year-old abused by older teen boys at a time when such attacks were normalized in pop culture as humor. She couldn’t come forward then, either.

But now we and our many sisters can come forward together and say we believe Ford. We can say that what happened to her mattered then. It matters now because girls and women have a right to personal autonomy and self-determination. We can say that one man with a history of harassment seated for life on the highest court is more than enough, and that an admitted abuser has no right to appoint another man with a questionable history to the bench.

We can say it’s enough that Brett Kavanaugh has not been forthcoming about his shady finances even when asked to reply in writing. It’s beyond enough that he’s been a party to hiding a majority of his work. We can say we have heard enough of his prevarications before the Senate Judiciary Committee this month and in 2006.

We come forward now and say this is enough: Kavanaugh is not Supreme Court material and should withdraw his nomination. He should not be confirmed by the Senate.

At the very least Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote should be delayed. We should hear Ford’s testimony and Kavanaugh’s rebuttal, and as Marcy suggests, a witness to the assault on Ford.

~|~|~

Call your senator and ask for a delay on Kavanaugh’s confirmation; it would be better if Kavanaugh withdrew if we can’t hear from Ford, Kavanaugh and witnesses. Your calls are working at shifting GOP senators’ opinions.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Riley Meets the Dragnet: Does “Inspection” amount to “Rummaging”?

It’s clear today’s decision in Riley v. California will be important in the criminal justice context. What’s less clear is its impact for national security dragnets.

To answer the question, though, we should remember that question really amounts to several. Does it affect the existing phone dragnet, which aspires to collect the phone records of every person in the US? Does it affect the government’s process of collecting massive amounts of data from which to cull an individual’s data to make up a “fingerprint” that can be used for targeting and other purposes? Will it affect the program the government plans to implement under USA Freedumber, in which the telecoms perform connection-based chaining for the NSA, and then return Call Detail Records as results? Does it affect Section 702? I think the answer may be different for each of these, though I think John Roberts’ language is dangerous for all of this.

In any case, Roberts wants it to be unclear. This footnote, especially, claims this opinion does not implicate cases — governed by the Third Party doctrine — where the collection of data is not considered a search.

1Because the United States and California agree that these cases involve searches incident to arrest, these cases do not implicate the question whether the collection or inspection of aggregated digital information amounts to a search under other circumstances.

Orin Kerr reads this as addressing the mosaic theory directly — which holds that a Fourth Amendment review must consider the entirety of the government collection — (and he is the expert, after all). Though I’m not impressed with his claim that the analogue language Roberts uses directly addresses the mosaic theory; Kerr seems to be arguing that because Roberts finds another argument unwieldy, he must be addressing the theory that Kerr himself finds unwieldy. Moreover, in addition to  this section, which Kerr says supports the Mosaic theory,

An Internet search and browsing history, for example, can be found on an Internet-enabled phone and could reveal an individual’s private interests or concerns—perhaps a search for certain symptoms of disease, coupled with frequent visits to WebMD. Data on a cell phone can also reveal where a person has been. Historic location information is a stand-ard feature on many smart phones and can reconstruct someone’s specific movements down to the minute, not only around town but also within a particular building. See United States v. Jones, 565 U. S. ___, ___ (2012) (SOTOMAYOR, J., concurring) (slip op., at 3) (“GPS monitoring generates a precise, comprehensive record of a person’s public movements that reflects a wealth of detail about her familial, political, professional, religious, and sexual associations.”).

I think the paragraph below it also supports the Mosaic theory — particularly its reference to a “revealing montage of the user’s life.”

Mobile application software on a cell phone, or “apps,” offer a range of tools for managing detailed information about all aspects of a person’s life. There are apps for Democratic Party news and Republican Party news; apps for alcohol, drug, and gambling addictions; apps for sharing prayer requests; apps for tracking pregnancy symptoms; apps for planning your budget; apps for every conceivable hobby or pastime; apps for improving your romantic life. There are popular apps for buying or selling just about anything, and the records of such transactions may be accessible on the phone indefinitely. There are over a million apps available in each of the two major app stores; the phrase “there’s an app for that” is now part of the popular lexicon. The average smart phone user has installed 33 apps, which together can form a revealing montage of the user’s life.

I’d argue that the opinion as a whole endorses the notion that you need to assess the totality of the surveillance in question. But then the footnote adopts the awkward phrase, “collection or inspection of aggregated digital information,” to suggest there may be some arrangement under which the conduct of such analysis might not constitute a search requiring a higher standard. (And all that still leaves the likely possibility that the government would scream “special need” and get an exception to get the data anyway; as they surely will do to justify ongoing border searches of computers.)

Of crucial importance, then, Roberts seems to be saying that it might be okay to conduct mosaic analysis, depending on where you get the data and/or whether you actually obtain or instead simply inspect the data.

That’s crucial, of course, because the government is, as we speak, replacing a phone dragnet in which it collects all the data from everyone and analyzes it (or rather, claims to only access only a minuscule portion of it, claiming to do so only through phone-based contacts) with one where it will go to “inspect” the data at telecoms.

So Roberts seems to have left himself an out (or included language designed to placate even Democrats like Stephen Breyer, to say nothing of Clarence Thomas, to achieve unanimity) that happens to line up nicely with where the phone dragnet, at least, is heading.

All that said, Robert’s caveat may not be broad enough to cover the new-and-improved phone dragnet as the government plans to implement it. After all, the “connection” based analysis the government intends to do may only survive via some kind of argument that letting telecoms serve as surrogate spooks makes this kosher under the Fourth Amendment. Because we have every reason to expect that the NSA intends to — at least — tie multiple online and telecom identities together to chain on all of them, and use cell location to track who you meet. And they may well (likely, if not now, then eventually) intend to use things like calendars and address books that Roberts argues makes cell phones not cell phones, but minicomputers that serve as “cameras,video players, rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps, or newspapers.” Every single one of those minicomputer functions is a potential “connection” based chain.

So while the new-and-improved phone dragnet may fall under Roberts’ “inspect” language, it involves far more yoking of the many functions of cell phones that Roberts finds to be problematic.

Then there’s this passage, that Roberts used to deny the government the ability to “just” get call logs.

We also reject the United States’ final suggestion that officers should always be able to search a phone’s call log,as they did in Wurie’s case. The Government relies on Smith v. Maryland, 442 U. S. 735 (1979), which held that no warrant was required to use a pen register at telephone company premises to identify numbers dialed by a particular caller. The Court in that case, however, concluded that the use of a pen register was not a “search” at all under the Fourth Amendment. See id., at 745–746. There is no dispute here that the officers engaged in a search of Wurie’s cell phone. Moreover, call logs typically contain more than just phone numbers; they include any identifying information that an individual might add, such as the label “my house” in Wurie’s case. [my emphasis]

The first part of this passage makes a similar kind of distinction as you see in that footnote (and may support my suspicion that Roberts is trying to carve out space for the new-and-improved phone dragnet). Using a pen register at a telecom is not a search, because it doesn’t involve seizing the phone itself.

But the second part of this passage — which distinguishes between pen registers and call logs — seems to be the most direct assault on the Third Party doctrine in this opinion, because it suggests that data that has been enhanced by a user — phone numbers that are not just phone numbers — may not fall squarely under Smith v. Maryland.

And that’s important because the government intends to get far more data than phone numbers while at the telecoms under the new-and-improved phone dragnet. It surely at least aspires to get logs just like the one Roberts says the cops couldn’t get from Wurie.

Think, too, of how this should limit all the US person data the government collects overseas that the government then aggregates to make fingerprints, claiming incidentally collected data does not require any legal process. That data is seized not from telecoms but rather stolen off cables — does that count as public collection or seizure?

Perhaps the language that presents the most sweeping danger to the dragnet, however, is the line that both Kerr and I like best from the opinion.

Alternatively, the Government proposes that law enforcement agencies “develop protocols to address” concerns raised by cloud computing. Reply Brief in No. 13–212, pp. 14–15. Probably a good idea, but the Founders did not fight a revolution to gain the right to government agency protocols.

Admittedly, Roberts is addressing a specific issue, the government’s proposal of how to protect personal data stored on a cloud that might be accessed from a phone (as if the government gives a shit about such things!).

But the underlying principle is critical. For every single dragnet program the government conducts at NSA, it dismisses obvious Fourth Amendment concerns by pointing to minimization procedures.

The FISC allowed the government to conduct the phone dragnet because it had purportedly strict minimization procedures (which the government ignored); it allowed the government to conduct an Internet dragnet for the same reason; John Bates permitted the government to address domestic content collection he deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment with new minimization procedures; and the 2008 FISCR opinion approving the Protect America Act (which FISCR and the government say covers FAA as well) relied on targeting and minimization procedures to judge it compliant with the Fourth Amendment. FISC is also increasingly using minimization procedures to deem other Section 215 collections compliant with the law, though we know almost nothing about what they’re collecting (though it’s almost certain they involve Mosaic collection).

Everything, everything, ev-er-y-thing the NSA does these days complies with the Fourth Amendment only under the theory that minimization procedures — “government agency protocols” — provide adequate protection under the Fourth Amendment.

It will take a lot of work, in cases in which the government will likely deny anyone has standing, with SCOTUS’ help, to make this argument. But John Roberts said today that the government agency protocols that have become the sole guardians of the Fourth Amendment are not actually what our Founders were thinking of.

