Kavanaugh’s Witchcraft

One of the more obscure rulings made by Judge Kavanaugh earlier in his career is that the Department of Defense should be allowed to keep secret it’s own studies on the efficacy of lie detector tests.  Kavanaugh ruled that because keeping this information secret could be useful to prosecutors, it should be kept secret.

Presumably, if prosecutors could convince a suspect that the ghost of the alleged victim had fingered him, Kavanaugh is on-board with keeping the fact that ghosts don’t exist a secret from the suspect.

More reasonably, if the prosecutor in a case asserted that fibres found on the body of the victim matched fibres found in the suspect’s closet, the defense should not have the right to ask the prosecutor how they know that the fibres don’t match fibres from anyone else’s closet.   It is possible that you could find those same fibres anywhere you cared to look– there is no science behind it.  Kavanaugh is on-board with keeping this a secret because it would help the prosecutors to keep it a secret.

We know what the secret is: lie detector tests are unreliable.  In short, they lie.  And we know how the police and prosecutors use them.  They have, in the past, and probably still today, lie to suspects about the results of their lie-detector tests.  You lied.  We know it.  You might as well confess.  This, it supposed, will be shattering to the self-confidence of hardened criminals.  The trouble is, it really will be shattering to the self-confidence of innocent but gullible suspects.

It also helps when they ask a suspect to take a lie detector test and the suspect, wisely, refuses.   Why?  What are you hiding?  No innocent man would refuse.

Yes he would, if he was smart.  Because if he passes the test it will not alter the beliefs of the police or the prosecutor, but if he fails the test they will flog him with the results until he confesses.  They will threaten to charge him with the most serious crimes that could be linked in any way to the actual crime, unless he agrees to plead guilty to a lessor offense, providing the police and prosecutors with their scalp.  How many court cases are actually settled outside of the courtroom, with plea-deals like that?  Over 90%.

I was surprised– well, not totally– when Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey-Ford, announced that she had taken a lie-detector test on the subject of her attempted rape when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17, and passed.  Kavanaugh himself should salute her: smart girl.  There are a lot of suckers out there who will believe that this fact is determinant.  I don’t.

It’s an interesting ruling that indicates just how far Mr. Kavanaugh is willing to go to protect the power and privileges of the nation’s police.  That’s the real reason he should not be confirmed.


[whohit]Kavanaugh’s Witchcraft[/whohit]

The Wives

There is a movie coming out soon called “The Wife”.  From the early reviews and synopsis it sounds like this: a great American writer wins the Nobel Prize for literature.  We are assumed to believe that because he is a great writer he must also be a great husband and father, even though nobody I know of, who has any awareness of the biography of any well-known person, would ever assume this.   But, shockingly, we find out that he has been mean and unfaithful, while his loyal and selfless wife has sacrificed her own stellar career to serve as his constant help-meet, washing his clothes, making his meals, cleaning his house, and raising the son who now resents his successful father.  So we are to hate him and admire the plucky woman for, apparently, in the end, finally–finally!– summoning the amazing courage to stand up to him.

We are supposed to be shocked, as I said, that a brilliant writer might be a lousy husband.  We are supposed to find irrelevant any aspects of the wife’s character that might diminish the horror we are to feel.  But then, they don’t tell that story.  In the story I expect, she is faultless.  She’s not manipulative or needy or nagging or petty or vindictive.  She didn’t push him into marriage.  She didn’t spend his money as if she had earned it.   She is just perfect.  It wouldn’t shock me– this is Hollywood– that we find out that she actually wrote all his books.  [I just checked a review: I think I’m correct.  That’s too bad: it would probably have been a more interesting movie if he had been terrified of her, that she would reveal the secret, and she used this dynamic to toy with him.]

And it is incredible how someone in a relationship with such a perfect being could fail to treat her like a goddess.

[When the movie arrives, I’ll see it, and correct my impression if necessary.]

Added January 19, 2019: I have seen the movie now: I was correct.  Pretty well, exactly correct.  Though I think the film-makers thought her nagging of Joe was adorable in some way.  What it reveals is that this story, written by a woman, is really judging Joe as a husband who didn’t appreciate everything his wife did for him.  The fact that she supposedly wrote most of his work– the most preposterous and unbelievable aspect of the story– is incidental to the real point:  he wasn’t nice enough to her.   Or to his son– in the movie, Joe is a prick for not being more supportive.  In real life, of course, we all are especially appreciative of those privileged people who get published because they were related to someone with strings to pull, like Joe Castleman.  (Look at Ingmar Bergman’s daughter, Linn Ullmann, who was extremely wary of attracting readers who were more interested in her famous parents than in her writing.)  The fact that David, the son, doesn’t seem to realize what position he has put his father in — how dare you not recognize my talent!– tells you just how mediocre the thinking behind this film is.

