Nondisclosure

There is a movement afoot to make it illegal to require that a victim of sexual harassment sign an agreement requiring her or him to not tell anyone.

But first, some activists have argued that men charged with sexual harassment but who reached agreements with their accusers to not disclose in exchange for money should voluntarily release them from these agreements so they can be named and publicly shamed.

These activists virtually never admit or concede or even acknowledge that since the women/victims were paid a “settlement” in exchange for this agreement, that they should then return the money.  No, they should be allowed to accept a large settlement in exchange for their silence and then turn around and break the agreement for which they were paid, with impunity.

By accepting these agreements– and the money, of course– one might conclude that these women actually facilitated the abuse of other women who might otherwise have been informed about the transgressive behavior of this particular male.  But nobody wants to admit that, so let’s move on.  That would make women complicit.  That would undermine the narrative that it is always men who abuse.

It might also lead to distasteful thoughts about victims who might be after money and who might be willing blur a few distinctions in order to get it.   The CBC allowed three women panelists to insist that there is never any “collateral damage”, in other words, men who might be innocent of allegations made by a woman.  There are no “false allegations”.   This is easily debunked, but the CBC did not present any counter arguments.  In fact, it is ridiculously easily debunked.

So now it is proposed that such agreements should never be made.  I wonder if these activists, including several members of Congress, realize the implications of this change.

In a typical case of sexual harassment– though none are really “typical”– a woman is the victim of inappropriate and harassing behaviours by a male employee, coworker, customer, or supervisor.  Perhaps she complains to a supervisor or an HR staff member about the behavior.   A meeting may be arranged.  The man is confronted with the woman’s account of the incident.

Here’s the crux.  The goal of the HR department and the company will be to keep the name of the company from being dragged through the mud, which is typically why they offer money to the woman to go away and keep silent.  In these situations, the perpetrator may be convinced to confess and apologize and acknowledge wrong-doing.   But under the new regime– no “non-disclosure” agreement– the man and the company that employs him have very little incentive to offer a settlement to the woman.  She can go public anyway.

She cannot be asked to sign an agreement that, in exchange for the money, she will not go public.  The perpetrator has no incentive to apologize.  The HR Department has no incentive to pay.  They may take their chances in court instead.

It is possible that some companies will acknowledge fault and offer the woman money anyway, trusting that disclosure of the fact that they offered her compensation will be enough to salvage the company’s reputation.   The alleged abuser may also acknowledge fault and offer to “make it right”.

Or given that there is no possibility of confidentiality, will the alleged abuser choose instead to deny, deny, deny, like Donald Trump and Roy Moore?  And accuse the woman of lying?  And, probably, put a lot of effort into attempting to discredit the accusations?  In a situation in which, otherwise, the woman might have been offered an apology and a lot of money in exchange for her silence?

Would most women prefer this option?  Might they find the prospect of a determined fight distasteful and prefer to just keep quiet about it.  Might they not begin to conclude that it’s not worth the hassle?

The women activists pushing this option might well be convinced that things have changed so much that accusations will always be believed and companies always penalized and the money forthcoming always, easily, and generously.

They can sue instead.  But you can’t sue without the accused having the right to defend himself.  That means he (his lawyers, that is) can cross-examine.  That means you might have to testify.   Many feminist lawyers despise cross-examination in these cases because they seem to believe that the woman should be automatically be assumed to be telling the truth, they way they were all telling the truth about Jian Ghomeshi.  Until cross-examination.  Until the e-mail messages were revealed.   Until it was shown that they lied.

