Drawing the lines on sexual harassment

Rep. Duane Hall

Once upon a time, I learned of a former female coworker who had allegedly been sexually harassed by an executive at the company where we both worked. He had locked her in his office and demanded sexual favors from her. The man held all the cards: she was fresh out of college, she reported to him, and who would believe her word against his?

I was shocked and sickened by this allegation, having never had a clue it was going on, and lost all respect for this man to the point that I later turned down a lucrative job offer simply because it would have made him my boss.

I think it’s pretty clear when your boss locks you in his office and attacks you, that’s sexual harassment if not outright rape. It certainly isn’t consensual nor anywhere near that. It’s plainly wrong.

Then the #MeToo movement came around, a long-overdue reckoning of bad-boy behavior. Creep behavior from the likes of Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Matt Lauer, and Louis CK was rightfully called out and, I believe, we could all agree that what they did was wrong. But then Sen. Al Franken was forced to resign for a scripted kiss with LeeAnn Tweeden, a female fellow performer, and for pretending to grope her in a photograph. Both were on a USO tour that was clearly sexually charged by all involved parties.

Is this sexual harassment? Franken had no power over Tweeden. Both had agreed to perform and perhaps both had gotten carried away at times. I failed then and I fail now to see how a scripted kiss between two actors could possibly be construed as sexual harassment. My Democratic Party was all too happy to throw Franken – a man of great integrity who was known to champion women – under the bus to serve some absurdly unrealistic appearance of purity.

Bad taste? Perhaps. Sexual harassment? I’m not so sure.

These incidents were on my mind when last week news broke from Billy Ball at N.C. Policy Watch that several women were accusing N.C. Rep. Duane Hall of sexual misconduct. Hall was accused of chatting up a female Democratic campaign worker when they met at a bar, had a few drinks, and the topic of relationships was broached. I’m sorry, but I fail to see how the banter between an unmarried legislator and a female campaign operative who agreed to meet at a bar could be considered sexual harassment.

It’s a bar, for goodness sakes! That’s what people do at a bar! Stuff that goes on at a bar should be off the record.

As for allegations that Rep. Hall grabbed a woman at the Equality Ball and snapped a selfie with her against her will, he denies the allegation and makes a valid point that there were hundreds of people there, making it difficult to hide any alleged misconduct.

Is what Hall is accused of a hanging offense? I am not convinced. I know Hall and, yes, he can be flirty. I’ve only seen this in social situations, however, and have never seen it in any professional setting. A single male legislator chatting up women in social situations does not strike me as strange. It might seem stranger to me if this weren’t the case. Politics is, was, and always will be a very sexually-charged business. Confidence, competitiveness, and political power are attractive. Not to mention that the unique challenges of holding public office can make it a lonely endeavor.

And it’s not just males who take advantage of this. Many women in political office are known to be just as flirty, even some who are almost certainly speaking out against Rep. Hall under the cover of anonymity. Having been around politics for a while now I, too, have been the subject of this flirting on several occasions, including an unwanted kiss from an elected official. You know what? It’s no big deal to me. My wife chuckled when I told her of the kiss, taking it as seriously as I did. No harm, no foul.

What I do have a problem with is the pretense that our elected officials should be saints because saints are in very short supply and those that arearound tend not to make good leaders. There are degrees of appropriateness in any situation and it’s wrong (and, frankly, stupid) to paint every supposed transgression with the same brush. To group what Rep. Hall allegedly did with the deeds of Harvey Weintstein and others is false equivalence and a dangerous trap to fall into.

How about we always let the punishment fit the crime and not submit to knee-jerk reactions for the sake of saying we’ve done something?

There are two Americas, and one of them is stupid

Courtesy of TeeShopUSA.Com. Buy their stuff!

I was doing some online searching for a friend with whom I worked a long time ago, so I put her name into The Facebook to see if she was around. A woman with the same name came up in the search results. She was about the same age, listed as “retired,” and looked somewhat similar to how I imagined my friend to look now that twenty-five years have passed since I saw her last. Perusing this woman’s post soon convinced me this wasn’t the old friend I was looking for. In fact, there was this galling comment on this news story that made my jaw drop. It was on this BBC news story about the Lincoln Memorial being vandalized:

“What more do they want?”

“This is getting ridiculous,” she writes. “Lincoln freed the slaves – what more do they want? Oh I know – to erase America’s history!”

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Conservatives are blind to their own madness

A friend posted this account recently on their social media page:

A friend was standing in line at returns at Home Depot yesterday when the white man in front of him told another man, who was hispanic, he was going to call Trump to come get him. I was horrified and would not be able to keep my mouth shut if I had been confronted by that bigoted white man. Disgust!!!!!

Immediately, one of my friend’s friends, apparently a conservative, piped up with this:

What about freedom of speech? Please explain “HOW” this man is a bigot? It was probably not a nice thing to say, but we do have freedom of speech.

When several others on the thread pointed out how bigoted Conservative Person sounds, Conservative Person wilted from the controversy, claiming loudly “you don’t know me!”
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No one does it alone

Will Rogers on “Trickle Down”

A few weeks ago I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw one of my liberal friends had posted humorist Will Rogers’s famous “trickle down” quote. My friend didn’t offer much (if any) commentary on it other than to post it, and indeed I’ve seen it widely shared. It’s worthy of sharing.

Then I noticed a few comments down that the quote had drawn a dissenting voice. A conservative friend of his took offense at the quote, essentially griping that if people would simply work hard they’d get whatever manna that was coming to them. Conservative Guy then berated Liberal Guy for doing nothing for the country and implied that Liberal Guy wasn’t a true citizen because Conservative Guy served in the military and Liberal Guy did not. It didn’t seem to matter to Conservative Guy that Liberal Guy had worked since he was 16 in a very physically-demanding line of work.
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Men behaving badly and false equivalence

Worst. Grope. Ever.

