Garrison Keillor, Matt Lauer and so many others convicted without trial; a victory for women but a danger for men, women too

November 29, 2017

Slept a little late after a night shift and then read the morning news that TV pretty boy Matt Lauer was fired from the Today Show over sexual misconduct charges. Okay. But then I read that — this just in — Garrison Keillor was just let go from Minnesota Public Radio — he being the host of the nationally broadcast and highly successful Prarie Home Companion — a kind of high-brow version of the Grand Ol’ Opry (at least that was my take on it), from which he had retired. He still did stuff on radio though.

I’ve used the term already as have others: it’s a sea change in attitudes toward charges of sexual harassment.

If you are high-profile and you get charged, without any right to face your accusers in a court of law or other such hearing you can be dismissed.

The same rule does not necessarily apply to politicians, or all of them anyway, some. That is because it just takes a personnel department or CEO or board of directors to summarily let someone go. You’re gone.

President Trump, his current effort to change his own story and apology for sexual misconduct notwithstanding, is harder to fire. He’d have to be impeached. He might be eventually, but I doubt over the sex issue (but then who knows in this new environment?).

My concern now is for those at the slightly to way lower level, who may not have the severance packages and lawyers. A man could lose his job and family over a she said, he said issue, over something that may have never happened but is a cover for some other issue. Yes, I am fairly sure all these women cannot be lying and in fact I am fairly sure almost none of them are, save the odd opportunist

Sexual harassment is horrendous and should not, should never have, be or been tolerated.

But we men need to be concerned. Women need to be concerned too.

It could all come back around to bite them somehow, although I would hope not.

Apparently social media with its ability to instantly reach the mass market and its free access to everyone has made all this possible.

Strangely, women have had immense power through the ages. Read the literature. They had to be careful how they used it.

Now follow me here. The reason we drank weak and flat and tasteless beer in the United States for decades (before microbrews went back to the future) was that back in the 1930s brewers decided to mass market beer, which had been brewed locally and consumed primarily by men in the men’s domain of taverns. It was thought that if they toned the stuff down more women might like to drink it. The power of the market.

And that market power combined with social media has empowered women today, that and the bravery of the initial women who stepped forward and risked their careers. Anita Hill has to wonder where was her support when she tried to shed light on Clarence Thomas.

It is a brave new world.

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Whatever the point of the tax bill Trump strays away from it; parties matched in meaningless death struggle…

November 29, 2017

President Trump is trying to somehow use the North Korean missile launch Tuesday as leverage to get the Democrats to go along with the current tax bill, something like if you don’t support it then you obviously don’t support defense. I’m sure I don’t follow his connection (I am not aware that our military is starved for missile defense funding). But in a talk to reporters he also brought up funding for the wall on the Mexican border and something about illegals and criminals streaming over the border (again a little hazy on that). Off script, Trump talks in run-on sentences, full of non sequiturs, and limited on modifiers beyond good and better and huge, and in which one subject is hard to distinguish from the other (well I tend to write long sentences sometimes).

But we all know his peculiarities.

It seems impossible now to know what a new federal tax law would look like but from what I can gather it is mainly a scheme to give permanent tax breaks to large corporations but only temporary tax breaks to middle-income earners, and, if you can believe it, actually raise taxes on lower-income earners and reduce revenues for programs needed by the neediest.

Only Republicans could come up with that, and even many of them probably are not excited or proud of it but they feel pressure to do something, to get something passed to show how they are rescuing us all from the suffering under President Obama, that is the suffering they claim there has been (didn’t notice it).

In reality both the House and Senate versions (the House one already passed) from what I can understand are a crazy quilt of various provisions to favor various political donors but not necessarily to help the populace as a whole.

I often wonder why they say there is a need to lower the corporate tax rate when at the same time we are informed that many large corporations pay little to no taxes due to the deductions they take advantage of.

Probably a lot of wise middle-income Americans take advantage of deductions too and would be better off if they left well enough alone.

And then there is the proposed provision to eliminate mandatory health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which of course is a poison pill. I mean even though the Republican majority has had years to dump Obamacare, which they claim the public wants them to do, they have not been able to do it. Why? turns out people want health care coverage — go figure. So they take the backdoor but nonetheless transparent method of eliminating the mandate, thus starving the program of the premiums it needs to sustain itself. Oh, and did the Republicans ever come up with a replacement for Obamacare? no.