 

 

 

 

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Can We Still Be Friends

Back in the 1970′s, Todd Rungren was dating a young woman– a model and Playboy Magazine Playmate– named Bebe Buell.  Bebe, in the vernacular of the day, “got around”.  She gave birth to a baby girl whom Rungren adored, only to discover, years later, apparently, that the child was fathered by Steve Tyler.  Yes, that baby was Liv Tyler.  Who famously played a psychiatrist in one of the most appallingly dumb movies I’ve ever seen, “Reign Over Me”.  Only in the movies, is a young, sexually attractive psychiatrist compelled to beg her patients to come in, and only in the movies, do they come in when they don’t want to.  That conflict, you see, allows you to feel fabulous about role-playing this scenario out in your head: Liv Tyler wants me.  I know she does.  She will even cancel all her other appointments — which have no existence outside of her appointment book in this movie anyway– and go racing around Manhattan to look for me, because I am just so special.  Cue the glycerin tears!

Anyway, Todd Rungren was dating Liv Tyler’s mother, but it wasn’t going well, obviously.  He wrote a song around that time:  “Can We Still Be Friends”, which sounds a lot like a painful ode to a relationship that had promise but is now disintegrating.

I’ve always thought it was a great song.  Unusual.  The idea of remaining friends is often given a passing slap of the hand in popular songs about failed relationships, but in “Can We Still Be Friends”, it gets the full 3 minutes of attention it deserves.  It’s the opposite of “Don’t Think Twice” and “It Aint me Babe” even though they are both breakup songs.  “You just kind of wasted my precious time” is too much truth for anybody.  “Someone who would die for you and more”.   Indeed.

After I started writing this, I planned to include a quote from the song to demonstrate how acute it was, how poetic the lyrics, how marvelous the insights.  But I ransacked the verses and have nothing that isn’t really kind of a cliche: “memories linger on/It’s like a sweet, sad, old song”.  Yeah, that’s original.

“We awoke from our dreams/Things are not always what they seem”.  Yeah, nailed it.

All right– so it’s not a masterpiece.  I will concede that musically, it is fresh.   The “la-la” chorus fades into echoes of itself, before joining into a large group affirming there is a future for this relationship, if only…

It’s just associated in my mind with a relationship that went bad long ago, and music always tickles us somewhere.

 

 

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The Death of Great Audio

At the latest consumer electronics shows, there was not a single headphone with the traditional 3.5mm jack being offered. Not one. But no wireless connection has the sound range of a traditional wired connector. Of course, lower quality didn’t stop the CD, or MP3, or bookshelf speakers, or Radio Shack– so why should it stop bluetooth?

It should be a bit surprising, given the pace of technological innovation.  We’re all watching HD television now, and a lot of us even have 4K.  And then we buy ourselves a bluetooth headset.  Because it’s convenient.

Quality is overrated.

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The Diet Cookies Weren’t Working so I ate More of Them

This is an actual quote from the NY Times, January 22, 2018:

“There were many ways I tried to make it stop, which included giving in to having sex with him, which I did but was disassociated, frozen inside myself, barely there,” Ms. Rubinstein recalled.

Yes it is.   When she first reported this, in 2006, Ms. Rubinstein acknowledged that she had had an affair with the cad.  The cad was the director of Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven.  Forget all that– he will now only be remembered as a man who had sex.

It’s a novel approach, Ms. Rubinstein.   You wonder if it leaves room for ambiguity in the minds of neutral observers.  But I heard three women on the CBC the other day– all experts, of course– claiming that all allegations are always true.  I am not exaggerating in the least: I turned the radio up to make sure I understood them correctly.  “What collateral damage”?  one of the me exclaimed,  insisting there was none.

There are no innocent men.  Not even if you have pity sex with them.

One of them said that when you heard about the horrible feelings that one victim had about her victimization you can’t possibly give the slightest credence to the perp’s denials.  No awful story about reputations shattered livelihoods destroyed, or families broken up will ever elicit that kind of compassion.  No University of Virginia, no Lacrosse team, no Paul Nungesser, no, no, no.

There very obviously is a lot of collateral damage.  But I’m not sure these women would disagree with me about the basic facts– for example, the woman who charged a man with rape and was later found to have text messages on her phone that expressed more than consent:  she was enthusiastic.  It did not happen as she reported to the police.  The charges– after destroying this man’s reputation– were dropped.

