THE AGE OF THE NOVEL: At trial, a logical puzzle!

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2019

In the press, complexities disappear:
As we noted on Tuesday, we were struck by the way the New York Times described what happened that night.

In late September, Concepcion de Leon wrote the paper's profile of Chanel Miller's forthcoming book, Know My Name: A Memoir. What happened on the night in January 2015 when Miller was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner after a Stanford frat party?

In her profile of Miller's new book, de Leon offered this cleaned-up account:
DE LEON (9/23/19): On Jan. 17, 2015, Chanel Miller was seven months out of college and working at an educational technology start-up when she decided to accompany her younger sister to a Stanford fraternity party. She remembers going, having some drinks and, hours later, regaining consciousness in the hospital.

What happened in between she pieced together primarily from news reports...
Miller remembers "having some drinks!" That's what the New York Times said!

For all we know, de Leon may have submitted a less bowdlerized account of the evening's events, only to have her copy adjusted by some unnamed editor who understands the tribal narrative involved in this unfortunate case. At any rate, that account in the glorious Times struck us as highly misleading.

In fact, assuming basic journalistic competence, that passage strikes us as deceptive. In fact, Miller had so many "drinks" that night that, by her own account, she was "blackout drunk" by roughly midnight.

According to an estimate offered by the prosecutor who charged Turner with sexual assault, Miller's blood alcohol content was 0.25 at the time of the assault—three times the so-called legal limit. At some point, she lost consciousness because she was so drunk.

There's nothing "wrong" with being drunk, even with being publicly drunk, although, as everyone knows, extreme levels of public drunkenness can lead to a wide array of very bad outcomes. For that reason, bartenders are expected to stop serving people of whatever age when they become excessively drunk.

As Stanford's president slept that night, the children overseeing a drunken frat party didn't perform such duties. They let a 19-year-old college freshman and a 22-year-old college graduate become extremely drunk, then head off into the night.

Within our scripted "liberal" tribe, such basic facts have been widely suppressed in discussions of this high-profile matter. By the time The New Yorker got hold of the topic, it seemed that alcohol had made no appearance, none at all, in the events of that night.

Alas! We currently live in the (journalistic) Age of the Novel—an era in which basic facts and logic will be disappeared to produce the kinds of morality tales which constitute the official knowledge of our nation's various tribes. That includes our hapless "liberal" tribe, which is committed to certain ways of approaching and describing destructive events of this particular type.

Miller was three times the legal limit that night. De Leon sanded that off with a silly representation in which Miller "remembers having some drinks."

Miller became unconscious because she was extremely drunk. De Leon's report left the question of cause and effect to the reader's imagination. In this way, the Times presented the type of cartoonized story which makes tribal hearts glad.

We were struck by the fact that the New York Timers didn't include two basic numbers in its news report. According to the prosecution's estimates, Miller would have blown a 0.25 that night. Turner would have blown a 0.171.

Each young person was very drunk as they were sent off into the night. Later, widely-respected Stanford authorities feigned shock and surprise, and expressed faux concern, about what happened next.

That pair of numbers didn't appear in the New York Times report. Nor did the numbers appear in Jennifer Weiner's glowing review of Miller's well-written book.

In each case, we were struck by the omission, but news reports and book reviews contain only so many words. When we read the fascinating book in question, a book of some 328 pages, we were struck by the fact that those basic numbers don't appear there either.

Don't get us wrong! In her book, Miller does convey the fact that she was blackout drunk on the deeply unfortunate night in question. That said, among her many skills as a writer, Miller possesses an inordinate amount of skill at couching certain types of facts inside a blizzard of misdirections and advertisements-for-self.

Have we ever read a major text whose author was so determined to consider no possible point of view other than her own? We're not sure, but this relentless shaping by Miller is one of the several qualities which make her book so fascinating.

Perhaps understandably, Miller seems determined to insist that nothing she did that night played any role to the events which ensued. Did it matter that she was so drunk that she blacked out, starting roughly at midnight, then later lapsed into unconsciouness? Did her extreme drunkenness play any role in what happened that night?

Miller is a very young person. Beyond that, she was the victim of what has plainly been a life-altering act of assault.

That said, her dismissiveness concerning her own drunkenness is one of the many remarkable features of a distraction-filled book. Below, for example, you see the way Miller starts Chapter 8, the chapter in which she describes some of her own time on the witness stand during Turner's trial.