From the start, Joan seems paralyzed by the realization that she has wasted her life devoting herself to a man incapable of even the most momentary act of selflessness.  [Slant]

WTF?  Wait a minute– you are trying to suggest that she is actually an incredibly worthy person because she actually wrote the award-winning books so her husband could take all the honors.  Then you suggest that what really matters is that he wasn’t grateful! 

So Joan is “selfless”?  But if she was– think about this– if she really was selfless, she wouldn’t care.  That is what selflessness is.  But she is in fact very selfish because she expects a considerable amount of gratitude and respect in exchange for the waste of her life.  Her “love” is more like overflowing self-infatuation.  Her view of justice is that now that I’ve done all these things for you, you owe me.

Is the remarkable thing here that a person can be an asshole?  Or that a person can devote her life to serving an asshole and not realize it until she is old?  I’m not sure, in the end, that there is anything to admire about this woman.  Seriously?  You didn’t leave?  Are you an idiot?  Are we now supposed to be moved by your predicament?

It also appears “The Wife” will suggest that the wife would not have received recognition if she had struck out on her own, as a woman, right at the start.  Because the establishment is dominated by men.  But that only matters if she didn’t really care about literature— if it was the recognition that mattered, and the material success.   That men think she is just as good as they are.   Even though she didn’t take any of the steps necessary to become a successful novelist.

Besides, this will be shocking news to Doris Lessing, Shirley Jackson, Patricia Highsmith, Flannery O’Conner, Francoise Sagan, Agatha Christie, Sylvia Plath and others.

Because she’s entitled.

Isn’t that exactly the difference between great artists and mediocre ones?

You think you’re so smart, you men.

It would be a far, far more interesting movie if she didn’t care about the fucking Nobel prize or any other prize: if what she really cared about was writing something beautiful and true, for the satisfaction of those who didn’t care about awards or celebrities or what fucking outfit she was wearing, or if Oprah will have her on, or if men still find her sexually attractive at 50,  but only about the really beautiful and original and profound and true.

Like Doris Lessing.  Or Muriel Spark.  Or Alice Munro.

And I would wager that, in this movie, her outfits are to die for.  Because, she really only cares about real literature.  [They were.  At least, if you care about the fashion.]

It will be irresistible to the Oprah crowd.  Oprah, who wouldn’t make Jonathan Franzen’s novel a book of the month unless he agreed to appear on her show and, frankly, grovel.  He rejected it at first but (after his publishers begged him) finally took the bait and his novel flourished.  I’ll bet, in his own mind, he still can’t wash away the stink.  That, my friends, is a story for a movie.  For a potentially great movie.  For a movie that Hollywood will never make.

Here’s the thing, feminists: if Oprah Winfrey had had a single ounce of real integrity, she would have made Franzen’s book her selection and would have praised him for his refusal to kowtow to narcissistic tv hostesses who wanted to use him to enhance their own prestige.  Well, she wouldn’t have had to go that far to show any class.  It would have been enough to say, “I don’t care if he won’t come on my show: it’s a great book and I want to talk about it and urge all my viewers to read it.”

And is this dynamic supposed to be representative of which spouse takes advantage of which spouses’ abilities?  See Hillary Clinton below.  See Melinda Gates.  See Greta Gerwig.  See Soulpepper.

That’s mainstream Hollywood.  For the adult version of this story– I mean “adult” in the sense that it presents a mature intellectual context– see “Wild Strawberries” by Ingmar Bergman, one of my favorite films of all time.  Or try his “Autumn Sonata” if you want the more likely story.   Or “Scenes From a Marriage” if you can handle complexity.  Or Asghar Farhadi’s  brilliant “A Separation“.  Or even Robert Redford’s “Ordinary People“.  But then, those are not feminist fairy tales.

This in an era where women have accused numerous brilliant men of being monsters because, even though they created great art or produced important products or were very funny, they were not nice to them.  Because even though they took the money, they still feel aggrieved and wronged.   You took the money.  Bill Cosby (whose work I generally can’t stand anyway), Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen, Al Franken, Jeff Fager, Leslie Moonves, Louis C.K., Albert Schultz.

Steve Jobs is accused of being a lousy dad by his daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs.  He was a lousy dad.  He was not nearly the brilliant innovator his acolytes claim, either, but he did something important and significant.  And the role of his daughter’s book is to excoriate him because he was not nice to her.   She is asking you to buy and read her book because you will want to know that he was not nice to her.    Because we all needed to know this, just in case we assumed that because he ran Apple he was also a great husband and father.  Because he didn’t make her a princess.  Because maybe you don’t think she is important enough to merit your attention (whereas, he is).  He didn’t give her his Porsche, even after she asked for it.  He didn’t love her unconditionally.  [Lisa’s book deserves a much more extensive discussion: it’s complex and alternately self-serving and expressive.]  He merely acquired the fame that allows his daughter to write a book and go on the talk shows and talk about me, me, me, and me.