It was a stimulating discussion by the three women on the CBC.  It got me seriously wondering about perception and judgement and memory.

I’m not sure these three women would not have just said, well, it was rape anyway.  If she feels it was rape now, then it was rape.  She’s not lying– just expressing an inner conviction about certain qualities of her relationship with this man.  That is enough.  And even if it wasn’t rape, he was a man who did not give her what she wanted: that is enough to justify vilifying him.  Nobody else should ever be friends with him.  They should be friends with me.

 

 

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The Billie Jean King Hoax

First of all, why did anyone ever think it would seriously prove anything if a 30-year-old woman, ranked second in the world, beat a 55-year-old man at tennis?  Were women really ready to parade down Main Street shouting to the roof-tops, “we are just as good…. as old men.”  Even Billie Jean King knew the equation.

Secondly, did Billie Jean King really beat Riggs, or did Riggs throw the match?  Was the match, as sports journalist Don Van natta Jr. implies, fixed?  (Von Natta Jr. probably doesn’t have a “smoking gun”; he takes what he does know, however, and builds a pretty strong case.)

I never did think much of King’s victory.  Riggs, at 55, decisively and humiliatingly crushed the number 1 ranked woman in the world, Margaret Court, just a few months before the King match.  In the time leading up to his match with Court, Riggs practiced up to 12 hours day, lost weight, worked on his fitness, exercised, and trained.  In the months leading up to the King match, he gained weight, stopped practicing (he didn’t even do a proper warm up in the days leading up to the match), drank, partied, and generally did everything he could to ensure that this 55-year-old would not be in any condition to beat any serious competitor in a full-length match.  During the match itself, Riggs made many unforced errors and double-faulted on critical serve after serve, a performance that was so uncharacteristic that the broadcast team, which included Howard Cosell, thought there might be something wrong with him.

If his intent had been to up the odds, by crushing Margaret Court, and then betting against himself against King, he could not have been more perfect.  He made it look like it was simply personal carelessness and sloppiness: not a plot.

If King’s victory had been emblematic of a shift in perception of women’s abilities and competence, why not sequels?  Why didn’t we ever see Navratilova or Evert or Hingus take on any of the leading male players?

The answer is obvious: because, like Court, they would have been humiliated.  They would have been destroyed.

In the movie, “The Battle of the Sexes”, great care is taken to imply that Margaret Court lost to Riggs because she was nervous.  She choked.  The same woman who won 24 of 47 Grand Slam tournaments.  She suddenly couldn’t take the spotlight?  But there is a reason why “The Battle of the Sexes” wants you to think that: because King had to be shown to win because she was a superior tennis player (to a 55-year-old man, no escaping that).  Nobody believes that King was very much superior to Margaret Court in 1973.  So if it wasn’t confidence, what could it be?  Could it be, as many have long suspected, that Riggs threw the match?  The film doesn’t want to let you think that.

So the narrative has been promulgated that King proved something when she beat this washed-up, out-of-shape, clown.  If I were a woman, I would be embarrassed that anyone ever tried to claim that this match proved anything about women’s capabilities.

 

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A Long Way From Little

Being the youngest of 8 children, many stray albums found their way into my grubby little hands as I grew up.  One of them was Melanie’s “Born to Be”.  I have no idea who brought it into the house, but I think it was abandoned.  I listened to it and grew attached to the raw power and bluesy darkness of the music on it.  One of the songs was “I Really Loved  Harold”.  I found it haunting.

The narrator recounts how she was told when she was little that she would go to heaven if she was good.  Now, she says, she is a long way from heaven, because she tried to find it herself. She thought she loved Harold, then she thought she loved John, and then Alfie, and “almost” Tom.  She loved them “so easy” and loved them “so free”, that she realizes that heaven will not want “to love me”.

It is a dark song, far darker than I even remember, and I remember it as dark and, like I said, haunting.  This young woman had sex with several men.  She was what some of the boys in my class at school would have called a “slut”.  The relationships failed and she moved on in a desperate search for the “heaven” of romantic and sexual love.  But she realizes her mistake too late: heaven will not want to shine on her.