"Tiffany" is Miller's sister—the sister who had to leave the drunken frat party to help another drunken friend find her way back to her dorm room. The italics are Miller's own:
MILLER (page 189): The trial would continue for the rest of the week, though I wasn't allowed inside the courtroom. I lived inside my strange parallel universe; all day I'd putter around aimlessly and at night I'd check coverage of the local news. On Tuesday, Tiffany finished her testimony and I asked my DA who was next. A blackout expert, she said. I waited a beat for her to tell me she was kidding. I wanted to say, I'm the real blackout expert am I right. The expert, Dr. Fromme, had been paid ten thousand dollars by Brock's side to testify. She claimed I could have been ready, willing and able to consent even if I could not remember it.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Based on her previous four or five blackouts while in college, Miller herself was the real blackout expert, not this absurd Dr. Fromme!

Fromme actually is an academic specialist on matters of blackout drinking. To peruse an intriguing Buzzfeed interview with Fromme, you can just click here.

At trial, Fromme introduced a basic distinction. As we noted yesterday, the fact that someone is "blackout drunk" doesn't mean that they're "unconscious," though that may come to pass later.

As we noted yesterday, people who are "blackout drunk" are up and walking around. They're saying and doing various things, none of which they'll recall.

They're making various decisions, some of which may be extremely unwise. After all, they're very drunk, though other people may not be able to discern this fact.

These basic, elementary facts create a logical problem. At trial, Turner testified that he and Miller left the frat party together, and that Miller consented to engage in sexual behavior once they got outside.

Did Miller voice some such consent? We have no way of knowing, but then again, neither does Miller! By her own account, she doesn't remember anything she said and did after roughly midnight that night, and the assault occurred at roughly 1 A.M.

Miller doesn't remember making some phone calls she plainly made that night. She doesn't remember leaving at least one voice message, a message she plainly left.

This doesn't mean she didn't make those calls and leave that voice message. It simply means she was blackout drunk when she did those things.

That said, Miller also doesn't remember anything about the way she exited the frat house that night. She doesn't remember anything she said to Turner. She doesn't remember anything either one of them said or did.

This creates the difficult type of situation which has increasingly appeared in high-profile campus cases involving allegations of sexual assault. In these cases, we've moved beyond the already difficult "he said/she said" dynamic to a different state of affairs, in which "he says/she can't remember."

In such cases, it's clear that sexual conduct has occurred. But the woman has no recollection of the way such conduct occurred.

At various points in her book, Miller seems to say, suggest and insist that she didn't voice any type of consent to Turner. That said, it's hard to know how she can possibly make such a claim since she acknowledges that she doesn't remember any of the events in question.

For this reason, we'd always been puzzled by the logic of the Turner jury's unanimous guilty verdict:

Turner said Miller voiced consent; Miller said she had no memory of the events in question. How does a jury convict the accused in a case like that? How does a prosecutor bring such a case to trial?

After the trial, one juror emerged to explain the logic of the jury's unanimous guilty verdict. We'd say that logic makes a type of perfect sense.

We'd also say that logic may be a bit strained, for a reason we haven't yet mentioned. But so is the quality of mercy, or so the bard once declared.

Turner says that Miller consented; Miller can't remember. Miller was extremely drunk, but Turner was very drunk too.

As we noted yesterday, people who are blackout drunk will sometimes end up having sex, perhaps with perfect strangers. By what logic did the jury convict in this terrible, horrible case?

Tomorrow, we'll describe that juror's logic. Also, we'll return to the conduct of the people who enabled this destructive event.

We think the juror's logic makes good sense, but then again it possibly doesn't. But of one thing you can be certain:

In this, The (ongoing) Age of The Novel, tribal sachems will shield you from the need to peruse these nagging complications. You'll be pleasured by the way these tribals keep it simple.

At the Times, you'll be told that Miller "remembers having some drinks." Soon, all reference to such complications will wholly disappear.

Tomorrow: When both young people are drunk...

42 comments:

  1. "Within our scripted "liberal" tribe, such basic facts have been widely suppressed in discussions of this high-profile matter."

    You're mischaracterizing the phenomenon, dear Bob, I'm afraid.

    Your goebbelsian zombie media suppress some facts, but then they invent many other fake 'facts'.

    You know, it's not like they're suppressing facts for the sake of suppressing facts. They are doing whatever they deem necessary for the sake of zombifying remaining human beings and keeping the already zombified ones in their sorry condition...

    ReplyDelete
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  2. Somerby again takes issue with the description of Miller having some drinks and then waking up in the hospital. He says she should have been described as black out drunk before midnight. But the problem with that is that you cannot know whether you are blackout drunk or not until you try to remember past events at some later date, such as in the hospital the next morning. Because the alcohol impairs consolidation of memory, she would be able to remember things during the evening when she was drunk. It is only later that she cannot remember the previous night. The events of the night are available during that night. And you wouldn't know if you were blackout drunk or not until later, upon trying to remember and failing.