One problem Republicans face is that even of those constituents who identify themselves as Republicans not all think alike and not all are in the same income group or social status and not all workers and business people have the same needs. It’s complicated.

I’m thinking why not simplify matters?

Why not drastically simplify how the federal government collects its revenue?

Just an idea:

Lower and simplify the income tax for everyone — a universal rate. Or eliminate the income tax entirely.

Replace or augment the income tax with a consumption tax. When times are good and people can afford it, there will be a lot of spending for consumer goods and the government, our government, will benefit from extra revenue. When times are bad, the government, our government, will be forced to tighten its belt, but at least won’t be such a burden on the economy, to the extent it actually is.

Along with this, why not replace our professional politicians who spend so much of their time kowtowing to the Gods of the K Street lobbyists with citizen office holders who have other jobs or are retired? I know, it’s a full circle, then they would be beholding to the money of special interests because who could afford to be a part-time office holder? And the entrenched bureaucracy would fill the vacuum created by only part-time legislators. But it would be nice to see a congress who served out of civic duty as so many small town city councils and community school board’s do.

Also, we are held in the gridlock of the Democratic and Republican parties locked in a death struggle due to our particular federal set up. Right now rather than work things out the opposing sides operate more on meaningless winner take all victories of one over the other, rather than a coherent ideology or program going forward. Winning is the goal. But winning what?

p.s.

I realize that many politicians are just trying to do what they think is right but the environment in which they work is not good or conducive to doing right.

 

 

 

 

 


Society as a whole hopefully will deal with sexual misconduct; by the way Sen. Franken, you sound pathetic…

November 28, 2017

NOTE: I’d rather write on another subject but this is so much easier than, say, the tax bill, which is incomprehensible, as I am sure it is meant to be in order to hide the favoritism to the big donors. I’ll try to give it more study, for what it’s worth.


I wish Al Franken would just go away. Listening to Sen. Franken all day apologizing for his sexual transgressions, the ones he does not seem to have a good memory of but nonetheless admits to (did I get that right?), I just had to write something. I don’t know exactly how many times the senator has apologized but on the radio news they repeat the same sound bite so many times. It seems as if he spent all day in front of the classroom declaring: “I have been a bad boy and I promise not to grab females by the butt every time I get the chance anymore”.

Do I think he should resign?

If I were him I would, except the damage has already been done. He sounded pathetic in his deep, tired voice. It was embarrassing to listen to. And now I just thought to save what dignity he might have left he should have apologized and done the honorable thing and resigned. Who knows? He might have then got tons of cards and letters (well emails) from his constituents (and others) begging him to stay, including from women. I mean he is said to have pushed the women’s rights agenda. I guess I think the people of Minnesota should have a chance to decide his fate, just like the Roy Moore partisans in Alabama say that senatorial candidate should have (that is let Alabamians decide the fate of that accused molester).

As bad as sexual harassment is, we all have to admit what is really happening is a sea change in society’s tolerance of boys will be boys. I am not sure if this is a good example, but all my life I heard it joked about how women going to Italy (and other places, but Italy especially) had to beware that when they walked down the street they might get pinched). Where was the outrage? I know, that is in a foreign country but women too have mentioned it casually without rancor or disapproval.

We all know that even in this country construction workers are supposed to shower women with cat calls as they walk by on the street.

Men like to look (leer?) at women and they have imaginations (so do women). But there is a difference between thinking and acting and maybe that is the dividing line.

(A few years ago a woman television reporter was manhandled, and I think it is accurate to describe it as raped, in a crowd in Cairo, Egypt. Obviously that is way over the dividing line.)

Actual physical sexual attack (and that can include butt pinching or grabbing) and/or extortion by bosses or co-workers against women using sex as the vehicle is of course wrong and always has been and the light has now been shed on it so no one can pretend he does not see.

The most effective way to deal with the problem will be the censure of society itself, outside of litigation and laws and regulations and required classes and commissions and endless political grandstanding where unfortunately even among some feminists it seems at times okay if my guy does it but not the other side’s guy.

I don’t prefer the notion that government or the courts should take the lead in forcing better behaviors (the right to sue notwithstanding)  — that seems chilling to me. It’s better that society itself opens its eyes and forces the bad seeds out with its own reproof.

p.s.

How did the late Sen. Edward Kennedy get away with all of his bad sexual behavior? Times have changed.