I wonder if she performs the song today, in her concerts (which she still gives, as kind of a nostalgia act).  It would highlight the strange, archaic quality of the song– from a time when a girl who willingly had sex with more than one man could be called a “slut”.  It is amazing that she put it into a song, a confessional song.

Her most exquisite verse:

Hallo, song of the willow,
The dreams under my pillow,
Turned to tears that I cried.
Beauty and love are our riddle,
Never to answer, but always to try.
And, boy, did I try.

There is a raft of novels in that verse: the quest of a young woman to reconcile her ideals of beauty and truth and love with the reality of being, perhaps, ill-used, or with the realization that whatever it is men want from these relationships it was not hers to give or to take, in an enduring sense.  Ill-used?  Today, feminists would have a different term for it, but they would be just as inadequate in defining it as Melanie was when she “tried”.  The difference is, Melanie knows it’s a riddle, and reaches for poetry to express it.  The feminists  think they know it but if they do, they can’t express it.  The feminists think men don’t know it because if they did know it they would admit that the feminists are right.

So if you think Melanie was old-school compliant and dependent you might be surprised to read about her history with record labels and promoters.  She was her own woman, as independent-minded and formidable as any one, willing to dump a major recording contract when they didn’t respect her artistic integrity.

Another thing I remember about Melanie was a bizarre appearance on Ed Sullivan.  Sullivan usually looked a bit askance at pop acts.  He presented them because he wanted to be relevant and kind of hip but you could tell he didn’t know what to make of them and longed to get back to the talking Mexican mouse.  When he introduced Melanie, however, he clearly was impressed by something about her.  She was sitting on the floor of the stage surrounded by friends– one thinks of the word “acolytes”– looking groovy and priestessly and magical, and Sullivan chatted with her for a moment and she seemed totally befuddled by this strange man in a suit trying to ingratiate himself with her.  She smiled as if Sullivan were talking in a language she didn’t understand and she didn’t want to be rude.

She performed “Peace Will Come According to Plan”, if I remember correctly.

She also appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  Again, she is clearly respected and admired by the host: unusually, Carson tries for sincerity.  And you can see why: she seems utterly authentic and real.  You can almost see Sandy Duncan and Ed McMahon on the couch shrinking from her in fear.  For God’s sake, don’t ask me if I believe in peace or spirits or mother earth!

An exquisite performance of “Lay Down”.  Note that really strange audience she is performing for, in Germany.  They look like they have no idea.  They clap like they had been instructed to just before the performance.

The evil twin of “I Really Love Harold”, by the way, is Alanis Morrisette’s “Unsent“.  In one  generation, the experience of casual sex has been transformed from shame and despair to how good it felt to cry in front of him for the first time or fall asleep on his couch.

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Lying Scumbags

It was commonly accepted that the FISA Warrantless Surveillance Bill violated several sacred constitutional principles including the right to privacy.  It was passed in the wake of 9/11 because American politicians were scared shitless of terrorism, or of the public perception that they might not be doing enough to prevent future terrorist attacks, which might kill another 3,000 people, even while the public was delighted that they did nothing to prevent 30,000 people a year from dying by gunshot.

The rationale was thus: yes, it is wrong.  Yes, it violates your privacy.  But these are extraordinary times– we are at “war” with violent terrorists.  The law is justified.  Just to reassure everyone, they included a sunset provision: this law will expire in 6 years.  See?  We’re not violating your rights.  We’re not spying on everyone.  We’re not instituting measures that begin to make your government look and function like Big Brother.  Oh no– because there is an expiry date.

Even the Supreme Court bought that we live in extraordinary times.  We can no longer afford privacy.

I predicted, when it was first passed, that the measure would never be repealed.  That U.S. politicians (and Canadian) were lying.  Why?