And how mean it was of him to not give her a Porsche.

Therefore, he is not worthy of respect or admiration or awards?  We are supposed to be shocked that a man admired for one thing should not be admired for something else?

Apparently, Brennan-Jobs was concerned that people would believe she was writing a book just to cash in on her relationship with her famous dad.  She should be concerned about that.  It sounds to me like nobody would buy a book by Lisa Brennan-Jobs if the book was not about her father.  That’s not to say she can’t write.  That’s not to say she didn’t have editorial help from the kind of editor you get if your book is assured of big sales and high profile.  And you will be invited onto Oprah, or Ellen, or whoever that audience worships today.

Here’s the problem I have with this.  The implication of #metoo is that the work done by these artists and geniuses is now worthless because they were not nice to their accusers.  The implication is that the sources of these allegations are convinced that we are all under the illusion that because a man is famous for his films or paintings or music or jokes we all assume he was a fine person as well.  We don’t.  We never did.  It was never the point.

So we should fire these men, boycott their films, rescind their honorary titles, retract their Oscars and Grammys and Nobels, and so on?  We should all hate them and declare that we are no longer moved by their art, or amused by their jokes?

While some of the most famous musicians of all time may be our favorite idols, it can be easy to forget that they’re not as great as we build them up to be. Yes, they may make amazing music, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a good person.  From Here

What?!  It is “easy to forget” that they might be assholes?  We’re supposed to be shocked to find out that even artist might be jerks?

You people think this guy is great? Well, he was very mean to me, so that proves he is not great.  And he wanted to have sex with me– he saw me as an object, so he is now subhuman and I get to decide when he has paid enough for his monstrous sins.

Dylan Farrow displays conspicuous anger directed towards people who continue to regard Woody Allen as a great director.  What about me?  He treated me badly, so he’s not so great.  Why do you keep saying “Manhattan” was a great film?

Because “Manhattan” was wildly greater than anything you will ever do in your entire life.  Especially if your claim to fame is that you were a victim.

And Greta Gerwig, who was delighted to star in a Woody Allen film when it helped her career, now says she would never do it again.  Really?  I don’t believe her.  (There are women who now insist that Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” is as good as a Woody Allen film– no, better.  It’s not true, not even close.   “Lady Bird” will be completely forgotten in a year; “Manhattan”, “Crimes and Misdemeanors”, “Annie Hall”, “Hannah and Her Sisters” will endure.)

It’s an odd equation.  I can’t find a good analogy for it.  Is “Manhattan” now a bad film?  Should we remove all the Picasso’s from our art galleries?  Should we stop watching the only serious prime-time news program on the big three networks, “60 Minutes”?

Is the equation this: your novels, your movies, your music doesn’t matter, because you were mean to me.

It is the argument of a narcissist.

I don’t mean to use the word “mean” in a demeaning way.  That is, in a way that minimizes the seriousness of the offenses.  In some cases, like Woody Allen, I don’t believe the allegations at all.  In other cases, like Weinstein, I believe he was exactly the kind of creepy, awful person it is claimed.  So does that mean “Thin Blue Line”, “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” (the most aptly named of Weinstein’s films), “Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down”, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover”, “The English Patient”, “Pulp Fiction”, “Clerks”, “Shakespeare in Love”, “Good Will Hunting”, and so on… are now crummy films?

The people accusing Albert Schultz of improprieties did not go out and found their own theatrical group, find donors and raise money, build a theatre, develop training programs, select plays, develop talent, arrange a New York tour, and win awards for their productions.  No, they deposed him and then took over Soulpepper, which is entirely the result of Albert Schultz’ visionary work.  Does nobody at least find this distasteful?  Are those women now parading around going, “look at this great theatre company we made!  You’re welcome!”

The people who took over “Q” on CBC are benefiting, to an overwhelming degree, from the pioneering work performed by– like him or not– (I always found him a contemptible sycophant) Jian Ghomeshi.  If the CBC had meant to be honorable, they should have cancelled the program, and taken the hit in ratings.  Instead, they are cashing in on the format and style and memes that Ghomeshi brought to the program while pissing all over his reputation.

And I find the name “The Bill and Melinda Gates” foundation a bit cheesy.  Bill Gates– whom I regard as an asshole for what he did to computing-– built a gigantic software company that dominates the entire world of computing.  Melinda Gates married a man who built the company that dominates the entire world of computing.  So their accomplishments merit equal recognition in the name of the foundation?  Without a doubt, Melinda Gates will share innumerable awards for handing out her husband’s money.  And she shares equal billing on the foundation even though her contribution to the funding that gives it all of its cache is exactly zilch.

