Monthly Archives: April 2020

Joe Biden and the Me Too Movement

Back in 2017, when the Me Too movement broke on the heels of the widespread accusations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein, I wasn’t particularly surprised. Hollywood full of sexual predators? Color me shocked. The next thing you’re going to tell me is that Wall Street is full of crooks and the Catholic Church full of child molesters. When Weinstein was indicted the following March for rape and sexual assault, I raised one of my eyebrows. We live in a culture where powerful men, even serial rapists like Weinstein, rarely if ever pay much of a price for their crimes. Court settlements and gag orders basically allow the wealthy to buy the right to commit rape or sexual assault. This February, when Weinstein was found guilty and handed what was in effect a life sentence, however, I was flabbergasted. I assumed he would simply plea out to a lesser charge, get a slap on the wrist, and perhaps have to fork over some more money.

The Me Too movement, along with the Black Lives Matter, rose up in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and the murder of Trayvon Martin by a self-appointed vigilante and the murder of Michael Brown by a police officer. By the mid-2010 is became clear the the criminal justice system in the United States was broken. While the courts would impose draconian sentences on working-class, minority youth for drug possession, or threaten Aaron Swartz with decades of jail time for what basically amounted to an ill-thought-out protest against the price of academic journals, it essentially gave police officers the license to kill. No District Attorney would mount an effective case against local police officers, with whom he, or she, worked closely on a regular basis. Black Lives Matter took advantage of the widespread availability of good quality video cameras and high-end cellphones to document just how widespread police brutality against minority youth really was. The Me Too Movement, in turn, set up what was essentially a court of public opinion to shame rich and powerful sexual abusers in a way their victims, who were usually bound by court settlements and gag orders, couldn’t, and in a way the criminal justice system wouldn’t.

Me Too was a necessary corrective to a bought and paid for criminal justice system that refused to punish the rich and powerful. Soon, however, it became infected with an extremist ideology that refused to make any distinction between an Al Franken and a Harvey Weinstein, a Louis CK and a Bill Cosby, a “shitty media man” who might have sent a few creepy personal messages to a strange woman online, and a Roger Ailes. Not only did some women deliberately conflate wealthy and powerful serial rapists with the male gender as a whole — there’s nothing worse in radical feminist circles than to state the obvious that “not all men” are rapists and sexual abusers — many radical feminists seemed to focus on trivial social offenses at the expense of serious crime. There was almost a kind of feminist version of “broken windows policing,” the now discredited idea that if you arrested fare beaters in the subways and handed out sentences for public drunkenness the more serious crimes would take care of themselves. Catcalling, acting like a jerk after having had one too many drinks, making off color jokes, inappropriate behavior online indicated that sexual abuse was universal in a way that the Harvey Weinstein rape mill didn’t. Most men can’t afford court settlements and gag orders. Almost any man can afford to shout out “smile” at an uninterested woman in the subway.

Of course, as a man, I’m not really in a position to judge how common rape and sexual assault. are. I don’t get cat called. Nobody tries to slip knockout drugs into my drink at bars I never go to anyway. I can walk pretty much anywhere I want, anytime I want without having to be worried about getting assaulted by someone bigger and stronger than I am. What’s more, it became obvious reading personal testimony on social media by woman who didn’t strike me as particularly radical that the problem of sexual assault was far more common than I had realized. Every woman seemed to have a story, not of some bad experience with a drunken 19-year-old in college who couldn’t hold his liquor and who hadn’t yet learned how to socialize with the opposite sex, but of being propositioned by men in their 30s and 40s when they were children. I started to believe that women who hadn’t been sexually harassed were a tiny minority, that almost every teenage girl at some point in her life had some creepy 40-year-old uncle trying to corner her in the closet at the family reunion, that every recent college graduate got propositioned by her boss at her first job or internship.

Then along came Joe Biden and Tara Reade. Reade, who worked as a low-level-staffer for the then Delaware Senator Biden has gone public with an accusation that back in 1993 the current Democratic nominee shoved his hands up her skirt and penetrated her vagina with his fingers. I have no idea whether or not it’s true. I probably never will. In spite of the Me Too movement, rich and powerful men still rarely if ever pay any penalty for sexual assault. Donald Trump has had multiple rape accusations leveled against him and it hasn’t hurt his popularity, even among Republican women. Brett Kavenaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by a former schoolmate, sits on the Supreme Court. To this day, no major figure on Wall Street, as far as I know, has been publicly shamed for inappropriate sexual behavior. With the notable exception of Al Franken, who could have easily fought the accusations against him if he had wanted to, the fallout from the Me Too movement seems to have been limited to powerful men in the media and entertainment industry. They obviously have better lawyers at Goldman Sachs than they do in Hollywood. Nevertheless, in spite of how I probably won’t ever really know the truth about Joe Biden and Tara Reade, the tawdry little event that allegedly took place back in 1993 seems believably commonplace. A powerful man assaulting an employee? Haven’t feminists been telling me for years that it happens all the time?

Tara Reade, 56, worked as a staff assistant to Mr Biden from 1992-93 when he was a senator for the US state of Delaware.

In recent interviews, she has said that in 1993 her former boss forced her against a wall and put his hands under her shirt and skirt after she delivered him his gym bag.

“There was no exchange, really, he just had me up against the wall,” she said to podcast host Katie Halper in March 2020.

“I remember it happened all at once… his hands were on me and underneath my clothes.” He then penetrated her with his fingers, she said.

“I remember him saying, first, as he was doing it ‘Do you want to go somewhere else?’ and then him saying to me, when I pulled away… he said ‘Come on man, I heard you liked me,'” she said.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52462113

How is it then that the same radical feminists who have been trying to convince me for years that men who don’t commit sexual assault are far more common than men who do commit sexual assault so reluctant to believe that Biden, who not only has a long history of inappropriate behavior towards women, but stood in the way of credible testimony of detailing similarly inappropirate behavior by Clarence Thomas, is not only innocent of Tara Reade’s accusations but is being set up by Vladimir Putin and the Russians? Michelle Goldberg at the New York Times, for example, argues that “Reade seems almost engineered in a lab to inspire skepticism in mainstream Democrats, both because her story keeps changing and because of her bizarre worship of President Vladimir Putin of Russia.” Amanda Marcotte at Salon, in turn,  suggests that Reade has been duped by the ever disreputable Oliver Stone into thinking too much of those wily Slavic untermenschen.

When asked about it, Reade told Salon she had been writing a novel about Russia at the time and “the blogs read political because I was kind of in that immersion of doing Russian stuff for this novel.” She also told Salon that she had been influenced by Oliver Stone’s pro-Putin documentary and a Russian friend who praised Putin.

After doing “more research,” she told Salon she now feels differently about Putin, although if that’s true her change of heart seems to be quite recent. In February 2020, Reade scolded actor and major Sanders supporter John Cusack “not to repeat xenophobic propaganda against Russia” and lamented that “Putin in 2006 was Hollywood A listers darling now he is the evil master mind.”

https://www.salon.com/2020/03/31/a-woman-accuses-joe-biden-of-sexual-assault-and-all-hell-breaks-loose-online-heres-what-we-know/

(Note: Back when I had a Twitter account Cusack blocked me for being too pro-Russian but that’s another story. Nevertheless, if I ever get mugged, please let it be known that I hate the Russians as much as any good American. In fact, as a Lithuanian American, it’s in my DNA to hate Russians. Bad Russians. Bad Russians. Send the Germans back in. Resurrect Zombie Napoleon. Nuke the bastards. USA USA USA. )

My gut feeling is that Michelle Goldberg and Amanda Marcotte probably think Joe Biden is guilty. I doubt either of them is dumb enough to believe Putin put Tara Reade up to it. They’ve simply decided that beating Trump is so important that one little sexual assault 25 years ago is the lesser of two evils. Indeed, we saw a similar dynamic back during the Monica Lewinsky affair, when so many feminists chose to defend Bill Clinton against the Christian right, even though his actions towards his 23 year old intern were clearly predatory, if not necessarily illegal. What’s more, it seems to be the sad case that American women have not only accepted the idea that most men are toxic, but that there’s little use in hoping that things could get any better. All men are sexual predators, but men also have most of the money and the social status. Men, like capitalism, are going to be in power forever. So you condemn some and you protect others. Trump should go to jail, just like Harvey Weinstein. That mangy looking guy who spread his legs next to you in the subway needs to be shamed. Louis CK should never been allowed to perform again. But Bill Clinton and Joe Biden are so important to the feminist cause that you have to look the other way when they get caught with their fingers in the cookie jar. In other words, the Me Too movement, which has brought genuine sexual predators to justice, has temporarily been canceled.

The American Presidency as a Multi-Level Marketing Scheme

This is a fascinating video about Trump’s history with multi-level marketing schemes. It offers real insight on why Trump has garnered so much loyalty in conservative and evangelical circles. Liberals are looking in all the wrong places. Trump isn’t President because the Russians put him there. He’s President because he was able to leverage a culture in middle-America that has been built up over decades.

It’s a Bourgeois Town

fine

Westfield, NJ April 2020

The local bourgeoisie has discovered water soluble chalk. A few years ago, during Occupy Wall Street, or Black Lives Matter, chalking the sidewalk often meant that dozens of militarized police would roll up  on you, throw you to the ground, and put you through central booking (before the judge offered the inevitable ACD). But now, during the pandemic, in Central Union County, NJ, where the average family takes in about $200,000 a year from jobs on Wall Street, or in for profit healthcare, it’s rare to see a street without some message written out in pretty colors. I just wish there were more creativity. 90% of the slogans are generic, apolitical messages like “thank you to our healthcare workers” or “stay safe.” Perhaps I should buy some chalk myself the next time I go to the grocery store and write something like “workers of the world unite” or “end the fed” and see if I get arrested.

A New Jersey Story

So I’m riding my bike down the Kenilworth Boulevard, a broad double-laned highway that runs right through the middle of the compact, little suburb of Kenilworth, New Jersey.  Up ahead are two SUVs, one in the left lane, a white Ford, moving slowly, the other, a black Cadillac Escalade, about 2 feet behind, aggressively tailgating. Even though the traffic is surprisingly heavy for a state under a “shelter in place” order in the middle of a pandemic, there’s still there’s plenty of room to pass. I suppose the driver of the Escalade simply wants to teach the driver of the Ford a lesson before he goes on his way.

At some point, the Escalade passes the Ford in the right lane, gunning his engine as if to say “I’m faster than you and frustrated with your behavior,” before he swerves back into the left lane and slows to what seems 5 or 10 MPH. The tables are now turned. The driver of the Ford has made the transition from “lazily driving along” mode to “Death Race 2000” mode. He steps on the gas and pulls to within about 6 inches of the Escalade’s bumper. He leans on his horn, a steady “honk” without any pauses. After the driver of the Escalade, admitting defeat, switches into the right lane to let his beaten adversary pass — the Virgin Cadillac Escalade and the Chad Ford Explorer — the driver of the Ford, still leaning on his horn, follows into the right lane him and continues to tailgate.

At this point, I’m starting to get worried. I’m a vulnerable 178.5 pounds of flesh against 6 tons of Detroit metal coming my way. They never make it that far. The driver of the Ford guns his engine and hits the Escalade in the rear bumper, pushing them both up against the curb before they finally come to a stop on the shoulder. Fortunately for the driver of the Escalade he spins clockwise and takes his adversary’s blow in the passenger’s side door. There is no passenger, and, praise Jesus, nobody is hurt except the door of the Escalade, which has a big dent, and the front end of the Ford, which iss half caved in. I stop, desperately trying to swing my backpack around to get my camera before I realize I have forgotten it. The two men — of course men — get out of their respective vehicles and face off in front of each other on the sidewalk.

They are both wearing N95 surgical masks.

King of the Jews

work-progress

Cranford, NJ April 2020

It looks like the local Romans are planning a little good Friday’s entertainment. Just make sure you wash your hands so you are innocent of that man’s blood if you go out during the coronavirus pandemic. See you on Sunday.

Vote for Xenophobia to Stop Racism?

The Biden campaign just released a new ad blaming Trump for failing to contain Coronavirus by not being hard enough on the Chinese government.

 

There’s only one problem. Coronavirus didn’t come to New York, the center of the pandemic in America, from China. It came to New York from Europe (and from New York here to New Jersey).

New research indicates that the coronavirus began to circulate in the New York area by mid-February, weeks before the first confirmed case, and that travelers brought in the virus mainly from Europe, not Asia.

“The majority is clearly European,” said Harm van Bakel, a geneticist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who co-wrote a study awaiting peer review.

So why isn’t the Biden campaign blaming rich white jet setters with condos in Manhattan and beach houses in the South of France? Well, we know why. He works for these people. Drumming up hostility against the Chinese is good for the American arms industry. I suppose Biden is also pretty reluctant to play the Russiagate card. After all, his son got a no work job from the Ukrainian government. The last thing he wants to focus on this fall is Eastern Europe.

I’m also seeing a disturbing number of “Sinophobic but Woke” articles coming from black writers in the United States. I doubt any of this is coordinated. But since the Biden campaign, which was pushed over the top by black voters in South Carolina, is now running a “Yellow Peril” campaign against Trump, it’s certainly no accident. This guy can barely contain his glee that Chinese Americans, who he sees as more “privileged” than black Americans, are being targeted by racists.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the one-time stable existence of Chinese Americans and flipped it on its head. The social and economic security they once had in the U.S. has suddenly devolved to one of uncertainty and fear. Walking down a city street on a nice day has a new meaning for our Asian American friends. Occasional looks of disgust greet them as they stroll along their way, minding their own business. They are accosted by random strangers who hurl racial slurs-and in some instances, even violent attacks. People grab their belongings and distance themselves in public, as if they present an immediate danger to their personal safety.

Welcome to the life of a Black person in America. https://medium.com/@lartist580/chinese-americans-are-learning-what-its-like-to-be-black-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-68bb71406db4

Needless to say none of this is going to work for the Democrats. Whether or not Biden manages to beat Trump this Fall, he’s not going to do it by crude appeals to Xenophobia. If the voters want racism, they’re going to vote for Trump, not some lame Democratic Party attempt to accuse him of being “soft on China.” Do Bernie Sanders and Noam Chomsky really want me to vote for this?

Not Even Coronavirus can stop Mass Shootings

The deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history just happened.

The gunman, identified as Gabriel Wortman, 51, is dead, he said. There was at least one exchange of gunfire between the suspect and police.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki told the CBC late Sunday that 16 people, not including the suspect, died.

The death toll makes it the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history, surpassing the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal, where a gunman killed 14 women before killing himself.

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/19/at-least-10-dead-in-canadian-shooting-rampage-195506

After the Warming (1989)

This 1989 British TV show about the origins and consequences of global warming is so good I can hardly believe it’s not better known. James Burke is the Carl Sagan of environmental history. Just watch it. It’s well worth 2 hours of your time.

The Fascists’ Rear Guard

Fascism is an expression of a larger social tendency that, in English language translations of Marx is called “the slaveholders’ revolt.”

It is a process by which every couple generations the revolutionary potential of the angry mob is turned in on itself in the hope that the destruction of society is the only hope to save the rich and their vacation homes from the consequences of their actions.

Every time this happens, there is a faction that arises as the rear guard for the fascists.

This rear guard is usually seen by their contemporaries as being part of the center-left. They will pay lip service to left social causes. They will probably even consider themselves as being politically to the left.

This faction thinks that they can save society and the rich and their vacation homes through small, largely symbolic distributions of pats on the back and cookies. They become covert extremists. Their extremism usually goes unrecognized because it arises in the paradoxical form of their doing nothing or as close to nothing as they can get away with.

As the metaphorical house we all live in burns around us, they insist vehemently that the smoke you feel in your lungs, the char that you see, the heat that you feel in anxious tingles just under the surface of your skin is in fact a problem of interior decoration. Or a misunderstanding.

They will get angry to defend this interpretation. They will gaslight. They will kneecap those with the audacity to acknowledge the house is on fire.

They will finally acknowledge after it’s too late that the house is in fact on fire, but claim that to say the house is on fire is impolite or uncivil.

And finally, when the crisis can no longer be denied, they will market themselves as “the only people who can save us.”

They believe half-heartedly their arrogance will magically make good faith negotiators out of Nazis.

They believe this because to believe otherwise would contradict their savior complex.

They believe this because it’s easier than doing something.

Having gone through bad faith motions of “negotiating” on our behalf, these cowards will offer up the populations they claim to represent as human sacrifices when the wolves show their teeth, craving blood.

The wolves dream of reinventing society to match their internalized self-image of endless opulence and grandeur.

They leave behind mass graves and Trümmerfilm.

The moderates dream of history stopping because they feel entitled to it because…they feel entitled to it.

Cruelty shields the wolves from the heat of the burning house. Denial shields their rear guard.

They are a cargo cult. They think if they say “the house isn’t on fire” enough times, the house will cease to be on fire.

The moderates “mean well.” This “meaning well” means nothing.

It means nothing because whether we kill each other or support each other we are ultimately in this together. The world I live in is the same one you have to live in.

The moderates’ denial will not stop the wolves from eating them, it will only clear the space for wolves to eat the rest of us first.

All their “good intentions” just help pave a wider road to hell.

They leave behind mass graves and Trümmerfilm.