Also, back to Franken. I guess he does not remember all that he did because it was just a habit.

 

 


Slaughter in Egypt: so much violence in the name of religion; absolutism a negative…

November 24, 2017

UPDATE (11-26-1): Since posting this the death toll has risen to more than 300. I also submit that any religion or sect of a religion that sanctions or otherwise promotes the killing of people does not deserve protection or respect as a religion as we would see it in the Western democracies. They are simply murderous thugs. Unfortunately, many religions, including Christianity and Islam, have a long history of  supporting the killing of others, although all adherents do not necessarily go along with that. 


 

Perhaps not a time to bring this up, it being a day after Thanksgiving, which is not necessarily a religious holiday but then again is — I mean the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock and who began what we now call Thanksgiving were said to be of a super-strict and devout form of Christian faith — so much so that they had been chased  out of England by those of the more traditional brand of Christianity of the times (accuracy aside, that is my understanding). But religion seems to be the cause of so much violence, so much war.

More than 200 worshipers were killed and half as many wounded in an attack on a mosque in Egypt over the last 24 hours. A band of Islamic militants attacked the mosque which was the place of worship of a sect of Muslims that is the object of scorn by other sects of Muslims who don’t like each other. The attack was considered shocking in that it was against a mosque, a Muslim place of worship — had it been against a Christian church it would not have been shocking in that part of the world.

Actually I think the cause of war is always the competition for resources and the power over other people, which is still basically a competition over resources. But religious belief is often a vehicle used to promote membership in a cause that promotes division among peoples.

I am not religious. I was brought up in a non-religious household. My understanding is that some of my ancestors grew disenchanted with churches and priests or ministers who seemed to be more out for themselves or church congregations who seemed narrow-minded and bigoted (my version of the family history). That is not to say people in my family and extended family are not religious — some are, and devoutly so. And I try to be tolerant of religion. And sometimes I invoke the name of God, both as a rhetorical device and a belief of mine that there has to be some type of higher power — however it would seem to me that it would not look or act like us, even if God supposedly created us in his image — you have to realize the Holy Bible (or any religious book) was written by mere mortals who could only interpret things from their own earthly frame of reference. But going full circle here, I might believe in my own version of God but from my own frame of reference.

I had Thanksgiving dinner with people who put their faith in God and in what I believe is the evangelical manner (I don’t mean everyone there but many of them). I admire what appears to be a closeness of their families and the strength it gives them. And I know them to be giving people who would help anyone out to the extent they could. I imagine most of them as being apolitical but to the extent they might be political — yikes! I could not go there. But if they can accept me, I can return the favor. And perhaps that is their attitude toward me — although we do not discuss religion (but they have to know I am not religious, at least not in their way).

Religion combined with strong family bonds where people help and respect one another and live in peace of course has its positive aspects, unfortunately so, it does not always work out that way.

How many wars have had religion at their roots or had religious overtones?

By definition all of this violence in the name of Islam (what exactly the terrorists believe in is admittedly open to question) is what appears to be a religious war, does it not?

And in our politics is not the ultra-right wing and ultra-reactionary crowd who is in support of Trump not composed of a large amount of Christian evangelicals who seem to see everything as some kind of crusade against all who they see as threatening their position in the status quo or their comfort zone?

Even I who do not support Trump am uncomfortable at times in the upheaval in society that threatens so much of what I had grown up with and felt comfortable with. I mean I am 100 percent for civil rights and non discrimination over sex and religion and gender (a little mixed up on the move to create a third gender..), but on the other hand, I am patriotic and don’t care for disrespect to our nation and flag.

But bigots, be they Christian or Muslim or of any stripe, including of the political right or left wing threaten the peace of the world, our very civilization.

Absolutism is not the answer.

 


Thanksgivings to remember and fear of food poisoning…

November 22, 2017

How is it that people cook turkeys every year for Thanksgiving yet each year it is like the first time? How many hours does it take? the experienced turkey cooks ask. It’s how many hours for each pound? How long do I have to let it thaw? and so on.

My mom cooked almost all the Thanksgiving dinners when I was a kid and I don’t recall that any of them turned out badly — I know sometimes she wondered if she should have left it in the oven longer or if it went a little too long, but I don’t remember any disasters or even near disasters.