(Bill Gates is a unique case: he is widely and mistakenly admired for his personal character and for his material success.  His charitable work is admirable, but I refuse to let him off the hook for the damage he did to the progress of computers for at least ten years.  I believe he did for software what Harvey Weinstein is alleged to have done for actresses).

Fortunately, Bill Gates reserved his predatory behavior for other software companies, like Word Perfect and Novell and Lotus and Geoworks and Vermeer Technologies, and not women.  So this is not about #metoo.  Well, it is.  It’s about women asserting that there is something about themselves that is just as valuable and just as admirable as the accomplishments of the men they were attached to.  But there is a similar equation going on here: why should the wife share the recognition?  Why should Bill Gates get all the love when I’m his wife.  I’m just as good.  I’m just as important.  The foundation should have my name on it.  Because I help run it.  With Bill’s money.

For the same reason, I annoyed some of my female friends by complaining about the fact that the wife of a former President was running for president.  I found it bizarre.  Is the U.S. like those tin pot dictatorships in the 60’s and 70’s in Latin America?  This is Eva Peron territory.   This is Isabel Peron territory.  This is Imelda Marcos territory.   This is Rosario Murillo territory.  This is Mary Bono territory.

Why on earth, in a nation of 350 million people, could the Democratic Party have found no one to nominate for president except for Bill Clinton’s wife?  It’s absurd.  It was Bill who ran for governor, and then president, and won, and served for 8 years.  So Hillary stepped up and said, well, I’m his wife.   I should be Senator from New York.  And then, I should be Secretary of State.  And then, I should be president.  I am entitled to be president.  And several of my acquaintances really insisted that, remarkably, the most qualified person to be president of the United States was the wife of the former President of the United States.

She came along and jumped to the front of the parade, because that’s where her husband, who started in the back and actually worked his way to the front, was now marching.  And then she brought along Kirsten Gillibrand, mentored her, supported her move into politics, came out with Bill to support her candidacy to the House of Representatives, pulled strings to get her appointed to  her vacant Senate seat, raised money for her, only to have Gillibrand turn around and smear Bill Clinton during the #metoo campaign.  Once again, a woman riding on a man’s coattails (Bill Clinton->Hillary->Kirsten) acts as if her position was entirely or even mostly the result of her own hard work and determination.  Bill Clinton stood in my way.

Now, somebody is going to claim that Bill Clinton would never have got as far as he did without Hillary.  Bullshit.  Hillary was smart, well-educated, and would have been an exceptional lawyer.  She was also interchangeable with any number of smart, educated, talented women.  On her own, she did nothing particularly unique, other than bungling the Clinton health-care initiative.  Bill Clinton was not interchangeable; Hillary Clinton was.

I think sooner or later a balancing will occur and people will recognize that just because a famous man was an asshole– and many of them were– doesn’t mean that his accomplishments were not remarkable.

And we know that no biographical movie or book is going to give you the chapter showing these women suggesting, politely, discretely, ever so seductively, and persistently, to their husbands, that they be given prestigious positions in their company, foundation, or party, ahead of all the other employees, campaign workers, artists, and political staff who worked their entire lives to get to that position.  They won’t mind: I’m your wife.

No more than the latest “Star is Born” is going to show you Ally begging Jackson Maine to give her a slot on stage.  No, no, no– the convention that is required here is that she is begged to perform because the star is indisposed or no one else can do it, and besides, the backup band just adores you– they know you are really fantastic, and the audience– they didn’t need to be told by the director to give you a standing ovation– they just felt it!

No, because it would be a dead giveaway to the audience if you were to ask for it.  It must be deserved, not weaseled for.

Or Consider

Vanity and Barbara Walters

What’s Wrong with Windows?

How Microsoft Killed Geoworks


[whohit]The Wives[/whohit]


I have an odd feeling on this day, Sunday, September 23, 9:40 p.m., that Brett Kavanaugh may well withdraw from the nomination by the end of this week.

It’s a hunch, yes.  I’m guessing that there must be other allegations out there, someone else with collaborative knowledge, perhaps an acquaintance or friend is just about fed up with the self-righteous bluster.  I’m guess that is true because I’m guessing that Kavanaugh is a liar, particularly after his comment that he did not attend the party that Christine Blasey Ford did not identify.

The correct answer, Mr. Kavanaugh, was “I did attend parties around that time but I never did what Ms. Blasey says I did” or “I never attended any parties that time in my life” or “I don’t remember ever meeting Ms. Blasey Ford at any party I attended”.  The first seems plausible, the second ridiculous, and third makes the most sense, if the accusations are false.

