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?

‘A Total F***-up’: Russian Mercenaries in Syria Lament U.S. Strike That Killed Dozens

Russian mercenaries in Syria tried to attack Americans. The U.S. Army kicked their asses. Putin talks a good game but when push comes to shove we win.

Recordings have emerged in which Russian mercenaries subjected to a joint U.S. strike that killed dozens of their comrades describe the incident as “a total fuck-up.”

Polygraph.info, a Voice of America project, published three recordings, which it received from a source close to the Kremlin. The source said that the recorded phone calls were made by personnel from CHVK Wagner, a Russian private military company.

The incident in question occurred on the night and early morning of Feb. 7-8, when Syrian government forces—backed by Russian mercenaries employed by CHVK Wagner—attempted to capture an oil refinery near the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor. After Russian personnel came into contact with American troops stationed there, the U.S. forces responded with artillery and air strikes.

Source: ‘A Total F***-up’: Russian Mercenaries in Syria Lament U.S. Strike That Killed Dozens

The Deep State Takes Out the White House’s Dark Clown Prince

If you’ve ever filled out a form SF-86 for a U.S. government security clearance, you’ll know the hassle of dealing with the sheer volume of information it entails. Listing contacts, personal, financial, and travel information in enormous, painstaking detail isn’t trivial, and even small errors will get the form kicked back to you or your clearance rejected. Applicants are required to spell out in great detail the specifics of foreign travel and overseas contacts. Investigators need to know where you’ve made your money and to whom you have debts.

I did it in my early twenties when my life was relatively uncomplicated, and it was still a pain in the ass. It’s not easy, and it’s not supposed to be.

It’s even harder when you’re a corrupt, entitled snake who repeatedly lies about your finances to federal investigators and serves as a living, breathing poster child for privileged venality. It’s even harder when you’ve rather clumsily attempted to use both your familial relationship and proximity to the president of the United States to save your family’s failing real-estate empire.

All of which helps explain Jared Kushner’s very bad day on Tuesday. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a man who has compromised himself and his supposed values to accommodate and indulge President Trumphausen’s various whims, impulses, urges, feuds, and paranoid episodes, finally drew the line and busted Kushner’s security clearance down from TS/SCI to Walmart Greeter Background Check (Provisional).

Source: The Deep State Takes Out the White House’s Dark Clown Prince

Roads to nowhere: how infrastructure built on American inequality | Cities | The Guardian

This is a shocking, eye-opening look at the systemic racism in 1940s America. I had no idea this went on. On the bright side (and recognizing that we still have a lot of work to do) we have come a long way as a society.

It’s a little after 3pm in Detroit’s 8 Mile neighbourhood, and the cicadas are buzzing loudly in the trees. Children weave down the pavements on bicycles, while a pickup basketball game gets under way in a nearby park. The sky is a deep blue with only a hint of an approaching thunderstorm – in other words, a muggy, typical summer Sunday in Michigan’s largest city.

“8 Mile”, as the locals call it, is far from the much-touted economic “renaissance” taking place in Detroit’s centre. Tax delinquency and debt are still major issues, as they are in most places in the city. Crime and blight exist side by side with carefully trimmed hedgerows and mowed lawns, a patchwork that changes from block to block. In many ways it resembles every other blighted neighbourhood in the city – but with one significant difference. Hidden behind the oak-lined streets is an insidious piece of history that most Detroiters, let alone Americans, don’t even know exists: a half mile-long, 5ft tall concrete barrier that locals simply call “the wall”.

Source: Roads to nowhere: how infrastructure built on American inequality | Cities | The Guardian

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!”

Continue reading

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!”
Continue reading

Raleigh charities signed off on Simple Recycling deal

I’m still poking through all the meeting notes, but I thought it notable that the local Salvation Army signed off on the deal when it was presented to Raleigh City Council at its 3 January 2017 meeting. From Council minutes: [PDF]

Lisa Rivers, Salvation Army Advisory Board, told about herself, work she has done and stated she and the Salvation Army Advisory Board are huge advocates of the proposed program. They feel it would be cost efficient, provide positive environmental impacts, etc. Ms. Rivers pointed out she is on the committee which looks for/receives donations and feels the proposed program will actually increase the donations many nonprofits receive. She stated most people who donate do not consider their donations “trash.” She feels the proposed program is a great opportunity for all and feels it will create a lot of awareness related to needs, donations, be a great thing, and
be much more effective and provide a return for all. It is a great opportunity and will provide a great partnership.

Continue reading