‘These are the stories of our lives’: Prep school alumni hear echoes in assault claim

“We are women who have known Brett Kavanaugh for more than 35 years and knew him while he attended high school between 1979 and 1983. For the entire time we have known Brett Kavanaugh, he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect,” read the letter, from women who attended schools including Visitation, Stone Ridge and Holton-Arms.

This story is based on interviews with two dozen former students, many of whom asked not to be identified because of how tightly knit and powerful the alumni from those schools are, and because they fear retribution or harassment for speaking out on the allegations engulfing Kavanaugh’s nomination.

They described parties with kegs of beer and bottles of liquor, grain punch, heavy drinking and drug use that took place almost every weekend and even on weeknights in private homes, parks, open fields and golf courses in Maryland and Washington. Until 1986, the drinking age in Washington was 18, and alcohol was easily accessible. Drugs, especially cocaine and quaaludes, were plentiful.

Women who attended those parties remember sexually aggressive behavior by some of the male students that often bordered on assault and was routinely fueled by excessive drinking.

“Most of the guys at these schools were really decent, nice guys, but there was a small minority that was popular and was out of control,” said a woman who attended Georgetown Visitation in the early 1980s and asked not to be identified. “I never got dragged into a bedroom, but that . . . happened to girls all the time.

Another woman who did not want to be identified said what she witnessed and what happened to her friends left her scarred three decades later.

.. “It was just a horrible culture,” she said. “I never married, I don’t have kids, and I trace it all back to those parties.”

All of the women interviewed for this story took pains to point out that not all of the students at the all-boys schools took part in this culture. But the problem was widespread and toxic, they said.

“There were lots of teenage boys I knew at Prep and Gonzaga who were not sexually assaulting girls, but they were in an environment where that was seen as acceptable,”

..  “The story that Dr. Ford told, that doesn’t surprise me at all.”

.. A 1980 Visitation graduate recalls politely asking a Georgetown Prep football player and his friends to leave a party that had ended at her friend’s house. The boys didn’t want to go and said so, asking the woman how she was going to make them leave. One took a step in her direction. She cracked the Heineken bottle from which she had been drinking against the wall and pointed the jagged edge at him. The boy walked away, muttering obscenities. They weren’t friends before, and certainly not after. The woman watched as the man steadily became a pillar of society. She doubts he remembers.

.. “The boys were really unable to regard young women as intellectual, social equals, and it was really infuriating to me. It’s so jarring to feel like you’re a competent, confident person, and then boys can’t treat you like a human.”

Several Georgetown Prep graduates interviewed for this story who attended during the 1980s say they have fond memories of the school and the lifetime friendships they forged there. But they also corroborate the impression that alcohol was an integral part of the school’s identity at the time and that heavy drinking and disregard or mistreatment of women were widely accepted.

The Real Cost of Keeping Les Moonves

Leslie Moonves is a rainmaker and a kingmaker. As the chief executive of CBS, he transformed the television network from last place to most watched. He’s made careers, and he has made a fortune, for himself and for his employer. And that’s probably why the CBS board decided to let him keep his job despite allegations ..

..  When employers receive sexual harassment complaints, they most often try to keep them quiet or retaliate against the victim. They’re afraid that losing their stars will dim the company’s prospects.

.. But corporate boards and managers need to wake up to the reality that sexual harassers, no matter how important they seem, do incredible harm to their companies. They desiccate a culture, draining employees’ motivation. They push qualified employees to leave. And they make their companies vulnerable to a backlash when the problems eventually come to light. It’s stupid, financially, to keep those men around.

.. A study from Harvard Business School looked at the impact of “toxic workers” — those whose behavior harms employees and companies — using data on more than 58,000 employees, from 11 different companies. It found that keeping such a worker, even one who is so productive that a company would have to hire more people to make up for letting him go, was an unwise wager. One toxic worker costs a company about $12,500 in employee turnover alone, yet on average added only about $5,300 to the business. And that doesn’t account for productivity losses or litigation fees.