But he said, “I didn’t attend that party”.  It’s not a slam dunk, but it’s damaging, to me.  It’s like a burglar responding to an accusation that he is a burglar saying, “I did not break into that house on Maple Street on Friday.”    Nobody said Maple Street.  Nobody said Friday.

So I suspect the allegation is true, and if it is, I suspect there will be some form of collaboration.  And if there is, there will be a lot of cold political calculations going on in Mitch McConnell’s office.  Do they really want to go into the November elections with this dragging behind them?  Just how pissed off will educated white women be at the Republicans desperate attempts to whitewash the issue?  When McConnell says Kavanaugh will be confirmed (to a gathering of evangelical leaders), he has basically said that Ms. Blasey Ford is a liar.  All while vowing to investigate the charges fully.

And if no collaboration shows up, I’ll concede that Ms. Blasey-Ford’s allegations may well be false.  Nobody who remembers them both being at the same party.  Nobody who remembers similar behavior by Kavanaugh at other parties.  Nobody how heard about the incident at the time.  It may be a false memory, or a blended memory, or a recovered memory– who knows– but false.

I just read this:

After six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections to say that she remembers Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away.  New Yorker

Well, that’s sort of what I imagined but it sounds a lot like Ms. Ramirez is “recovering” memories, which I think are worthless.  And it comes from an article by Ronan Farrow who is not a reliable source for this kind of story.


[whohit]Will Kavanaugh Withdraw?[/whohit]

Brett Kavanaugh

I hope the Democrats don’t make the mistake of trying to prove that Brett Kavanaugh should not be on the Supreme Court because he may have assaulted a young girl 35 years ago in a drunken stupor at a party somewhere when he was 17.

The problem with Kavanaugh is that the Republicans have openly and overtly announced that they are putting a party hack on the Supreme Court.

If you are young, you might be forgiven for not knowing that you are not supposed to do that.  You are supposed to at least pretend that your candidate is neither Republican or Democrat, left or right, Catholic or Atheist or Buddhist.  Your candidate will interpret the LAW as it is laid down in Constitution and it’s amendments.  Both sides used to agree on this.  That’s the why the threat of a filibuster would usually be enough to stop a nominee dead in his or her tracks.  They would still tend to promote candidates that were more congenial to their vision of justice, but they would at least pay lip service to the idea that there should be bipartisan support any candidate about to get a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.

In face, it would have been considered shameful if a candidate had been elected without at least some votes from the minority party.

It is remarkable that the Republicans, who would hate real “originalism” if it French-kissed them in the ass, have gotten away with repeatedly claiming that they alone among the political parties want a candidate who does not impose his own views upon government but only defends the intent of the original framers of the constitution– slave-owners and all.  So when the Supreme Court rules that black children have just as much right to an education as white children– where the hell does it say that in the Constitution?  No where.  All right– there was an amendment.   But the amendment doesn’t specify that schools must be equally funded for all races.  So the court–as implied by “originalists”–  is imposing its own views onto the constitution.   When the court rules that corporations are persons who have the right to free speech, along with those who don’t have millions to spend on lawyers and pr firms, well…. wait a minute.  No, that kind of interpretation we like.   When it rules that a corporation does not have to pay back the wages owed to a woman who was paid less than a man for the same work for 20 years, by golly, that’s jurisprudence!  Because nowhere in the constitution does it forbid paying women less than men.

How about this: in 1789, there was no law against abortion for at least the first 15 weeks.

There should be an outcry and Republicans should hold their heads in shame that not a single Democrat seems ready to vote for Mr. Kavanaugh.  They should withdraw the nomination and consult with Democrats to find a candidate at least a dozen or more of them could support.   So that the next time there is a 5-4 decision, at least some voters could feel that the court weighed all the facts, examined the law and the constitution, and came to a fair judgement based on principles of justice and fairness.  Not which party appointed them to the court.

Incidentally, I’m not sure, in the end, that the Democrats would suffer too badly if Kavanaugh is appointed and, even better, does overturn Roe v. Wade.  That would leave it to the states, again, to decide on a women’s right to choose, meaning that state elections will suddenly matter a whole lot more to both sides.  I would bet that a majority– perhaps a slim one– would leave it to a woman to decide what happens to her own body.



All or Nothing

Here’s a side of the James Forcillo case I do not hear debated at all yet.  It appears to me that the powers that be work to ensure that when a situation like the Sammy Yatim case arises, the officer is suspended with pay and then charged– if at all– with murder.  If the murder charges are dismissed, as they almost always are, then the officer is off, scott-free.  He will probably not even lose his job.

One thing is very clear from the James Forcillo case: he was incompetent.  Is it actually possible that, if the judge finds him not guilty of murder, he will return to his job, without consequence?

