Friday, November 02, 2018

Methoughts on Metoo!

The new guy was 44. He had needed a job badly, his assets being down to near zero. Finally, an old acquaintance in a corporate office recognized his name on a resume and told a co-worker to give him an interview in a branch several states away. He got the job and was really happy when he showed up for work.

They showed him around so he could meet everyone. It was a typical New York corporate office. Very diverse. Men and women, all adult ages, various ethnicities, including in management. Got an office and a computer, found the coffee room, got a pass to the office, learned three computer passcodes, one for his computer, one for the database, one for expenses.

They told him he could break in during the first two weeks, but he memorized everything he needed to in an hour and he felt he could start right away and figure out anything he had too as he worked. Maura, the office manager came into his office with a small stack of pamphlets in her hands. Big smile. Giggled a lot.

“Bet you are going to love these.”

“What are they?”

“Office policies. Discrimination, other fun stuff.” She giggled again. He had a feeling she giggled after everything she said. “You’re in luck, actually,” she said. “There’s sexual harassment training at 1 pm in the basement auditorium.” Then she giggled yet again.

He thought about making the obvious joke about knowing how to sexually harass someone, but thought better of it. Not on his first day. He didn't know her well enough. When she left, he started reading. It had been a while since he worked in an office. About 15 years. He remembered a race awareness meeting that hadn’t gone so well. He had wondered then why they had wanted to poke the bear and make everyone uncomfortable. He started getting a bad feeling as he read. Uh oh.

After lunch, everyone in the office gathered around a big table and some stood encircling them against the wall in the conference room. The leader of the meeting, Francine Bangela, was a consultant on sexual discrimination, appeared to be in her 30s and was dressed very conservatively. She did not giggle but smiled a lot no matter what she was saying. It made the new guy uncomfortable and he didn't think he was alone in that. She gave a 20 minute talk and slide show on what sexual harassment meant, and how it wasn’t just touching someone inappropriately or threatening them. It included a whole variety of things that seemed to cause a lot of people around the table to drop their eyes, if not their heads, although others nodded vigorously, and the manager, Mr. Peeble, who didn't seem like he smiled or giggled a lot, mumbled “right, right.”

After she was done, she went  around the table and asked people to talk about times that they felt discriminated against or harassed or where they thought they might have inadvertently harassed or discriminated against someone else. One woman related a story of being assaulted at a job ten years earlier. She was obviously still affected by it. Another woman seemed very comfortable sharing having been stalked by a co-worker and stopping it by complaining about it to management. Others were very uncomfortable speaking and had much more difficulty relating anything. No one admitted to harassing anyone, although two men tried, one almost laughing as he did. It was a failed attempt at humor and almost everyone put their head down. Ms. Bangela continued to smile but said nothing in response, not even the customary, “thanks for sharing.” Finally, after 15 others, it came to the new guy.

“Oooooh, it’s my first day. I’d rather just listen.”

“Oh, no,” said the manager, Mr. Peeble, the serious nervous looking man who had hired him. “It’s the best way to jump into our value system. Go ahead.”

The words "value system," made the new guy cringe. “I’d better not,” he said mildly.

“No, I think you’d better.” said Peeble, fixing him with a self-important stare, meaning, it's not an option.

He groaned a little. “Okay.” He stood up, which seem to lift everyone’s heads a little. What was he doing, some eyes seemed to say?

“Well, though I’d rather not speak, I do give these things a lot of thought. Like everyone, I mean, who is not against people touching someone who doesn’t want to be touched, or trying to force someone to date them for advancement. You have to take a hint and not just at work.”

There were some nods and people seemed relieved that his standing up didn’t mean he was going to say something crazy. Peebles seemed pleased and nodded too.

Then the other shoe dropped.

“But as for the other stuff you said, no, I won’t. I can't. I’m sorry, but I didn’t sign on for that.”

Heads now snapped up and Peeble, looking at Francine Bangela, squinted and bit his down on his lower lip.

“I don’t understand for a second why I can’t say, ‘You look nice today,’ to anyone. Just how can that be offensive? If you should be able to say anything in this world to someone without offending them, shouldn’t that be it? In my experience, when someone compliments someone else, the person getting the compliment is pleased, or most people are anyway. They don’t immediately think, what do you mean - wasn’t I looking good yesterday? And the person in the next office who overhears it isn’t thinking What about me? I’m devastated. And if somehow we've now made people uncomfortable hearing it, then I'm against this - whatever it is.

Can’t we just be co-workers and differ a little or make some mistakes without paying with our jobs. I’m not a young man looking to date anyone. If some young guy likes some young woman and she either likes him back or doesn’t, so what? How is it any different here than at a supermarket so long as they do their job? No, they shouldn’t be dating in the office, but if they meet here – where else are you going to really get to know someone? Does it have to be at a bar or online where everyone knows it is phony? And if God forbid two people like each other and steal a kiss once in a blue moon or hold hands when no in is looking, or if it makes things exciting because people talk about it, and it makes memories sweeter when everyone is older, or they end up a couple, is that really so terrible? I know some people now think so, but it’s normal in the real world, absolutely normal and I still think most people think so. Because, no offense, all this new stuff, all this draconic, you’re fired, you must this, you can’t that stuff, is the opposite of normal. That’s why we have to learn it in these meetings and in pamphlets. Because it’s not normal. It doesn’t make sense. Honestly, it’s a little crazy. And when I was a little younger, yeah, that's how it was.

I know you just went over some stuff that was taboo, but nothing is going to happen exactly like your examples. No one is really going to know how to apply these vague rules except by taking them to some extreme max. If they made sense to anyone, we wouldn’t need these meetings. We’d have learned it in kindergarten. We’d just get another email every year that said, hey, please remember your manners. 

I'd ask you to raise your hand if this applies to you but I know you are afraid to get fired. I don't blame you for that. So don't raise your hand if your afraid to get a text because someone at work might see it and claim it's offensive. See, everyone. Don't raise your hand if you look around to see whose is standing there before you make a wisecrack? Really, why can’t we make a joke and have it fall flat or be unfunny or not funny to everyone? Is it really so terrible? Because, if nothing else, if you can’t handle a joke that's not meant to personally insult you, it’s your fault and not anyone else’s. Yet people are getting fired over jokes. People are getting fired over one stupid remark because someone else didn't like it. What happened to “please don’t say that again?”

And, I’m not trying to be funny, but, I do not understand about not using “boys and girls” or “ladies and gentlemen” when addressing people because we might be wrong about how someone sees themselves sexually. Some people think there are other possibilities than man and woman or they are a man who thinks he is a woman or vice versa and it's really confusing to the rest of us, even for people who are sympathetic to them. I know, I’m not qualified to talk about chromosomes and I don't have answers and I personally don't really care what bathroom they use. But, if we can’t tell the difference between boy and girls, at least most of the time, so that we can't even use an expression we've used all of our lives, I mean, how are we supposed to tell the difference between harder things like right and wrong and what’s good for the company and what’s not? Can’t we even make the most simple decisions and use the most rudimentary phrases without fear that maybe one out of a thousand times someone will disagree?”

He took a pause and looked down at Ms. Bangela, who had a stiffer smile now. He wondered if when he finished, she would just pretend he hadn’t said anything or if she would suggest to Peebles that he was a mistake and had to go. That would be a shame, because he really needed the money. His first paycheck was going to pay next month’s rent with not a day to spare.

“But, we were talking about sexual discrimination and harassment and I guess I got a little off topic. I guess what I’m saying is I came here to work, and that’s what I want to do. I didn’t come here to meet women or have a relationship or bother anyone or anything else like that. But, people talk at work, and some people do have relationships of all types from lunch buddies to marriage. I don’t know how you do your job or have a life without talking to each other. I can see just walking around my first day people do talk here, do have fun and it’s not 100% work. You can’t do that and not have the possibility of offending someone, and not have the possibility that someone might get mad at someone else or take advantage of someone else, just like anywhere else. And it shouldn't be so scary. 

Well, I’m sure I upset some people today and they wish I’d have just shut up and made some inconsequential remark. And others will wish they said what I just did or maybe they'll tell me thanks for saying it, but you shouldn't have. I’d have been fine not speaking. But, since I had to, I guess I thought hanging on to just a little bit of freedom was more important than paying my rent next month.

I’ll just finish up by saying, and I mean no offense by this - Ms. Bangela, you look nice today. Mr. Peeble, you look nice today. Boys and girls, you all look nice today. That’s all I have to say."

--

The next month, not surprisingly, he couldn’t pay his rent. Sometimes he felt good about it and even free, and sometimes he just looked online for a job.

*

I hope you all realize that was fictional.  There’s a smattering of semi-auto-biographical underlay in there, but not the burn-all-bridges speech, which is purely fictional and wish-fulfillment. But, I bet people would be cheering in the movies if some character said some of that. It's too long for a movie. And somehow I doubt in real life that they’d actually let anyone finish making the speech at a mixed corporate meeting. Either someone would shout him down, or grab the mike, or maybe someone would start shrieking that they didn’t feel safe.  I’m 99% sure I’ll never have another job, but I’d love to have one if I could just make that speech and get fired for it. To get back to the movie version for a second, I think women in the audience would be cheering too, because, at least many women my age, – and certainly not all, keep telling me they think what is going on is nuts -- too far.

