Friday, May 08, 2020

Sometimes they are just evil

I had initially thought there would be a third post this week about how primaries need to be changed and how we need to banish our inner racism and misogyny to get to a better place. Then I thought it would be repetitive to other posts I have written, so maybe one post on why you could vote for Biden if he is a rapist, and one on why he might not be a rapist, that those two together could be enough.

Two other things have presented themselves.

First, it appears that Reade had some check fraud issues, and she was allowed to resign instead of being terminated. She may have told her family and friends it was harassment then to save face, and Biden might really have touched her shoulders in an uncomfortable way.

The initial thread is interesting as well as some of the comments. One person asked why Biden wouldn't have mentioned it in his interview. Someone else suggested confidentiality rules, but I am not even sure he would know that she was let go for that, assuming it happened at least one level below him.  Also there was some input on how finance was being scrutinized then, even if some bounced checks don't seem like a big deal. It's interesting.

Again, you look for corroboration and don't leave it at that, but it is worth looking, and ultimately more respectful to everyone involved.

Then this happened:

I had not heard these allegations at all - which seems fair given that they are false - but I wonder if they are being touted on Fox News or talk radio or something.

It would be easy to ignore, but there are several points that can be illustrative.

First of all, if you don't know who Jacob Wohl is, I first came to know of him as someone who frequently tweeted about things he heard in coffee shops frequented by hipsters. They rarely seemed true, but if that was all he did, it would not matter much.

Here is a little bit more about whom he tries to be:

The weird thing is that he is so bad at it, and doesn't get any better. Except, maybe he is competent enough for the intended audience. If people are eager to believe something, maybe you don't have to work very hard on the lie. Just remember, some of those lies get people killed.

Dr. Fauci was targeted because of the Coronavirus, and his recommendations based on it.

From Wohl collaborator Jack Burkman: "“This guy shut the country down. He put 40 million people out of work. In a situation like that, you have to make up whatever you have to make up to stop that train and that’s the way life works, okay? That’s the way it goes.”

I recently read Crash Override by Zoƫ Quinn about her experiences with an internet hate mob's attempts to destroy her. It was very interesting and well-written and I recommend it. One of the things that has stayed with me is that she pointed out that the mobs feel like they are the good guys. They can only do it by dehumanizing the target, but it works for them.

So speaking of de-humanization, let's look at the continuation of the conversation quoted, when Andrade was not sure about Fauci being wrong, because the virus was really dangerous:

“Mother Nature has to clean the barn every so often. How real is it? Who knows? So what if 1 percent of the population goes? So what if you lose 400,000 people? 200,000 were elderly, the other 200,000 are the bottom of society. You got to clean out the barn. If it’s real, it’s a positive thing, for God’s sake.”

Of course the death rate is still climbing, but as long as it's just old people and the bottom of society, you know, like first responders (and their children) and restaurant workers and meat packing plant workers and grocery store employees. We know we don't need them because we don't make them keep working. Wait.

When I posted the article on my Facebook I referred to Wohl as a cartoon supervillain made real, because it sounds so over the top evil. It wouldn't matter if there weren't so many others who ate it up.

You know one of the details that really bugged me? They used Andrade because she had been assaulted once, and so she had details. She just needed to change the attacker. I mean, paying people to lie and trying to sabotage someone so there are fewer people arguing for preventing deaths is a lot; maybe at that point exploiting an old wound doesn't even matter. I only know that it's times like these when I feel like I really I hate people.

And then I know I don't actually hate people, and so I write or talk or post an article.

Anything to try and stop the banal, stupid, hateful little evils, that still seem to be far more effective than anything I do.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Assessing allegations

I wanted to spend some time going over the weight that I give the Biden allegations and why. I'll start right out by telling you that there are going to be so many buts and qualifications that it will seem almost useless. There may still be some value.

For the record, I started out thinking they were probably true, and now I am leaning more toward them not being true.

The first thing in favor of them being true is that 92 to 98 percent of accusations are true. That is a reason to at least take any accusation seriously. Also, remember this from yesterday: THE REMEDY FOR FALSE ALLEGATIONS IS INVESTIGATION!