Ultimately, though, this passage may be Roberts’ strongest condemnation — whether he means it or not — of the current dragnet.

Our cases have recognized that the Fourth Amendment was the founding generation’s response to the reviled “general warrants” and “writs of assistance” of the colonial era, which allowed British officers to rummage through homes in an unrestrained search for evidence of criminal activity. Opposition to such searches was in fact one of the driving forces behind the Revolution itself.

Roberts elsewhere says that cell searches are more intrusive than home searches. And by stealing and aggregating that data that originates on our cell phones, the government is indeed rummaging in unrestrained searches for evidence of criminal activity or dissidence. Roberts likely doesn’t imagine this language applies to the NSA (in part because NSA has downplayed what it is doing). But if anyone ever gets an opportunity to demonstrate all that NSA does to the Court, it will have to invent some hoops to deem it anything but digital rummaging.

I strongly suspect Roberts believes the government “inspects” rather than “rummages,” and so believes his opinion won’t affect the government’s ability to rummage, at least at the telecoms.  But a great deal of the language in this opinion raises big problems with the dragnets.

SCOTUS Conservatives in Anonymous Disarray

I expressed skepticism about the part of Jan Crawford’s story confirming John Roberts flipped his vote on ObamaCare that claimed Roberts had no role in writing the dissent.

Finally, there is Crawford’s not entirely convincing explanation for the relics in the dissent that seem to suggest Roberts had a hand in crafting the dissent, too.

The two sources say suggestions that parts of the dissent were originally Roberts’ actual majority decision for the Court are inaccurate, and that the dissent was a true joint effort.

The fact that the joint dissent doesn’t mention Roberts’ majority was not a sign of sloppiness, the sources said, but instead was a signal the conservatives no longer wished to engage in debate with him.

If true, those relics, which violate normal protocol for referring to other opinions, reflect a very big affront to Roberts’ governing opinion.

Salon now has a single anonymous source disputing Crawford’s two anonymous sources on this point.

Crawford’s sources insist on the claim that the joint dissent was authored specifically in response to Roberts’ majority opinion, without any participation from him at any point in the drafting process that created it. It would, after all, be fairly preposterous for the four dissenters to jointly “author” an opinion that was in large part written originally by the author of the majority opinion to which the joint dissenters were now so flamboyantly objecting.

Yet that, I am told by a source within the court with direct knowledge of the drafting process, is exactly what happened. My source insists that “most of the material in the first three quarters of the joint dissent was drafted in Chief Justice Roberts’ chambers in April and May.” Only the last portion of what eventually became the joint dissent was drafted without any participation by the chief justice.

[snip]

Roberts’ chamber did much of the drafting of the [first 46 pages of the dissent, which don’t mention Roberts’ opinion], and none of the [last 19 pages, which do mention it]. In short, it appears Chief Justice Roberts ended up in large part authoring both the majority opinion and the dissent in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius.

Set aside the fact we’ve got a anonymous leak war going on, with neither side inherently garnering credibility. Set aside what Salon’s report, if correct, would suggest about Roberts.

I want to focus on what it means that comity in the court has broken down in this way. If Crawford’s report comes, as many suspected, from the conservative justices themselves, it would suggest they leaked a transparently illogical cover story (in that it didn’t explain the relics that made everyone suspicious about the dissent in the first place). They not only broke SCOTUS protocol about leaks, but did so and, reportedly, lied in doing so.

Then you’ve got a quick response from someone–could this be a Roberts clerk? one of the other conservatives?–calling out that purported lie.

To what end? To shift the emphasis on Roberts’ fickleness? To try to tone down the confrontational claims at the heart of the Crawford piece? And if another of the conservatives is behind the Salon report, then how do the original leakers feel about the story? What are the political objectives of each side of this anonymous leak war?

And all this is just what we can see through the screen of anonymity. The rancor this expresses must be worse in person.

Even if it’s all anonymous, I gotta say, I’m glad this leak fest has revealed the conservative justices in all their bitchy glory.

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When Did Clarence Thomas Go to the Koch Conspiracy Fest? And Did He Bring Ginni?

As you’ve no doubt heard, the right wing conspiracy does exist. As the NYT reported the other day, the Koch brothers host semi-annual secret get-togethers to strategize with other rich conservatives and media people about how to advance their views.