I did leave my last job writing, not about this kind of stuff, but a fairly polite, yet bridge burning severance letter to the company detailing how hard they made it for myself and my co-workers to do our job and how much like a Dilbert comic strip it had become. Not too long afterwards I learned that the letter, directed to HR, very quickly sped not just around the company, but the industry. Some people from other insurance companies and law firms suddenly knew who I was (“Oh, so you’re the guy who wrote the letter”). At least four employees of my company quit after reading my letter, one guy well over a year later. I’d like to think there were others, but, obviously, I don't know. It was my fifteen minutes of mini-fame. Sometime later I ran into the manager who was responsible for hiring me (the one who saw my name on a resume and got me my interview). Maybe she took some heat for it. She was furious I wrote it. At first. Then she got over it after she asked why I didn't raise these things while I still worked there and I told her I wrote pretty much the same letter every year when they asked for input and it was always ignored. 

But, back to the whole metoo movement. We have had a short period of male domination in our species, if we are counting only homo sapiens, roughly 315,000 years, give or take the last year or so (that’s a joke folks. Savor it, because, even funny jokes on many topics could be soon be deemed illegal hate speech). 

Until shortly before my lifetime, the workplace, except for times of war or some few fields where women were the mainstay, men were ubiquitous or at least the bosses. During WWII, and increasingly in my lifetime, women worked more and more. My mother went back to work when I was a boy, went from a secretary to a full-time college instructor (not quite a full professor, she died before she could get a doctorate) and by the time I was in law school, half my class was female. Men still dominate many fields, but women are increasingly managers, bosses, owners, entrepreneurs in almost every field that isn't very labor intensive. Even there they've broken in. Even in fields where male physiology makes it exclusive to them (say NFL football), women usually have their own professional league, though without the financial reward. 

Sexual harassment, not to mention assault, at the workplace has always been a problem, as it has been probably everywhere. There was a time, a couple of lifetimes ago, when women barely had legal rights, when men could legally rape (we would now call it rape) their wives and amazingly, there was not much punishment even for their murder. Men are bigger and stronger than women for the most part and that’s usually the way the cookie crumbled. Even in our country and in other western countries some heinous laws took a long time to fall and lasted well into my lifetime. I believe Texas was the last state where a man could legally not rape his wife.

That was then. It’s a lot different now (although, I’m sure there are some who would contest it – it’s ridiculous to do so). Arguably, women, like most minorities in America, have more rights than men. You can argue that men do not need laws protecting them, nevertheless, the laws setting aside a certain amount of jobs, or protecting women from violence, or from discrimination, either do not exist for the benefit of men, even if written neutrally, or are often applied by courts or businesses so as to exclude men. For some, laws written to benefit women (or other minorities or formerly oppressed groups) are not enough. 

My rule of “up from oppression” states: When any long oppressed group ceases to be oppressed, reformers are usually not satisfied with equality but wants revenge or to be on top. 

Colloquy: In order to achieve supremacy, the formerly oppressed group will never admit equality, but will carry on as if it is just as oppressed as it ever was until supremacy is achieved.

Of course, you note I said reformers. Most people just want to go to work and go home at the end of the day.

Obviously, sexual harassment and assault still exists and not just in the workplace. But, I feel sure the statistic that 1 out of 5 women will be raped in their life that we so often hear quoted (Nat. Sex. Viol. Res. Ctr.) is grossly exaggerated. However, when I was young, I was surprised by how many of my female friends confided to me that they were sexually assaulted to some degree, some of it pretty severely (I'm not going to say, but you would happily kill the male if you caught them in the act), although none – none – said they were technically raped.  It is very fair to say to me, of course, what makes you think you are being fully reported to by them. That’s true, though they seemed to me to be pretty open about other things that were close enough to rape, I find it hard to believe they would not have told me. So, today I called two women I’m close with who I know have many friends. One was relatively older, one relatively younger – I asked both how many of their friends have confided to them that they were raped. Both thought about it and said “none.” I’m not saying rape doesn't exist or never happened to anyone I know who hasn't said so. I'm just saying I think the reported rate is grossly exaggerated for political purposes. I'll leave aside the ridiculous view pushed by some that women never lie about rape. I doubt many do, but to suggest any group doesn't lie about anything is pretty silly. We know it happens.

The metoo movement started, like many movements, for a good cause, or a great one, in this case, specific outrage bubbling over of a seemingly sex-crazed, perhaps rapacious movie producer, well known in his industry for taking advantage of actresses – Harvey Weinstein. I know, I’m pre-judging the case, and I always say don’t do that, but, when so many women come out, like with Cosby, it’s pretty hard not to believe its likely true.

The opposite works for Kavanaugh – so many women speak of him as behaving like a gentleman and defender of women throughout his life that Ford’s story from 35 years ago, presuming it is true, is at best a teenage anomaly. The second story, by the (anonymous) mother of (anonymous) someone else who supposedly saw him an (unknown) someone else up against a wall – I mean, come on (his gf at the time, said it definitely didn’t happen to her - he was always a gentleman), and the third story of the witness to the alleged multiple drug induced gang rapes has I think has been shown to be completely bogus. Yet a fourth story of rape in a car by BK and judge has come out by an older woman who now admits she just made it up for political purposes and it has been referred for criminal charges. Even Ford’s story ended up so full of holes – not that any Senator really challenged it – that there is at least some reason to believe it might have been political or just the wrong guy. I don’t know though. My guess, and it is just a guess, hasn’t changed that she genuinely believed it was Kavanaugh. I wrote about the matter recently, so I'll leave it there. 

Women speaking out about sexual assault or harassment is still a good cause, one I’ve encouraged with female friends, not to mention my daughter, ever since I’ve been young. Even decades ago the courts intervened to protect women who were being abused, and, sometimes the police did too (sadly, sometimes not when a police officer was the abuser). I couldn’t be more overjoyed of the changes in the sports world, especially gymnastics. That protection may (I hope) finally be afforded young athletes is long overdue. There probably can’t be enough lawsuits. To think of what has gone in the gymnastics world for so long is disturbing beyond words. You’d like to think that parents of athletes in sports other than gymnastics were intelligent enough to be on guard in their childrens’ sports too, but, sadly, I don’t have faith in parents as a group. Not after all we’ve seen.

One question I have asked in commenting online that I do not see many others asking - I think it has been drummed out of people's heads - is where are the parents. All these stories of young athletes and actresses/actors getting abused and I want to know - where were their parents and friends. Apparently, many were saying, shut up or you won't get paid. I know what I taught my daughter. You are always respectful to your bosses and helpful to your co-workers but you do not have to take any abuse, not even verbal. She actually took it much further than I did when I was a kid and it was almost comical the rules she put in place with her bosses (all male) to assure their future good behavior. One temperamental stable owner was not allowed to speak with her, but had to address her through his wife or another employee. The only time there was a threatening component to it, a crazed co-worker on email, she addressed management and he was gone instantly. It wasn't that she was a bear. Every boss I ever met fell over themselves to rave about her to me because of her attributed, but she wasn't going to be abused because her parent taught her she didn't have to be. I know that it doesn't mean she might not be abused anyway, but at least she understood she didn't have to be.

Some of these stories out of Hollywood irritated me and a lot of other people. There was a big difference between a secretary in an office who needed her job being groped and an actress trading sex for a role. Some of them were. Certainly, not all and I'm not suggesting they should have to. If you read the stories closely you ask yourselves, what exactly happened? I read Salma Hayek's story several times and I still don't know what her complaint is except that Weinstein wanted to have sex with her and she said no. He insisted she write a lesbian scene in a movie she was doing about a lesbian artist and he was right - it was, in my opinion, the only reason at least many people wanted to see it. Her looks and the lesbian angle. It is still not a crime for a rich man to want to have sex with a beautiful woman. It may be obnoxious, even hateful. And I fully embrace her telling him to go f' himself. Which it seems she did, though I'm not sure in those words.

All that said, it was very easy to predict the movement would spiral out of control quickly, and it did. And it is a problem, not a sideshow. We went from toppling celebrity and powerful sexual predators, always a good thing, but very limited, to the spread of a puritanical and completely hypocritical lifestyle in workplaces throughout the country and parts of Europe that I suspect cuts down on very little actual harassment and abuse – because people who do things like that usually don’t care about rules – and makes life joyless and a little crazy for others. It is not just that it has a negative impact, it tends to drown out the important aspects of it. Not a few women have said to me that they have no patience for metoo, within months of it starting.