You don’t need to understand philosopher Karl Popper to appreciate the philosophical framework behind my point.  But it would help.   In essence, if something is really true, you could, theoretically, prove it was false.  In this situation, the “truth” we are asked to believe is that we are under such dire threats from terrorism that we need this extraordinary law in order to deal with these unusual, exceptional, threats.

I ask you to consider: do you believe there will come a time when politicians will be prepared to say, oh, the threat has passed: we can now rescind the FISA Warrantless Surveillance Act!  Congratulations, everyone– you have your privacy, and the constitution, back?

It will never happen.  We have voluntarily and willingly allowed our government to adopt repugnant measures depriving us of rights we have always been told were sacred.

Since 9/11, there has really been no significant attacks in the U.S. from foreign terrorists (which is what the FISA Warrantless Surveillance Act is supposed to address).  We have had numerous, horrific attacks by domestic terrorists.  Nothing will be done to stop them because that would involve a teensy, weensy infringement of the rights of white Americans to carry powerful weapons around with them.  Nothing can be done.  Not a thing.  Too bad!  Suck it up and hope none of your loved ones happen to be a victim!

Yet, Congress will re-enable the FISA Warrantless Surveillance Act.  Because they can.  Because the authorities want this power and they DO NOT CARE about your right to privacy.  They really do not.  They don’t.  They sing praises and anthems and worship at the alter of the Constitution mainly for your entertainment: they don’t really believe it.  They don’t really care.  They want to spy on you.

They will sell it to you as this: they really believe that the only reason you would not want the government to read your mail or listen in on your phone call is because you are up to no good.  All right-thinking Americans have nothing to fear.  Do they really believe it?  Do you really believe that the FBI or Homeland Security would tell Congress that they really don’t need FISA anymore?  We don’t need it.  We don’t mind not being able to read anyone’s email whenever we damn well feel like it.

Would a single politician– other than the heroic Bernie Sanders– campaign on the policy of repealing FISA, or even not renewing it?  Only a politician with courage and real principles would do that.  That leaves Bernie Sanders, and, I think, Ron Paul.

There will always be incidents in Europe and America that can easily be made to justify the FISA Warrantless Surveillance Act because you Americans are so easily manipulated and so gullible that you will believe whatever they say.

You Americans don’t deserve Democracy.  You rolled over like mewing kittens as soon as your senator or your congressman said “boo”!

If I was in Congress and had enough support, I would add a proviso to the bill.  I would require that all conversations, emails, texts, and other communications by all members of Congress be recorded and handed over to the FBI, and your local police, and maybe the school board, and maybe posted on the internet, and transcribed in pen and ink and mailed to their mothers.

Why would they object?  What’s the problem?  What are you hiding?   You’re not a terrorist, are you?

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Revisionism

Holocaust Museum Retracts the Truth

It is despicable to research something, analyze, think carefully about it, consider all the facts, and then come to a conclusion, and then change your conclusion because it is unpopular.

That is what happened when the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. decided to look at the Syrian situation: was there something the U.S. could have been done to prevent the deaths of 100′s of thousands of innocent civilians?

Something that we didn’t already know?

What we already knew was that many of the anti-Assad forces on the ground were not “freedom fighters”: they were thinly disguised ISIS and Al Qaeda forces who understood that getting support from gullible U.S. politicians– like John McCain– depended on some of them sounding democratic and liberal and friendly to American interests.  The radicals quickly turned on the democratic groups and eventually annihilated them.   The extremists couldn’t even wait for victory against the common foe.

This was not a carefully kept secret.  The more astute analysts knew this very early on, even before Assad used chemical weapons.  A PBS Frontline documentary on Syria caught the moment when the democratic forces were compelled to turn away from Assad’s army to defend themselves against ISIS.

The only trustworthy forces in war on Assad were the Kurds.  What is going to happen to them is an object lesson in how Americans– sometimes with good intentions, and sometimes not– often screw things up when they engage in foreign adventures.