In my adult life I recall several years ago eating a Thanksgiving dinner where the cook became inpatient with that pop-up thermometer and pulled the bird out too soon. Ever eat raw turkey? Not only did I not eat much turkey after realizing it was way undercooked, I worried for the next 24 hours I would get food poisoning. No food poisoning but I did start suffering from a toothache (not related to the uncooked turkey I realize). I called my dentist’s answering service but no luck (I have a different and better dentist now). The pain was excruciating. Finally my wife came up with the idea of putting ice on it, that is I would take ice from a cup of crushed ice and put in around the affected tooth. It worked as long as the ice held out. I ended up going to the hospital emergency room where a doctor injected some pain killer right into the gum. Man! did I let out a yelp. It got me through. Oh, before we discovered the ice trick I won’t tell you all I did to try to relieve the pain, but something about large quantities of ibuprofen and alcohol (very dangerous I am sure), but nothing worked, and I think I just told you.

Seems like I remember someone dropping a turkey as it was being taken out of the oven as we all watched it slide across the floor. How many times does that happen each year?

One year my wife and I decided to use a meat thermometer. My job was to watch the thermometer. When it hit the desired temp for the required time I was supposed to pull it out of the oven. Well it got there but I thought maybe a few minutes more. It came out a little too dry. So blame that on me.

That might have been the year that I noticed a can of sweet potatoes seemed to have a funny bulge. I was afraid it might be botulism. But I had opened it and got some on me. I threw the can out and washed my hands thoroughly. But I also got some on my shirt. I washed the shirt but never wore it again. I think it still hangs in my closet.

And now that reminds me that as a little kid I heard that people have to be careful in canning fruits and vegetables, that the food must be at the right temperature for the correct length of time to avoid botulism. I asked my mom, who canned a lot, if she was  being careful about the temp. Her answer:

“I haven’t killed anyone yet”. And she lived to be 103. And she did consume her own canned foods of course.

Enjoy your meal.

 


Sexual predator defense: ‘I did not do it, but if I did, I’m sorry’…

November 21, 2017

UPDATE: CBS and PBS have now fired on-air personality Charlie Rose. In addition, Disney’s chief of animation John Lasseter is taking a leave of absence over sexual misconduct. I don’t plan to update this post anymore, and if I had to name everyone caught up in this wave of sex charges, I’d have to devote a whole new blog site to it.


So since Charlie Rose will likely see his TV journalism/entertainment(?) career ended due to sexual misconduct allegations does that mean President Trump must resign too?

I’m not of course the first one to ask that or think of that I know. But really.

Trump bragged about his bad behavior and has many accusers.

(Just wanted to write a few words about this but am short on time (maybe) because I am on the job (as an over-the-road truck driver) but am on an official off-duty break — quite legal and backed up by my electronic log. Who knew the device I feared so much would become my protector?)

But back to the Charlie Rose story and the whole piling on thing about sexual misconduct or harassment with charges flying against so many men in show business and politics and in the news media.

It is coming out that these tales of inappropriate and often cruel and disgusting behavior were an open secret for years. In the Rose case I just saw some television clips that seemed to allude to them. People knew.

But the rules have changed. I think social media is helping this along. Women are speaking up and exposing not only the exposers but everyone, I think, in the process, not just the alleged perpetrators.

I write that because I don’t think all of this could have been a secret. People just knew that kind of stuff goes on. But when society in general tacitly accepts something, how can one call it out without facing repercussions?

But perhaps that cover or that roadblock is gone.

If you see something say something. But be careful. You better be right and have proof.

While overall I think this movement, spurred on by something called #Me Too, is positive I still see some dangers.

For instance, some of the descriptions of ill behavior if correct are on their face wrong, while others require a little more context.

There could be office flirting — perhaps not a good idea but not on its face immoral or wrong or illegal. That flirting could lead to something else, later, perhaps at the office Christmas Party and elsewhere. But when the relationship goes sour, one party might lash out.

However, the Charlie Rose defense of sorry but I thought that I was “pursuing shared feelings” seems almost laughable if it were not such a grave subject. Would a rapist try to use that defense?

Something tells me the holiday work or office parties may be a little dull this year.

p.s.

And then there is the New York Times top reporter Glenn Thrush, who has been suspended over sexual misconduct allegations. From what I heard of his apology it was that he is sorry but he does not think all the reports are accurate. To that I have to ask, in what respect are they not accurate and if they are not true, why are you apologizing? And I realize it’s all in the context of individual events. But his apology and then his qualification on a mea culpa sound like: I did not do it, but if I did, I am sorry.