The debate about these incidents almost always devolves into an argument over whether the cop murdered the man in cold blood or saved the lives of innocent citizens by stopping a ruthless, disturbed killer in his tracks.  It seems to me that most of these incidents really lie between those two extremes.  In almost all of them, the police involved demonstrate severe incompetence and dishonesty.  They screw up the situation leading to a tragic outcome, and then lie to protect each other.

Think that’s harsh?   Now that we have seen, over and over again, how the videos of these events do not show what the officers insisted happened, how can you not be skeptical of the police version of all of these events?

[whohit]James Forcillo[/whohit]


The Settlements

Harvey Weinstein is a jerk.

As reported in the New York Times, he often invited women looking for work in the movie industry up to his “luxury suites” for a meeting and then would hit on them.  By most accounts, he didn’t exactly use force, but he clearly didn’t want to wait until a deep friendship had been established before asking for sexual favors.  Several women, including Sarah Polley, have reported that he attempted to initiate something with them and they refused and walked away.  When the other women complained and threatened to report him, he offered them money.  A lot of the women took the money, in exchange for which they signed non-disclosure agreements.

It is highly probable that some women acquiesced.   There might be some uncomfortable attempts to come to terms with the compromises made, which, in effect, enabled further abuse.   [See Salma Hayek]  It is probable that some of those women received choice roles in Miramax films.  This will be an uncomfortable issue in the future for some people, though, so far, nobody has named them.

In the article linked above, Bari Weiss thinks that Weinstein should release these women from the non-disclosure agreements they signed so they can speak out.    Nowhere does she suggest the obvious corollary: that they return the money.  That is a glaring omission and one I think she might regret eventually: to accept the money and then proceed to break the agreement would be repugnant, though in today’s culture it would probably be readily dispensed with by the media.  To accept the money in the first place, in exchange for not alerting other women to the possibility of harassment, was also, probably, repugnant.  Weiss wants to argue that the agreements were illegitimate in some way, and that the women are entitled, therefore, to break them.  But they took the money, and that cannot bed swept conveniently under the carpet.

In essence, they agreed not to blow Weinstein’s cover, and prevent him from exploiting other actresses, in exchange for a large sum of money.  Nobody wants to discuss that.

She also suggests that there is hypocrisy out there because Weinstein won’t receive the same treatment as Bill O’Reilly or Roger Ailes received from the liberal establishment, because Mr. Weinstein is a well-established liberal icon and fund-raiser.  [2018-09: obviously she was wrong about that.]

It’s always poor form to make assumptions like that.  You get to make your rhetorical flourish and feel all pious and righteous about it without having to actually wait and see if your accusations are true.

But the first issue is this bullshit idea that Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly suffered any real consequences at all for their behaviour towards women.  Like Harvey Weinstein, they paid off most of the women who made allegations against them.  And, as in the case of Harvey Weinstein, most of the women accepted the money and agreed not to warn other women about these gentlemen in exchange for cash.

We know all about the consequences suffered by Donald Trump after allegations of his harassment of women came forwards: nada.  Not a thing.  Not a blessed thing.

So perhaps Weiss is publishing in the wrong forum here: you need to get on Fox News and find out why so many women– especially, good Christian evangelicals– went ahead and voted for Trump anyway.

I might add that there is another difference: Ailes and O’Reilly are both stalwarts of the allegedly “family values” party, the Republicans, and have long been advocating for a return to “traditional values” in America, to abstinence instead of birth control, to “character” development instead of gratification, to valued institutions instead of self-fulfillment, and so on.  They proclaim their alliance with evangelical Christians who don’t seem to believe what they say about sexual morality, unless it concerns a Democrat like Bill Clinton.

It always was obvious that conservatives believe that everyone should live by those values, except themselves.

Which leads to this question: what of the women that accepted these payouts from The Weinstein Company rather than reporting the behavior?

Reporting to whom?

Take note of this, from NYTimes 2017-10-10, offered as an indictment:

Zelda Perkins

In 1998, Ms. Perkins, then a 25-year-old assistant in London,
confronted Mr. Weinstein over his alleged harassment and threatened
to go public or take legal action if it continued, according to former
colleagues. A lawyer for Mr. Weinstein was later dispatched to
negotiate a settlement with her.

Which she accepted.

Which, yes, makes her complicit.  And which has not adduced any critical comments whatsoever from Bari Weiss or Amy Schumer or any of the other women who are insisting that women don’t have to not be complicit to be innocent of this tacit arrangement.  It hasn’t even stopped them from calling Ms. Perkins “courageous” even though she accepted the pay-off.  The “courageous” thing to do would have been to say, “I will never accept money in order to hide your criminal behavior.  That would allow you to victimize others.  I’m calling the police”.