The participants in Aspen dined under the stars at the top of the gondola run on Aspen Mountain, and listened to Glenn Beck of Fox News in a session titled, “Is America on the Road to Serfdom?” (The title refers to a classic of Austrian economic thought that informs libertarian ideology, popularized by Mr. Beck on his show.)The participants included some of the nation’s wealthiest families and biggest names in finance: private equity and hedge fund executives like John Childs, Cliff Asness, Steve Schwarzman and Ken Griffin; Phil Anschutz, the entertainment and media mogul ranked by Forbes as the 34th-richest person in the country; Rich DeVos, the co-founder of Amway; Steve Bechtel of the giant construction firm; and Kenneth Langone of Home Depot.

Sure, we’ve known that rich people work like this for a while; this report simply provides documentation of it.

But one detail of the NYT report deserves further scrutiny: the report that Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia have attended the gathering.

To encourage new participants, Mr. Koch offers to waive the $1,500 registration fee. And he notes that previous guests have included Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court, Gov. Haley Barbour and Gov. Bobby Jindal, Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, and Representatives Mike Pence, Tom Price and Paul D. Ryan. [my emphasis]

Again, it’s not a surprise that the guy who duck-hunted with Dick Cheney while reviewing a suit involving the Vice President would hang around with the conservative elite.

But the report raises a whole slew of questions.

Think Progress has an important post looking at how Scalia and Thomas have been instrumental in loosening campaign finance regulations, which has made it a lot easier for people like the Kochs to buy elections.

But Scalia and Thomas have been involved in more than just rulings that make it easier for the Kochs to win election.

After all, they once cast two of the only nine votes to matter in the 2000 Presidential election.

They’ve not only issued rulings that make it easier for conservatives to win elections, they’ve decided an election. And one of the most obvious explanations for why Thomas and Scalia have attended at least one of these secret shindigs but not Sam Alito or John Roberts would be if they attended before the latter two were SCOTUS Justices. You know, back before Thomas and Scalia selected a President.

So did Thomas and Scalia attend a meeting strategizing how to win elections before the decided one?

And then there’s the other question: whether Ginni Thomas, the founder of an organization that bridges mainstream conservatives with the TeaBagger movement, attended the gathering.

The invitation from this year’s shindig shows that most attendees bring their spouses. So if Thomas followed the norm, then Ginni would have attended with him. Which would put Ginni Thomas, now a big player in the TeaBagger movement, at an event hosted by the guys who are bankrolling the TeaBagger movement.

The Koch brothers would already be leading candidates to be funding Liberty Central. The Koch brothers would already be leading candidates to be the source of the $500,000 or $50,000 donations from undisclosed individuals to Liberty Central. The Koch brothers–and their funding of TeaBagger activities–have been central in opposing the health care reform that Liberty Central has called unconstitutional.

But it would be very neat if the Koch brothers recruited Ginni Thomas to front this group at their secret cabal meeting, wouldn’t it?

Clarence Thomas’ Revenge

Rosalind linked to this LAT article describing Clarence Thomas’ pro-abuse views.

According to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a prisoner who was slammed to a concrete floor and punched and kicked by a guard after asking for a grievance form — but suffered neither serious nor permanent harm — has no claim that his constitutional rights were violated.

Thomas objected when the high court, in a little-noted recent opinion, said this unprovoked and malicious assault by a North Carolina prison guard amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

[snip]

According to Thomas, this harsh treatment did not qualify as cruel and unusual punishment. “Judges — not jailers — impose punishment,” he wrote.

[Thomas and Scalia] explained that the word “punishment” as it was used in the English Bill of Rights in 1689 referred to judges imposing punishment for a crime. Prison guards do not impose “punishment” even if they mete out cruelty, they said.

The entire article is worth reading not just because it reveals where Thomas will weigh in if torture ever gets to SCOTUS.

But it highlights a point I noted (as did Citizen92): the degree to which Clarence Thomas’ former and future clerks implemented our country’s torture regime.

Page 25 to 27 (PDF page 31 to 33) of the OPR Report includes a section on the background of the lawyers who had significant hand in writing the torture memos:

John Yoo. Clerk, Clarence Thomas,1994 to 1995

Patrick Philbin, Clerk, Clarence Thomas, 1993 to 1994

Jennifer Koester, Clerk, Clarence Thomas, 2004 to 2005

Steven Bradbury, Clerk, Clarence Thomas, 1992 to 1993

Of the list included on those pages, just Jack Goldsmith and Daniel Levin did not clerk for Thomas. And of course, the most egregious work came from lawyers–Yoo, Koester, and Bradbury–who were Thomas clerks.

This is one of the dangers of appointing a partisan hack like Thomas rather than radical, but intelligent, lawyers like Alito and Scalia. Because the partisan hack is going to launch a whole generation of lawyers (see also Citizen92’s focus on James Ho, who also went through OLC) who treat law like one big game of sophistry and human beings like objects into really prominent positions.

And I would bet that Clarence Thomas enjoys the little part he has had in shredding our country’s Constitution.