And he also said he has had some health issues and has been drinking heavily. Kind of a weak defense, and it sure calls his journalism into question. I had not paid attention to his byline, so I am not up on all that.

 

 

 

 


They’re talking about tax shifting more than reform…

November 19, 2017

Spent a few minutes surfing the web for an objective analysis of the current tax bill or bills going through congress but did not find one (yet). One problem is that there are at least two versions, one in the House and one in the Senate. And also, since neither is law and both can be amended writing too much about them might be useless anyway but I think it all boils down to this:

Like all tax measures it is really more of a tax shift rather than a reform as it is being billed.

And I will admit right here I know little to nothing about the current bills — besides skimming the headlines and reading a few lines down into the stories, I have done little to understand them and that is for lack of time and for the realization that I am reading something with a seemingly partisan bent or some type of bias.

But one story I read, if true, seemed to say it all. The writer quoted one lawmaker as explaining why he voted for the House version: that is what his donors wanted. The writer said that at least the congressman was being honest — and note, it was what the donors wanted not all of his constituents. Money obviously does buy votes. I once had a political science instructor who posed the question: does money buy votes or access? I would say both, first the access and then the vote. Now it cannot always work since there may be opposing views between donors and since a lawmaker can at times stand up on principle, especially if he or she has the cover of opposing views maybe.

So what we have in reality is a tax shift. Each group, usually represented by lobbyists, wants to be protected from what they consider over taxation. Someone has to lose.

Seems like I have been reading that the supposedly fiscally-conservative Republicans in the so-called tax reform measures are trying to reduce taxes by taking on even more of a debt — in other words borrowing money. When Democrats do that it is profligate but when Republicans do it it’s just tax cutting.

But I think one thing that galls me almost more than anything about all this is that both Republicans and Democrats claim to be looking out for the “middle class” and to the exclusion of the other levels rich and poor — well we know that the Republicans always look out for the rich because, we are told, the rich are what keeps us all going and they sacrifice so much, but that position can almost be left unsaid by the GOP. It is just understood.

Meanwhile, right-wing reactionary radio, that seems to have infiltrated the masses, has woven together a narrative that what is good for the rich is really just as good for the everyman, that is to say, I guess, every man is free to control his own destiny if the government would just leave him alone and let him make his own financial decisions and not take so much away in taxes. And now that I have just written that it sounds pretty good — never mind the pesky details, such as unemployment and doctor bills, escalating rent payments and so on.

And what I forgot to say is that I don’t even know what or who the middle class is but I don’t think it is or ever was me. So I feel left out. But for some reason I also feel content. Go figure. But then again, why does this group get so much attention? With their huge pickup trucks (which seldom haul anything but maybe a dog) and boats and motor homes, their practice of living beyond their means because they deserve it (that line you deserve it is often used in advertising) do they really deserve such attention and sympathy?

But enough of the class envy.

And then we have Utah Republican U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, one of the longest-serving in the upper house, who threw a fit when a Democratic colleague decried the Republican-written tax bill as a giveaway to the rich.

Hatch, red in the face and his voice almost trembling (I saw the video), declared he came from the “poor”.

Now I don’t know the details of his upbringing. Maybe like the first Republican president, Lincoln, he was born in a log cabin. But that was a long, long time ago.

From what I read now he, like so many senators, is a multi-millionaire, with much of his money in a Swiss Bank.

While through the years I have respected Hatch for his seemingly principled manner and willingness to work with the other side of the aisle, I think in this one the senator in the words of Shakespeare “doth protest too much”.

But to be fair in my writing here I think that many Democrats who claim to be working for the less fortunate make a pretty good living doing the bidding of their own donors and thus keeping a lot of us “less fortunate”.

I am an equal-opportunity cynic.

p.s.

Just asking:

Instead of using the income tax as the federal government’s major source of revenue would a consumption tax (some type of sales tax) work better? When times were good the government would have the money to do what needs to be done or what people want and not have to borrow and thus add to the burden of the national debt and when times were not good the government would be constrained (unless it unwisely chose to borrow even more money). Meanwhile, people would have more of their own money to work with, even with higher sales taxes, because, besides necessities, such as food and shelter (well health too), most everything else is discretionary — that is wise people make prudent and often tough decisions (and note I wrote wise people; I did not write myself into that).

Just asking. I really have little to no idea on that one.