But isn’t Ms. Perkins in dangerous territory there?  We are told over and over again that the women should be believed and that men who try to discount their allegations by alleging that they are seeking a payout are wrong.  But if you accept the money, are you not validating the charge?  Are you not agreeing to deceive people in exchange for money?  You weren’t seeking money, but you took it anyway?

Weinstein’s behavior may have been ugly and offensive, but I doubt that it really crossed a line into criminality.   He was a hustler and a pig and disgusting.  Some of the women might be able to show that their careers didn’t advance after they refused him, but some women, like Gwyneth Paltrow,  can show that their careers advanced very quickly at Weinstein’s organization after the incident.

Without a doubt, a lot of established feminist opinion believes that Weinstein’s behavior was “criminal”.   I don’t.  I believe the women should have walked away or told him off and reported it to the media and to other employees and the board of the organization: not to the police.  Weinstein would easily have been deterred very quickly if thought that most women in the situation he placed them in would be likely to report his actions.

But at least some of the women accepted money instead in exchange for silence– or acquiesced to his wishes.  Or obtained good roles in films he controlled.

We now have the gruesome process– which we were spared in the cases of O’Reilly and Ailes– of Weinstein toadying to the cultural avatars and proclaiming how he will reform himself, get therapy (oh please!), and donate to good causes.  And various female politicians declaring that they will take the money he donated to their campaigns and forward it to charities instead of using it to get elected.

I don’t blame him entirely for the absurd “therapy” angle he’s putting out there: the absurdity comes from the social entities who really believe in that crap.  He’s just following the script and I’d almost admire him more if he would just say, “look, I’m a creep, but explain to me why they accepted the money and I’ll explain to you why I didn’t stop”.

[whohit]The NDAs[/whohit]

Big Lies

It seemed, during the 2016 presidential campaign, that people couldn’t get enough of Trump’s simplistic, scurrilous outrages.  They sucked it up– though a majority, actually, did not– and it looked like they accepted his bluster as the hallmark of a leader who would shake things up and “drain the swamp”.

As “Deep Throat” observed during Watergate, these people are really not very smart.  There has been a steady stream of chaos and befuddlement from the White House, as well as outright lies.  The most recent is that the Democrats are responsible for the children being separated from their parents and held in cages at the border crossings with Mexico.  In some cases, they are sent away, to relatives living in the U.S., or foster homes, or, at least in some cases, to group homes where they are required to work.

This is not a small lie.  It’s not a white lie.  It’s not spin.  It is an outright fabrication.  Sarah Huckabee Sanders even doubled-down on it at the daily press-briefing: the Democrats, who, need I remind you, do not run the executive branch or the legislative branch of the government at the moment, are causing children to be seized, separated from their parents, and locked in cages.  But then, they are the ones acting biblically, because she also defends the practice as biblical because the bible tells people to respect the authorities.

And here you have classic internal proof of lying: it’s fine, it’s biblical, it’s right, but it’s the Democrats fault.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8).

You can get through an election campaign with lies, but I don’t believe you can survive as a government for very long with them.

[whohit]Big Lies[/whohit]

Spurned Intelligence

Like most pop, they lead with attitude: often, as in hits like “You Oughta Know” and “All I Really Want,” the furious sarcasm of a smart, spurned woman who recognizes her superiority but takes little comfort in it.

Wow.  I had no idea that it was so difficult for women to enjoy their superiority.   I suppose the discomfort comes from having a difficult time persuading men to recognize their superiority.  We need more men to acknowledge that they are inferior to women, and to recognize that they really ought to learn to comply with womens’ wishes.  Women–like Donald Trump and his acolytes– look at the world and think to themselves, “they think they’re so smart”.  They really believe that the spectrum of complicated nuance and depth that smart people allude to doesn’t exist.  It’s all a charade, the purpose of which is to make people like them feel stupid.

The leading quote is from a review of a musical based on the songs of Alanis Morrisette, which were written with the “assistance” of producer Glenn Ballard.  (I suspect that the producer, as many producers do, conned Ms. Morrisette into sharing credit because of a few alterations and some development and arrangement of the recordings.   I’ll bet she’s even grateful.)

I’ll be sure to catch it if it comes to my town.

[whohit]Spurned Intelligence[/whohit]




The Larger Canvas

But as for women writers being just as great and just as important as men, I’ll believe it when we see a woman write something on the scale of “Grapes of Wrath” or “Anna Karenina” or “Crime and Punishment” or “Metamorphosis” or “For Whom the Bell Tolls” or “The Corrections” or “Infinite Jest” or “Huckleberry Finn” or “The Tin Drum” or “Beautiful Losers” or “The Power and the Glory” or “100 Years of Solitude” or “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” or “A Passage to India” or “Heart of Darkness” or “The Heart of the Matter” or “Catcher in the Rye” or “1984” or “Ulysses” or “The Satanic Verses” or “A Bend in the River” or “The Stranger”.