But it has also added to the trend to crushing things that are pretty important, like free speech and other plain normal behavior. I see it just in the behavior of friends who tell me they are scared at work.  I don’t think most people find it an exaggeration. What you have is a few hundred big name celebrities or corporate bigwigs losing their jobs, many of whom might deserve it, but some of whom probably do not. Many people have written complaining, not about corporations paying attention to sexual harassment, but doing so without thought, without what is sometimes referred to as “due process” (which really doesn’t apply to companies) but really means “fair play” or at least some kind of reasonable investigation or chance to explain oneself. A good example of this is Matt Lauer. Now, I have no real information about him. Maybe he is not a good guy (honestly, until a few years ago, I didn’t know who he was – I don’t watch network news). But, when the story broke about him, he was gone almost instantly and what disturbed people, was that the only story that did come out, was of his consensual relationship with a younger co-worker who, apparently, out of guilt (she was married), maybe because of other problems she had – or maybe because she felt she couldn’t say no (more on that later), passed out. But, what I commented on in the article on Lauer, and I was relieved to see many others did as well, was – wait a minute – is this it? Consensual sex? Is this why they fired him? They hinted there were other things. Maybe there were and they were worse. But, maybe not. I don't trust the press any more than law enforcement. Well, forgive me for being cynical. Maybe it is him who doesn’t want them out there. I have no way to know. But, how could they have investigated all of this and made a decision so quickly? It smacked of politics, and that is never a good thing. We’ve seen that repeated over and over. Probably, much of the time it’s deserved. It’s still a bad idea. Then, when you get to the comedian, Aziz Ansari, who was crucified by the movement for literally having consensual sex with a woman who came home with him and treating her very decently when she said she changed her mind - you want to scream. 

Definitely not every day, but certainly every week I hear a couple of stories of some sex-discrimination over-kill. Yes, of course, anecdotes, but, just as before we verified that there was one extra-solar planet out there, we knew there must billions or more, and are now just starting to find them, we can know the same about these acts of over-kill. If I hear of a few, there are oh so many happening, even if millions are just people not doing things they'd ordinarily do. In the last week alone (the week I wrote this – about a week ago), I heard the following. You don’t have to believe me, of course, but all of these are true stories – at least, there is no embellishment from me (I can’t speak for those who told me, though I doubt it, or the news stories):

A friend, a middle age female supervisor in a large company, asked me my opinion on something that happened on work. She told me that a group of women in her section wanted a male co-worker fired. In her view, he is an excellent worker, very intelligent young man who shows up and never gets in trouble but also seemed a little bit “odd,” as if perhaps he might be on the very bottom of the “spectrum,” or maybe just very awkward. Their complaint - one of them suspected he may have looked at her legs because she thought may have been a little too exposed. She didn’t see him do it, but she thought he may have. He said nothing and did nothing wrong that she could see. In fact, she herself verified later that he had to have been paying attention to what was on the computer screen as he remembered it later. The second complainant had no accusation but thought he was creepy. The third one also had nothing specific. That was the complaint. As the supervisor, she didn’t think they had any complaint at all, but they wanted to make one. She sent them to the office attorneys. The attorneys sent them to HR. I don’t know why. Did they even have a clue as to the law? HR, thank God, kicked it back, and said, if you want to get rid of him, you need to find something wrong with his work, as he didn’t do anything wrong. Now, why would they say that? Yes, he did nothing wrong, but why bring up his work? It’s not supposed to be a “now try this” situation.  In my view, the women sexually harassed this guy.

A few days later, I was told by public employee that they were told the new policies included that you were not allowed to tell someone that they “looked nice today” because that implies that they didn’t look good other days and it might hurt their feelings. That found its way into my story. Also, adults were advised not to refer to the children as “boys and girls” because you might offend the one student in the school who had a gender (I don’t know the right word) disorder, dysphoria? And how do we know who is a boy or a girl? Good f’g grief. Of course, we know. At least 99.999% of the time. Right now, amazingly, there is a fight over it, and there is or will be lawsuits, about whether a boy or girl means what it has meant since the words exist. And it is not the same thing as what does “marriage” means. Because marriage was a legal term, a conceptual term, and you can change the law. And while you change a word about a noun, like a horse, you can’t change the thing itself, biologically, not without evolutionary change on a massive scale that will likely take millions of years. So, if the country decides, henceforth boys will be called girls and girls boys, and we actually all do that – then that’s what they will be, but they will still be this thing and that thing, and it is not really going to happen, anyway.  

Obviously, being disturbed at the fear in the workplace of not being able to say “you look nice today,” is not unique to me. It’s not that I have this driving need to say those particular words to anyone. I work in a room by myself for the most part. But, it’s the principle that we are no longer free in many senses and getting less free. There is a movement over so-called “hate speech” that is getting stronger all the time among young people. Do not think if the far left becomes stronger politically that it will not try to enforce a speech code as it has tried on college campuses for years – we already have the blueprint for it. Go to thefire.org and see what they fight against. Safe zones and speech codes all directed at speech that the left, not the right, doesn’t like. It is very one-sided. Ironically, free speech used to be the reverse, something the left sought to protect and the right sought to restrict. What happened? We already have these things in Canada and Europe. It is not consistent with our first amendment rights. It is a little worrisome for a reason. For the last 100 plus years, the left has eventually won most of the culture wars, and, I agreed on a lot, probably most of it. But, I can't say that is so anymore. I think it reached a plateau where my above rule of "up from oppression" has come into play. The problem is with the right, is that if left to themselves, we'd still be in the dark ages and they've only progressed to where they are by being dragged along by the left. Just as one example. Most conservatives I know are actually fairly open-minded about things like sex and women working. But, that's after decades starting with the '60s of the sexual revolution. Back in the '50s, many people didn't think women should wear short pants, let alone work. But, more on that another week.

Here’s another story. Last week, I read an article that a PBS writer was fired – fired! because he looked at a picture of Meghan Markle and said “Not bad.” Can it be in America that to make a remark that implies a member of the British Royal Family is good looking is so frowned upon that you will lose your livelihood? He didn’t get a reprimand – “We frown on commenting among others in the workplace that might imply royalty might be good looking.” Leave aside how absurd the whole idea of royalty in the modern world is to begin with.  He just didn’t get a dirty look. He lost his job. His job! Because he thought someone who made her living on her looks and in reality became royalty largely because of her looks - was good looking, and said it out loud. What was he allowed to say? "God save the Queen!" "My, how regal?" In fact, it's possible, even though her race is the subject of news story, he'd have been fired for just mentioning her race.

It's a picture. When we see a picture, we say things like, that's pretty, or nice or wow, she's cute. Save me from ever having a job again. By the way, he has bitterly complained that nothing happened to the women at the station who referred to the princess as “hot.” Of course, it didn’t. Because none of this has anything to do with really protecting women. It has to do with power politics and who is on top now. I mean, shouldn’t the whole metoo movement at the very least bar celebrities, including royalty, from dating or marrying super-models or good looking women, at risk of losing their phony-bologna careers?

Obviously, this isn't just me raging against the changing of the world as I age. Many have rejected the excesses of the movement. The very sexy (although I guess also very old) French actress, Catherine Deneuve, and many other actresses signed a letter, now known as the Deneuve letter, which said, basically, stop! Here are a few great quotes:
 “A woman can, in the same day, lead a professional team and enjoy being the sexual object of a man, without being a ‘slut’, nor a cheap accomplice of the patriarchy.” 
Imagine that: they are actually saying a woman can enjoy being the sexual object of a man and still be a professional! Why not? There’s nothing wrong with it. We would not exist if that stopped. Of course, these were women saying it. There is no reason a man should not be able to say it if we are truly equal. 
“Rape is a crime. But insistent or clumsy flirting is not a crime, nor is gallantry a chauvinist aggression.”
“This expedited justice already has its victims, men prevented from practicing their profession as punishment, forced to resign, etc., while the only thing they did wrong was touching a knee, trying to steal a kiss, or speaking about ‘intimate’ things at a work dinner, or sending messages with sexual connotations to a woman whose feelings were not mutual.” 
Long before, but again accelerated by, metoo arose the crazy idea that relationships between a boss and a subordinate is inherently wrong, because a fraction of them are abusive. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I do know of one relationship between a married boss and a subordinate which ended badly for her, but I can't say at all it was because of any kind of abuse. If anything, she was probably abusive to others in her office who hated her because of her position.  Every other boss-subordinate relationship one I’ve known, was either permanent, or they ended up as friends or with the worker leaving like any other employee who moved on. It doesn't mean it doesn't happen. It means I do not think it is so common or the results so devastating that it should be banned for all. It is not kids smoking cigarettes or lead paint in walls. I know in all the offices I worked on of very few women who complained of being harassed by the boss, who wasn't firmly put in his place and who obeyed. In one case I remember a women who cried to me that her boss danced to close with her at a party, but admitted she had flirted with him to get what she wanted at work and felt she asked for it. I saw. I didn't blame him and he didn't put his hands on her. For many people, torpedoing all the good relationships to protect a handful of abusive ones is fine. Not with me. My own 28 year old relationship was very traditional – I was her boss, she was my secretary. It took exactly one look for something to click with us. It was at least lust at first sight and the relationship wasn’t long behind. Though I’ve been punished for it in other ways for 28 years (of course, this will be the first post she’ll read in ten years – you know that) I’d love to stand up at a meeting and say, which one of you is going home with me tonight to tell her we have to split up because it was wrong from the start? Of course, like many men my age (many of my friends and I have discussed it), we can think of many consensual flirtations or relationships from decades ago that we have no doubt we'd be accused now of having done something wrong, both at work and in dating. All of us say, thank God we were young then. Most of the women I've talked to about it feel that way too. I can think of one exception but not because anyone ever touched her or tried to bully her into a relationship. It was more of a glass ceiling thing.
Anyway, I got off track as usual. Here’s one from September I enjoyed, I believe out of Britain (could be Australia):   “Mr Sofocleous, 24, from Cyprus, faced disciplinary action last month after he re-tweeted an article by The Spectator on his Twitter titled 'Is it a crime to say women don't have penises?', with the comment: 'RT if women don't have penises'.  