John Oliver had a wonderful show recently discussing the logical fallacies employed by Donald Trump whenever he’s challenged on his numerous falsehoods. One thing to watch out for (and not just from Trump) is false equivalence.

This has been the season for bringing misogyny into the open. Beginning with Harvey Weinstein, a parade of dumbshit men like Roy Moore, Lewis C.K., Charlie Rose and others have been exposed for their misogynist, sexist, and degrading behavior towards women.

Overall, I say right on. These men abused the trust of the women who looked up to them. Some, like Moore, crossed a moral line (if not a legal one) in chasing teenage girls. The transgressions all have different shades but overall they consist of a man abusing his power or authority over women and/or girls.

This brings us to the case of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN). Franken has been accused by LeeAnn Tweeden of an unwanted sexual advance, saying Franken aggressively kissed her during a rehearsal of a USO sketch they were both doing:

He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.

I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time.

I walked away. All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth.

I felt disgusted and violated.

No photos exist of the kiss in question and Franken remembers it differently.

I hated to think that Franken was a scumbag the likes of Moore and Rose. He’s always seemed like a good, upstanding guy, those Minnesota values still strong in him. Over time, though, I had to conclude that this was something different.

According to Tweeden, she and Franken were rehearsing a kiss that was scripted into their sketch. It was no surprise. It was no unwanted advance. They were both acting. This was something they had agreed to do. You can debate the intensity of the kiss, sure, but it was in the script.

Secondly, Franken held no power of Tweeden. He was not her boss nor was her career hanging in the balance if she refused his kiss (which, as I just pointed out, was part of a sketch). In 2006, Franken was a minor celebrity at best. He was a former SNL writer, a bestselling author, and a radio host on Air America, a struggling liberal talk show network. Though I like his SNL work, no one would mistake Franken for a comedy industry titan, able to make or break careers.

Thirdly, let’s take a look at the photograph Tweeden says shows Franken allegedly groping her. Franken is not even touching Tweeden. He couldn’t touch her if he tried because she’s wearing a flak jacket. Tweeden nevertheless claims he did:

I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep.

I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated.

How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?

On this USO tour Tweeden has been shown to be open to grabbing, if not being grabbed herself, as a photo of her on stage shows her helping herself to a big ol’ handful of guitarist butt.

Double standard much?

Was Franken’s photo in bad taste? Possibly. Was there any contact? Not according to the photo. It looks to me like everyone got chummy and now that suddenly has become a problem for Tweeden.

It is a false equivalence to compare Franken’s actions with the likes of pedophile Roy Moore or misogynists like Weinstein, Rose, or Louis C.K. For those who want to wag their finger at liberals for allegedly turning a blind eye to Franken’s actions just because he’s a liberal, too, get real! Franken’s alleged misdeeds have been blown totally out of proportion and don’t compare to the actions of the others.

I’m disgusted with bad behavior of Weinstein, Rose, and Louis C.K., who are all liberals, and will freely say so. Not painting Franken with the same brush, though, has nothing to do with liberals protecting our own and everything to do with weighing the evidence.

Red Hat IPO

A red hat

I was thinking about the early days of Red Hat this weekend and the company’s IPO. That got me looking up Red Hat’s S-1 statement which was filed for their IPO. Two things made me laugh:

1. Red Hat all of 125 employees when it went public, and
2. Red Hat actually told investors it was banking on ad revenue from its website!


We seek to enhance our position as a leading provider of open source software and services by:

– continuing to enhance our Web site to create the definitive online destination for the open source community; [Emphasis mine]

– expanding our professional services capabilities to capture large corporate business on an enterprise basis;

– increasing market acceptance of open source software, particularly through technology alliances and sharing our development efforts and resources with third-party developers;

– continuing to invest in the development of open source technology; and

– enhancing the Red Hat brand through targeted advertising and public relations campaigns.

What makes this even funnier is that the S-1 also lists Google as a Red Hat customer:

Red Hat Customers in 1999

Hmm, where do you think all of that web advertising revenue went?

The company is quite different today than the company that went public in 1999, which seems to have been more smoke and mirrors. I’m glad they finally figured it out because it’s good to still have them around!

Blogging tugs at me again

A teletype keyboard at the Living Computer Museum, Seattle, WAAs I scrolled through Facebook today, I noticed the location on a friend’s post was listed as Hayes, NC. It turns out that Hayes does not exist as a municipality but still appears on maps as it was once a stop on the railroad. That reminded me of the old “Neuse Station” depot that I used to live near and how it, too, shows up in maps as Neuse, NC though there’s nothing really there. I then did a search of my blog for posts including “depot” and turned up a great one I wrote in 2005 when I researched Neuse Station:

It was a day spent working in my yard which ignited my current interest. I took a break from digging a trench to climb up the hill near the tracks. On my way up, I spotted the stump of a sawed-off telephone pole. Nearby was a glass insulator, which led me to discover a long length of telegraph wire.

Curiosity got to me. How old was that wire?

I started putting a picture together from the resources on the Internet. These tracks behind our house are the oldest railroad tracks in North Carolina. They belonged to the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad, which was commissioned in 1834 to build a line from Raleigh to Gaston, where other lines led to Petersburg and Norfolk.

Work was slow and sloppy, but progress was eventually made. The first stop northward was a station called Huntsville. Later this stop became known as Neuse Station. Neuse was located right outside my neighborhood. That makes this spot near my neighborhood the second-oldest depot in the state.

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