A vote against believing was the timing and source of the reports. Katie Halper is not the best source, and it does feel like the allegations are being promoted mostly by Sanders supporters. One could expect the GOP to look for something else on Joe Biden, given that the Hunter Biden/Ukraine stuff didn't work out, but calling attention to rape allegations is not their best bet.

Also, now? Thirty years later and toward the end of the primaries but after the other good ones have dropped out?

However, sometimes you take the source that will listen, and many women are finding it harder to stay silent now. Blasey-Ford had started thinking about saying something about Kavanaugh in 2012, but it felt more and more urgent as he got closer to confirmation to the Supreme Court.

For another word on sources, let's remember that The National Enquirer broke the John Edwards story, but they held information back on Weinstein and Trump. There is a lot more that goes into what gets reported than whether it matters or whether it's true.

Another vote for believing is Joe Biden's overall track record of not respecting women's personal space, and the persistence of rape culture over time. It is completely possible to believe that in the 90s a man known for being hand-sy might make a pass at a women that would count as digital rape (meaning fingers, not computerized) and that he would not even think of it as rape. In some jurisdictions it probably would not have counted as rape. That is not a justification for him; that is a condemnation of rape laws and the lack of respect historically for women's bodily autonomy. It doesn't mean all men rape, so it does not determine any claim, but it's important to understand that context.

The most important vote for believing was the corroboration. It sounded like she told people at the time, with a positive ID, and they remembered and were willing to go on record as remembering.

That has some real weight to it. Other people can lie too, of course, and that is why you look for a paper trail and other confirmations.

For example, there was an accusation of harassment by Biden at a 2008 event, but investigation revealed that he was not there. Could they have gotten the event wrong, but the story right? That's why you dig deeper.

Ironically - and as another testimonial to the importance of investigation - this is where I have started to question Reade's claims, as the story is starting to change more, and becoming harder to verify.

Some details can be hard to remember, especially after this amount of time. Also, I had initially thought all of the corroborating people were on the record, and at least one is anonymous. That is not a definite dis-qualifier, but it is weaker.

At this point, Reade herself said that her filed complaint does not mention the rape, only objectification. However, being able to locate the complaint would at least demonstrate a part of the story that is verifiable, and that is sounding less and less likely. It appears that Senate record handling processes leave something to be desired, but since the complaint did not contain anything criminal, then it seems believable when staff members do not remember fielding complaints. We can at least give their memories as much weight as Reade's,

At this point, I think her claims could be true but are more likely not true. Maybe.

Is this less satisfying than being able to either declare Reade a liar or Biden a rapist? Obviously.

Will I still vote for Biden? In the general, definitely. Warren is on the Oregon ballot for the primary and I will vote for her, clearly the superior candidate among Biden, Sanders, and Gabbard. That won't change anything, but I'm still doing it.

I will acknowledge that I think Biden is handling this well; clearly denying while still acknowledging that women deserve to be heard, and requesting documents.

On the point of opening up the university archive, it shouldn't have the complaint, and I think at one point you have to draw a line. The birthers saw the regular birth certificate and the announcement and the long form, and they still didn't believe it. I don't know that we are there yet in this case, but I am not criticizing his actions related to this so far.

This is amazing, because in Biden's responses to other complaints on the personal space issue, or even questions about how he mishandled the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings (letting the other women speak would have been good), he has really shown that he hasn't learned anything. Clearly someone coached him. However, a potential president listening to someone smarter than him and acting on it is a good thing, and was not previously viewed as a luxury.

"Probably not a rapist" is not the strongest election slogan, but if there are issues there, and how we got here, and with my primary vote not really mattering, well, that might be a topic for another day.

For more on the topic:

NEW: Obviously it still needs further digging, but this may explain the corroboration and a lot of things:

Monday, May 04, 2020

Some thoughts on Joe Biden

It is possible that Joe Biden raped Tara Reade. It is very discouraging how badly people are handling that.

Calls for firing  Chris Hayes were trending on Twitter for reporting on the allegations. I suppose that is better than the people saying that Reade is too ugly to have been a victim, or calling her crazy; have we really not gotten any better than that over the years?

There is a way in which the anger could make sense, in that people are afraid that it will lead to a Trump victory in November. That would indeed be terrible. However, that anger and unwillingness to listen and tendency toward personal insult is typical of many similar stories, and we need to grow beyond that.

So maybe the first thing to get out of the way is that we can vote for Joe Biden even if the allegations are true. It's not just that Trump is a horror of the first magnitude as president, whereas Biden would probably be no worse than underwhelming. If rape is disqualifying for the presidency (I could be okay with that), then Trump has more allegations, not just in quantity but in how appalling and how credible the accusations are.

(One of the most chilling and accurate things I read was from a friend who asked whether we thought we had never voted for a rapist before. Point taken.)

So the first thing to say to Republicans who are saying that Democrats only care about allegations that don't affect their candidates: Clean your own house first.

To Democrats who are acting like that is true, we need to be better than this.

That's not just a general saying, where you would want to hold to a higher standard than the party that has gone from a death cult feeding off racism to adding in a personality cult that has multiplied the death and the racism. That's a low bar; we should be better than that without trying.

No, I say we need to be better than that because it is the refusal to rise above the petty bigotry and structural racism and misgyny that everything is built on that keeps us from improving.

Think of the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s, and the way they inspired people and legislation. Why is there still so much unequal enforcement of law?

Think of all of the studies debunking beliefs about women and their abilities and job performance. Why are pay disparities still a problem?

Yes, there was Russian meddling in the election, but it worked by stoking racism and sexism and we should not have fallen for it. There is an extent to which anyone likely to be concerned about this issue - rape allegations against a Democrat - did not fall for the Russian propaganda, but are you still worrying too much about trying to appeal to the working class? When you picture the working class, in your mind's eye, are they still white men?

That's why we don't get anywhere. That's why we had a strong economy and a budget surplus with Clinton, then election fraud that should have been fought harder, intelligence that was ignored because it didn't fit the administration's priorities resulting in 9/11, huge tax cuts benefiting the rich and corporations and two countries invaded, which led to a huge loss in lives, money, and civil liberties with W. (Who is getting more approval than he deserves now; see that low bar thing.)

That's why we made improvement on health care accessibility,  improved relations with other countries under Obama, and had it all trashed at a breathtaking pace with Trump.

It's certainly why Democrats ended up with one of the most mediocre candidates out of a really strong field.

I can give more examples and break it down more, but if you are not getting the drift yet it is going to take too much for this post.

So I am going to add one bit of hope for those reasonable concerns about Trump.

Investigating works.

I take false allegations very seriously. Someone I care about has had to deal with some. That's not my story to tell, but I can tell you this: even though my initial reaction was that it couldn't be true, I read through everything carefully. I believe in truth and I believe in listening to women, even if that does not require automatic belief.

It felt much better having read the allegations and seeing all the ways in which they didn't hold up than it did just hoping it wasn't true.

It feels like too often when there are accusations the reaction comes down to disbelief if you like the person and belief if you don't. Likability is not the best predictor of innocence anyway, but that leaves you with injustice on multiple sides. There may also be uncomfortable fear and guilt that you can try to ignore, but succeeding makes you a worse person.

You may lose a hero; I know Cosby still hurts for a lot of people. What we gain is better.

I know there are a lot of people who don't want a truly equal society, but I am not writing for them. If you want a freer, more equal world, it takes listening to the marginalized, and taking accusations seriously, and not bending to power, and trying to help make things better.

We can do that, and it's worth it.

I will write more about this.

Friday, May 01, 2020

Ten albums that influenced me and how

I did the Facebook postings in the order in which they came into my life, at least to the extent that I remembered it correctly. That was not exactly the order of release, but pretty close.

For the summary I thought it would be fun to group them by the influences that they had. It may make some strange bedfellows, but some of them might be quite comfortable together.

Albums that taught me small but important things:
Toys in the Attic, Aerosmith, 1975
Mad Season, Matchbox 20, 2000

Toys was the first album I bought. Well, I picked it out. Mom was buying us each a record. I was five, and was advised I would not like it, but the cover had all of these toys, and was really cool.

I learned that you can't pick an album by its cover, but also, give it some time and that album is okay. You can grow into music.

With Mad Season I was much older (almost 30), but so many guys tried to tell me that I could not like it, or that it couldn't be among my favorites. I get that Matchbox 20 is not as great a band as the Ramones, but it's my choice. Taste is subjective, and you don't get a vote.

I don't get a vote on yours, either, though I will probably have some thoughts.

Albums that changed something about how I did music
"Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D, "Weird Al" Yankovic, 1984
From Under the Cork Tree, Fall Out Boy, 2005

I love music but am not great at it. You may not know that I have written a lot of songs, and it's fine that you don't. "Weird Al" had an earlier album, but on the second album I started hearing more, and it sunk in. While in junior high and a little into high school I still wrote a lot of whole songs, but I also wrote some song parodies. That's on "Weird Al".

You are more likely to know that I love karaoke, and if you have been there you have an idea of my ability, but Fall Out Boy has big songs and they bring out the best in me. From Under the Cork Tree was the album that helped the most, and I have sung every release from that album in front of somebody.

Albums that changed my identity
Ramones-Mania, Ramones, 1988
Indestructible, Rancid, 2003

I was always okay with the Ramones, but late in life I realized that I loved them, and not long after that I realized that I loved The Clash. The worst thing about that is it happened not long before Joey Ramone's death, and then in short order we lost DeeDee, Johnny, and Joe Strummer. That was terrible, wishing I hadn't waited so long and realizing the difficulties that punk bands faced in getting airplay so that even getting exposure was an issue. However, I still did not think of myself as a real punk aficionado; it was just a coincidence that I loved two key punk bands.

It was not a coincidence; Rancid showed me that. Gina is a punk rocker, and it actually makes sense. I'm never rowdy for the sake of being rowdy, but politeness that covers up evil is evil itself, DIY is a good ethic, and if you can use humor to deal with your anger, that can help a lot.

Also, Mormon is basically straight edge, but without the tattoos.

Albums that changed my world

Hunting High and Low, A-ha, 1985

Danger Days: True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, My Chemical Romance, 2010

We got MTV shortly after it started, so I had been into music videos for at least three years before "Take On Me". I had ones I liked better than others, but A-ha was the first time when it was a band, and I thought about wanting to see them (and did), and I bought songbooks and tried playing the songs and bought teen magazines for scraps of interviews and new pictures. It is still one of my favorite albums, and certainly the first one I memorized.

I had been really into music until my mission, and then when I came back there were fewer music videos being play, and it was mainly grunge and gangster rap. It felt like I didn't really have a place there anymore. Getting into punk helped, but that was older music, and the players were dying off. Then life got really tough, and I was in a deep and joyless rut.

Danger Days brought me back to life. It wasn't just that it gave me new music and a new band, but it helped me see that there were even more bands, and I didn't need a video channel to find them. It got me writing again, a lot, and Frank Iero came to me in a dream and got me a bass guitar, so I have tried playing again. Still terrible, but there are worse things.

Albums that changed how I listen to music
Fluke, Something She Said, 1991

Last Stop Crappy Town, Reggie and the Full Effect, 2008, expanded edition in 2020

Fluke was the first independent album I bought, though I was starting to get to know a lot of people in bands. I remember specifically talking to the singer after I'd listened. I mentioned that there were some recording issues that I assumed were a budget factor. They were not. He was a little irked, and I felt bad about that. He didn't hold a grudge, but it stayed with me because I started thinking about why you might want things to sound differently. I love melody, but sometimes it doesn't fit for what you need to convey. There are reasons for fuzz and static and sludge. I am more open to understanding artistic intentions and what is done deliberately because of John.

That still does not mean I get everything right on the first try. It has taken me a long time to understand Crappy Town.

I reviewed this less than a month ago, so I don't necessarily want to write a lot about it now, but this album is incredibly rich. If a modern dance company wanted to explore addiction, I think this would be a great soundtrack.

It's almost too new to say that it's an influence. Just today after posting about it on Facebook I realized something new about it. So I think there is a personal influence, and that will be better understood over time, but for realizing how much can go into an album, and how well it can work and unfold, this is huge.