The Kurds are about to get royally screwed by the Turks, Iraq, Iran, and America.  So long, and thanks for the fish.  The Turks will not tolerate any kind of regional Kurdish authority or state in Syria or Iraq; neither will Iran or Iraq, both of whom have regions that include Kurdish populations, all of whom would like an independent state.  The Americans will roll over very quickly on this.  Thank you, to the only reasonably respectable ally we have in the region, for your blood and your determination and your success.  So long and thanks for the fish.  This is America: we are more loyal to despotic regimes like Egypt and Saudi Arabia than we are to the most loyal and efficient friends in the region, and the only ones who actually respect women.

We know that the U.S. has been unable to finish their wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that their intervention in Libya was a disaster for everyone, and that they now sponsor another corrupt dictator in Egypt.  Why would we not believe we could bring democracy to Syria with a few bombing runs and missiles?

The researchers at the Holocaust Museum understood that.  Until they were told to understand otherwise.  When they published their conclusions, that there was little America could have done that would have been effective or useful, or would have reduced the carnage, there was outrage among those who really want to see Obama’s reputation sullied for not having invaded– or least, bombed extensively– Syria.

The despicable part is that those researchers retracted their conclusions to make those people happy.

And now their reputation is deservedly sullied.

 

 

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Decrypt-Kickers

Interesting thought: what if governments hired someone to secretly install ransom-ware software on some computers, demand a payment in bitcoin, and then very publicly renege on the deals and refused to decrypt the affected computers.

The CBC would love it and give the story wide exposure.  Anything that scares people is food for thought on the CBC on the afternoon drive home.

So, the next time you got a virus like that, you would think, why would I pay?  They won’t decrypt my hard drive anyway?  Soon all the hackers trying to extort money would go mad: no one pays anymore!  We’re ruined!

Or would you pay it anyway, on the remote perceived hope that this one would be the exception?  You really, really want those baby pictures back?  There are millions of there out there.  I’ll set up a website for you where they can be shared.

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Every Last Square Inch

It is striking to me that the interests in the U.S. and Canada that wish to promote more forestry, mining, and oil drilling have no inherent interest in preserving even one square foot of pristine wilderness or ocean. They do not care. They can never care: that’s not what they do. They would, if not prevented, take every last tree, mine every wilderness, and drill every square foot of shoreline. After they despoil an area, they sell their interests to small shadow companies that often end up bankrupt before they are able to pay the costs of any form of restoration. Google inactive mining sites to see the results.

Assuming that a reasonable person would agree that some of these activities produce a public good– jobs, government income, useful products– it is alarming when a government openly promotes unlimited access to natural resources, even in areas it once “protected”. This is publicly described as a “balanced” approach when it is clear that the government itself has joined its interests with those of the industries it is supposed to regulate and completely excluded the public interest in preservation. As when the EPA chief– the “Environmental Protection Agency” is an industry flack, as he is now.

Teddy Roosevelt understood that mining and oil and forestry companies have no reason to preserve anything. George W. Bush understood it. I think even Ronald Reagan liked some natural wilderness. I don’t think Trump would know a wilderness if it slapped him in the face with its flipper, and I suspect that if he was shown a wilderness area he would say something like, “what a great place for a casino.” He will probably do what most Republicans have done in the past: partition off a small portion for “preservation” and open the rest to drilling. He knows full well that in twenty years, a new Republican administration will look at that preserved area and go, “hey, why can’t we drill there? Look at all the high-paying jobs.” and a new smaller portion will be partitioned off for “preservation”.

And there will be lots of chortling and giggling among the oil executives at short memories and big cars.

I know this is long and probably boring but I was just reading about the Trump administration’s plans to open the ANWR to oil exploration. One of the very last remaining areas of pristine wilderness. And they want that too. I think that area is unbelievably beautiful and should be preserved, like Tombstone Park up near Dawson City with its stunning vistas. I don’t think this administration thinks there is the slightest value in that beauty. Even worse: they don’t see any value in respecting the wishes of the constituency that does wish to preserve it.

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