The postgraduate philosophy and psychology student was dismissed from his position at the university after the tweet sparked outrage.
He was also fired from his position as editor of Durham University's online magazine The Bubble, and forced to resign as president of free speech society Humanist Students.”
BTW, as far as I know, "RT" just means retweet. Either he was making a joke or just saying people should retweet the article. Either way, when people are fired from jobs because of a sentence that someone else doesn’t like it’s a problem, unless it is really something incredibly heinous, maybe advocating genocide? We are capable of both having women able to speak out about getting groped and not crushing free speech at the same time.
This one is more familiar, but I really looked into it for the first time. Is there anyone even in the heart of New Guinea who doesn’t know Google, the for-profit company that gets more and more political all the time, and which fired an engineer, James Damore, who wrote a memo – something employees were invited to do – gently (and I mean gently) criticizing Google’s diversity policies, after accusing him of perpetrating gender stereotypes. Was it really out of line he asked that men and women be treated the same?
His post is often called “anti-diversity.” But, if you actually read it, of course, you see he plainly states that he is pro-diversity.  But, he backed up what he offered with citations, write or wrong, and those who criticized him just said it was “hostile,” without even saying what was wrong about it. That’s a problem. Wired Magazine published an article on his “Pernicious” Science. You can read that article, but I don’t think you will find anything actually pernicious. If you are honest as Damore, you will admit your own bias, one way or the other. But, for all the bias in the Wired article, they don’t really show you anything “wrong” about his research. They actually confirm a lot of it, and show how some of his argument can be disputed. Okay, that sounds like most science and most arguments. He was not writing a scientific paper. He was supporting his argument with some science and invited others to disagree. And, again, because he’s honest and asking for an honest discussion, Damore says, of course, he is biased too. I love it when people say that, because so few people do. So much more honest than Google or Wired. And, they fired him for it. 
Damore asks Google to consider its political programming and unconscious biases, not to discriminate against men or any group and to consider whether biological differences between men and women might contribute to there being fewer women engineers. He wants people to be treated as individuals, not members of a group, like male or female. That is, do not mentor women, and not men, because you think there are fewer women engineers as a result of dastardly male behavior. He is a political conservative, a rarity at Google and believes it is why he was fired. I doubt his lawsuit will go anywhere. Interesting, the NLRB administrator who recommended dismissing his administrative complaint (and he did drop it), said his statements about women created a hostile environment despite being “cloaked” in science – which kind of makes them sound as if they were based in – science? “Cloaked,” of course, is a loaded word. Kind of like “ilk.” People use to show a relationship in a negative context.
Whether you think some of his points are wrong or not concerning the biology of men and women and they may be (I really don’t know – its psychology – can anyone know for sure?), his overall point is hardly outrageous. A claim by a woman at Google that she didn’t feel “safe,” was far more outrageous in my view, certainly a lie, and much more in keeping with gender stereotypes. His being fired was definitely outrageous. It was an opinion. An invited one. It’s not like he was saying blacks or Jews should be exterminated or women should stay at home either. He said men and women are different – something that female psychologists who practiced human sexuality behavior write about all the time. Why is this different?
It doesn’t matter if I give you one or a hundred anecdotes or a thousand anecdotes. It is just like an analogy. It can never be close enough if someone doesn't want to believe it. Yet, people are terrified, literally terrified that someone might see a joke on their texts or email, and they will be fired. Many are terrified of giving an opinion. They are right, they will be fired in many jobs. For a joke. Or for an opinion. Because, as I said to my favorite liberal on more than one occasion – Congratulations, you guys killed America’s sense of humor. It's as if conservatives and liberals have changed places in a number of ways over the course of the last few decades. The conservatives were the stodgy puritans who didn't laugh a lot. They'd be the ones dressing up in masks, trying to stop someone else from speaking. The worm turns, as they say.
I’m never going to work for a company again. I’d probably be fired the first day. The last time I had a job I refused to go to the meeting on race (racial something – Relations? Diversity? Maybe if I went, I’d know). Good thing. There was a huge dust-up, a black woman appropriately used the dreaded N-word and a white woman appropriately used it and, uh oh, well, the black women, or at least some of them, did not like that. I heard about it before I got back and then I just didn’t come back at all. It caused racial discord in an otherwise diverse and racially harmonious office for about a week. I had it happen in a class I taught once too. But, whether it be racial workshops or sex harassment training, if I went, they'd probably fire me and if I didn't go, they'd probably fire me, if not for being insubordinate, probably for insurance reasons. Something annoying.
Speaking of sexual harassment training, it is now mandatory in New York. We are trying to figure this out, but it seems like it is mandatory for everyone. It is not clear to me if it includes people who work for themselves, which, of course, makes no sense whatsoever. Pisses me off. No, I do not believe that anyone is going to learn anything from it and it would offend me to be told I need to be trained how to behave with people, even if the way I would behave might offend someone here or there. Too bad. People offend me all the time. I get over it. They should too.
I doubt they will ever be found so, but I do believe that state or federal government telling our employers to train us in how we speak to others violates the first amendment so as how not to offend them, even if I agree with them, violates the first amendment. I’m not going all lawyer on you, but I might develop this someday. Like my fellow sufferer formerly employed by Google, I’m all for diversity too, but I don’t like, for example, that the New York State Bar now makes lawyers include diversity training (even though I will likely never hire another lawyer) in hiring practices. It offends me that they think I need to be taught that it’s okay to hire a minority and it would really offend me if they try to teach me that I should hire someone of this ethnicity rather than that ethnicity (I actually didn’t have to take such a class this year by virtue of my birthday being one day before the effective date). A constitutional challenge? I’m thinking about it? If I can only get someone to pay for it. I know the ACLU won’t, as they seem to out of the civil rights business and only in the “social justice” business.

Really, I'm worried about us. We've gone from a country that decided that free speech means that we have to hear offensive words to a country that suspends kids for dressing up as scary people on Halloween (like, recently, the Columbine killers) or fires a tv host because she asks why its racist for a white child to be Diana Ross for Halloween - and then she apologizes for it before they fire her anyway. What is wrong with it? It's racist to suggest a white kid cannot be Diana Ross? It smacks of apartheid to say a white child cannot pretend to be a black singer or a black child could not pretend to be a white one. Why in the world can we elect a black president and yet we are paralyzed by the thought that white children should pretend they are black. What's not offensive anymore? 
Okay, I'm done. There's so much more that could be covered, but, at some point you just have to stop and say, next time. The last few days my thoughts started to turn to the all-important topic of – Brady or Rodgers (or Brees or Manning)? Which I think comes next.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

A Stain on our Democracy? I'd have to agree

Like millions of others this past week, I watched the second part of the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Bret Kavanaugh. As I have said a googolplex times here, this isn't Wikipedia, and I will presume you know who he is and what has happened, or this will make little sense to you. If you know, no doubt you have made your own judgments, have your own biases and thoughts as I have mine, and will see it through your own lens. This is true whether you watched or know a little or a lot. Feel free to email me to comment, as I believe you will not be allowed to comment anonymously through blogger, and no one seems to want to leave a comment with their email address, which I guess I understand, given the dangers of the digital world.

The following is mostly a fantasy. It is the statement I wish Brett Kavanaugh could have given the day of his testimony (not the original testimony; I mean the one after Prof. Ford testified). I have hindsight in my favor, of course, and many conversations with many people over the last week, before and after the hearing. I've repeated a finding of mine, anecdotal, unsurprising, based on a very small personal and informal survey, but I still think powerful. During the day of his hearing, I spoke to 14 people, and including myself, 15 all told. This included friends, relatives and acquaintances. But, I knew who everyone liked and disliked politically and voted for (or not) in 2016. I also learned that day where they stood on Kavanaugh. Here was the interesting result. Five of those people either "hate" Trump, some virulently or at least dislike him and/or voted for Clinton. Every one of them thought Kavanaugh came off poorly, and that he was either too partisan or had a bad temperament, even if he were provoked, which did not justify his behavior. Five other love Trump. They all thought Kavanaugh did fine and that it was natural that he was furious at being called a molester, even a rapist, a serial rapist and even a serial rapist who drugged his victims. The last group was also five people, including myself, were people who don't like Trump or Hillary Clinton and/or didn't vote for either in the 2016 election. All of us five felt just like the Trump people did about Kavanaugh. By the way, of all those people there were only four women, though, of course, it would have been better if there were more. But, none of it was planned so it was what it was. Three of the women were Trump supporters and the other one didn't vote for either.

Yes, small sample size, and unscientific as can be. But, the results were hardly surprising to me. Although, the last group might not be the same in different geographic areas or bubbles like academia or certain workplaces, etc.  I live in middle class, white, middle-aged suburbia and that's who I was mostly speaking with. We tend to have similar opinions. Almost all of the people I spoke with who disliked Trump were on the telephone.