No woman has written a book that is as good or important as any of them.  Not one.

One will, first of all, argue that “Sense and Sensibility” or something else by Jane Austen or George Eliot or Charlotte Bronte is just as good.  Or that something by Margaret Atwood or Toni Morrison or Doris Lessing… whatever.

Of course, one will argue that it is only recently that women have been allowed to write, and even more recently that they have been encouraged or enabled.  Well, I’m open-minded.  Maybe in a hundred years, we’ll get our first really brilliant novel from a women.  On the other hand, it really hasn’t been that difficult for women to write since the late 19th century.  Oh, but they had to clean, and cook, and look after children.  Fair enough.  Most men had to hold jobs and feed their families and pay rent.  But not all.  And not all.

The irony is that I would have thought there would be.  I always thought it was possible.  I just haven’t seen it.  Even Alice Munro, a brilliant writer, never moves along a canvas as big as “Grapes of Wrath” or “The Satanic Verses” or “The Pearl”.  Hilary Mantel is brilliant– in non-fiction (“Wolf Hall”).  But her work too is constrained by the margins of Cromwell’s personal life.  Margaret Atwood has tried, in “The Handmaid’s Tale”, but the TV series is better than her book.  Maile Meloy is terrific on a scale of miniatures, and sometimes that matters more.   Elena Ferrante?  Very, very good, but, again:  relationships.   Toni Morrison?  Vastly over-rated.  Vastly.  Alice Walker?  Dreary.  I found both of them boring.  Harper Lee?  Here’s a deep dark secret many astute people conversant with the literary arts know is true but will never say: “To Kill a Mockingbird” is not well-written.  It’s a good story, it’s very accessible, and it touches on all the liberal tropes, and it’s even important,  but it is, in fact, poorly written.  It is contrived and sometimes mawkish, (as when Boo Radley and Scout cuddle on the porch swing at the end).  Joyce Carol Oates?  Brilliant writer technically.  What a waste.  Doris Lessing?  Iris Murdoch?  Pretty good writers, but, again, no match for Greene or Hemingway or Rushdie or Franzen or Dostoevsky or Kafka.

I have considered the argument that just because women’s books are more concerned with family and relationships and feelings does not make them inferior to men’s books about wars and politics and power and relationships.   Family and relationships are just as important and just as interesting as the War of 1812.  The two realms are different but equal, it is argued.  I dispute that.  Nothing in a realm that includes politics and war and philosophy excludes relationships and family.  But a world of relationships and family that does not expand to consider political power, history, war, existence, time, and so on, is just not as interesting or important.

[whohit]The Larger Canvas[/whohit]

The Cowardly New World

China has embarked on an extraordinary program of continuous mass surveillance.

Yes, we are actually beginning to see the realization of George Orwell’s worst nightmare, not just in China, but everywhere.

Here it is.  No surprise, not anymore.  It is actually here.  It happened.  There is, probably, no going back, because, unfortunately, humans are really not very smart.  Would you rather have safety and security or privacy?   You can’t have both.  We believe them when they tell us that.  We invariably choose safety because when it comes right down to it we humans are very, very easily frightened.

Of course it’s a false choice.  We will not be safer if we give up our privacy and we will not not have privacy if we give up our safety.  The question is, how much do you want to give up?  And do you really, truly, seriously trust the government with the level of intrusive surveillance they are going to have?

China is moving faster than we are only because they have a dictatorial government that can do whatever it wants.  Ideologically, are they really all that different?  Their public reasons might sound different, but are they substantively different from “we must protect our citizens from terror” and “law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear”?

They even boast to their citizens that we can watch you all the time.  They scan faces in crowds at train stations and public squares looking for “criminals”, which often means people who dissent.

When we all read “1984” years ago most of us probably thought it would never happen here. Because we all read the book and we were all outraged and we all knew why it would be so bad.  Surely no democratic government would dare impose any practices that evoke visions of “Big Brother”.  But, especially since 9/11, they have gone right ahead and done it.  The U.S. government gave itself the right to examine all of your e-mails and all of your calling records essentially without warrant.  The Obama administration went right ahead and launched drone attacks on enemy targets without any real accountability.  And the hugely disappointing civil libertarian contingent in the U.S. has quietly rolled over in acquiescence.

So when western countries start following China’s lead and begin monitoring us in every public space with face recognition software to identify us and follow us and record our whereabouts at all times, I’m pretty sure the majority of brave, principled, patriotic citizens will cower in terror and comply fully with the new regime.  And we will have arrived at our nightmare.

[whohit]Cowardly New World[/whohit]