    If de Leon is trying to tell a story chronologically, it is wrong to refer to her as being black out drunk during the party, as if she were aware that she would not remember later or somehow knew she was in a different state than others at the party. She, for example, didn't write notes to herself so that she would remember things later, knowing in advance that she wouldn't remember (such as where she parked her car, for example). So she was not blackout drunk at the party, but experienced blackout the next morning when trying to recall what happened. Blackout is a memory phenomenon, not a stage of drinking dictated by a certain number of drinks.

    But this is somehow important to Somerby, even though he doesn't understand that being drunk causes blackout sometimes and not other times, and that there is no such thing as blackout drunk. Just being drunk, and having a blackout (which can occur for other reasons too).

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    1. "In fact, assuming basic journalistic competence, that passage strikes us as deceptive. In fact, Miller had so many "drinks" that night that, by her own account, she was "blackout drunk" by roughly midnight."

      Here is the reason why Somerby harps on this. He thinks these reviewers are covering for Miller by hiding the severity of her drinking. And later he can no doubt say "If she lied about this, what other things were lied about?"

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  3. ...for example, look at this, dear Bob:
    U.S. consumer spending slowing; inflation benign

    The first phrase in the article: "U.S. consumer spending increased marginally in September..."

    See, dear Bob: U.S. consumer spending slowing, while marginally increasing. Why don't you criticize this shit, rather then some woke slimeballs no one cares about?

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  4. Somerby says: "Miller was three times the legal limit that night. De Leon sanded that off with a silly representation in which Miller "remembers having some drinks."

    The legal limit for driving has been steadily reduced over the years, from .15 to .11 to .08 and now there is talk of reducing it to .05 because someone with .07 is still impaired in things like reaction times and decision making.

    If you use the earlier .15 standard, Miller wasn't even twice the legal limit. This is game playing with numbers to make her appear very drunk indeed and make the reviewer sound like she was minimizing Miller's drunkenness. It is transparent that Somerby wants to say that the reviewer should have emphasized her drinking, much as he keeps doing, even though how she became unconscious has no bearing on the law that an unconscious person cannot give consent to sex. If she were a coma patient in a nursing home, Turner would have been charged with sexual assault for lying on her too. How she became unconscious is irrelevant.

    Most people will draw the connection between her drinking and her passing out to assume that whatever number of drinks she had were sufficient to cause her to pass out. The actual number varies from person to person and depends on metabolism, and remember that Miller herself couldn't remember how many drinks she had, so how on earth can Somerby insist that De Leon be more specific?

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    1. "even though how she became unconscious has no bearing on the law"

      Dembot, according to wikipedia, two out of three charges Turner was found guilty of are these: "assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman", and "sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object".

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    2. This doesn't help your case, Mao, because a person who is drunk enough to pass out or have a blackout is also too drunk to give consent. If the sex occurred before she passed out, there might be an argument, but she was unconscious when Turner was caught lying on top of her.

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    3. My case? It's your case, dembot, that her getting wasted is irrelevant to the law in question. And I have shown that indeed it is very relevant, since 2 out of 3 charges explicitly characterize the victim as intoxicated. What is unclear?

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    4. Unlike asking a foreign government to make-up charges against your political enemies, getting wasted isn't illegal.

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  5. "According to the prosecution's estimates, Miller would have blown a 0.25 that night. Turner would have blown a 0.171."

    That makes Turner 68.4% as drunk as Miller. So what?

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    1. When did "estimates" become facts?

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    2. When did "estimates" become facts?

      For purposes of the law, when scientific evidence makes them reliable. I initially thought that Miller’s BAC was .25 at the hospital, but that’s apparently wrong. Given her weight, sex, and the time between her last drink and the time they measured her BAC, the DA was able use scientific studies to calculate what her BAC was.

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    3. The measurement in the hospital is a fact, but the estimate by the DA does not take into account individual differences in metabolism, so it has error and that is why it is called an estimate instead of a measurement. Being an estimate, it is less reliable.

      Unfortunately for Somerby's argument, the estimate is the number that matters because it concerns the time when events happened. The later measurement at the hospital was afterward. So there isn't a good number to characterize Miller's BAC at the time and referring to that estimate as a fact is stretching things.

      Somerby dodges this problem because his goal is to portray Miller as maximally drunk.