In any event, getting past my survey or whatever you want to call it, in the end, I have to agree with Kavanaugh. I did find it a national disgrace. We are reaping the whirlwind. I am saddened, really distressed, not only by the behavior of D Senators, who I thought behaved abominably (actually, worse at his first hearing) but also by the R Senators who out of fear of being called misogynist in the meeto! era abdicated any responsibility to defend a R nominee being assaulted by the other side, so that he was literally all on his own. I cannot imagine the Ds would have done that. But, the Rs also failed to own up to any responsibility for the anger that has arisen on the left because of their side's refusal to even consider Garland. Then again, the media would have been all over them if one of them so much as asked her a tough question. Perhaps I will try to show how to do that gently here too? It's really not so hard. I've had witnesses who had sympathetic stories and tried to bait me as an attorney into being too tough with them in front of the jury or arbitrators. I was able to avoid it without much difficulty. Also, that so many people decided that this man, who seemed beloved by so many others (everyone has people who do not like them), including co-workers, clerks, his children's friends and their family's, and so on, was "evil" or "hiding something."

But, I will leave the rest for the opening statement I wrote for him, which I will give forthwith. It is easier for me to write it a little more dispassionately than him for three very important reasons: One, no one threatened my family. Two, no one called me a rapist, never mind a serial rapist. And, three, I have the benefit of time and hindsight. I will not include even his better lines, such as his daughter's inclusion of the professor in her prayers. Because really, this is not his, but mine, though put into his person (we start with prayer - I don't pray). I'm just using his situation to say what given that hindsight, and experience, I think would have been most effective.

"Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein and Members of the Committee,

 You may not be surprised to know over the course of the past 11 days when I learned that Professor Ford claimed that I had assaulted her when we were teenagers, that I have prayed much. I have prayed alone. I have prayed with my wife and with my priest and my children. Whether it sounds farfetched to this committee or not, this committee has been in my prayers as well as anyone who truthfully believes I have done them harm. I was stunned, horrified, felt victimized, although not alone.

At the same time, I am a man, and I am subject to vanity, subject to pride, subject to anger. I know that if I came in her and stoically answered questions as if this was a walk in the park, it would probably be better for me. It would not make any difference to those who decided from before my nomination was announced that they were voting "no," or when it was announced that they were voting "no," or those who have determined that I was "evil," yes, "evil," in case anyone missed it. But, I have not been accused of being out of touch with proper behavior or social norms or that I "don't get it." I have been called one of the most heinous things you can call a man - a rapist. More, I have been called a serial rapist. And that is not even the worst of it. For those of you who run for office. These are not, as you say, Senator Klobuchar, normal times, though perhaps I think for different reasons than you. I have not in politics for a long time and my reasons are not partisan. I am concerned with civil order. And when I see a breakdown a civil order, public functions disrupted, violence and intimidation replacing argument and persuasion, then I think these are not normal times. And because these are not normal times, when a seat for the highest court in the land comes up, and it is contested not just by vetting the justice who is nominated, but by calling him evil, suggesting that he will cause pain and terror throughout the land, suggesting he is a pawn who rapes women and laughs triumphantly at their pain, well, it might result as it did result, with a death threat to the nominee's wife. I'd like you to think about that for a moment, because each of you, because each of you who has participated in castigating my good name, and I had nothing but a good name after 6 thorough FBI investigations, is responsible for a death threat to my wife. Maybe some of you have gotten death threats. Maybe you do not take them seriously. I do. And if my wife's life is threatened, who do you think she is frequently in the company of? What do you think that means to friends and family?

Perhaps you earnestly believe if you lose an election you have this right, not just to fight hard to try and persuade the other side and the public that you are right, but also to try to destroy men and women's lives if they are nominated for office by the "other side."

I know I am not the first one, And I know other people have dealt with far worse. Far worse. People have died in the name of freedom, been maimed in the name of freedom, seen their children sacrificed. And, of course, in doing this, someone in this process, and it can only be someone on one of the political staffs if not Ms. Ford's own lawyers, released her own name to the press and caused such distress to her life. Of course, she may not want my sympathy, feels it is false even, because she believes I molested her and am simply trying to appear sympathetic. But, I know I did not. So, I cannot help but give it, though it is mixed with wonder, of course.

I have listened patiently to your questions, the insinuations by you that I am supposed to tell President Trump what to do about the FBI, that I am hiding things, that I am a racist, that even before Prof. Ford's name came out I was complicit in harassment because I once clerked for a justice who was found to have harassed women. And I know I will hear all these again without apology or even acknowledgment that another Senator raised it 5 minutes ago. I know this because I was an attorney and I am a judge and I understand that this is part of strategy. But, all attorneys, all politicians, all humans should have limits, should have some basic decency.

I listened carefully to Professor Ford this morning. I do not remember her, for which I mean no offense but do not apologize. It is a long time ago and we meet a lot of people. I'm sure my words will be searched and no matter what I say, someone will find a way to interpret it so that I might have secretly, for some unknown reason left a loophole to mean that yes I did molest her or someone else. But, I will do the best I can so that at least people without an ax to grind will understand. I believe her when she says we met. I believe her that someone molested her at some time, although she cannot remember when or even what year. I understand the trauma of women getting molested and the effect it can have on them. But, I have never molested or forced myself on her or any other woman, period. I have never had non-consensual sex or unlawfully exposed myself to anyone. I have never taunted a woman. I have never tried to take a woman's clothes off against her will. At the time Professor Ford describes me, I was a virgin. I did not have sexual experiences with anyone except perhaps very few chaste kisses, which I do not choose to discuss.

I will do my best to answer your questions as dispassionately as I can, but I may fail. I'm sure I will hear that I will. I'm sure I will be told, no matter how I do, that I was intemperate, lack judicial temperament and am, as I said, evil. But, we have heard that already before this new material even came up. We heard that before I was even named and was only an X to be filled in.  But, I will continue to be honest beyond what is in my best interests. There is a large part of me that does not want to be stoic, that wants to let my anger out at not only the gross insult to me far beyond what anyone should have to absorb in accepting a nomination. It has been suggested to me by normally civil people that I use a certain declaration containing a swear word with you, that I trade insult for insult, because no nominee has ever been so insulted before this committee before, not even Clarence Thomas.

I'm not going to do it. But, I understand why they want me to and I believe a lot of people would not only understand why I did it, but might even stand up in their living rooms and applaud. And some of those people, would have been witnesses before Congress. As you said, Senator, these are not normal times.

I understand the politics of it but have to stay out of it. If you ask me about the president, I will recite to you from a prepared statement once. I understand you do not like him. I can't comment. After that, I will just ask you if you want me to recite the prepared statement. I understand about Justice Garland, who is a personal hero of mine, who I stood up for, but if you ask me about him, I cannot comment on it, and I will just read a prepared statement the first time. After that, I will just read it again if you want me to. Along with Roe v. Wade, which I do not expect questions about today, that's really what this is all about, and I think that's what most people in this country know and expect. But, that has nothing to do with me and it's not something that should have anything to do with me.

If you ask me about the FBI I will read from a prepared statement once. I understand you would like them to investigate, but I can't comment on it. After that, I will just ask you if you would like me to recite the prepared statement.

I do understand that this type of politics has been going on for a long time, much longer than anyone here has been alive. But, we've come so far in so many ways. Just not in this way. I found this quote from John Adams from a letter to Thomas Jefferson. By the way, that was era where the two sides routinely said horrible things about each other too. In any event, this was later in their lives and they were out of government, and had patched up their differences:

"While all other Sciences have advanced, that of Government is at a stand; little better understood; little better practiced now then 3 or 4 thousand Years ago. What is the Reason? I say Parties and Factions will not suffer, or permit Improvements to be made."

We can see planets surrounding other stars and send robots through veins to cure diseases, but when another party takes power, we still try to destroy the lives of the people There's more, but I thought that was the most applicable part. 

So, shut up, right? It is a seat on the Supreme Court. Death threats to your family, never getting to teach again because probably some of the students, egged on, will now call you a rapist or disrupt the class, perhaps never coaching again because protesters might show up at the game and endanger the children, hiring security guards for my children, these are the penalties I should have to expect, because I was nominated by a president you don't like. So, it's my problem, right.

You do have a duty, of course, to investigate the claim. It could have been handled confidentially with Chairmen Grassley two months ago and it would have then been discovered that none of the other people allegedly involved, including Prof. Ford's friend have any memory or knowledge of it, that there is no date or year for it, no evidence whatsoever of it. I am not making light of her feelings or pain. I am talking about reality. It did not need to be this for her sake or mine. It did not need to be this for the sake of the country. As to the other claims, all I can say is, are you serious? Is this where we are at? A woman can claim she went to ten parties where I was involved with the gang rapes of women, where no one called the police, where there is no evidence of it, and we are to take it seriously? What claim is so far-fetched that we do not take it seriously? Must it involve space aliens? I wish, I wish, I wish I was not jesting.

As I said before and might say again in answering your questions, Professor Ford sounds credible and I believe she is sincere, I know for a fact that she is wrong because I would never, even as a young man who sometimes drank too much, do such a thing. I was surprised, I have to admit, that no one asked her, a professional psychologist, if people in general, witnesses after even 24 hours, trauma victims ever have false memories. I think it is fairly well known, and one doesn't even have to be a trained psychologist to know it. But, there are books on the market and people giving talks about the certainty they had in accusing someone of rape, only to years later realize that - they were wrong. I admit, I wish someone else had brought that up, but, it looks like, I will have to.

I will take a deep breath now and submit to your questions. Forgive me if I am not the model of stoicism today, although I will try to re-achieve that level. Try to imagine that someone has accused you of one of the most heinous crimes we know of in front of the whole world and that you were worried someone was hunting your spouse or family and perhaps you will understand.

