Friday, November 24, 2017

Sexual harassment: the true story of how it happened to me, and how that affects where I come out on Roy Moore, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, and others

The author of this book had it wrong. Women, militantly and justifiably 
raising righteous hell with male harassers, are from Mars. Men are from
…well, read the story and see
Back in my “Madmen” days, somewhere in the 1970s when I was a thirty-something advertising copywriter, I was sexually harassed by my female boss.

It happened at an office party. I can’t remember the occasion. It wasn’t a big party — just members of our creative group  and a handful of people we worked with standing around bowls of potato chips and popcorn, sipping inexpensive wine from plastic cups.

Suddenly my boss, on whom I depended for my job, raises, favorable evaluations, and some minor supervisory authority, walked up to me and stuck her tongue in my ear.

Just before she did it she said, “You’re going to enjoy this.” She kept her tongue in my ear for quite some time, wiggling it around and purring while she breathed.

Now you have to understand that my boss — let’s call her Josephine — was about 25 years older than I was. She would have been described back then the way the writer Nicholas Von Hoffman once described Margo St. James,  founder of a San Francisco sex workers’ rights organization called Coyote. Von Hoffman described St. James as “a good old broad.”

That was Josephine, too. Without knowing absolutely every detail of her life, I was confident that she had done everything — and ingested, inhaled and snorted everything — at least twice. In some cases a whole hell of a lot more than twice.

One of my colleagues at that ad agency, a television commercial producer — let’s call him Richard — told me that once, that when he and Josephine had been shooting a commercial on location in Los Angeles, Josephine revealed that her favorite cocaine dealer was in town. The dealer was an heir to a corporate fortune. His family name appears in the company’s logotype to this day. He had nothing much to do except live in big houses on his inherited wealth, so to pass the time he got involved in various hobbies. One of them was dealing cocaine, the drug a la mode back then. I swear to you, this is all true.

Josephine and Richard drove to Mr. Big Corporate Name’s West Coast digs, where she bought a glass phial of Bolivian Happy Dust for $500. Then they went to a very fancy restaurant, where they decided to get high before going to their table. But how?

They formulated a plan. It went like this. Josephine would take the phial to the ladies’ room, lock herself in a stall, and snort up a line or two while Richard stood guard outside, to warn her by coughing loudly if another women started heading inside. Then they would reverse the process, with Josephine standing outside the men’s room door while Richard took a few snorts.

Josephine went into the ladies’ room. Richard stood guard. Suddenly he heard a loud shriek from inside, followed by Josephine’s voice screaming, “Oh no, oh no, oh no!”

Alarmed, Richard charged into the Ladies Room, where he discovered that Josephine had accidentally dropped the phial on the tile floor of a stall. It had shattered. Cocaine dust was all over the floor. What to do?

“Well hell,” said Josephine, finally putting her emotions back in some secret hiding place, “there’s no point in letting all this stuff go to waste.” She lay down on the stall floor and began sniffing cocaine off the tiles. Richard followed suit. 

Suddenly, Richard told me, while he and Josephine were lying on the floor, their legs protruding from under the stall, the door to the ladies room opened. Richard, from his low vantage point, saw a pair of feet wearing high heeled velvet pumps clack-clack-clack toward the center of the room. All at once, the pumps froze in place. There was a pause of perhaps four seconds. Then the pumps turned around 180 degrees and rapidly clack-clack-clacked out of there, while Josephine and Richard resumed snorting.

Anyway, that was Josephine, my boss. Uninvited, she stuck her tongue in my ear and wiggled it around while purring and breathing heavily. A clear case of sexual harassment.

Except that I rather liked it. Nothing ever came of the incident. She was ten years too late. I had dreamed of that kind of stuff when I was a teen-ager and a twenty-something. But now I was married, with a touchy wife (now an ex-wife), a kid, a house, a mortgage, and too much at risk if I dared to play around. So I passed.

But, to repeat, I liked the harassment all the same.

What does this tell us? For one thing, it is an illustration of why the title of a best seller some years ago, “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” is wrong, dead wrong, most especially today.

Women, at least women today, militantly and justifiably raising righteous hell with male harassers, are from Mars. And men? We’re from Penis, a place in our bodies that intrudes on and influences what must be a formidable percentage of our decisions. Like it or not, men of a certain generation have grown up in a testosterone-influenced culture. And yes, you may call it the Penis culture.

We are wired to want sex, Worse, our upbringing, however wrongfully, encouraged our wants. Which explains many things about the Madmen epoch, although it excuses nothing. It most certainly does not excuse rape, consistently creepy behavior, pederasty, or constant annoyance of any woman. However, it does account for a sublimation of sex that from time to time expresses itself as a bit of sexually-tinged playfulness, and that should in some instances, when it does not rise to the level of consistent annoyance of an individual, be given a pass. Cases concerning each point?

Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of rape and whose brother reportedly had a career on the side buying off women whom Harvey is said to have sexually abused, does not get a pass. Plus, the reports of lawyers and a brother paying numbers of women to shut up reinforces the probability that Weinstein is a sexual predator.

Donald Trump has admitted to much the same. From his position of power, he boasted during a so-called “locker room talk” on a bus that he was able to grab women by their private parts and get away with it. What he did does not quite rise to the level of rape. But it does rise to the level of at least a misdemeanor sex crime. Had any other male tried the same, whether in performers’ dressing rooms, or on the subway, he’d be deservedly sitting behind bars now.

But Al Franken, who was photographed playfully pretending to grab another performer’s breasts on an airplane, a mischievous look on his face, clearly aware that a camera is pointing at him? That seems hardly at all like predation. It seems much more like a mistake in judgement, the kind of tasteless bad joke that may have been influenced by testosterone culture, but is not even close to the level of a boss who stands nude in his home, in front of an assistant, who depends on the flasher for her salary.

Yes, the woman in the Franken photograph also accuses him of unwanted kissing. But film of her during the same tour shows her engaged in a bit of sexually tinged license of her own. Clearly, this playful license was part of the culture of this particular USO tour. Check out this video from the show, about two minutes past the beginning. In her case, as well as Franken’s, the license is merely playful rather than intrusive or creepy. 

Anthony Weiner, the former U.S. Congressmen, sent to prison for texting pictures of his penis to young girls, clearly has no further business being in public life. The sexting, particularly to minors, is beyond the bounds of playfulness or flirting.

But if Weiner deserved prison, how can Roy Moore, who is accused of committing actual physical acts of pederasty (as opposed to Weiner’s acts of photography) with a 14-year-old girl get away with what he has done? Certainly he does not belong in the United States Senate if the charges against him are true. And the snowballing of similar charges by formerly underaged women keeps adding credibility to those charges. As does the defense by one of his friends which seems to indicate that the friend believes that the charges are true, but that the Bible says it's all okay.

To be sure, there is a danger in all of this, and that is the danger of witch hunt hysteria, which not only existed in Colonial America, but which swept across Europe from the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Centuries, resulting in hundreds of deaths by torture and fire. All anybody who wanted to get rid of, or get even with somebody else had to do was level an accusation of witchcraft.

The same kind of guilt by accusation is possible in contemporary times. That is why we will need evidence-based legal investigations, and possibly criminal trials, to determine who is a sexual predator, and who is a hapless victim either of an overreaction or a lie. (It may be telling that Franken has called for a Congressional investigation of himself, whereas Roy Moore simply growls denials.) 

But investigations are long and slow. In the case of Senatorial elections there may not be enough time. People will have to vote their commonsense judgment. 

My own common sense is telling me that Franken is guilty of little except some tasteless horsing around. But that Roy Moore may be a pederast more deserving of a prison cell than a U.S. Senate seat.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Guest Blogger: "What I give 'thanks' for this year." Yeah, sure.

Washington seems to be suffering from a plague of turkeys

 Call it fatigue. Call it burnout. Call it laziness. Call it what you will. In any case, since I haven't posted a word for more than a week, I thought I'd leave it to my pal Garth Hallberg to spread a little Thanksgiving cheer.  Here is what he has to say. If you like it, you might investigate his new book, The Piketty Problem. Take it away, Garth:

At this time of year when we’re encouraged to give thanks for our blessings before the commencement of the season of greed, here, in no particular order and with apologies to NY Times columnist Gail Collins, are some of the things I’m giving "thanks" for, hoping they will put a little smile on your face…

…Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, whose principled opposition to the gut-the-middle-class, Republican tax bill is based on his desire for small businesses like his family-owned plastics company to receive the same corporate tax breaks as multinational corporations.

…Barack Obama and George W. Bush, our last two presidents who managed to keep their hands to themselves.

…all those citizens who have thus far resisted the well-meaning siren call of born-again hedge fund manager Tom Steyer to impeach President Trump, having been blessed with the sober realization that the replacement lurking in the West Wing would be even more of a useful idiot than his predecessor.

…those evangelical Alabama clergymen who, in the tradition of pinhead angel-counters, have diligently found divine guidance in scripture to back up their belief that pedophilia is a lesser sin than being a Democrat.

…Alex M. Azar II, former president of pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and President Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services, for his unique ability to bring an insider’s perspective to the ongoing battle to reduce the outrageous cost of prescription medicines.

…Steve Chiavarone, portfolio manager of the Federated Global Allocation Fund, who relieved fears about another Wall Street meltdown when he confidently predicted on CNBC that the bull market in stocks will last for another ten years because “Millennials are entering the workforce, but their wages are going to be under pressure their whole career…They won’t make enough money to pay down their debt, fund their life and fund retirement where there is no pension. So they’re going to need equities.”

 …Mike Mulvaney, former Republican congressman from South Carolina and current White House budget director, who for the good of the nation set aside his previous reservations about the usefulness of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and took on a second job as acting head of the organization which, when a member of the House of Representatives, he had co-sponsored legislation to eliminate.

…Ben McAdoo, a.k.a. Mr. Magoo, head coach of the NFL’s New York Giants, who ditched his prescription shades, slicked back his hair, and for the first time, interacted effusively with his players on the sideline, spurring them on to their second win of the season over the Kansas City Chiefs, the home team of “red-state experimenter” Governor Sam Brownback, whose disastrous tax-cutting policies have been inconveniently forgotten by the enthusiastic trickle-down Republicans in Congress.

…the unnamed executives at Twitter who are doubling the length of tweets to 280 characters in order to reduce President Trump’s annoying habit of having his mouth run over into serial tweets.

…the unnamed officials of the Environmental Protection Agency, who put our minds at ease by removing from the EPA website at least 15 mentions of “climate change” and numerous links to materials designed to help local officials prepare for a world of rising temperatures and more severe storms.

…Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and the real Rocket Man, for trivializing the moral of The Piketty Problem by pointing out that the scariest potential of robots is not lost jobs, but “a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.” 

…Louise Linton, blazing-blonde actress, and wife and portable spotlight for dour Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who auditioned for a remake of the Disney classic 101 Dalmations while donning black leather gloves, thus showing her and her husband’s disdain for small bills.

…those of you who have already purchased a copy of The Piketty Problem or The Robots Are Coming, The Robots Are Coming, and/or who have signed up to receive my blog at Why don't you do so now, if you haven’t?!

A happy and joyous Thanksgiving to all…Garth 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

What use is the Bible Belt if it can’t even keep a Republican’s pants on?

Judge Roy Moore, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. If you see
him coming, lock up your daughters.

Years ago, somebody told me a joke. 

Q: What’s the definition of a virgin in Alabama?
A: “A fourteen year old girl who can run faster than her uncles.”

I used to think the joke was disparaging of Alabamans. It sounded like something out of a novel by Erskine Caldwell. But c’mon, Tobacco Road was almost 80 years old when I first heard the virgin joke. And Tobacco Road happened in a different state. Nice try, but the joke was based on out-of-date information.

These days, I’m not so sure.

Case in point: Roy Moore. Surely you’ve already read at least some of the dirt on  Roy Moore. He’s the ex-judge who was removed from office for defying a higher court's orders to remove a fifty-two hundred pound block of granite, inscribed with the Ten Commandments, from the rotunda of his own courthouse where he had ordered it installed. His refusal was in defiance not only of the higher court, but also of the establishment of religion clause of the United States Constitution. That Roy Moore.

This Bible-thumping Republican from Alabama is running for the Senate and whaddaya know! Turns out that during his days as a thirty-two-year-old prosecutor, he offered to babysit the fourteen-year-old daughter of a woman who was going into court for a divorce. The judge took the fourteen-year-old’s phone number. Not her pretty and about-to-be-divorced mother’s phone number. The cute fourteen-year-old’s number.

Yes he did call. And he took the fourteen-year-old child to his house in the woods. Not once, but twice. And the second time, reports the Washington Post, “she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.
“I wanted it over with — I wanted out,” she remembers thinking. “Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over.”
Now other women have come forward, telling stories about how Moore, when he was thirty-something, dated them or tried to when they were fourteen in one case, sixteen in another, and seventeen in the third case.  Does anybody besides me see a pattern here having to do with minor children?

What’s interesting is that Moore’s defense is all over the map on this matter. Moore himself is denying it. But while Moore, last I checked, was in effect saying all the girls are liars — Moore’s buddy, Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler isn’t denying it. He seems to be saying — read his words and draw your own conclusion — that what Moroe did is okay, because the Bible says so.
“He’s clean as a hound’s tooth,” said Ziegler. “Take the Bible. Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance. Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist.”
So you see, there it is! Being a powerful older man who spirits a child off to his little love nest in the woods and starts taking her clothes off and feeling her up is a good thing because hey, next thing you know, she’ll give birth to a saint (assuming all those evil abortionists don't get their hands on her first.) And not only that.

“Also take Joseph and Mary,” Ziegler babbled on. “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”

Umm, wait a second there, State Auditor Ziegler. According to the Bible, Jesus was the product of a virgin birth. So if you’re not committing blasphemy by lying about the contents of the Bible tin order to further your own partisan political interests, what does that mean? It would have to mean that either that the Bible is lying, or that Joseph was cuckholding God. Or that contrary to the fundamentalist churches of the south, Jesus was in no way the son of God. And if that literal interpretation of the Bible goes away, what's next to bite the dust of literal belief? Dinosaurs romping with Adam and Eve?

In any case, if, somehow, any members of ISIS are reading this, I do recommend that you put your arms around Moore and Ziegler and give them both great big hugs. Each of them in his own way seems in tune with all of you guys spiriting away teen-age girls and either raping or marrying them. Or maybe both. I thought this was one of the things we’ve been fighting to make stop, but no, according to Moore and Ziegler, it seems to be the American Way, too. Not to mention the Christian Way.

Oh, and this from ths Washington post, in which Ziegler adds to his defense of Moore:
Moore began dating his wife Kayla around this time, according to Ziegler. “He dated her. He married her, and they’ve been married about 35 years. They’re blessed with a wonderful marriage and his wife Kayla is 14 years younger than Moore.”
Umm, Auditor Ziegler? I think that’s part of the point all of us are making.

At any rate, I herewith suggest changing the old joke about Alabama virgins. From now on, I’ll be telling it this way:

Q: “What’s the definition of a virgin?”
A: A fourteen year old girl who can run faster than a Republian.

UPDATE: (November 14th): In addition to a fifth woman having stepped forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct since I posted this commentary, the New Yorker magazine today is reporting that while in his 30s, Moore's pursuit, often unwanted, of teen-age girls at a local shopping mall led the mall to ban him from the premises.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Student recruitment advertising that does more than recruit students

Could anything be duller than an ad that encourages you to consider a particular educational institution? You almost know what it's going to tell you: That its graduates do well. That there are tons of academic resources. That you'll love your professors. That the extracurricular activities are great. That the campus is beautiful. That everybody has fun. That....z-z-z-zzzzzz.

But then there's UC Hastings, the University of California law school in San Francisco. They've got something to say, not only about themselves, but about the world in which their graduates will function. That there are things going on in this nation that are an outrage. And that lawyers can do something about those things.

Here are three examples of someone presenting great reasons to go to law school, created with the help of their local advertising agency, Mortar. The ads make me want to ask, "Where do I apply?"