.. The price for victims of harassment is clear. In a study by three sociologists of survey and interview data of employed women in Minnesota, 80 percent of those who reported experiencing harassment said they had changed jobs two years later, and many also reported “greater financial stress.”

.. That turnover costs companies, too. It’s expensive to recruit and train new employees: Replacing someone costs, on average, nearly $7,000 at an American company, according to research by Deloitte.

.. for those directly affected and for their co-workers. A 2007 review of research by two psychologists and a business school professor found that the most common reaction to experiencing harassment is to withdraw from work, neglecting tasks or simply calling in sick. An employer shoulders that burden, too. The reduction in productivity has been found to cost $22,500, on average, for each person affected by sexual harassment.

.. CBS appears to be a case study in how behavior at the top of a company can trickle down.
.. The biggest predictor of harassment in the workplace, according to a landmark report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, is a toxic culture
.. Travis Kalanick resigned as chief executive of Uber last June after a series of scandals involving accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination, but he has bought a controlling stake in another company and again assumed the position of chief executive.

Toxic management cost an award-winning game studio its best developers

The big bucks dudes(to be clear here we’re talking about publishers, not developers) are incentivized to keep the status quo. They get a constant stream of new talent that works at sub-par rates.

Very few studios are independent at this point so it’s rare for any of them to have leverage. Since all the capital is organized around the big publishers unless you have a breakout success(which can be harder than the startup space) they can dictate terms and conditions.

There used to be a fun clause where upon studio bankruptcy the code/assets would revert to the publisher. Seems reasonable right?

Well what would happen is the publisher would start denying milestones for frivolous things, usually at peak headcount ~4mo from ship. This very quickly puts the studio in the red and they fold since they can’t sustain a lawsuit and employ 100+ people while not getting paid. The publisher would then get source+assets, re-hire the team that was suddenly out of a job at 80% rate and ship the game with no royalty clause to the original studio + get IP. That’s the kind of exploitation you see in that industry.

What is behind the violence in Myanmar?

Francis Wade, author of “Myanmar’s Enemy Within” explains the deep roots of the violence, and the long-term persecution of the Rohingya people.

This devastating violence follows several waves of Buddhist-on-Muslim violence to have hit Myanmar since its democratic transition began in 2011.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised for her refusal to condemn the military’s campaign, which has emptied more than 170 Rohingya villages of their inhabitants.

.. Myanmar had always been depicted by observers in quite binary terms—

  1. of an oppressive military junta ruling over a
  2. stoic, peaceful, largely Buddhist population.

In the decade or so prior to the start of the democratic transition in 2011 the country only really made international headlines when journalists reported on the monk-led protests, or embedded with ethnic armies fighting wars of resistance against the military in the borderlands. So it was set up as “bad junta” versus “good society”, and the frictions within each camp, particularly the latter, hadn’t had much of a nuanced reading.

.. violence, largely communal in its expression, broke out in the west of the country in June 2012. Over four days Buddhist and Muslim mobs attacked one another in fits of frenzied violence.

.. Much of the violence was being perpetrated by Buddhists, goaded on by monks, and this greatly confounded observers.

.. The denial of citizenship to Rohingya means they lack state protections

.. Soldiers are seemingly free to execute civilians and raze entire villages without fear of legal recrimination. Once you’re legally cast as a pariah group it feeds local perceptions of you as an alien entity, of threatening intent—

  • you must have been made stateless because to allow you to be a citizen would imperil our security.
  • You cannot have the rights that would grant you greater political power, because that would be used to pursue whatever cause your group has set out to achieve—in the case of the Rohingya, the theft of resources, the Islamisation of Myanmar, and so on.

.. It is primarily fear, aided hugely by dehumanising propaganda and policies—tight restrictions on movement and access to healthcare; checkpoints at which Rohingya must show ID cards, and which reinforce this perception of them being a threat. That fear helps to justify the violence towards this community, and construe that violence as defensive. That’s how you sell a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

.. Hence a situation has arisen whereby those who criticise the military’s actions are rounded upon by the same people who for so long opposed the military. Now that it has ostensibly stepped back from power, a newer, even more menacing threat has emerged in the form of a Muslim group with apparently Islamising intentions.

..  Much of the present-day crisis has been stoked by the self-serving interests of nationalist leaders who dredge up historical conflicts in order to justify the exclusionary policies they support.

.. During British rule of Myanmar between 1824 and 1948 it imported vast numbers of Indian workers, as it did in colonies

..

This caused a sudden demographic change

..

But this demographic shake-up gave further wind to a budding anti-colonial movement spearheaded predominantly by Bamar Buddhists (Bamar is the majority ethnic group, and Buddhism the dominant religion)

..

those two identities became the pivot around which a national identity was forged against British rule. Indians came to be seen as stooges of British rule, given they’d often been privileged in professional hierarchies.

..

Nationalist groups accused them of diluting the “bloodline” by forcing Buddhist women to convert when they married.

.. after the military took power in 1962 it vigorously promoted Buddhism as the national religion (although that was never enshrined in law), and Bamar as effectively the master race. Later it decided, with no evidence provided, that precisely 135 ethnic groups existed in the country. British censuses don’t record any mention of a Rohingya ethnic group, although Rohingya claim a presence in the country going back several centuries and were recognised by the government after independence. Not being considered among the 135 indigenous groups, they gradually became a pariah community, denied citizenship and stripped of political rights.

..

. It goes way back to when the British took Myanmar in the early 19

th

century and imported its obsession with racial science. Colonial administrators set about carving up and codifying communities into distinct groups, and pinning attributes to them: some ethnic groups were gentle, others were wild, and so on.

..

It did this in its colonies across the world, and the results, as we know, have been toxic. What were fluid cultural differences between groups become sharp divides, and in Myanmar as elsewhere they have spawned competition and conflict—exacerbated greatly by a military that wanted control of every corner of the country—that seems intractable. This has become a permanent fixture in many post-colonial societies.

..

You’d be hard pressed to find any justification for violence in the scriptures of Theravada Buddhism, which is what the majority in Myanmar practice. But what’s always forgotten in these analyses of how certain religions are supposed to “be” is that people act primarily as human beings, with human fears and anxieties.

..

I was told that while Buddhism doesn’t support violence, those Buddhists who have perpetrated violence acted with the conviction that if Buddhism ceased to exist in Myanmar, the country would descend into anarchy. “If the Buddhist cultures vanish … there wouldn’t be the influence of peace and truth. There will be more discrimination and violence,” one person told me.

..

These may be Buddhists committing violence, but they’re also humans. I think its key to look beyond the religious element—it appears to me more an expression of nationalist-based anxieties, of which the fear of Buddhism’s demise is but one aspect.

..  they’ve been able to turn floating existential anxieties felt by many Buddhists into something more concrete by pointing to other former bastions of Buddhism—India, Malaysia and so on—where Islam is now predominant. Second, because a number of Buddhist nationalist movements have also functioned as providers of welfare to a population that has known only neglect. Monks carry huge social capital in Myanmar—for centuries and more they have served as the moral glue of society. Because they’re so venerated it’s difficult for those who don’t agree with their more recent expressions of xenophobia to challenge them.

.. There have been numbers of prominent figureheads of the pro-democracy movement who have issued inflammatory anti-Rohingya rhetoric. Again though, it shows a certain naivety on our part. We knew that they stood against military rule, and had used “democracy” as a powerful sign around which to mobilise a movement, but what exactly they stood for  was less clear.

.. The Myanmar of today—and numbers of its pro-democracy luminaries-cum-chauvinists—proves how wrong it is to equate the concept of democracy with the principle of tolerance for all.

.. She seems to think it more constructive to keep the military onside than to leverage the moral influence she has to stop the cleansing.