      Here is a list of the stuff that influences BAC. How many of these things are taken into account by the DA's formula? If you don't know that, you don't know how closely the estimate might match her actual BAC if it were to be measured when the events happened instead of afterwards, at the hospital, using a blood test (not breathalyzer).

      Somerby wants us to accept some numbers as facts but they are not particularly meaningful numbers, and he glosses that they are estimates with some margin of unstated (ignored) error for both individuals. Turner might have been more drunk than his estimate, Miller more drunk, both could have been less drunk, or the numbers might have been accurate. We don't know because the estimates are affected by more things than the formula captures and there is no comparison to an actual test for either person.

      But hey, if that's what Somerby considers science, who are we to complain?

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    4. Sorry, almost forgot the link:

      https://www.lifeloc.com/factors

      Factors that affect BAC levels.

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    5. This seems a strange hill on which to die in defense of your argument. Your link is worthless. It takes me to the site of a company that make breathalyzers. The particular page has the heading “Factors Affecting BAC,” above a list, one item in which is “Alcohol Tolerance.” It says, “BAC is not affected by alcohol tolerance.”

      According to a news report that TDH quoted on 10/29, at trial, a criminalist gave the BAC estimate of .242 to .249. That will give you your error bars. The criminalist would have been certified as an expert witness, and her field of expertise would have been certified as accepted science. You asked when estimates become facts, and in court, that’s how they do.

      I haven’t read the trial transcript. Did the defense challenge the estimate?

      TDH’s argument is that Miller was very, very drunk. Is that in dispute?

      This isn’t what TDH consider science. It’s what the court considered science.

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    6. Deadrat, Somerby refers to those two numbers as disappeared facts. A fact is not a range of numbers or an estimate. It is a measurement. Somerby is calling for treating uncertainty as if it were certain and he has made a fuss for several days now because those FACTS were omitted.

      Now you want to claim that TDH only said that Miller was very drunk. Unfortunately, that isn't what Somerby said. He said two facts were deliberately omitted.

      My point isn't anything about the court. It is that Somerby is placing too much weight on those numbers.

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    7. I’m a big fan of precision. Ask any of your Anonymous Ignoramus friends who complain about my “nitpicking,” so I’m trying, but failing, to admire your argument.

      TDH’s claim is that liberal book reviewers deliberately downplayed how drunk Miller was, saying only that she’d had a few drinks when she was, in fact, dangerously intoxicated. Would it have been better had TDH said the following?

      Dastardly liberal book reviewers hid the fact that a criminalist testified at Turner’s trial that according to scientifically-verified extrapolations, the 95% confidence interval for Miller’s BAC at the time of the assault was the range .242-.249.

      Jury instructions in California include the admonition that the jury is to subject expert witness testimony to the same scrutiny of believability as any other testimony. The only given facts of the crime under consideration are those both sides stipulate to.

      Did the defense dispute the criminalist? I don’t know; I haven’t read the trial transcript. But CSI type evidence is said to be highly prized by jurors, and in the absence of any dispute, the estimate was likely taken as legal fact.

      Miller’s drinking that night and her condition at the time of her rescue and Turner’s arrest is certainly in accord with a .25 BAC. Are you disputing this?

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  6. "Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Based on her previous four or five blackouts while in college, Miller herself was the real blackout expert, not this absurd Dr. Fromme!"

    Somerby really dislikes Miller. She describes a stray, kind of ironic thought that passed through her head and Somerby portrays that as if she were actually asserting expertise in blackouts. Both Somerby and Miller know what an expert is. This unkindness of interpretation shows Somerby's bias against Miller, which is just as self-serving as Somerby claim's Miller's entire book to be.

    The question is why Somerby is so defensive on this particular topic. One could speculate that he has had unfortunate experiences with drunken women, perhaps involving consent. If so, it would be natural that he might empathize with Turner. But he insists that Miller should have recognized and eliminated her own self-enhancing tendencies. I think Somerby should take his own advice and examine his own motives for fixating on the drunkenness of a girl who was later attacked. Somerby thinks that if you give consent to sex earlier in the evening, that allows a man to engage in sex later when the woman is passed out. The law says no. Most women do too. In fact, that is the heart of the rape charges Assange was facing in Sweden. Seems like a point Somerby should research before painting Miller as a perfidious slut who drank too much, had sex that she didn't actually participate in and then took back her consent when the police were called.

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    1. Try writing a comment without telling us what Somerby thinks.

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    2. There is an interesting article in the NY Times today (Friday) about 5 men in Spain who were given 6-9 year sentences for sexual abuse of a drunk teenager (above the age of consent). The public was outraged that they were not charged with rape.

      In contrast, Turner got 6 months and served about 3 months in jail.

      I'd tell you what Somerby probably thinks about that case but I'm sure you already know.

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  7. "In these cases, we've moved beyond the already difficult "he said/she said" dynamic to a different state of affairs, in which "he says/she can't remember.""

    Somerby leaves out the important fact that many of these recent cases involve memory-affecting drugs like rohypnol.

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  8. Somerby's argument seems to be that if you cannot remember, anything goes. Whatever happened, it will be argued that the woman consented.

    His other point is that women shouldn't drink. Men, not so much.

    And also, these 19 and 22 year olds are "children" as are the fraternity members hosting the party. Remember the good old days when Somerby was arguing that 18 and 19 year old women were adults capable of making decisions about whether to date Roy Moore. Those were the days!

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    1. Does Somerby realize that the legal drinking age in some states is still 18?

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  9. Yesterday, Somerby said he would talk about Turner and the logic puzzle today. Now he says we must wait until tomorrow, while he raises the same tired complaints again. He is just phoning it in these days.

    He clearly wants us to spend a few weeks with the idea in mind that Turner is innocent, without having to make any arguments or describe any evidence.

    For all we know, there is no logic puzzle and nothing to justify his attack on Miller. This is all just a put up job to keep vilifying Miller for her drinking, day after day.

    This is an ugly man and he is defending an ugly kid.

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    1. He is just phoning it in these days.

      Have you tried asking for your money back?

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    2. Have you tried passing the time by playing a little solitaire? [shows fratboy prank a queen of diamonds]

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  10. Miller’s voice mails from the party were essentially incoherent. Was she able to give clear, understandable consent under those circumstances?

    Turner admitted at trial that he could tell Miller was more drunk than he was. He indicated no impairment in his own judgment due to alcohol.

    Given all this, in this case, it perhaps would have been wise to forego sex acts with an obviously seriously inebriated young woman who was unable to form coherent sentences.

    It should also be noted that aside from the judge and jury in the original trial, an appeals court reviewed the original trial and conviction, and rejected Turner’s appeal.

    Somerby is welcome to retry the whole case, but that would be rather tedious and long-winded, and would require him to look at both sides.

    ReplyDelete
  11. If Miller actually gave her consent, but doesn’t remember it, and it isn’t clear what Turner actually did that night (according to Somerby), (in other words Turner innocently thought Miller consented), then how far does one have to go to say that Miller wasn’t actually assaulted? If you find Turner not guilty, but you also assert that Miller was sexually assaulted (again, as Somerby has acknowledged), then you are left with two possibilities:
    1. Turner did something to her, but it wasn’t really assault, hence she wasn’t assaulted
    2. Someone else did it.

    ReplyDelete
  12. “Fromme actually is an academic specialist on matters of blackout drinking.”

    And we all know that academic specialists all agree with one another, particularly when called as expert witnesses at a trial.

    (The preceding was Sarcasm in case anyone thought otherwise).

    ReplyDelete
  13. Somerby’s story is that liberals want to alter or disappear facts in order to create heroes and fit events into a liberal fairy tale. He claims that liberals are doing that in this case by ignoring the extent of Miller’s drinking.

    However, since she appeared last month, Miller has given a number of interviews on high-profile venues, where she was specifically asked about her drinking. The mainstream journalists (does that make them liberal?) Gayle King (CBS This Morning) and Bill Whitaker (60 Minutes) were among these.

    King: “some women in your position would have said, "Well I did kind of bring it on myself. Maybe I shouldn't have gone to the party. Maybe I shouldn't have had that much to drink."

    Whitaker: “What do you say to those critics, people who say you did drink till you blacked out, you did make yourself vulnerable?”

    So it isn’t as if this aspect of her story is being buried.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Why doesn’t Somerby just say something like: “Turner probably did something wrong, but it might have been due to youthful indiscretion and alcohol, the judge’s original sentence was reasonable, and Miller’s vilification of Turner is objectionable. His life is effectively ruined.”

    That’s at least a clear critique of the affair that doesn’t rely on retrying the case or attacking Miller’s credibility.

    But he goes off the rails when he tries to re-examine the case and to use Miller or her reviewers as examples of some grandiose scheme of liberal mythologizing that he has invented. I don’t know what Miller’s politics are, but it’s likely that a conservative woman would be just as indignant as Miller if the same thing had happened.

    Perhaps if Somerby were to imagine himself blackout drunk, being violated by a homosexual man, then he might not be quite so willing to be chastised by the clucking scolds like,...himself.

    ReplyDelete
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