I will take your questions now."

That's my Kavanaugh statement. Of course, he had all that stuff about his dad and his calendar, some of which worked, some of which was booooorrrrrinng.

And, his petulance with some of his questioners, particularly Klobuchar, who is generally well-liked, and not as did not play well with anyone who did not want him to be confirmed in the first place, and did play well with those who thought the Ds were off the charts obnoxious when they first addressed him. But, other than the narrow band of Fox, talk radio and a few other media outlets, the overwhelming television and print coverage is anti-Trump (too well established to argue - see the Harvard study) and anti-Kavanaugh.

Even after it is over, it wasn't over. We had to listen to another round of dreadful speeches from everyone. I was even surprised at Lindsey Graham, who was outraged, purple with rage while Kavanaugh was being questioned, but calmed down the next day to say much the same thing, and defended his own policy again of voting for D nominees and treating them with dignity, even though he disagrees with him. I will give him a B-, not an A. Here's why. First, he's delusional to say they did the right thing with Garland. Yes, it was legal, but it so violated the trust the two parties must have with one another, that it has fueled this anger (and, yes, I'm perfectly aware that pretty much all of the the leading Ds had earlier said that they thought the rule should be no appointments in a presedential election year when it suited them - but that was insane too). If the Ds get the Senate there will be no more Trump higher offices filled until Justice Garland is seated on the Supreme Court, period, and we will see about after. Of course, he won't do that, so . . . .

Second, Graham does vote for the D nominees. And he does not sneer at them from across the floor. Nor do the other R committee members (at least since Sessions is gone). They were not as obnoxious as Whitehouse, Blumenthal, Hirono, Leahy and Durbin were, at least, with Kavanaugh and Korsuch, but they were smarmy and tried to be a little tricky, at least with Sotomayor and Kagan. I grimaced a little, but they were still respectful. Jeff Sessions questioning Kagan over her gun position while Dean at Harvard Law was probably the hottest exchange - he did look like he wanted to smite her. But, Sessions wasn't calling her a monster. He was just calling her out as being a liberal secretly against guns. And, in my opinion, she got the better of the exchange (as the justices usually do), because he was being paranoid. Compare that to the way to aforenamed D Senators treated Kavanaugh even before the Ford accusation came out - "Evil."

The problem is, a quarter to half the country is happy to agree that Kavanaugh is a monster, or at the very least, his being nominated by the Trump is enough to justify the destruction of his personal happiness, and his family's with it.  A friend of mine I was speaking to yesterday, who is unable to discuss anything about Trump without becoming enraged and quickly hanging up (he once, at his house, told me he was leaving the room if we didn't stop talking about Trump - meaning, he could, I couldn't - and I don't even like Trump), told me he trusts his judgment and he could tell from the first second that he saw Kavanaugh, he's an evil guy, part of the whole conspiracy to take the United States down and use it for the profit of just a few people. Yeesh. But, that's the Sanders-Warren-Democratic Socialist message, isn't it? Not really Clinton's, but, could she even run now if she didn't adopt it? I think she would soon get the Jim Webb treatment if she ran in 2020, unless she completely caved, kowtowing to the new generation. If she didn't, they'd yank her mike, and I don't mean figuratively. Cuomo found he had to say "America was never great" when he ran against a no borders, no Ice opponent, and he was initially a fairly moderate, actually conservative D.

A number of the Ds on the committee, friends who spoke with me, commentators online, etc., complained that Kavanaugh revealed himself as not having a judicial temperament. I know very few people who have not lost their temper at one time or another, many with very little reason. A very few of them show stress, but will not raise their voice no matter what the the provocation. I yell all the time now at my gf, but believe me SHE GODDAM WELL DESERVES IT!!!!! (God, I hope she doesn't read this - if I don't post next month, you'll understand. Donations are welcome). But, I have a pretty good sense of humor about myself. You can insult me a lot. I don't get upset about ethnic or slurs ("she" insults me so regularly I have to have a pretty thick skin), but, I admit, if you hit the right nerve about my personal integrity basically, call me personally dishonest, I can get pissed. And, though it doesn't seem to happen that I can recall. If you called me depraved, a child molester, rapist, etc., yeah, I'd be furious too.

The irony is, we live in the most sensitive times I've ever experienced in my life. It is the opposite of when I grew up, when it seemed people had a much thicker skin except for people we found a little weird, or, of course, little kids. Now, people are very quick to get insulted. Do parents even teach their kids "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me," anymore? We even have micro-aggressions, which I'm pretty sure mean "'not-aggressions' but we'd like to call them aggression anyway." Words with dual meanings ("retard" comes right to mind) or words that sound like other words (famously, niggardly) can be dangerous.

Everybody, well almost everybody (not Don, who sometimes commented here before Google screwed up the comment feature) is so freaking sensitive. Yet, when Bret Kavanaugh, on the word of a women who is going by memories that can at best be described as cloudy and incomplete, 35 or so years old, uncorroborated even as to the presence of her own friend, is called a child molester (she was a child at the time), and then also a serial rapist and drugger of women, some people expect him to say, "pip-pip, carry on" or not be livid or upset. His life is changed forever. He has already said he may never teach again. His own students would probably heckle him. How can he be alone with women now? How vulnerable is he? He has to worry about the security of his family, his parents? If he gets on the Supreme Court, are idiots going to be screaming out "rapist" at the oral arguments. We saw what the morons did at the first hearings he had (no Senator Grassley - it is not free speech when the police are dragging them away).

Today, people say they feel "unsafe" if someone has an opinion they do not like and they need "safe zones" or people get fired for their opinions (as famously happened at Google and just happened, I believe at CERN. But, Bret Kavanaugh is not allowed to be upset or show it, because he's going to be a Supreme Court justice and we have to pretend they are without partisan . . . ehhhh . . . they are without partisanship. How silly. Every other member of the court is as partisan as they can be. He'd be no different. In fact, he'd probably still be the least partisan of the R justices. I understand why politicians keep up the pretense of these partisan fantasies that the other justices are fair or impartial, but why do other people? Why not just say, I just want my side to win? Is there an R who wouldn't want Ruth Bader Ginsburg to recuse herself from every controversial case, as a liberal constitutional scholar now insists Kavanaugh would have to, because she said something intemperate about Trump? Come off it. We know how every one of them really feels? Do you remember what Obama said that caused the the Rs not to go the State of the Union address anymore? It was nothing, a pittance over a case? Should they all recuse themselves? Of course not.

Of course, it doesn't matter to the Ds (neither parties feel shame - their friends all support them), because, as I wrote above, it's never been about him (and certainly not about Ford). It's mostly about Garland and Trump and Roe, in some order. I have no doubt, with the hysteria we are seeing, that some of them have talked themselves into believing the rhetoric.

I'm sure many ordinary citizens, forgetting that a week ago they were fine with him even if they were Ds or liberals, because now they have a handle that they'd be outraged at, no doubt, if used against a Clinton when one was in office. Come to think of it, not too long ago in history, they were. Except, almost all of that we've learned was true, and even some of them (and me - I supported him throughout it) kind of came to believe he may have been a rapist too. Indeed, I've only today learned that Juanita Broderick is demanding an FBI investigation into her alleged rape by Clinton. Anyway, partisanship is very powerful, blinding, and I'm sure they believe, whatever it is they believe and that includes believing they were fair in appraising it and coming out on the side they did. As Judge Roy Bean was supposed to have said - "First we have a fair trial, then we hang him." Or perhaps it is just the most magnificent coincident ever known to humankind - that in fairly appraising political controversy, Ds and liberals will side almost every time with Ds and liberals and Rs and cons will side with Rs and cons. And when they don't, their own side will hate them with a white hot heat little seen outside of supernovas.

I do hope Bret Kavanaugh gets on the Court. I have a gentlemen's bet that I hope I lose that he will not. So far I'm losing as he passed the Committee, when Flake voted for him. But, as we know, Flake nearly buckled and did the whole FBI thing, which, if you were watching, was just a weird ballet between him, who didn't know what he was trying to say, Grassley, who just wanted to finish and the Ds, who wanted Flake to make unprecedented demands (or an "amendment," which made no sense) on his yes vote that really made no sense. His experience, particularly with the two women in the elevator, tells us something. It is going to be an all-out "protest-assault" on Flake, Murkowski and Collins and probably a few D Senators to get them to vote against. I am hopeful it doesn't turn violent, but it seems to me that Ted Cruz and his wife were all ready chased out of a restaurant (which now has armed guards b/c the owners are getting death threats - although many Ds have assured me their far left is not becoming violent) in the name of Kavanaugh, so chances are not great if those protesting violence don't feel that they are getting their way.

Alan Dershowitz, a liberal Democrat (ironically, when I was a liberal, I could not stand him at all as he had the most combative and obnoxious debating style) and Harvard professor who often pontificates these days in favor of conservative outrage at political correctness b/c so many liberals truly have gone so far off their nut that it is hard to believe, has been falsely accused himself in the past and knows what it is like. He called what goes on these days nearly sexual McCarthyism. That's kind of like what it is, but maybe worse.  Whatever it is, I am passed my dating age and don't have to suffer much because of it. But, I feel for young people today. Many are just ignoring it, but many are just accepting it and they are missing a lot and also being afraid. I've heard too many say so to me, and it's not like I've talked to that many, to think it's just me being an old codger saying damn those kids and their newfangled ways.

The man I sometimes refer to here as Eddie told me that he heard recently that not only should affirmative consent be obtained before sex, but that it should be enthusiastic consent. Well, there goes my sex life and that of almost everyone in my age group. I'm not blaming anyone. I'm just saying. But, even Eddie, pretty far to the left by his own admission, thought that was over the top.

And, I'm done watching. The Senate has been speaking about it non-stop, as have the talking heads. I really can't listen anymore to either side. Poor Bret. We will see what happens. But, I just don't think he's going to make it and that will be the shame (as was Garland).  

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Farewell, John McCain

Have you noticed that death alone awakens our feelings? How we love the friends who have just left us? How we admire those of our teachers who have ceased to speak, their mouths filled with earth! Then the expression of admiration springs forth naturally, that admiration they were perhaps expecting from us all their lives. But do you know why we are always more just and more generous toward the dead? The reason is simple. With them there is no obligation.” – Albert Camus

I wrote the following paragraph in December, 2006, thinking about the then upcoming 2008 presidential nomination process, trying to predict who might have a chance in the nomination process. At the time, Rudy Giuliani was doing really well in the polls before he self-destructed (and as far as I am concerned, never completely recovered). After I wrote it, McCain bottomed out, was virtually out of the race, but held on and rallied to win it. And I was glad. I’m correcting a couple of typos, which I left in the original, before posting this, because, frankly, they are embarrassing. And who’s going to complain if I do? Without some compulsion to be honest about it, who would know? Ironically, I frequently edit other people’s work for profit and friendship, but somehow still can’t find the strength to edit my own posts before I hit publish, even if I spent days writing it. I’m just babbling, as usual. Here’s the bit on McCain:

“John McCain. Long time Arizona Senator. I am a little biased here. He has been my personal favorite since the late 90s. McCain is a genuine war hero. In the modern world, you often just need to sign up or show up for hero status, but McCain survived years of POW torture, and refused to go home ahead of others who were there before him, which he could have due to his privileged position as an admiral’s son. Sounds pretty heroic to me. I like McCain for his moderation, his willingness to buck his own party, his willingness to admit mistakes. He is a formidable speaker, strong on defense, and appears to me, at least, to put country first. Many conservatives dislike him for the same reasons I like him. Naturally, I don’t like everything he does either. Some of his supposedly benevolent positions like the campaign reform law he sponsored and his attempts to censor certain commercial activities in order to protect children, cross over first amendment boundaries in my opinion. I watched a hearing where he grilled now convicted Enron executive, Jeffrey Skilling, and showed a lack of understanding of basic economics. However, most of his comrades seemed equally clueless. He has already disappointed me by wisely asking the forgiveness of the same religious groups he castigated in 2000 by going to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and speaking there. Still, he knows what he needs to do to win. I give him THE BEST CHANCE TO WIN THE REPUBLICAN NOMINATION DESPITE GIULIANI'S GENERAL POPULARITY.”

Reading it again, I’m actually surprised to see that I feel pretty much the same way today as I did in 2006. I don’t know that I would change anything substantive in it. When he died he was still my favorite politician. I think my future biographer will have little trouble establishing that as I just did a word search for “McCain” on my blog and that found I’ve mentioned him in 99 posts since I started in September, 2006!!!  I’ve only posted 497 times total. That means I mentioned him in about 1 out of every 5 posts. That probably means I mentioned him in almost every political post I’ve written. Glad I didn’t know that. And, what I wrote, seems to be generally the same stuff that others say about him all the time, both the good and bad of it. So much for originality on my part.

When McCain lost his bid for the presidency, I was, not surprisingly, disappointed, although he did such a bad job campaigning that at the time he lost, it was already a foregone conclusion to everyone but those for whom it is an article of faith to be certain their side will win until they don’t. I was living in Virginia at the time and the local city newspaper published an op-ed I wrote about it. It doesn’t look to me that I ever posted it here, and it’s definitely too late now. If I recall, my main view was that the reasons he lost did not include his choice for VP (although, is there anyone left who doesn’t think that was a bad choice outside of her family?), but rather Bush fatigue, the economic collapse during another Republican’s term and, did I say this – a really bad campaign?

My feelings at his recent death were more complicated. First, we had quite a while to deal with it since he first announced his brain cancer.  So, hardly a shock. Second, I am in a period where I can barely stomach to watch anything political, though I expect that will change next year when people start jockeying for position for 2020. I also have a strange tendency to get irritated when the press makes a big deal out of a politician dying. I don’t know why. Maybe there’s a good reason, but I can’t think of it. I just do.

But, most of all, I wasn’t planning on watching because I didn’t want to see the hypocrisy of his fellow pols, most of whom I didn’t respect the way I did McCain, praise him, even treat him as a savior, when all they did during their careers were shoot him down unless they thought he’d vote the way they’d like. He was not, for all of his vaunted moderation, a popular man in many ways. Leave aside his famous explosive temper and perhaps some arrogance in private that I’d expect a world famous person like him might have (people who aren’t even famous on their block are arrogant, so why not him?), politicians, like most people, do not like moderates much. Yes, they hate their opposition, but I think they hate the moderate more (and McCain was largely conservative his whole career – just more moderate than most). The reason is, the moderate ruins the game, that is, that either a Democrat or Republican position, or a conservative or liberal one, is all there is. And one side has to win (coupled with the fantasy that next time everyone will see reason and it will be them).

Democrats sometimes loved him prior to his run for president. That’s because he’d sometimes take their side and more often, work with them on something he saw as important. Republicans, not surprisingly, hated him for that. After all, he took their money and ran as a Republican. There’s nothing politicians hate more than apostates. And the love from Democrats ended when he had the temerity to oppose their choice. Then he became a bad guy. I get to quote Mark Twain here at length. I actually love this and handcopied pages of the two speeches out of a book. Because I’m grateful to people who even skim what I write, this is only part of it:

“I have referred to the fact that when a man retires from his political party he is a traitor — that he is so pronounced in plain language. That is bold; so bold as to deceive many into the fancy that it is true. Desertion, treason — these are the terms applied. . .  What is the process when a voter joins a party? Must he prove that he is sound in any way, mind or body? Must he prove that he knows anything — is capable of anything — whatever? Does he take an oath or make a promise of any sort?— or doesn’t he leave himself entirely free? If he were informed by the political boss that if he join, it must be forever; that he must be that party’s chattel and wear its brass collar the rest of his days — would not that insult him? It goes without saying. He would say some rude, unprintable thing, and turn his back on that preposterous organization. But the political boss puts no conditions upon him at all; and this volunteer makes no promises, enlists for no stated term. He has in no sense become a part of an army; he is in no way restrained of his freedom. Yet he will presently find that his bosses and his newspapers have assumed just the reverse of that: that they have blandly arrogated to themselves an ironclad military authority over him; and within twelve months, if he is an average man, he will have surrendered his liberty, and will actually be silly enough to believe that he cannot leave that party, for any cause whatever, without being a shameful traitor, a deserter, a legitimately dishonored man.

There you have the just measure of that freedom of conscience, freedom of opinion, freedom of speech and action which we hear so much inflated foolishness about as being the precious possession of the republic. Whereas, in truth, the surest way for a man to make of himself a target for almost universal scorn, obloquy, slander, and insult is to stop twaddling about these priceless independencies and attempt to exercise one of them. If he is a preacher half his congregation will clamor for his expulsion — and will expel him, except they find it will injure real estate in the neighborhood; if he is a doctor his own dead will turn against him.


I repeat that the new party-member who supposed himself independent will presently find that the party have somehow got a mortgage on his soul, and that within a year he will recognize the mortgage, deliver up his liberty, and actually believe he cannot retire from that party from any motive howsoever high and right in his own eyes without shame and dishonor.

. . .

This infamous doctrine of allegiance to party plays directly into the hands of politicians of the baser sort — and doubtless for that it was borrowed — or stolen — from the monarchial system. It enables them to foist upon the country officials whom no self-respecting man would vote for if he could but come to understand that loyalty to himself is his first and highest duty, not loyalty to any party name.

Shall you say the best good of the country demands allegiance to party? Shall you also say that it demands that a man kick his truth and his conscience into the gutter and become a mouthing lunatic besides? Oh no, you say; it does not demand that. But what if it produce that in spite of you? . . .”

And

"He taught them that the only true freedom of thought is to think as the party thinks; that the only true freedom of speech is to speak as the party dictates; that the only righteous toleration is toleration of what the party approves; that patriotism, duty, citizenship, devotion to country, loyalty to the flag, are all summed up in loyalty to the party. Save the party, uphold the party, make the party victorious, though all things else go to ruin and the grave.”

It reads like a satire, but it is real life. It hasn’t changed at all since Mark Twain’s day. Someone should have read it at McCain’s funeral even if they are all pretending to care about what he preached and how he conducted his life. Because that's them, that's most people.  Before he died and after he died.

I saw what I expected to see as the funerals approached. Putting on C-Span, I watched one Senator (I’ll be nice and leave out his name) praise him for putting “country over party.” I am sure many did. If they thought it was such a good thing, I’d expect we’d see them do it too. But, that hasn’t been my experience with that Senator or most of the two parties (Graham, Manchin, come to mind).  I turned the tv off before I saw crocodile tears, which may have been genuine, for all I know. People have an incredible capacity for self-deception.  I thought it would be too much to watch his televised funeral, but at the last moment I decided to do so. It wasn’t so bad. The eulogists did a reasonably good, if not inspired job.

But I heard about “country first” again at his funeral in Arizona. How long will that last? I expect until the tv coverage ends and it is back to day to day politics. And, in fact, just now, I learned that this same Senator – Okay, Chuck Schumer. There, I said it – in response to the White House holding back a fraction of the record-setting number of documents demanded in Justice Kavanaugh’s hearing (requesting something like 4 to 5 times the amount of the next highest number requested for any previous Supreme Court nominee and they’ve already released far more than twice as much as the next largest earlier production), is claiming it is a “cover up.” Well, you know, it could be, of course, but I doubt it. But, both parties have dirty secrets and are reprehensible when in power. Maybe Kavanaugh is a serial killer who only targets widows and orphans. They would run with that if they thought it would work. And, if they can find one women who thought one off color joke by a staffer of his was improper and who did not lose his job, they will act as if Kavanaugh raped an entire village.

If you aren’t spinning already, John, start now. What do you think would happen if he didn’t die, and came back to the Senate? The same grieving conservatives would have disliked him as an apostate, respecting only the small power he had garnered. The same grieving liberals as a right wing nut case, as they did when he opposed Obama. It is not that I don’t think that people should patch up quarrels after they retire. I do, where it is genuine. But, he wasn’t retired. And this isn’t genuine, even for those who are genuinely touched by his death.

At the top of this post I quoted from a Camus book I read quite a long time ago, The Fall. It was a great book, I thought superior to The Stranger, his most famous. But, little stuck has stuck with me over the decades but the tone of the book and that one line, which I vaguely remembered and had to look up. I put his question to those politicians mourning McCain. Why are they all so complimentary and admiring to a man whose political philosophy they rejected out of hand? Because they no longer have to deal with him, have any “obligation” towards him. As when he lost the election – gave up – they could afford to be generous. It makes them look good. Ironically, the biggest jerk of them all, Trump, is being the most genuine, outside of McCain’s family, who I expect loved him.

I would like to avoid going to funerals where I'm not wanted and don't want to go, in my life. I can think of someone I know who I found more than a little disagreeable in life, who will likely precede me to the grave. I have said that I do not want to go to that person's funeral to others who think it is a matter of showing respect, being supportive of a survivor or just being conventional. What if I have no respects to pay?  What if I think it will be a distraction or that it is showing disrespect?  If I do go, for I am subject to acting out of pity, it will be out of obligation to the living. Probably, I would regret it, even if it is not dramatic. 

McCain did put country first. At least, consistent with his beliefs. And he did it to his own detriment over and over again. He would tell them in Iowa that corn subsidies were wrong and he’d say in the industrial belt that those jobs weren’t coming back. He’d even say this when campaigning. And, when he thought it was important, he’d vote against his party. At the end, I think he may have been voting against Trump.

Of course, he could be wrong, or, I could think him wrong and I did so all the time. It doesn’t matter – as Stalin once, supposedly anyway, said of Churchill – I don’t know what he said, but I like his spirit. I did like McCain’s spirit. I liked his sense of humor, I liked him calling his friends, even kids “jerks,” I loved his standing up to his party, and I liked his admitting when he was wrong or that economics wasn’t one of his strengths (it wasn’t – he seemed clueless). It is a rare trait in any person, never mind a politician.

Over and over again, it has been said that he acknowledged he wasn’t perfect. Well, come on, he’d better. But, then again, others don’t. He was far from perfect but admitted that he had pandered and did things he wasn’t proud of to win. Maybe it was not much, but it was a lot more than I hear others doing. And he did it while he was vulnerable and in the game.

But, did he have a happy life (we sometimes ask when people die)? Not counting the 5 ½ years of hell, of course.  I expect a lot of the time he was genuinely pissed off, but, he had a job that would lend itself to it. Still, it seemed to me that he was happier than most were -  a happy warrior compared to most of them.

Speaking of happiness, I am reminded . . .  that always sounds pompous. Take two. Once, a long, long time ago. . . Take three. You know I like history, right? And, Herodotus, was the “father of history?” Heard of him, right? So, in his histories, he wrote about a king named Croesus. Croesus was so rich (his people, the Lydians, who lived in modern day Turkey, may actually have invented coinage, or at least solid silver or gold coinage) that we still 2500 or so years later have an expression, “. . . rich as Croesus.” People said it when I was growing up all the time and it was a thing. Anyway, rich as he was, when the celebrated wise man, Solon, paid him a visit, he made the mistake of asking him if he was the happiest person. Solon, undeterred by Croesus’ disappointment, explained that he wasn’t. Apparently, you have to be dead before you know, to see if you died well and what else was going to happen in your life. You can almost see Donald Trump asking some celebrated wise man this and being angered at the answer.

Croesus had some setbacks. His beloved son, who he tried to protect after being warned about his death by an oracle, was killed nevertheless in the manner predicted. He was totally f’d by an oracle and attacked Persia, destroying an empire, just as the oracle predicted – but it was his own. He was almost burned alive by Cyrus, the greatest conqueror of his generation, but, either through royal or divine intervention, survived and faithfully served his conqueror. But, given a measure of freedom, he was no longer a king. It did not seem like he met the expectations he set for himself or ever achieved the happiness he thought his wealth deserved. I have to say, I know a few people like that.

It would seem to me, applying Solon’s standards, McCain was wildly successful and happy. He arguably had a head start, being the son of an admiral who was the son of an admiral. I have not read any of his books, and I cannot say whether he had a pleasant or sad childhood, whether his birth was a benefit to him or too much pressure. Whatever it was, he ended up flying a bomber in the Vietnam War, was shot down, was gravely injured in his crash, worse when captured, worse when tortured for years. And, like Trump, he’d tell you he was no hero, he cracked. He signed a statement for his enemies and prepared to kill himself, stopped by his tormentors. He should not have suffered so. But, just the same, it probably forged his personality to a large degree, just by surviving it. I’m sure he would rather have done without it, a hundred times over. But, it also made his reputation forever. Even if it is a thin silver lining, it was something. Who besides him and Trump would say he wasn’t a hero? I’m sure there are some, because many people – many good people - can’t separate politics and character. McCain could and did. For all his famed feistiness, he was forgiving, probably more so than I am. He went back to Vietnam more than once, and was instrumental in that country’s partial reconciliation with us.

I have said before, I do not understand the story about his refusal to leave Vietnam before his turn (they went in order of capture), when the Northern Vietnamese found out his parentage. I do not understand why they didn’t tie him up in a box and drop him off at the Swiss embassy. What would they do? Give him back? Still, no one has ever challenged it and maybe it is true. I can’t say.

I listened to the eulogies of Joe Biden, Barack Obama and George Bush. McCain chose them to show we have to get past political differences, as he was justly famous for doing. And, they spoke well. Everyone has spoken movingly about him, obviously other than Trump, who, left out, has been wisely and uncharacteristically mostly silent about it. His daughter and son-in-law did attend and sat quietly through the withering “America has always been great,” shot at Trump by McCain’s daughter. To be honest, she’s entitled at her father’s funeral to some liberties, but, I thought it unnecessary, a distraction and not so wise.

Many commentators are, in fact, claiming the funeral, designed by McCain to a large extent, was a repudiation of Trump by his exclusion (though it was said if he came, no one would have stopped him).  I can’t say for sure, of course, but I think they are, too some degree, at least, correct. It was just a sentence here or there, but it was enough. Looking at it as generously as possible, in repudiating Trump, he was repudiating the one he sees as epitomizing what he didn’t like about politics in general on both sides.  But, how much a “healer” McCain would have appeared to be had he invited Trump?  I don’t think Trump is so narcissistic that he would have ruined the funeral, although others might have been ungracious to him. Trump Derangement Syndrome knows few boundaries.

How do you have healing when the president, elected by roughly half the electorate, and geographically speaking, most of the country, is excluded and mocked? If that was McCain’s plan, it was a dumb one. He’s not responsible for his daughter’s eulogy or the jabs taken here and there at the president. To the extent he would have smiled, well, the celebration of his life is marred by that too, because making it about Trump - which is now the media drumbeat, trivialized McCain's life - which was about so much more.

As always, I’m not trying to be remotely comprehensive about his life or even his funeral. I left a lot out that I know without reading it, and I’m sure there is even more on just Wikipedia that I don’t know. I don’t really care enough about the details to study it. I just know why I liked him so much more than everyone else, although, as stated in that 2006 post, I recognize that these are probably some of the same reasons others despise him. You know what they are too, so I don’t have to say. Nor do I want to try to compete with the eulogizers. They did pretty well, even Bush, with whom a speech can be a deadly weapon.

I’m just going to say, good-bye John. I think we are lucky to have had you. You made politics better, even if in a small way. Perhaps it was not with any lasting success, but some small success that will resonate here or there. Perhaps, like some of history's unsung heroes, it will be a long term victory rather than a short term one. Perhaps that’s the most anyone can do. And it definitely is not the same without you.

About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .