Kirsten Gillibrand’s moment has arrived

David Freedlander writes: The Washington sky was darkening outside her window, and Kirsten Gillibrand slumped down in her chair. It had been a long day. In the morning, the New York senator hosted a news conference with a mother whose twin 6-year-old daughters had been allegedly raped by their father’s military commander. As she walked off the podium, she’d been confronted by questions about her colleague Al Franken’s reported history of groping women, news that broke for the first time that morning. “Deeply concerning,” she replied, adding that she believed the story of his accusers. “I expect to hear more from Senator Franken.” And she had just come from a podcast interview with the New York Times in which she’d blown through the Democratic code of silence on Clinton misdeeds by saying that yes, if Bill Clinton were president now, he would have to resign after something like the Monica Lewinsky affair.

That last one wasn’t a piece of news Gillibrand had planned on making that morning. She had long been a supporter of the Clintons, both of them. She inherited Hillary Clinton’s seat in the Senate, and credits her with the decision to run for office in the first place. Bill Clinton campaigned for her in her first run for Congress. She strongly supported both of Hillary’s campaigns for president. But Gillibrand is no longer a rank-and-file Clinton Democrat. As the nation is convulsed with a deluge of allegations of sexual harassment and assault, one that seemingly every day fells another star, Gillibrand is at the political center of it. For years she has been battling against sexual assault in the military and on campus, and talking about sexual harassment in politics, and now at last it seems as if the rest of the world has caught up to her concerns. And so once the question has been put before you, in this political moment, when at long last it looks like all of that work is finally paying off and progress is being made, what else can you say about Bill Clinton lying about having oral sex with his 22-year-old intern other than that he should have stepped down and “things have changed today”?

The blowback was immediate. “Over 20 yrs you took the Clintons endorsement, money and seat. Hypocrite,” wrote Philippe Reines, a longtime Clinton confidant, on Twitter. “Interesting strategy for 2020 primaries. Best of luck.”

The first half of the tweet was predictable, a Clinton loyalist biting back at a perceived threat to the family. But the second half was telling. The world is paying attention to Gillibrand in a new way. At least since the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, when Gillibrand thrilled the crowd at the Women’s March, jabbing the air with her finger and telling them, “This is the moment of the beginning of the revival of the women’s movement. This is the moment you will remember when women stood strong and stood firm and said never again. This is the moment that you are going to be heard!” The 51-year-old Gillibrand has come to represent a rising generation of Democratic leaders, one who came of age in an era when equality of the sexes was something almost taken for granted. And the buzz about her presidential ambitions has only grown. [Continue reading…]

 

Facebooktwittermail

Dylan Farrow: Why has the #MeToo revolution spared Woody Allen?

Dylan Farrow writes: We are in the midst of a revolution. From allegations against studio heads and journalists, to hotel maids recounting abuses on the job, women are exposing the truth and men are losing their jobs. But the revolution has been selective.

I have long maintained that when I was 7 years old, Woody Allen led me into an attic, away from the babysitters who had been instructed never to leave me alone with him. He then sexually assaulted me. I told the truth to the authorities then, and I have been telling it, unaltered, for more than 20 years. Why is it that Harvey Weinstein and other accused celebrities have been cast out by Hollywood, while Allen recently secured a multimillion-dollar distribution deal with Amazon, greenlit by former Amazon Studios executive Roy Price before he was suspended over sexual misconduct allegations? Allen’s latest feature, “Wonder Wheel,” was released theatrically on Dec. 1.

Allen denies my allegations. But this is not a “he said, child said” situation. Allen’s pattern of inappropriate behavior — putting his thumb in my mouth, climbing into bed with me in his underwear, constant grooming and touching — was witnessed by friends and family members. At the time of the alleged assault, he was in therapy for his conduct towards me. Three eyewitnesses substantiated my account, including a babysitter who saw Allen with his head buried in my lap after he had taken off my underwear. Allen refused to take a polygraph administered by the Connecticut state police.

In the final legal disposition of the matter, a judge denied him custody of me, writing that “measures must be taken to protect” me and that there was “no credible evidence” that my mother, Mia Farrow, coached me in any way. A prosecutor took the unusual step of announcing that he had probable cause to charge Allen but declined in order to spare me, a “child victim,” from an exhausting trial.

It is a testament to Allen’s public relations team and his lawyers that few know these simple facts. It also speaks to the forces that have historically protected men like Allen: the money and power deployed to make the simple complicated, to massage the story. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

The plea of a Syrian activist: Don’t forget us

Ishaan Tharoor writes: Between 2012 and 2013, Mansour Omari spent a hellish year in a number of underground Syrian prisons. The activist and journalist was blindfolded and crammed into a dark cell with dozens of other detainees. Roaches crawled across the floor. Prisoners itched and scratched with open wounds and sores. Their gums bled because of malnutrition. “The smell,” Omari said, “was unbelievable.”

But even in their depths of despair, they clung to a form of hope. Omari recalls how he and some fellow prisoners sought to keep track of everyone around them: They collected the names of 82 inmates locked in the secret government facility where they were detained. Then they mixed their own blood with rust filings to create ink, used scavenged chicken bones as quills and carefully wrote down all the names and numbers they had gathered on rough strips of fabric. These were hidden inside a shirt that Omari put on the day he was released.

Those five pieces of cloth are now on display in a chilling exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Framed in individual display cases, they look like ancient artifacts, faded canvases etched with runes from a distant past. But they tell a very modern story.

Visitors to the building, which chronicles the horrors of the 20th century’s worst genocide and the context of how it began, are now confronted with a contemporary calamity: The ongoing war in Syria, which has claimed the lives of about a half-million people, forced 11 million people to flee their homes and upended one of the Middle East’s most venerable societies.

“Syria: Please Don’t Forget Us” also is a pointed critique of the regime led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which is an accomplice to the ravaging of the nation and the disappearance of countless of dissidents and ordinary civilians into a network of clandestine prisons and torture houses. It sits alongside another installation on Syria featuring the photography of a former Syrian military police photographer, whose images show how detainees were maimed, their eyes gouged out and limbs gored.

“So many people go through this museum and wonder, ‘What would I have done if I was living in 1930s Germany,’ ” Cameron Hudson, director of the museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, told Today’s WorldView. “What we want them to think is, ‘I’m living in 2017, and this stuff is going on around me.’ ” [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Al Franken’s resignation and the selective force of #MeToo

Masha Gessen writes: On what he called the worst day of his political life, Senator Al Franken articulated two points that are central to understanding what has become known as the #MeToo moment. In an eleven-minute speech, in which Franken announced his intention to resign from the Senate, he made this much clear: the force that is ending his political career is greater than the truth, and this force operates on only roughly half of this country’s population—those who voted for Hillary Clinton and who consume what we still refer to as mainstream media.

There was one notable absence in his speech: Franken did not apologize. In fact, he made it clear that he disagreed with his accusers. “Some of the allegations against me are simply not true,” he said. “Others I remember very differently.” Earlier, Franken had in fact apologized to his accusers, and he didn’t take his apologies back now, but he made it plain that they had been issued in the hopes of facilitating a conversation and an investigation that would clear him. He had, it seems, been attempting to buy calm time to work while a Senate ethics committee looked into the accusations. But, by Thursday morning, thirty-two Democratic senators had called on Franken to resign. The force of the #MeToo moment leaves no room for due process, or, indeed, for Franken’s own constituents to consider their choice.

Still, the force works selectively. “I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” said Franken, referring to Donald Trump and the Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Trump and Moore are immune because the blunt irresistible force works only on the other half of the country.

That half is cleaning its ranks in the face of—and in clear reaction to—genuine moral depravity on the other side. The Trump era is one of deep and open immorality in politics. Moore is merely one example. Consider Greg Gianforte, the Montana Republican who won his congressional race earlier this year after not only being captured on tape shoving a newspaper reporter but then also lying to police about it. Consider the tax bill, which is stitched together from shameless greed and boldface lies. Consider the series of racist travel bans. Consider the withdrawal from a series of international agreements aimed at bettering the future of humanity, from migration to climate change to cultural preservation. These are men who proclaim their allegiance to the Christian faith while acting in openly hateful, duplicitous, and plainly murderous ways. In response to this unbearable spectacle, the roughly half of Americans who are actually deeply invested in thinking of themselves as good people are trying to claim a moral high ground. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Time Person of the Year 2017: The silence breakers

Time reports: Discussions of sexual harassment in polite company tend to rely on euphemisms: harassment becomes “inappropriate behavior,” assault becomes “misconduct,” rape becomes “abuse.” We’re accustomed to hearing those softened words, which downplay the pain of the experience. That’s one of the reasons why the Access Hollywood tape that surfaced in October 2016 was such a jolt. The language used by the man who would become America’s 45th President, captured on a 2005 recording, was, by any standard, vulgar. He didn’t just say that he’d made a pass; he “moved on her like a bitch.” He didn’t just talk about fondling women; he bragged that he could “grab ’em by the pussy.”

That Donald Trump could express himself that way and still be elected President is part of what stoked the rage that fueled the Women’s March the day after his Inauguration. It’s why women seized on that crude word as the emblem of the protest that dwarfed Trump’s Inauguration crowd size. “All social movements have highly visible precipitating factors,” says Aldon Morris, a professor of sociology at Northwestern University. “In this case, you had Harvey Weinstein, and before that you had Trump.”

Megyn Kelly, the NBC anchor who revealed in October that she had complained to Fox News executives about Bill O’Reilly’s treatment of women, and who was a target of Trump’s ire during the campaign, says the tape as well as the tenor of the election turned the political into the personal. “I have real doubts about whether we’d be going through this if Hillary Clinton had won, because I think that President Trump’s election in many ways was a setback for women,” says Kelly, who noted that not all women at the march were Clinton supporters. “But the overall message to us was that we don’t really matter.”

So it was not entirely surprising that 2017 began with women donning “pussy hats” and marching on the nation’s capital in a show of unity and fury. What was startling was the size of the protest. It was one of the largest in U.S. history and spawned satellite marches in all 50 states and more than 50 other countries.

Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, was one of roughly 20 women to accuse the President of sexual harassment. She filed a defamation suit against Trump days before his Inauguration after he disputed her claims by calling her a liar. A New York judge is expected to decide soon if the President is immune to civil suits while in office. No matter the outcome, the allegations added fuel to a growing fire. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Twelve Senate Democrats call on Franken to resign amid further allegations of sexual harassment

The Washington Post reports: A dozen Senate Democrats called Wednesday for Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to resign amid mounting allegations of sexual harassment, raising the possibility he will become the second lawmaker to step aside over recent accusations of inappropriate behavior.

Franken’s office said he would make an announcement about his political future on Thursday. No other details were provided.

In a campaign started by Democratic women, nearly a dozen senators said Franken should leave Capitol Hill. Franken faces multiple accusations of inappropriate touching and unwanted advances. He has denied intentional wrongdoing and has apologized.

“Enough is enough,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) told reporters at a news conference. “We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is okay, none of it is acceptable. We as elected leaders should absolutely be held to a higher standard, not a lower standard, and we should fundamentally be valuing women. That is where this debate has to go.” [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Weinstein’s complicity machine

The New York Times reports: Harvey Weinstein built his complicity machine out of the witting, the unwitting and those in between. He commanded enablers, silencers and spies, warning others who discovered his secrets to say nothing. He courted those who could provide the money or prestige to enhance his reputation as well as his power to intimidate.

In the weeks and months before allegations of his methodical abuse of women were exposed in October, Mr. Weinstein, the Hollywood producer, pulled on all the levers of his carefully constructed apparatus.

He gathered ammunition, sometimes helped by the editor of The National Enquirer, who had dispatched reporters to find information that could undermine accusers. He turned to old allies, asking a partner in Creative Artists Agency, one of Hollywood’s premier talent shops, to broker a meeting with a C.A.A. client, Ronan Farrow, who was reporting on Mr. Weinstein. He tried to dispense favors: While seeking to stop the actress Rose McGowan from writing in a memoir that he had sexually assaulted her, he tried to arrange a $50,000 payment to her former manager and throw new business to a literary agent advising Ms. McGowan. The agent, Lacy Lynch, replied to him in an email: “No one understands smart, intellectual and commercial like HW.”

Mr. Weinstein’s final, failed round of manipulations shows how he operated for more than three decades: by trying to turn others into instruments or shields for his behavior, according to nearly 200 interviews, internal company records and previously undisclosed emails. Some aided his actions without realizing what he was doing. Many knew something or detected hints, though few understood the scale of his sexual misconduct. Almost everyone had incentives to look the other way or reasons to stay silent. Now, even as the tally of Mr. Weinstein’s alleged misdeeds is still emerging, so is a debate about collective failure and the apportioning of blame. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Trump White House weighing plans to create rogue global spy network

The Intercept reports: The Trump administration is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer — with assistance from Oliver North, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal — to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals. The sources say the plans have been pitched to the White House as a means of countering “deep state” enemies in the intelligence community seeking to undermine Trump’s presidency.

The creation of such a program raises the possibility that the effort would be used to create an intelligence apparatus to justify the Trump administration’s political agenda.

“Pompeo can’t trust the CIA bureaucracy, so we need to create this thing that reports just directly to him,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official with firsthand knowledge of the proposals, in describing White House discussions. “It is a direct-action arm, totally off the books,” this person said, meaning the intelligence collected would not be shared with the rest of the CIA or the larger intelligence community. “The whole point is this is supposed to report to the president and Pompeo directly.”

Oliver North, who appears frequently on Trump’s favorite TV network, Fox News, was enlisted to help sell the effort to the administration. He was the “ideological leader” brought in to lend credibility, said the former senior intelligence official.

Some of the individuals involved with the proposals secretly met with major Trump donors asking them to help finance operations before any official contracts were signed.

The proposals would utilize an army of spies with no official cover in several countries deemed “denied areas” for current American intelligence personnel, including North Korea and Iran. The White House has also considered creating a new global rendition unit meant to capture terrorist suspects around the world, as well as a propaganda campaign in the Middle East and Europe to combat Islamic extremism and Iran.

“I can find no evidence that this ever came to the attention of anyone at the NSC or [White House] at all,” wrote Michael N. Anton, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, in an email. “The White House does not and would not support such a proposal.” But a current U.S. intelligence official appeared to contradict that assertion, stating that the various proposals were first pitched at the White House before being delivered to the CIA. The Intercept reached out to several senior officials that sources said had been briefed on the plans by Prince, including Vice President Mike Pence. His spokesperson wrote there was “no record of [Prince] ever having met with or briefed the VP.” Oliver North did not respond to a request for comment. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Trump may face a reckoning in case brought by female accuser

The Washington Post reports: In the weeks leading up to his election, Donald Trump went on a tear against a list of women who had accused him of touching them inappropriately. One was Summer Zervos, who had been a contestant on his reality television show.

“False stories. All made up. Lies. Lies. No witnesses. No nothing. All big lies,” Trump declared at a rally after the Californian made a statement alleging that Trump kissed and groped her in a 2007 encounter at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

“Total fabrication,” he told a cheering crowd in Gettysburg, Pa. “The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

As the nation wrestles with a historic shift in how to address old charges of sexual misbehavior, allegations against Trump, which date to his days as a New York developer, have become part of the public debate. Trump has repeatedly said the accusations against him are groundless. But by turning personal and branding the women liars, Trump has perhaps unwittingly played into a cutting-edge strategy in the legal pursuit of sexual misconduct — claims of defamation such as those used against comedian Bill Cosby and in a lesser-known New York case, argued by two lawyers who are now representing Zervos.

The defamation suit filed in January in New York State Supreme Court by Zervos, a short-lived contestant on “The Apprentice,” has reached a critical point, with oral arguments over Trump’s motion to dismiss scheduled for Tuesday, after which the judge is expected to rule on whether the case may move forward.

If it proceeds, Zervos’s attorneys could gather and make public incidents from Trump’s past and Trump could be called to testify, with the unwelcome specter of a former president looming over him: It was Bill Clinton’s misleading sworn testimony — not the repeated allegations of sexual harassment against him — that eventually led to his impeachment. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Billy Bush: Trump’s revisionist history has reopened the wounds of the women he is said to have sexually assaulted

Billy Bush writes: He said it. “Grab ’em by the pussy.”

Of course he said it. And we laughed along, without a single doubt that this was hypothetical hot air from America’s highest-rated bloviator. Along with Donald Trump and me, there were seven other guys present on the bus at the time, and every single one of us assumed we were listening to a crass standup act. He was performing. Surely, we thought, none of this was real.

We now know better.

Recently I sat down and read an article dating from October of 2016; it was published days after my departure from NBC, a time when I wasn’t processing anything productively. In it, the author reviewed the various firsthand accounts about Mr. Trump that, at that point, had come from 20 women.

Some of what Natasha Stoynoff, Rachel Crooks, Jessica Leeds and Jill Harth alleged involved forceful kissing. Ms. Harth said he pushed her up against a wall, with his hands all over her, trying to kiss her.

“He was relentless,” she said. “I didn’t know how to handle it.” Her story makes the whole “better use some Tic Tacs” and “just start kissing them” routine real. I believe her.

Kristin Anderson said that Mr. Trump reached under her skirt and “touched her vagina through her underwear” while they were at a New York nightclub in the 1990s. That makes the “grab ’em by the pussy” routine real. I believe her.

President Trump is currently indulging in some revisionist history, reportedly telling allies, including at least one United States senator, that the voice on the tape is not his. This has hit a raw nerve in me.

I can only imagine how it has reopened the wounds of the women who came forward with their stories about him, and did not receive enough attention. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

The men who cost Clinton the election

Jill Filipovic writes: Matt Lauer, like Charlie Rose and Mark Halperin before him, is a journalist out of a job after his employer fired him for sexually harassing female colleagues. It’s good news that real penalties are now leveled on men who harass — after centuries of the costs mostly befalling the women who endure harassment. But the deep cultural rot that has corroded nearly all of our institutions and every corner of our culture is not just about a few badly behaved men. Sexual harassment, and the sexism it’s predicated on, involves more than the harassers and the harassed; when the harassers are men with loud microphones, their private misogyny has wide-reaching public consequences. One of the most significant: the 2016 election.

Many of the male journalists who stand accused of sexual harassment were on the forefront of covering the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Matt Lauer interviewed Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump in an official “commander-in-chief forum” for NBC. He notoriously peppered and interrupted Mrs. Clinton with cold, aggressive, condescending questions hyper-focused on her emails, only to pitch softballs at Mr. Trump and treat him with gentle collegiality a half-hour later. Mark Halperin and Charlie Rose set much of the televised political discourse on the race, interviewing other pundits, opining themselves and obsessing over the electoral play-by-play. Mr. Rose, after the election, took a tone similar to Mr. Lauer’s with Mrs. Clinton — talking down to her, interrupting her, portraying her as untrustworthy. Mr. Halperin was a harsh critic of Mrs. Clinton, painting her as ruthless and corrupt, while going surprisingly easy on Mr. Trump. The reporter Glenn Thrush, currently on leave from The New York Times because of sexual harassment allegations, covered Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 campaign when he was at Newsday and continued to write about her over the next eight years for Politico.

A pervasive theme of all of these men’s coverage of Mrs. Clinton was that she was dishonest and unlikable. These recent harassment allegations suggest that perhaps the problem wasn’t that Mrs. Clinton was untruthful or inherently hard to connect with, but that these particular men hold deep biases against women who seek power instead of sticking to acquiescent sex-object status.

A month ago, Rebecca Traister wrote in New York magazine that with the flood of sexual harassment charges, “we see that the men who have had the power to abuse women’s bodies and psyches throughout their careers are in many cases also the ones in charge of our political and cultural stories.” With the Lauer accusations, this observation has come into sharper focus on one particular picture: the media sexism that contributed to Hillary Clinton’s loss.

The 2016 presidential race was so close that any of a half-dozen factors surely influenced the outcome: James Comey, racial politics, Clinton family baggage, the contentious Democratic primary, third-party spoilers, Russian interference, fake news. But when one of the best-qualified candidates for the presidency in American history and the first woman to get close to the Oval Office loses to an opponent who had not dedicated a nanosecond of his life to public service and ran a blatantly misogynist campaign, it’s hard to conclude that gender didn’t play a role. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

‘No such thing as Rohingya’: Myanmar erases a history

The New York Times reports: He was a member of the Rohingya student union in college, taught at a public high school and even won a parliamentary seat in Myanmar’s thwarted elections in 1990.

But according to the government of Myanmar, U Kyaw Min’s fellow Rohingya do not exist.

A long-persecuted Muslim minority concentrated in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine, the Rohingya have been deemed dangerous interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh. Today, they are mostly stateless, their very identity denied by the Buddhist-majority Myanmar state.

“There is no such thing as Rohingya,” said U Kyaw San Hla, an officer in Rakhine’s state security ministry. “It is fake news.”

Such denials bewilder Mr. Kyaw Min. He has lived in Myanmar all of his 72 years, and the history of the Rohingya as a distinct ethnic group in Myanmar stretches back for generations before.

Now, human rights watchdogs warn that much of the evidence of the Rohingya’s history in Myanmar is in danger of being eradicated by a military campaign the United States has declared to be ethnic cleansing.

Since late August, more than 620,000 Rohingya Muslims, about two-thirds of the population that lived in Myanmar in 2016, have fled to Bangladesh, driven out by the military’s systematic campaign of massacre, rape and arson in Rakhine.

In a report released in October, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said that Myanmar’s security forces had worked to “effectively erase all signs of memorable landmarks in the geography of the Rohingya landscape and memory in such a way that a return to their lands would yield nothing but a desolate and unrecognizable terrain.” [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Can Americans enjoy fundamental human rights while facing extreme poverty?

The Guardian reports: The United Nations monitor on extreme poverty and human rights has embarked on a coast-to-coast tour of the US to hold the world’s richest nation – and its president – to account for the hardships endured by America’s most vulnerable citizens.

The tour, which kicked off on Friday morning, will make stops in four states as well as Washington DC and the US territory of Puerto Rico. It will focus on several of the social and economic barriers that render the American dream merely a pipe dream to millions – from homelessness in California to racial discrimination in the Deep South, cumulative neglect in Puerto Rico and the decline of industrial jobs in West Virginia.

With 41 million Americans officially in poverty according to the US Census Bureau (other estimates put that figure much higher), one aim of the UN mission will be to demonstrate that no country, however wealthy, is immune from human suffering induced by growing inequality. Nor is any nation, however powerful, beyond the reach of human rights law – a message that the US government and Donald Trump might find hard to stomach given their tendency to regard internal affairs as sacrosanct.

The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, is a feisty Australian and New York University law professor who has a fearsome track record of holding power to account. He tore a strip off the Saudi Arabian regime for its treatment of women months before the kingdom legalized their right to drive, denounced the Brazilian government for attacking the poor through austerity, and even excoriated the UN itself for importing cholera to Haiti.

The US is no stranger to Alston’s withering tongue, having come under heavy criticism from him for its program of drone strikes on terrorist targets abroad. In his previous role as UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Alston blamed the Obama administration and the CIA for killing many innocent civilians in attacks he said were of dubious international legality. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

I’m not ready for the redemption of men

Amber Tamblyn writes: Recently, I was sitting on my couch between two influential, Emmy-winning writers, one a man and one a woman. We were talking about consequences. The comedian Louis C.K.’s entire life seemed to have been canceled overnight. His movie wasn’t being released, and his representatives dropped him after five women accused him of sexual harassment, behavior he then admitted. In just the past week, more famous and admired men have lost their jobs for such behaviors. Enter Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer right behind him and then Garrison Keillor.

The man on the couch next to me was disconcerted, making an argument that while Louis C.K.’s actions certainly merited serious consequences, what he did and what Harvey Weinstein did are two very different things. We shouldn’t lump them all together, he insisted. The woman was firm with her response: “Yes, we can and we will. Choosing consequences doesn’t belong to you anymore.”

The man balked with frustration. “What do you want,” he asked her. “What’s the ultimate thing you would want to happen to him, for what he did? That he never works in this business again?” The woman said, simply: “Yes. That’s the price you pay.” The man was quiet for a moment, thinking, until he found the question he’d been looking for the entire conversation. “Tell me something: Do you believe in redemption?”

It’s a valid question. But it’s also a question that makes me deeply suspicious of its timing. Why do we need to talk about the redemption of men when we are right in the middle of the salvation of women? Not even the middle, but the very beginning? Why are we obligated to care about salvaging male careers when we have just begun to tell the stories that have plagued us for lifetimes? It seems some men like a revolution only when it’s their kind of war. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

The Trump administration is mulling a pitch for a private ‘rendition’ and spy network

BuzzFeed reports: The White House and CIA have been considering a package of secret proposals to allow former US intelligence officers to run privatized covert actions, intelligence gathering, and propaganda missions, according to three sources who’ve been briefed on or have direct knowledge of the proposals.

One of the proposals would involve hiring a private company, Amyntor Group, for millions of dollars to set up a large intelligence network and run counterterrorist propaganda efforts, according to the sources. Amyntor’s officials and employees include veterans of a variety of US covert operations, ranging from the Reagan-era Iran–Contra affair to more recent actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Amyntor declined to discuss the proposals, but a lawyer for the company said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that the type of contract being contemplated would be legal “with direction and control by the proper government authority.”

Another proposal presented to US officials would allow individuals affiliated with the company to help capture wanted terrorists on behalf of the United States. In keeping with that proposal, people close to the company are tracking two specific suspects in a Middle Eastern country, the sources said, for possible “rendition” to the United States. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Republicans offer a sham defense of Roy Moore

William Saletan writes: The battle within the Republican Party has come down to this: Is it OK for a 32-year-old man to seduce a 14-year-old girl?

On one side are the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker Paul Ryan. They have disowned Roy Moore, the party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, over allegations that he targeted, and in some cases molested, minors and other teen girls. On the other side are social conservatives, including Alabama’s state auditor, who argue that courtship between an older man and a teenage girl is consensual, biblical, good for the girl, and grounded in the natural attraction of a godly man to the “purity of a young woman.” Alongside the purity camp is the tolerance camp, led by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. These Republicans don’t deny the allegations or endorse Moore’s conduct, but they support him anyway, reasoning that other issues are more important.

Many Republicans are afraid to take sides in this debate. They want to stick with the GOP nominee, or at least avoid antagonizing voters who support him. But they don’t want to defend the sexual exploitation of minors. So they’ve staked out a neutral position: Moore is innocent until proven guilty. President Trump adopted this position on Tuesday, urging voters not to elect Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones. A reporter asked Trump: “Is Roy Moore, a child molester, better than a Democrat?” The president replied: “Well, he denies it. … He totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen.”

This position sounds reasonable, but it’s a sham. Moore’s denials are designed to provide cover for Trump, Sean Hannity, Alabama’s Republican congressmen, and others who don’t want to acknowledge Moore’s sins. But factually, the denials have already collapsed. It’s time to sweep them out of the way.

Let’s start with the premise of the innocence argument: that voters should discount the allegations until they’re proven in court. That sounds fair, but it’s impossible. The alleged offenses took place decades ago, well outside Alabama’s statute of limitations. Moore can’t be charged or sued. His accusers will never get their day in court, unless he agrees to testify under oath, which could subject him to prosecution for perjury. Naturally, he has declined this challenge. So anyone who tells you to ignore the allegations until they’re validated in court is telling you, in effect, to ignore them forever. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

The unexamined brutality of male sexuality

Stephen Marche writes: After weeks of continuously unfolding abuse scandals, men have become, quite literally, unbelievable. What any given man might say about gender politics and how he treats women are separate and unrelated phenomena. Liberal or conservative, feminist or chauvinist, woke or benighted, young or old, found on Fox News or in The New Republic, a man’s stated opinions have next to no relationship to behavior.

Through sheer bulk, the string of revelations about men from Bill Cosby to Roger Ailes to Harvey Weinstein to Louis C.K. to Al Franken and, this week, to Charlie Rose and John Lasseter, have forced men to confront what they hate to think about most: the nature of men in general. This time the accusations aren’t against some freak geography teacher, some frat running amok in a Southern college town. They’re against men of all different varieties, in different industries, with different sensibilities, bound together, solely, by the grotesquerie of their sexuality.

Men arrive at this moment of reckoning woefully unprepared. Most are shocked by the reality of women’s lived experience. Almost all are uninterested or unwilling to grapple with the problem at the heart of all this: the often ugly and dangerous nature of the male libido.

For most of history, we’ve taken for granted the implicit brutality of male sexuality. In 1976, the radical feminist and pornography opponent Andrea Dworkin said that the only sex between a man and a woman that could be undertaken without violence was sex with a flaccid penis: “I think that men will have to give up their precious erections,” she wrote. In the third century A.D., it is widely believed, the great Catholic theologian Origen, working on roughly the same principle, castrated himself.

Fear of the male libido has been the subject of myth and of fairy tale from the beginning of literature: What else were the stories of Little Red Riding Hood or Bluebeard’s Castle about? A vampire is an ancient and powerful man with an insatiable hunger for young flesh. Werewolves are men who regularly lose control of their bestial nature. Get the point? There is a line, obviously, between desire and realization, and some cross it and some don’t. But a line is there for every man. And until we collectively confront this reality, the post-Weinstein public discussion — where men and women go from here — will begin from a place of silence and dishonesty. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

‘Somebody had to tell these stories’: An Iraqi woman’s ordeal as an ISIS sex slave

The Washington Post reports: Islamic State militants have lost the last of their strongholds, but for Yazidi survivor Nadia Murad, a new battle is just beginning.

Three years after escaping militants in northern Iraq, Murad is unveiling a harrowing memoir, “The Last Girl,” about her ordeal as a sex slave.

Murad’s disturbing personal account is part of her effort, represented by human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, to bring Islamic State members to justice for war crimes and genocide against the Yazidi people.

“This is not something I chose,” Murad, 24, said in an interview in the lounge of a posh London hotel. “Somebody had to tell these stories. It’s not easy.”

When the Islamic State swept into northern Iraq in 2014, thousands of Yazidis were killed and thousands more were kidnapped, including women and girls who were taken as sex slaves. U.N. officials have said the violence committed against the minority sect constituted a genocide, and the U.N. Security Council has created a task force to collect evidence of atrocities in Iraq. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail